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
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.

Resources on

Massey Ancestry

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
, 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
, 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
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 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
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.

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
Raymond Massey, grandson of
Hart Massey, was a well-known American actor.

Select Masseys

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




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