Surnames and the Y Chromosome

Bryan Sykes and Catherine Irven

University of Oxford, Institute of Molecular Medicine, Oxford

Received May 27, 1999; accepted for publication January 6, 2000; electronically published March 17, 2000.

A randomly ascertained sample of males with the surname "Sykes" was typed with four Y-chromosome microsatellites. Almost half the sample shared the same Y-chromosome haplotype, which has not been observed in control samples either from the same geographic region or from the United Kingdom as a whole. This points to a single surname founder for extant Sykes males, even though written sources had predicted multiple origins. The distribution of other Sykes Y-chromosome haplotypes were not significantly different from those in controls and may be accounted for by the historical accumulation of nonpaternity during the past 700 years, in which case the average rate estimate is 1.3%/generation. If this pattern is reproduced with other surnames, it may have important forensic and genealogical applications.