Appropriately, the first mention we find of the family "Gay" (Gear, Gair, Gayre, et.) is in the records of the tax collection of William the Conquerer in 1086.
In 1066, Duke William of Normandy conquered England and was crowned King. Most of the lands of the English nobility were soon ganted to his followers. The Doomsday Book was compiled 20 years later. the Saxon Chronicle records that in 1085 "at Gloucester at midwinter, the King had deep speech with his counsellors.......and sent men all over England to each shire to find out what or how much each landholder held in land and livestock, and what it was worth." The returns to be brought to him before he left for England for the last time, late in 1086.
The lands of GEAR were held by Bricmer before 1066, and paid tax 1 furlong; 1 'V" or vergata of land (A guarter of a hide, reckoned at 30 acres). There was land for 2 ploughs and 3 slaves. Pasture, 5 acres, woodland, 12 acres. Formerly valued at 25 shillings; now valued at 5 shillings.
The history books tell us that not too long after this, the family of GEAR was involved "in the destruction of a castle, and had to flee to Scotland!".
It is interesting to note that the family in Cornwall lived near an estuary of the sea. Note that when the family next comes into historical notice it is near the sea once again at Cromarty Bay and Nigg Firth in northern Scotland.
The arms are taceable to the 14th Century. In process of time, this branch took over the Chiefship of all branches of the House whether in Scotland, England, or Ireland.
In the later 16th and 17th Centuries they were on the Scottish Borders and intermarried with the Lairds of Mowe. A generation later, the repreasentative of Gayre appeared in Nigg as the incoming husband of the MacCulloughs of Nigg, derived from Plaids and the possessors of the Girths of St. Duthace. Here they became a numerous clan and took part in the affairs of Nigg, and Fortrose of the Black Isle.
Later, with the passing of the estates into three co-heiresses (whose husbands did not take the name of Gayre or Gair) the chiefship passed to the line of the present chief of the Name's line.
The arms were matriculated as Gayre or Gayre and Nigg in 1957 with a special compartment and recorded that the name was that of an ancient house of the realm. The Lairds of Gayre are also Barons of Lochore and hold the superiority of the ancient castle of Lochore in Fife.
In 1992, with a letter from the Chief of the name, Lt. Colonel Robert Gayre of Gayre and Nigg, the American Clan Gayre came into being. Lot. Col. Gayre appointed Malley Lee Gay of Jonesboro, Georgia as his first High Commissioner and Malley Lee Gay, in turn appointed Melvin Benjamin Gay of Moultrie, Georgia as his Deputy High Commissioner.
The tartans of the clan may be worn by all of the clan as members of the blood of the House of Gayre. In addition, it may also be worn those whose name may have similarity to Gayre (although not necessarily of the blood), such as Garrison, Garson, etc., besides those derived from Gayres on their female lines of descent.
The current Chief has declared that the home of the Clan is at Minard Castle near Inverary, Scotland. The discovery of oil on the former clan lands made that location undesirable as a place to live.
At Minard Castle there are records, a library, a small armoury and a family portriat gallery.
Lt. Col. Robert Gayre, now in his 85th year, spent many years recording information relevant to the Arms of Gayre. The Descendants of Simon Gay Family Reunion and the Clan Gayre in North America have collected the most complete collection of his works on this continent. They are located in the Ellen Payne Odom Geneological Library, Moultrie, Ga.
Geneological records with an unbroken line go only back to 1638, when Henry Gay arrived in the New World aboard the good ship "Safety".
He settled in Isle of Wight County, Virginia, and evidently was a Quaker, since mention of his family appears in the Quaker Meeting Records.
From the earliest days of the American settlement the name of Gay have adorned the pages of history with honor.
In Virginia and North Carolina these names appears on list of officers ---military and civilian ---and churchmen. The Gay name is found among the descendants of Pocahontas, the Indian princess and also the State of Georgia Governor - Elbert. Descendants of these sturdy forebearers found their way through hardships and obstacles of the frontier and became some of the early settlers of Western and Southern Georgia.
The Gay Surname: The english surnames, Gay and Gea, are from a Medieval Trademark Inn sign depicting a jaybird. Descendants of the inn-keeper's surname, Jay. The early spelling of Jay or Feai accounts for varied spelling in records. Adam and Robert LeGay lived in Oxford in the 1200's. The Gay manor house was at Hampton Gay, Oxfordshire, England.The Gays came to America on the "Mary and John" in 1636 and had settled in Dedham, Massachusetts. There were three brothers who came over together. Either one of the brothers or his descendants moved north to Maine in the vicinity of Waldoboro, and sometime thereafter, another branch of the family moved south and married in with the Indians. The later branch is whom our lineage is connected (C. Henery Gay). (Quote: Edward McGarvey, Jr. in a letter to Mrs. J. M. Gaston dated Feb. 19, 1952.-copy later in this book).
Generation # 1
A. WILLIAM GAY - James Town, VA., November 1620, petitioning the Virginia Company of London, for his son, James, to return to England.
B. JOHN GAY - 1685-1732. The most original work in English music during the 18th Century was the famous Beggar's Opera, with a biting libretto by John Gay [1685-1732], which was a tremendous success at Covent Garden. This violent social satire portrayed the rich as having vices like the poor, but they escape punishment unlike the poor. Gay chose sixty-nine songs, popular English, Scotish, Irish and Welsh airs, plus parodies from operas or airs by Purcell and Handel.
C. HENRY GAY married Joane/Ann/Jane Sanders; Born in England circa 1628, and he died between 1668 - 1688 in the Isle of Wight Co.,Virginia; for in 1689 Robert Lawrence married his widow, Joane Gay and Robert Lawrence became Step-Father to Henry Gay II. It mentioned his brother-in-law, John Gay. Their children were: Henry Gay(2) II; John Gay I. He married (?) a Lawrence; and Thomas Gay who married Rebecca Page in Nov. 11, 1699.
Notes for Henry Gay(I) = "Henry Gay was a headright of James Long who patented 300 acres on the western Branch of the Nansemond River, in Nansemond County, Feb. 8, 1663, for the transportation of six persons among whom was Henry Gay (C.P. p. 492)". SOURCE: History of Southern Families Vol II by John Benett Boddie.
Henry received a land grant April 22, 1669 in Nansemond County, Virginia. "Henry Gay on April 22, 1669 received a grant from Sir William Berkely, Governor of 400 acres of land in the Upper Parish of Nansemond for the transportation of 8 persons consisting of the headrights of 4 children assigned by Thomas Cullen and Andrew Clawson and four other persons whose names seem to be indistinct to the person who copied them. The grant was adjacent to the lands of James Collins and Phillip Dewel (G.B. 6-242). Henry Died about 1688 for in 1689 Robert Lawrence married his widow, Joanne Gay. (D. B. l-16). (Greak Bk. 2-59; C.M. -33) SOURCE: History of Southern Families Vol II, by John Boddie.
NOTES for Joane Sanders: Some researchers say she was Joan Sanders. No source given. Joane married after Henry Gay died. She married Robert Lawrence, whose will was probated January 23, 1720/21. Robert Lawrence's daughter Jane married Joane Gay's son Henry Gay (II). Robert had children: Robert born 1662, Jane, born 1664, and unknown male born 1666.
Children of Henry Gay (I) and Joane Sanders were as follows:
a. Henry Gay (II) born abt 1674-90. He married Jane Lawrence.
b. John Gay
c. Thomas Gay (I) born abt. 1675. He married Rebecca Page.
I have found more information on the above GAY family and will be fillingin my records. Hope this helps with your answer about the GAY Surname.