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An excerpt from www.HouseOfNames.com archives copyright 2000 - 2014

Origins Available: English, German

Where did the English May family come from? What is the English May family crest and coat of arms? When did the May family first arrive in the United States? Where did the various branches of the family go? What is the May family history?

The name May comes from the ancient Norman culture that was established in Britain after the Conquest of 1066. It was a name for a person born or baptized in the month of May. The name May is derived from the Old French word mai, which has cognates in the other European languages that were all derived from the Latin word Maius. This name was also a nickname for a person with a particularly sunny disposition or a person who had an anecdotal connection with the month of May. Often this connection would be the time that feudal obligations were owed. Nicknames, such as May, that described the time or season of the birth, baptism or conversion of the original bearer were frequently adopted in the medieval era. Additionally, numerous nicknames referred to various religious festivals, medieval name days, or the particular day of the week when feudal services were fulfilled.


Anglo-Norman names are characterized by a multitude of spelling variations. When the Normans became the ruling people of England in the 11th century, they introduced a new language into a society where the main languages of Old and later Middle English had no definite spelling rules. These languages were more often spoken than written, so they blended freely with one another. Contributing to this mixing of tongues was the fact that medieval scribes spelled words according to sound, ensuring that a person's name would appear differently in nearly every document in which it was recorded. The name has been spelled May, Mai, Maye and others.

First found in Sussex where they held a family seat as Lords of the manor of Faunt.


This web page shows only a small excerpt of our May research. Another 153 words(11 lines of text) covering the years 1291, 1573, 1630, 1605, 1611, 1614, 1621, 1624, 1625, 1624, 1625, 1626, 1629, 1604, 1655, 1640, 1642, 1628, 1698, 1665, 1685, 1621, 1684, 1797 and are included under the topic Early May History in all our PDF Extended History products.


Another 133 words(10 lines of text) are included under the topic Early May Notables in all our PDF Extended History products.


Some of the May family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt. Another 173 words(12 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products.


For many English families, the political and religious disarray that plagued their homeland made the frontiers of the New World an attractive prospect. Thousands migrated, aboard cramped disease-ridden ships. They arrived sick, poor, and hungry, but were welcomed in many cases with far greater opportunity than at home in England. Many of these hardy settlers went on to make important contributions to the emerging nations in which they landed. Among early immigrants bearing the name May or a variant listed above were:

May Settlers in the United States in the 17th Century

  • Cornelius May arrived in Virginia in 1616
  • Dorothy May arrived on the "Mayflower" in 1620
  • Dorothy May, who landed in Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1620
  • Cornelius May, who landed in Virginia in 1623
  • William May settled in St. Christopher in 1634

May Settlers in the United States in the 18th Century

  • Henry May, who arrived in Virginia in 1705
  • Johan Peter May, who arrived in New York in 1709
  • Martin May, who landed in Louisiana in 1719
  • Johann May, who landed in America in 1741
  • Johan Henrich May, who landed in Pennsylvania in 1743

May Settlers in the United States in the 19th Century

  • Jacob May, aged 30, arrived in Pennsylvania in 1805
  • Emanuel May, aged 22, arrived in Pennsylvania in 1805
  • Lionel May, aged 43, arrived in New York, NY in 1812
  • Morris May, who landed in Texas in 1835
  • George May, who landed in Texas in 1835


  • Jonathan May (1958-2010), American cellist and conductor
  • Ann May (b. 1901), American actress
  • Private First Class Martin O. May (1922-1945), American soldier, awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in 1945
  • Bert Deems May (b. 1969), American NFL football former tight end
  • David LaFrance May (1943-2012), American Major League Baseball outfielder, inducted into the Delaware Sports Museum and Hall of Fame (1984)
  • Brian Harold May (b. 1947), English guitarist for the rock band "Queen"
  • Vice Admiral Sir Cyril May KBE, CB (1897-1979), British former Director-General, Royal Navy Medical Services
  • Peter Barker Howard May (b. 1929), English cricket player
  • Philip William May (1864-1903), English caricaturist
  • Sir Thomas Erskine May (1815-1886), English constitutional jurist



  • The Descendants of Claiborne B. May by Imogene May Boswell.
  • Ancestors and Descendants of Patty Blackburn Davis (also May Family) by Patty Dahm Pascoe.

  1. Reaney P.H and R.M. Wilson. A Dictionary of English Surnames. London: Routledge, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-415-05737-X).
  2. Burke, Sir Bernard. Burke's Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Landed Gentry: Including American Families with British Ancestry. (2 Volumes). London: Burke Publishing, 1939. Print.
  3. Shirley, Evelyn Philip. Noble and Gentle Men of England Or Notes Touching The Arms and Descendants of the Ancient Knightley and Gentle Houses of England Arranged in their Respective Counties 3rd Edition. Westminster: John Bowyer Nichols and Sons, 1866. Print.
  4. Weis, Frederick Lewis, Walter Lee Sheppard and David Faris. Ancestral Roots of Sixty Colonists Who Came to New England Between 1623 and 1650 7th Edition. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1992. Print. (ISBN 0806313676).
  5. Hanks, Patricia and Flavia Hodges. A Dictionary of Surnames. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988. Print. (ISBN 0-19-211592-8).
  6. Burke, Sir Bernard. General Armory Of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales. Ramsbury: Heraldry Today. Print.
  7. Bowman, George Ernest. The Mayflower Reader A Selection of Articales from The Mayflower Descendent. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing. Print.
  8. Samuelsen, W. David. New York City Passenger List Manifests Index 1820 - 1824. North Salt Lake, Utah: Accelerated Indexing Systems International, 1986. Print.
  9. Holt, J.C. Ed. Domesday Studies. Woodbridge: Boydell, 1987. Print. (ISBN 0-85115-477-8).
  10. Humble, Richard. The Fall of Saxon England. New York: Barnes and Noble, 1975. Print. (ISBN 0-88029-987-8).
  11. ...

The May Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The May Family Crest was drawn according to heraldic standards based on published blazons. We generally include the oldest published family crest once associated with each surname.

This page was last modified on 26 October 2014 at 15:31.

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