The Scottish surname Burgess, also found in England and Ireland, is a status name from the Middle English term burge(i)s, Old French burgeis meaning “inhabitant and freeman of a (fortified) town,” especially one with municipal rights and duties. Burgesses generally had tenure of land or buildings from a landlord by burgage. In medieval England burgage involved the payment of a fixed money rent (as opposed to payment in kind); in Scotland it involved payment in service, guarding the town. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Geoffrey Burgeis, which was dated 1115, in the "Winton Rolls of Hampshire." The name is first recorded in the New World in 1638 when Joane Burgess arrived in Maryland. Today there are approximately 72,000 bearers of the name Burgess living in the US.
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