This very unusual surname is English and locational. Recorded in a number of spellings known to include Burnyate, Burnyeat, and Burnyott, it originates from the hamlet of Burnt Yates, near Harrogate in Yorkshire. The precise meaning of the name is open to conjecture, but it is probably 'The road (geat) through the burnt lands'. In ancient times before the development of mechancial methods of land clearance, 'burning' was the traditional method of clearing forest, to make it suitable for agriculture. The word 'geat' is Danish-Viking for a road, and is found particularly in the street names of the city of York, such as Gillygate or Goodramgate', the actual fortified 'gates' of York being called 'bars'. Locational surnames are 'from' names. That is to say names that were usually given to people after they left their original homesteads and moved elsewhere. This could be the next village, or even as far off (in England) as the capital of London, the only large city, before the 17th century. In this case early examples of the surname recording are very rare, and include Elizabeth Burnyott, who married Robert Walker at the church of St Andrew by the Wardrobe in the city of London, on May 31st 1596, and somewhat nearer to home, that of Isabell Burnyate, who married Gilbert Deyne at East Ardsley, near Wakefield, on May 12th 1658.
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