This unusual name is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and is a locational surname deriving from the place called Burtholme in Cumberland. The place is recorded in the "Register of Lanercost" in 1256 as "Burtholm", and is named from its situation on the river Burth, also recorded in the Lanercost Register as "Burth", in 1169. The river name is thought to be an ancient Celtic word cognate with the Old Welsh "buarth", fold, while the second element of the placename is the Olde English pre 7th Century "holm", adopted from the Old Norse "holmr", Old Danish "holm", small island, piece of dry land in a fen, a piece of land partly surrounded by water. Locational surnames, such as this, were used particularly as a means of identification by those who left their birthplace to settle elsewhere; regional dialectal differences and varying standards of literacy subsequently gave rise to variant forms of the original name. In this case, the modern surname can be found as Burtholm(e), Burthom, Burtham, Burthum, Bertham and Bartham. Examples from Church Registers include: the christening of William, son of Thomas Burthom, at Cliburn in Westmoreland, on September 27th 1613, and the marriage of Anthony Burthom and Gemlin (no surname given) on October 22nd 1706, at Dalston in Cumberland. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of James Burtham, which was dated March 18th 1567, christened at St. Nicholas, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Northumberland, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1, known as "Good Queen Bess", 1558 - 1603. 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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