Recorded in various spellings including Burnsall and Burnsell, and what may be transposed spellings of Bursnell, Bursnall, and Borsnell, this is an English surname. It is clearly locational and for some name holders without doubt originates from the village of Burnsall, in the Wharfe Valley, in North Yorkshire. This village is first recorded in the famous Domesday Book of 1086 as "Brinshale," which according to the Oxford Dictionary of English Place Names means "Bryns settlement", with Bryn being an early personal name of the pre 7th century. However it is with the spellings as Bursnall or Bursnell and others, that the research becomes confused. There is no such place as Bursnall or any of the known surname spellings in any of the gazetters of the British Isles. This suggests very strongly that either the name originates from a now "lost" village of which at least three thousand have disappeared in the past five centuries, or more likely it is a transposition of something else. The similarity with Burnsall is obvious, but other places such as Birstall, also in Yorkshire, may have a claim. Examples of the surname recordings taken from surviving church registers include Franciscus Burnsall at Brompton near Northallerton on June 17th 1595, George Bursnoll who married Mary Ratcliffe at the church of St Mary-le-Bone, city of London, on February 14th 1727, and William Bursnell, who was christened at St Anne's Soho, Westminster, on February 11th 1777.
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