From Burkby to Burpee

By Tom Burpee

The Burpee name is most known in North America for the tough Burpee fitness test and also the flowery Burpee Seeds Co amongst others. But for those of us who have the Burpee name, there is a natural curiosity, indeed a real wonderment, about how and when the name originated. Did the word have another earlier meaning that has been lost over the years? Surely, there must be a rational explanation!

  • The story of the name begins with Thomas Burkby who came from Yorkshire England in the 1630s and settled in Massachusetts.
  • Burkby is also the name of a Yorkshire town whose name may come from a word that means village inhabited by persons of mixed Viking background.
  • Thomas, like many of his contemporaries, could not write and probably couldn’t read as well. He signed a deed in 1693 with a “mark” and not a signature. Those were the days when people were very loose about how they wrote down a name.
  • Up to 1700, the name was Burkby or Burkbee with variations. The name then becomes Burbey or Burbee, there is no “p” as yet. In 1715, the “b” is replaced by a “p” and the name becomes Burpe or Burpee.