This interesting surname is of Gaelic origin, and is a locational name from a place thus called in Scotland. The place is situated in the western Orkneys, on Westray island, and derives from the Gaelic "shee", a fairy hill. In Skea there is a hill two hundred and fifty-seven feet high. During the Middle Ages when migration for the purpose of job-seeking was becoming more common, people often took their former village name as a means of identification, thus resulting in a wide dispersal of the name. Bernard of Ska purchased a two mark land in Deldaill within Deirnes in 1505. Sir James Scay was chaplain in Orkney (1523), and John Skay in Deirnes was a member of an assize in Tankirnes in 1559. The surname can also be found as Skae, Skay and Skey. Recordings of the surname from the Orkney Church Registers, Scotland, include: the christening of Cathreine, daughter of Gilbert Skea, on January 7th 1633 at Shapinsay; the marriage of John Skae and Margret Miller on November 5th 1657 at Kirkwall and St. Ola; the christening of Elizabeth, daughter of John and Margaret Skea, on March 22nd 1691 at the same place; and the christening of Edward, son of James and Elspeth Skea, on May 26th 1746 at Sanday. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Magnus Sca, which was dated 1480, witness to a sale of a toft in Kirkwall, during the reign of King James 111 of Scotland, 1460 - 1488. 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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