Show ContentsMcCay History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The ancient Pictish-Scottish name McCay comes from the personal name Aodh, a cognate of Hugh. The Gaelic form of the name is usually Mac Aoidh and in Inverness, the Gaelic form of the name McCay is Mac Ai.

"Nothing certain is known of the origin of the northern Mackays beyond the fact that they were early connected with Moray, and may have been a part of the ancient Clann Morgunn. The Inverness-shire Mackays are usually called in Gaelic Mac Ai, that is, MacDhai, or Davidson; they formed a branch of Clan Chattan." [1]

Early Origins of the McCay family

The surname McCay was first found in Sutherland (Gaelic: Cataibh), a former county in northern Scotland, now part of the Council Area of Highland, where early records show that Gilcrest M'Ay, forefather of the MacKay family of Ugadale, made a payment to the constable of Tarbert in 1326. It is claimed that the Clan is descended from the royal house of MacEth.

Early History of the McCay family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our McCay research. Another 299 words (21 lines of text) covering the years 1329, 1408, 1411, 1429, 1506, 1575, 1640, 1689, 1692, 1726, 1873, 1890 and 1940 are included under the topic Early McCay History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

McCay Spelling Variations

Scribes in the Middle Ages did not have access to a set of spelling rules. They spelled according to sound, the result was a great number of spelling variations. In various documents, McCay has been spelled MacKay, MacCay, MacQuey, MacQuoid, MacKaw, MacKy, MacKye, MacCoy, McCoy and many more.

Early Notables of the McCay family

Notable amongst the Clan at this time was Hugh Mackay (c. 1640-1692), Scottish general, Major-General Commanding in Chief in Scotland in 1689, killed at the Battle of Steinkeerke; and...
Another 28 words (2 lines of text) are included under the topic Early McCay Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

McCay Ranking

In the United States, the name McCay is the 9,802nd most popular surname with an estimated 2,487 people with that name. [2]

Ireland Migration of the McCay family to Ireland

Some of the McCay family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt.
Another 133 words (10 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

United States McCay migration to the United States +

The cruelties suffered under the new government forced many to leave their ancient homeland for the freedom of the North American colonies. Those who arrived safely found land, freedom, and opportunity for the taking. These hardy settlers gave their strength and perseverance to the young nations that would become the United States and Canada. Immigration and passenger lists have shown many early immigrants bearing the name McCay:

McCay Settlers in United States in the 18th Century
  • James McCay, who arrived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1746 [3]
  • Donald McCay, who arrived in America in 1758 [3]
McCay Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Robert McCay, aged 24, who arrived in New York, NY in 1804 [3]
  • Alexander McCay, aged 30, who landed in North Carolina in 1812 [3]
  • John McCay, aged 37, who landed in Georgia in 1812 [3]
  • Daniel McCay, who arrived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1812 [3]
  • Campbell McCay, who arrived in Mississippi in 1823 [3]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Canada McCay migration to Canada +

Some of the first settlers of this family name were:

McCay Settlers in Canada in the 18th Century
  • Mr. Duncan McCay U.E. who settled in Saint John, New Brunswick c. 1784 [4]
McCay Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century
  • Mary McCay, aged 26, who arrived in Saint John, New Brunswick in 1833
  • Ann McCay, aged 18, who landed in Quebec in 1834

Contemporary Notables of the name McCay (post 1700) +

  • Winsor Zenic McCay (1869-1934), born Zenas Winsor McKay, an American cartoonist and animator, best known for his comic strip "Little Nemo," (1905-1914) and (1924-1926) and his animated film Gertie the Dinosaur (1914), inspiration for the Winsor McCay Award
  • Henry Kent McCay (1820-1886), American lawyer, a Confederate States Army and Georgia militia officer, an associate justice of the Georgia Supreme Court, and a United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.
  • Margaret Ann "Peggy" McCay (b. 1927), American Obie and Primetime Emmy Award winning actress, best known for her role as Caroline Brady on the NBC drama, Days of our Lives (1983-2016)
  • Patrick McCay, Irish-born, American painter
  • Clive Maine McCay (1898-1967), American biochemist, nutritionist, gerontologist, and professor of Animal Husbandry at Cornell University from 1927-1963
  • Ryan McCay (b. 1986), Scottish footballer who has played since 2004
  • Lieutenant General Sir James Whiteside McCay KCMG, KBE, CB, VD (1864-1930), Australian general and politician, Minister for Defence (1904-1905), Member of the Australian Parliament for Corinella (1901-1906)
  • Beatrix Waring McCay (1901-1972), one of Australian earliest barristers and magistrates, the second women to sign the Victorian Bar and the first female 'Reader' of the Bar
  • Lewis McCay Dickson (1910-1979), American Democratic Party politician, Alternate Delegate to Democratic National Convention from Texas, 1940; Candidate for Texas State Senate, 1948; District Judge in Texas 125th District, 1957-79 [5]

The McCay 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: Manu forti
Motto Translation: With a strong hand.

  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. "What are the 5,000 Most Common Last Names in the U.S.?".,
  3. 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)
  4. Rubincam, Milton. The Old United Empire Loyalists List. Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc, 1976. (Originally published as; United Empire Loyalists. The Centennial of the Settlement of Upper Canada. Rose Publishing Company, 1885.) ISBN 0-8063-0331-X
  5. The Political Graveyard: Alphabetical Name Index. (Retrieved 2016, January 15) . Retrieved from on Facebook