Clay History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

Clay is one of the names that was brought to England in the wave of migration following the Norman Conquest of 1066. The Clay family lived in Lincolnshire, where they held a family seat at Claye.

Early Origins of the Clay family

The surname Clay was first found in Lincolnshire where the Hundredorum Rolls of 1273 list William del Cley and Robert del Clay as holding lands there at that time. The same rolls also listed Alicia in le Clay, Huntingdonshire. [1]

Later, in Yorkshire, the Yorkshire Poll Tax Rolls of 1379 included: Agnes del Clay; Johannes del Clay; and Adam del Clay, Howdenshire. [1]

"Clay has long been a Notts surname. It was represented in the parish of Hayton in the time of Henry VII. Hercules Clay was a mayor of Newark in the reign of Charles I. (S.), and Clay is still a Newark name. The Clays of Southwell during last century carried their pedigree back 200 years, and their name is yet in the town. Six centuries ago Clay was a common name in the east of England, especially in Essex, Lincolnshire, Hunts, Cambridgeshire, and Beds. It is still well established in Lincolnshire, as well as in Notts and Derbyshire." [2]

Early History of the Clay family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Clay research. Another 78 words (6 lines of text) covering the years 1086, 1457 and 1537 are included under the topic Early Clay History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Clay Spelling Variations

Before English spelling was standardized a few hundred years ago, spelling variations of names were a common occurrence. Elements of Latin, Norman French and other languages became incorporated into English throughout the Middle Ages, and name spellings changed even among the literate. The variations of the surname Clay include Clay, Claye, Cley, Cleye, McClay and others.

Early Notables of the Clay family (pre 1700)

Another 34 words (2 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Clay Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Clay Ranking

In the United States, the name Clay is the 512nd most popular surname with an estimated 57,201 people with that name. [3] However, in the United Kingdom, the name Clay is ranked the 890th most popular surname with an estimated 7,709 people with that name. [4]

Ireland Migration of the Clay family to Ireland

Some of the Clay family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt. More information about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.


United States Clay migration to the United States +

In England at this time, the uncertainty of the political and religious environment of the time caused many families to board ships for distant British colonies in the hopes of finding land and opportunity, and escaping persecution. The voyages were expensive, crowded, and difficult, though, and many arrived in North America sick, starved, and destitute. Those who did make it, however, were greeted with greater opportunities and freedoms that they could have experienced at home. Many of those families went on to make important contributions to the young nations in which they settled. Early immigration records have shown some of the first Clays to arrive on North American shores:

Clay Settlers in United States in the 17th Century
  • Anne Clay, who arrived in Virginia in 1623 [5]
  • Jonas Clay, who settled in Wells and Cape Porpus in 1636
  • Lancelott Clay, who landed in Virginia in 1638 [5]
  • Jon Clay, who arrived in Virginia in 1642 [5]
  • John Clay, who arrived in Virginia in 1643 [5]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)
Clay Settlers in United States in the 18th Century
  • James Clay, who landed in Virginia in 1701 [5]
  • William Clay, who arrived in Virginia in 1701 [5]
  • Rebecka Clay, who landed in Virginia in 1702 [5]
  • Eliza Clay, who arrived in Virginia in 1713 [5]
  • Bertrum Clay, aged 50, who arrived in Pennsylvania in 1740 [5]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)
Clay Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Henry M Clay, who arrived in Texas in 1836 [5]
  • Fredericka Clay, aged 34, who arrived in New York, NY in 1843 [5]
  • Federick Clay, aged 35, who arrived in New York, NY in 1843 [5]
  • Caroline Clay, aged 1, who landed in New York, NY in 1843 [5]
  • Augusta Clay, aged 4, who landed in New York, NY in 1843 [5]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Canada Clay migration to Canada +

Some of the first settlers of this family name were:

Clay Settlers in Canada in the 18th Century
  • John Clay, who landed in Nova Scotia in 1749

Australia Clay migration to Australia +

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

Clay Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • Mr. Thomas Clay, English convict who was convicted in Essex, England for life, transported aboard the "Dromedary" on 11th September 1819, arriving in Tasmania ( Van Diemen's Land) [6]
  • Mr. James Clay, English butcher who was convicted in London, England for 7 years, transported aboard the "Countess of Harcourt" on 8th April 1821, arriving in Tasmania ( Van Diemen's Land) [7]
  • Mr. William Clay who was convicted in Worcester, Worcestershire, England for 14 years, transported aboard the "Camden" on 21st March 1831, arriving in New South Wales, Australia [8]
  • Mr. Thomas Clay, English convict who was convicted in Ely, Cambridgeshire, England for 7 years, transported aboard the "Earl Grey" on 4th October 1842, arriving in Tasmania ( Van Diemen's Land) [9]
  • Robert Clay, who arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Madawaska" in 1849 [10]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

New Zealand Clay migration to New Zealand +

Emigration to New Zealand followed in the footsteps of the European explorers, such as Captain Cook (1769-70): first came sealers, whalers, missionaries, and traders. By 1838, the British New Zealand Company had begun buying land from the Maori tribes, and selling it to settlers, and, after the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, many British families set out on the arduous six month journey from Britain to Aotearoa to start a new life. Early immigrants include:

Clay Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • Edward Clay, aged 36, a labourer, who arrived in Wellington, New Zealand aboard the ship "Alma" in 1857
  • Hannah Clay, aged 32, who arrived in Wellington, New Zealand aboard the ship "Alma" in 1857
  • Miss Sarah H. Clay, (b. 1848), aged 19, British domestic servant travelling from London aboard the ship " Lancashire Witch" sailing to Auckland and Lyttelton, New Zealand on 29th July 1867 [11]
  • Mr. William Clay, (b. 1846), aged 21, British baker travelling from London aboard the ship " Lancashire Witch" sailing to Auckland and Lyttelton, New Zealand on 29th July 1867 [11]
  • Edward Clay, aged 22, a farm labourer, who arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Oxford" in 1874
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

West Indies Clay migration to West Indies +

The British first settled the British West Indies around 1604. They made many attempts but failed in some to establish settlements on the Islands including Saint Lucia and Grenada. By 1627 they had managed to establish settlements on St. Kitts (St. Christopher) and Barbados, but by 1641 the Spanish had moved in and destroyed some of these including those at Providence Island. The British continued to expand the settlements including setting the First Federation in the British West Indies by 1674; some of the islands include Barbados, Bermuda, Cayman Island, Turks and Caicos, Jamaica and Belize then known as British Honduras. By the 1960's many of the islands became independent after the West Indies Federation which existed from 1958 to 1962 failed due to internal political conflicts. After this a number of Eastern Caribbean islands formed a free association. [12]
Clay Settlers in West Indies in the 17th Century
  • Steven Clay, who settled in Barbados with wife child and servants in 1680

Contemporary Notables of the name Clay (post 1700) +

  • Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. (1942-2016), American three-time World Heavyweight Champion boxer, philanthropist and social activist, named "Sportsman of the Century" by Sports Illustrated in 1999, who changed his name to Muhammad Ali
  • Jack DeWayne Clay (1926-2019), American acting teacher, director and actor
  • William R. Clay, American Republican politician, Candidate for Missouri State House of Representatives from Jackson County 2nd District, 1946, 1948, 1950 [13]
  • William Lacy Clay Jr. (b. 1956), American Democratic Party politician, Member of Missouri State House of Representatives, 1983-91; Member of Missouri State Senate, 1991-2001 [13]
  • William Nathan Clay (b. 1865), American Democratic Party politician, Member of West Virginia State House of Delegates from Cabell County, 1917-18 [13]
  • William H. Clay (1863-1931), American politician, Mayor of Everett, Washington, 1914-16, 1920-24 [13]
  • William Lacy Clay Sr. (b. 1931), American Democratic Party politician, U.S. Representative from Missouri 1st District, 1969-2001; Delegate to Democratic National Convention from Missouri, 1996, 2000 [13]
  • Wiley T. Clay, American politician, U.S. Consular Agent in São Luís, 1943 [13]
  • Thomas Hart Clay (1803-1871), American politician, U.S. Minister to Nicaragua, 1863; Honduras, 1863 [13]
  • Thomas Glenn Clay, American Republican politician, Candidate in primary for Mayor of Frederick, Maryland, 2001 [13]
  • ... (Another 76 notables are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

RMS Lusitania
  • Miss Elizabeth Alice Clay, American 2nd Class passenger from San Francisco, California, USA, who sailed aboard the RMS Lusitania and died in the sinking and was recovered [14]


The Clay 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: Per orbem
Motto Translation: Through the world.


Suggested Readings for the name Clay +

  • History and Genealogy of the Hoskins, Clay and Related Families United in Cole County, Missouri by Clarence E. Hoskins.

  1. ^ Bardsley, C.W, A Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames: With Special American Instances. Wiltshire: Heraldry Today, 1901. Print. (ISBN 0-900455-44-6)
  2. ^ Guppy, Henry Brougham, Homes of Family Names in Great Britain. 1890. Print.
  3. ^ https://namecensus.com/most_common_surnames.htm
  4. ^ https://www.surnamemap.eu/unitedkingdom/surnames_ranking.php?p=10
  5. ^ 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)
  6. ^ Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 16th July 2021). Retrieved from https://convictrecords.com.au/ships/dromedary
  7. ^ Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 24th March 2021). Retrieved from https://convictrecords.com.au/ships/countess-of-harcourt
  8. ^ Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 2nd December 2020). Retrieved from https://convictrecords.com.au/ships/camden
  9. ^ Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 16th August 2021). Retrieved from https://convictrecords.com.au/ships/earl-gray
  10. ^ State Records of South Australia. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) "MADAWASKA" 1849. Retrieved from http://www.slsa.sa.gov.au/BSA/1849Madawaska.htm
  11. ^ New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 17th October 2018). Retrieved from http://www.yesteryears.co.nz/shipping/passlist.html
  12. ^ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_West_Indies
  13. ^ The Political Graveyard: Alphabetical Name Index. (Retrieved 2016, January 29) . Retrieved from http://politicalgraveyard.com/alpha/index.html
  14. ^ Lusitania Passenger List - The Lusitania Resource. (Retrieved 2014, March 7) . Retrieved from http://www.rmslusitania.info/lusitania-passenger-list/


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