The surname of GREY was a nickname 'the one with grey hair'. 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 English GRAEG. The name was originally brought into England in the wake of the Norman Invasion of 1066, from a place called Graye, in Normandy. Anschitill Grai listed in the Domesday Book of 1086, appears to be the first of the name on record. Many of the early names recorded in medieval documents denote noble families but many also indicate migration from the continent during, and in the wake of, the Norman invasion of 1066. There was a constant stream of merchants, workmen and others arriving in England during this time. In 1086 the Record of Great Inquisition of lands of England, their extent, value, ownership and liabilities was made by order of William The Conquerer. It is known as the Domesday Book. Other records of the name mention Baldwin Grai of the County of Buckinghamshire in 1173. Robert de Gray of the County of Oxford was recorded in the year 1273 and Peter le Gray (ironmonger) of York was documented in the year 1300. Thomas Greye appears in County Lancashire in 1400. In many parts of central and western Europe, hereditary surnames began to become fixed at around the 12th century, and have developed and changed slowly over the years. As society became more complex, and such matters as the management of tenure, and in particular the collection of taxes were delegated to special functionaries, it became imperative to distinguish a more complex system of nomenclature to differentiate one individual from another. A later instance of the name mentions William Knevett and Katherine Gray who were married in London in 1523.
The associated arms are recorded in Sir Bernard Burkes General Armory. Ulster King of Arms in 1884.
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