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Craig family

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 Part 2: Robert Craig Jr (1760 - ?)


Army career

Robert Craig Jr was the eldest child of Robert Craig Sr and Janet Andrew. He was born 10 October 1760 and christened two days later in Paisley Abbey, Renfrewshire, Scotland. 

Although Robert started his working life in the weaving industry, he enlisted in the British Army and spent a total of 17 years and 231 days in service. He first enlisted 13 January 1777, aged 17, with the 27th (Inniskilling) Regiment of Foot and served for over a year until 24 June 1778. This infantry regiment had been formed in 1689 (however several name changes and amalgamations now sees its successor as the Royal Irish Regiment).

The regiment was involved in the American War of Independence (1775-1783) from 1778 and it is possible Robert might have sailed over and fought. The day after ending his service with the 27th Regiment he immediately joined the 34th (Cumberland) Regiment of Foot and served six years until 24 June 1784. (This regiment also underwent many name changes and is now the Duke of Lancaster's Regiment.) In 1776 the regiment had been involved in lifting the siege of Quebec and when Robert joined, it was now involved in various skirmishes against the French and those who sided with the Thirteen Colonies in the American War of Independence.


Marriage to Bethia Donald

Robert was discharged two years before the regiment returned to the United Kingdom. He returned himself to Paisley where he married Bethia Donald (1764 - ?). (Some internet family trees state 23 April 1786 but so far there is no corroborating evidence). Bethia was born 11 July 1764 (in the hamlet of Bridge of Johnstone, according to her grandson James Craig's notes). She was the third of eight children born to Patrick Donald and Marion Ferguson

Robert and Bethia had eight children who survived infancy and three who did not. Four of their sons would later emigrate to North America. Robert returned to being a weaver upon his return to Paisley. It has been suggested he died 02 November 1821 but again there is no corroborating evidence. What happened to Bethia is not known.

Before the birth of his last child Andrew in 1805, Robert returned to the British Army (aged 43) and joined the Reserves 10 April 1804. He served for ten years though where he went and what his duties were is unknown until his discharge 16 June 1814 in Nenagh, County Tipperary, Ireland, from his Majesty's 5th Garrison Battalion of Infantry. The reason was 'in consequence of General Debility and Rheumatism, as rendered unfit for further service' - not surprising if he was aged 54! In the event someone obtained his discharge certificate and tried to impersonate Robert, his commanding officer, Lieut. Colonel W. Belford, described him thus: 'He is about 54 Years of age, is five feet nine inches in Height, Brown Hair, Grey Eyes, and Fresh Complexion, and by trade a Weaver.'


Children of Robert and Bethia

Janet (1786 - ?) was born 16 April 1786 and baptised 23 April the same year in Paisley Abbey. It is most likely she died in infancy as there was a second child, also called 'Janet'.


Matthew (? - ?) was possibly born 08 January 1787 and baptised two days later in Paisley High Church. However this would be nine months after his sister's birth so might not be likely. According to his great-nephew, he was born in 1798 (no baptism record has been found so far to confirm anything) and that he settled in New York State in 1819. Nothing else is known of him.


Peter (1788 - ?) was born 12 August 1788 and was baptised five days later in Paisley Low Parish church. It is not certain what happened to him after that.


Robert (1792 - 1869) was born 28 February 1792 and baptised 03 March the same year in Paisley High Church. He married Katherine Cameron 24 September 1814 in Paisley Abbey. (Katherine was born c1793, her place of birth probably mistranscribed as 'Kilmaiter' - no such place is known to have existed.) They had two known children, Robert (born 1818) and Robert Cameron (born 1820). It is very likely the eldest son died but it is not known what happened to the younger Robert. It is possible he died, along with his mother Katherine, c1821 when the family emigrated to Canada.

There had always been a regular flow of immigrants from the United Kingdom to North America prior to the American War of Independence. Free grants of land were made to soldiers in particular to encourage them to settle in British-ruled territory. From 1775, 'Loyalists' (those loyal to the British crown) began migrating from what would become the United States of America to settle in Canada. During the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars (1792-1815) emigration to North America became very difficult (though not impossible). By 1815, the United Kingdom was no longer involved in external conflicts (for the time being anyway) but the War of 1812 between the United States and the British Empire had demonstrated how vulnerable British North American territories were. A programme to encourage settlement in Upper Canada was needed and the bleak prospects facing those living in Great Britain at that time would provide a major incentive to emigrate.

Great Britain in the early 19th century could be a harsh place to live. There was increasing unemployment, poverty and dissatisfaction due to a mix of factors: Overcrowding, downturns in various industries, falling commodity prices, clearances of tenants from the land as arable farming gave way to pastoral, the spread of enclosed land etc... From 1816 to 1822 there was a great agricultural depression.

The weaving industry around Paisley and Glasgow also suffered. Workers had already seen their lives become steadily worse since the turn of the 19th century. Various inventions (like the power-loom) had led to fewer people being employed. But there was also a downturn in demand for weaving and an influx of cheaper Irish labour into the area. Between 1810 and 1838, wages almost halved. What a worker could buy to feed the family was reduced by three-quarters in the same time period. Small wonder that in the Glasgow area, many emigration societies were formed. The Paisley Townhead Emigration Society was one and it is fairly certain that Robert, Katherine and two children were part of this scheme in 1821. [1]

A variety of newspapers around the United Kingdom carried the same line in their miscellaneous news column: 'A vessel, the Earl of Buckinghamshire, sailed Sunday se'nnight [29 April] from Greenock for Quebec, with 600 emigrants! and those mostly of respectable appearance. [sic]' There were actually 606 settlers and they spent 48 days at sea before arriving in Quebec 16 June 1821. One of Robert's fellow passengers was Arthur Lang, who kept a diary. It has since been made available to the public so everyone can understand the sheer hardship faced by these emigrants. On the voyage there was the usual seasickness, bad weather, poor food and the worry of infectious diseases spreading amongst the passengers and crew. At the port of Quebec, they were inspected by a surgeon before being allowed to disembark. Then some twenty-four hours in a steam boat to Montreal as the Canadian leg of their odyssey began. Their final destination was to be Lanark County, Upper Canada (Ontario). Three other ships departed within weeks of the Earl of Buckinghamshire, all with passengers destined for Lanark County.

Lanark County, southwest of Ottawa, had been chosen for European settlers by the British Government in 1812 (the Irish and English would also settle there). The first settlement four years later was of a military nature but in 1820, Lanark Township, North Sherbrooke Township and Dalhousie Township were opened for those coming from the Glasgow area, like Robert, who were largely unemployed weavers. British Government advertising the desirability to emigrate to Canada glossed over the hardships which would be encountered. According to Arthur Lang's account, from Montreal their few possession were loaded into wagons and set off for Lachine 20 June. They arrived the following day and were given provisions for three days' worth of bread, and six days of biscuit with pork and beef. The following day they departed, travelling in flat-bottomed boats through the difficult rapids of the St Laurence River to reach Prescott. The men were obliged to jump into the water whenever the boats became grounded, the women and children walking alongside the river. It could be difficult to dry clothing and at nights those who were lucky might spend the nights in barns but the majority were obliged to sleep rough, exposed to the elements. Sickness and fever spread, claiming lives and obliging some families to split up as the sick stayed behind to recover. It took nine days, labouring from early in the morning until dark, to reach Prescott. During their short rest periods, they did have the chance to admire the beautiful scenery.

At Prescott, there were weeks of waiting for at least half of Robert's fellow passengers and those from the other ships. There were almost 1800 people who had arrived in Prescott and the 74 miles on to New Lanark consisted of rough roads through steep, rocky and muddy terrain. Each emigration society waited its turn to convey people and baggage. Once they reached Lanark Township, the women and children stayed in makeshift huts while the men went to claim their 'lot' of 100 acres and build a shanty for the family. Every man over 21 could make a claim and the land was divided up into a grid which is in evidence today. There were no paths and the land could be swampy (there are more than 100 lakes in the county). It could take days of difficult travelling to try to claim land and even then some men returned to Lanark without having found anything suitable. How much farming experience the ex-weavers of Paisley had is debatable but in any case, some of the land was totally unsuitable and the settlers made their living through the timber industry instead.

Robert was one of the fortunate ones to find his 100 acres quite quickly and exactly one month after departing Montreal, 20 July, he registered his claim for Concession 1, Lot 5 (East) in North Sherbrooke Township. Families were given food rations, tools and cash loans by the British Government at the rate of eight pounds sterling per person. When the loans were repaid, the land titles would be transferred to the settlers. However, when it was realised some fifteen years later that the settlers were being denied the right to vote (because they still had not paid off their loans and therefore did not own their land - a key requirement, besides that of being a British subject), it was decided settlers like Robert did not have to repay their loans. Instantaneously, a large proportion of Upper Canada's population became enfranchised. There seems to be a series of Upper Canada Land Petitions made by Robert in the Lanark Township area in the 1830s which might be connected to Robert having the title of some land transferred to him.

Within a year or two of his wife's death, Robert married again. Margaret's surname is unconfirmed but it is most likely 'McKenzie' as their only child, Robert McKenzie was born c1824. Robert farmed for the rest of his life. (His death record described him as a 'yeoman' - a grander way of saying 'farmer'!) They lived in a one-storey log house and were part of the Presbyterian/Church of Scotland community. Margaret was helped by a female domestic servant but Robert probably managed largely on his own (with the help of his son). Robert McKenzie married Ann Hamilton in the 1850s (his cousin James Craig married Ann's half-sister Elizabeth about the same time). They lived either next to, or very near to, his parents. They had six children: Robert Russell (1855 - 1930), Elizabeth McKenzie (1857 - 1923), Edward Harvie (c1861 - ?), Phillip Shanks (1865 - 1935), Alexander (c1868 - ?) and James Hamilton (1871 - 1940).

Robert died 10 July 1869 after suffering for a month from dropsy (an abnormal accumulation of fluid now referred to as 'edema'). Margaret might have preceded Robert. It is not known where they were buried but Robert McKenzie was buried in the Lanark Village Cemetery (date unknown).


Janet (1796 - ?) or Jennette was born 20 May 1796 and christened two days later in Paisley High Church. Nothing else is known of her.


Margaret (? - ?) was born 01 December 1779 according to a baptism record, and baptised seven days later. However, her great-nephew gave her date of birth as 1799. As the baptism records were not written chronologically (perhaps copied from an earlier book), it is most likely the date was written or copied incorrectly. Nothing else is known of her.


John (c1801 - 1973) was born c1801 but no baptism record for him has been found so far and his great-nephew gives his date of birth as November 1801. He was most likely a weaver. He married Agnes Adam 03 December 1825 in Paisley Low Church. Their first child Isabella was born the following year, then there was a gap of 14 years before their next known child, William. It is possible there was a series of stillbirths or infant deaths but no baptism records have been found for any of their children. John was not present with the family in the 1841 Scotland census so perhaps he was absent for many years. He might have been in the British Army (though no records have been found to support this idea - and there would be no major recruiting until the Crimean War). He might even have been in prison.

In 1842 John and his family emigrated to Canada and settled in Dalhousie Township, near his brother Robert. The family lived in a one-storey log house and John farmed (on a later census he was also listed as a weaver). Having arrived two decades after Dalhousie was settled, John probably did not have to clear his land of forest. It is not known what he (or his brother Robert) farmed but in the early days of settlement, many had sheep and the wool could be used to make their own clothing. If they had maple trees, they could make sugar. Crops such as potatoes, corn, turnips, pumpkins, peas, melons and cucumbers were grown in the area. Later, farmers grew 'cash crops' such as oats, wheat and hay which they could sell to those working with horses in the timber industry. 

John and Agnes had three more children in Canada: Thomas R, John P and Alexander. The family were Presbyterian (as many were in the area). John died 26 April 1873 from apoplexy and Alexander probably took over running the farm. Agnes died 14 August 1882 from 'old age'. Isabella (1826 - 1908) married farmer James White and they lived the rest of their lives in Dalhousie. They were buried in St Andrew's Cemetery, Dalhousie. William (c1840 - 1919) married Margaret Barrie. They moved to nearby Perth where he farmed and were buried in Elmwood Cemetery. Thomas (1844 - 1921) married Mary Craig (who might have been the daughter of Mary Craig, John's brother Robert's daughter). They stayed in Dalhousie and Thomas was buried in St Andrew's Cemetery. John (1846 - 1930) married Mary Camelon and they moved to Darling Township where he farmed. He was buried in Hillcrest Union Cemetery, Calabogie. It is not certain what happened to Alexander (c1848 - ?) after his mother died.


William (c1803 - ?) was probably born August 1803, according to his great-nephew. However, no  baptism record has been found to confirm any dates. Nothing else is known of him. 


More information about Andrew (1805 - 1872) appears in Part 3.


There were also two unknown children who died in infancy. [3]

Next: Andrew Craig


[1] The records show there was a boy and girl under 12 travelling with Robert and his wife. Various family trees name this girl as Mary born 1816, who went on to marry an unrelated Robert Craig and whose daughter Mary married Thomas Craig (son of John Craig), her first cousin once removed! So far no baptism record has been found to prove Mary's parentage and birth.

[2] In 1997, Lanark Township, Lanark Village, Darling Township. and Lavant, Dalhousie and North Sherbrooke Township were amalgamated into the Township of Lanark Highlands.

[3] Parish registers for Abbey, Paisley 1676-1855 (International Genealogical Index [IGI]); Old Parish Records (;; British Newspapers 1710-1950 (; 'Emigration to Canada: Narrative of a Voyage to Quebec, and Journey from Thence to new Lanark, in Upper Canada' by John McDonald (1826); Scottish Immigration 1815-1834 lists (Lanark County Genealogical Society);; 'A history of emigration from the United Kingdom to North America, 1763-1912' by Stanley Currie Johnson (1913); Township of Lanark Highlands website (; 'Le Canadien' newspaper, Bibliothèque et Archives nationales Québec (BAnC); extracts from the diary of Arthur Lang (; Ontario Cemetery Finding Aid (;;; 'A Place in Time: The Natural Resources of Lanark County' (; Upper Canada Land Petition indexes (; notes made by James Craig, Toronto 1909; Wikipedia