This most interesting surname is of Old French origin, and is a patronymic form of "Jay", a nickname for a jolly, gay person, someone who liked chattering, or perhaps for someone who was very active, from the Old French word "jay, gai, geai", meaning a jay, chatterer. A jay is a bird with a pinkish-brown body and black and white wings and is widely noted for the noise it makes, and its attraction to bright and shiny objects. The surname may also be found in the modern idiom as Jay, Jaye, Jays, Jaze, Jeayes and Jeays.In France the surnames Geaix, Geay, Legeay and Lejay derive from the same source. The surname itself first appears in the late 12th Century (see below), while other early examples include Gilbert Jai, Gai recorded in 1202 in the Pipe Rolls of Lincolnshire, and Walter le Jay mentioned in 1225, in the Assize Court Rolls of Somerset. Joice, daughter of John and Joice Jayes, was christened on July 22nd 1655 at Holy Trinity the Less, London. A Coat of Arms was granted to a Jaye family in Dorking, Surrey, which depicts three silver leopards' heads erased, with a gold crown on a black shield. Sir John Jay (1745 - 1829) was a notable American statesman, who negotiated the treaty with Great Britain (Jay's Treaty) in 1794. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Peter le iai, which was dated 1195, in the "Pipe Rolls of Cambridgeshire", during the reign of King Richard 1, known as "The Lionheart", 1189 - 1199. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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