Finlay History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The roots of the name Finlay are found among the Pictish clans of ancient Scotland. The name comes from the Gaelic Fionnlagh which is often Anglicized to fair hero.

Early Origins of the Finlay family

The surname Finlay was first found in Banffshire (Gaelic: Siorrachd Bhanbh), former Scottish county located in the northeasterly Grampian region of Scotland, now of divided between the Council Areas of Moray and Aberdeenshire, where they were descended from the Chiefs of the Clan Farquharson, one of the great federation of 26 Clans, known as the Clan Chattan.

Early History of the Finlay family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Finlay research. Another 214 words (15 lines of text) covering the years 1480, 1547, 1629, 1755, 1797 and are included under the topic Early Finlay History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Finlay Spelling Variations

Although Medieval Scotland lacked a basic set of spelling rules, which meant that scribes recorded names according to their sounds it was not uncommon for the names of a father and son to be recorded differently. As a result, there are many spelling variations of Scottish single names. Finlay has been written Findlay, Findlow, Findlaw, Finley, Finlay and others.

Early Notables of the Finlay family (pre 1700)

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

Ireland Migration of the Finlay family to Ireland

Some of the Finlay family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt.
Another 87 words (6 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.


United States Finlay migration to the United States +

Thousands of Scots left their home country to travel to Ireland or Australia, or to cross the Atlantic for the North American colonies. The difficult crossing was an enormous hurdle, but those who survived found freedom and opportunity in ample measure. Some Scots even fought for their freedom in the American War of Independence. This century, their ancestors have become aware of the illustrious history of the Scots in North America and at home through Clan societies and other organizations. Passenger and immigration lists show many early and influential immigrants bearing the name Finlay:

Finlay Settlers in United States in the 18th Century
  • Joseph Finlay, who landed in New England in 1775 [1]
Finlay Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Elizabeth, James, and John Finlay, who settled in Baltimore in 1803
  • William Finlay, who arrived in America in 1806 [1]
  • John Finlay, who landed in New York, NY in 1811 [1]
  • Charles Finlay, who landed in New York, NY in 1816 [1]
  • Catharine Finlay, who arrived in New York, NY in 1817 [1]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Canada Finlay migration to Canada +

Some of the first settlers of this family name were:

Finlay Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century
  • William Finlay, who arrived in Canada in 1811
  • William Finlay, who landed in Canada in 1811
  • Richard Finlay, who landed in Canada in 1817
  • Thal Finlay, who landed in Canada in 1817
  • Margaret Finlay settled at Harbour Grace, Newfoundland in 1825 [2]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Australia Finlay migration to Australia +

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

Finlay Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • James Finlay, a mason, who arrived in New South Wales, Australia sometime between 1825 and 1832
  • Eliza Finlay, who arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Trafalgar" in 1847 [3]
  • Thomas Finlay, who arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Trafalgar" in 1847 [3]
  • William Finlay, who arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Trafalgar" in 1847 [3]
  • William Finlay, who arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Branken Moor" in 1849 [4]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

New Zealand Finlay 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:

Finlay Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • John Finlay, who landed in Auckland, New Zealand in 1842
  • William Finlay, aged 37, a millwright, who arrived in Nelson, New Zealand aboard the ship "New Zealand" in 1842
  • Mary Finlay, aged 34, who arrived in Nelson, New Zealand aboard the ship "New Zealand" in 1842
  • Euphemia Finlay, aged 17, a servant, who arrived in Nelson, New Zealand aboard the ship "New Zealand" in 1842
  • Catherine Finlay, aged 15, a servant, who arrived in Nelson, New Zealand aboard the ship "New Zealand" in 1842
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Contemporary Notables of the name Finlay (post 1700) +

  • Virgil Finlay (1914-1971), American pulp fantasy, science fiction and horror illustrator
  • Coly N. Finlay, American Republican politician, Delegate to Republican National Convention from Alabama, 1888 [5]
  • Brion Christopher Finlay, American Republican politician, Alternate Delegate to Republican National Convention from Minnesota, 2008 [5]
  • Kirkham Finlay (1773-1842), Scottish Lord Provost of Glasgow, the son of James Finlay, merchant, born in Glasgow in 1773 [6]
  • Kirkham Finlay (d. 1828), Scottish philhellene, son of Captain-lieutenant John Finlay, R.E., F.R.S., who died at Glasgow in 1802, and brother of George Finlay [6]
  • John Finlay (1782-1810), Scottish poet, born of humble parents at Glasgow in December 1782 [6]
  • George Finlay (1799-1875), Scottish classical historian, son of Captain John Finlay, R.E., F.R.S., and brother of Kirkman Finlay (d. 1828) [6]
  • David Finlay VC (1893-1916), Scottish recipient of the Victoria Cross
  • Robert Bannatyne Finlay (1842-1929), Scottish jurist and statesman
  • Ian Hamilton Finlay CBE (1925-2006), Scottish poet, writer, artist, and gardener
  • ... (Another 7 notables are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Air New Zealand Flight 901
  • Mr. Michael James Finlay (d. 1979), New Zealander Senior Flight Steward, from Auckland, New Zealand working aboard the Air New Zealand sightseeing Flight 901 when it flew into Mount Erebus; he died in the crash [7]
HMS Royal Oak
  • Matthew Best Finlay (1917-1939), British Able Seaman with the Royal Navy aboard the HMS Royal Oak when she was torpedoed by U-47 and sunk; he died in the sinking [8]


The Finlay 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: Fortis in arduis
Motto Translation: Brave in difficulties.


  1. ^ 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)
  2. ^ Seary E.R., Family Names of the Island of Newfoundland, Montreal: McGill's-Queen's Universtity Press 1998 ISBN 0-7735-1782-0
  3. ^ State Records of South Australia. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) TRAFALGAR 1847. Retrieved from http://www.slsa.sa.gov.au/BSA/1847Trafalgar.htm
  4. ^ State Records of South Australia. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) The BRANKEN MOOR 1849. Retrieved from http://www.slsa.sa.gov.au/BSA/1849BrankenMoor.htm
  5. ^ The Political Graveyard: Alphabetical Name Index. (Retrieved 2015, October 20) . Retrieved from http://politicalgraveyard.com/alpha/index.html
  6. ^ Wikisource contributors. "Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900." Wikisource . Wikisource , 4 Jun. 2018. Web. 30 June 2020
  7. ^ Mount Erebus, Memorial, Roll of Remembrance (Retrieved 2018, February 21st). Retrieved from http://www.erebus.co.nz/memorialandawards/rollofremembrance.aspx
  8. ^ Ships hit by U-boats crew list HMS Royal Oak (08) - (Retrieved 2018 February, 9th) - retrieved from https://uboat.net/allies/merchants/crews/ship68.html


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