Crawford Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Crawford Meaning
Crawford surname takes its name from the barony of Crawford
in Lanarkshire (Crawford also appeared as a place name in Lancashire
and Dorset, but with less significance).  One root of the word in
Scotland is said to be the Gaelic cru
or “bloody” and ford or “ford” and may signify an
early site of battle.  Alternatively “craw” could have come from
the Lowland Scots craw or
“crow.”  The spelling may appear as Crawford, Crawfurd or Craufurd
in Scotland, but mostly Crawford elsewhere.

Crawford Resources on

Crawford Ancestry

The surname came from the place name of Crawford in the upper ward of
Clydesdale in Lanarkshire.  Tradition has it that a Sir George
Crawford saved King David I from a wild stag in the park of Holyrood
Abbey in 1127.  A daughter married David Lindsay whose descendants
became the Earls of Crawford and Balcarres.

There were various subsequent Crawford

  • the Crawfords of Auchinames in Renfrewshire and the Craufords of
    Craufurdland in Lanarkshire descend from Sir Reginald Crawford the
    Sheriff of Ayr in
    the early 1300’s.
  • a third line, the Crawfords of Kilburnie in
    Ayrshire, emerged around 1500.
  • while Thomas Crawford of Jordanhill
    attracted national attention in 1571 with his storming of Dumbarton
    Castle against the forces of Mary, Queen of Scots.

The Crawford biscuit business started in 1813 with
William Crawford opening a little shop in Leith near Edinburgh.  The business remained small until 1897 when
sons James and Archibald established a large biscuit-making factory in
Liverpool.  Sir Douglas Crawford
inherited this business and it remained under family control until the
with McVities in the 1960’s

Ireland.  George Crawford
was one of the fifty Scottish undertakers of the Ulster
plantation.  As a son-in-law of the chief undertaker,
Andrew Stewart, he was granted 1,000 acres of land in county
Tyrone. Although he sold the property within ten years, many of
the Crawfords he brought over from Scotland remained.  They
settled in
Antrim, Fermanagh, Down, and as far west as Donegal.

Andrew Crawford took possession of land in county Down around
1625.  This
land, the Crawfordburn estate, stayed with the family until 1947.
One branch of this family were founders of the brewing firm of Beamish &

in Cork in the 1790’s.

England.  The Crawford
name in England, generally of Scottish origin, was mainly to be found
in the north – in Lancashire, Durham, and Yorkshire.

The Crawford Arms crops up as
a pub
name in Wigan.  The Earls of Crawford were landowners and, by the
late 1700’s, industrialists there.  Crawford was also a name in
Durham mining history.  William Crawford was Secretary of the
Durham Miners’ Association and rose to become MP for Durham in 1885.

.  Early Crawfords, either Scots or Scots-Irish,
entered via Virginia mainly.

  • John Crawford had arrived with his
    son David
    from Ayrshire in 1643 and they became landowners and tobacco
    farmers.  John was
    killed during Bacon’s rebellion of 1676.  David survived.
    This family later built their home at Tusculum in Amherst
    county.  It was here
    that William
    , the Senator for Georgia and 1824 Presidential
    candidate, was
  • another Crawford family settled in Grayson county,
    Virginia.  A
    descendant, Dr.
    George Crawford,
    was an early pioneer in Oregon.
  • and a William Crawford from Orange county, Virginia was a
    combatant in
    the Revolutionary War.  But he was brutally tortured and burnt at
    the stake by Indians before
    the war was over.

Colonel John Crawford settled in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  Robert
and Catherine Crawford of this family lived through the oil boom times
of NW Pennsylvania in the late 19th century.  Herbert Crawford,
the President of the Crawford Coal Company, was a well-known mining man
in West Virginia in the early 20th century.  His forebears had
originally come to Pennsylvania from Scotland.

A Crawford family in the South traces back to William Crawford who
had arrived as a young boy in Charleston, South Carolina in 1779.
Many Crawfords later moved onto Georgia and then to Texas.  Those
who made it to Texas included:

  • William Carrol Crawford, who was the last surviving signer of the
    Texas Declaration of Independence.
  • ET Crawford and his five brothers, cotton farmers who settled in
    Panolo county.
  • Jesse and Hannah Crawford, who settled in Nacogdoches county.
  • William H. and Charles F. Crawford, sons of Jesse Crawford, who
    settled in Tyler county.
  • William
    Nelson Crawford, who moved to Texas in the 1840’s and after
    whom Crawford
    in McClennan county
    is probably named.
  • Thomas and Martha Crawford, who arrived in Texas in the
    1860’s.  Their son Lewis later took over their cattle ranch in Day

Photos of the Crawford ranch in Oklahoma, dating back to 1877, are to
found at the Dickinson Research Center of the National Cowboy and
Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City.

In 1827 John Crawford had migrated west from
Kentucky to Missouri where he started a farm along Spring Fork Creek.  His son James, born there, enlisted in the
Union army in the Civil War and later moved with his wife Margaret to
Colorado.  He built a small cabin there
the Yampa river in 1876.  It was the
first permanent structure in what became Steamboat Springs.  His family established the first school, the
first library and the first newspaper for the community

Canada.  Perhaps the first
Crawford arrival was the Empire Loyalist William Redford Crawford who
had fought on the British side in the Revolutionary War and later
operated as a merchant in Kingston, Ontario.  His family had been
in America since 1672 when they had settled in Middletown, New Jersey.

Scots and Scots-Irish Crawfords entered via New Brunswick and Nova
Scotia in the early decades of the 19th century.  James Crawford,
for instance, came in 1820 and was granted land in Goshen
settlement.  John and Margaret Crawford settled in Pokenshaw, New
Brunswick in the 1840’s.  A Crawford descendant, Samuel Crawford,
was a farmer in Queens county at the turn of his century and left his
diary, The Country Diary of Samuel
, which was published in 1988.

Australia and New Zealand.
Edward Crawford had set up a brewery in Hindmarsh, Adelaide in the
1840’s. His business failed and he moved onto Victoria where he ended
his life in relative poverty.  But his grandson Sidney Crawford
later succeeded in the motor trade and ended up as one of Australia’s
most progressive businessmen in the post-war era.

James Coutts Crawford came to New Zealand in 1839 and, based in
Wellington, became a noted explorer and
geologist there.  A later arrival, from Ireland, was William
Crawford who had a varied career as a storekeeper, brewer,
photographer, and was, in 1877, the first mayor of Gisborne near


Select Crawford Miscellany

Crawford Name and Origin.  The antiquarian Thomas Crawford gave this account of the origin of his
family name:

common ancestor of the Crawfords was one Mackornock who, as the story
goes, signalized himself at an engagement by the water of Cree in
Galloway by discovery of a ford, which gave an advantage to his
side.  This story may carry some show of truth.

in his dictionary of names speaks of the name of Crawford as assumed by
the proprietor of the land and barony of Crawford in Lanarkshire.

The extreme ancestor of this family was Reginald, the youngest son of
Alan the fourth Earl of Richmond.   He seems to have
accompanied David the First to the north and to have received extensive
grants of land in Strathclyde.  Here his immediate descendants
adopted the name of Crawford, signifying in Gaelic “the pass of blood,”
from cru, bloody, and ford, a pass or way (perhaps
commemorative of some early bloody conflict).  The name has been
derived by others from crodh
and port, pronounced
“crofort,” and meaning “a sheltering place for cattle.”

George Crawford, in his 1782 historical account of Renfrewshire, had
the following comments:

first using this name I have found is Galfridus de Crawfurd, a witness
for Roger, Bishop of St. Andrews around 1189.  It is clear that
the family Crawfurd was seated at a place of that name in the county of
Lanark, and from whose hereditary lands they took designation, at a
time when fixed surnames came commonly to be used.”

A Crawford Claimant.  The old house of Kilburnie had burnt down in 1757 and the family line had
ended without issue in 1808 with the death of George, the last Earl of
Crawford.  However, soon after his death a claimant stepped forth
from Ireland calling himself John Lindsay Crawford and asserting to be
the rightful heir to the title and estates.

The claim elicited a great amount of sensational interest and gave rise
to one of the most notorious peerage cases in Scottish history.
As an upshot of the case, the claimant was transported to Botany Bay in
Australia for seven years.  However, at the end of this period he
returned and renewed his demands, this time supported by noblemen and
gentlemen in London.  The case was then investigated thoroughly;
but it was deemed to be unfounded and the claim finally fell to the

The Crawfords of Cork.  William Crawford came from Crawfordburn in county Down to Cork in
1792.  Here he founded a brewing firm along with William Beamish
and built the house Lakelands
near Blackrock.

The Beamish & Crawford brewery was successful
from the onset.  The company quickly became the largest brewer in
the country, employing nearly five hundred people by 1807.
William Crawford must have been something of a Nabob in the 18th
century manner, as he had his own quay with a small warehouse near his
home.  What he imported is uncertain.  It seems that he had a
favorite red magnolia tree on his estate.  He had devised a system
of bringing liquid manure from an adjoining yard (as the tree was
planted against a wall) to fertilize its roots.  He had also built
a shelter round the tree with a seat where he would often sit looking
out over the beautiful view.  It was said that he died on this

The end of Lakelands was
sad.  Under circumstances no longer known, the property passed
into the possession of a solicitor and was demolished.  Today the
site of Lakelands is a field
surrounded by suburban housing overlooking Cork harbor.  Little
remains of the house except for an arched gateway bearing the date
1812.   However, the Crawford Art Gallery, a product of the
family’s munificence, still stands in Cork today.

The Crawfords at Tusculum.  Tusculum is the original home of the Crawford family in Amherst county
and one of the oldest and most architecturally significant dwellings in
the Virginia Piedmont.  Built in the 1750’s, it features a
timber-frame construction and two wings connected by an innovative

Tusculum was built in two stages: the initial house was built around
1760 for David Crawford II and a large addition completed around
1805.  William Sydney Crawford inherited the house and property
from his grandfather sometime after 1762.  He had been educated at
Princeton, practiced law, and was the clerk of the Amherst County
Courts, working out of the “master’s office” on the Tusculum

Tusculum was the birthplace of William Harris Crawford in 1772
and the childhood home of Maria Crawford. She was the wife of
Elijah Fletcher and mother of Indiana Fletcher Williams, the
founder of
Sweet Briar College.

William Harris Crawford.  As William Crawford was progressing in Georgia state politics, duelling
was still an accepted way for gentlemen to resolve disputes.  In
1807 William ran for the Senate vacancy against a local attorney Peter
Van Arlen.   The contest between the two men became so bitter
that it ended up as a duel – where William shot and killed Van Arlen.

Soon afterwards, he found himself in a dispute with Governor Clark of
Georgia which also escalated into a duel.  This time William’s aim
was not true and he was severely wounded.  The duel gave birth to
a family feud between the Clarks and the Crawfords and their allies the
Troups.  It was the Crawfords and Troups who were to win out in
Georgia state politics over the next thirty years.

William Crawford later
became President Madison’s Minister to
France, Secretary of War, Secretary of the Treasury, and a Presidential
candidate in 1824 in the famous four-way contest with John Quincy
Adams, Henry Clay, and Andrew Jackson.  He was described as
follows by
the historian John A. Garraty:

direct and friendly, a marvellous storyteller, and a superb manipulator
of men.  He was one of the few persons in Washington who could
teach the fledgling senator Martin Van Buren anything about
politics.  Van Buren supported him enthusiastically in the contest
for the 1824 Presidential nomination.”

Crawford, however, came fourth and last in the Presidential contest.

Dr. George Crawford – An Oregon Pioneer.  George
Fisher Crawford was born in Grayson County, Virginia in 1818.  His
ancestors were of Scotch-Irish extraction and he was
one of the of the landed nobility of the “Old Dominion,” having settled
there long before the Revolutionary War.  He was the eldest child
of a family of seven children.

Owing to
no less than three attacks of lung fever to which he had been subjected
at various times, his health had become precarious and it was deemed
advisable that he should take a western trip in the hope that different
scenes and climate might make him more robust.  In 1841 he
journeyed to Wayne County, Illinois where John Huston and his family
lived and young Crawford stayed for a short time.  The Hustons
suggested that Crawford should visit James Gilmour who lived nearby and
practiced medicine for the locality. A strong bond subsequently
developed between James Gilmour, his family, and Crawford.
Crawford began studying medicine with Gilmour and, in 1845, married the
youngest daughter Mary.    .

Crawford began practicing medicine in Illinois until 1851 when, in the
company with others, he started off with his family in a convoy for
Oregon (with his two wagons being drawn by six oxen and five
cows).  They arrived safely at the Dalles in late September
1852.  Here they decided to send the family down the Columbia
river by flat boat, while two yoke of cattle were driven over the
mountains to the valley.  Reaching the valley they started
southward and reached Linn County by the middle of October.  With
the munificent sum of $25, they commenced building their homestead.

Their first years in
Oregon were years of hardship and toil.  Cows had to be purchased,
as well as wheat kernels to make flour.  But with pluck and
industry, Dr.
Crawford improved his farm and, with money obtained by teaching and by
plowing for his neighbors, he surrounded his family with comfort and
plenty.  He himself became a leading citizen of Linn County,
serving for two terms as its member in the House of
Representatives.  He was also the first President of the Albany
Farmers Co.

It was said: “Dr.
Crawford was a strictly temperate man and of such regular and
methodical habits in life that he was able to extend what suggested at
one time to be a short life to one of nearly four score years.
His religion was to be good to all men and to endeavor to make the
world better by virtue of an example of perfect citizenship and of
honorable dealing among men.”

Crawford, Texas.  Crawford lies 18 miles west of Waco in western McLennan county.  Settlement
of the area began in the 1850’s and centered around Crawford Crossing,
a ford in the middle Bosque river two miles east of the present
town.  The community was probably named after William Nelson
Crawford who
graded the river crossing.  By 1890 Crawford had flour and corn
mills, two general stores, three groceries, a cotton gin, four
churches, and 400 residents.  Cotton, wheat, hides, and corn were
the principal shipments from the area.

Crawford is best known for George W. Bush’s Prairie Chapel Ranch,
located just outside the town. Crawford has been the site of many
anti-Iraq war demonstrations.  It was also the subject of a 2008
film documentary about the changes brought to the town by Bush’s



Crawford Names

  • Sir William Crawford fought with William Wallace in the wars for Scottish independence against the English in 1298.
  • George Crawfurd was the Scottish historian who wrote The History of the Family of the Stuarts
    in 1710.
  • William H. Crawford was US
    Secretary of the Treasury from 1816 to 1825 and a candidate for US
    President in 1824.
  • William Sharman Crawford was a
    radical politician from county Down who founded what was
    to become the Tenant League of Ireland.
  • Isabella
    Valancy Crawford, 
    originally from Ireland, was a 19th
    century Canadian poet.
  • Joan Crawford the Hollywood
    actress was born Lucille Fay LeSueur.
  • Wynter Crawford was a Barbadian
    publisher and politician who was instrumental in his country’s rise to
    independence in 1966.
  • Michael Crawford is an English
    actor and singer, best known for his performance in The Phantom of The Opera.
  • Cindy Crawford has adorned more
    magazine covers than any other model in history.

Select Crawford Numbers Today

  • 30,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Lanarkshire)
  • 56,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 32,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)


Select Crawford and Like Surnames 

These are surnames from the Scottish Lowlands.  Some are clan names; some – like Gordon, Graham and Hamilton – have Anglo-Norman antecedents that crossed the border into Scotland; and some – like Douglas and Stewart – were very powerful in early Scottish history.  Stewart in fact became the royal Stuart line.



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