McLay History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

McLay is a name of ancient Norman origin. It arrived in England with the Norman Conquest of 1066. The McLay family lived in Lincolnshire, where they held a family seat at Claye.

Early Origins of the McLay family

The surname McLay was first found in Lincolnshire where the Hundredorum Rolls of 1273 list William del Cley and Robert del Clay as holding lands there at that time. The same rolls also listed Alicia in le Clay, Huntingdonshire. [1]

Later, in Yorkshire, the Yorkshire Poll Tax Rolls of 1379 included: Agnes del Clay; Johannes del Clay; and Adam del Clay, Howdenshire. [1]

"Clay has long been a Notts surname. It was represented in the parish of Hayton in the time of Henry VII. Hercules Clay was a mayor of Newark in the reign of Charles I. (S.), and Clay is still a Newark name. The Clays of Southwell during last century carried their pedigree back 200 years, and their name is yet in the town. Six centuries ago Clay was a common name in the east of England, especially in Essex, Lincolnshire, Hunts, Cambridgeshire, and Beds. It is still well established in Lincolnshire, as well as in Notts and Derbyshire." [2]

Early History of the McLay family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our McLay research. Another 78 words (6 lines of text) covering the years 1086, 1457 and 1537 are included under the topic Early McLay History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

McLay 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 Clay, Claye, Cley, Cleye, McClay and others.

Early Notables of the McLay family (pre 1700)

Another 34 words (2 lines of text) are included under the topic Early McLay Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Ireland Migration of the McLay family to Ireland

Some of the McLay family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt. More information about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.


United States McLay migration to the United States +

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, travelling 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 McLay or a variant listed above:

McLay Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Charlotta McLay, aged 21, who landed in America, in 1896
McLay Settlers in United States in the 20th Century
  • Andrew McLay, aged 22, who immigrated to America from Glasgow, Scotland, in 1907
  • Fanny McLay, aged 24, who settled in America from Glasgow, Scotland, in 1908
  • Agnes L. McLay, aged 24, who landed in America from Kilmarnock, Scotland, in 1920
  • Henry McLay, aged 4, who immigrated to the United States from Glasgow, Scotland, in 1921
  • Arabella McLay, aged 32, who landed in America from Glasgow, Scotland, in 1923
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Canada McLay migration to Canada +

Some of the first settlers of this family name were:

McLay Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century
  • R McLay, who arrived in Victoria, British Columbia in 1862

Australia McLay migration to Australia +

Emigration to Australia followed the First Fleets of convicts, tradespeople and early settlers. Early immigrants include:

McLay Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • Margaret McLay, aged 22, a servant, who arrived in South Australia in 1858 aboard the ship "Melbourne"

New Zealand McLay migration to New Zealand +

Emigration to New Zealand followed in the footsteps of the European explorers, such as Captain Cook (1769-70): first came sealers, whalers, missionaries, and traders. By 1838, the British New Zealand Company had begun buying land from the Maori tribes, and selling it to settlers, and, after the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, many British families set out on the arduous six month journey from Britain to Aotearoa to start a new life. Early immigrants include:

McLay Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • Miss Alexina McLay, (b. 1860), aged 19, Scottish general servant, from Edinburgh travelling from Clyde aboard the ship "Nelson" arriving in Invercargill, Southland, South Island, New Zealand on 28th August 1879 [3]
  • J. McLay, who arrived in Auckland, New Zealand aboard the ship "British Empire" in 1880

Contemporary Notables of the name McLay (post 1700) +

  • Wallace D. McLay, American politician, Candidate for Michigan State House of Representatives from Wayne County 1st District, 1948
  • James B. McLay, American Democrat politician, Delegate to Democratic National Convention from Arizona, 1948; Candidate for Presidential Elector for Arizona, 1968
  • Annabelle McLay, American politician, Candidate for Michigan State Board of Agriculture, 1949
  • Daniel McLay (b. 1992), British racing cyclist
  • James Kenneth "Jim" McLay CNZM, QSO (b. 1945), New Zealand politician, former Deputy Prime Minister, leader of the National Party and Leader of the Opposition, eponym of the McLay Glacier, Churchill Mountains, Antarctica
  • Peter McLay Mills (1921-1993), British Conservative Party politician


The McLay 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: Per orbem
Motto Translation: Through the world.


  1. ^ Bardsley, C.W, A Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames: With Special American Instances. Wiltshire: Heraldry Today, 1901. Print. (ISBN 0-900455-44-6)
  2. ^ Guppy, Henry Brougham, Homes of Family Names in Great Britain. 1890. Print.
  3. ^ New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 17th October 2018). Retrieved from http://www.yesteryears.co.nz/shipping/passlist.html


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