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 of Yorkshire.  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 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.


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 today.


Emigration was sparse in the 1600s and 1700s.  Apart from Edward in New England, there was a John Crabtree recorded several times in the land records for Maryland in the 1650s; his origins have not yet been identified, nor have records of a possible line of succession been found.


The most notable of the early Crabtrees in Maryland with continuous succession were William and Jane who were settled there by 1705.  The couple 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.


The 18th century saw the arrival of the first Crabtrees in Canada when John and his daughter Sarah settled in Nova Scotia in 1767.




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 the country.


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.




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


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, the website of the company hosting this project, or you may contact me at the link provided below.


Distribution of Crabtree ancestors before the adoption of the surname, and indeed before any genealogical time frame, is shown in the attached distribution charts based on DNA analysis and interpretation - Crabtree distribution based on DNA analysis.




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 2022, contains 373 pages plus 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 




Peter Crabtree

Oakville, Ontario, Canada


Send me an e-mail message




This page was first published on 18 November 1998, and was last updated on 6 November 2023


Additions since previous update:  marriage data completed up to December 1922