The first recorded holder of the English surname BURKINS seems to be a certain John de Birkin who held lands in Yorkshire in the time of King John (1199-1216), but the name is also found further afield at an early date. The form Burkin is now more common in Kent, Surrey and London, whereas Birkin is largely confined to Yorkshire, Nottingham and Derbyshire. It was an English habitation name from the parish of BIRKIN in West Yorkshire, so called from the Old English BIRCEN, literally meaning the dweller at the birch-trees. Most of the place-names that yield surnames are usually of small communities, villages, hamlets, some so insignificant that they are now lost to the map. A place-name, it is reasonable to suppose, was a useful surname only when a man moved from his place of origin to elsewhere, and his new neighbours bestowed it, or he himself adopted it. As a place-name it was recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 in the form BERCHINGE, and is recorded again in 1200 as BIRCHIN. Many factors contributed to the establishment of a surname system. For generations after the Norman Conquest of 1066 a very few dynasts and magnates passed on hereditary surnames, but the main of the population, with a wide choice of first-names out of Celtic, Old English, Norman and Latin, avoided ambiguity without the need for a second name. As society became more stabilized, there was property to leave in wills, the towns and villages grew and the labels that had served to distinguish a handful of folk in a friendly village were not adequate for a teeming slum where perhaps most of the householders were engaged in the same monotonous trade, so not even their occupations could distinguish them, and some first names were gaining a tiresome popularity, especially Thomas after 1170. The hereditary principle in surnames gained currency first in the South, and the poorer folk were slower to apply it. By the 14th century however, most of the population had acquired a second name. The associated coat of arms is recorded in Sir Bernard Burkes General Armory. Ulster King of Arms in 1884.
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