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Family spelling variants includes Gray, Grey

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GRAY Family History


Recorded as Gray, Graye, Grey, Greye, de Grey, MacGray, McGray, McGrah, McGreay, McGrey, and possibly others, this ancient Anglo-Scottish surname has at least two possible origins. The first was Old English and a nickname or personal name for a man with grey hair or beard, from the pre 7th century word "graeg", meaning grey. Although the name means the same in Scotland and Ireland,name holders there took their name from the early Gaelic word "riabhach" which also means brindled or grey. The second separate origin is French and locational. As such it is from the village of Graye in Calvados, Normandy, and was introduced into the British Isles after the famous Conquest of 1066...


Gray (Variants: Grey, Gray)

An English and Scottish habitational name from Graye in Calvados, a town in Burgundy, France, on the banks of the Saone. It was named from the Gallo-Roman personal name Gratus, meaning ‘welcome’, ‘pleasing’ + the locative suffix -acum. It is also a French and Swiss French habitational name from Gray in Haute-Saône and Le Gray in Seine-Maritime, both in France. In Swiss, derived from Gray-la-ville in Switzerland or a regional name from the Swiss canton of Graubünden. Also well established in Ireland, where it may have absorbed some native Irish forms. It is sometimes adopted for the Irish surname Mac Giolla Riabhaigh.

In 1891, the frequency in England and Wales was 30,511 and around half the amount in Scotland with 12,622. In 1881, it was reported that Hertfordshire was one of the top counties for Gray surname with 847 occurrences. In the same year, the most common occupation reported in the UK was Agricultural Labourer along with Farmer and Labourer being in the top 3 reported jobs worked by Gray. A Coal Miner was a less frequent occupation for the Gray surname.

A geographical location that shares the relative name is Grays Thurrock, Essex where Sir Henry de Grey (1155-1212) and his father Richard de Grey resided. Sir Henry was a favourite courtier of King John of England, also his son, Richard de Grey of Codnor, Derbyshire (died 1271), Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports in 1258; and his brother Sir John de Grey (died 1266), an English soldier and High Sheriff of Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire (1238-1239) and High Sheriff of Herefordshire (1252-1253).

Robert Gray, an English convict from Essex was transported aboard the ‘Albion’ in May 1823 and settled in Van Diemen’s Land, Australia.

John de Gray (died 1214) was Bishop of Norwich in Norfolk, and later became Archbishop of Canterbury, but was never confirmed. He was even employed in the service of Prince John before John became King.

SOURCES: 1881, 1891 Census

1881 Census in Hertfordshire

Dictionary of American Family Homes, P Hanks OUP 2003

Homes of Family Names in Great Britain, H.B. Guppy, London 1890

The Oxford Dictionary of Family Names in Britain and Ireland, P.Hanks, Coats, McClure OUP 2016

1860 Lower, Mark A Patronymica Britannica: a dictionary of the family names of the United Kingdom, London: J.R Smith. Public Domain

1857 Arthur, William An Etymological Dictionary of Family and Christian Names. New York: Sheldon, Blakeman. Public Domain



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