The Craxford Family Magazine Red Pages

{$text['mgr_red1']} Research 3


by Alan D Craxford


It is now nearly seven years since we started this historical website and we have seen many fascinating developments and unearthed some intriguing stories along the way. We had intended it initially as a single name project but events overtook us. At least the RED pages remain true to that goal.

We were fortunate that much of the early history of the Craxford family, especially around the villages of Gretton and Cottingham in Northamptonshire, were already quite well documented. We have, however, never been able to push the boundary back prior to about 1620 and we have not been able to determine when or why the name came into existence at all. At the outset we had one initial focal point and it is perhaps worthwhile pondering the evidence that has materialised since then. This article presents the three contenders for the title of "The Oldest Craxford".

Richard Craxford

A cursory examination of the records held by the LDS Church (1) generates an entry for Richard Craxford, born about 1619, of Gretton. Nothing is known of his parents and there is no definitive baptismal record. There is a suggestion that he had a wife who was called Dorothy although there is no church record of a marriage. The earliest wedding record on our files is dated 1667 and would belong to their son (also called Richard). Similarly there is no confirmed record of either of their burials. We do have notes of eight children (five boys and three girls) from the Parish records of the Church of St James the Great in the village and from the LDS files, born between about 1640 and 1660 to a Richard and Dorothy although for some the surname is spelled Craxford and for others Croxford. Although at least three of these children died in infancy, we can trace the majority of today's Craxfords back to this single East Midlands root.

Nicholas Craxford

Until recently, the next earliest Craxford reference (again in the files of the LDS Church) was to the marriage of Nicholas Craxford to Katherin Breedin in 1639 in Thornton, Buckinghamshire. There was a reference to another marriage (John Craxford to Anne Benning) in Ellsborough, Buckinghamshire in 1689 but no definitive evidence to connect the two together.

In the latter part of 2006 the records of Thornton Parish and College, Buckinghamshire (2), were computerised by the Wolverton and District Archaeological and Historical Society. The volumes include the Registers of Deaths, Births and Marriages 1562 - 1812. These pages did indeed confirm that Nicholas married Katherin on January 30th 1639. Apart from noting his origin from the nearby village of Adstock there was no further help in determining his previous history. It seems likely that they did not remain in the village for long after the ceremony either as there is no record of any other church activity. The volume did however reveal that Katherin was the daughter of William Breedin who had been rector of the parish and who had died in July the previous year. Katherin was his second daughter, born in 1619. A son, Nicholas, was born in Clewer, Berkshire, in 1653.

It has to be said that no further traces of the name Craxford have been found in Buckinghamshire.

William Craxford

The third candidate appears on the list on the strength of a will held at the Northamptonshire Records Office. The following is a transcript.

Noncupative will of William Craxford January 1643/4 *

The will noncupative of William Craxford of St James End in the parish of Dallington.

Memorandum that the said William Craxton [sic] about January in the yeare of our Lord god 1643 beinge of perfect mind and memory but weake in body about a weeke next before his death did make and declare his last Will and Testament in manner following viz - he gave his howse [house] to his wife duringe hir naturall lyfe and after hir decease he gave it to his three children to be equally divided amongst them. In the presnce of Edward Killesby and John Killesby.

[Signatures:] E Killesby
John Killesby

Probate of the above written noncupative will was granted before Mr Thomas Rainbould, surrogate, on the eighth day of December 1649 to Alice, widow of Thomas Warwick, who was duly sworn to administer it.


This will is fairly unusual as it is "nuncupative". This means that William Craxford did not make a formal written will. Instead, perhaps close to death, he made an oral declaration of his wishes which were then related by witnesses before the probate court.

Before the change from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar in 1752, the new year began on March 25th. Dates between January 1st and March 25th prior to 1752 are conventionally expressed in the form 1643/4, meaning in this instance, a contemporary date of 1643, which in terms of our modern calendar can be understood as taking place in 1644.

Final thoughts

So, who is the oldest Craxford? At first glance, these events could make them all contemporaries and it is very tempting to consider them to be closely related, if not the same family. Certainly the strongest link is that of Richard Craxford to Gretton. However the Gretton Parish records do not confirm that Richard was born there. He may have moved to the area as a young man. The village was known as a centre for agricultural fairs and employment. It was also a time of considerable political upheaval and strife. Similarly, Nicholas was married in 1639 which means he would have been born no later than the early 1620s. Could they have been brothers? He too may have moved from the family home to seek his fortune.

There is no evidence in the will as to how old William was at the time of his death in 1643 (assuming for the moment that he was a Craxford at all!) Dallington is now an inner suburb of Northampton but in the early seventeenth century was a small but distinct village. There is no record of the name Craxford in the Parish records of that area (but nor is there a Craxton either). To be in possession of a house suggests that he was a relatively mature adult. He had a wife and three children. What if two of them were Richard and Nicholas? Even more intriguing: could Alice, "widow of Thomas Warwick", have been his daughter - an individual as yet unknown to us? That could place him back in the sixteenth century!!

Update - August 2009

Recently several of the major genealogy web sites have embarked on initiatives to provide access to indexes and sources of archive information. One such collection, the Parish and Probate Records for Northamptonshire, England (4) contained an entry for the marriage of William Croxford of Dallington and Alice Dunckley of Dunston on April 11th 1632. Dallington baptisms have been indexed for this period and scrutiny of the transcripts confirmed the following entries :-

An dau of William & Als CRAPFORD 30 mar 1634
Wm son of William & Alse CRAPFORD 10 dec 1637

It is tempting to believe these entries should read Craxford. The early parish registers from Northampton St Peters are very difficult to read. The earlier registers for Duston have not survived.

We will keep on looking.


I would like to thank the County Archivist and her staff at the Northamptonshire Records Office for their help in producing the copy of the will from their microfilm records and for the preparing the translation. Copyright is held at the Records Office and is reproduced here with permission.

Thanks also to Alan J Clarke at northants1841.fastnet for his scrutiny and help with the early Dallington and Dunston parish records.


1. Family Search: Where Generations Meet. The LDS Church
2. Registers of Deaths, Births and Marriages 1562 - 1812. Thornton Parish and College
3. Will of William Craxford 1643/4: N Will 3rd series B 99. Northamptonshire Records Office
4. "Marriages at S. Peter's, Northampton, 1578-1812. Voume 1" in Northamptonshire: Register of Marriages 1538-1837. Marriage Allegations, 1660

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Added: January 31st 2007
Revised: September 22nd 2011

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