The name itself is the Anglicized version of Fionnlagh (less correctly Fionnladh and Fionnla).In Scottish Gaelic it is pronounced something like FIN-loi.It is usually taken to be Old Irish fionn (white, fair) + laoch (hero, warrior), although some believe it is from Find-lug, meaning "fair one of the god Lug."Finn (or Fionn) was an important hero of Irish sagas and folktales, and many placenames and personal names use Fin or Finn as an element.
I was told growing up that the spelling Finlay was unusual in America and that all such Finlays were related.However, given the oddities of colonial American spelling, I find this hard to believe.
These are my Finlays:
Unknown Finlay who lived in Bladen Co. NC and after the Revolution moved to TN.
His son, Judge James Finlay (1789-1860), who after fighting in the First Seminole War and the War of 1812 moved to MS and became a planter in Rankin Co.He married Cada Lewis (b. 1809) of Horry Co., SC, daughter of Joel Lewis, an early settler of Texas.
Their son, Col. George Preston Finlay (1829-1911).He was born in Augusta MS, and went to Brandon College and studied law at U of Louisville KY.He fought in the Mex-Am War, and was invalided out.In 1853, because he had no prospects, he moved to Lavaca TX.He served in the Civil War, attaining the rank of Colonel, and was a prisoner of war for a time.After the War he practiced law in Houston, where he eventually died.He was a judge and legislator.His wife, Carrie Rea, was a granddaughter of the Rev. Finis Ewing, a co-founder of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, and Margaret Brevard Davidson, whose father General William Lee Davidson was killed in the Revolution and whose ancestors included Huguenots and an assortment of Scots, including--through Rev. James Alexander--Somerled, the Lords of the Isles, and supposedly the Earls of Stirling.
Virgilia Finlay (1870-1944) married David Edward "D.E." Simmons, her dad's junior law partner.Their son George Finlay Simmons (1895-1954) was my grandfather.
I have been told that my families came orginally from Dundee, but I do not know in which generation.I am still trying to find out more about the first two generations I have listed here.