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

Origins Available: English, Scottish


The Kay surname is thought to have emerged from several different sources. In Northern England and Scotland, it comes from the Old Norse "kŠ," which meant "jackdaw." It also came from the Breton and Old Welsh word "Cai," and the Cornish word "Key," both of which meant "wharf." And, in some instances, this surname is no doubt derived from the Old English "Coeg," which meant "key."

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The surname Kay was first found in Yorkshire, but the surname was also found in Lincolnshire, and Cambridgeshire as far back as the 13th century. One of the first records in Scotland was the Kae family of Croslats who were and "old family" of West Lothian. The Keay spelling was quite popular in Perthshire. Philip Qua was listed in Aberdeen in 1317 and Donald Ka was listed there too in 1399. Thomas Kaa was on an inquest taken at Berwick-on-Tweed in 1370. Patrick Ka was burgess of Linkithgow until his death in 1445. [1] The "Mac" prefix seems is difficult to clarify. Some Mackay (Macaoid) families may have shortened their name.

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


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This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Kay research. Another 234 words (17 lines of text) covering the years 1219, 1246, 1372, 1500, and 1704 are included under the topic Early Kay History in all our PDF Extended History products.

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Another 22 words (2 lines of text) are 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
  • 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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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: Kynd Kynn Knawne Kepe
Motto Translation: Keep your own kin-kind.

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  1. ^ 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)

Other References

  1. The Norman People and Their Existing Descendants in the British Dominions and the United States Of America. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1975. Print. (ISBN 0-8063-0636-X).
  2. Innes, Thomas and Learney. Scots Heraldry A Practical Handbook on the Historical Principles and Mordern Application of the Art and Science. London: Oliver and Boyd, 1934. Print.
  3. Browne, James. The History of Scotland it's Highlands, Regiments and Clans 8 Volumes. Edinburgh: Francis A Niccolls & Co, 1909. Print.
  4. Best, Hugh. Debrett's Texas Peerage. New York: Coward-McCann, 1983. Print. (ISBN 069811244X).
  5. Moncrieffe, Sir Ian of That Ilk and David Hicks. The Highland Clans The Dynastic Origins, Cheifs and Background of the Clans. New York: C.N. Potter, 1968. Print.
  6. Browning, Charles H. Americans of Royal Descent. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing. Print.
  7. Bolton, Charles Knowles. Scotch Irish Pioneers In Ulster and America. Montana: Kessinger Publishing. Print.
  8. Skene, William Forbes Edition. Chronicles of the Picts, Chronicles of the Scots and Other Early Memorials of Scottish History. Edinburgh: H.M. General Register House, 1867. Print.
  9. Filby, P. William and Mary K Meyer. Passenger and Immigration Lists Index in Four Volumes. Detroit: Gale Research, 1985. Print. (ISBN 0-8103-1795-8).
  10. Moody David. Scottish Family History. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1994. Print. (ISBN 0806312688).
  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 12 May 2016 at 18:02.

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