Birchby Name Study

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Surnames/tags: Birchby Birtby Burchby
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The Birchby Name Study


This Study aims to collect together in one place everything about the surname Birchby and its phonetically equal variants.
It is hoped that this will become a valuable reference point for information on the origins of the Birchby name, its dispersal world-wide, and any interesting or notable members, and that it will encourage Birchby Family researchers to share their knowledge by posting here relevant information, resources, pictures, stories, and anything else which may be of interest to their fellow researchers.


If you would like to participate in this study project, please contact the project leader, Glen Birchby, or post a comment or question on the bulletin board at the foot of the page. It could also be useful if you would outline the areas of Birchby research in which you may have been involved and any areas of interest for future research.
As is the case with the content of WikiTree profiles, this study is not “owned” by any individual but is a collaborative endeavour, and your input could be valuable in helping to determine the content and future direction of the study, its goals, and the tasks which we may aim to carry out.


The purpose of this name study is to follow the various lines of our ancestry, to establish an accurate Birchby Family tree using soundly documented sources of information, and to investigate the extent of dispersal by emigration. It is hoped that it will shine a light on the beginnings of the Birchby Family, and will provide a reliable source of information about the name Birchby.

The study will examine various ancestral lines which are regarded as diverging from closely related forbears, possibly starting with connected Birchby families in Yorkshire and Lancashire, and separately looking at Birchbys in Licolnshire and Nottinghamshire, as well as others which may be identified as the study progresses.

Things you can do

Following is a broad outline of tasks which could be undertaken to achieve some of the aims of the study. Your comments and suggestions are welcome, either by contacting the study leader or by posting on the bulletin board to the right. You could:
• Add the category for Birchby Name Study to WikiTree profiles using a location to better organize and identify family lines. Refer to the One Name Study FAQ page for guidance.
• Search out sound supporting source documentation and, where lacking, add sources to Birchby profiles.
• Investigate the migration of the Birchby name and ensure all emigrant Birchbys are profiled on WikiTree.
• Write comprehensive, well-sourced biographies for new Birchby profiles.
• Check for Birchby profile duplicates and request merges where these occur.
• Check for unsourced Birchby profiles and find and add sound sources.
• Check for unconnected Birchby profiles and make connections.
• Check for any orphaned Birchby profiles and consider managing them.

Birchby Name Research

Origins of name

The surname Birchby is of English locational origin, from the Yorkshire area of Northern England.
The Domesday Book of 1086 has a place name written as "Bretebi" in Yorkshire, this being from the Old Norse "Bretabyr", or the settlement (byr) of the Brittons (Brettas), meaning "settlement or village of the Britons." This village is known today as Birkby, located near Huddersfield. There are a number of other villages of this name in the north of England, but this is thought likely to be the source of the name Birchby.
The earliest record of the name used as a personal identifier was probably William de Bretteby who was listed in the Assize Rolls of Yorkshire in 1219, and the gradual development of the name is illustrated by the record for one William Birtby who was listed in Yorkshire in 1462. "Birtby" became "Birkby" in the 16thC, as the name transitioned and eventually became "Birchby". [1]

Variations of name

This study is focused on the name Birchby and its variants which are considered to be phonetically equivalent, and specifically the variants which can be said to "sound like" Birchby, eg, Birtchby, Berchby, Burchby, etc.

The surname Birchley is not included as, while it is phonetically similar, its historic origins are not in the north of England, but in the south, in Kent, where it was recorded before the Norman Conquest of 1066.

The English language had no fixed system of spelling until the late Middle Ages, and scribes and monks spelled names as they sounded. Consequently the name Birchby has been written down in a wide variety of spellings over the centuries, beginning with the early "Bretteby" then "Birtby", with a number becoming the standardized spelling of the name for different branches of the family. This standardization of the name did not occur until adequate, functional literacy existed, which in England was around 1750. Until then all language, including names, was phonetic, i.e. spoken only, except for legal documents and parish records, etc., in which cases the scribe, priest or lawyer would decide how to spell each word, thus enabling the spoken (phonetic) name to be recorded and remembered. The actual spelling was not important and was rarely considered.

An approximation of incidence of the name variants can be gathered from the FamilySearch internet site, which shows that there are three variants which are dominant - Birchby (44% of the records), Burchby (22%), and Barksby (33%), although the latter is not phonetically equivalent. Note that these variants often have the suffix “-by” replaced with “-bee” or “-bye”, resulting in further variations and different results. Some other variants often found are - Barchby, Berchby, Birtchby, Birksby, Borchby, Bourchby, Burksby, and Perksby. It is noted that the WikiTree Surname index of entries under the name Birchby, gives as "related surnames", Birkby, Barkby, and Burchby.

As all genealogy researchers would know, when one record in a group appears to not exist, it is wise to consider all possible alternative spellings of the name, as the missing record can at times be found under another form of the name, sometimes quite fanciful, even bizarre. This calls for a creative approach to how the scribes of the time may have interpreted the spoken name Birchby. Some relatively rare examples of this are - Barckbee, Birkebie, Birtchbee, Birthby, Borchby, Burchbye, Burksby, Burtchby, Byrchbee, Byrckbe, and Purchby.

Migration & destinations

Throughout history there are examples of people migrating to another area for a variety of reasons, e.g. better food sources, more peaceful living, employment opportunities, etc. The same influences were at work in Yorkshire after Domesday (1086). Most people by then had settled on a spoken personal identifier (name), with the people who called themselves “Birchby”, being established in the North and West Ridings of Yorkshire.

By 1500 the scribes and monks, and the estate and government administrators, had formed a generally accepted spelling for most names, although the spelling of one name may have differed from one area to another, and between branches of families, while being phonetically the same. From 1538 all "life events" were required to be recorded by the church in Parish Records, but prior to this few records were kept.
The records show that the name had transformed from the 13thC "Bretteby" to "Birtby", through "Birkby" and many other variations, to arrive in the mid 16thC at the name "Birchby". The name of Birchby and variants were at this time also being found further south, in Lancashire, Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire, but Yorkshire appears to have remained the stronghold for the time being.

From 1600, people also emigrated from England, with more than half going to the United States of America, and most of the remainder to the British Empire countries, Canada, Australia, South Africa, and New Zealand. Emigration increased after 1815 when it became a means of escaping the widespread poverty, increasing again around 1850 during the “gold rushes” in these countries, and peaking in the 1880’s. After 1900, emigration from England changed its destination markedly from the USA, preferring Australia and Canada.

During the first half of the nineteenth century, many British emigrants were farmers, or skilled artisans and craftsmen from traditional trades; many emigrated in family groups and were from rural areas.
This pattern began to change in the second half of the nineteenth century, when many emigrants started coming from urban areas, and with fast and comparatively cheap steamship passages becoming available, young, single, male labourers and agricultural workers predominated.

Emigration during the nineteenth century was primarily propelled by the relatively low wages and employment rates in Britain when compared to the destination countries, and emigrants were enticed by glowing reports of higher incomes and better living conditions, which was not always the case, as many found that the cost of the passage and relocation expenses used all of their reserve funds, forcing them to take on any work which was available.
Most emigrants, particularly to the United States, traveled without financial assistance, but assisted passages were available at various times, being much more important when the destination was a greater distance away, hence much more expensive, such as to the voyage to Australia or New Zealand. To assist the success of the colonies, programs of free and assisted passage were offered at various times throughout the nineteenth century.

Birchby ancestors

This study examines the various lines of descent from the Birchbys of the Middle Ages to the 20th Century Birchby families, and their various locations.

Birchby researchers are invited to add the ancestral lines for which they have sound information, and all information should be supported by referenced sources cited in individual WikiTree profiles.

From Domesday to 19th Century

Searches for early records revealed that the Birchby (or Byrchbee, etc) name had, by the 17th C. moved south from its origins around Birkby, Yorkshire, to be prevalent in a Lancashire village called Church Kirk (or simply Church) and neighbouring Oswaldtwisle. This area, up to around 1745, was the centre of the Birchby family, and the Birchby name was rarely found elsewhere. Then, at around 1700, the name begins to appear in Parish Registers for Chorley, about 18km south-west of Church.

It appears that James Byrchbee ("WikiTree ID: Birchby-51") was born in Church, (baptised there in 1679), and was possibly the first to move and establish his family in Chorley, marrying a Chorley girl and starting a century in which Chorley was the centre of Birchby family growth. This activity lasted until around 1850 when the Birchby name moved to the nearby village of Euxton, which became the new centre of the Birchby family.

Birchby researchers are invited to add to this section the ancestral lines for which they have sound information, and all information should be supported by referenced sources cited in individual WikiTree profiles.

Birchbys in England

The number of people with the name Birchby or Burchby is small when compared with other family names. In England, the source country, the number grew slowly, and at the Census of England in 1841 it was recorded that there were 112 persons of this (combined Birchby/Burchby) name living in England. This then stabilized for a time, with 106 recorded at the 1881 Census, and 115 at the 1911 Census.
Since then the number of Birchbys and Burchbys in England has declined. Access to census figures after 1911 is not available, but the internet site gives the incidence in England in 2014, of the two names combined, as about 51.

Birchby researchers are invited to add to this section the ancestral lines for which they have sound information, and all information should be supported by referenced sources cited in individual WikiTree profiles.

Birchbys in United States & Canada

The earliest record found of the Birchby name in the United States, is in the US Census of 1860, where one Thomas Birchby is recorded living at Rock Island, Illinois. He is recorded as having been born in England around 1830, was married to Jane, who was born in USA around 1837, and having three children, George b.1855, James b.1857, and William b.1859. He probably emigrated between 1850 and 1854. However, it is likely that there were earlier Birchbys in US but no other record has been found. The internet site states that in 2014 there were about 53 Birchbys and 37 Burchbys in the US. There were about 53 Burchbys in Canada but no Birchbys.

Birchby researchers are invited to add to this section the ancestral lines for which they have sound information, and all information should be supported by referenced sources cited in individual WikiTree profiles.

Birchbys in Australia

The Passenger Lists Leaving UK 1890-1960 has only five people emigrating from England to Australia in that period, one in 1925, one in 1952, and a family of three in 1954.
The internet site states that in 2014 there were about 25 Birchbys in Australia.

  • The earliest record found of the Birchby/Burchby name in Australia is George Birchby who was a passenger on the ship "Scottish Prince", sailed from London, England, on 06 Sep 1878, arriving 16 Dec 1878. He was listed as being 21 and appears to have been single.
  • In 1925, John (Jack) Birchby (WikiTree ID: Birchby-3) emigrated from Bolton, Lancashire, to Adelaide, South Australia, thus starting a new line in Australia. He sailed from London on the vessel "Largs Bay" on 18 Aug 1925, arriving at Port Adelaide on 26 Sep 1925. He married Jean Duell (ID: Duell-33) on 14 Apr 1934, and they produced three sons.

Birchby researchers are invited to add to this section the ancestral lines for which they have sound information, and all information should be supported by referenced sources cited in individual WikiTree profiles.

List of Birchby/Burchby profiles on WikiTree

Click this link to see the names of all Birchby profiles which have been entered on WikiTree - List of all Birchbys on WikiTree
Click this link for Burchby profiles - List of all Burchbys on WikiTree

Places associated with the name Birchby

None discovered to date.

Notable Birchbys

(Living or possibly-living individuals not included)
None discovered to date.

Additional resources

Orphaned Birchby profiles on WikiTree
Unsourced Birchby profiles
Unconnected Birchby profiles


  1. House of Names / A Dictionary of English Surnames ~ P.H.Reaney / Surname Database

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