Burden/Borden Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Burden/Borden Meaning
The name Burden and its variants may have more than one origin.
Some think Burden was a Norman implant, from the Old French name Burdo
or de Bourdon.  Various Norman Debourdons appeared in
records in the 1200’s.But the case that its origin is locational
has as much substance:

  • the Old English bar
    “boar” and den “valley”
    produced Borden in Kent.
  • a slightly diifferent
    configuration of bare meaning
    “barely” and den “valley”
    resulted in Bearden in Essex.
  • and barh meaning
    “fortified hill” and dun
    “hill” produced Burdon in

Borden, Bearden, and Burdon became surnames, often ending up as Burden
over time (although the Borden name has continued in America).

Burden/Borden Resources on

Burden/Borden Ancestry

Bearden as a surname appeared in Essex in 1287.  Later forms were
Berdon and Burden.  Borden today is a village in Kent near
Sittingbourne.  A Borden family who were yeoman farmers have been
traced to the village of Headcorn nearby in the 1400’s.  By the
turn of the 17th century, there were also Burdens west in Hampshire and
further west in Little Tottington in Devon and Jacobstaw in
Cornwall.  Hampshire today has the largest number of Burdens in

Burdons.  There
was a northern Burdon
outpost in Durham.
In 1486, Thomas
Burdon took “two oxgangs of land” in Stockton on Tees.  The
Burdons were the local force in the town until the 19th century, from
their base in later years at the old manor house in Castle Eden.
Rowland Burdon IV (they were all called Rowland) built the Sunderland
to Stockton turnpike and also the first cast iron bridge over the Wear
at Sunderland.

Although some Burdons remained, most of these Burdons
decamped to New Zealand in the 19th century. They became major
landowners in the Canterbury area of South Island.  Philip Burdon
from this family was a forceful New Zealand politician in the

America.  Burdens
outnumber Bordens by approximately three to two in America.

Bordens.  It was
the Bordens that captured the attention, however.  These
are primarily the descendants of Richard and Jane Borden who came to
Rhode Island from Kent in 1635.  Richard was a surveyor and as a
consequence was able to secure large tracts of land in Rhode Island and
what is now New Jersey.

The family produced Benjamin Borden,
whose land grants in the 1740’s were instrumental in opening up the
Shenandoah valley in Virginia.  Benjamin’s descendant Gail Borden,
settled in Texas, was the
inventor of condensed milk in 1856.  From this discovery came the
Borden Milk Company and later the Borden Corporation.

Another line led to Lizzie Borden in Fall River,
Massachusetts.  She became the central figure in the hatchet
murders of her father and stepmother in 1892.  Her trial and
subsequent acquittal attracted national attention.  Most thought
her guilty and her story has passed into American folklore.  As
the children’s rhyme went:

“Lizzie Borden took an axe
And gave her mother forty whacks,
And when she saw what she had done
She gave her father forty one.”

Burdens.  There
were Burdens from Essex and elsewhere in Virginia by the
1650’s.  James Burden crossed into Kentucky in 1785.  He had
nineteen children by two wives.  So there were a large number of

However, the Burden who perhaps left most of a mark
was the
Charles Burden who arrived in Louisiana in the 1850’s. He
acquired the Windrush plantation near Baton Rouge.  Later, under
the careful attention of his descendants, particularly the landscape
gardener Ollie Steele Burden, the site blossomed as a horticultural
center.  The family relinquished control in the 1960’s and the
site, now the
Burden Center
for Horticultural Research, is run by
Louisiana State University.

Canada.  Samuel Borden, a descendant of Richard and Jane
Borden, had come from Rhode Island in 1760 to survey the land of the
British colony of Nova Scotia.  His son
Perry settled there in the Annapolis valley. The line led to Sir
Borden, a Canadian Cabinet Minister from 1896 to 1911, and to Sir
Borden, Canadian Prime Minister from 1911 to 1920.

Australia.  Philip and Mary
Burden emigrated to South Australia in the early 1850’s from London
Burdens originated from Wiltshire).
Philip worked for the Adelaide
, his son Fred later became its editor and part-owner.


Select Burden/Borden Miscellany

Francis and Robergis DeBourdon.  It is said that Francis DeBourdon married his cousin Robergis in the
village of Borden in Kent on Christmas Day 1200, were buried in the
church of St. Peter and St. Paul, and were pictured there with their
two sons kneeling at Mass beside the following inscription of the
Borden Moral Code:

just: for the Lord only loaned us that which we have whether of goods
or of talents, and in their use we must consider the rights of all men.Be merciful: for we shall have no greater claim to the mercy we all
shall finally need than that we forgive our brother’s faults.Be true: to friendship and to God, for truth is all of this life worth
the having, and perfect truth is what the life to come shall reveal to
us.  It is the prince of darkness that is the prince of

The story goes that a couple, Richard and Lavinia Cook, broke into this
church at night in 1869 and removed the stone in the church which bore
the Borden coat of arms.  They found that the stone was hollow and
contained a cylindrical leaden box, also with the Borden coat of
arms.  Inside this box was a cylinder of yellow cloth of well
oiled linen waxed on the inside.  This contained a parchment
manuscript by Robergis DeBourdon.  She wrote that her son Richard:

“will be strong, a man of iron, wise,
and peaceful.  From him the Borden line will succeed.  It is
now 154 years since Count William of Normandy defeated and killed the
Great Harold, King of England, at Hastings.  There fell also
Ethelwolf my Saxon mother’s grandfather and lord of all the lands which
William the Conqueror gave to his vassal, Francis DeBourdon.  My
mother was Elfrida of Kent, my father Simon DeBourdon.”

Richard Cook supplied these details in the limited edition book he
wrote in 1901, Robergia: A Story of
Old England
.  How true all of this information is must be a
matter of conjecture.

Benjamin Borden in Virginia.  Benjamin’s first recorded appearance in Virginia was in 1734 when he
was appointed one of the justices of the newly formed Orange
County.  Subsequently his name appeared frequently in land
transactions in various parts of the Shenandoah valley.  His most
important enterprise was the settlement of “Borden’s Great Tract,” a
grant to him from the King of England of 92,100 acres in what was to
become Rockbridge County.

One story has it that Benjamin killed a young buffalo and presented it
to the Governor at Williamsburgh.  The Governor was so delighted
that he granted him 500,000 acres.  Another version has it that
Benjamin captured a buffalo calf and sent it to England as a present
for the Queen.  In her appreciation she granted him 100,000 acres
in the Virginia valley.

Benjamin’s legal requirement as proprietor of the tract was to put up a
bond of £1,800 and settle within a stated period of time a minimum
number of families on the tract.  He was to receive 1,000 acres of
land for each cabin built on the tract.  Five years later, after
92 cabins had been constructed, he received his grant.  On his
death in 1743, it was estimated that he owned 120,000 acres of land.

Most of this land was ordered to be sold by his will and the proceeds
divided among his children.  However, it was not until 150 years
later that all “known” descendants were satisfied with the division and
that the court disputes ended.

The Louisiana Burdens and Their Wonderful Gift.  William Pike, an early settler in Baton Rouge, had owned a considerable amount
of property in East Baton Rouge parish.  His niece Emma married
John Charles Burden in 1856 and it was John and Emma who built the old
Burden House.  Family legend was that the plantation was named
Windrush after a river in the Cotswolds in England where John had grown

Burdens have lived on this beautiful expanse of land over the
generations.  Of the 20th century siblings, Ollie Steele Burden
and Ione Burden never married.  Pike Burden married the lovely
Jeanette Monroe.  All three lived on the property until their
death.  Each were extremely concerned for its preservation after
they had gone.  Therefore in the 1960’s the Borden family created
the Burden Foundation to assist in the management, development, and
preservation of the land and its invaluable resources.

It was
not until the death of Pike that the Burden Foundation was able to
devise a solid plan to maintain this pristine track of land.  They
donated the property to Louisiana State University in 1973.
Thanks to strict guidelines for land use, the land at Burden Center
will never see the effects of urban development.

Philip Burdon: A Man of Our Time.  “It would be easy to make assumptions
about someone like Philip Burdon.  The product of a long line of
landed gentry going back to the 14th century and of well-heeled
pilgrims on Canterbury’s first four ships, brought up and educated as
one of South Canterbury’s privileged landowners, a distinguished old
boy of Christ’s College, and a self-made multimillionaire to boot –
Burdon might appear to be the archetypal New Zealand anglocentric

The truth is very different.  The
man is also a passionate republican, a businessman with an acute social
conscience, a liberal politician who fought relentlessly against the
right-wing ideologues of his own National Party, and not only slowed
their extremist free-market reforms but convinced his caucus that this
philosophy must wear a human face.”

This is how Philip Burdon appears in Edmund Bohan’s book, Burdon: A Man of Our Time.


Select Burden/Borden Names

  • Rowland Burdon was a
    wealthy 18th century merchant banker in Stockton, Durham.
  • Henry Burden from Scotland
    arrived in upstate New York in 1820 and pioneered steamboat development
    and the use of water wheels in iron works.  His Burden iron works
    in Troy is now a historical site and museum.
  • Gail Borden from Texas was the
    inventor of condensed milk in 1856.
  • Robert Laird Borden was the
    8th Prime Minister of Canada, from 1911 to 1920.
  • Eric Burdon was the lead singer of the 1960’s Newcastle rock group, The Animals, best known for
    their rendition of The House of the
    Rising Sun

Select Burden/Borden Numbers Today

  • 7,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Hampshire)
  • 5,000 in America (most numerous in Kentucky)
  • 5,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)



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