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An excerpt from www.HouseOfNames.com archives copyright © 2000 - 2015

Origins Available: English, Irish

Where did the Irish Shay family come from? What is the Irish Shay family crest and coat of arms? When did the Shay family first arrive in the United States? Where did the various branches of the family go? What is the Shay family history?

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.


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.

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.


This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Shay research. Another 232 words (17 lines of text) covering the years 1172 and 1500 are included under the topic Early Shay History in all our PDF Extended History products.


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


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, landed in North Carolina in 1812
  • Mary Shay, aged 20, arrived in America in 1821
  • Andw Shay, aged 26, arrived in America in 1821
  • Timothy Shay, who arrived in New York in 1850
  • Wm Shay, who arrived in New York in 1851


  • 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
  • Art Shay (b. 1922), American photographer
  • Jennifer Mary Shay OC (b. 1930), Canadian academic and ecologist


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

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Shay Framed Surname History and Coat of ArmsShay Framed Surname History and Coat of Arms



  1. O'Hart, John. Irish Pedigress 5th Edition in 2 Volumes. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1976. Print. (ISBN 0-8063-0737-4).
  2. Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at Galveston Texas 1896-1951. National Archives Washington DC. Print.
  3. Kennedy, Patrick. Kennedy's Book of Arms. Canterbury: Achievements, 1967. Print.
  4. Crozier, William Armstrong Edition. Crozier's General Armory A Registry of American Families Entitled to Coat Armor. New York: Fox, Duffield, 1904. Print.
  5. Somerset Fry, Peter and Fiona Somerset Fry. A History of Ireland. New York: Barnes and Noble, 1993. Print. (ISBN 1-56619-215-3).
  6. Fitzgerald, Thomas W. Ireland and Her People A Library of Irish Biography 5 Volumes. Chicago: Fitzgerald. Print.
  7. Bell, Robert. The Book of Ulster Surnames. Belfast: Blackstaff, 1988. Print. (ISBN 10-0856404160).
  8. Shaw, William A. Knights of England A Complete Record from the Earliest Time to the Present Day of the Knights of all the Orders of Chivalry in England, Scotland, Ireland and Knights Bachelors 2 Volumes. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing. Print. (ISBN 080630443X).
  9. Sullivan, Sir Edward. The Book of Kells 3rd Edition. New York: Crescent Books, 1986. Print. (ISBN 0-517-61987-3).
  10. 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).
  11. ...

The Shay Family Crest was acquired from the Houseofnames.com archives. The Shay 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 8 December 2010 at 19:42.

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