A GROWING RESOURCE FOR RESEARCHING GRAY FAMILY HISTORY

The purpose of The Gray Nation site is to assist genealogists in their search for Gray ancestors and relatives. Currently the People database contains 6,359 individuals (792 surnames) with information on birth, death, burial, marriage, immigration and military service. In some cases, photos are included. The source of most of the records is ScotlandsPeople, an excellent site. Everything else comes from Ancestry.com, family archives, location visits and e-mailed contributions from sources around the world. It can be said that the sun never sets on the Gray family.

Everyone knows that the Gray name is quite common throughout the world. To attempt to document all branches of this family with one site would be a very tall order. Therefore this site will set its initial focus on the branch that has its roots in South Lanarkshire region in Scotland. By the 17th century, these Grays resided in the Carmichael (Ponfeigh) area. Over time they migrated to nearby places such as Carstairs, Pettinain, Carnwath and Carluke. They earned their living as farmers, joiners, carpenters, laborers, shipbuilders, miners, masons, railroaders, tailors, shopkeepers, threadmill workers and entrepreneurs. It should noted that as the result of marriages and migrations, the People database contains individuals from all over Scotland and the world.

Beginning with the early years of the 20th century, many Grays emigrated and some settled in and around the town of Kearny, New Jersey. This part of the story would not be complete without mention of another Scottish family: the Blacks. Members of the John & Mary Hamilton Black family emigrated from Paisley to Kearny around the same time. John Allan Gray and Susan Black married in Kearny and formed one American branch of the Gray family tree.

Kearny's Scottish community was established in the mid to late 19th century. Companies such as Clark Thread (now Coats & Clark) of Paisley, DuPont and Nairn Linoleum provided employment opportunities for immigrant families such as Balfour, Friars, Gildawie, McCallum, Shaw, Spence, Stark, Stevenson and Waugh. There were so many people from Paisley living in Kearny it was dubbed “Little Paisley” and the tram driver would shout out “Paisley Cross” when he reached the crossroads at Bergen and Kearny Avenues.

New information, photos or documents about these Grays or any of the relatives is greatly appreciated. If you wish to contribute or have questions, corrections or comments, please use jrgray@thegraynation.com or click on the following link to send an e-mail to webmaster James Gray. Thank you very much.

Origins of the Gray Family Name

The name Gray was first used by the Boernicians, an ancient Scottish tribe. It is a name for a person who had gray hair. In Scotland, the surname Gray actually came from two different derivations. As a nickname, it came from the Gaelic word riabhach, which means gray. As a habitational name, it derived from the place named Graye, in Calvados, France. This place-name came from the Gallo-Roman personal name, Gratus, which means welcome or pleasing. Gray is therefore a nickname and a habitation name, which belongs to the category of hereditary surnames. Nicknames form a broad and miscellaneous class of surnames, and can refer directly or indirectly to one's personality, physical attributes, mannerisms, or even their habits of dress. Habitation names are one of several types of local names, including: topographic surnames, which could be given to a person who lived beside any physical feature, such as a hill, stream, church or type of tree. Habitation names form the other broad category of surnames that were derived from place-names. They were derived from pre-existing names for towns, villages, parishes, or farmsteads. Other local names are derived from the names of houses, manors, estates, regions, and entire counties.

Before the first dictionaries and printing presses went into use, the spelling of names was a largely intuitive matter. Consequently, many spelling variations occur in even the simplest names from the Middle Ages. Gray has been spelled Gray, Grey, Groy, Croy, Graye and others.

The Gray family in the United States is numerous, widespread and consists of many diverse branches. They were among the Pilgrims of New England, the Quakers of Pennsylvania and the early settlers of Virginia and other southern states. Within the first century, between 1620 and 1720, research indicates that there were at least twenty different families of Grays, or different branches of the same family, which had emigrated to this country and made their homes in the New World. As early as 1622, two brothers, Thomas and John Gray, had become proprietors of the island of Nantasket in Boston Harbor by purchase from the Indians. Abraham Gray is mentioned as among the Pilgrim refugees at Leiden, Holland in 1622. Source: houseofnames.com

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Top Ten Surnames in People database:

  Surname Count Surname Count
1 GRAY     367 6 McCALLUM    149
2 SMITH    169 7 BROWN     118
3 WEIR    166 8 MUIR       91
4 PRENTICE    152 9 BLACK       86
5 SPENCE     150 10 FLETT/FRAME      81

Top Twenty Given names in People database:

  Female Count Male Count
1 MARGARET     392 1 JOHN    543
2 JANET/JESSIE    361 2 JAMES    492
3 MARY    297 3 WILLIAM     420
4 JANE/JEAN     263 4 ROBERT    251
5 ELIZABETH    258 5 THOMAS     237
6 AGNES    180 6 GEORGE     179
7 ANN/ANNE    157 7 ALEXANDER     174
8 MARION    152 8 DAVID     116
9 ISABELLA    150 9 ANDREW       92
10 HELEN    143 10 HUGH       52

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