Gay History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The name Gay came to England with the ancestors of the Gay family in the Norman Conquest of 1066. The Gay family lived in Surrey. Their name, however, derives from their place of residence prior to the Norman Conquest of England in 1066, Gaye le Manche, France. [1]

Alternatively, the name could have been derived from the Old French "gal" meaning "full of joy, lighthearted" [2]

Early Origins of the Gay family

The surname Gay was first found in Surrey where Oswald le Gay was listed in the Pipe Rolls there in 1176. A few years later, Gilbert Gay was listed in the Pipe Rolls for Lincolnshire in 1191.

Other early records include: Hilda de Gay in the Pipe Rolls for Oxfordshire in 1192; and William de Gaia in the Assize Rolls for Staffordshire in 1203. [1]

The Hundredorum Rolls of 1273 list: Adam le Gay, Oxfordshire; and Robert le Gay, Oxfordshire. [2]

And in Somerset, William Gay was listed there 1 Edward III (during the first year of the reign of King Edward III.) [3]

In Scotland, the first record of the family was "John Gy, chaplain in Dundee, 1452, [who] may be John Gy who appears as presbyter in Brechin, 1458." [4]

Early History of the Gay family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Gay research. Another 181 words (13 lines of text) covering the years 1066, 1086, 1176, 1191, 1191, 1203, 1420, 1452, 1685, 1732, 1685, 1732 and 1728 are included under the topic Early Gay History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Gay Spelling Variations

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 Gay, Gaye and others.

Early Notables of the Gay family (pre 1700)

Another 32 words (2 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Gay Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Gay Ranking

In the United States, the name Gay is the 774th most popular surname with an estimated 37,305 people with that name. [5] However, in France, the name Gay is ranked the 178th most popular surname with an estimated 18,846 people with that name. [6]


United States Gay migration to the United States +

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 Gay or a variant listed above:

Gay Settlers in United States in the 17th Century
  • Thomas Gay, who landed in Virginia in 1622 [7]
  • James Gay who settled in Virginia in 1623
  • James Gay, who arrived in Virginia in 1623 [7]
  • William Gay, who settled in Virginia in 1630
  • William Gay, aged 20, who arrived in Virginia in 1635 [7]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)
Gay Settlers in United States in the 18th Century
  • Pierre Gay, aged 20, who landed in Louisiana in 1719 [7]
  • Anne Gay, who settled in Maryland in 1723
  • Samuel Gay, who landed in Virginia in 1740 [7]
  • Jacob Gay, who landed in Pennsylvania in 1765 [7]
  • William Gay, who landed in Virginia in 1772 [7]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)
Gay Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • I Gay, aged 34, who landed in New Orleans, La in 1830 [7]
  • Francis Gay, who landed in Mobile County, Ala in 1840 [7]
  • Mr. J. Gay, (b. 1794), aged 47, Cornish settler departing from Falmouth aboard the ship "Cornwall" arriving in the United States on 3 June 1841 [8]
  • A W Gay, who landed in San Francisco, California in 1849 [7]
  • J Gay, who arrived in San Francisco, California in 1850 [7]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Canada Gay migration to Canada +

Some of the first settlers of this family name were:

Gay Settlers in Canada in the 17th Century
  • Francois Gay, aged 22, who landed in Quebec in 1671
  • Mr. François Gay, French settler travelling to Canada for work arriving on 18th May 1671 [9]
Gay Settlers in Canada in the 18th Century
  • Samuel Gay, who arrived in Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1778
  • Mr. Edward Gay U.E. who settled in Eastern District [Cornwall], Ontario c. 1784 [10]
  • Mr. Samuel Gay U.E. born in Massachusetts, USA who settled in Westmoreland County, New Brunswick c. 1784 he was Chief Justice of Court Common Pleas [10]
Gay Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century
  • John H Gay, who landed in Esquimalt, British Columbia in 1862

Australia Gay migration to Australia +

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

Gay Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • Thomas Gay, who arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Recovery" in 1839 [11]
  • Mr. Richard Gay, (b. 1807), aged 34, English convict who was convicted in Somerset, England for 15 years for malicious wounding, transported aboard the "David Clarke" on 3rd June 1841, arriving in Tasmania ( Van Diemen's Land) [12]
  • Jane Gay, who arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Forfarshire" in 1848 [13]
  • Catherine Gay, who arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Navarino" in 1848 [14]
  • Isaac Gay, aged 33, a farm labourer, who arrived in South Australia in 1851 aboard the ship "Marion" [15]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

New Zealand Gay 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:

Gay Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • John Gay, who landed in Nelson, New Zealand in 1844 aboard the ship Fifeshire
  • Major Gay, who arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Nimroud" in 1860
  • Mr. George Gay, (b. 1841), aged 20, English wool washer, from Wiltshire travelling from Bristol aboard the ship "Rhea Sylvia" arriving in Lyttelton, Christchurch, South Island, New Zealand on 2nd May 1861 [16]
  • Miss H. Gay, British settler travelling from London aboard the ship "Zealandia" arriving in Lyttelton, Christchurch, South Island, New Zealand in 1869 [16]
  • George Gay, aged 20, a gardener, who arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Berar" in 1873

West Indies Gay 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. [17]
Gay Settlers in West Indies in the 17th Century
  • William Gay, who settled in Barbados in 1670
  • John and Abell Gay, who settled in Barbados in 1685
  • Richard Gay, who settled in Jamaica in 1685

Contemporary Notables of the name Gay (post 1700) +

  • John Gay (1924-2017), American Academy Award nominated screenwriter, known for his work on Run Silent, Run Deep and Separate Tables
  • Peter Gay (1923-2015), born Peter Joachim Fröhlich, an American educator and writer, Sterling Professor of History Emeritus at Yale University
  • Tyson Gay (b. 1982), American nine-time gold medalist track and field sprinter
  • Rudy Carlton Gay Jr. (b. 1986), American NBA professional basketball player
  • Randall "Blue" Jerome Gay Jr. (b. 1982), retired American NFL football cornerback
  • Joseph Brian Gay (b. 1971), American PGA professional golfer
  • Lieutenant General Hobart Raymond Gay (1894-1983), American general awarded the Distinguished Service Cross [18]
  • Rev. Marvin Pentz Gay Sr., American fundamentalist minister
  • Archer Thomas Gay (d. 1901), American politician, Member of Texas State House of Representatives, 1900-01 [19]
  • Albert Gay, American politician, Socialist Labor Candidate for Presidential Elector for Pennsylvania, 1904 [19]
  • ... (Another 54 notables are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Halifax Explosion
  • Mrs. Adeline Elizabeth  Gay (1861-1917), Canadian resident from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada who died in the explosion [20]
  • Mr. Ernest Charles Roy  Gay (1887-1917), Canadian resident from Tufts Cove, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada who died in the explosion [20]
Prince of Wales colliery
  • Mr. Joseph Gay (b. 1833), Welsh coal miner who was working at the Prince of Wales Colliery in Abercarn, Wales on the 11th September 1878 when there was a coal mine explosion; he died [21]
  • Mr. Elisha Gay (b. 1864), Welsh coal miner who was working at the Prince of Wales Colliery in Abercarn, Wales on the 11th September 1878 when there was a coal mine explosion; he died [21]


Suggested Readings for the name Gay +

  • John Gay of Wiltshire, England and the Town of Elba, Dodge County, Wisconsin and Some of His Descendants in America by Grace Gay Sponem.

  1. ^ Reaney, P.H and R.M. Wilson, A Dictionary of English Surnames. London: Routledge, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-415-05737-X)
  2. ^ Bardsley, C.W, A Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames: With Special American Instances. Wiltshire: Heraldry Today, 1901. Print. (ISBN 0-900455-44-6)
  3. ^ Dickinson, F.H., Kirby's Quest for Somerset of 16th of Edward the 3rd London: Harrison and Sons, Printers in Ordinary to Her Majesty, St, Martin's Lane, 1889. Print.
  4. ^ 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)
  5. ^ https://namecensus.com/most_common_surnames.htm
  6. ^ http://www.journaldesfemmes.com/nom-de-famille/nom/
  7. ^ 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)
  8. ^ Cornwall Online Parish Clerks. (Retrieved 2018, April 30). Emigrants to New York 1820 - 1891 [PDF]. Retrieved from http://www.opc-cornwall.org/Resc/pdfs/emigration_new_york_1820_1891.pdf
  9. ^ Debien, Gabriel. Liste Des Engagés Pour Le Canada Au XVIIe Siècle. Vol. 6, Laval University, 1952. (Retreived 24th May 2018). Retrieved from https://lebloguedeguyperron.wordpress.com/2016/06/30/130-liste-des-contrats-dengagement-pour-la-nouvelle-france-releves-a-la-rochelle-entre-1634-et-1679/
  10. ^ Rubincam, Milton. The Old United Empire Loyalists List. Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc, 1976. (Originally published as; United Empire Loyalists. The Centennial of the Settlement of Upper Canada. Rose Publishing Company, 1885.) ISBN 0-8063-0331-X
  11. ^ State Records of South Australia. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) RECOVERY from London 1839. Retrieved from http://www.slsa.sa.gov.au/BSA/1839Recovery.htm
  12. ^ Convict Records Voyages to Australia (Retrieved 3rd June 2021). Retrieved from https://convictrecords.com.au/ships/david-clarke
  13. ^ State Records of South Australia. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) FORFARSHIRE 1848. Retrieved from http://www.slsa.sa.gov.au/BSA/1848Forfarshire.htm
  14. ^ State Records of South Australia. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) NAVARINO 1848. Retrieved from http://www.slsa.sa.gov.au/BSA/1848Navarino.htm
  15. ^ State Records of South Australia. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) MARION 1851 - HER HISTORY. Retrieved http://www.slsa.sa.gov.au/BSA/1851Marion.htm
  16. ^ New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 26th March 2019). Retrieved from http://www.yesteryears.co.nz/shipping/passlist.html
  17. ^ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_West_Indies
  18. ^ Hobart Gay. (Retrieved 2010, September 27) Hobart Gay. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hobart_R._Gay
  19. ^ The Political Graveyard: Alphabetical Name Index. (Retrieved 2015, November 3) . Retrieved from http://politicalgraveyard.com/alpha/index.html
  20. ^ Halifax Explosion Book of Remembrance | Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. (Retrieved 2014, June 23) . Retrieved from https://maritimemuseum.novascotia.ca/what-see-do/halifax-explosion/halifax-explosion-book-remembrance
  21. ^ Entombed in flood and flame (retrieved 3rd August 2021). Retrieved from https://web.archive.org/web/20120603025705/http://www.crosskeys.me.uk/history/prince.htm


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