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

lay is one of the thousands of new names that the Norman Conquest brought to England in 1066. The lay family lived in any of the various places named Leigh in England. There are at least 16 counties that contain a place named Leigh. The place-name was originally derived from the Old English word leah, which means wood clearing. [1] The English lay family is descended from the Norman lay family. The family name lay became popular in England after the Norman Conquest, when William the Conqueror gave his friends and relatives most of the land formerly owned by Anglo-Saxon aristocrats. The Normans frequently adopted the names of their recently acquired estates in England.


The surname lay was first found in Cheshire, at High Leigh, where the name is from "an eminent family, who for centuries in that county nearly all the gentry families of that name claim descent." [2] Of note are the following ancient families: Legh of East Hall, in High Legh, county Chester, descended from Efward de Lega, who lived at or near the period of the Conquest and who appears to have a Saxon origin; Leigh of West Hall, in High Leigh, originally De Lynne who married a Legh heiress in the 13th century; and Leigh of Adlestrop (Baron Leigh) county Gloucester, descended from Agens, daughter and heiress of Richard de Legh. [3] Leigh is a fairly common place name that dates back to pre-Conquest times as Leigh, Herefordshire and Worcestershire were both listed as Beornothesleah in 972. [1] There are over nineteen villages that are either named Leigh or include Leigh in their name throughout Britain.

Multitudes of spelling variations are a hallmark of Anglo Norman names. Most of these names evolved in the 11th and 12th century, in the time after the Normans introduced their own Norman French language into a country where Old and Middle English had no spelling rules and the languages of the court were French and Latin. To make matters worse, medieval scribes spelled words according to sound, so names frequently appeared differently in the various documents in which they were recorded. The name was spelled Leigh, Lee, Lea, Legh, Leghe, Ligh, Lighe, Leyie, Ley and many more.


This web page shows only a small excerpt of our lay research. Another 503 words (36 lines of text) covering the years 1548, 1563, 1614, 1589, 1600, 1660, 1640, 1642, 1583, 1662, 1639, 1667, 1660, 1667, 1634, 1687, 1656, 1659, 1653, 1692, 1692, 1662, 1701, 1651, 1711, 1702, 1705, 1681, 1760, 1663, 1716, 1678, 1721, 1797 and are included under the topic Early lay History in all our PDF Extended History products.


Another 435 words (31 lines of text) are included under the topic Early lay Notables in all our PDF Extended History products.


Some of the lay family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt. Another 141 words (10 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products.


Because of this political and religious unrest within English society, many people decided to immigrate to the colonies. Families left for Ireland, North America, and Australia in enormous numbers, traveling at high cost in extremely inhospitable conditions. The New World in particular was a desirable destination, but the long voyage caused many to arrive sick and starving. Those who made it, though, were welcomed by opportunities far greater than they had known at home in England. Many of these families went on to make important contributions to the emerging nations of Canada and the United States. Analysis of immigration records indicates that some of the first North American immigrants bore the name lay or a variant listed above:

lay Settlers in United States in the 17th Century

  • Robert Lay, who landed in Lynn, Massachusetts in 1638
  • Edward Lay, who arrived in Virginia in 1657

lay Settlers in United States in the 18th Century

  • Benjamin Lay, who arrived in Pennsylvania in 1731-1732
  • Christopher Lay, aged 37, arrived in Pennsylvania in 1732
  • Georg Christoph Lay, who arrived in Pennsylvania in 1732
  • Ludwig Lay, who landed in Pennsylvania in 1736
  • Hans Lay, who landed in Pennsylvania in 1747

lay Settlers in United States in the 19th Century

  • Christian Lay, who landed in North America in 1847
  • John Lay settled in New York State in 1848
  • D Lay, who landed in San Francisco, California in 1851
  • Rosine Lay, aged 20, arrived in New York in 1854
  • Georg Lay, aged 26, landed in New York in 1854

lay Settlers in Canada in the 18th Century

  • Anna Lay, who arrived in Nova Scotia in 1757
  • Barbara Lay, who landed in Nova Scotia in 1757
  • Elisabeth Lay, who landed in Nova Scotia in 1757
  • Jacob Lay, who landed in Nova Scotia in 1757
  • John Lay, who arrived in Nova Scotia in 1757

lay Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century

  • Sarah Lay arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Florentia" in 1849
  • Mary Lay (aged 18), a servant, arrived in South Australia in 1856 aboard the ship "Hooghly"

lay Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century

  • Martha E. Lay, aged 18, a laundress, arrived in Wellington, New Zealand aboard the ship "Edward P Bouverie" in 1873


  • Herman Warden Lay (1909-1982), American businessman, founder of H.W. Lay Co. Inc with his eponymous brand of Lay's potato chips
  • Jessy Chapman Carter Lay (1971-2015), American businessman, philanthropist and an heir to the Frito-Lay potato chip empire
  • Sam Lay (b. 1935), American drummer and vocalist
  • Kenneth Lay (1942-2006), U.S. businessman
  • Josh Lay (b. 1982), American football player
  • John Louis Lay (1832-1899), American inventor
  • William Ellsworth "Elzy" Lay (1868-1934), American outlaw of the Old West, best known as being a member of Butch Cassidy's Wild Bunch
  • Donald P. Lay (1926-2007), American jurist
  • Charles Downing Lay (1877-1956), American landscape architect
  • Carol Lay (b. 1952), American author of a weekly comic strip named Way Lay



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: Force avec vertu
Motto Translation: Strength with virtue.


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  1. ^ Mills, A.D., Dictionary of English Place-Names. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-19-869156-4)
  2. ^ Lowe, Mark Anthony, Patronymica Britannica, A Dictionary of Family Names of the United Kingdom. London: John Russel Smith, 1860. Print.
  3. ^ Shirley, Evelyn Philip, The Noble and Gentle Men of England; The Arms and Descents. Westminster: John Bower Nichols and Sons, 1866, Print.

Other References

  1. Papworth, J.W and A.W Morant. Ordinary of British Armorials. London: T.Richards, 1874. Print.
  2. Le Patourel, John. The Norman Empire. New York: Oxford University Press, 1976. Print. (ISBN 0-19-822525-3).
  3. Hanks, Hodges, Mills and Room. The Oxford Names Companion. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002. Print. (ISBN 0-19-860561-7).
  4. Bardsley, C.W. A Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames: With Special American Instances. Wiltshire: Heraldry Today, 1901. Print. (ISBN 0-900455-44-6).
  5. Williams, Dr Ann. And G.H. Martin, Eds. Domesday Book A Complete Translation. London: Penguin, 1992. Print. (ISBN 0-141-00523-8).
  6. Skordas, Guest. Ed. The Early Settlers of Maryland an Index to Names or Immigrants Complied from Records of Land Patents 1633-1680 in the Hall of Records Annapolis, Maryland. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1968. Print.
  7. Weis, Frederick Lewis, Walter Lee Sheppard and David Faris. Ancestral Roots of Sixty Colonists Who Came to New England Between 1623 and 1650 7th Edition. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1992. Print. (ISBN 0806313676).
  8. Hanks, Patricia and Flavia Hodges. A Dictionary of Surnames. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988. Print. (ISBN 0-19-211592-8).
  9. Hitching, F.K and S. Hitching. References to English Surnames in 1601-1602. Walton On Thames: 1910. Print. (ISBN 0-8063-0181-3).
  10. Virkus, Frederick A. Ed. Immigrant Ancestors A List of 2,500 Immigrants to America Before 1750. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1964. Print.
  11. ...

The lay Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The lay 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 11 March 2016 at 04:00.

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