The surname of GAI was a nickname 'the jay' the chatterer, a gaily dressed person. Surnames having a derivation from nicknames form the broadest and most miscellaneous class of surnames, encompassing many different types of origin. The most typical classes refer adjectivally to the general physical aspect of the person concerned, or to his character. Many nicknames refer to a man's size or height, while others make reference to a favoured article of clothing or style of dress. Many surnames derived from the names of animals and birds. In the Middle Ages ideas were held about the characters of other living creatures, based on observation, and these associations were reflected and reinforced by large bodies of folk tales featuring animals behaving as humans. The name was derived from the old French "Geai" and was brought into England in the wake of the Norman Conquest of 1066. The name was also locational 'of Jay' a township in the parish of Leintwardine, County Hereford. Local names usually denoted where a man held his land, and indicated where he actually lived. Early records of the name mention John le Jay, 1313, County Hereford. William le Jay, was documented during the reign of Edward III (1327-1377). Edward Jay of Yorkshire, was listed in the Yorkshire Poll Tax of 1379. Thomas Smith married Elizabeth Jay at Kensington Church, London in the year 1722.
A notable bearer of the name was John Jay (1745-1829) an American jurist and statesman, born in New York. He was admitted to the bar in 1768, and elected president of congress in 1778, and in 1779, was sent as minister to Spain. He was the Govenor of New York from 1795 until 1801. The coat of arms were used originally for practical reasons. With the armour covering the knight entirely, 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.
The associated arms are recorded in Sir Bernard Burkes General Armory. Ulster King of Arms in 1884.
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