The surname of FAY was originally De Fae, an Anglo-Norman family who settled in County Westmeath at the end of the 12th century. Sometimes the name is a synomyn of Fahy and of Fee. The family spread to counties Cavan and Monaghan, where they still exist. When the sparse Irish population began to increase it became necessary to broaden the base of personal identification by moving from single names to a more definite nomenclature. The prefix MAC was given to the father's christian name, or O to that of a grandfather or even earlier ancestor. At first the coat of arms was a practical matter which served a function on the battlefield and in tournaments. With his helmet covering his face and armour encasing the knight from head to foot, the only means of identification for his followers, was the insignia painted on his shield and embroidered on his surcoat, the draped and flowing garment worn over the armour.
Early records in England mention Ralph de Faia, 1194, County Sussex. Richard de Fay was documented in Lancashire in the year 1242. Margaret le Fey of Yorkshire, was listed in the Yorkshire Poll Tax of 1379.
The name is also spelt Faye and Fey.
Most of the European surnames in countries such as England, Scotland and France were formed in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. The process had started somewhat earlier and had continued in some places into the 19th century, but the norm is that in the tenth and eleventh centuries people did not have surnames, whereas by the fifteenth century most of the population had acquired a second name.
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