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An excerpt from www.HouseOfNames.com archives copyright 2000 - 2015

Where did the English Burnham family come from? What is the English Burnham family crest and coat of arms? When did the Burnham family first arrive in the United States? Where did the various branches of the family go? What is the Burnham family history?

The ancient history of the Burnham name begins with the ancient Anglo-Saxon tribes of Britain. The name is derived from when the family resided in any of the various places called Burnham in Buckinghamshire, Essex, Lincolnshire, Norfolk, or Suffolk. These place names derive from the Old English words burna or stream, and ham, or homestead.


Until quite recently, the English language has lacked a definite system of spelling rules. Consequently, Anglo-Saxon surnames are characterized by a multitude of spelling variations. Changes in Anglo-Saxon names were influenced by the evolution of the English language, as it incorporated elements of French, Latin, and other languages. Although Medieval scribes and church officials recorded names as they sounded, so it is common to find one person referred to by several different spellings of his surname, even the most literate people varied the spelling of their own names. Variations of the name Burnham include Burnham, Burnam and others.

First found in Herefordshire where they held a family seat from very ancient times, some say well before the Norman Conquest and the arrival of Duke William at Hastings in 1066 A.D.


This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Burnham research. Another 97 words(7 lines of text) covering the years 1619 and 1688 are included under the topic Early Burnham History in all our PDF Extended History products.


Another 33 words(2 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Burnham Notables in all our PDF Extended History products.


Searching for a better life, many English families migrated to British colonies. Unfortunately, the majority of them traveled under extremely harsh conditions: overcrowding on the ships caused the majority of the immigrants to arrive diseased, famished, and destitute from the long journey across the ocean. For those families that arrived safely, modest prosperity was attainable, and many went on to make invaluable contributions to the development of the cultures of the new colonies. Research into the origins of individual families in North America revealed records of the immigration of a number of people bearing the name Burnham or a variant listed above:

Burnham Settlers in United States in the 17th Century

  • Thomas Burnham, who came to Barbados in 1635
  • William Burnham, who arrived at St. Christopher in 1635
  • John Burnham, who landed in Massachusetts in 1635
  • Robert Burnham, who landed in Massachusetts in 1635
  • Tho Burnham, aged 18, landed in Barbados in 1635

Burnham Settlers in United States in the 18th Century

  • John Burnham, who settled in Potomac Maryland in 1731

Burnham Settlers in United States in the 19th Century

  • William Burnham, who arrived in New Orleans in 1823
  • Stephen Burnham, who arrived in Texas in 1835
  • L Burnham, who landed in San Francisco, California in 1850

Burnham Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century

  • Hiram Burnham, who arrived in Canada in 1828

Burnham Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century

  • Charles Burnham, aged 30, a farm labourer, arrived in Wellington, New Zealand aboard the ship "Avalanche" in 1875
  • Mary Burnham, aged 31, arrived in Wellington, New Zealand aboard the ship "Avalanche" in 1875
  • Hannah Burnham, aged 13, arrived in Wellington, New Zealand aboard the ship "Avalanche" in 1875
  • Wlater Burnham, aged 8, arrived in Wellington, New Zealand aboard the ship "Avalanche" in 1875
  • Charlotte Burnham, aged 5, arrived in Wellington, New Zealand aboard the ship "Avalanche" in 1875


  • James Burnham (1905-1987), American political theorist and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom
  • Robert Burnham Jr. (1931-1993), American astronomer, best for his three-volume "Burnham's Celestial Handbook"
  • Frederick Russell Burnham DSO (1861-1947), American scout and world traveling adventurer known for his service to the British Army in colonial Africa
  • David Hudson Burnham (1846-1912), American architect and urban designer, Director of Works for the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago
  • Robert Pickering "Bo" Burnham (b. 1990), American comedian, singer-songwriter, musician, and actor
  • Charles "Charlie" Burnham (b. 1950), American bluegrass, delta punk, free jazz, blues, classical and chamber jazz violinist and composer
  • Christopher "Chris" Burnham (b. 1977), American comic book artist, known for his work on Batman Incorporated
  • Clark Burnham (1802-1871), American politician, Member of the New York State Senate (1844-1847)
  • Rev Edwin Otway Burnham (1824-1873), American Congregational minister and missionary
  • Frederick K. Burnham, American competitive sailor, winner of the APBA Challenge Cup with his boat Dixie III in 1910 and winner of the Harmsworth Cup in 1910 and 1911 with his boats Dixie III and Dixie IV



  • Burnam (also the Burnham) Family by Joan Venema.
  • Burnham Family Lineage Charts by Walter Jefferson Burnham.

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  1. Bolton, Charles Knowles. Bolton's American Armory. Baltimore: Heraldic Book Company, 1964. Print.
  2. Hanks, Hodges, Mills and Room. The Oxford Names Companion. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002. Print. (ISBN 0-19-860561-7).
  3. Hinde, Thomas Ed. The Domesday Book England's Heritage Then and Now. Surrey: Colour Library Books, 1995. Print. (ISBN 1-85833-440-3).
  4. Thirsk, Joan. The Agrarian History of England and Wales. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 7 Volumes. Print.
  5. Markale, J. Celtic Civilization. London: Gordon & Cremonesi, 1976. Print.
  6. Virkus, Frederick A. Ed. Immigrant Ancestors A List of 2,500 Immigrants to America Before 1750. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1964. Print.
  7. Bradford, William. History of Plymouth Plantation 1620-1647 Edited by Samuel Eliot Morrison 2 Volumes. New York: Russell and Russell, 1968. Print.
  8. Ingram, Rev. James. Translator Anglo-Saxon Chronicle 1823. Print.
  9. Papworth, J.W and A.W Morant. Ordinary of British Armorials. London: T.Richards, 1874. Print.
  10. Colletta, John P. They Came In Ships. Salt Lake City: Ancestry, 1993. Print.
  11. ...

The Burnham Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The Burnham Family Crest was drawn according to heraldic standards based on published blazons. We generally include the oldest published family crest once associated with each surname.

This page was last modified on 22 July 2014 at 08:33.

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