The KAYE Files -- Family Stories

The KAYE Files


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Ralph Leonard Kaye


“THE FAMILY of KAYE, says an old statement, is of great antiquity in the County of York, being descended from Sir Kaye, an ancient Briton and one of the Knights of the warlike table of that Noble Prince Arthur, flower of chivalry.” ---Patronymica Britannica.


Two questions have always intrigued me in relation to the family of Kaye.

They are the origin of our family and the burial site of my great great grandfather, who was the first one of our family to emigrate from England to Canada, apparently, in the year 1842.

I have not up to the present time found a satisfactory answer to either question, but after many years of asking questions and searching archives, I have collected a considerable amount of family information, which a number of my relatives have asked me to copy out before something happens to it, causing it to be lost forever.

Therefore, this is an attempt to document the data as the information came to me. I do not presume it to be perfect in detail, but only intend it to be a record of the information as I understand it. In recording family history it is subject to the individual's memory in some cases, and looking back in retrospect can oftentimes cause some extreme distortions. Also in some instances official recordings may contain misspellings, incorrect dates, etc. This information is sadly lacking in relevant dates, but for that matter, whose family history is complete?

So while being desirous of not causing offence to anyone, here goes.

A great deal of the information came from conversations with my Aunt Dollie, who is Mrs Archie Fowler, and who before her marriage was Ethel Adeline Kaye. Also from conversations with the late Alvin Kaye of Palmerston, Ontario. Also there was some very interesting correspondence with two members of the Scafe family of the United States. Eugene T. Scafe of Woodbury, N. J. who researched the name of Kaye in Yorkshire in England, and Dennis V. Scafe of Littleton, Colorado, who had a collection of original letters of correspondence between the Kayes and the Scafes after the Kayes and Scafes had migrated; the Scafe family to United States and the Kaye family to Canada.

There was some research done in the Public Library Reference Dept. into the Burke’s Peerage books, and my brother Wilford and myself made some research trips to the northern portion of Wellington County as well as a number of trips to Hamilton to research microfilms sent from the Mormon Church Archives of Salt Lake City.

We are still searching at times but so far have not found the answer to the original two questions.

Comments of people who have previewed these notes:

My Aunt Alice says she met her husband in a cow pasture, when an organization put on a do for enlisted men from Camp Borden during the first world war. She also said: When my grandfather was dating my grandmother, and she was supposed to go to his place for Christmas dinner, and it had stormed the night before, and the roads were blocked with snow, he took the cows and drove them all the way over to her place and back, so that she would have a trodden path to walk on.

My brother Wilford says that he remembers, that after Dad put us on the train in the forest fire in Northern Ontario in 1915, and the train had been under way for some time, it came to a stop, and when our mother asked the Conductor what was wrong, he said, the track is burned out up ahead, so we will have to back up and reroute.

As for myself, I met my wife on the corner of Norfolk and Robinson streets in Simcoe, Ontario, in front of Budd’s store, when I encountered our neighbor, Laura Churchill, and she asked if she and her friend could have a ride home when we went. She intoduced her friend and I promptly forgot her until I met her again when we went home. Her name was Zeitha Honey. There was the two Churchill girls, Laura and Florence, Wilford, and the new girl and me. I started calling her Honey and did so for eight years before we were married and for twenty-eight years after we were married and then I asked her what she thought I was doing when I called her Honey, and she said, calling me by my name. I replied; Do you mean to say I’ve been calling you sweet names for more than thirty-six years and you didn’t even know it?

When my brother Norman read these notes he said: Oh for heavens sake, you better let me have some Xerox copies made of this; do you realize that if you had a car accident or your house burned down, you would lose our family history.

Wilford says what he considers was his first real meeting with Tina, was when he banged into her car in the Simcoe, Ontario Post Office parking lot.

Bruce’s oldest son Bob says he won his wife Pat. in a raffle, when he won a prize that would pay for an evening out on the town with any girl in the school the winner chose to go out with, and although he had never really met her, he chose her.

My brother Bruce says the hobgoblins were abroad when he got married on Halloween night to Clara Forsythe, of Port Dover.

Ethel says she met my brother Norman when a girl friend of hers introduced her to him in the office of Silverwoods Dairy in Kitchener, Ontario, for a blind date.

Vernon met his wife Donna when he was knocked out while participating in a baseball game and spent the night in St. Joseph’s Hospital in Hamilton, Ontario, where Donna was a nurse on duty.

Peter met his wife Helen on shipboard while on an ocean voyage from Australia.

I suppose my father and mother would never have been able to recall when they first saw each other, because they must have watched each other grow up, as the Carr farm and the Kaye farm were only a short distance apart and they were both members of early Muskoka Pioneering families.

The Name of Kaye

If I understand it correctly, there seems to have been four beginnings of the name: Kaye, Kay, Caius, McKay. There seems to have been one with its beginnings in what is now France, and they had quite an impressive-looking coat of arms. Then there was a line that may have had its beginnings in Ireland. Then of course there was the McKay line of Scotland. However it is the name Kaye that had its beginnings in England that interests me.

In a book in the reference Library: The Patronymica Britannica, there is a reference to the name Kaye which says: "The family of Kaye, says an old statement, is of great antiquity in the County of York, being descended from Sir Kaye, an ancient Briton, and one of the Knights of the warlike table of that Noble Prince Arthur, flower of chivalry."

It added that his descendant at the period of the Norman Duke that made conquest of England was Sir John Kaye, Knight, who married the daughter and heir of Sir John Woodesham of Woodesham, Knight, an ancient Briton. Not to speculate upon the age in round centuries that Miss Woodesham must have been at the time of her nuptials, we may ask, where is the proof of a De Woodesham, or a De anything in England, before the time of the conquest, when the match is alleged to have taken place.

The truth seems to be that at Woodesome in Yorkshire, there resided in very early times, a family of Kay, Keay, or Kaye, the head of which, some centuries later was created a Baronet, by Charles the 1st. The patent expired in 1810, but was revived shortly afterwards in favor of the reputed son of the fifth Baronet. The name may be a modification of Caius or some other personal designation.

Sir John Caius or Kaye advanced Gonville Hall, Cambridge, to the dignity of a college in 1557, and that house is still called indifferently Caius or Key’s. He had a contemporary, Dr. Thomas Kay (or Caius) who was Master of University College Oxon.

Upon trying to pin down the realm of King Arthur, one finds him to be a highly mythical figure, but on reading Winston Churchill’s History of the English Speaking Peoples, book four, there is a couple of short paragraphs that is interesting from our point of view. In one it says: "Much of the Arthurian Story, then, is fabrication, fashioned to the taste of each succeeding age." Indeed it is easy to believe that the whole story is invention, with no basis in historical fact. But close analysis of the evidence will demonstrate that there is a kernel of probability within the great body of fiction.

In a later paragraph in the same article it says: "The evidence so far shows Arthur not as a King, but as a commander of a mobile field army, perhaps commissioned by the Kings of Britain to fight variously, in the north, the east, and the south. His principal victory was against the Anglo Saxons in 518, his career ended ingloriously in civil strife in 539."

In another part of the same article in a description of the Round Table it says, "The names of the Knights written around the table include those of Sir Kay, the King’s foster brother, Sir Mordred the traitor, Sir Galahad who found the Holy Grail, and Sir Lancelot, whose love for Queen Guinevere broke up the fellowship."

In a book of Burke’s that dealt with Extinct and Dormant Baronetcies and Knightages it said:

Kaye of Woodesham or Woodsome, created 4th Feb., 1641-2. Extinct 25th Dec. 1810.


Sir John Kaye, Knight, living at the time of the conquest, married the daughter and heiress of Sir John Woodesham of Woodesham in the County of York, and had two sons, John (Sir) his heir, and Richard who went in Lancashire and marrying the heiress of Crompton of Crompton, was founder of the Keay’s of that country. The elder son Sir John Kaye, Knight, of Woodesham, married the daughter and heiress of Sir John Copley and was by her a son.

Sir Robert Keay who married the daughter and heir of Mallet of Upton Mallet and from him we pass through a line of eminent persons to his lineage descendant.

Sir William Keay, Knight, of Woodesham who married the daughter of Gaston of Sedbuer and was survived by his son John Keay esquire of Woodesham who by the daughter of Harley left a son and heir.

Robert Keay esquire who married the daughter of Plumpton of Plumpton and was succeeded by his son.

Arthur Keay esquire living in the time of Henry 8th, who married Beatrice, daughter of Mathew of Wentworth, Esq. of Bretton, in Yorkshire, and left a son and heir.
John Keay esquire, living in 1585 who by Dorothy, daughter of Robert Maleverer Esq.of Wothersome in Yorkshire, had a son and successor.

Robert Keay Esq. living in 1612 who married Anne, daughter of John Flower Esq.. of Whitwell in the county of Rutland, and was succeeded by his son.

John Kaye Esq. of Woodsome who married Anne, daughter of John Ferne, Knight, secretary to the council in the north temp. Charles 1st and dying in 1641 left a daughter, Elizabeth, the wife of Ralph Asheton Esq. of Middleton, in Lancashire, and a son and heir.

John Kaye Esq. of Woodsome, in the county of York, who was created a Baronet by King Charles 1st, 4th Feb., 1641. He was colonel of horse in his Majesty’s Service, and suffered during the troubles, in person and property, but survived to witness the restoration. Sir John married first, Margaret, daughter and co. heir of Thomas Moseley Esq., Alderman and Lord Mayor of York, by whom he had two sons and a daughter, viz.:

John his heir
Robert, died unmarried.
Margaret, died unmarried.

He secondly married Elisabeth, daughter of Sir Ferdinand Leigh of Middleton, and relict [widow] of Francis Burdett Esq. of Birthwaite, in Yorkshire, by whom he had four sons who all died issueless, and five daughters who all died unmarried.

His third wife was Catherine, daughter of Sir William St. Quintin, Bart. of Harpham and relict of Michael Wentworth Esq. of Woolley, but by her he had no issue. She survived him and married after his decease, Henry Sandys Esq. of Downe, in Kent, and after that gentleman’s decease, she became the wife of her fourth husband, Hugh, Earl of Eglinton. Sir John died 25th of July, 1662, and was survived by his son.

Sir John Kaye, M. P. for the county of York, who married Anne, daughter of William Lister Esq. of Thornton, in Craven, sister and heir of Christopher Lister Esq. and by her had issue:

Arthur, his successor.
George, married Dorothy, daughter and heir of Robert Savile, Esq. of Bryan Royd, in Yorkshire, and had issue.
John, who survived as fourth Baronet.
Robert, merchant at Leeds died unmarried.
George, died young.
Catherine, married to Nicholas Roberts Esq. of Hexham.
Anne, married to Sir Bryan Stapylton, Bart. of Myton. He died in 1706 and was survived by his son.

Sir Arthur Kaye, M. P. for the county of York, married Anne, daughter and co heir of Sir Samuel Marow, Bart. of Berkswell in the county of Warwick, and left an only daughter, Elizabeth Kaye, who married first, George Viscount Lewisham, eldest son of William, first Earl of Dartmouth, (who died before her father) and was mother of William, second Earl. She conveyed the estate of Woodsome to her husband’s family. She married secondly, Francis, Lord North and Guildford, and by him was grandmother of Francis, present, 1837, Earl of Guildford.

He died 10th July, 1726, when the Baronetcy devolved upon his nephew, Sir John Lister Kaye of Grange, M.P. for the city in 1734, elected Alderman thereof in 1735, and served the office of Lord Mayor in 1737. He married first Ellen, daughter of Sir John Wilkinson Esq. of Greenhead near Huddersfield, and had a son John, his successor. Sir John married secondly, in 1730, Dorothy, daughter of Richard Richardson, M.D. of north Bierley, in the west riding; by Dorothy, his wife, daughter of Henry Currer Esq. of Kildwich, and had four sons, of whom only one, Richard, in Holy Orders, who eventually succeeded his half brother, survived, and two daughters, Dorothy, the wife of Robert Chaloner Esq. of Bishop Aukland, and Lister of Christopher Miles Esq. He died 27 Dec., 1789, and was succeeded by his son.

Sir John Lister Kaye, Bart., who served the office of Sheriff for Yorkshire, in 1761 and died unmarried 27th Dec. 1789, leaving his estates to John Lister Kaye Esq. of whom hereafter; while the Baronetcy devolved upon his brother.

The very Reverend Sir Richard Kaye, dean of Lincoln, who married Mrs Mainwaring, relict of Thomas Mainwaring Esq. of Goltho, in Lincolnshire, and daughter of William Fenton Esq. of Glassho, near Leeds, but died without issue 25 Dec, 1810, when the Baronetcy expired.

The estates at the demise of the fifth Baronet, passed as stated above, under his will to John Lister-Kaye Esq. who thus became of Denby Grange, in the County of York, and as such, was created a Baronet, 18th of Oct., 1800. His son is the present, 1837, Sir John Lister Kaye, Bart., of Denby Grange.

Arms: quarterly-1st and 4th Arg. two bendlets sa. for Kaye 2nd and 3rd ern. on a fessesa, 3 mullets or, for Lister, the whole within a bordure wavy az. Crests of Kaye; A Goldfinch ppr. charged on the breast with a rose gu. of Lister: A bucks head ppr. erased wavy or, attired sa. in the mouth a bird bolt bendways, of the third, flighted arg. Motto "Kynd Kynn Knawne Kepe" (translation: "Keep Kind to Known Kin"). Residence Mearescourt, Mullingar, Co. Westmeath.

(Author's Note: The last few entries concerning the Lister-Kayes were quite confusing.)

In Burke’s General Armory there is documentation for an ancient Kaye Coat of Arms. “Ar. two bends Sa”. Above the shield and helmet is the crest which is described as “A Griffon’s head erased Ar. holding in the beak a key or.” Motto: "Kynd Kynn Knawne Kepe."

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This document was scanned and then corrected in Microsoft Word 97 by in 1998. As of March 1999 the author (Ralph Kaye) is alive and residing in a nursing home in Port Dover, Ontario, Canada and is pleased that his document will be available to all.


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