George Stell Sykes
John Sykes

The Name Sykes

Sykes is a fairly common name in the Yorkshire records. Various sources say the following about the name:

  1. According to several sources, Sykes is a local place name meaning "small stream".

  2. Arthur M. Sykes, Jr. in his book on a branch of the Sykes family in the United States (available at the NYC Public Library call number Sykes APV (Sykes) 94-6358), says a "syke" was a "water-course, or a water furrow, or a small rill without sand or gravel running out of a quagmire". Arthur M. Sykes Jr. listed his source as "Herald and Genealogist" edited by John Gough Nichols, Volume 3, page 459 and pages following.
    Note: "Herald and Genealogis" is available on microfilm at the NYC Library.

  3. According to an article on the DNA of the Sykes family published in the New York Times on Sunday, April 9, 2000,
    "The word comes from a type of moorland stream used to mark land boundaries."
  4. George Redmonds, an expert on Yorkshire surnames, in his book "Yorkshire Surname Series Part II, Huddersfield and District", says of the name Sykes,
    " From 'syke' which was a stream or ditch, often serving as a boundary. The word gave rise to many minor placenames and the surname must have several Yorkshire origins. Locally there were families in Flockton and Saddleworth, although it was in Slaithwaite that Sykes became particularly prolific. It has no obvious origin there and the link in this case may by with Saddleworth. It is noticeable that the name occurs in both Austonley and Marsden in the early 1400s."
    George Redmonds lists the following early records:
    1. 1296 John del Sik (Flockton) Wakefield Court Rolls
    2. 1331 John del Syk (Flockton) Yorkshire Deeds
    3. 1379 Adam del Sykes (Saddleworth) Poll Tax
    4. 1391 John by the Syke (Holme) Wakefield Court Rolls
    5. 1416 John Sykes (Austonley) Wakefield Court Rools
    6. 1424 William Sikes (Marsden) Ramsden Family Paper, Hudderfield Library, R5/30.
    7. 1440 William Sykes (Flockton) Yorkshire Deeds
    8. 1545 Richard Sykkes (Flockton) Subsidy Rolls

The First "Mr." Sykes

Since Sykes derived from a fairly common Yorkshire word, it had been assumed that there would be multiply unrelated branches of the Sykes family. Bryan Sykes a geneticist at the University of Oxford in England did a Y chromosome DNA study of males in England with the surname Sykes. According to Dr. Sykes only one DNA signature was common among the Sykes, which means there was one common ancestor.

The First Sykes in Yorkshire

According to an artical in the New York Times (Sunday, April 9, 2000) on the DNA study done by Bryan Sykes, the "first Sykeses on record lived in the 13th century in Flockton, Slaithwaite and Saddleworth, three village close to Huddersfield". Huddersfield is about five miles from Adwalton where the first known Sykes ancestors in the Land family were living in the late 1700s. The article further says the Sykes ancestors n the 14th century were "Quite a rough lot- always being fined for cutting down trees and stealing sheep".

By the time of the 1841 and 1851 censuses, Sykes (with 3,160 listings) was the most common name in Huddersfield and District (which includes the parishes of Birstall and Batley). Walker (with 1,994 listings) was the eighth most common name in the area.

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