Print Bookmark
  1. Our Burgess Origins

  2. O

    ne of the first questions I wanted to answer was, "Where are we from?" I knew my grandfather Hamilton "Harry" Burgess was born in Montreal. I have known since as early as 1991 that the family had come from Matlock Bath. My great grandfather had ordered his birth certificate in late 1943. This was very fortunate for me as the most difficult task for any genealogist is to cross over into the old country. However, this is not the end of the story. The town of origin for my great grandather is clearly not the ancestral home. As it turns out the county of Derbyshire is very sparse with Burgesses.

  3. G

    enealogists have long known that the distribution of some surnames across the country through either adress books or through censuses can be very revealing about where surnames have likely originated. A very good tool for this is the 1881 census of the UK, because it has been widely available for some time. At the top right of this page you can see a clear example of this with the Burgess surname. The picture is a map of all the poor law unions in England. Poor Law Unions (PLU) are administrative divisions that used to manage the poor law for a small group of parishes. These divisions were also used for organizing census returns.

  4. W

    hat is evident from the map above is that the Burgesses show up in distinct clusters around the country with a strong representation in the area immediately south of modern day Manchester. The most prominent cluster is in the triangle bounded by the Altrincham, Macclesfield and Ashton under Lynn PLUs. The highest number is in Stockport with 536 Burgesses in the population. An alternate way of looking at the data is to look at the number as a fraction of the total population. In that case Stockport ranks 14th with 457 per 100 000. The number one PLU then becomes Whitchurch in Hampshire with Romney Marsh in Kent coming in second. In both these places we have about 50 individuals, but because the population density is low they represent a higher fraction of the population. The third and fourth postions go back in the triangle with Altrincham and Macclesfield confirming these places as points of origin.

  5. T

    urning back to our family. We find that Matlock Bath in 1881 has only the small nuclear family consisting of Elizabeth, daughters Mary and Laura and sons Peter and John. John senior is not present. In fact all of Derbyshire represents a density of only 20 Burgesses per 100 000. Only one other male line is to be found in the county. Descendants of Joseph were in Chorley, Cheshire. The descendants of Thomas were in Whittington. By reviewing the census data I was able to take the family back 3 more generations in Bakewell, but for 15 years I was unable to take the line any further.

  6. I

    n december 2007 while browsing the web I came across a reference to a John Burgess militia record on Michael Spencer's website Yesterdays Journey. I made an inquiry and confirmed this John to be my ancestor. Michael had access to the county record office. He used to work in the archives so he was intimate with the research material there. Soon after Michael told me he had found a poor law record for John in the year of his death in 1829. This recorded his parish of origin as Daven Cheshire. According to parish records John was 44 when he died. A quick search of St Wilfred's Davenham turned up his birth record in January 1784.

  7. D

    avenham, Cheshire is in the geographic center of Cheshire, but more significantly it is in the Northwich PLU. Northwich is immediately adjacent to the black triangle. Our Burgess line has been traced back to the heartland.

  8. T

    he next step will be to map the genetic signatures of the genealogies to the census map. Many of the other regions have Burgesses that extend back in time well beyond the beginning of Parish records. The genetics will tell us if the remote clusters of Burgesses observed here are of the same origin or if they arose in situ.