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An excerpt from www.HouseOfNames.com archives copyright © 2000 - 2015

Origins Available: English, Scottish

Where did the English Kay family come from? What is the English Kay family crest and coat of arms? When did the Kay family first arrive in the United States? Where did the various branches of the family go? What is the Kay family history?

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]


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This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Kay research. Another 215 words(15 lines of text) covering the years 1219, 1246, 1372, and 1500 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 242 words(17 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
  • 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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  • Hershy Kay (1919-1981), American composer
  • Beatrice Kay (1906-1986), American actress/singer
  • Master Robert Belsher Kay, American 2nd Class passenger from Brooklyn, New York, USA, who sailed aboard the RMS Lusitania and survived the sinking by escaping in a collapsible
  • Mrs. Marguerita Kay (d. 1915), English 2nd Class passenger residing in Brooklyn, New York, USA, who sailed aboard the RMS Lusitania and died in the sinking
  • Sir Maurice Kay (b. 1942), British Judge of the High Court of Justice
  • Sir John Kay (1943-2004), British High Court judge
  • Brigadier Orville Montague Miles Kay (b. 1898), Military Attachť to China (1943)
  • John Kay (b. 1944), born Joachim Fritz Krauledatis, a German-born, Canadian singer, songwriter and guitarist of the rock band Steppenwolf


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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)

Other References

  1. Dunkling, Leslie. Dictionary of Surnames. Toronto: Collins, 1998. Print. (ISBN 0004720598).
  2. Burke, Sir Bernard. Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Peerage and Baronetage, The Privy Council, Knightage and Compainonage. London: Burke Publishing, 1921. Print.
  3. Library of Congress. American and English Genealogies in the Library of Congress. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1967. Print.
  4. Bowman, George Ernest. The Mayflower Reader A Selection of Articales from The Mayflower Descendent. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing. Print.
  5. Crispin, M. Jackson and Leonce Mary. Falaise Roll Recording Prominent Companions of William Duke of Normandy at the Conquest of England. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing. Print.
  6. Magnusson, Magnus. Chambers Biographical Dictionary 5th edition. Edinburgh: W & R Chambers, 1990. Print.
  7. Markale, J. Celtic Civilization. London: Gordon & Cremonesi, 1976. Print.
  8. Bullock, L.G. Historical Map of England and Wales. Edinburgh: Bartholomew and Son, 1971. Print.
  9. Innes, Thomas and Learney. The Tartans of the Clans and Families of Scotland 1st Edition. Edinburgh: W & A. K. Johnston Limited, 1938. Print.
  10. Colletta, John P. They Came In Ships. Salt Lake City: Ancestry, 1993. Print.
  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 8 January 2015 at 12:49.

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