This unusual and interesting name is of early medieval English and French origin, and is a "nickname" surname deriving from the word denoting the bird, in Middle English "jay(e)", Old French "gai", from the Latin "gaius", joyful, lively. The nickname "Jay" would probably have been bestowed on someone thought to share some characteristic of the bird, and jays were thought to be great chatterers and lively, showy birds. Many medieval English surnames were created from such nicknames from birds and animals, for example Hawk, Swan, Nightingale, and Peacock. There are a number of variant forms of the modern surname, ranging from Jay and Jaye to the patronymics Jayes, Jays, Jaze, Jeayes, Jeays and Jeyes, all meaning "son of Jay". One Thomas Jay was an early emigrant to the new World, leaving London on the "Constance" in October 1635, bound for Virginia. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Gilbert Jai, which was dated 1202, in the "Pipe Rolls of Lincolnshire", during the reign of King John, known as "Lackland", 1199 - 1216. 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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