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

Origins Available: English, Scottish

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."


The surname Kays was 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]

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


This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Kays research. Another 345 words (25 lines of text) covering the years 1500, 1372, 1219, 1246 and 1640 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.
  3. ^ Lewis, Samuel, A Topographical Dictionary of England. Institute of Historical Research, 1848, Print.

Other References

  1. Best, Hugh. Debrett's Texas Peerage. New York: Coward-McCann, 1983. Print. (ISBN 069811244X).
  2. Bowman, George Ernest. The Mayflower Reader A Selection of Articales from The Mayflower Descendent. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing. Print.
  3. Zieber, Eugene. Heraldry in America. Philadelphia: Genealogical Publishing Co. Print.
  4. Humble, Richard. The Fall of Saxon England. New York: Barnes and Noble, 1975. Print. (ISBN 0-88029-987-8).
  5. 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).
  6. Matthews, John. Matthews' American Armoury and Blue Book. London: John Matthews, 1911. Print.
  7. Magnusson, Magnus. Chambers Biographical Dictionary 5th edition. Edinburgh: W & R Chambers, 1990. Print.
  8. Foster, Joseph. Dictionary of Heraldry Feudal Coats of Arms and Pedigrees. London: Bracken Books, 1989. Print. (ISBN 1-85170-309-8).
  9. Lennard, Reginald. Rural England 1086-1135 A Study of Social and Agrarian Conditions. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1959. Print.
  10. Bede, The Venerable. Historia Ecclesiatica Gentis Anglorum (The Ecclesiastical History Of the English People). Available through Internet Medieval Sourcebook the Fordham University Centre for Medieval Studies. Print.
  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 26 January 2016 at 11:37.

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