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

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

lay is one of the thousands of new names that the Norman Conquest brought to England in 1066. The lay family lived in any of the various places named Leigh in England. There are at least 16 counties that contain a place named Leigh. The place-name was originally derived from the Old English word leah, which means wood clearing. The English lay family is descended from the Norman lay family.The family name lay became popular in England after the Norman Conquest, when William the Conqueror gave his friends and relatives most of the land formerly owned by Anglo-Saxon aristocrats. The Normans frequently adopted the names of their recently acquired estates in England.

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Multitudes of spelling variations are a hallmark of Anglo Norman names. Most of these names evolved in the 11th and 12th century, in the time after the Normans introduced their own Norman French language into a country where Old and Middle English had no spelling rules and the languages of the court were French and Latin. To make matters worse, medieval scribes spelled words according to sound, so names frequently appeared differently in the various documents in which they were recorded. The name was spelled Leigh, Lee, Lea, Legh, Leghe, Ligh, Lighe, Leyie, Ley and many more.

First found in Cheshire, where the lay family held a family seat from the years following the Norman Conquest of 1066. King William granted the lands of England to those who had served him in the Battle of Hastings. Many of these land barons adopted the name of their new holdings as a surname, according to the Norman custom. Thus, the first bearer of the name was Hamond Leigh, who was Lord of the Manor of High Leigh in Cheshire.


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This web page shows only a small excerpt of our lay research. Another 349 words(25 lines of text) covering the years 1600, 1660, 1640, 1642, 1583, 1662, 1639, 1667, 1660, 1667, 1634, 1687, 1656, 1659, 1653, 1692, 1692, 1662, 1701, 1651, 1711, 1702, 1705, 1681, 1760, 1663, 1716, 1678, 1721, 1797 and are included under the topic Early lay History in all our PDF Extended History products.

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Another 383 words(27 lines of text) are included under the topic Early lay Notables in all our PDF Extended History products.

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Some of the lay family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt. Another 141 words(10 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products.

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Because of this political and religious unrest within English society, many people decided to immigrate to the colonies. Families left for Ireland, North America, and Australia in enormous numbers, traveling at high cost in extremely inhospitable conditions. The New World in particular was a desirable destination, but the long voyage caused many to arrive sick and starving. Those who made it, though, were welcomed by opportunities far greater than they had known at home in England. Many of these families went on to make important contributions to the emerging nations of Canada and the United States. Analysis of immigration records indicates that some of the first North American immigrants bore the name lay or a variant listed above:

lay Settlers in the United States in the 17th Century


  • Robert Lay, who landed in Lynn, Massachusetts in 1638
  • Edward Lay, who arrived in Virginia in 1657

lay Settlers in the United States in the 18th Century


  • Benjamin Lay, who arrived in Pennsylvania in 1731-1732
  • Christopher Lay, aged 37, arrived in Pennsylvania in 1732
  • Georg Christoph Lay, who arrived in Pennsylvania in 1732
  • Ludwig Lay, who landed in Pennsylvania in 1736
  • Hans Lay, who landed in Pennsylvania in 1747


lay Settlers in the United States in the 19th Century


  • Christian Lay, who landed in North America in 1847
  • John Lay settled in New York State in 1848
  • D Lay, who landed in San Francisco, California in 1851
  • Rosine Lay, aged 20, arrived in New York in 1854
  • Georg Lay, aged 26, landed in New York in 1854


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  • Alfred Morrison Lay (1836-1879), American politician
  • Beirne Lay Jr. (1909-1982), American author and World War II aviator, co-author of Twelve O'Clock High
  • Carol Lay (b. 1952), American author of a weekly comic strip named Way Lay
  • Charles Downing Lay (1877-1956), American landscape architect
  • Donald P. Lay (1926-2007), American jurist
  • William Ellsworth "Elzy" Lay (1868-1934), American outlaw of the Old West, best known as being a member of Butch Cassidy's Wild Bunch
  • John Louis Lay (1832-1899), American inventor
  • Josh Lay (b. 1982), American football player
  • Kenneth Lay (1942-2006), U.S. businessman
  • Sam Lay (b. 1935), American drummer and vocalist

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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: Force avec vertu
Motto Translation: Strength with virtue.

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  1. Le Patourel, John. The Norman Empire. New York: Oxford University Press, 1976. Print. (ISBN 0-19-822525-3).
  2. Leeson, Francis L. Dictionary of British Peerages. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1986. Print. (ISBN 0-8063-1121-5).
  3. Markale, J. Celtic Civilization. London: Gordon & Cremonesi, 1976. Print.
  4. Marcharn, Frederick George. A Constitutional History of Modern England 1485 to the Present. London: Harper and Brothers, 1960. Print.
  5. Sanders, Joanne McRee Edition. English Settlers in Barbados 1637-1800. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing. Print.
  6. 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.
  7. Dunkling, Leslie. Dictionary of Surnames. Toronto: Collins, 1998. Print. (ISBN 0004720598).
  8. 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).
  9. Hanks, Patricia and Flavia Hodges. A Dictionary of Surnames. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988. Print. (ISBN 0-19-211592-8).
  10. Cook, Chris. English Historical Facts 1603-1688. London: MacMillan, 1980. Print.
  11. ...

The lay Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The lay 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 3 April 2014 at 10:40.

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