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

Origins Available: English, Scottish

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

The surname Kays 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."


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]


This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Kays research. Another 269 words (19 lines of text) covering the years 1500, 1372, 1219 and 1246 are included under the topic Early Kays History in all our PDF Extended History products.


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


Some of the Kays 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.


Some of the first settlers of this family name were:

Kays Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century

  • William Kays, aged 21, a labourer, arrived in Saint John, NB in 1833 aboard the ship "Ward" from Limerick

Kays Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century

  • Richard Kays, aged 29, a labourer, arrived in South Australia in 1855 aboard the ship "Velocity"


  • Vernon W. Kays, American Republican politician, Alternate Delegate to Republican National Convention from Illinois, 1952
  • Thomas Kays, American Democrat politician, Delegate to Democratic National Convention from New Jersey, 1876
  • Henry Thomas Kays (b. 1878), American Democrat politician, Member of New Jersey State House of Assembly from Sussex County, 1913-15; Member of New Jersey State Senate from Sussex County, 1919-24
  • Ellis Carl Kays (b. 1890), American Republican politician, Mayor of Petersburg, Indiana, 1939-43; Chair of Pike County Republican Party, 1941-44
  • Blanche A. Kays, American politician, Member of Michigan Prohibition Party State Central Committee, 1947-51


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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.

Other References

  1. Burke, Sir Bernard. Burke's Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Landed Gentry: Including American Families with British Ancestry. (2 Volumes). London: Burke Publishing, 1939. Print.
  2. Burke, John Bernard Ed. The Roll of Battle Abbey. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing. Print.
  3. Innes, Thomas and Learney. The Tartans of the Clans and Families of Scotland 1st Edition. Edinburgh: W & A. K. Johnston Limited, 1938. Print.
  4. Hinde, Thomas Ed. The Domesday Book England's Heritage Then and Now. Surrey: Colour Library Books, 1995. Print. (ISBN 1-85833-440-3).
  5. 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).
  6. Egle, William Henry. Pennsylvania Genealogies Scotch-Irish and German. Harrisburg: L.S. Hart, 1886. Print.
  7. Burke, Sir Bernard. Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Peerage and Baronetage, The Privy Council, Knightage and Compainonage. London: Burke Publishing, 1921. Print.
  8. Burke, Sir Bernard. General Armory Of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales. Ramsbury: Heraldry Today. Print.
  9. Dunkling, Leslie. Dictionary of Surnames. Toronto: Collins, 1998. Print. (ISBN 0004720598).
  10. Hanks, Patricia and Flavia Hodges. A Dictionary of Surnames. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988. Print. (ISBN 0-19-211592-8).
  11. ...

The Kays Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The Kays 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 6 October 2015 at 13:00.

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