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An excerpt from www.HouseOfNames.com archives copyright © 2000 - 2016

Origins Available: English, Scottish


The surname Kay is derived from the Breton and Old Welsh word "Cai," and the Cornish word "Key," both of which meant "wharf." This name became the Middle English given name Kay. Some instances of this surname are no doubt derived from the Old English "Coeg," which meant "key."

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

First found in the Pipe Rolls for Northumbria where Britius filius Kay is listed there in 1199. Cecilia de Kay was in the Pipe Rolls for Gloucestershire in that same year. Another early record in the Pipe Rolls is of John del Cay in 1207 in London. John del Cai was Sheriff of London in 1201 and may be the same person as the aforementioned Pipe Roll entry. The Hundredorum Rolls of 1273 list a Jordan Kay but the Yorkshire Poll Tax records of 1379 has the most entries of the time: Robertus Cay; Alanus Kay; Johanna Caa; and Willelmus Ka. [1] One reference claims a more romantic origin of the name: "the family of Kaye is of great antiquity in the county of York, being descended from Sir Kaye, an ancient Briton, and one of the Knights of the warlike Table of that noble Prince Arthur, flower of chivalry!!" [2] "The property [of Thornton in Craven in the West Riding of Yorkshire] belongs to various families, the principal owner being Sir John Lister Kaye, Bart., lord of the several manors." [3]


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This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Kay research. Another 345 words (25 lines of text) covering the years 1500, 1372, 1219, 1246 and 1640 are included under the topic Early Kay History in all our PDF Extended History products.

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More information is included under the topic Early Kay Notables in all our PDF Extended History products.

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Some of the Kay family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt. Another 63 words (4 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products.

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Some of the first settlers of this family name were:

Kay Settlers in United States in the 17th Century


  • James Kay, who arrived in Virginia in 1677

Kay Settlers in United States in the 18th Century


  • Jonathan Kay, a Minister, who arrived in Maryland in 1711
  • Francis Kay, who settled in New England in 1751
  • Alexander Kay, who arrived in New York city in 1775
  • George Kay, who landed in New York in 1795

Kay Settlers in United States in the 19th Century


  • Charles Kay, who arrived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1811
  • Alexander Kay, who landed in New York, NY in 1815
  • Francis Kay, who arrived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1815
  • Eliza Kay, who landed in New York, NY in 1816
  • James Kay, who arrived in New York, NY in 1816


Kay Settlers in Canada in the 18th Century


  • Brian Kay, who settled in Fort Cumberland Nova Scotia with his wife, Dorothy, his brother Robert, and five children in 1774
  • Brian Kay, who settled in Fort Cumberland Nova Scotia with his wife, Dorothy, his brother, Robert, and five children in 1774
  • Mr. Kay George U.E. who settled in Parr Town [Saint John], New Brunswick c. 1784
  • William Kay, who arrived in Montreal, Canada in 1793

Kay Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century


  • Robert Kay, aged 25, a merchant, arrived in Saint John, NB in 1833 aboard the ship "Aurora" from London

Kay Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century


  • Robert Kay, a plasterer, arrived in Van Diemenís Land (now Tasmania) sometime between 1825 and 1832
  • Joseph Kay, a gunsmith, arrived in Van Diemenís Land (now Tasmania) sometime between 1825 and 1832
  • Hector Kay, a shoemaker, arrived in Van Diemenís Land (now Tasmania) sometime between 1825 and 1832
  • Thomas Kay, English convict from Warwick, who was transported aboard the "Arab" on February 22, 1834, settling in Van Diemen's Land, Austraila
  • Joseph Kay, English convict from York, who was transported aboard the "Agincourt" on July 6, 1844, settling in Van Diemen's Land, Australia


Kay Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century


  • Andrew Kay arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Phoenix" in 1860
  • Nathaniel Kay arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Ernestina" in 1865
  • Racheal Kay arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Ernestina" in 1865
  • Maria Kay arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Ernestina" in 1865
  • Jane Ellen Kay arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Ernestina" in 1865


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  • Wendell Palmer Kay (b. 1913), American Democrat politician, Member of Alaska territorial House of Representatives 3rd District, 1951-56; Speaker of Alaska Territory House of Representatives, 1955-56
  • W. S. Kay, American Democrat politician, Candidate for Illinois State Senate 20th District, 1936; Alternate Delegate to Democratic National Convention from Illinois, 1948
  • Thomas B. Kay (d. 1931), American Republican politician, Oregon State Treasurer, 1911-19, 1925-31
  • Sue Kay, American politician, Mayor of Weymouth, Massachusetts, 2011
  • Robert J. Kay, American politician, Member of New Jersey State House of Assembly from Cape May County, 1922
  • Sally Anne Kay, American Republican politician, Candidate for U.S. Representative from West Virginia 2nd District, 1998
  • Robert H. C. Kay, American Republican politician, Vice-chair of West Virginia Republican Party, 1937; West Virginia Republican State Chair, 1939-44
  • Raymond Kay, American Democrat politician, Candidate in primary for Michigan State Senate 18th District, 1954, 1958; Candidate in primary for Michigan State House of Representatives from Wayne County 10th District, 1959
  • Richard B. Kay, American politician, Candidate for U.S. Senator from Ohio, 1970 (American Independent), 1974 (Independent)
  • Maria Kay, American Democrat politician, Candidate in primary for Lieutenant Governor of Florida, 1978

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  • The Ancestors of Robert Kay of South Carolina by Carl B. Kay.
  • The Four Children of James Kay of Essex County, VA by Kent Kay Freeman.
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  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. ^ Lowe, Mark Anthony, Patronymica Britannica, A Dictionary of Family Names of the United Kingdom. London: John Russel Smith, 1860. Print.
  3. ^ Lewis, Samuel, A Topographical Dictionary of England. Institute of Historical Research, 1848, Print.

Other References

  1. Burke, John Bernard Ed. The Roll of Battle Abbey. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing. Print.
  2. Holt, J.C. Ed. Domesday Studies. Woodbridge: Boydell, 1987. Print. (ISBN 0-85115-477-8).
  3. MacAulay, Thomas Babington. History of England from the Accession of James the Second 4 volumes. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1879. Print.
  4. Dunkling, Leslie. Dictionary of Surnames. Toronto: Collins, 1998. Print. (ISBN 0004720598).
  5. Marcharn, Frederick George. A Constitutional History of Modern England 1485 to the Present. London: Harper and Brothers, 1960. Print.
  6. Browning, Charles H. Americans of Royal Descent. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing. Print.
  7. Papworth, J.W and A.W Morant. Ordinary of British Armorials. London: T.Richards, 1874. Print.
  8. Reaney P.H and R.M. Wilson. A Dictionary of English Surnames. London: Routledge, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-415-05737-X).
  9. Magnusson, Magnus. Chambers Biographical Dictionary 5th edition. Edinburgh: W & R Chambers, 1990. Print.
  10. Robb H. Amanda and Andrew Chesler. Encyclopedia of American Family Names. New York: Haper Collins, 1995. Print. (ISBN 0-06-270075-8).
  11. ...

The Kay Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The Kay 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 1 March 2016 at 15:39.

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