This interesting surname has five possible origins; firstly, it may be of Anglo-Saxon origin, and an occupational name for a maker of keys, or for someone who held the office of key-bearer, from the Olde English pre 7th Century "caeg" meaning key. Secondly, it may be of French origin, a topographical name for someone who lived by a wharf or was employed on one, deriving from the Middle English "kay(e)", a development of the Old French "kay(e)" meaning quay. Thirdly, it may be of Celtic origin, from the Old Welsh given name "Cai", Cornish "Key", borne by the boastful brother of King Arthur. Fourthly, it may be of Old Norse origin, a nickname from the jackdaw, used to describe someone bearing a fancied resemblance to the bird, and deriving from the Northern Middle English "kay", a development of the Old Norse "ka". Finally, it may be a nickname for a left-handed man, from the Danish term "kei" meaning left, which was borrowed in the 13th Century into the dialects of Lancashire and Cheshire, and survived in this area until the 19th Century. The surname dates back to the late 12th Century (see below). London Church Records list the marriage of Robertus Kay to Lucia Barber on the February 4th 1557. A Coat of Arms granted to a Kay family is silver, two black bendlets. The Crest is a goldfinch proper. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Geoffrey Cai, which was dated 1197, in the "Pipe Rolls of Norfolk", 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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