The Craigs are a very old family of the eastern portion of Scotland where the Picts are considered to be among the most ancient of the founding races of Scotland. Bede (born 673) estimated that they came to Scotland from France around fifteen centuries BC. According to early documents, such as the Inquisito (1120 AD) and the Black Book of the Exchequer, older documents with the name Craig were found in Aberdeenshire where the clan had been since well before the Norman Conquest and the arrival of Duke William at Hastings in 1066.
Among the oldest Chiefs of Clan Craig to be researched is William Craig of Craigfintray, County Aberdeen, who was most likely born around 1450. Next came Alexander Craig (1480) of Craigfintray; then William Craig (born 1501) of Craigfintray (later Craigston) County Aberdeen. William had four sons, the oldest being Thomas Craig (b. 1538; d. 1608), who married Helen Heriot. He moved to London with the Scottish king James IV when James became King of England, and he is still considered a great writer on Scottish feudal law - his work Jus Feudale is still referred to by lawyers today.
Sir Thomas had three children: a daughter Margaret (born 1575), and two sons, Louis (born 1568), who married Breatix Chirnside, and James (born 1573). In 1610, Sir James of Craig Castle in Craigston of County Aberdeen, was chosen to be one of the Scottish undertakers of the Ulster Plantation in Northern Ireland. Louis’ oldest son was also named Sir Thomas Craig (b. 16 Mar 1601), and his youngest son Louis would father William Craig, whose children (William. Daniel, Thomas, James, Margaret, Jane and Sarah) would leave Ireland for America.
We know a plantation to be a place where planting occurs, and the Ulster Plantation in 1610 was no different. Except in Ireland the English crown needed to civilize the barbarous Celtic rebels by planting better settlers among the locals – English proprietors called Undertakers and their people. Allowing the Presbyterian Scotch-English to participate in this plantation was an afterthought for King James, but the Scotch English were more willing to participate than the English. Other plantations, such as the Jamestown project, Maryland and New England proved to be very competitive.
James IV of Scotland replaced Elizabeth as ruler of Britain, becoming known as James I. With the end of the Nine Years War and the Flight of the Dukes (rebel nobility who fled Ireland after being caught in cahoots with Spain), James saw an opportunity to confiscate their lands in five north Ireland counties that would become the official plantation of English settlers — Donegal, Coleraine, Tyrone, Fermanagh and Armagh. The Protestant religion of England and Scotland would replace the Catholicism of Ireland, they thought.
The Scots in Ireland suffered greatly. When Charles I came to the thrown in 1625, he made it his mission to force these Protestants to conform to the Church of England. And the Irish rose up against the Scots on occasion, killing thousands in an attempt to force them out of Ireland. The undertakers and settlers worked the land under long leases, but as the leases began to expire in the 1700s, the Scotch Irish (they were now called) began immigrating to Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania.
The average Scotsman was a combination of various backgrounds depending upon the clan and the location: Pict, Celt, Roman, Norseman, Saxon, Norman, and Flemish. But it was to the midlands of Scotland where Saxons from England fled after 1066, and their descendants were called Scotch-English, and these rugged pioneers were best suited for plantation in Ulster. The project required a tough people who could carve out a home in the wilderness, live among enemies and defend unpopular beliefs. The Scotch Irish were well trained and ready for the frontiers of colonial America.