A Crawford Family

Preface to 1st edition

On Anzac Day in 2007, I knew of no living Crawford relatives. I knew of cousins; the children of my fathers sisters, but no Crawford cousins.

I had begun researching my Crawford family history after a holiday in Scotland in 2004.  While there, we visited Elgin.  My mother had visited Elgin in 1979; a sort of pilgrimage after my father died.  He had always wanted to visit the town from which his family had emigrated to Australia.

My father died in 1977 at the age of 56, when I was 30.  He had left me with many wonderful memories, a little knowledge of our heritage, a collection of books (the fly leaves or inside covers inscribed with the name of his father, Percival Crawford, at various addresses), a collection of brass miners scales, binoculars and telescope, old board games from the 1900’s, education certificates and a box of photographs and newspaper clippings.

Every few years or so, I would read the newspaper clipping from The Maryborough Standard of May 1875 in which there was a lengthy report of the marriage of my Great Grandfather Robert Crawford to Ann Elizabeth Neale.  There was also the clipping from an unknown paper about the opening of the St Andrews War memorial Hospital in Brisbane by Harold Crawford.

In 2005, all enthused after our Elgin visit, I used the Maryborough Standard clipping to locate their wedding certificate.  It listed Robert’s parents as being James and Mary Crawford.  That led me back to their wedding in Geelong in March 1854.  Their wedding certificate recorded James as having been born in Belfast in 1830 and his father as being Robert Crawford.  Now that was a hell of a shock.  What was the family lore about Elgin?  Irish not Scottish?  There had to be a mistake.

If you know anything about genealogical research, you will appreciate that the Mormons (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) lead the way in recording births deaths and marriages internationally.  From their website, I located James as having been born in Elgin.  It seems that he left home in his early 20’s and settled in Belfast; listed as a “marine” or “mariner” on his son’s wedding certificate.

By now, you will be having trouble with the repetition of James and Robert as the Christian names of the first born into each generation. Hopefully it won’t be as confusing when you come to read the rest of this family history.  You will also have to cope with the name John Hamilton Crawford, passed down in Australia, Ireland, Scotland and the U.S.

Further research lead me back to Robert’s parents, brothers and sister in Elgin and to his grandfather in Inverallan.  That took me back to around 1780 and try as I might, I can’t prove the birth or marriage details of Samuel prior to moving to Grantown in the 1780.  There are several possibilities and I will outline them in the 1st Chapter.

Returning to the Australian family, the Mitchell Libraries genealogical resources allowed me to locate the births of most of the children of Robert and Ann Crawford’s children, including my grandfather Percival Crawford.  Unfortunately, there were no recorded marriages or deaths for any of them, nor for Robert and Ann.  All but my grandfather and father seemed to have vanished.

I spent fruitless hours googling.  I must have spent 40 hours or more, every month for six months or more just googling and trolling through genealogical records without finding any thread to tease out.  In the end, I joined “Genes Reunited” where I posted my family “pine” tree.  I then put it all aside.

Then came Anzac Day 2007.  I had heard that a large number of military records had been scanned and collected by the National Archive.  Previous searches had simply recorded names, place where they had enlisted and next of kin.  Now there were full records.  I started with my father and grandfather.  Pages took forever to download.  The day was dragging on.  I decided to see if any of my grandfather’s brothers had also enlisted in WW1.  Amazing, there was Robert Crawford (the 3rd?)  and Harold Crawford.  What about 2nd World War?  There were Robert’s sons and my father and his brother, Brian.

At days end, I started to actually read some of the documents.  My grandfather Percy listed his next of kin as “Robert Crawford of Carbine Mine, Kalgoorlie”.  What was that all about?  The family address was Mont Albert, Melbourne.  Then there were his brothers, Harold and Robert.  Both had served in Palestine with Light Horse companies.  Robert’s records listed three different Sydney addresses between his discharge and the mid 1920’s., so dad had had an uncle living in Sydney and possible cousins as well.  Whenever I had asked him about family, he had always responded that they were in Victoria.  He never suggested any family in any other state.

A month later, I was attending a conference on the Gold Coast.  During a break, on the spur of the moment, I telephoned the St Andrew’s War Memorial Hospital in Brisbane.  I explained who I was and that I had a newspaper clipping from the 1950’s announcing the opening of the hospital by Dr Harold Crawford who I thought might be my great Uncle.  I explained that I understood that with privacy laws they couldn’t give me any information, however if they knew of any descendants, could they contact them with my name and phone number and ask if they could contact me.

Not 10 minutes later, the hospital called me back with the name Margaret Crawford and her phone number.  Several days later I drove up to Buderim to meet Margaret and Douglas Chapman and then to Coorparoo to meet Halle and Don Moreton.  Harold Crawford’s two daughters provided me with the entire Queensland branch of the family tree.

Both Margaret and Halle also suggested that the family story regarding their grandfather Robert was that he was an alchoholic who had left his family in Victoria and gone off to the goldfields of W.A. where he had another equally large second family.

Halle provided the biggest breakthrough in bringing the entire international family together.  I had told her that I couldn’t find any trace of her grandfather’s parents or brothers either dying or marrying in Australia and that I was beginning to think that they might have returned to Scotland or Ireland.  Suddenly Halle remembered that she had been given a page from the family bible by an Aunt she had visited in Comrie, Scotland in 1950.  She had saved the page in a photo album.  Ten minutes of searching and she produced the page in which a family member had recorded the births and deaths of the Australian Crawfords; and there were James and John Hamilton dying in Hopeman (Scotland) and Bradford (England) respectively.  So Robert’s two brothers had moved to Scotland and England.

Now that I had the entire Queensland branch, I returned to trying to track down Robert Crawford in Western Australia.  Various goldfields websites lead me to the marriage of James Miller Crawford, the birth of his son Robert Crawford and a Dept. of Agriculture report prepared in the 1990’s in which Ken Crawford was quoted about the use of Rowles Lagoon in providing water to the Carbine mine and grazing property.  I decided that if I could track down Ken, then he would fill me in on the rest of the W.A. family.  I spent months searching for Ken.

In the meantime, I received an email via. Genes Reunited from Suzanne Matzelburg.  She had posted her family tree and it had matched my tree for a number of Crawfords.  We exchanged emails and a phone call and established that she was a member of the Robert Crawford family; my grandfather’s brother.  So, now we had the entire New South Wales families accounted for.

At the same time, an Elgin Library website produced a link to the local newspapers archived obituaries, and there was a record for a John Hamilton Crawford, son of James Crawford of Hopeman.  Amazingly it was a 1970 obituary and it recorded that John Hamilton Crawford had lived in New York from 1932 till his death in 1970, so we now had an American branch of the family to track down.

Again I was googling “John Hamilton Crawford’s” and “James Crawford’s”, and I came across obituaries for John Hamilton Crawford II and wedding notices for John Hamilton Crawford III.  Pursuing John Hamilton Crawford III lead me to his email address at a bank in New York, but no response.  James Crawford repeatedly led to an obituary for James Leslie Crawford killed in the attack on the World Trade Centre in 2001.  I realized that his father was the same Jim Crawford as the brother of John Hamilton Crawford II, so began googling for him.  Eventually I tracked him down and phoned him to confirm that we were cousins.  I wasn’t sure if he realized that his grandfather had been born in Australia and that he had a growing number of relatives here.  Not only was he aware, but he had travelled to Maryborough, Victoria, and had tried to locate his Australian relatives.  He also told me of his cousin John Hamilton Crawford in Edinburgh.  John was the son of James Archibald Crawford, John Hamilton Crawford’s brother.

Jim gave me John’s phone number and I surprised them one Sunday morning.  John and Ann had lived briefly in Perth in the 1970’s and had also made the pilgrimage to Maryborough in search of us Australian Crawfords.  John sent me a number of letters, telegrams and photographs which filled in many gaps and a death certificate from Deniliquin Hospital that revealed that James brother (another Robert) had followed him to Australia but unfortunately died in his early 30’s.

Western Australia remained the missing branch.  After another couple of weeks of retracing all the previous searches, I was desperate.  What else could I do but write to the Gold Fields Historical Society.  Was there any possibility that they might have any knowledge of a Ken Crawford who had lived at the Carbine Mine?  Of course she knew Ken; she had taught him in the 50’s and her mother had taught his father in the 20’s.  Not only could she give me his address at Esperance but she could send me around 20 photographs from 1900 to the 1930’s of the Crawford family, their mine and grazing property. I phoned Ken and he told me that his brother Errol had prepared a family tree and that I should get in touch with him.

I emailed John Crawford in Edinburgh to let him know about the breakthrough.  We had three new cousins, Errol a lawyer (as is John), Ken a grazier and Alan an accountant.  That would be Errol Crawford whom John had met in Perth in the 1970’s and Alan with whom one of his close friends had worked.

When Errol sent across the West Australian tree, I had finally completed the entire tree.  Well, almost.  I am still to trace some of the female lines, although as you can see from the tree, we are making some progress.

The final branch came has a great surprise.  Remember the Queensland cousins had said that they believed that Robert Crawford had another family in W.A.?  They at least had me searching for this family and for some time I had records of a Mary Jane Chenery being a witness at the wedding of James Miller Crawford in W.A.  It was only when I decided to add Robert’s wife Ann Elizabeth Crawford’s family (the Neales) to the tree that the penny dropped.  Robert’s brother in law was William Neale and he had married a Mary Jane Chenery.  When I found the birth records for William and Mary Neale’s children, there was a Stanley Crawford Neale.  William had died and Robert fathered two sons with Mary Chenery in Victoria and a daughter in W.A.

With a largely complete family tree, I decided to write a family history.

Much of the information we can find about out antecedents is limited to birth, marriage and death records.  We know where they lived, when and where they were born, what they did for a living, who they married, who their children were, occasionally what they inherited or what they owned etc. etc.  So far, we don’t have much to tell us about their lives.  In writing this family history, I have tried to reconstruct the place and times in which they lived and imagine their experience of those times and places.  In doing so, I have used just a couple of principles to provide the parameters.  I have always believed that for the most part, mankind hasn’t changed much in 2000 years or so.

Technology or science has changed and our use of it, but we are still much the same in terms of our thought processes, our relationships, our morality or ethics.  We wear different clothes, fashions change, materials change.  We play different games and enjoy different entertainments, but our sense of fun is still much the same.  We engage in business and careers as seriously and with as much commitment and energy as we always have.  We love as passionately and wantonly as always.  We have a sense of history and our place in the modern world.  Every age in which our antecedents lived was modern history to them.  So much was new and exciting for them as it is for us.

I’ve tried to research the life and times in which they lived and imagine their experience of those lives and times.  The other principle I’ve applied, particularly to their early lives, is that most people live in the present and respond to what’s happening and likely to happen in the now.  By this I mean, children and youths don’t tend to have a connection with the past.  Samuel Crawford may have been born only 25 years or so after Culloden, but I can’t help but feel that it would have been ancient history to him.  I don’t think he would have had any real idea what it was like to live in a middle or working class society that was at the constant mercy of the aristocracy or a bandit class, or even a clan that could interrupt the day to day fun of a child or challenges of just getting through life as an adult.  He did live at a time when Scotland was playing a major part in the launching of the industrial revolution, when farming was undergoing major changes, people were moving from farms to towns, villages and cities, when they were coming to terms with rapid change.

Around 1900 when my Great Great Grandfather George Coleman Robinson was in his 70’s, he wrote his memoirs.  He did this at the pleading of his grandchildren.  What he wrote was a wonderfully personal memoir of his life growing up in England, his voyages to Australia (he was shipwrecked on the first voyage), life on the goldfields of Victoria and his later years in Melbourne. I hope to recapture his style of writing and to bring our “Crawfords” back to us.

Preface to 2nd edition, 2017

There have been quite a few changes to the 1st edition.  John Hamilton Crawford in Edinburgh wasn’t sure about a number of things in the 1st edition and emailed me corrections (we also spent some more time together in Ireland where we discussed them).  I had also made a number of assumptions about where and what might have happened to a number of our ancestors.  Hopefully I have corrected all these and there are certainly less assumptions, as recent research has cleared up many of them.  The only speculations remaining are in a new 1st chapter which covers the origins of our Crawfords prior to Grantown in the late 1700’s.

It wasn’t until I made the decision to retire in late 2016 that I returned to some solid research.  I tracked down Karen Williams (ne Crawford) in Sydney.  Her Grandfather was Robert William Crawford, my Grandfathers brother.  She had been researching the family and told me that she had found a record of a court case in Ireland regarding the will and estate of Robert Crawford in the late 1800’s that wasn’t resolved until the early 1900’s.

In researching this court case, I also came across a number of newspaper articles about the family in Ireland.  This has meant that we now know more about some of the individuals, including another John Hamilton Crawford, the earliest with this name, and where and how they lived.

I also spent a lot of time in researching the origin of the name John Hamilton Crawford.  Every John has this middle name and for some strange unknown reason, so did my father and now myself, my sons and my grandson.  In many cases, the middle name is taken from the wife’s maiden name and on some occasions to honour a family respected by your family.  On my mother’s father’s side of the family we have generations of Thomas Colston Coggan.  The “Colston” was adopted in honour of the greatest benefactor, Edward Colston, of Bristol where they lived.

On the assumption that it might be due to the marriage of a Crawford to a Hamilton female, in the 1700’s, I researched all marriage records available and settled on a family in Lanarkshire.  I found that a James Crawford married a Helen Hamilton and had a son George born around the 1750’s.  George’s grandfather was also a James Crawford and was a weaver.  I therefore considered that it was a possible link, assuming that when Sir James Grant established a linen manufacturing business at Grantown, that he would have advertised for experienced people to settle in Grantown, and as the area around Glasgow had an established linen industry, George might have responded.

I was happy with my speculation and ready to move on when I contacted the Grantown Museum again.  I hadn’t been in touch for around 5 years and was surprised when I provided them with details of George Crawford’s letters to Sir James Grant and they responded with the news that they believed he had been recruited from Ireland.

I had wondered how Robert Crawford who died in Ireland in 1869, (having moved from Elgin, Scotland when he was around 20 y.o.) had accumulated so much land around Ballymena and Magherafelt.  I had written to the few Crawfords still living near these towns some months ago.  Non had any knowledge of Robert or his son John Hamilton Crawford who died in 1916 in Magherafelt.

Because there are so few BD&M records for Ireland, I resorted to researching linen manufacturing in and around Magherafelt and Ballymena.  I had already established that the Crawford land at Ballymena was used for growing flax and therefore a connection with the linen industry.  I now discovered a document written in 1916 and digitized in 2010 called “History of Magherafelt”.  In this document it was recorded that in 1760 there were three Crawfords living in Magherafelt Parish; Samuel, James and Robert.  Three names common to our family and therefore the possibility that one of Samuels sons was George who moved to Grantown where he had a son named Samuel who moved to Elgin and in turn had a son called Robert who moved to Ireland around 1820 and eventually lived in Magherafelt where he died in 1869 owning 651 acres of land.

Further research uncovered a book called “The Linen Houses of the Bann Valley: The Story of their Families” by Kathleen Rankin.  In it, there is a chapter about Ballievey House, established by a George Crawford in 1769.  Through marriage the firm of Crawford & Lindsay was created in 1822 and continued till 1919.  Ballydown Weaving Co and bleach works.  Perhaps connected with our Crawfords.

It is still a possibility that the Crawfords originated in Lanarkshire and moved to Ireland in the early 1700’s.  That’s for someone else to research.  For now, I am happy to start our family history with Samuel Crawford in Magherafelt from 1760.

Finally, in 2017 I took my DNA analysis with Ancestry.com.  While this didn’t result in any direct matches with a “Crawford”, it did lead to me connecting with cousins from the “Comrie” line … the Millers.  Many of them have been in Canada and the U.S. for several generations, and they resolved several questions about James and John Hamilton who were taken from Australia to Scotland in the 1870’s.

The DNA matching also connected me to our cousins, descended from Mary Elizabeth Crawford. She was the eldest of Robert Crawford and Ann Neil, born in Maryborough in 1876.  This leaves only the mysterious younger sister, Catherine Crawford to find.

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