Select Craven Surname Genealogy

The Craven surname in England derives from the district of Craven around Skipton in the West Riding of Yorkshire.  The place name was recorded as Crave in the Domesday Book of 1086 and is thought to have come from the Welsh word craf meaning garlic (in the Middle Ages the Craven area was known for its wild garlic).  Other origins for the Craven name have been suggested. 

Craven can also be Irish.  It has its roots from the O'Crabhadain sept in county Galway.  In English this name would be pronounced Cravane (and anglicized to Creavan or Craven). 

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Select Craven Ancestry

England.  The first mention of Craven as a surname in Yorkshire appears to be a Thomas de Craven, son of Ragnald de Rawdon, in the early 13th century. 

Yorkshire  William Craven was born in the village of Appletreewick near Skipton in the year 1548.  He came to London as an apprentice at the age of fourteen and it was there that he made his fortune.  He died one of the richest men of his time. 

With the money his widow Elizabeth acquired the estates of Coombe Abbey near Coventry and Uffington in Berkshire.  These were to remain the family seats for generations.  His son William, a soldier, used the family wealth in support of Charles I.  Although the estates were sequestered in 1652, he and the family returned to favor and privilege with the Restoration.   William died unmarried in 1664.  The estate passed to his cousin William from whose brother John the Craven title is descended. 

These Cravens were rich and powerful for many centuries.  They left their name to Craven county in North Carolina (in 1712), Craven Cottage in London (in 1780), and Craven A cigarettes (in 1860), as well as to many Craven-named pubs around the country.

There were other Cravens from Yorkshire of course:
  • one Craven family history traces back to the Dewsbury area in the early 1600's. 
  • another Craven family were weavers in Keithley.  John Craven of this family started a cotton spinning business at Walk Mill in the 1780's.  These Cravens lived in Steeton. 
  • other Cravens from Colne on the Yorkshire/Lancashire moved to Keithley in the early 1800's and prospered in the building trade. John Henry Craven built his country home Beeches in 1913.  He was a renowned orchid grower.  His wife Nan in 1906 was one of Keithley's first women drivers.
Ireland.  The Craven numbers are relatively small in Ireland.  The name has tended to be Creavan or Creavans rather than Craven in Galway.   As one descendant described their circumstance:

"They remained poor, Gaelic-speaking, Catholic, subsistence farmers, and mainly living in the vicinity of Corrandulla on the east bank of Lough Corrib."

There were some Cravens in county Offaly and elsewhere.  These Cravens may represent English implants. 

The noble Craven family of England generally stayed at home (although Lord Craven was one of the lords proprietors of North Carolina).  There does not appear to be any confirmed connection between this family and the Cravens who came to America.  These Cravens have been of various origins - English, Irish and even possibly Dutch (this being the Jacobus Craven from upstate New York who built himself Craven Hall in Warminster, Pennsylvania in the 1720's).

The widowed Ann Craven and her two sons Thomas and Peter had arrived from London in 1677 and settled in John Fenwick's Quaker colony in Salem, New Jersey:
  • fifty years later Thomas Craven, also from London, came to Monmouth county.  He was an early professor at Princeton University. 
  • his son Gershom practiced as a doctor and was the war surgeon to George Washington. 
  • from Gershom came the naval Cravens of Maine (after whom several US warships have been named).
Robert Cravens (of possible Irish stock) had been born in 1696 in that part of Pennsylvania which became Delaware.  He later moved to Augusta county, Virginia and his descendants to Kentucky and Missouri.  In the 1830's Jeremiah Cravens of this family was one of the first settlers in what was then still Arkansas territory; while Mary Cravens headed south to Texas a decade later with her family. 

Another Craven family, originally from Leeds in Yorkshire, came to Texas in 1854 and settled in Bagdad and Leander (where they still remain).  

Peter Craven, often referred to by his descendants as the Patriarch, had come to Randolph county, North Carolina in the mid 1700's and there followed from him a long line of Craven potters in that area.  Two books have been written to recount this family history:
  • Mary Craven Purvis's Craven in 1985
  • and Quincy Scarborough's The Craven Family of Southern Folk Potters in 2005.
There has been a reunion of the descendants of Peter Craven each year.

  From Preston in Lancashire in 1865 came a young Richard Craven in search of his fortune.  He went gold prospecting in Queensland and struck lucky in 1872.  He became wealthy, moved to Sydney, and became well-known in Australia's horse-racing circles.  From county Galway in Ireland two years later came Timothy Creaven and his wife Sabina.  They became Cravens in Australia and settled in Geelong, Victoria.    

South Africa.  Danie Craven, the country's rugby supremo until 1993, was the grandson of a Yorkshire farmer from Steeton who had come to farm in Lindley, Orange Free State in the 1890's.   He grew up on the family farm Noorspoort that lay just outside Steytlerville.

Select Craven Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for further stories and accounts:

Select Craven Names

William Craven, born near Skipton, was a London merchant who became Lord Mayor of London in 1610 and founded the Craven family fortunes.
T.T. Craven was a 19th century US naval officer who rose to prominence during the Civil War.
Danie Craven was the formidable head of South African rugby, as coach and administrator, from the 1950's to the 1990's.

Select Cravens Today
  • 9,000 in the UK (most numerous in Yorkshire)
  • 6,000 in America (most numerous in Pennsylvania)
  • 4,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia).

PS.  You might want to check out the surnames page on this website.  It covers surname genealogy in this and companion websites for more than 800 surnames.

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