Lays History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms
The name Lays came to England with the ancestors of the Lays family in the Norman Conquest of 1066. The Lays 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.  The English Lays family is descended from the Norman Lays family. The family name Lays 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.
Early Origins of the Lays family
The surname Lays 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." 
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. 
"The Lees of Lee, and Darnhall, co. Chester, now represented by the Townshends of Hem and Trevallyn, and the Lees of Quarendon, Bucks, of whom was the gallant Sir Henry Lee, K.G. and the Lees of Ditchley, Earls of Lichfield, whose descendant Viscount Dillon now possesses the Ditchley estate, spring from the De Lee of Battle Abbey." 
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. 
There are over nineteen villages that are either named Leigh or include Leigh in their name throughout Britain. The parish of Hughley in Shropshire derives "its name from Hugh de Lea, proprietor of the manor in the twelfth century, and ancestor of the Leas of Langley and Lea Hall." 
"The township [of Poulton with Fearnhead, Lancashire] has been the property of the Legh family, of Lyme, since their union with the Haydocks. Bruch, or Birch, the old manor-house, existing in the 12th of Charles I., was given by Sir Peter Legh to his fourth son Peter, whose grand-daughter married the grandson of Dr. Thomas Legh, the third son of Sir Peter." 
Down in Devon, "a Totnes man, Sir Edmund Lye, ranks among the boldest seamen of Elizabethan days, and as one of the heroes who bore his part in the defeat of the Invincible Armada. Totnes contributed largely towards the fitting out of the Crescent and the Hart, two vessels sent from Dartmouth to join the Anti-Armada fleet. " 
Early History of the Lays family
This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Lays research. Another 252 words (18 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 Lays History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.
Lays Spelling Variations
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.
Early Notables of the Lays family (pre 1700)
Outstanding amongst the family at this time was John Leigh of Isel, High Sheriff of Cumberland in 1548; William Lee (1563-1614), English clergyman and inventor of the first stocking frame knitting machine in 1589; Sir Richard Lee, 2nd Baronet (ca. 1600-1660), an English politician who sat in the House of Commons from 1640 to 1642, supporter of the Royalist side in the English Civil War; John Ley (1583-1662), an English clergyman and member of the Westminster Assembly; Sir Francis Henry Lee, 4th Baronet (1639-1667), an English politician who sat in the House of Commons from 1660 to 1667; Richard Legh (1634-1687)...
Another 125 words (9 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Lays Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.
Migration of the Lays family to Ireland
Some of the Lays family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt.
Another 77 words (6 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 Lays family
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 Lays or a variant listed above: George Henry Leigh, who came to Virginia in 1607, 13 years before the arrival of the Mayflower; George Lee and John Lee, who both settled in Virginia in 1635.
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.
- Mills, A.D., Dictionary of English Place-Names. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-19-869156-4)
- Lower, Mark Anthony, Patronymica Britannica, A Dictionary of Family Names of the United Kingdom. London: John Russel Smith, 1860. Print.
- Shirley, Evelyn Philip, The Noble and Gentle Men of England; The Arms and Descents. Westminster: John Bower Nichols and Sons, 1866, Print.
- Burke, John Bernard, The Roll of Battle Abbey. London: Edward Churton, 26, Holles Street, 1848, Print.
- Lewis, Samuel, A Topographical Dictionary of England. Institute of Historical Research, 1848, Print.
- Worth, R.N., A History of Devonshire London: Elliot Stock, 62, Paternoster Row, E.G., 1895. Digital