The surname of ABBAYS is of two-fold origin, it was a locational name 'the dweller at the Abbey' from residence therein. Local names usually denoted where a man held his land, and indicated where he actually lived. During the middle ages it was customary for a man to be named after the village where he lived or held his land. This name identified his whole family and followed him wherever he moved. The name was also occupational, an official name from the ecclesiastical title, a man of the cloth.
Early records of the name mention Henry de Abde, 1273, County Lancashire. Robert del Abbay, was documented in 1332, in County Lancashire. William de Mikelfield del Abbay, was recorded during the reign of Edward III (1327-1377). Robert de Abbey of Yorkshire was listed in the Yorkshire Poll Tax of 1379. George Abbey registered at Magdelen College, Oxford in the year 1594. Richard Abby and Elizabeth Hodgkins were married at Westminster, London in 1648. George Abbey and Mary Feild were married at St. James's, Clerkenwell, London in the year 1648. The bulk of European surnames in countries such as England and France were formed in the 13th and 14th centuries. The process started earlier and continued in some places into the 19th century, but the norm is that in the 11th century people did not have surnames, whereas by the 15th century they did.
An eminent member of the name was Edwin Austin Abbey (1852-1911) an American painter and illustrator, born in Philadelphia. He settled in England in 1878. He is known for his illustrations of the works of Shakespeare and for his picture of Edward III's coronation.
The associated arms are recorded in Sir Bernard Burkes General Armory. Ulster King of Arms in 1884.