Shay History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

Irish names tend to vary widely in their spelling and overall form. The original Gaelic form of the name Shay is O Seaghdha, which is modified to O Se. The surname is derived from the word seaghdha which means hawk like but has a secondary meaning of stately.

Early Origins of the Shay family

The surname Shay was first found in County Kerry (Irish:Ciarraí) part of the former County Desmond (14th-17th centuries), located in Southwestern Ireland, in Munster province, where they held a family seat from ancient times.

The O'Shee variant claims Kilkenny as their ancestral home. At one time they were one of the most important of the ruling families of Kilkenny. Robert O'Shee was sovereign of the area in 1493. This family alternated using the "O'" prefix as not, as later his son Richard Shee, the Sovereign of Kilkenny (1545-1546) and (1553-1554) was Member of Parliament for Kilkenny in 1559.

Early History of the Shay family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Shay research. Another 98 words (7 lines of text) covering the years 1172 and 1500 are included under the topic Early Shay History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Shay Spelling Variations

Names from the Middle Ages demonstrate many spelling variations. This is because the recording scribe or church official often decided as to how a person's name was spelt and in what language. Research into the name Shay revealed many variations, including O'Shea, O'Shee, McShea, McShee and others.

Early Notables of the Shay family (pre 1700)

Another 30 words (2 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Shay Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.


United States Shay migration to the United States +

To escape the religious and political discrimination they experienced primarily at the hands of the English, thousands of Irish left their homeland in the 19th century. These migrants typically settled in communities throughout the East Coast of North America, but also joined the wagon trains moving out to the Midwest. Ironically, when the American War of Independence began, many Irish settlers took the side of England, and at the war's conclusion moved north to Canada. These United Empire Loyalists, were granted land along the St. Lawrence River and the Niagara Peninsula. Other Irish immigrants settled in Newfoundland, the Ottawa Valley, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. The greatest influx of Irish immigrants, however, came to North America during the Great Potato Famine of the late 1840s. Thousands left Ireland at this time for North America and Australia. Many of those numbers, however, did not live through the long sea passage. These Irish settlers to North America were immediately put to work building railroads, coal mines, bridges, and canals. Irish settlers made an inestimable contribution to the building of the New World. Early North American immigration records have revealed a number of people bearing the Irish name Shay or a variant listed above, including:

Shay Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • John L Shay, aged 15, who landed in North Carolina in 1812 [1]
  • Mary Shay, aged 20, who arrived in America in 1821 [1]
  • Andw Shay, aged 26, who arrived in America in 1821 [1]
  • Timothy Shay, who arrived in New York in 1850 [1]
  • William Shay, who arrived in New York in 1851 [1]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)

Canada Shay migration to Canada +

Some of the first settlers of this family name were:

Shay Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century
  • James Shay, who arrived in Quebec in 1849

Contemporary Notables of the name Shay (post 1700) +

  • Gene Shay (1935-2020), born Ivan Shaner, an American radio personality
  • Art Shay (1922-2018), American photographer and writer from the Bronx, New York
  • Jerry Shay (b. 1944), former American NFL football player
  • Ephraim Shay (1839-1916), American Inventor, entrepreneur, eponym of the Shay locomotive
  • Dorothy Shay (1921-1978), American popular comedic recording artist
  • Jennifer Mary Shay OC (b. 1930), Canadian academic and ecologist
  • Lewis Shay McGugan (b. 1988), English footballer
  • Richard Shay Whitson (b. 1986), American professional mixed martial arts fighter
  • Shay Duffin (1931-2010), Irish-born American character actor of the stage and screen, known for The Departed (2006), Titanic (1997) and Raging Bull (1980)
  • Shay Knuth (b. 1945), American model


Suggested Readings for the name Shay +

  • 3535 "Shay Families with Roots in Lebanon County, Pennsylvania" by Thomas P. Shay.

  1. ^ 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)


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