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

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

The ancestors of the Keys surname lived among the ancient Anglo-Saxon culture. The name comes from when they lived near a dock, and may have been employed there having derived from the Old French word kay, which became kaye, keye, and keay in Old English. These were all words for docks, or quays. The original bearers of the name undoubtedly lived near some docks, and could easily have been workers there. There is also the possibility that the name is derived from the Latin personal name Caius, a name that dates from the Roman occupation of Britain. There is a record of a Britius filius Kay in 1199, in Northants; filius means "son of." There is a third possibility; in the north of England ka was a word for jackdaw (derived from the Old Scandinavian), and was often applied as a nickname; some nicknames became surnames and this could be one of them. However, the majority of examples of this name found in England are of the local type. This makes this name a polygenetic name, which means that it arose spontaneously at different times and places and meant different things.

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Before English spelling was standardized a few hundred years ago, spelling variations of names were a common occurrence. Elements of Latin, French and other languages became incorporated into English through the Middle Ages, and name spellings changed even among the literate. The variations of the surname Keys include Keyes, Key, Keys, Keye, Keyse and others.

First found in Yorkshire where they held a family seat from very ancient times, some say well before the Norman Conquest and the arrival of Duke William at Hastings in 1066 A.D.


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This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Keys research. Another 117 words(8 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Keys History in all our PDF Extended History products.

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More information is included under the topic Early Keys Notables in all our PDF Extended History products.

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Some of the Keys family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt. Another 121 words(9 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products.

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A great wave of immigration to the New World was the result of the enormous political and religious disarray that struck England at that time. Families left for the New World in extremely large numbers. The long journey was the end of many immigrants and many more arrived sick and starving. Still, those who made it were rewarded with an opportunity far greater than they had known at home in England. These emigrant families went on to make significant contributions to these emerging colonies in which they settled. Some of the first North American settlers carried this name or one of its variants:

Keys Settlers in the United States in the 18th Century


  • Johan Philip Keys, who arrived in New York in 1709
  • Peter Keys, aged 17, landed in Pennsylvania in 1741

Keys Settlers in the United States in the 19th Century


  • Eliza Keys, aged 20, landed in New York, NY in 1804
  • Andrew Keys, who landed in America in 1805
  • Elizabeth Keys, who arrived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1816
  • Samuel Keys, who landed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1816
  • William Keys, who landed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1816


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  • Alicia Keys (b. 1981), American recording artist, musician and actress
  • William "Billy" Amar Keys (b. 1977), American professional basketball player
  • Francis Scott Keys (1779-1843), American lawyer
  • James Edward "Jimmy" Keys (b. 1961), American former left-handed starting pitcher in Major League Baseball
  • Bobby Keys (b. 1943), American saxophone player
  • Robert William Trevor Keys (b. 1979), English cricketer
  • Richard Keys (b. 1957), English radio presenter


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  • By the Name of Keyes (also Keys) by Peggy Keyes Gray.
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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: In Domino confido
Motto Translation: I trust in the Lord.

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  1. Bede, The Venerable. Historia Ecclesiatica Gentis Anglorum (The Ecclesiastical History Of the English People). Available through Internet Medieval Sourcebook the Fordham University Centre for Medieval Studies. Print.
  2. Burke, Sir Bernard. General Armory Of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales. Ramsbury: Heraldry Today. Print.
  3. Sanders, Joanne McRee Edition. English Settlers in Barbados 1637-1800. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing. Print.
  4. 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.
  5. Matthews, John. Matthews' American Armoury and Blue Book. London: John Matthews, 1911. Print.
  6. Hanks, Hodges, Mills and Room. The Oxford Names Companion. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002. Print. (ISBN 0-19-860561-7).
  7. Le Patourel, John. The Norman Empire. New York: Oxford University Press, 1976. Print. (ISBN 0-19-822525-3).
  8. Dunkling, Leslie. Dictionary of Surnames. Toronto: Collins, 1998. Print. (ISBN 0004720598).
  9. Burke, Sir Bernard. Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Peerage and Baronetage, The Privy Council, Knightage and Compainonage. London: Burke Publishing, 1921. Print.
  10. Browning, Charles H. Americans of Royal Descent. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing. Print.
  11. ...

The Keys Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The Keys 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 28 February 2014 at 10:42.

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