This is a surname of ancient origins, which seems to have derived from several sources. It is English, although with possibly a Norse-Viking flavour. If so it derives from 'brunn' and as such when applied to a person describes one with a brown complexion. To this was added the suffice 'el', a short form of 'little, to give 'Brunel' and according to the later Professor Reaney, other forms such as Burnel, etc. We have to dispute this finding, our opinion is that the name is probably Olde English, and residential and derives from places called 'Burnt-hill' or 'Burnhill'. The surname spelling has been dialectally changed to Burnell, Burnel and Burnhill. Our findings are born out by knowledge of recordings not available to earlier researchers, which show the various forms of the name inter-mingled. The spelling as 'Burnhill' is seemingly 18th century, and may be a throw back to the village spelling, lost in the medieval period. Examples of the surname recordings include Burnellus de Aumiell in the Curia Regis rolls of Yorkshire in 1200, and William Burnel, recorded in Lincoln in 1197. Later church recordings include Ann Burnell christened at Chetton, Salop, on November 26th 1554, and Agness Burnell, buried at St Peters, Cornhill, London, in 1558. Other recordings are those of Arthur Burnill of Gatehead in 1661, and George Burnhill, who married Mary Davis at St Ann and St Agnes, Aldergate, London, on June 28th 1730. The coat of arms granted in 1311 in Salop, has the blazon of silver, a black lion rampant, crowned in gold, all with a bordure of blue. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Robertus Burnellus, which was dated 1130, in the pipe rolls of the city of Oxford, during the reign of King Henry 1st, known as 'The just king', 1100 - 1130. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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