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

Origins Available: Irish, Scottish

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

The Picts were the ancient Scottish tribe where the ancestors of the McKay family lived. The name McKay comes from the personal name Aodh, a cognate of Hugh. The Gaelic form of the name is usually Mac Aoidh and in Inverness, the Gaelic form of the name McKay is Mac Ai.


Before the first dictionaries appeared in the last few hundred years, scribes spelled according to sound. spelling variations are common among Scottish names. McKay has been spelled MacKay, MacCay, MacQuey, MacQuoid, MacKaw, MacKy, MacKye, MacCoy, McCoy and many more.

First found in Sutherland (Gaelic: Cataibh), a former county in northern Scotland, now part of the Council Area of Highland, where early records show that Gilcrest M'Ay, forefather of the MacKay family of Ugadale, made a payment to the constable of Tarbert in 1326. It is claimed that the Clan is descended from the royal house of MacEth.


This web page shows only a small excerpt of our McKay research. Another 597 words(43 lines of text) covering the years 1408, 1411, 1429, 1329, 1506, 1575, 1873, 1940, 1640, 1692, 1689, 1726 and 1692 are included under the topic Early McKay History in all our PDF Extended History products.


Another 97 words(7 lines of text) are included under the topic Early McKay Notables in all our PDF Extended History products.


Some of the McKay family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt. Another 253 words(18 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products.


In those unstable times, many had no choice but to leave their beloved homelands. Sickness and poverty hounded travelers to North America, but those who made it were welcomed with land and opportunity. These settlers gave the young nations of Canada and the United States a strong backbone as they stood up for their beliefs as United Empire Loyalists and in the American War of Independence. In this century, the ancestors of these brave Scots have begun to recover their illustrious heritage through clan societies and other heritage organizations. Early passenger and immigration lists reveal many Scottish settlers bearing the name McKay:

McKay Settlers in the United States in the 17th Century

  • Melashus McKay, aged 22, arrived in Virginia in 1635

McKay Settlers in the United States in the 18th Century

  • Mary McKay, who landed in New York in 1738
  • Merran McKay, who landed in New York in 1739
  • Florence McKay, who arrived in New York in 1739
  • Agnes McKay, who landed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1739
  • Duncan McKay, who arrived in New York, NY in 1740

McKay Settlers in the United States in the 19th Century

  • Nancy McKay, aged 40, landed in New York, NY in 1804
  • Alexr McKay, aged 21, landed in New York, NY in 1804
  • Bernard McKay, who arrived in America in 1811
  • Edward McKay, aged 31, landed in New York in 1812
  • Eliza McKay, who arrived in New York, NY in 1817


  • James Douglas McKay (1893-1959), twenty-fifth Governor of Oregon
  • Claude McKay (1889-1948), American poet and novelist, born in Jamaica, who became a major figure of the Harlem Renaissance
  • Donald McKay (1810-1880), American shipbuilder, born in Nova Scotia, designer of many of the largest ships of his era
  • Nellie McKay (b. 1982), British-born American singer-songwriter, actress
  • Jim McKay (b. 1921), American television sports journalist
  • George Cadogan Gardner McKay (1932-2001), American actor and writer
  • Cody Dean McKay (b. 1974), American former Major League Baseball catcher
  • Cheryl McKay, American author and screenwriter
  • Jim McKay, American film and television director, producer and writer
  • Raymond T. McKay (1925-1993), American labor leader, President of American Maritime Officers (1957-1993)



  • Archibald McKay, 1720-1797, Scotland to Cumberland County, North Carolina by Bettie McKay Fraine.

The motto was originally a war cry or slogan. Mottoes first began to be shown with arms in the 14th and 15th centuries, but were not in general use until the 17th century. Thus the oldest coats of arms generally do not include a motto. Mottoes seldom form part of the grant of arms: Under most heraldic authorities, a motto is an optional component of the coat of arms, and can be added to or changed at will; many families have chosen not to display a motto.

Motto: Manu forti
Motto Translation: With a strong hand.


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  1. Leeson, Francis L. Dictionary of British Peerages. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1986. Print. (ISBN 0-8063-1121-5).
  2. The Norman People and Their Existing Descendants in the British Dominions and the United States Of America. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1975. Print. (ISBN 0-8063-0636-X).
  3. Innes, Thomas and Learney. Scots Heraldry A Practical Handbook on the Historical Principles and Mordern Application of the Art and Science. London: Oliver and Boyd, 1934. Print.
  4. Martine, Roddy, Roderick Martine and Don Pottinger. Scottish Clan and Family Names Their Arms, Origins and Tartans. Edinburgh: Mainstream, 1992. Print.
  5. Samuelsen, W. David. New York City Passenger List Manifests Index 1820 - 1824. North Salt Lake, Utah: Accelerated Indexing Systems International, 1986. Print.
  6. Skordas, Guest. Ed. The Early Settlers of Maryland an Index to Names or Immigrants Complied from Records of Land Patents 1633-1680 in the Hall of Records Annapolis, Maryland. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1968. Print.
  7. Crozier, William Armstrong Edition. Crozier's General Armory A Registry of American Families Entitled to Coat Armor. New York: Fox, Duffield, 1904. Print.
  8. Matthews, John. Matthews' American Armoury and Blue Book. London: John Matthews, 1911. Print.
  9. Bain, Robert. The Clans and Tartans of Scotland. Glasgow & London: Collins, 1968. Print. (ISBN 000411117-6).
  10. Dorward, David. Scottish Surnames. Glasgow: Harper Collins, 1995. Print.
  11. ...

The McKay Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The McKay 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 24 October 2014 at 11:38.

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