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The name "Seay" is clearly an Irish name, although the ultimate derivation of the name is unknown. It could come, as many Seays believe, from the Irish name of O'Shea, or a derivative, or it could come from County Down. The immigrant to this country was very likely Mathew Seay, who arrived in Old Rappahanock County, Va., approximately 1683. He had at least 3 sons -- Isaac, James and Jacob -- and maybe a 4th, Abraham. These Seays are the ancestors of most of our American Seay family today. I have found no record of Mathew Seay in Europe, alothough this is not entirely surprising, since so few records for the time still exist. Mathew's name is spelled See the first 4 times it appears in Virginia records, leading some to speculate as to the original spelling, See or Seay, or something else.There is much misinfomration about the Seay name. Here are some facts. The name "Seay" -- spelled in this way over a period of generations -- appears in only 2 places in the western world from 1600 to the present, and they are America and County Down, Ireland. This is why many researchers believe that Mathew Seay must have come from there. Except as a rare variant of another name, Seay does not appear in England. Seay does not appear at all in France. Seay appears in Scotland in the early 1800's, but in every case traces directly back to County Down.The earliest recorded spelling of Seay in County Down is in 1721, with the wedding of Jane Seay to James West in Downpatrick. The Ulster Historical Foundation in Belfast finds a citation for a "Shane Saye [or Eaye)" in the Tudor Fiants, which dates to approximately 1550, in the area called the "Little Ards," which is within a few miles of Downpatrick, County Down. This may be a reference to our Seay family which, if true, is virtually certain evidence that Seay is native Irish.There is a very large oral tradition, unproved by primary documentation, that Seay derives from O'Shea or a variant. This tradition is very strong among many Seay branches. Weight must be given to this tradition. The story is that the family came to England for a period of time, where they changed their name to Seay, then came to America. Suggestions that Seay derives from de Saye or de Sai, or that Seay is a French Huguenot name, are wrong. There is no primary evidence to support it and the documentation argues against it. It appears as if this idea is a legend that had its roots in a couple of early 1950's publications, in which the authors, with absolutely no evidence or proof, declare, "A reliable family tradition inform us that . . .". In more than 20 years of research, I have yet to find one person who can provide one primary document supporting French Huguenot ancestry for the Seay name, or an evolution of Seay from de Sai or de Saye. On the other hand, we can point to the Seay name as established in Ireland from at least 1721.My correspondence with several hundred Seays over the years supports a long standing oral tradition of Irish ancestry. My own opinion is that our line of Seays is connected to the Irish name O'Shea or O'Shee.The name Seay is pronounced Say in every place, other than America, which pronounces it See, for the most part. It is worth noting that the "ee" sound is pronounced "ay" in Ireland, England and Scotland. It seems clear that Seay is a derivation of some other name and that the "See" pronunciation is an American phenomenon.
Sandy Seay's Family Home Page
Updated September 5, 2000

Raleigh Franklin Seay, Jr.
1825 Monterey Avenue
Orlando, Florida 32804
United States

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