The surname Clay, according to most sources, is anglo-saxon, and in some instances may be topographical, meaning a name that describes the place the person lived. In other instances, it may be occupational, indicating the person worked with clay, perhaps a person who worked in a clay pit, was a potter, or built clay (wattle and daub) buildings. (http://www.surnamedb.com/Surname/clay)
Because of this, there are many, many, unique families carrying the common surname “Clay,” with various spellings. Claye, Clay, Kley, Claie are all found in various records.
There are many distinct lines, just in England and her historic colonies, and several lines that may be “Clay” lines but have different surnames.
Some descendants are Clay surnamed males, some are females with Clay surnamed male relatives, some have neither, but the paper trail leads to Clay ancestors. Our goal is to find ways with genetic testing to help all of these people.
The yDNA test, minimally 37 markers, which follows a male, that male’s father, father’s father, father’s father’s father…goes far to separate the Clay males. However, one of the lines, from one John Clay(e), immigrant to Virginia 1613, is very large, and in some cases the paper-trail is not good. We are recommending an upgrade to 67 markers where possible, in order to distinguish among the four grandsons of John Clay(e).
The mtDNA test is the female analog to the yDNA test, but it exists in both males and females. Thus, a maternal line can be followed. There are many lines which descend from a female whose father was a Clay, to her daughter, daughter’s daughter, etc., changing names with every generation. This is clearly a more difficult task. Paper trails are essential.
The “autosomal” DNA test (Family Finder) looks at all the dna that is mixed between mother and father, with each child getting a slightly, or significantly, different batch. It is this DNA that follows irrespective of surname. We have basic tools to work with this now, but in the future we expect a great deal more.
We welcome all of you.
The Clay Project was begun in about 2004, sponsored by the ClayFamily Society, which still supports and sponsors the Project. See ClayFamilySociety.org for information.