This is an interesting name of English origin and is locational from numerous places so called in Buckinghamshire, Essex, Lincolnshire, Norfolk and Somerset. However they do not all share the same derivation, as those in Buckinghamshire, Essex and Norfolk get their names from the Olde English pre 7th Century 'burna', a stream, with 'ham' a homestead while Burnham-on-Sea in Somerset has for its second element 'hamm', a water meadow and the place in Lincolnshire is so called from the Olde Norse 'brunnr' a spring, borne out by an early recording of this place name as 'Brunnum' in the Early Yorkshire Charters of 1157.It became customary, during the Middle Ages, when people left their birth place to seek work elsewhere to adopt the place name as a means of identification. One such emigrant was William Burnham aged twenty one years who sailed on 2nd September 1635 from the Port of London to St. Christophers, Barbadoes on the 'William and John'. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Geoffrey de Burnham, which was dated 1193, Pipe Rolls of Norfolk, during the reign of King Richard I, Richard the Lionheart, 1189 - 1199. 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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