Crabtree Family History
CRABTREE was first used as a surname in the late 14th
century in the West Riding of Yorkshire, and the man who assumed it was John de
Crabtre, a resident of Sowerbyshire.
There are several other early records, one as far back
as 1301, of persons in different parts of England who were described as
living near a crabapple tree, but there is no evidence that any of these
examples developed into a surname. The
descriptions took the form of a first name followed by ‘atte’,
‘de’, ‘at’ or ‘of’ Crabtre.
For three hundred years, there were variations in the
spelling of the surname – Crabtre, Crabbtree, Crabetre, Crabtrie, Crabtry, Crabtrey, Crabtrye and Krabtree have all been found, the most common being Crabtre – but by the end of the 17th century the
variations had virtually disappeared. It
is likely that these different spellings can be attributed to the fact that
none of the Crabtrees could then read or write, and
interpretation of the spelling was left to the local minister or church clerk.
During the 1400s and 1500s, the surname was almost
entirely restricted to two small areas of the West Riding, one on the west side
in the Halifax and Bradford area, and the other on the east side around Snaith. There was
also a toehold gained on the north-eastern side of Lancashire,
but dispersion to the rest of the country was minimal.
The 1600s saw considerable increase in the number of
Crabtree families, including some distribution of them through the middle part
The growth in numbers in Lancashire was
also strong, still mostly limited to the north-eastern corner of the
county. There were several appearances
in other parts of the country, including London,
but the numbers were limited to a handful of families.
The first Crabtree to emigrate to America was Edward in 1635, but
there is no record of his survival. At
about the same time, John arrived in Boston, Massachusetts, and with his wife Alice
started a family line that is still strong in New England
The 1700s brought an even faster growth, still mainly
concentrated in the counties of Yorkshire and Lancashire. During this century, there were approximately
three times as many Crabtree baptisms in Yorkshire as in Lancashire, and three
times as many in Lancashire as in the rest of
the country combined.
Emigration was sparse in the 1700s. There were a few who sailed to America, the
most notable being William and Jane who settled in Maryland about 1705 and gave
birth to a family that multiplied and spread to such an extent that many Crabtrees in the United States today can trace their roots
to this family. This century saw the
arrival of the first Crabtrees in Canada when John and his daughter Sarah settled
in Nova Scotia
There is no evidence that any
Crabtree line originated in Ireland and it has to be said that the number of
people to be found in Irish records bearing the surname is small.
Nonetheless, the surname has
cropped up since as early as 1665 when one Thomas Crabtree, a victualler by
trade, served as Keeper of the Public Records in Ireland. This was a standard one-year appointment. At the time, Thomas lived on Fishamble Street in
Dublin, close to the docks in the centre of the city.
During the next two centuries,
several Crabtrees were stationed for relatively short
periods in Ireland as part of their military service, or were working in other
occupations. Some were married there and
brought up their children. The most
common location was Dublin, but there were a few who lived in other parts of
During the 18th century, two
family lines of significant historical interest emerged. They relate to John Crabtree who, in 1767,
was the first Crabtree to emigrate to Canada, and Hugh Crabtree who was the
first Crabtree to arrive in Australia - in the latter's case as a man convicted
for his part in the Carlow uprising of 1798 and transported in 1801. Hugh's wife and children were left behind in
Ireland. Both of these men were born in
Ireland, but it is not yet known where their ancestors originated.
Much work has been done by Nadine
Crabtree in researching the family name in Ireland and the results may be found
on her website at http://www.crabtreesinireland.com.
The Crabtree DNA Project welcomes all
participants. I encourage you to join.
Participating is an opportunity to uncover information
not provided in the paper records, which will help with our family history
research. We shall discover which family
trees are related, and gain pointers as to where to focus additional research
into documented sources. You can see the
progress of the project to date by visiting www.familytreedna.com/public/Crabtree.
The y-DNA test tells you about your direct male line, which would be your father, his father, and so
on back in time. You must be male to
take this test, and you should have the Crabtree surname. Nonetheless, if you believe there is a
Crabtree or variant in your direct male line,
although you have a different surname, you are also welcome to
participate. If you are female, ask a male
in your family tree to participate. I
encourage males who order a y-DNA test to order 37 markers, if possible. If you order less markers, you can upgrade
later, though this costs a little more.
The mt-DNA test provides
information for both males and females interested in learning about their
direct female line, which would be their mother, their mother’s mother, and so
on back in time. For this purpose, you
would order an mt-DNA test. For matches in a genealogical time frame,
order the mt-DNA Plus test. Further information may be found at www.FamilyTreeDNA.com, the website of the company hosting this project, or
you may contact me at the link provided below.
In 2004, I published a book describing the origins, growth and spread
of the CRABTREE surname from 1300 to 1800.
Entitled CRABTREE Dweller by the Wild Apple Tree, my book
examines many available records to trace the towns and hamlets where the early Crabtrees lived, their trades and occupations, their levels
of wealth, and the rate and directions in which they spread. I also surmise their lifestyles based on the
social pressures over the 500 year period.
The book, which has been updated and reprinted in 2015, contains 360
pages, including eight colour plates.
All sources are referenced, and the book is fully indexed. The Foreword has been written by Dr.George Redmonds.
For further details, you can contact me using the e-mail link below.
Link to marriage tables
Send me an e-mail message
This page was first published on 18
November 1998, and was last updated on 14 August 2015.
Additions since previous update: marriages 1915.