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An excerpt from www.HouseOfNames.com archives copyright 2000 - 2016

Origins Available: English, Scottish

The story of the Burney family is rich with Scottish history. It begins in the ancient kingdom of Dalriada where Burney evolved as a name for some who lived in Brennath in Moray, where the name became Birnie. There is also a Birnie in the shire of Elgin. The village of Birnie was originally called Brenuth, from brae-nut, which means "hazel trees". Natives of Birnie, using a local dialect, also called the village Burn-nigh, which means near the burn river. This local name, particularly in medieval times, is prefixed by "de", which means "from." During the Middle Ages, the Birney family became a part of the landed gentry and they wielded considerable prestige and influence in the region of the Scottish borderlands.


The surname Burney was first found in Elginshire a former county in northeastern Scotland, in the present day Scottish Council Area of Moray, where Birnie Kirk, a Church of Scotland church built c. 1140 is still found today. It was the first cathedral of the Bishop of Moray. The church is one of the oldest in Scotland to have been in continuous use through the centuries. Birnie Loch is a man-made loch located in North East Fife from a flooded gravel pit. Birnie Island is a small, uninhabited coral island, 20 hectares in area, part of the Phoenix Island group in central Pacific ocean named after the London firm Alexander Birnie & Co in 1823. The MacBirnie (MacBurnie and MacBurney) variant was first found in 1466 when David M'Birny was a witness in Kirkcudbright. [1]

Historical recordings of the name Burney include many spelling variations. They include They are the result of repeated translations of the name from Gaelic to English and inconsistencies in spelling rules. Birnie, Birney, Birny, Birnye, Byrnye, Byrny, Berney, Birne, Byrne, McBirny, McBirnie, McBurny, McBurnie and many more.


This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Burney research. Another 229 words (16 lines of text) covering the years 1261, 1500, 1520, 1591, 1680 and are included under the topic Early Burney History in all our PDF Extended History products.


More information is included under the topic Early Burney Notables in all our PDF Extended History products.


Some of the Burney family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt. Another 119 words (8 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products.


Scottish settlers arrived in many of the communities that became the backbones of the United States and Canada. Many stayed, but some headed west for the endless open country of the prairies. In the American War of Independence, many Scots who remained loyal to England re-settled in Canada as United Empire Loyalists. Scots across North America were able to recover much of their lost heritage in the 20th century as Clan societies and highland games sprang up across North America. Early immigration and passenger lists have documented some of the first Burneys to arrive on North American shores:

Burney Settlers in United States in the 17th Century

  • Anthony Burney, who arrived in Maryland in 1673

Burney Settlers in United States in the 18th Century

  • William Burney, and his wife settled with their three sons, his mother and father William, in Louisiana in 1797
  • William Burney, aged 28, landed in Louisiana in 1797

Burney Settlers in United States in the 19th Century

  • Charles Burney, who landed in New York in 1826
  • J Burney, who arrived in San Francisco, California in 1850
  • Samuel Burney settled in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1850
  • Major Burney, who landed in San Francisco, California in 1851

Burney Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century

  • Richard Burney arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Cressy" in 1847
  • Mary Burney arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Coromandel" in 1850


  • Leroy Edgar Burney (1906-1998), American physician and public health official, eighth Surgeon General of the United States from 1956 to 1961
  • William Evans Burney (1893-1969), U.S. Representative from Colorado
  • Jacob Burney (b. 1959), American defensive line coach for the Washington Redskins
  • Robert Henry Burney, American politician, Member of Texas State Senate 28th District, 1887-88
  • Rashid A. Burney, American Democrat politician, Delegate to Democratic National Convention from New Jersey, 2008
  • James T. Burney, American Republican politician, Delegate to Republican National Convention from Missouri, 1884 (alternate), 1900
  • J. W. Burney, American Democrat politician, Delegate to Democratic National Convention from Georgia, 1860
  • Dwight Willard Burney (1892-1987), American politician, Member of Nebraska unicameral legislature, 1945-57; Lieutenant Governor of Nebraska, 1957-60, 1961-65; Governor of Nebraska, 1960-61
  • Charles O. Burney Jr. (b. 1907), American Republican politician, Member of New York State Assembly from Erie County 7th District, 1937-40; Member of New York State Senate, 1941-48
  • Cecil E. Burney (1914-1989), American Democrat politician, Delegate to Democratic National Convention from Texas, 1956, 1964



  • A Catalogue of the Burney Family Correspondence 1749-1878 by Joyce Hemlow.


  1. ^ Black, George F., The Surnames of Scotland Their Origin, Meaning and History. New York: New York Public Library, 1946. Print. (ISBN 0-87104-172-3)

Other References

  1. Prebble, John. The Highland Clearances. London: Secker & Warburg, 1963. Print.
  2. Matthews, John. Matthews' American Armoury and Blue Book. London: John Matthews, 1911. Print.
  3. Bolton, Charles Knowles. Bolton's American Armory. Baltimore: Heraldic Book Company, 1964. Print.
  4. Crozier, William Armstrong Edition. Crozier's General Armory A Registry of American Families Entitled to Coat Armor. New York: Fox, Duffield, 1904. Print.
  5. Barrow, G.W.S Ed. The Charters of David I The Written Acts of David I King of Scots, 1124-53 and of His Son Henry, Earl of Northumerland, 1139-52. Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 1999. Print.
  6. Catholic Directory For Scotland. Glasgow: Burns Publications. Print.
  7. Adam, Frank. Clans Septs and Regiments of the Scottish Highlands 8th Edition. London: Bacon (G.W.) & Co, 1970. Print. (ISBN 10-0717945006).
  8. Shaw, William A. Knights of England A Complete Record from the Earliest Time to the Present Day of the Knights of all the Orders of Chivalry in England, Scotland, Ireland and Knights Bachelors 2 Volumes. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing. Print. (ISBN 080630443X).
  9. Bolton, Charles Knowles. Scotch Irish Pioneers In Ulster and America. Montana: Kessinger Publishing. Print.
  10. Weis, Frederick Lewis, Walter Lee Sheppard and David Faris. Ancestral Roots of Sixty Colonists Who Came to New England Between 1623 and 1650 7th Edition. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1992. Print. (ISBN 0806313676).
  11. ...

This page was last modified on 4 April 2016 at 13:57.

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