Select Massey Surname Genealogy

The surname Massey and its variants were a Norman import, coming to England with William the Conqueror in 1066.  It was probably from one or more of a number of villages in Normandy which sounded similar. 

The Normans who settled in Cheshire came from Masci near Mont St. Michel in Normandy and this over time became the surname Massey.  Maci appeared in Gloucestershire in the Domesday Book and Macey and Macy established themselves as surnames in the south of England.  Meanwhile, the surname Massie - sometimes thought to be derived from the Matheson clan - was to be found in Scotland, mainly in Aberdeenshire. 

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Select Massey Ancestry

England.  The early location of the Massey name was Cheshire  

Cheshire  Hamon Mascy, who was granted lands in Cheshire, is considered as the forebear of the Massey line in England.   The seat of his holdings was the village of Dunham where he built his castle.  Five Hamons followed and they held sway at Dunham Massey Hall until around 1460.  There were by that time a number of subsidiary Massey branches, notably those of de Tatton and Puddington.  As an old Cheshire saying had it:

"There were masses of Masseys, groves of Grosvenors, and Leghs like flies."

The Puddington Masseys, who had received lands in Ely at the time of the dissolution of the monasteries, died out in the early 18th century; but a related family, who called themselves Massies, were firmly established at Coddington.

By the 19th century, the Massey name had spread well beyond Cheshire.  The 1891 census showed the following distribution in England:
  • Cheshire - 14 percent
  • Lancashire - 32 percent
  • Staffordshire - 12 percent
  • and elsewhere - 42 percent.
Lancashire  Masseys spread early to Lancashire, to areas around Leigh and Warrington; and later to the growing industrial cities of Liverpool and Manchester.  The name became most closely associated with the town of Burnley, where the Masseys ran the local brewery.

Elsewhere  The surname Macey (or Macy) appears to have had similar roots in England as Massey, but this name originated instead in the southwest.  The earliest references were in the Wiltshire village of Chilmark, from whence came Thomas Macy the emigrant to America (one family history tracks some Maceys who stayed). Later Maceys were to be seen in and around Bristol and Taunton and as far west as Maker in Cornwall.

Scotland.  The Scottish Massie could either be a variant of Massey or a contraction of Matheson, the name of a minor Highland clan.  It is mainly to be found in the northeast of Scotland, in Aberdeenshire.  One family history traces itself back to William Massie, a farmer in Logie Buchan in the late 1700's, another to John Massie, a fish curer in Fraserburgh in the early 1800's.   

Ireland.   There was a Massey presence in both Limerick and Wicklow from the 1600's.  John Massey had been given land at Duntryleague in Limerick for his role in suppressing the 1641 rebellion.  His family were (mainly) absentee landlords for the next 250 years.  There were more Masseys in Wicklow, many of whom emigrated in the 19th century.

  America received Macys, more Masseys, and then some Massies.

An early arrival in the late 1630's was Thomas Macy, from Chilmark in Wiltshire.  He was the first settler of Nantucket island in 1659 and helped establish its long Quaker tradition.  Later Macys were Obed Macy, the author of The History of Nantucket in 1835, and, more famously, R.H. Macy, the founder of the Macy department store in New York City.  

Early Masseys came from Cheshire or Cheshire-related families:     
  • John Massey and his brothers came to Nansemond county, Virginia in 1635.  Hezekiah Massey of this line moved to North Carolina in 1736.
  • Nicholas Massey arrived in Dorchester county, Maryland in 1658.  Some of his descendants also moved to North Carolina.
  • Thomas Massey, a young Quaker, came to Pennsylvania in 1683 as an indentured servant.  He was to prosper as a farmer in the Lehigh valley (his farmhouse there still stands).  There are many descendants still in the vicinity; and many more in North Carolina where his grandson James settled in the 1760's.
  • and a Richard Massey arrived in Virginia in 1684.  His descendants later migrated to South Carolina and Alabama.
Masseys spread across the South.  By the late 19th century, the largest number were in Texas.  The Massey Genealogy, which covered Massey families in both England and America, was published by Judge Frank A. Massey of Fort Worth, Texas in 1979.

Canada.  Daniel Massey arrived from Vermont with his parents in the early 1800's and they settled to farm on the north shore of Lake Ontario.  It was he who started the family farm equiment and machinery buriness.  But it was his son Hart Massey, who took over in 1856, who really developed the company and helped make it the worldwide force that it is today.  Hart and his sons were to run Massey-Harris, the forerunner of Massey-Ferguson, until 1926.

The Massey family established themselves, through their public works, as the foremost family of Toronto.  Their legacy includes Massey Hall (opened in 1894), the Massey Foundation, and the Massey Commission. From the Massey mansion home on Jarvis Street, their interests ranged wide - from music and the arts to, in the case of Raymond Massey and his family, the acting profession.  In 1978 the Massey family was subject to a two-part CBS-TV documentary, The Masseys: Chronicles of a Canadian Family.      

Australia and New Zealand.  Two Massey arrivals down under had very contrasting life experiences.

Thomas Massey from Cheshire had arrived in chains in Australia in 1791, having been transported there for desertion and burglary.  Although pardoned ten years later, his abrasive attitude would lead him into repeated difficulties with the authorities.  In 1830 he was committed to trial for attempting to kill one of his servants.  The case was probably withdrawn as he lived on at his farm on the South Esk until the ripe old age of ninety nine.

Bill Massey, having grown up in a farming family in Derry, Ireland, emigrated with his parents to New Zealand in 1870.   He too started his own farm.  But his true interest soon emerged as politics.  Representing rural interests, he rose through the political ranks and became Prime Minister in 1912, a position he was to hold for thirteen years.  Burdened by the cares of office, he died at the age of sixty nine and is remembered today by the Massey memorial in Wellington.

Select Massey Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for further stories and accounts:

Select Massey Names

Hamon Mascy
is considered the forebear of the Cheshire Masseys.
R.H. Macy was the founder of the Macy department store.  He opened his first store in New York City in 1858.
Hart Massey was the man who developed the Massey farm machinery business, what is now the Massey-Ferguson Company.
Farmer Bill Massey served as Prime Minister of New Zealand from 1912 to 1925. 
Louise Massey, the country and western singer from Texas, was dubbed  "the original rhinestone cowgirl."
Raymond Massey, grandson of Hart Massey, was a well-known American actor.

Select Masseys Today
  • 10,000 in the UK (most numerous in Lancashire)
  • 16,000 in America (most numerous in Texas).
  • 7,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada).

PS.  You might want to check out the surnames page on this website.  It covers surname genealogy in this and companion websites for more than 800 surnames.

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