This unusual name is Norman French in origin and is a locational surname from either the place called "Bernay" in the province of Eure in Normandy or from "Berney" in Norfolk. "Bernay" is derived from a Gaulish personal name, "Brenno", meaning "Eminent", with the local suffix "acum", meaning a settlement or village, while "Berney" in Norfolk is named from one of William the Conqueror's Norman followers, cited below as the first recorded instance of the name "Berney", who received grants of land there in reward for his services. There are three forms of the modern surname, "Berney, Burney and Burnie". One "Bridgett Berney" was christened on the 15th October 1633 at St. Andrew's, Church in Holborn, London. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Ralph de Bernai, which was dated 1086, The Domesday Book, Suffolk, during the reign of King William I, The Conqueror, 1066 - 1087. 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.

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