Finding my past relatives – 1. The Crinklaw’s

My exploration into the diary of my great grandfather, Peter Porterfield, got me looking further back into my family ancestry.  Using a combination of links that I found on,  some hints from newly discovered 4th to 8th cousins using the Ancestry DNA analysis and a book that my Dad had left me called The Crinklaw Families in the United States and Canada, compiled in 1972 by a fellow named George Mason Fraser,  I was able to learn more about that side of the family.

Peter Porterfield, whose diary of his journey to Canada in 1855,  I shared last month, married Mary Stevenson on January 25, 1863 in a little hamlet called Belgrave Ontario. Belgrave is where my father was born. Periodically we would drive through this little town and he would point out the house where he was born.  My parents and Geddes grandparents are buried in the Brandon Cemetery just north of town and about half a mile from where Dad was born.

Belgrave 1910 1

My Grandfather,  Ernest, was a blacksmith in Belgrave for some time and four of the Lanark County Geddes boys moved to that district in the  early 1850’s.  But I digress.


My great great grandmother,                    Betsy Crinklaw  1807 – 1893

Mary Stevenson’s mother was Elizabeth Betsy Crinklaw.   I have long had a photo of this woman when she was quite elderly,  taken in Neligh, Nebraska.   In fact, I blew this photo up to poster size and gave it to my son-in-law when he married my daughter so he could brace himself for old age with one of Betsy’s great great great grandchildren.  For some time Kate and Dave had that poster hung in their kitchen.

Betsy was born a Crinklaw in Minto Scotland in 1807 to James Crinklaw and Elizabeth Watson.  James had two wives and scads of children by the time he was done and his issue now includes thousands of descendants.

Rumor had it that the family lived across the river Tweed from Sir Walter Scott and that James Crinklaw and Sir Walter were “friends” on some level.  Sir Walter Scott was the early 17th century equivalent of J. K. Rowling,  turning out books of poems and novels ( e.g. Ivanhoe, Rob Roy).  Apparently James Crinklaw was a farmer or gardener and Sir Walter loved the garden in his Abbotsford castle, across the river from where James and Elizabeth lived.   Scott died in 1832 and James moved the family to Canada in 1833. Conjecture has been that he was jobless when Walter Scott died and this precipitated his move to London Ontario.

But this is probably just a Crinklaw legend.  In 1972 James C Corson, honorary librarian for Abbotsford sent a letter to George Fraser basically bunking the idea that James Crinklaw ever knew Walter Scott because the famed Sir Walter wrote voluminously and journaled and never mentioned a Crinklaw.   Nevertheless, James did live across the river when Walter Scott was at Abbotsford and in those days the region was not heavily populated so there must have been some neighbourly acknowledgement or recognition.

James Crinklaw

My 3rd great grandfather James Crinklaw and his second wife, Janet Smith

A visit to Abbotsford castle will have to be on my bucket list since it has been restored to its original grandeur and even if James Crinklaw was not sipping scotch with Sir Walter, he was, at least living in the neighbourhood when this castle was at it’s peak and Sir Walter was cranking out books by the dozens

James Crinklaw (my 3rd great grandfather) died in 1864 at the age of 87 and is buried along with his two wives in Pond Mills Cemetery in London, Ontario. ( at the eastern end of Southdale Road near Highbury Ave).   I grew up just a few kilometres from there about 100 years later, not knowing anything about this ancestry.

Next up- James Stevenson,  Betsy Crinklaw’s husband and my Great Great Grandfather.


6 thoughts on “Finding my past relatives – 1. The Crinklaw’s

  1. Do you recall going to Central with a Crinklaw? I can’t remember her first name although it starts with an L, but my friend Liz Taylor aka Diane Hawthorne was close to her. Bob

    Sent from my iPad


    • Yes I do, Bob. Her name was Lorel Crinklaw. I found a photo of her in our Central Collegiate GOLDEN GLIMPSES yearbook from 1965. I found in the Fraser book on Crinklaws that my Betsy and her 3rd great grandfather, John Crinklaw, were siblings. So if she spit in a tube like our family has done, we would, no doubt, share some DNA that originated with James Crinklaw and Elizabeth Watson!

  2. Speaking of DNA, I administer four Crinklaw-surnamed DNA kits through the company, FamilyTree DNA, for four descendants (including myself) of John Crinklaw 1809-1885, younger brother of Elizabeth (Crinklaw) Stevenson 1807-1893. These FamilyTree DNA analyses include FamilyFinder and Y-DNA (including the Big Y test). I also have six trees on (user name lcrinklaw1) pertaining to the Crinklaw family, including the tree, James Crinklaw, Sr. & Elizabeth Jackson of Westminster Twp Family Tree, the tree, Ancestors of James Crinklaw (1777 Scotland -1864 Canada) & His Siblings Tree, and the tree, Crinklaw/Crinkley Hownam-Northumberland-New York & North Carolina Tree. The other three trees provide more details on James Crinklaw, Sr.’s sister, Christina (Crinklaw) Fleming, and on his daughter, Mary Harriet Elliot (Crinklaw) Henderson, full sister of Elizabeth and John Crinklaw. So far, of those who have tested their DNA with ancestry and then shared their results and tree with FamilyTree DNA, no one with an apparent Crinklaw ancestor has matched any of my four Crinklaw kits on FamilyFinder. I’m very glad to share what I have on the Crinklaws with anyone including my analysis of all Crinklaw (and surname variant) records on Scotlandspeople form 1600 on. My email is (I’m another L. Crinklaw {Linda D. Crinklaw} who graduated from Central.).

    • Thanks for connecting, Linda. I will have a look through your tree and, no doubt, will discover other family stories. I have had a couple of DNA connections with folks who relate to James Stevenson or Betsy Crinklaw. No doubt there are others as James Crinklaw now has literally thousands of descendants in North America. Unfortunately many of the folks who have done the DNA testing and share common DNA don’t have family trees that go back far enough to find the link or they list their tree as private which puts a damper on the search.

      • In 2016 I was sent George Mason Fraser’s correspondence 1972-1983, much of it carbon copies of letters, and his collected newspaper clippings, other papers, and photographs about the Crinklaw family which, in part, sourced his 1975 genealogy book, The Crinklaw Families in the United States and Canada. These materials had been sent by George Mason Fraser to London, Ontario to fellow family historian, Raymond Crinklaw, in 1983. Later the materials were sent to another local family historian, Stanley Crinklaw, and then to Stanley’s son in British Columbia. Some Crinklaw papers of Stanley and Raymond Crinklaw were also included to the materials I received. I evaluated these items, and added to my family trees on additional details. I have several files on my computer from that source, files in which you might be interested, including a letter from your James Stevenson to his brother-in-law, my John Crinklaw (Elizabeth’s brother), and the story of the actual Crinklaw land acquisition in Westminster Township. Who knew the family was flooded out and had to buy another lot, losing money, time and effort in the process? My email is If you send me your email, I will be able to forward you a few Crinklaw family files. Best wishes. Linda D. Crinklaw

  3. Pingback: Exploring my ancestry -the Stevenson link | johnageddes

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