Recorded in several forms including Burnap, Burnep, Burnip, and Burnup, this is an English locational surname. It originates from a place called 'Burnop' about six miles from the city of Durham, in County Durham. The derivation of the name is probably from the pre 7th century Olde English 'baernet-op', which can mean either an area at the top of a hill cleared by burning, or possibly a hill with a brown top, which could be the same thing. It is not clear when the village was first recorded, but it may be in the Pipe Rolls of County Durham in 1202 as 'Beorntop'. The village itself may have been 'cleared' in the 16th century to facilitate changes in agricultural practice, or even as a result of plague which was very prevalent in those parts. Certainly from the time of the reign of the first Queen Elizabeth (1558 - 1603) the surname in its various splellings is widely recorded in the diocese of Greater London. This is not unusual in that locational surnames were those given to people after they left their original homes and moved elsewhere, as an easy form of identification. These early recordings include examples such as: Agneta Burnep, who married William Bowne at St. Andrews, Enfield, in the county of Middlesex, on August 30th 1562, William Burnop, at the famous church of St Martins in the Field, Westminster, on December 30th 1711, and Mary Jane Burnip, who married George Quinnell at the church of St Clement Danes, in the city of London, on June 5th 1872.
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