This ancient and aristocratic English and Norman-Irish surname was first held by Burhred, the king of West Mercia, England, 852 - 874, and several centuries later by the original earls of Ulster and Clanricarde in Ireland. The surname is recorded in the spellings of Burgh, Burk, Burke, and Bourke, and is particularly popular in Ireland, where it has long held great state. The name is topographical, and originates from residence by, or probably the ownership of, a fortress on a hill. The derivation is from the Olde English pre 7th Century "burh", or the Anglo-Saxon "burg". The villages of Burgh in the county of Suffolk, and Burgh in Lincolnshire, England, are typical examples of the placename, and both provided early surname holders. The surname is distinguished by being amongst the very first ever recorded (see below), and other recordings include Geoffrey de Burk of Herefordshire, in 1272, and Hubert de Burk of Somerset in 1273. The name was introduced into Ireland by William de Burgo, of Burgh in Suffolk, who accompanied Strongbow, the earl of Pembroke, in the Anglo-Norman Invasion of 1169 and 1170. William de Burgo later succeeded him as Chief Governor of Ireland under King Henry 11 (1154 - 1189), and was rewarded with great estates. Amongst the many interesting name holders was Edmund Burke (1729 - 1797), the leading English statesmen of his day, whilst one of the first recorded passengers to the new American colonies was Jeffery Burke, who sailed on the sloop 'True Friendship" from Antigua to Virginia in 1679. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Ailricus de Burc, which was dated 1086, in the Domesday Book of Suffolk.
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