This interesting and unusual surname is of early medieval English origin, and is a patronymic of May, which is from a pet form of the male given name Matthew, which is of biblical origin, ultimately from the Hebrew male given name "Matityahu", meaning "gift of God", recorded in the Greek New Testament in the form "Matth(a)ias". This name was taken into Latin as both "Matthias" and "Matthaeus", the former being used for the apostle and the latter for the evangelist. However, the distinction was not consistently made, and in most languages the two forms have completely fallen together again. Vernacular forms of the given name include: the Old French "Matheu", the Spanish "Mateo" and the Italian "Matteo"; these are normally derived from "Matthaeus". The patronymic was first recorded in the 1276 Hundred Rolls of Gloucestershire with one John Meys, and Stephen Mayes was recorded in the 1332 Subsidy Rolls of Warwickshire. One Robert Mayes, aged 28 yrs., was one of the earliest namebearers to settle in the New World, embarking from London on the "Assurance" bound for "Virginea" in July 1635. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of William Mai, which was dated 1167, in the "Pipe Rolls of Norfolk", during the reign of King Henry 11, known as "The Builder of Churches", 1154 - 1189. 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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