This surname BURKENSHAW was a locational name 'of Birkenshaw' a spot in the West Riding of Yorkshire. Local names usually denoted where a man held his land, and indicated where he actually lived. In the middle ages it was customary for a man to be named after the village where he lived. This name would identify his whole family, and followed them wherever they moved. Early records of the name mention BIRKENSCHAWE (without surname) who was documented in the year 1274. Walter Bircumshawe appears in County Lancashire in 1300, and Edward Bircamschawe was recorded in the West Riding of Yorkshire in 1350. Thomas Birkyschaghe of Yorkshire, was listed in the Yorkshire Poll Tax of 1379. Robert Birkenshaw was listed in the Wills at Chester in the year 1587 and Ambrose Birtenshaw was documented in the same Wills in the year 1609. Most of the European surnames 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. William Fligg and Isabella Burckingshaw were married at St. George's, Hanover Square, London in 1782. Between the 11th and 15th centuries, it became customary for surnames to be assumed in Europe, but they were not commonplace in England or Scotland before the Norman Conquest of 1066. Those of gentler blood assumed surnames at this time when they realised that an additional name would add prestige and practical advantage to their status. During the Middle Ages, when people were unable to read or write, signs were needed for all visual identification. For several centuries city streets in Britain were filled with signs of all kinds, public houses, tradesmen and even private householders found them necessary. This was an age when there were no numbered houses, and an address was a descriptive phrase that made use of a convenient landmark. At this time, coats of arms came into being, for the practical reason that men went into battle heavily armed and were difficult to recognise. It became the custom for them to adorn their helmets with distinctive crests, and to paint their shields with animals and the like. Coats of arms accompanied the development of surnames, becoming hereditary in the same way.
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