Recorded in several spellings as shown below, this surname is English. It has a number of verifiable origins, any one of which could be the source of the modern surname. Firstly it was an occupational name for a maker of keys or for someone holding the ceremonial office of key-bearer, derived from the Olde English pre 7th Century "caeg", key. Secondly it could be topographical and describe someone living or working on a wharf. This is from the Middle English word "kaye", meaning a quay. Thirdly it could have a completely different source, and be Celtic from the ancient personal name Cai or Key, thought to be from the Roman names Gaius or Caius. Fourthly it could be from two medieval English nicknames. The first from the northern dialectal word "kay", meaning a jackdaw and the second one from the Danish-Viking word "kei", meaning left, and hence describing a left-handed person. The final origin is Norman-French, and locational from the place called Guise in Picardy. There are many spellings of the surname including Key, Keys, Keyes, Kayse, Keays, Keeys, Kayson, Keyson and Keson. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Roger Keys. This was dated 1275, in the Subsidy Rolls of Worcestershire, during the reign of King Edward 1st, known as "The Hammer of the Scots", 1272 - 1307. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was sometimes 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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