Show ContentsCay History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The Cay 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."

Early Origins of the Cay family

The surname Cay was 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.

Early History of the Cay family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Cay research. Another 154 words (11 lines of text) covering the years 1219, 1246, 1372, 1500, and 1704 are included under the topic Early Cay History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Cay Spelling Variations

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

Early Notables of the Cay family (pre 1700)

More information is included under the topic Early Cay Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Ireland Migration of the Cay family to Ireland

Some of the Cay family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt.
Another 37 words (3 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

United States Cay migration to the United States +

Some of the first settlers of this family name were:

Cay Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • James Cay, who landed in New York, NY in 1816 [2]
  • Michael Cay, who arrived in New York, NY in 1816 [2]

Australia Cay migration to Australia +

Emigration to Australia followed the First Fleets of convicts, tradespeople and early settlers. Early immigrants include:

Cay Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • Edward Cay, who arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Hooghly" in 1848 [3]
  • Robert Cay, who arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Hooghly" in 1848 [3]

Contemporary Notables of the name Cay (post 1700) +

  • John Cay (1700-1757), English editor of the ‘Statutes,’ third son of John Cay of North Charlton, Northumberland [4]
  • David Cay Johnston (b. 1948), American journalist who received the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for Beat Reporting
  • Cay Forrester (1921-2005), American film and television actress

Empress of Ireland
  • Mrs. Catherine Beatrice Cay (1876-1914), Canadian First Class Passenger from Golden, British, Columbia, Canada who was traveling aboard the Empress of Ireland and died in the sinking [5]

The Cay Motto +

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.

  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)
  2. Filby, P. William, Meyer, Mary K., Passenger and immigration lists index : a guide to published arrival records of about 500,000 passengers who came to the United States and Canada in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. 1982-1985 Cumulated Supplements in Four Volumes Detroit, Mich. : Gale Research Co., 1985, Print (ISBN 0-8103-1795-8)
  3. State Records of South Australia. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) HOOGHLY 1848. Retrieved from
  4. Wikisource contributors. "Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900." Wikisource . Wikisource , 4 Jun. 2018. Web. 25 Nov. 2019
  5. Commemoration Empress of Ireland 2014. (Retrieved 2014, June 16) . Retrieved from on Facebook