Keithay History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The chronicles of the Keithay family reach back into Scottish history to an ancient tribe known as the Picts. The ancestors of the Keithay family lived in the lands of Keith in the county of East Lothian. Traditionally the Keiths were descended from Robert, an early Chieftain of the Catti tribe, and possibly one of the earliest settlers in Scotland. Robert joined King Malcolm II at the battle of Panbridge, in 1006, against Camus, leader of the Danes.

Robert slew Camus for which King Malcolm granted Robert the hereditary title of Marshall of Scotland, with a barony in Lothian and the island of Inskeith in the gulf of Edinburgh. It is for this title that the Keiths are sometimes known as the Marshalls, and many Clansmen adopted that name.

Early Origins of the Keithay family

The surname Keithay was first found in Haddingtonshire where Harvey Keith, successor of the aforementioned Robert Keith (d. 1346) inherited the office of Marshal late in the 13th century, but was imprisoned by the English until 1304. "Reported to [King] Edward as 'one of his worst enemies,' and 'of bad repute,' he was ordered to be removed to Nottingham Castle; but, on reaching York on his way thither, was sent to Bristol Castle. In 1302 he was admitted to the king's peace, and returning to Scotland, is mentioned as dining with the Prince of Wales at Perth in February 1304." [1]

He became one of four Deputy Wardens of Scotland. He joined the cause of King Robert the Bruce, and for their assistance to the Scottish crown, the Clan was granted the royal forest of Kintore. Harvey Keith commanded the Scots Cavalry at Bannockburn and was probably more instrumental in the annihilation of the English army than any other single person. He was again granted lands for his deeds, this time at the expense of the Clan Cumming (Comyn), whose estates at Buchan were acquired by the Keith Clan.

His great grandson, Sir William Keith, (d. 1336) founded the tower of Dunottar Castle. He brought the bones and heart of James Douglas, as well as King Robert I of Scotland's heart, back to Scotland after Douglas was killed on crusade in Spain. Through marriage with an heiress of the Cheynes of Axkergill, the Keiths acquired lands in Caithrless, and began a never-ending succession of feuds with their new neighbors, the Gunns and others.

Early History of the Keithay family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Keithay research. Another 359 words (26 lines of text) covering the years 1438, 1464, 1475, 1540, 1588, 1581, 1553, 1623, 1585, 1635, 1610, 1670, 1714, 1718, 1699, 1758, 1694, 1664, 1712, 1638, 1716 and are included under the topic Early Keithay History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Keithay Spelling Variations

When the first dictionaries were invented in the last few hundred years, spelling gradually became standardized. Before that time, scribes spelled according to sound. Names were often recorded under different spelling variations every time they were written. Keithay has been written Keith, Keath, Ceiteach (Gaelic) and others.

Early Notables of the Keithay family (pre 1700)

Notable amongst the Clan at this time was William Keith (d. 1475), 1st Earl Marischal of Scotland; Agnes Keith, Countess of Moray (c.1540-1588), a Scottish noblewoman; William Keith, 4th Earl Marischal (d. 1581), a Scottish nobleman and politician; George Keith, 5th Earl Marischal (c.1553-1623), a Scottish nobleman; William Keith, 6th Earl Marischal (c.1585-1635), a Scottish lord, Earl Marischal and naval official; William...
Another 61 words (4 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Keithay Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Ireland Migration of the Keithay family to Ireland

Some of the Keithay family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt.
Another 59 words (4 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Migration of the Keithay family

The crossing to North America did not seem so great in comparison with the hardships many Scots endured at home. It was long, expensive, and cramped, but also rewarding. North America offered land and the chance for settlers to prove themselves in a new place. And many did prove themselves as they fought to forge a new nation in the American War of Independence. The ancestors of those Scots can now experience much of their once-lost heritage through the Clan societies and highland games that have sprung up across North America in the last century. A search of immigration and passenger lists revealed many important, early immigrants to North America bearing the name of Keithay: James Keith settled in Barbados with his wife and daughter in 1678; Henry Keith settled in Virginia in 1679; George Keith settled in Philadelphia in 1682.



The Keithay 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: Veritas vincit
Motto Translation: Truth Conquers.


  1. ^ Smith, George (ed), Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1885-1900. Print


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