This section of the web-site looks at the various origins of name that I have found. Where there is a lineage, then this is documented in the History section.
There are many theories as to how the name evolved. However, it does seem that there is far more than one geographic location. I’ve looked at two sources – the Dictionary of American Family Names (Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-508137-4) gives:
- English: nickname for someone with GRAY hair or a GRAY beard, from Old English graeg ‘GRAY’. In Scotland and Ireland it has been used as a translation of various Gaelic surnames derived from riabhach ‘brindled’, ‘GRAY’ (see Reavey). In North America this name has assimilated names with similar meaning from other European languages.
- English and Scottish (of Norman origin): habitational name from GRAYE in Calvados, France, named from the Gallo-Roman personal name Gratus, meaning ‘welcome’, ‘pleasing’ + the locative suffix -acum.
- French and Swiss French: habitational name from GRAY in Haute-Saone and Le GRAY in Seine-Maritime, both in France, or from GRAY-la-ville in Switzerland, or a regional name from the Swiss canton of Graubunden.
Some other researchers have concentrated on the DE GRAY, and related names, and I’ve started to research it myself. This is covered in the de Gray area of this web-site.
The earliest person that would seem to have been traced is Anchetil de Greye – a vassal of William the Conqueror and who accompanied him in their conquest of England. A lineage is given in the John, Lord of Gray section within the History part of this site.
The other variants – for example Croy and Groy have yet to be researched.