The Nay / McNee Clan

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McNee Crest (Ireland)

McNee Crest (Scotland)

Nay/Ney/Nye/Nie Crest (Norman-Anglo Nay family - not McNee)

I know of three origins of the Nay surname:

The Norman-Anglo Nays apparently originated in present-day France (one of Napoleon's generals was a Nay or Ney). At least one member of this family may have migrated to Essex County, England before 1207 (perhaps with the invasion of William the Conqueror). This family could possibly wear the crest shown above on the left.

The German Nay family derived their name from the German surname Noe/Noh/Noeh (pronounced Nay). A Johannes Noh immigrated from Germany to Virginia, USA in 1734 and is an ancestor of many Nays in the USA.

Finally, my surname (Nay) came from an Americanized McNee. The McNee name apparently originated in Galloway County and/or Limerick County of western Ireland. It is derived from the Gaelic MacNiadh (son of Niadh or Nia, Gaelic for the champion). MacNiadh (d 702) was King of Ard of the Ui Echadh, a district in the baronies of Upper and Lower Ireagh, County of Down. Other variations of the name include MacNay, MacNea, MacNeagh, MacNee, MacNeidhe, MacNeigh, MacNey, MacNia, MacNie, M'Ilnaey, M'Knae, M'Kne, M'Knee, M'Knin, O'Nee, O'Niadh, Nee, Needham

The earliest known ancestor on my line is William McNee (b1681) of the British Isles. His son, William McNee (1711-1789) of Ireland immigrated in the early 1700s with his family to New Hampshire, USA (I don't have an immigration date or port). Two generations later, John McNee (1765-1843) changed his name to Nay.

At some point in history (I don't know when) some McNees immigrated from Northern Ireland to the region of Scotland occupied by the McGregors (the dominant clan of that region). It is believed that the McNees were accepted in Scotland due to the standing of the McNees in Ireland which was such that a daughter was married into the royal family of Scotland. Apparently the McNee clan was never a particularly large clan in Scotland and McGregor was its parent clan. Scottish McNees wear the MacGregor tartan and crest shown above, center and right. The McGregor ancestral lands were on the east bank of Loch Lomond, up through Glenorchy, Glen Dochard, the Trossick Mountains to Lock Katrine, Loch Voll and the Braes of Balquhidder. These extensive territories in the Central Highlands, from Argyll to Aberdeenshire, were coveted by others, especially the Campbells, who, over the years, obtained various legal charters to dispossess the MacGregors.The MacGregor name was banned (proscribed) from 1603 to 1775, although in practice the worst years were from 1603 to 1642. From 1660 to 1693, during the rule of Charles II, the proscription was temporarily lifted. (This was due to the fact that despite the outlawing of the clan, two hundred MacGregors fought against Cromwell during the civil war. It was in gratitude for this bravery and loyalty that Charles repealed the proscription of the MacGregor name). William of Orange, however, immediately upon ascending the throne, re-imposed the proscription as ‘punishment’ for the MacGregors taking the wrong side. Landless, scattered, and driven by a sense of revenge, many MacGregors took to raiding and plundering the property of those who had dispossessed them. The McNees who escaped death and slavery during this turmoil took to the hills with the bandit clan MacGregor. As one of the sept of the McGregor clan (sept equals one of the seven major families), the McNees took to stealing other people's cattle. The other families were the McGregors, McKees, McNies, McNias, Fletchers (arrow-makers) and Skinners (folk who processed the stolen cattle). After 1745, when the famous rebellion was suppressed, the clan had to take up more congenial occupations.

Since my ancestors are believed to have come to America directly from Ireland, I suppose my family would not be a part of the McGregors -- only the Scottish McNees. Sadly, there isn't much published specifically on the McNees in heraldic books I've seen since it apparently wasn't a significant family in history or a particularly large clan.

Like most other Americans, I don't really have a "family" crest, although it's fun and interesting to learn about ancestral crests. Since there may have been more than one McNee who had a heraldic crest, there could be more than one legitimate McNee crest. Above, I have posted one for an Irish McNee that has a yellow field with a standing lion and three spearheads (signifying readiness for battle) and a Scottish McNee that has a blue field with a white diagonal bar and three stags' heads. I also have been told of a McNee crest with two crossed golden maces which certainly would be for a different individual and might even be for one of my ancestors (or maybe at least an Irishman).

For more information, click on my Nay / McNee Family History link.

If you're a member of the Nay / McNee family by birth, adoption or marriage, you're eligible to have a free link to your website posted on this page. The webmaster reserves the right to exclude sites which he deems inappropriate for this page.

 For more information, click here.

The Nay Family in Utah and the West:

A history of John Nay Jr., His Wives and Children

John Nay, Jr.John Nay, Jr.John Nay, Jr. (1804-1892) is the patriarch of most, if not all all Nays rooted in Utah. Some dedicated members of the Nay/McNee family have compiled a book on the lives and posterity of John and his wives, Thirza Angelina Hale (1814-1895) and Lucy Thankful Pine (1831-1897). The book includes comprehensive genealogical charts. Unfortunately, this book is now out of print. An online version with the same copyrighted content is now available. Click here for more information.

Nay Family History Fund
Click a donation icon below to support the Nay Family History Fund with a voluntary donation. This donation will be used for genealogical research and other expenses approved by the members. To donate more, simply click the desired button multiple times.
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Nay/McNee Family News

17 Apr 2004:

It was a pleasure to celebrate John Nay, Jr's 200th birthday today in St. George, Utah and to match faces with some of the names I've communicated with via email concerning Nay genealogy. It was also good to hear the research successes some have had. I look forward to meeting again.

It was mentioned that there are a couple of unmarked/unknown graves and the intent to place markers was discussed.

In addition, as an enhancement to the website, I just added a Yahoo message group called nay_mcnee. This will give Nay descendants a one-stop place to talk family history with everyone who joins. It also has a file sharing feature.

I've made this a "moderated" message group with the goal of keeping spammers out and to maintain a bit of privacy for members.

Today, we saw census images showing Thirza Angeline Hale. Dave and Lynda Merrill of Santa Clara, Utah gave me copies of these images of the 1870 and 1880 censuses. I have uploaded these to the Yahoo nay_mcnee message group so others can access them. I'll also upload what ancestral photos I have.

Other members also have the capability of uploading files for sharing on the Yahoo nay_mcnee message group. I saw a lot of pictures in the hands of a few. I'm glad these people have accepted the stewardship for these priceless photos to ensure they are preserved. This new Yahoo nay_mcnee message group will be a way to get those pictures into the hands of every family member who wants them.

Check out this new message group at

15 Apr 2005

We are in the process of adding another gravestone -- this time for Ormus Bates Nay in Prescott AZ. Cousin Nadine Rolfson is visiting Prescott this month (April 18-30) and will arrange for the work. His gravesite was previously unknown until she found it. There was an error in the cemetery index. We are accepting donations for anyone who would like to be a part of this effort (through the Nay Family History Fund link above). Thanks for your good work.

Another exciting piece of news is that Joan Nay will be presenting a paper at the Mormon History Association conference in Vermont on May 26 or 27, 2005. The paper is entitled, "The Nay Family in Peterborough, New Hampshire." It will be in a group of presentations about "The Latter-day Saints in New England." She has done a great deal more research for the paper and is in the process of fleshing out much more than we previously knew about the family in those early days. The Mormon History Association website has information about registering for the conference, etc.

Heraldic crests are European aristocratic symbols given to individuals -- not to families, although the oldest son can inherit his father's crest. Heraldic blazons are awarded to specific individuals and their direct descendants. The Coats of Arms depicted on this site are not meant to imply that they are official Coats of Arms of any living Nays or McNees. They are for speculation and interest only. We Americans who are many generations removed from nobility are certainly not entitled to use any noble crest in any official capacity. The Nay and McGregor Coats of Arms depicted here are often noted as belonging to individuals with the Nay/McNee surname and are included here as merely symbolic. A very high percentage of crests on the market are creations sold simply to satisfy a market for "family" crests. Such crests have never been legitimately registered and used according to European law and custom. I have seen several widely differing crests for the Nays and McNees -- may cannot be confirmed as legitimate.


  1. Black, George F; The Surnames of Scotland: Their Origin, Meaning, and History; The New York Public Library Press New York, 1986

  2. Hanks, Patrick and Hodges, Flavia; A Dictionary of Surnames; Oxford University Press, New York, 1997

  3. MacLysaght, Edward; The Surnames of Ireland; Irish Academic Press, Dublin, Ireland, 1980

  4. Caveat Emptor: Family Crests -

  5. Irish Nation -

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