The south-east of England historically a locale famous for its seafaring history has an awful lot of John Gay’s! Sarah is not exactly an uncommon British name either. After an inordinate amount of time tracing the John Gay’s in this locale I have a few reasonably well-founded suspicions.
I suspect that John Gay was, I estimate to have been born around 1776. (This could very well be different). He and his wife Sarah, were at the time of their son’s birth, (John Gay Jnr in 1796), living in or near Rochester in Kent. They took their son to be baptised at St. Margaret’s church. St. Margaret’s has stood since 1108 and provided a parish to its local people to the current day. St. Margaret’s is also prime in its location to the ports and rivers that run alongside and nearby. Rochester, Kent had been a main landing point (and defensible point), with easy access to England from the continent since the time of the Romans in AD 43. Not surprisingly when the Vikings arrived to torment the local Saxons and then again in 1066 the ‘civilised’ Vikings (Normans) came with William the Conquerer, from Normandy, well they chose Kent as their point of arrival and robustly defeated the local Saxons subsequently supplanting their rule. To answer one question fairly definitively, Gay is a name of Norman origin, so we can safely assume our DNA origins from the Gay side are Norman.
I also suspect quite strongly with all of the above in mind and from what I have been able to find out so far, that our John Gay (Snr) was connected to the marine trades. So many Gay’s appear from Kent in the merchant and royal navy over the three-generation time-span that I have researched, that it would almost be counter-intuitive to consider anything else. Similarly the names “John” and “William” are highly represented in the Gay records that I can only deduce that these were family-names. From the early 1700’s Rochester and Kent itself became formally organised as a port location and naturally associated crafts such as ship-building and repairs permeated the local area. With the advent of the Napoleonic wars during the early 1800’s Rochester went into overdrive as a place of military presence with embarkations and disembarkation. Merchant interests and operations flooded the region and subsequently the capacity for ordinary merchants to become wealthy ship-owners with flourishing companies culminated in a ‘grab for wealth’. Master-Mariner’s were the pilots of their day and a career in the maritime industry was considered highly lucrative and desirable.
At the time that John was born, Captain Cook had only just arrived definitively on the east-coast of what would become Australia and claimed it for the British. (Poor old Dutch explorer, Abel Tasman had hit what he called Van Diemen’s land (Tasmania) and touched on the east-coast of the mainland in 1642, but didn’t hang around and missed the opportunity).
As to Sarah’s surname? I would not have a clue. At the time of writing this, the Rochester archives (as much as they remain from this time) are not yet completed in their easy-access to the public. The royalist supported civil uprising (second civil war) of 1648 was firmly rooted in origin in Rochester and subsequently like many records of the time across England they were lost, not-recorded or damaged as a result.
As to siblings of our John Gay (Jnr), I can take clues from the names he gave his children however this would only be a hunch.
In short, the search continues….