finding your roots

Fallen Woman?

L J Craig March 20, 2012

I know my 5 greats grandfather is Toliver Craig and that he arrived in America around 1704 which some records also list as the year of his birth. I’m certain his mother’s name is Jane and that she is from Scotland, but the mystery lies in whether Craig was her maiden name or her married name. No one can seem to determine whether Tolliver was born on the wrong side of the blanket or not.

My aunt researched the family tree some 30 years ago and her records showed that a Jane Taliaferro and a John Craig, both of Scotland, were married in 1703 and both died in 1704….the year their son Tolliver was born and who somehow came to be in America. (I’ve read that the name Tolliver is an anglicized version of Taliaferro.)

The other story, floating around on the world wide web, is that Jane’s surname was Craig and Tolliver was her illegitimate child. Written records of Tolliver’s descendants indicate she raised him alone or possibly with help from some brothers who had also immigrated to the colonies. There is a thread to the tale that claims Tollver was the child of an Italian sea captain named Robert Taliaferro (or Tagliaferro) but there are no records that support this.

I occasionally wonder which of these stories is the more accurate. I hope for the sake of Jane that she was married; I’ve never read anything that made it sound like having a child out of wedlock in that era was anything but hardship. I wonder what she had to endure as one way or the other, I don’t think Tolliver’s father was there to help her raise their son.

Jane’s son, Tolliver, ended up marrying Mary Polly Hawkins in 1730 and they had 11 children. Some settled in the mid-Atlantic coast area and the bulk ended up in Kentucky. One son of Tolliver’s was named Elijah Craig and is credited with “inventing” bourbon whiskey when he wasn’t raising hemp and serving as a Baptist preacher. There are a lot of Craigs in the Lexington, KY area to this day.

I’m the descendant of Tolliver’s son, Joseph, who is described in family histories as “eccentric”. From what I’ve witnessed in Joseph’s descendants, I suspect that is accurate.
I was in Scotland last summer and am going back in 2012. I don’t know how to start the research over there to unravel the mystery, but would love to have some advice.

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The basic drive to discover who we are and where we come from is at the core of the new 10-part PBS series Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the 12th series from Professor Gates, the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor at Harvard University and director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research. Filmed on location across the United States, the series premieres nationally Sundays, March 25 – May 20 at 8 pm ET on PBS (check local listings).

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