Craig Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Craig Meaning
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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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.  Ian Craig covered the early history in his 2010 book The Origins of the Clan Craig.

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.

Lowland. Craig 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.

Ireland. 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.  He held that position until his death in 1940.

England. 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 TheIrish Settlement
    Another 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.

Virginia. Craig numbers here included:

  • the best-known probably, was the Rev. John
    , 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
    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
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


Craig Miscellany

The Craigs of Craigfintray and Riccarton.  The forebear
of the Craigs in Aberdeenshire was probably William Craig
of Craigfintray who was born sometime in the late 1400’s.
His line ran as follows:

  • William Craig who was killed fighting the English at the Battle of Flodden Field in 1513
  • his son, the Rev. John Craig,
    who was imprisoned during the early stages of the Reformation for
    adopting Protestantism.  He was sentenced to death but escaped and joined John Knox.
  • and, following Alexander
    and William Craig, Sir Thomas Craig, the great institutional writer on Scottish
    institutional law through his Jus Feudale.

Sir Thomas was so admired by James VI of Scotland that he was one of the Scots
invited to attend his coronation as King of England at Westminster Abbey in
1603.  Shortly before his death in 1608,
he became the possessor of Riccarton, the Edinburgh estate once owned by Robert the Bruce.

Thomas’s brother John, who was the
King’s physician, and son James
followed him to London in 1603.   James,
through these royal connections, became
one of the Scottish undertakers of the Ulster plantation.

The Craig line at Riccarton continued until the death of Robert Craig there in 1823.  The estate passed to James Gibson who assumed the name and arms of Craig, changing his name to James Gibson-Craig.   Another line from these Craigs via the
Ulster plantation was said to have led to James
Craig, the first Prime Minister of Northern Ireland in 1921.

Sir James Craig in Ulster.  Sir James Craig had followed King James VI to England in 1603 and, due to
his royal connections, was granted lands in county Armagh.
These he exchanged for lands in the barony of
Tullyhunco in county Cavan and he settled many of his kinsmen there.

The following year he
completed the building of a walled house at Croghan near Killeshandra in Cavan.  This castle was 35 feet in height
and surrounded by a wall some 240 feet in circumference.
He had four horses and mares and a supply of
arms for defense and was in the process of raising stones to build a mill.   His neighbor was Sir Alexander Hamilton, a
Scottish undertaker from the Hamilton family of East Lothian.

Things went
generally well until the 1641 rising and civil war.
This was a particularly difficult period for
the Scots in Killeshandra as the Craig and Hamilton families were both forced out of their settled lands by the O’Reillys.
The 1641 Ulster Muster recorded Sir James Craig with 54 men, 16 swords, 15 pikes, and 6 muskets.  But they were
simply outnumbered and many of the Scots settlers at the time were killed.

In April 1642 Sir James himself died.  His castle
had been wasted by disease.  One hundred
and sixty men and women had died of hunger and disease and the remainder were
too weak to defend the castle any longer. Consequently
Sir James’s family and his Hamilton neighbors were rousted
from their plantations and driven to the seaport of Drogheda.

To counter these
attacks, Oliver Cromwell arrived with his English army and the
resulting wars
ended with the defeat of the Catholic Confederates.
Sir James Craig’s brother John returned to
lay claim to the lands owned by his brother.

The Rev. John Craig of Augusta County, Virginia.  The following marker appeared at Fort Defiance in 2015 in commemoration of the Rev. John Craig:

“John Craig, born in Antrim,
Ireland, and educated in Edinburgh, Scotland, immigrated to America in 1734.  Ordained pastor in 1740 of the two
churches known as Augusta Stone and Tinkling Sprint, Craig was Virginia’s first
settled Presbyterian minister west of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  He led the construction of Augusta Stone
Church and its defensive reinforcement. Craig,
an Old Side minister who resisted the Great Awakening, traveled the backcountry to preach, baptize
settlers, and organize congregations.
With his wife, Isabella, he established a farm and raised six
children.  The Craigs are buried in the cemetery to the east.”

Samuel Craig and the Indians.  Samuel Craig
served as a commissary in Pennsylvania during the Revolutionary War.  In 1777 he
was called to Fort Ligonier, but never made it.
On the way he was captured by Indians on Chestnut Ridge and all efforts to ascertain his fate were without avail.
His horse was found dead, perforated by eight bullets.  Fragments of paper strewn along the path
indicated the route taken by the Indians.
But that was all that could be found.

His son Samuel was also captured by Indians at the time of this
conflict.  They attempted to drown him
while he was crossing the Miami river.
He struggled valiantly against their repeated efforts until one
of the Indians put him back on his canoe and claimed him as his prisoner.

He and five other captives were made to sit
on a log and have their faces painted black to indicate their doom.  The five other captives were chopped down
with tomahawks.  But Samuel who had
started to sing lustily and surprised the Indians was spared.  He was eventually sold to an Englishman for a
gallon of whiskey.

The second son Alexander had no such mishaps.  He served his country well in the Revolutionary War and was a Brigadier General in the War of 1812.

Craig House in South Carolina.  The current
Craig House outside of Lancaster in South Carolina dates from the early 1830s, being
originally a federal-style farmhouse.  In
1901 it was significantly enlarged with a Victorian front addition by John Edgar and Amanda Drennan Craig who had married in 1883. Craig House was
listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1989.

The fields and woods surrounding Craig House
are all part of the pre-Civil War Craig Farm which included more than a thousand acres of farmland.

Craig Farm today consists of close to 400 acres, owned by the five siblings of the current
Craig generation.  It is operated as a
cattle farm by Bill Craig, the twin brother of his Kilburnie partner John Craig.  Bill is also a skilled cabinet
maker and fine examples of his workmanship are scattered throughout Kilburnie and Craig House.

Judy Sanwald-Craig and her husband Roger Sanwald also contributed to the home by
handcrafting a period gilded picture frame for a portrait of Benjamin Franklin
which now hangs in the drawing room of Craig House.

Craigs from Ireland to Canada in 1834 and 1840.  The Craigs were apparently from Fermanagh, but had migrated to a rented farm near Monesk in the parish of Killinagh in county Cavan.  Thomas Craig and his wife were the parents of
nine children.  The eldest son Robert
emigrated to Pennsylvania and nothing more was known of him.  Two other sons Hugh and William departed for
Canada in 1834, to be joined by a younger son Thomas in 1840.

The first Craig party set sail for Canada on the Richardson.  Hugh left with his wife and seven of his nine
children, William with his wife and all seven of his children.  They landed at Brockville and made their way
inland through the forest by wagons and oxen, finally arriving at their destination of Goulbourn township in Carleton county, Ontario.  Hugh subsequently bought land in the adjoining
North Gower township where he established Echo Farm.

The early years were not
without their mishaps.  During the voyage
William’s daughter Mary Anne had drowned in the St. Lawrence river while trying
to draw water to cook breakfast.  She was
pulled over the side and never seen again.
William himself died two years later when he was hit by a tree
that he was cutting down and the impact killed him.

The second wave came over six years
later, leaving Ireland in 1840 on the Industry.
This party consisted of Thomas, his wife and their ten children.  No tragedy struck this party.
But Thomas’s daughter Charlotte was
apparently romanced by the ship’s captain.

The family history
was chronicled in James Beverley Craig’s 1929 book The
Craigs of Goulbourn and North Gower
. One
picture in the book, taken in 1907,
depicted the Craig family outside Craig House in Craig Street in North Gower.  The Craigs had gathered to
celebrate James Craig’s 91st birthday.


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 Craig Numbers 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)


Select Craig and Like Surnames 

These surnames originated from the northern part of Scotland, either the northeast of the country, the Scottish Highlands, or in one case (the surname Linklater) the Orkney isles north of Scotland.





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