Select Craig Surname Genealogy

Craig originates from the Scottish Gaelic word creag, meaning “rocky hill,” from whence came the English word crag. As a surname, it might have come from the place-name of Craig, of which there have been several in Scotland, or be descriptive of someone who lived by a steep rocky hill.

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Select Craig Ancestry

Scotland.  There are more crags in the north of Scotland than in the Lowlands and the early history of the Craig surname has a northeast bias.

Highland.  Early Craigs were from Aberdeenshire.  John of the Craig was said to have led a party of 300 men in the raiding at siege of Kildrumie castle at the Battle of Culblean against the English in 1335.  It is thought that this John was the Laird of the Craig of Auchindoir in Aberdeenshire.  By the next century the line of the Craigs of Craigfintray and Riccarton had begun.  Their numbers included:
  • the Rev. John Craig, the famous churchman and colleague of John Knox in the 1500's.
  • and Sir James Craig, one of the leading undertakers of the Ulster plantation in the 1600's.
These Craigs re-established themselves at the Edinburgh estate of Riccarton in 1608.  In Tarves in Aberdeenshire there were monuments to Thomas Craig who died in 1584 and William Craig who died in 1617.  The Craig name also extended itself north into the Orkney isles.  But in recent times the Craig presence in Aberdeenshire has been minimal.

LowlandCraig also had Lowland origins.  John del Crag appeared at an early time in Ayrshire and Craigs from Mid and West Lothian paid homage to the English king in the Ragman’s Roll of 1296.

The Craig name had become particularly common in Edinburgh by the 15th and 16th centuries.  Craig House in Edinburgh dates from about 1565.  The Craig line of goldsmiths appears to have begun with Robert Craig in the early 1500’s and extended to his son Adam who became a freeman after making his “piece of work in both gold and silver” in 1562.  Robert Craig and his brother John were successful Edinburgh businessmen of the late 1600’s.  Robert's grandson James was the architect responsible for the layout of Edinburgh New Town in the 1760’s. 

Glasgow has a larger Craig population today.  Andrew Craig was a merchant in Glasgow in the late 1600’s.  His son William was a minister there and his grandson William a judge who was made Lord Craig.

.  Sir James Craig was granted lands in Ulster in 1610 and settled many of his kinsmen in the barony of Tullyhunco in county Cavan.  Craigs also moved elsewhere in Ulster, in particular to Antrim, following the religious upheavals in Scotland in the late 1600’s.  Many subsequently emigrated to America. 

From the Craigs who remained came the Rev. Andrew Craig, a Presbyterian minister in Lisburn who was a strong opponent of the United Irishmen movement of the late 18th century; and James Craig, a whiskey magnate in Belfast of the late 19th century.  His son was James Craig, later Lord Craigavon, the leader of the Ulster Unionist Party and the first Prime Minister of Northern Ireland in 1921.

.  The Craig name extended into northern England.  Here the Craigs tended to have Scottish antecedents.  Two examples, both born in Cheshire, are:
  • Ernest Craig, the Conservative politician for Crewe at the time of the First World War who was made a baronet in 1927.  His forebear was John Craig of Burntisland in Fife in the 1820’s.
  • and Daniel Craig, the James Bond actor.  His forebears on his father’s side were William Craig and Margaret Dunlop who were married in Ayr in 1817.
America.  The Craigs who emigrated to America were mainly Scots Irish and they started coming in the 1720’s, with Pennsylvania, Virginia and South Carolina being their primary destinations. 

Pennsylvania.  Among the Craigs here were:   
  • James Craig and his extended family from Ulster who settled in 1728 in Catasauga Creek in what became Northampton county.  Their settlement was known as The Craigs and later as The Irish SettlementAnother branch of this family settled in Bucks county. 
  • John Craig, who arrived from county Down with his parents in Philadelphia in 1773 and worked there with his brother Henry as a cabinet maker.  John and his wife Betty settled after the Revolutionary War in Fairview township, Butler county where John helped build its first Presbyterian church.  
  • various Craigs who made their home in Hopewell township, Washington county in the 1790’s.  
  • and later in 1819 came Hugh Craig with his family from Fermanagh.  They made their home in Armstrong township, Indiana county.  
The colonial accounts reveal some Craig problems with Indians.  In Franklin county, John Craig and his wife Isabel of East Hanover township were scalped by Indians in 1756; Samuel Craig was killed by Indians while on his way to Fort Ligonier in 1777; while Daniel Craig of Washington county married the widow of Thomas Urie who had been murdered by Indians in 1790.  

.  Craig numbers here included: 
  • the best-known probably, was the Rev. John Craig, a Presbyterian minister from Antrim, who arrived in Augusta county in 1740.  He led the construction of the Augusta Old Stone Church.  
  • William Craig and his family, also from Antrim, who had come to Pennsylvania earlier and settled in Augusta county in 1744.  He too was a Covenanter Presbyterian and tradition has him and his family helping in the building of the Stone Church. 
  • James Craig, the son of William and Janet Craig, who migrated from Pennsylvania to Augusta county in 1740 where he became one of its largest landowners.  Two of his sons George and William fought in the Revolutionary War.   
  • John Craig who married Mollie Cox in Augusta county around 1760.  One of their sons Robert was found dead, scalped by Indians, in 1794.  From another son James came the Virginia politician Robert Craig, after whom Craig county in Virginia was named.  Robert died on his Green Hill estate near Salem in 1852.  
  • and Hugh Craig from county Down who arrived in Chesterfield county around 1760.  His sons acquired land there after the Revolutionary War and John Craig built the first house in the town of Chesterfield, as well as a mill later.  His grandson W.D. Craig donated the land to what became Craig Park in the 1930’s.  
Toliver Craig, born in Virginia in the early 1700’s, was probably the result of an affair between a Scottish lass named Jane Craig and an Italian sea captain.  He and his sons Elijah, Lewis and Joseph were early converts to the Baptist church.  They departed with their followers to Kentucky as “the travelling church” in 1781.  Another son Toliver Jr. became a significant landowner in Kentucky and was elected to the state legislature.  

South Carolina.  The landing point here was Charleston. 
In the 1770’s John and James Craig from Antrim moved to Laurens county where they helped found the Presbyterian church at Duncan’s Creek.  From this family came Robert Craig who moved with his wife Nancy to Georgia in 1821.  He developed a large plantation at Lawrenceville in the years prior to the Civil War.  Craigs are still living at Lawrenceville

John had received the following commendation from his church in Antrim before his departure: 

“I Joseph Cumming certify that the bearer John Craig and Ellen his wife are Protestants of the Presbyterian persuasion and are free of all public scandal or Church censure and, having a mind to remove to the province of South Carolina with their six children, are hereby recommended to all he may apply to as sober, honest people and worthy of encouragement.   Dated at Ahoghill on this 6th day of November 1773.”  

The family’s Craig House, located three miles outside of Lancaster in South Carolina, was built in the early 1830’s and still stands. The Craig farm there remains in family hands

Canada.  James and Helen Craig arrived from Ayrshire in Scotland to Glengarry, Ontario around the year 1816.  Their son James and grandson James both served in the Ontario assembly.  Two other sons were said to have left the area, William to Australia and Hugh to California.  

Many of the other Craigs in Canada were Scots Irish from Ulster:  
  • a Craig family from county Cavan arrived in two waves, in 1834 and 1840, and settled in Carleton county of Ontario, making their home in North Gower township.  
  • two brothers Robert and James Craig from Ballymena in Antrim, fleeing the potato famine, came to Walsingham in Norfolk county, Ontario in the late 1840’s.    
  • and John Craig who grew up in Antrim came to Ontario in the 1860’s.  Craig was the editor and owner of the Fergus News-Record which he had purchased with his brother Robert in 1869.
New Zealand.  Joseph and Agnes Craig from Paisley in Scotland came to Auckland with their family on the Jane Gifford in 1842.  Joseph started out as a general merchant in the town.  When he died in 1885 his son Joseph James inherited his merchant and cartage contracting business and expanded it greatly.  For the next forty five years nearly every piece of cargo that arrived at the port of Auckland was carted by a J.J. Craig horse and cart or vehicle. 

“J.J. Craig built large premises on the city’s wharves on Auckland Harbor and kept several hundred draught horses in stables near the sea.  In the 1890s there was an unprecedented demand for timber in Australia and J.J. Craig built up an impressive fleet of sailing ships to carry wood across the Tasman Sea and bring back coal from New South Wales.“  

James Craig came to Auckland from Ahoghill in county Antrim with his two sisters in 1863

Select Craig Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for further stories and accounts:

Select Craig Names

Sir James Craig was one of the leading Scottish undertakers of the Ulster plantation in 1610.
James Craig
was the 18th century Scottish architect primarily responsible for the layout of the Edinburgh New Town.
James Craig
, later Lord Craigarvon, became the first Prime Minister of Northern Ireland in 1921
Daniel Craig is an English actor who is the present embodiment of James Bond in the Bond film series.

Select Craigs Today
  • 30,000 in the UK (most numerous in Glasgow)
  • 35,000 in America (most numerous in California) 
  • 28,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)

PS.  You might want to check out the surnames page on this website.  It covers surname genealogy in this and companion websites for more than 800 surnames.

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