The surname of BURGIS was originally an English name - the dweller at the bower-house. During the middle ages it was customary for a man to take the name of the land that he owned, or where he lived. This name would identify the whole family, and followed them wherever they moved. The name is now numerous in Ulster, but was little known in Ireland before the 17th century, where it has been gaelicized to Brugha. Early records of the name mention Hawise Burgege, who was documented in the County of Bedford in 1273. Adam Burgess of Yorkshire was listed in the Yorkshire Poll Tax of 1379. Robert Burges, was recorded in 1519 in Norwich. Edward Burgis and Maude Goorde were married at St. Antholin, London in the year 1614.
A notorious member of the name was Guy Francis de Moncy Burgess (1910-63). He was the English spy and traitor, son of a naval officer. He was educated at Eton, Royal Navy College, Dartmouth, and at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he became a communist. He was recruited as a Soviet agent in the 1930's, and he worked for the BBC, whilst ostensibly serving the M15. After the war he was a member of the foreign office, and finally second secretary under Kim Philby in Washington. Recalled in 1951 for 'serious misconduct' he, together with Donald McLean, disappeared to the Soviet Union in 1951, where he died.
Most of the European surnames in countries such as England, Scotland and France were formed in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. The process had started somewhat earlier and had continued in some places into the 19th century, but the norm is that in the tenth and eleventh centuries people did not have surnames, whereas by the fifteenth century most of the population had acquired a second name.
The associated arms are recorded in Sir Bernard Burkes General Armory. Ulster King of Arms in 1884.
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