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

Origins Available: English, Scottish

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

The Kay surname is thought to have emerged from several different sources. In Northern England and Scotland, it comes from the Old Norse "ká," which meant "jackdaw." It also came from the Breton and Old Welsh word "Cai," and the Cornish word "Key," both of which meant "wharf." And, in some instances, this surname is no doubt derived from the Old English "Coeg," which meant "key."

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Spelling variations of this family name include: Kay, Kaye and others.

First found in Yorkshire, but the surname was also found in Lincolnshire, and Cambridgeshire as far back as the 13th century. One of the first records in Scotland was the Kae family of Croslats who were and "old family" of West Lothian. The Keay spelling was quite popular in Perthshire. Philip Qua was listed in Aberdeen in 1317 and Donald Ka was listed there too in 1399. Thomas Kaa was on an inquest taken at Berwick-on-Tweed in 1370. Patrick Ka was burgess of Linkithgow until his death in 1445. [1] The "Mac" prefix seems is difficult to clarify. Some Mackay (Macaoid) families may have shortened their name.


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This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Kay research. Another 234 words(17 lines of text) covering the years 1219, 1246, 1372, 1500, and 1704 are included under the topic Early Kay History in all our PDF Extended History products.

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Another 22 words(2 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Kay Notables in all our PDF Extended History products.

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Some of the Kay family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt. Another 242 words(17 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products.

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Some of the first settlers of this family name were:

Kay Settlers in the United States in the 17th Century


  • James Kay, who arrived in Virginia in 1677

Kay Settlers in the United States in the 18th Century


  • Jonathan Kay, a Minister, who arrived in Maryland in 1711
  • Francis Kay, who settled in New England in 1751
  • Alexander Kay, who arrived in New York city in 1775
  • George Kay, who landed in New York in 1795

Kay Settlers in the United States in the 19th Century


  • Charles Kay, who arrived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1811
  • Alexander Kay, who landed in New York, NY in 1815
  • Francis Kay, who arrived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1815
  • Eliza Kay, who landed in New York, NY in 1816
  • James Kay, who arrived in New York, NY in 1816


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  • Hershy Kay (1919-1981), American composer
  • Beatrice Kay (1906-1986), American actress/singer
  • Sir Maurice Kay (b. 1942), British Judge of the High Court of Justice
  • Sir John Kay (1943-2004), British High Court judge
  • Brigadier Orville Montague Miles Kay (b. 1898), Military Attaché to China (1943)
  • John Kay (b. 1944), born Joachim Fritz Krauledatis, a German-born, Canadian singer, songwriter and guitarist of the rock band Steppenwolf


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  • The Ancestors of Robert Kay of South Carolina by Carl B. Kay.
  • The Four Children of James Kay of Essex County, VA by Kent Kay Freeman.
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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: Kynd Kynn Knawne Kepe
Motto Translation: Keep your own kin-kind.

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  1. ^ Black, George F., The Surnames of Scotland Their Origin, Meaning and History. New York: New York Public Library, 1946. Print. (ISBN 0-87104-172-3)

Other References

  1. 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.
  2. Moody David. Scottish Family History. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1994. Print. (ISBN 0806312688).
  3. Adam, Frank. Clans Septs and Regiments of the Scottish Highlands 8th Edition. London: Bacon (G.W.) & Co, 1970. Print. (ISBN 10-0717945006).
  4. Bradford, William. History of Plymouth Plantation 1620-1647 Edited by Samuel Eliot Morrison 2 Volumes. New York: Russell and Russell, 1968. Print.
  5. 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).
  6. Shaw, William A. Knights of England A Complete Record from the Earliest Time to the Present Day of the Knights of all the Orders of Chivalry in England, Scotland, Ireland and Knights Bachelors 2 Volumes. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing. Print. (ISBN 080630443X).
  7. Moncrieffe, Sir Ian of That Ilk and David Hicks. The Highland Clans The Dynastic Origins, Cheifs and Background of the Clans. New York: C.N. Potter, 1968. Print.
  8. Barrow, G.W.S Ed. Acts of Malcom IV 1153-65 Volume I Regesta Regum Scottorum 1153-1424. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1960. Print.
  9. Browning, Charles H. Americans of Royal Descent. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing. Print.
  10. Dorward, David. Scottish Surnames. Glasgow: Harper Collins, 1995. Print.
  11. ...

The Kay Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The Kay 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 10 March 2013 at 23:14.

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