- This surname, widely recorded in German Church Registers under the variant forms Bercke(s), Bercks, Berk(e), Berka and "in den Bercken", and in England as Birkes, Berks and Burk(s), is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and is a topographical name from residence by a stand of birch trees, or in a birch wood. The derivation is from the Middle Low German "berke", German "birke", birch, or from the northern form of the Olde English pre 7th Century "birch", birch (tree), influenced by the Old Norse "birki", birch grove. Topographical surnames were among the earliest created, since both natural and man-made features in the landscape provided easily recognisable distinguishing names in the small communities of the Middle Ages. One Rudegerus zu deme Birke was noted in medieval records of Eberbach, Germany, dated 1334, and a Johannes del Byrkes appears in the 1372 Poll Tax Returns of Yorkshire. On November 1st 1619, John, son of Randall Berks, was christened at St. Botolph's, Bishopsgate, London, and on February 16th 1827, Anna Gertrudis Berks and Johann Leonard Keuven were married at Baesweiler, Rheinland, Germany. The Berks family bear two Coats of Arms: one depicts a red lion rampant on a gold shield, and the other is a shield divided per bend embattled red and gold with a black anchor bendwise in chief. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Richard del Birkes, which was dated 1275, in the "Court Rolls of the Manor of Wakefield", Yorkshire, during the reign of King Edward 1, known as "The Hammer of the Scots", 1272 - 1307. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
Surnames reference. 2013.