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

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

The ancestors of the Keys surname lived among the ancient Anglo-Saxon culture. The name comes from when they lived near a dock, and may have been employed there having derived from the Old French word kay, which became kaye, keye, and keay in Old English. These were all words for docks, or quays. The original bearers of the name undoubtedly lived near some docks, and could easily have been workers there. There is also the possibility that the name is derived from the Latin personal name Caius, a name that dates from the Roman occupation of Britain. There is a record of a Britius filius Kay in 1199, in Northants; filius means "son of." There is a third possibility; in the north of England ka was a word for jackdaw (derived from the Old Scandinavian), and was often applied as a nickname; some nicknames became surnames and this could be one of them. However, the majority of examples of this name found in England are of the local type. This makes this name a polygenetic name, which means that it arose spontaneously at different times and places and meant different things.


Before English spelling was standardized a few hundred years ago, spelling variations of names were a common occurrence. Elements of Latin, French and other languages became incorporated into English through the Middle Ages, and name spellings changed even among the literate. The variations of the surname Keys include Keyes, Key, Keys, Keye, Keyse and others.

First found in Yorkshire where they held a family seat from very ancient times, some say well before the Norman Conquest and the arrival of Duke William at Hastings in 1066 A.D.


This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Keys research. Another 117 words(8 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Keys History in all our PDF Extended History products.


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


Some of the Keys family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt. Another 121 words(9 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products.


A great wave of immigration to the New World was the result of the enormous political and religious disarray that struck England at that time. Families left for the New World in extremely large numbers. The long journey was the end of many immigrants and many more arrived sick and starving. Still, those who made it were rewarded with an opportunity far greater than they had known at home in England. These emigrant families went on to make significant contributions to these emerging colonies in which they settled. Some of the first North American settlers carried this name or one of its variants:

Keys Settlers in United States in the 18th Century

  • Johan Philip Keys, who arrived in New York in 1709
  • Peter Keys, aged 17, landed in Pennsylvania in 1741

Keys Settlers in United States in the 19th Century

  • Eliza Keys, aged 20, landed in New York, NY in 1804
  • Andrew Keys, who landed in America in 1805
  • Elizabeth Keys, who arrived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1816
  • Samuel Keys, who landed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1816
  • William Keys, who landed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1816

Keys Settlers in Canada in the 18th Century

  • Thomas Keys, who arrived in Nova Scotia in 1750
  • Alex Keys, who arrived in Quebec in 1784

Keys Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century

  • John Keys, who landed in Nova Scotia in 1837

Keys Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century

  • John Keys, English convict from Middlesex, who was transported aboard the "Almorah" on April 1817, settling in New South Wales, Australia
  • James Keys, English convict from Essex, who was transported aboard the "Adelaide" on August 08, 1849, settling in Van Diemen's Land and Port Phillip, Australia
  • William Keys, aged 31, arrived in South Australia in 1854 aboard the ship "Marion"

Keys Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century

  • Charles Keys landed in Wellington, New Zealand in 1840 aboard the ship Cuba
  • Charles William Keys, aged 21, arrived in Wellington, New Zealand aboard the ship "Cuba" in 1840
  • Robert Keys, aged 17, a farmer, arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Queen of Nations" in 1874
  • Sarah Keys, aged 26, a servant, arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Queen of Nations" in 1874
  • John Keys, aged 30, a farm labourer, arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "Waitangi" in 1874


  • Robert Henry "Bobby" Keys (b. 1943), American saxophone player, known for his work with the Rolling Stones, Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Who, Harry Nilsson, Delaney Bramlett, George Harrison, Eric Clapton and Joe Cocker
  • James Edward "Jimmy" Keys (b. 1961), American former left-handed starting pitcher in Major League Baseball
  • William "Billy" Amar Keys (b. 1977), American professional basketball player
  • Alicia Keys (b. 1981), American recording artist, musician and actress
  • Mr. Raymond Keys, English Leading Steward from Glastonbury, Somerset, England, who sailed in to battle on the HMS Prince of Wales and survived the sinking
  • Richard Keys (b. 1957), English radio presenter
  • Robert William Trevor Keys (b. 1979), English cricketer
  • Mr. Rodger Francis Keys (1909-1941), Australian Able Seaman from Vale South, Victoria, Australia, who sailed into battle aboard HMAS Sydney II on the 19th November 1941 and died during the sinking


  • By the Name of Keyes (also Keys) by Peggy Keyes Gray.

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: In Domino confido
Motto Translation: I trust in the Lord.



  1. Hanks, Hodges, Mills and Room. The Oxford Names Companion. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002. Print. (ISBN 0-19-860561-7).
  2. Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Galveston Texas 1896-1951. National Archives Washington DC. Print.
  3. 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).
  4. Crispin, M. Jackson and Leonce Mary. Falaise Roll Recording Prominent Companions of William Duke of Normandy at the Conquest of England. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing. Print.
  5. Library of Congress. American and English Genealogies in the Library of Congress. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1967. Print.
  6. Dunkling, Leslie. Dictionary of Surnames. Toronto: Collins, 1998. Print. (ISBN 0004720598).
  7. Bullock, L.G. Historical Map of England and Wales. Edinburgh: Bartholomew and Son, 1971. Print.
  8. Thirsk, Joan. The Agrarian History of England and Wales. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 7 Volumes. Print.
  9. Burke, Sir Bernard. Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Peerage and Baronetage, The Privy Council, Knightage and Compainonage. London: Burke Publishing, 1921. Print.
  10. 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.
  11. ...

The Keys Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The Keys 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 16 December 2014 at 22:12.

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