The English surname Birch may originate from a place called Birch in the county of Essex, the derivation being from the Olde English pre 7th century word "bryce" meaning breaking; and hence land made suitable for agriculture, or it may be from the villages of Birch Much and Birch Little in Herefordshire. These have a different derivation from the Olde English word "birce", meaning birch trees. Secondly, the name may be a topographical someone who lived by a birch tree or a birch wood, and thirdly occupational, either for a plowman or farmer, or a forester. The first written reference to the name is in 1182 when Walter de la Birche is recorded in the charters of King Henry II. Another early reference is Richard de Birches in the Assize Court Rolls of Lancashire in 1246. A notable bearer of the name was the British historian and author Walter de Gray Birch 1842-1924.
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