Massey Surname Meaning, History & Origin
England with William the Conqueror in 1066. It was probably from
one or more of a number of villages in Normandy which sounded
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.
- The Massey Family of England.
Massey family history in England and America.
- The Massey Family. The
Canadian Massey family of Massey Ferguson.
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:
of Grosvenors, and Leghs like flies.”
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
- Cheshire – 14 percent
- Lancashire – 32 percent
- Staffordshire – 12 percent
- and elsewhere – 42 percent.
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.
surname Macey (or Macy) appears to have had similar roots in
Massey, but this name originated instead in the southwest. The
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. 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
- 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
- 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 equipment and machinery business. 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.
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.
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
Hamon Mascy of Dunham Massey. According to The History of Cheshire
by Sir Peter Leycester, Hamon Massey is seen as the founder of
the Massey (Masci) family. His title was Baron de Dunham and the
seat of his holdings was the village of Dunham in Cheshire. He
accompanied King William Rufus in 1087 on a hunting trip in the Wirrall
peninsula. During that time, apparently because of his proficiency as an
archer, he secured from the King a generous grant of land, as the
following document records:
“I William King of England do give unto
Mascy all my right, interest and title to the hop and hopland (valley
land) from me and mine with bow and arrow, which I shoot upon yerrow
(the place), and in witness to the sooth (action or statement) I seal
with my wang tooth.”
In Hamon’s time Dunham Massey Hall
was a three-winged manor in the shape of a “U,” surrounded by a
moat. The extensive grounds outside the moat contained a deer
park, orchards, a river, and several fishing ponds.
Hamon’s descendants would continue to live there until
around 1460 (when it came into the possession of the Booths
through marriage). The story goes that the third wife of the
sixth Hamon was very
extravagant and she forced him to sell land. When he died leaving
heirs, Dunham Massey Hall passed out of the family’s hands.
The Last Massey of Puddington. William Massey, the last of his family, was a zealous
Roman Catholic attached to the cause of the Pretender. He is said
to have fled home in 1716 after the battle of Preston; and to have
escaped to the Wirrall by swimming his horse over the Mersey. The
brace horse then dropped dead as it reached the stable door.
The William was seized at Puddington Hall and
imprisoned in Chester castle where he died soon after. He left
his estates to his godson Thomas Stanley who assumed the name of Massey.
Masseys in Burnley
Much of the land then was farmed by the Masseys. The
Masseys were then, with the Holgates and Crooks, the most influential
people in Burnley. Joseph Massey, father of Alderman John Massey,
lived at the turn of the road to the Massey dye house. His garden
came to the edge of the road and the choice strawberry beds made many a
Burnley lass’s mouth water.
Massey’s woollen factory was nearby and this was flanked by
two or three cottages. The public house bearing the singular
title The Hole-in-the-Wall,
with its equally singular sign, dispensed its ale to thirsty souls then
as now, though neither Massey’s nor Keirby’s brewery had yet seen the
In 1904 the mayor of Burnley received a very unusual letter
from Edward Stocks Massey JP. The brewery had made a considerable
profit for the owners over the proceeding years and now Edward was
prepared to see most of his fortune, estimated to be about £125,000
after death duties, go to the town of Burnley.
There was a catch, however. If the police or
magistrates should close any of Massey’s pubs in the borough of
Burnley, then the full value of the property would be deducted from the
town’s inheritance. The letter made pointed reference to the
recent refusal of a license for the Wheatsheaf
Inn. “This loss might have been avoided if the frequenters
of the house, who came from Burnley, had been more careful as to their
Thomas Macy and the Founding of Nantucket. Thomas Macy had arrived in New England with his wife Sarah in the late
1630’s and was one of the first settlers of Newbury, Massachusetts (the Macy-Colby house in nearby Amesbury, which Thomas built, still stands). But Thomas was brought before court there for “entertaining Quakers.” Four men, reportedly Quakers,
had stopped at the Macy home to ask directions on a rainy morning and
stayed about three-quarters of an hour. Thomas was fined.
Macy was one of the original purchasers of Nantucket in
1659. Tradition states that he fled to Nantucket from persecution
as a result of the case against him concerning the Quakers.
“In the late fall of 1659, the
Macy family, with several neighbors and friends, twelve people in all,
sailed in a small boat bound for Nantucket, rounding the hook of Cape
Cod and at last coming ashore at the west end of the island.
Fortunately for the settlers, the Wampanoag Indians there were
friendly, and had it not been for their hospitable succour during the
long cold winter at Madaket the newcomers might have starved or frozen
John Greenleaf Whittier wrote a romanticized version of the
story in his poem, The Exiles.
On 10 May 1661, Thomas was one of the men chosen to lay out
and measure the land on Nantucket. He moved to Nantucket
permanently in 1664 and died there in 1682.
The Massey Family. Hart Massey (1823-1896), the developer of the Massey
business empire, was the son of Daniel Massey (1798-1856), a blacksmith
who began producing farm implements in Canada. Daniel had been
born in Vermont in America and his family could trace themselves back
to the early immigrant George Massy of the 1630’s.
Hart’s children were:
- Charles A. Massey
(1848-1884). He died early of typhoid fever and his son Bert was
famously murdered in 1915.
- Chester D. Massey (1850-1926). He and his first wife Anna
Vincent raised their sons in the family home on Jarvis Street.
Elder son Vincent (1887-1967) became the first Canadian-born Governor
General of Canada. Younger son Raymond (1896-1983) was a
famous actor and the father of two famous actors as well, Daniel and
- Edward H. Massey
(1864-1901). He was the first President of Massey-Harris after
Hart Massey. His son
Denton was an Anglican priest and politician.
- and Frederick V. Massey
Massey’s Ghosts. It is known as Haunted Keg Mansion in
Toronto. Hart Massey had acquired the mansion in the late
1800’s and it was the place where dignitaries and royal family
members such King George VI and Queen Mary were entertained. The
ghosts in the house are not one but many.
The Ghost in the Washroom
Hart Massey’s daughter Lillian passed
away on the second floor. Her ghost is seen wandering around that
area and her presence has been particularly felt in the second floor
washroom where people have sensed that they were being watched.
There have been occasions when patrons have locked the bathroom door
when using the facilities, only to hear the door being unlocked and
sometimes open slightly. Visitors have reported toilets that
spontaneously flushed when nobody else was in the bathroom. In
addition, toilet paper dispensers sometimes rattle.
The Ghost on the Upper Floors
Sounds of laughter have been heard
from the upper floors when they are unoccupied. In addition, many
people have heard the sounds of children playing. The ghost of a
little boy has been seen running up and down the staircase. He
sometimes stops on the stairs and looks out over the crowd of
The Ghost in the Main Foyer
The most famous ghost is that of a
maid of the Massey family who hung herself from the second floor oval
opening in the main foyer. She can be seen with a noose hanging
around her neck. It is believed she was an employee of Lillian
Massey and committed suicide when she heard the news of her employer’s
death. It is rumored that she had an affair with one of the
Massey men and she was forced to hang herself in order to keep her
pregnancy a secret.
Isaac Massie of Lawrence Township, Ohio. The following article appeared in the Ironton Register of March 17, 1892.
“Mr. Isaac Massie of Lawrence township was in town Friday, seeing the Commissioners in regard to some “sheep claims.” Mr. Massie is turning his attention to sheep raising and has rearranged his farm, erected new wire fences, and had, a few days ago, one of the finest flocks of sheep in the county.
But within the past week the dogs of the neighborhood made a raid on his flock and killed a dozen or more of his finest and injured a number of others. He found a number of his neighbors’ dogs in his field and killed them then and there.
We think Mr. Massie pursued the right course in introducing his gun into the argument and think the results will tell in the future as well as they were felt on the occasion of the shooting. We think sheep raising one of the most profitable
enterprises farmers can engage in and Mr. Massie should be encouraged in his undertaking.”
George Massey’s Tunnel Vision. The tenacity and vision of a man named George Massey was the driving force behind the construction of the 12 mile Deas Island Tunnel in the metro Vancouver region. His dream to build an immersed tube tunnel under the south arm of the Fraser river began in 1936, several decades before the bridge was eventually opened. His vision had been inspired by his childhood experience as a seaman in Europe and his knowledge about the Maas Tunnel in Rotterdam.
“In 1936, my father sold his auto mechanics business in Regina and brought his family, a wrecker (tow truck), and a speed boat he built to B.C,” said his son Doug. “When he got to the ferry in Ladner, he said ‘why isn’t there a tunnel here?’ These were the very first words he said.”
After many years of trying to convincing the B.C. Government of the need for a tunnel, Massey formed the Lower Fraser River Improvement Crossing Association in the late 1940’s.
“Dad, with his layman’s knowledge and an understanding of navigation was able to draw up maps,” explained Doug. “He had all the statistics to prove that this thing should be there. He spoke to Chambers of Commerce all over and proved this was the way to go. The lower crossing would fit better with the design of the Oak Street Bridge and Highway 99.”
The tunnel eventually opened for traffic in 1959 and was called the George Massey Tunnel in his honor.
Reader Feedback – Bill Massey Arriving in New Zealand. My great great grandparents, John and Elizabeth Macnaughtan, travelled to New Zealand together with John and Marianne Massey aboard the Indian Empire in 1862. William Massey, their son, remained behind to finish his studies and arrived in 1870.
John Macnaughtan, New Zealand.
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 Massey Numbers Today
- 10,000 in the UK (most numerous
- 16,000 in America (most numerous
- 7,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada).
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