Show ContentsCrail History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

As a result of the frequent commercial intercourse between the Flemish and English nations, many Flemish migrants settled in Britain. The Crail history starts with such a migration. As the population grew and people traveled further afield, it became increasingly necessary to assume an additional name to differentiate between bearers of the same personal name. A broad and miscellaneous class of surnames, nickname surnames refers either directly or indirectly to a characteristic of the first person who used the name. They can describe the bearer's favored style of clothing, physical appearance, habits, or character, among other attributes. Flemish names of this type frequently feature the prefixes lile, which meant the. The surname Crail is a nickname for a cross-grained, ill-tempered, or fractious person. The surname Crail may have been applied as a nickname for some who was crabby. Checking further we found the name was derived from the Old English word crabba, which means crab, or from the Old English word crabbe, which means wild apple. This latter reference implies that the origin may lie as a habitation name "one who lives near the wild apple trees." [1]

Early Origins of the Crail family

The surname Crail was first found in Cambridge but the Crail variant may have come from much farther north in Fife, Scotland where the former royal burgh so named was derived from the Pictish word "caer" which meant fort. Today Crail is the home to the oldest golf club in the world, instituted in February 1786.

The Hundredorum Rolls of 1273 list Henry Crabbe, Cambridgeshire; Robert Crabbe, Somerset; and Richard Crabbe, Norfolk. [1]

The Yorkshire Poll Tax Rolls of 1379 had two listings of the family: Matilda Crab; and Johannes Crabbe. [1]

Further to the north in Scotland, "the first of the name of prominence was Paul Crab, in Aberdeen, 1310." [2]

One of the most famous early family members was John Crabbe (fl.1305-1352), a Flemish merchant, pirate and soldier. He defended Berwick Castle for the Scots against English forces in 1318, but after being captured by the English in 1332, he then assisted the English when they again besieged at Berwick in 1333.

As an engineer, he was in charge of the siege machine, causing "sore problems" for the English defenders of the Castle. In that year, the Count of Flanders committed to the King that if he caught John Crabb he would hang him for 'murder'. However, this same John Crabb was a much sought after commander, and King Robert the Bruce rewarded him with lands in Auchmolen, Auchterrony, and Prescoby, for his services with his siege machine. In 1332, John Crabb also assisted Bruce in the siege of Perth.

The same person became high on the political scale of the Scottish nation, and his sept branched into many directions. He treated with the English for the release of Earl David of Huntingdon, and ultimately obtained his release for him to become King David of Scotland. The name flourished for the next few centuries on their many estates. [2]

Early History of the Crail family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Crail research. Another 146 words (10 lines of text) covering the years 1331, 1332, 1362, 1384, 1398, 1401, 1621, 1641, 1642, 1680, 1754, 1832 and 1945 are included under the topic Early Crail History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Crail Spelling Variations

Flemish surnames are characterized by a large number of spelling variations. One reason for this is that medieval English lacked definite spelling rules. The spellings of surnames were also influenced by the official court languages, which were French and Latin. Names were rarely spelled consistently in medieval times. Scribes and church officials recorded names as they sounded, rather than adhering to specific spelling rules, and people often had their names registered in several different forms throughout their lives. One of the greatest reasons for change is the linguistic uniqueness of the Flemish settlers in England, who spoke a language closely related to Dutch. The pronunciation and spelling of Flemish names were often altered to suit the tastes of English-speaking people. In many cases, the first, final, or middle syllables of surnames were eliminated. The name has been spelled Crabb, Crabbe, Crab, Crabe and others.

Early Notables of the Crail family

Prominent in the family at this time was John Crabb of Auchmolen; and Roger Crab (1621-1680), an English soldier, haberdasher, herbal doctor and writer from Buckinghamshire who some believe was the inspiration for Lewis Carroll's The Mad Hatter. Another source claims he was a hermit, a native of Buckinghamshire. "About 1641 he began to restrict himself to a vegetarian diet, avoiding even butter and cheese. From roots he got to a regimen of broth thickened with bran, and pudding made of bran and turnip leaves chopped together, and finally resorted to...
Another 90 words (6 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Crail Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Migration of the Crail family

Analysis of immigration records indicates that some of the first North American immigrants bore the name Crail or a variant listed above: John Crabb who settled in Boston in 1630; followed by another John Crabb, who settled in Dorchester in 1630; who arrived on the sailing ship "Mary and John.".

Contemporary Notables of the name Crail (post 1700) +

  • Joseph Crail (1877-1938), American Republican politician, Served in the U.S. Army during the Spanish-American War; Lawyer; U.S. Representative from California 10th District, 1927-33 ; Candidate in primary for U.S. Senator from California, 1932
  • Joe Crail (1877-1938), American politician, United States Representative from California

  1. Bardsley, C.W, A Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames: With Special American Instances. Wiltshire: Heraldry Today, 1901. Print. (ISBN 0-900455-44-6)
  2. Black, George F., The Surnames of Scotland Their Origin, Meaning and History. New York: New York Public Library, 1946. Print. (ISBN 0-87104-172-3) on Facebook