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Archiver > WYCKOFF > 1998-06 > 0898307802

From: <>
Subject: Origin of the name "Wyckoff"
Date: Fri, 19 Jun 1998 21:56:42 EDT

Allow me to comment on the recent posting on this subject, taken from "The
Wyckoff Family in America", which read in part as follows:

<< The origin of the name is as follows: Pieter Claesen had been a local judge
and the name came from this fact, the "Wyk" meaning a parish and "hof"
meaning a court. A member of the Wyckoff family, wandering through a Dutch
town during WW II, was surprised to see the name Wyckoff on a place of
business, which suggests that the name may have been taken because of some
old world association. Dr. Max Wickhoff of Vienna, Austria, in a letter
dated 20 December 1929, writes that his family came from Friesland in the
seventeenth century and that he believes that the Austrian Wickhoffs and the
American Wyckoffs derive from the same Friesian gentry, living in the
Austrian Netherlands, which then comprised a large part of Holland, Belgium,
and East Friesland. He also refers to the house in the province of Drente
which is called Hof in der Wijk, or Wijkof. "Hof" would here mean house or
farmstead and "Wijk" would designate the locality. (See Hoppin, Washington
Ancestry and Forty Other Families, Vol. III, page 122.) There can be no
certainty as to which explanation is correct.
There are many spellings of the name, but the original spelling is Wijckoff,
and the nearest approach to that is Wyckoff. The others are corruptions that
have arisen from carelessness or illegible writing.
Unfortunately, the above is, in my opinion, an old and incorrect theory, as
much as the members of the Wyckoff Society might believe it to be true.

To begin with, the interpretation of the name appears to have been made by
someone unfamiliar with Germanic languages, apparently using a German-English
dictionary. The word "Hof" can mean "court", but in the sense of a ROYAL
court. The word for a legal court is ENTIRELY different (Gericht). A second
and more common meaning for "Hof" is "a farm, country house or
Manor(house).."(Cassell's Erman-English/English-German Dictionary). This is,
in my opinion, the applicable meaning. More about this below. Note also that,
although the author considers "hof" to be a part of the derivation of this
name, he concludes by stating that the "CORRECT" original spelling is
"Wijckoff", which doesn't even have the word "Hof" in it.

There are also several derivatives of the meaning of "Wyk". None that I am
aware of is "parish". The closest is one you will not find in any current
dictionary, but means an area around a church which was dedicated to regular
markets. Again the more common meaning (as per the above and other sources) is
"creek, cove, bay". This word is said to be of Nordic origin, and appears in
the name of many places on the North and Baltic Seas. "Viking" has the same
source, and means "from the bays" or similar. (It might be of interest that I
discovered several "Vikhofs" in Swedish telphone books when I was researching
there some years ago. I wrote letters of inquiry to them, but did not receive
any substantive responses, and never got back to researching this aspect

Now to my theory of the origin of the name:
Peter Claessen is clearly documented as being "Pieter Claessen van (from)
Norden". Although now landlocked due to Dutch-like land reclamation efforts,
Norden was a major North Sea trading port until the 19th century. A few miles
from Norden, across from and on the then existing BAY was a large building
which was used as a storage and trans-shipment point by North Sea seafarers.
This was an ancient building, with a colorful history going back well before
PC's time. I have an aerial photo, and floor plan, of this building, which
unfortunately burned down in the 1950s. It has been replaced by a modern
residence, which is still called the WYCKHOF.

Incidentally, there is NO correct spelling spelling of this name. In the first
place there WAS NO STANDARD SPELLING SYSTEM in either English or German at
that time. In my researches of the German uses of this name I have come across
maybe a dozen variations. A couple of examples should suffice: My mother
spelled her name "Wieckhoff", her brother "Wiekhoff", their father used both
at different times, and also Wyckhoff. More to the point perhaps, my ancestor,
when reaffirming the use of this as the family name in 1824, signed his name
"Wykhoff", confirming as correct what the town clerk had officially registered
his name as being, namely "Wiekhoff"!

By the way, the Norden area is right across the Ems River from the
Netherlands, which has a similar dialect. While the "ij" combination (as in
Wijkhof) is still in use in the Netherlands, that pair of letters eventually
merged in German usage to become "y" (as in Wykhof).

A few years ago I travelled to Austria to follow up on the Austrian connection
alluded to in the article. I was able to trace that family back to the early
1700s, and met one of the currently living "Wickhoffs". (The letter "y" is
rarely used in the Austrian version of German). Unfortunately I haven't had
the time to get back to finishing this research.

Now let me get back to my theory of Pieter Claessen van Norden's origins:
According to published material, Pieter came from a seafaring or trading
family that sailed the North and Baltic seas from at least the east coast of
Sweden to at least Holland. Norden and the Wyckhoff are intermediate to these
points. I suspect that the family at least partially owned or otherwise had
strong connections to this place and spent time there. Whether Pieter was
actually born there or lived there for a while with or without his family is
subject to conjecture as no birth records have been found nor do they exist
for that time. However, the fact that at least two other families that I am
aware of, took their family name from having lived on this property, indicates
to me that it was a place of some prestige, with which one might logically
want to indicate his association.

Numerous other "coincidences" lend credence to this connection.

Hans Schrader, President
German Genealogy Group
(membership info sent upon request)

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