Keay History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The Keay surname is thought to have emerged from several different sources. In Northern England and Scotland, it comes from the Old Norse "ká," 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."

Early Origins of the Keay family

The surname Keay 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.

Early History of the Keay family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Keay research. Another 154 words (11 lines of text) covering the years 1219, 1246, 1372, 1500, and 1704 are included under the topic Early Keay History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Keay Spelling Variations

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

Early Notables of the Keay family (pre 1700)

More information is included under the topic Early Keay Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Ireland Migration of the Keay family to Ireland

Some of the Keay family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt.
Another 37 words (3 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.


United States Keay migration to the United States +

Some of the first settlers of this family name were:

Keay Settlers in United States in the 17th Century
  • William Keay, who landed in Virginia in 1697 [2]

New Zealand Keay migration to New Zealand +

Emigration to New Zealand followed in the footsteps of the European explorers, such as Captain Cook (1769-70): first came sealers, whalers, missionaries, and traders. By 1838, the British New Zealand Company had begun buying land from the Maori tribes, and selling it to settlers, and, after the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, many British families set out on the arduous six month journey from Britain to Aotearoa to start a new life. Early immigrants include:

Keay Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • Mr. John Keay, (b. 1844), aged 30, English ploughman from Staffordshire travelling from London aboard the ship "Tweed" arriving in Port Chalmers, Dunedin, Otago, South Island, New Zealand on 4th September 1874 [3]
  • Mrs. Mary Keay, (b. 1845), aged 29, English settler from Staffordshire travelling from London aboard the ship "Tweed" arriving in Port Chalmers, Dunedin, Otago, South Island, New Zealand on 4th September 1874 [3]
  • Miss Emma Keay, (b. 1869), aged 5, English settler from Staffordshire travelling from London aboard the ship "Tweed" arriving in Port Chalmers, Dunedin, Otago, South Island, New Zealand on 4th September 1874 [3]
  • Mr. John Keay, Jr., (b. 1855), aged 18, Scottish plumber travelling from Glasgow aboard the ship "Wild Deer" arriving in Port Chalmers, Dunedin, Otago, South Island, New Zealand on 5th March 1874 [3]

Contemporary Notables of the name Keay (post 1700) +

  • John Paul "Jack" Keay (b. 1960), former Scottish footballer
  • Walter "Watty" Keay (1871-1943), Scottish professional footballer
  • John Keay (b. 1941), English journalist and author
  • Nigel Keay (b. 1955), New Zealand freelance musician and composer, violist and violin teacher

HMS Prince of Wales
  • Mr. Harry E W Keay, British Stoker 1st Class, who sailed into battle on the HMS Prince of Wales and survived the sinking [4]


The Keay Motto +

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.


  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)
  2. ^ Filby, P. William, Meyer, Mary K., Passenger and immigration lists index : a guide to published arrival records of about 500,000 passengers who came to the United States and Canada in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. 1982-1985 Cumulated Supplements in Four Volumes Detroit, Mich. : Gale Research Co., 1985, Print (ISBN 0-8103-1795-8)
  3. ^ New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 26th March 2019). Retrieved from http://www.yesteryears.co.nz/shipping/passlist.html
  4. ^ HMS Prince of Wales Crew members. (Retrieved 2014, April 9) . Retrieved from http://www.forcez-survivors.org.uk/biographies/listprincecrew.html


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