Hicks Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Hicks Surname Meaning

The Normans brought the name Richard to England and it became popular in the 13th century after the exploits of King Richard the Lionheart. Richard contributed English surnames such as Richards and Richardson.  

However, the native English had difficulty getting around the Norman “R” pronunciation and “D” or “H” would often come out of their mouths instead. Pet names such as Ritch and Rick came out as Hitch and Hick and were eventually spelt like that as well. Other surnames such as Hitchens and Hitchcock developed as well.  But the most numerous of these surnames has been Hicks.

Hicks Surname Resources on The Internet

Hicks Surname Ancestry

  • from England (the West and Yorkshire)
  • to America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand

England.  Who had the most difficulty with the Norman “R’s”? It may have been those folks in the west country.

West Country.  The earliest recorded Hicks family in England was that of Gloucestershire origin. Traditionally this family was descended from Sir Ellis Hicks who had been knighted at the Battle of Poitiers in 1356. But no firm pedigree of the family exists that goes that far back.

The main line began with John Hicks of Tortworth in Gloucestershire who owned fulling-mills and other property there and died in 1546. William Hicks was rector of Tortworth a century or so later. Another Hicks line came to London:

  • Robert Hicks, John’s grandson, was a wealthy mercer in Cheapside importing rich silks from Italy. His son Baptist became even more wealthy and established his country home at Chipping Campden in Gloucestershire. Sir Baptist Hicks, Lord Campden, died in 1629 but left no male heir.
  • the Hicks family through Baptist’s elder brother Sir Michael Hicks, an Elizabethan courtier in London, also owned Beverstone castle in Gloucestershire. A later Michael Hicks died without issue in 1764 and this estate passed to a distant cousin who adopted the surname of Hicks Beach.
  • while James Hicks, the son of an earlier Baptist, made his home in Southwark.  His son Robert emigrated to America on the Fortune in 1621.

There were more Hicks in Cornwall. John Hicks was recorded at St. Ives as early as 1400 and the Hicks remained an important family in the town for the next four hundred years:  

“In 1572 Thomas Hicks was chosen as headwarden of St. Ives. Nathaniel Hicks was elected its mayor in 1784, 1795 and 1803. Overall the Hicks family gave a mayor to St. Ives no fewer than twelve times, besides at least nine headwardens or porthrieves.” 

Thomas Hickes was the mayor of Launceston in 1535. Walter Hicks, gentleman, died at Luxullion near Truro in 1635. Hicks at Polperro date from the early 1600’s. There were four generations of Hicks fishermen recorded at Polperro during the 18th and 19th centuries. A Hicks family started the St. Austell brewery in 1893 and still runs the brewery today.

Yorkshire. The North Riding of Yorkshire might have been another place where the Norman “R” became “H.” Early surname spellings there were Hyck, Hick, Hickes and Hicks.

The Hickes there may date from an early time. John Hickes was the lord of the manor of Nunnington in Ryedale in 1580 and he was succeeded by his son Robert. The Hickes of Newsham Hall near Thirsk were probably a related family. Their numbers included George and John Hickes. George was an Anglican churchman who was appointed Dean of Worcester in 1683; John a non-conformist rebel who participated in Monmouth’s Uprising in 1685 and was executed.  Fowler Hicks made his home at Silton Hall.

America. Robert Hicks from London arrived at the Massachusetts Bay Colony on the Fortune in 1621, just one year after the Mayflower. His wife Margaret and two children followed on the Anne in 1623 and they made their home in Duxbury.  John Hicks, possibly his son, came from London to Weymouth in 1637; while Thomas Hicks, possibly a brother (both had been dealers in London in skins and furs), was in Scituate by 1640.   

Hicks Quaker Lines. John Hicks had an unsettled early time in America.  He moved from Weymouth to Rhode Island in 1639 and there, after unsuccessfully seeking a divorce from his first wife Herodias, left her in 1645 and departed for Long Island (then under Dutch rule). He was the forebear of the Quaker Hicks in New York and Pennsylvania.

His son Thomas had moved to Long Island after he had married Mary Washburn. Their grandchildren became Quakers in the mid-18th century. Among the notable Quakers here were the related Elias, Isaac and Edward Hicks.

Elias Hicks, born on Long Island in 1748, was a famous Quaker preacher of his day. In his ministry he promoted doctrines that embroiled him and his followers in controversies which caused the first major schism within the Quaker community. He was the founder of a branch that is known to this day as Hicksites. 

His cousin Isaac Hicks was a successful New York Quaker merchant and who traveled extensively with Elias in his ministry. His grandson John was one of the founders of Swarthmore College. Another grandson Isaac was a horticulturalist who started Hicks Nursery on Long Island in 1853. 

And a more distant cousin Edward Hicks was a Quaker preacher from Langhorne in Bucks county, Pennsylvania. His grandfather Gilbert had moved there in 1747 and built Hicks House where Edward had been born. Edward became a Quaker icon because of his folk paintings. He painted more than sixty Peaceable Kingdoms illustrating the vision of the prophet Isaiah.

Hicks in the South.  The early spelling in Virginia was either Hix or Hicks:

  • Samuel Hix arrived in Virginia in 1637 and many Hix and Hicks in Virginia and North Carolina were descended from him.
  • Captain Robert Hicks of Hicks’ Ford in Brunswick county was an Indian trader of much renown in the late 1600’s and early 1700’s.  William Byrd saw him in 1728 when Hicks was seventy years old and described him as follows: “Beauty never appeared better in old age, with a ruddy complexion and hair as white as snow.”
  • while Hicks in Spotsylvania county date from the 1720’s.

Thomas Hicks came to Maryland from Cumberland in England around the year 1680. A descendant was Thomas H. Hicks, Dorchester county farmer and Maryland Governor during the Civil War.  He managed to keep Maryland on the Union side during that conflict.

William Hicks was in Baltimore, Maryland by 1690. He may have come from Long Island (although family tradition has him coming from English immigrants). His grandson Shadrach and wife Elizabeth were among the first settlers in Sullivan county, Tennessee in 1776. Their grandson Shadrach (better known as Shade) moved onto Monroe county in 1805. His son Isaac fought on the Confederate side in the Civil War.

A Hicks line from New York headed south after the Revolutionary War. Amos Hicks was a pioneer settler in Hancock county, Georgia in the early 1800’s. His son Arrice migrated first to Alabama and then in the 1850’s to Pontotoc county, Mississippi. Some Hicks have remained in the area, others moved onto Texas.

Canada.  One Quaker Hicks line in Rhode Island led to Canada. John Hicks left with other Rhode Island settlers for Nova Scotia in 1760. He made his home in Annapolis township. Josiah Hicks was an early settler in the 1770’s in Sackville, New Brunswick.    

Australia. Richard Hicks, convicted in Kent in 1797, had to wait four years before embarking on the Canada to transport him to Australia. His son James Hicks settled in the Northern Illawarra dtstrict of NSW and prospered there. James’s son Henry T. Hicks was elected an alderman in 1887 and two of Henry’s sons fought with the Australian Imperial Force in World War One.

New Zealand.  John Hicks from Cornwall was an early arrival in New Zealand, coming there in 1841 on the William Bryan. He married Margaret Old, also from Cornwall, in New Plymouth, Taranaki two years later. There is no record of a divorce. But John returned to Cornwall in the 1870’s and married again. Margaret and their ten children remained in New Zealand.

Hicks Surname Miscellany

Sir Ellis Hicks.  Not that much is known about Sir Ellis Hicks.   He was born in 1315, possibly in Gloucestershire.  In 1356 he was fighting in France at the Battle of Poitiers where he was knighted by Edward the Black Prince for his bravery in capturing a set of colors from the French.  The following is a second-hand account of this incident:

“Ellis Hicks fought under the Black Prince’s banner on the sloping land at Poitiers, with the windmill on the hill behind him and the French host in front.

From the vantage ground between the windmill walls the English king watched the battle and his son’s hard passage of arms serenely for he could see that all went well.  Perhaps he could see quite plainly too Ellis Hicks’ great deed and the desperation of the “energy” which made him the possessor of the French banners.

We are led to believe that when the battle was over Ellis Hicks was knighted there and then, kneeling on the ground in the shade of the windmill sails.”

Ellis died in 1390 when he was 75 years old.

Sir Baptist Hicks’ Monument.  Sir Baptist Hicks, Lord Campden, died in 1629 and was buried at Campden church in Gloucestershire beneath a stately monument erected by his widow.  The inscription read:

“Dearest and deceased husband, Lord Hicks, Viscount Campden, born of a worthy family in the City of London; who by the blessing of God on his ingenuous endeavors arose to an ample estate and to the foresaid degrees of honor; and out of those blessings disposed to charitable uses in his lifetime a large portion to the value of £10,000; who lived religiously, virtuously, and generously, to the age of seventy eight years and died on October the 18th, 1629.”

She died in 1643 and the following was added to the inscription:

“Reader, know, whoe’er thou be, here lie Faith, Hope, and Charity; Faith true, Hope firm, Charity free; Baptist Lord Campden was these three. Faith in God, Charity to brother, Hope for himself; what ought he other?  Faith is no more; Charity is crowned; ’tis only Hope is underground.”

The Hicks at Silton Hall.  Silton Hall was to be found in the village of Nether Silton in the Hambleton district of north Yorkshire.  In 1765 Squire Hicks erected a seven foot high stone in its grounds with a cryptic inscription that may have referred to his former home.   Only the first word of each letter was inscribed.  The following is thought to be its interpretation:

  • “Here The Grand Old Manor Stood
  • The Black Beams Were Oak, The Great Walls Were Good.
  • The Walls At The East Wing Are Hidden Here
  • A Thatched Cottage Like A Barn Was Erected
  • Year AD 1765. A Wide Porch Spans A Yard And Above.”

The stone was his idea to mark the spot where the Hickes medieval manor had once stood.

In 1838 Colonel Hicks added an octagonal tower with Gothic windows to Silton Hall.  Hicks had been in the Light Dragoons and fought at the Battle of Waterloo.

Robert Hicks and His Family Coming to New England.  Max Spangler in his 1986 booklet The Hicks Still Alive had the following to say about their arrival.

“Robert Hicks left London on the ship Fortune in early 1621 and arrived at Plymouth on November 11, 1621.  He had left Thomas Hicks in charge of his business and his son John entered college to study law.  Margaret Winslow Hicks and their six children booked passage two years later on the ship Anne and arrived at Plymouth in July/August 1623.

John Hicks finished college and followed his father to New England.  He was known as living in Rhode Island in 1641 and finally settled in Hempstead on Long Island as early as 1664.”

John Hicks’ Divorce.  John Hicks had married his wife Herodias in London but they had a difficult time together during their time in Rhode Island.  In 1643 Herodias complained to the court that her husband was beating her.  John retaliated by demanding a divorce.  This the Governor refused, stating that there was no divorce law in Rhode Island.  John Hicks promptly abandoned his wife and departed for Long Island.

In Dutch New York John Hicks finally got his divorce, although it took ten years.  Governor Peter Stuyvesant granted this divorce on June 1, 1655.

“We the counsellors of New Netherland having seen and read the request of John Hicks sheriff on Long Island in which he remonstrates and presents that his wife Harwood (sic) Long had ran away from him about nine years ago with someone else with whom she has been married and had by him five or six children. His wife having therefore broken the bond of marriage (without him having given any reason thereto) he asks to be qualified and given permission to marry again an honorable young girl or a widow (in accordance with political and ecclesiastical ordinances).

The above mentioned counsellors, having taken notice of the above request and in addition of the affidavits and declarations attached thereto made by trustworthy inhabitants of this Province, they find that this request cannot be refused and that they therefore have given him letters of divorce.”

He did marry Florence Carman, a widow, later that year, but the couple had no children.  After she died in 1661, he married a third time, to Rachel Starr.  His sole male descent Thomas, born around 1640, was through his first wife.

Reader Feedback: John Hicks, born in 1607, is my great grandfather, along with Herodias Long Hicks my 8th great grandmother.  From what little research of today’s exploring, his parents undecided but I may be mistaken.

Melissa Turrentina (romejo1990@gmail.com)

Reader Feedback – William Hicks of Long Island or Elsewhere.  My last name is Hicks.  I’m in California but my dad and his brothers were born in Houston. I have everything verified as best I can over the last year but I have a missing connection with William Hicks.

In your post it says he may have come from Long Island but family tradition says from England.  I had thought he was son of Judge Thomas Hicks of Flushing Long Island, born in 1678 and died in 1710.  I have found nothing about Judge Thomas’ son, just that he had a son William in his will.

I have, however, found a William Hicks son of Thomas in a Christening record in Warwickshire England born 1678 and an iffy immigration passenger list.

Bobby Hicks (burr197630@gmail.com)

Captain Robert Hicks and Hicks’ Ford.  Captain Robert Hicks the Indian trader was famous in his time and his life was much embroidered by fiction and folklore.

According to the old tales, he was a British officer who had come up the James from Jamestown and up the Appomattox river.  He then followed the Indian trail southward through the wilderness toward Carolina.  He journeyed forty miles, far beyond the outermost white settlements until he came to the Meherrin river deep in the southern forest.

Here he set down his stakes.  He managed to win the confidence of the Meherrin Indians who were numerous and had many settlements in the area.

One day when Vnuntsquero, the chief of the Meherrins, saw Hicks wearing a fine silk hat with a plume, he said to him,

“Last night I had a dream.”  “And what did you dream?” asked Hicks.  “I dreamed you gave me your hat,” said the chieftain.

Robert Hicks, knowing the Indians placed great significance on their dreams and expected them to come true, and also remembering that it was their custom when receiving a gift to return one of equal or even greater value, seized the opportunity to improve his position among them. Taking the hat from his head, be graciously presented it to the chieftain who received it with apparent delight.

A few weeks later Robert hicks came upon Vnuntsquero and said:

“I had a dream last night.” “And what did you dream,” asked the Indian. “I dreamed you gave me all the land for twenty miles along the river,” Hicks replied quickly.

The chieftain hesitated for a moment, then solemnly said:  “The land is yours, White Man, but go and dream no more!”

And so it was, according to the legend, that Robert Hicks came to be rich in lands and spent the rest of his days near the river crossing which became known as Hicks’ Ford and after a long time became Emporia.

Reader Feedback – Hicks of Spotsylvania County, Virginia.  My Hicks family has been in the county of Spotsylvania, Virginia since 1725 or so when it became an official county in the colony.  I have a great grandfather who is James Hicks.  But I know more beginning with his son Peter.  They lived in Caroline county and Spotsylvania from the early 1700s.  There were several brothers and one had been sheriff for many years, Thomas Hicks.

One of the first listings in the oldest Spotsylvania Order Book is that of a Sarah Hicks in 1727.  After some research, I found she was in Northumbria, Virginia.  Her husband William Hicks owned much land in Maryland across from Virginia on the Potomac River.  He seems to have been a merchant from Whitehaven, UK in Cumbria perhaps?

Many of my deceased relatives tried to link James Hicks of Caroline/Spotsylvania, Virginia to Robert or Robin Hicks of Hicksford in Brunswick, Virginia on the border near North Carolina.  There are a couple of missing generations that make me think that this isn’t our line.

I had my 96 yr old Dad’s DNA taken with Ancestry.com about 10 years ago.  When names with our DNA were sent, nobody had the name of Hicks.  I was confused.  I took 23 and ME in December.

What can I do to continue searching?  I’m not sure if we came through Plymouth, with Rev Robert Hicks, or through Jamestown, or even as a Quaker in Philadelphia. I do know my line has been in the same area and same county for 300 years.  We’ve thrived as gentlemen farmers and solicitor/attorneys, as well as law enforcement and politicians.

Carole Hicks (chicksberry@hotmail.com) 

James Hicks of the Northern Illawarra.  James Hicks, born in 1810, was the son of two convicts, Richard James Hicks and Margaret White nee Howe.  In 1830 he applied for a land grant at Russell Vale after his stepfather Thomas White had died in the shipwreck of the Foxhound off Coalcliff beach.

He and his wife Margaret raised thirteen children, first at Russell Vale and then at the Northern Illawarra where he was one of its early settlers. He died there in 1895, a father and grandfather many times over.

Hicks Names

  • Ellis Hicks distinguished himself at the Battle of Poitiers in 1356 and was afterwards knighted by the King.
  • Elias Hicks was a famous Quaker preacher in America in the early 1800’s who through his preachings caused a split within the Quaker community.
  • John Hicks was an eminent British economist of the 20th century, a follower and explainer of Keynes.

Hicks Numbers Today

  • 22,000 in the UK (most numerous in London)
  • 54,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 31,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)

Hicks and Like Surnames   

Patronymic surnames can be with either the “-son” or the shorter “s” suffix to the first name.  The “s” suffix is more common in southern England and in Wales.  Here are some of these surnames that you can check out.



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Written by Colin Shelley

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