The surname of BURNHAM was a locational name 'of Burnham' places in Somerset and Lincolnshire. The name was derived from the Old English word 'brunnum'. Local names usually denoted where a man held his land and indicated where he actually lived. The acquisition of surnames in Europe and England, during the last eight hundred years has been affected by many factors, including social class and social structure, naming practices in cultures and traditions. On the whole the richer and more powerful classes tended to acquire surnames earlier than the working class or the poor, while surnames were quicker to catch on in urban areas than in more sparsely populated rural areas. The bulk of surnames in England were formed in the 13th and 14th centuries. The process started earlier and continued in place names into the 19th century, but the norm is that in the 11th century people did not have surnames, whereas by the 15th century they did. Early records of the name mention Brune (without surname) listed as a tenant in the Domesday Book of 1086. Brunnum (without surname) 1155, Lincolnshire. Geofrey de Burnham, was documented in 1193 in County Northumberland. William Burnham of Yorkshire, was listed in the Yorkshire Poll Tax of 1379, and Thomas Burnham was documented in the year 1446 in the county of Norfolk. The rise of surnames, according to the accepted theory, was due to the Norman Conquest of 1066 when Old English personal-names were rapidly superseded by the new christian names introduced by the Normans. Of these, only a few were really popular and in the 12th century this scarcity of christian names led to the increasing use of surnames to distinguish the numerous individuals of the same name. Some Normans had hereditary surnames before they came to England, but there is evidence that surnames would have developed in England even had there been no Norman Conquest. The development of the feudal system made it essential that the king should know exactly what service each person owed. Payments to and by the exchequer required that debtors and creditors should be particularized, and it became official that each individual acquired exact identification.
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