Cree Family History Network

The search for your Cree, Crie, Crea, Cre, Crey and Chree origins

Hello all and to Crie or not Mac Cree?

Hello Trevor and everyone (waves)

I have been intending to join for quite some time but it was one of those things that kept getting lost in the general million jobs per day that is real life. I descend from the Bolsover Cree line which I discovered whilst researching my Cuttell, Hallam, Drabble ancestry. James Cree the son of James Cree and Elinor Edson married Elizabeth Whitehead 24th Nov 1709 in Bolsover, Derbyshire, England and their daughter Mary Cree, (1716-1777) married John Drabble in Sutton-cum-Duckmanton, Derbyshire, 19th May 1741.

I have been a family historian and writer since my mid-teens. I don’t if it of useful info for anyone but I don’t think that Alexander would have called himself Mac Cree. One thing I have found is that officials and the more petty the more petty if you follow, would never admit to “not quite catching what was said” and would therefore guess rather than admit they didn’t know. This was especially an issue if the person speaking to the person writing it down had a strong regional accent or even a dialect. I have come across a couple of clerics who changed the name of my Irish relatives from Dougal Connaught to Douglas O’Connor because they only managed to catch “Dou…” and “Con…”

As a patriotic Scotsman if Alexander’s own surname had been MacCree he would have made sure his only known surviving son was James McCree, but the rapid loss of the name back to Cree suggests to me that Alexander was given the label MacCree arbitrarily to signify he was a Scot as all Scots are “Mac” and he probably either never knew or simply ignored it. Given the traditional naming pattern of Scots families, it is 99% certain that his firstborn son (James, b.April1644) was named after his own father, so Alexander Cree was the son of a James Crie or Cree.   

At this time I am focussing on Mary Cree’s mother, Elinor Edson. I am researching and writing the biography of John Thomas “JT” Edson, the western/adventure writer. By the 1980s he had sold 17 million copies of his books in 11 countries, and by 2000 this was 57 million copies. JT seems to descend from Elinor Edson’s father Thomas via her brother John Edson or Eadson and the biography needs to be ready for publication in 2018, to tie in with 90 years since JT was born. Unfortunately I already have one setback – in an attempt to achieve 2 goals in one, I decided to use the work on the biography as I am already doing it with towards a qualification in Genealogy via the University of Strathclyde – this coming first year will require £4000. I was refused grants in Scotland because I live in England and refused grants in England because the university is in Scotland. Yes indeed, this is the reality behind the political nonsense of creating “educational equality across class divisions.” Of course the knock on effect is that now I am having to seek donations/sponsorship my research budget has had to be diverted to pay towards course costs. This is all taking up time I could be spending on research and information, and of course anything I find that is relevant towards the Cree line that Elinor married into will be submitted here for adding on to the general knowledge base.

However, I am Scottish on my father’s side (Stewart, Paterson, Robb, McBirnie, etc) and if there is any Scots specific questions anyone wants to ask, feel free. I also have my brother’s Stewart DNA lodged with FtDNA in the USA for their Stewart surname project, and if there is not already one underway, I would strongly urge all male CREE to use FtDNA to set up a similar Surname research project – it will decisively answer whether all Cree, Crie, Cre, etc are the descendants of one or a small number of already related men who lived near Crieff, Perth, as seems to be the case. It is also a long-term project and an “always active one” – you only have to donate a cheek rub sample once, anyone can do it (I have had relatives in their mid-90s do so) and comparisons to fresh donations are always running 24/7. My other claim to fame (if any) is that my grandfather's first cousin was Eliza "Cis" Paterson, alias Pat Paterson, the Hollywood actress who married Charles Boyer (two time Oscar winner). If you ever watch the 1930 Warner Oland Charlie Chan in Egypt, Pat is Carole, the blonde haired heroine imperiled by the nefarious baddie disguising himself as an Egyptian mummy back to wreak havoc courtesy of the Pharaoh's curse. She got billing above Rita Hayworth!

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Comment by Mike Spathaky on September 13, 2014 at 17:55

It was 18 Sep 1728 in Bolsover - I doubt you'll find another

Comment by Cait Stewart on September 13, 2014 at 17:47

Hi Mike

Thanks for that - I would like to find a definite christening for her, although that may not be possible. I will update on any Edson info I get as obviously descendents of Mary are also descendents of Elinor.

Comment by Mike Spathaky on September 13, 2014 at 17:27

Hi Cait,

Ah! You are now saying Mary was the daughter of James and Elizabeth (Whitehaed) Cree. That makes better sense and we know who she is. See Her birth date of c1716 is my estimate based on her marriage date and fitting her in amongst the dates of baptism of her siblings. The baptism date is simply and clearly a late baptism, not an rechristening and not at all unusual at the time, and especially given the religious persuasion of many Bolsover Cree families of the time.

It was the law that children be baptised in the parish where they were born, although it was often disregarded.  . John and Elizabeth Cree lived in Oxcroft which is in Bolsover parish. See .

There is no Cree connection to Sutton-cum-Duckmanton until the later marriages of the two Cree sisters to Drable brothers. What you tell me in your second paragraph is based on my research in the 1990s but I don't think we need to introduce speculative spats between neighbouring ministers to explain a late baptism.

Best Wishes,


Comment by Cait Stewart on September 13, 2014 at 15:37

Hi Mike,

Right yes, that does help clear things up. As I understand it, genetic genealogists are confident that there is no common male ancestor of the Perthshire Crie (Cree) and the Ayrshire McRae (MacCree), so different Y-DNA. That would easily account for why "Ben's" Y-DNA did not match the Cree Y-DNA despite Alexander "Mackree" - or so we surmise - being Scottish - if he was an Ayrshire McRae descendant that would explain that. I am not aware of any McRae surname project as yet, but it may happen - there is increasing interest in the confluence of Y-DNA and surname connection. I would imagine, for instance, that Spathaky descends from one common ancestor?

Now, for Mary Cree - James Cree, son of James Cree and & Elinor alias Ellen Edson (the Edson name being my current focus), married Elizabeth Whitehead 24th Nov 1709 in Bolsover, Chesterfield. Mary Cree was born circa 1716, but apparently was rechristened a second time aged 12 in 1728 - my cousin John Lomas, a researcher, was working on the reasons for this but has had to put his research on hiatus for a while due to bereavement. John's working theory is that Mary was christened at Sutton-cum-Duckmanton (or Clowne or Oxcroft) and was rechristened due to some spat between the vicar of Bolsover and the vicar of Duckmanton or something. The child immediately before Mary, Anne Cree, christened March 1614/15 in Bolsover, married  Joseph Drable (son of John Drable and Martha Godley) in Sutton-cum-Duckmanton, and since marriages take place usually in the home parish of the bride John and I are wondering whether some of James & Elizabeth's children were born in one place and christened in another. Mary married Joseph's brother, John Drable, also in Duckmanton. Mary Drable died in Bolsover in 1777 and Anne in Clowne in 1802. John and Mary's first child Ann (1742) married William Hallam, two of whose sons, William and Joseph Hallam, were my direct ancestors.

I Hope that makes sense - at the moment I am focusing on trying to raise funds for the biography research costs, so every else is back-burner, but I will try and get stuck into the McRae/Cree line and see if I can track Mary's christening more accurately next year.

Comment by Mike Spathaky on September 13, 2014 at 10:50

Hi Cait,

I have just noticed that you say, "my first 'Cree', Mary Cree, was born and lived in the early 1700s (daughter of James Cree and Elinor Edson)." As this Mary Cree is not known to us I would be very interested to have the source details for her baptism and other life events. Having combed thoroughly the Bolsover and all neighbouring parish registers (in the days when we wore gloves to handle original registers and BTs) I feel sure she was not shown there.

Best Wishes,


Comment by Mike Spathaky on September 13, 2014 at 10:46

Hi Cait and welcome to the Cree Family History Network!

First let me clarify the situation regarding Mackree and Cree. Trevor wrote, "I tend to agree with you that Alexander Maccree, who named his children Cree, was also probably a Cree because, as far as I remember, that particular DNA line is still quite distinct from other surname lines."

Alexander did not name his children Cree. Baptism ceremonies only give Christian names. The parish record states "1644: Jacobus filius Alexandrei Mackree et Anna uxoris eius (...) die mensis Aprilis baptizatus fuit." (James the son of Alexander Mackree and his wife Anna was baptised on the (date illegible) day of April.)

(In the baptism of James's possible sister Elizabeth the parents' surname is not even clear and the relationship is proposed only because their Christian name combination is unique in the parish, but that is not important.)

So the surname Mackree occurs just twice in the Bolsover record: at Alexander and Anna's marriage in 1643 and at James's baptism in 1644. The spelling Mackree does not suggest to me an added-on "Mac" and is one that occured in Ayrshire at theat time. The surname Cree first occurs (in this line) in 1672 on the marriage of Elizabeth Cree in Sheffield and next in 1687 on the marriage of James Cree in Bolsover. That is all there is.

From James Cree, the surname has descended to all the Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire Crees and they have spread to many parts of the globe. Notice I have not claimed they are all the biological descendants of James. We know that many are not. And some have inherited the name through a female descent.

An important slice of evidence for James being the son of Alexander and Anna Mackree is the almost complete absence of any Cree individuals in parish records in the English Midlands before James's and Elizabeth's marriages, and the absence of any occurrence of the name Mackree *after* James's baptism.

I think the idea of advertising in the local papers would have been good at an early stage of our research. We did on fact do mailshots from telephone directories with some success. Now however, I am confident we have a fairly comprehensive picture of modern descendants of this line. I know of several male-line descendants whom I intend to ask for yDNA sample from. It's a question of getting round to it (and also of funding). People are reluctance to fork out £80 for the test.

You wrote, "... James (c.1778) or John (c.1782) "Cree" whose biological father appears to be Thomas Humphreys and Mary Cree (nee Fearn)." I think this is putting the conjecture rather too firmly. It is one hypothesis with nothing but circumstantial evidence. The Humphrey yDNA link is to Americans of that name with no known Old World ancestry.

You also wrote, "... it just surprised me that neither Bolsover Y-DNA donor tested to the Scottish group when the "ultimate Bolsover" Cree appears to be a Scotsman named Alexander Cree."

I am sceptical about the possibility of Alexander's surname being Cree. He is recorded twice in the Bolsover register, both times as Mackree. I recognise the possibility of an added "Mac" but always take the view that we should accept prima facie the contemporary evidence unless there is a strong reason not to. I therefore differ with Trevor over the likelihood of the Bolsover Cree line being connected to the Scottish Cree lines. There is NO evidence whatsoever linking them and no reason to make such a connection beyond the obvious Scottishness of the name Alexander Mackree. While there were Mackrees of various spellings in Ayrshire and the Clan McRa(e) was located in the Highlands, the Scottish Cree lines were all in Perthshire at this time with no events outside that county apart from a few isolated ones in Fife and Edinburgh.

I hope that clarifies the situation.

Best Wishes,

Mike Spathaky
Cree One-Name Study

Comment by Cait Stewart on September 3, 2014 at 19:41

Hi Trevor,

“Family tree DNA” Y-DNA traces son-father-father ad infinitum and mtDNA traces daughter-mother-mother likewise – a woman passes on her mtDNA to all her children (so men can do both mtDNA and Y-DNA) but only her daughters can pass it on; a friend of a friend of mine grew up convinced her oldest “sister” was really her mum and her “mother” was really her grandmother; she did mtDNA which showed she was right – the mtDNA matched very closely but still demonstrated that her mtDNA more closely matched her sister (mother) than her other sisters (autns) or mother (grandmother). So for a specific male ancestor you needed a male-male-male unbroken line and for a female ancestress you needed woman-woman-woman.

In order to help researchers who had a problem with this in not having any living relatives or any who were willing to have a DNA test, FtDNA came up with Family Finder, which runs tests across all DNA, so the lines of both parents, all 4 grandparents, 8 great-grandparents and so on.

I tested Family Finder with several more distant cousins from several of my ancestral families and the matching is actually quite accurate in terms of the shared DNA found and our real-life relationship as calculated by the statistical models FtDNA use – and we are talking about 1st cousins twice removed and 2nd cousins once removed level too.

I am more than happy to join FtDNA Cree Surname project and willing to share my Family Finder with the group, the caveat being that my first “Cree”, Mary Cree, was born and lived in the early 1700s (daughter of James Cree and Elinor Edson) and there may be a very small to zero trace of her DNA – Family Finder randomly trawls across all DNA when it “picks” markers to test, so funnily enough, I share slightly more DNA with my 1st half-cousin twice removed Ian than does my brother, despite the fact that we are full-blood siblings and our degree of relationship is identical.

This is because parental inheritance is rarely 50-50 – I might inherit 47% of my DNA from my mum and 53% from my dad and my brother 52% from our mum and 48% from our dad. This affects the amount of DNA inherited from each ancestor since my brother only has 24% DNA from his parental grandparents but 26% fom his maternal grandparents. There again our mum may have inherited 46% of her DNA from dad and 54% from her mum, skewing it again.

I don’t wish to be presumptuous but has Mike Spathaky done Family finder? Has he compared his family finder results to those of “Ben” as apparently we can be 99% sure “Bill” descends from the adulterine two older sons of Thomas Humphreys (Y-DNA) and Mary Fearn Cree whilst her husband James Cree was away, possibly fighting for Britain in the Revolutionary War in the USA? If there is an issue finding male line Cree testees FF may be an option for their sisters, daughters, aunts and so on, although of course Y-DNA lines would be best.

I don’t know of any Cree persons living in Bolsover today but it might be worth the Cree network putting an appeal in the Derbyshire Times and so forth? The more Crees that get tested then we can build up a picture of a particular set (Bolsover Cree) without having to broach the delicate subject of testing brothers, fathers, uncles, grandfathers. The majority that match with each other can be taken as representative of the Y-DNA line?

The final thing I have come across as well with Scotland is the Clan system and the "septs" (sub-clans). Sometimes you'd get Duncan Campbell joining Clan MacLeod in 1300 and changing his surname to suck up to the Clan chief - by the time his grandkids were born they'd no idea they were genetically Campbell not MacLeod; sometime it happened twice - Duncan's descendant in 1530 might have married into the Sept of another clan and deemed it prudent to change his surname to theirs, like Cree. It is entirely possible Alexander Cree was genetically a MacDonald or whatever which is another reason the Bolsover Cree line may not match those that are verified as Scottish.

Sorry to make everyone's brain hurt!


Comment by Trevor Cree on September 2, 2014 at 7:17


Many thanks for your interesting contribution. Hopefully Mike will be able to clarify the Bolsover DNA discussion. Personally I tend to agree with you that Alexander Maccree, who named his children Cree, was also probably a Cree because, as far as I remember, that particular DNA line is still quite distinct from other surname lines. Mike will certainly put me right on that if I am wrong. Clearly we won't know one way or the other until a few Cree DNA matches with that line turn up in Scotland or elsewhere. The match could indeed be with the McCrae etc. group but many McCrae etc. DNA tests have been undertaken and to date there doesn't seem to be clear evidence in that area. 

Having the surname Cree (Crie etc.) is very fortunate because relatively speaking there are very few of us. Even so it is very likely that there a number of distinct Cree lines that have no direct genetic link because different people took on the surname Cree, Crie etc. a few hundred years ago when surnames were first adopted. Nevertheless I would guess that there are less than 10 major Cree/Crie lines.

I guess that the benefit of DNA testing is that it can tell when 'non-paternal' events occurred whilst simply indicating that people with close DNA matching may well have been related. The exciting part is when a genuine paper link is found after a suggested DNA link has been proposed.

Comment by Cait Stewart on August 31, 2014 at 17:13

I am with FtDNA for several ancestral families, it might take a few years but they are always adding more. I have read the article about the Bolsover line Y-DNA and smiled at the irony.

I teach family history and genetic genealogy and you have to be so careful because the Y-DNA only "proves" descent from the previous generation, and then only when you have a comparator - a Y-DNA result doesn't prove you have the same Y-DNA as the target ancestor, only that you are your father's son (if you match with him, a brother, uncle, cousin).

I did that last year when I got 2 male-line cousins from different lines of a 4xgreat-grandfather to Y-DNA because the ancestor was illegitimate and the biological father was either Raynes or Jowell. All the paperwork indicated they were descended from him in an unbroken line except that just like Cree their Y-DNA did not match even at 37 markers. In the end I managed to track down a third cousin descended from a 3rd of the 4 sons and I did Family Finder which FtDNA invented to help women with no Y-DNA males. Both me and Carl matched Fred but not Bill, and I could prove my descent was solid, as could Carl, so we know Fred was the baseline Raynes Y-DNA.

However I am not sure I followed the article correctly - if I've got it right, two male line Bolsover Cree testers came forward, "Bill" and later on "Ben". Their Y-DNA did not match with each other because it appears that "Bill" descends from James (c.1778) or John (c.1782) "Cree" whose biological father appears to be Thomas Humphreys and Mary Cree (nee Fearn) and not from Robert (1791) or Joseph (1795), the two sons Mary appears to have had by her husband James Cree, so Bill's Y-DNA is Humphreys. "Ben's" Y-DNA does not match that of Bill for obvious reasons. However, the article then seems to indicate that "Ben's" Y-DNA doesn't match that of the Scottish Cree line, in which case Alexander MacCree may have been Scots but wasn't one of the Perth Cree line? Of course, without further Bolsover male line descent Cree tests from at least 2-3 preferably more then it can't be said that "Ben" is a direct male line descendant of Alexander either. A way round it might be to do what I did - because I know my descent is proven, I did family finder to see if I matched Fred, as at the time it appeared there were no male line descendents from the remaining 2 of the 4 sons, although shortly afterwards Carl made contact and agreed to donate a cheek swab which happily matched me and Fred. If female line descendants take family finder and FF matches up with Ben then this increases their likelihood of common ancestor, although ideally male line descent through multiple sons to ensure accuracy is desirable - Alexander had at least 4 grandsons via his son James (and Elinor), James and Elizabeeth Whitehead had 3 sons, James the husband of Mary Fearn apparently had 2 sons with her in the 1790s.

I'm sorry if I'm being a bit slow, it just surprised me that neither Bolsover Y-DNA donor tested to the Scottish group when the "ultimate Bolsover" Cree appears to be a Scotsman named Alexander Cree.

Comment by Trevor Cree on August 31, 2014 at 16:33


Many thanks for providing the background to your own Cree ancestry. I'm sure that Mike (Spathaky) will be very interested to read about your Bolsover connection since he is the expert on that area as well as many more. I am certainly hopeful that a Scottish Cree DNA connection to the Bolsover line will appear but we will just have to wait and see. We do actually have a Cree DNA project ( which has made very good progress in connecting lines when the paper trail has run out. Clearly we would like more Cree males to join as and when they feel fit since it is certainly a very valuable aid to research.

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