This very ancient surname RAY was derived from the Old English word 'ea'. It was a locational name meaning the dweller by the stream, or from residence near a piece of firm land in a fen. Ralph de la Reye, of County Oxford, appears to be the first of the name on record in the year 1200. William atte Ree was documented in 1285 in Cambridge, and William bithe Ree appears in County Essex in 1279. Originally the coat of arms identified the wearer, either in battle or in tournaments. Completely covered in body and facial armour the knight could be spotted and known by the insignia painted on his shield, and embroidered on his surcoat, the draped garment which enveloped him. 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. Later instances of the name mention Etheldreda Rau who was recorded during the reign of Edward III (1327-1377) and Thomas Rey of Yorkshire, was listed in the Yorkshire Poll Tax of 1379. Robert Ray and Elizabeth Adlington were married at St.George's, Hanover Square, London in 1790. Between the 11th and 15th centuries it became customary for surnames to be assumed in Europe, but were not commonplace in England or Scotland before the Norman Conquest of 1066. They are to be found in the Domesday Book of 1086. Those of gentler blood assumed surnames at this time, but it was not until the reign of Edward II (1307-1327) that second names became general practice for all people.
The associated coat of arms is recorded in Sir Bernard Burkes General Armory. Ulster King of Arms in 1884.
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