Nancy Boyd
wife of Thomas Crawford.

As discussed in detail below, Nancy Boyd is not known to appear in any contemporary documents, and information about her depends on family tradition.

Date of birth: Unknown.
Place of birth: Unknown.

Date of death: 17991834.
Place of death: Raloo, co. Antrim, Ireland.
Place of burial: Raloo, co. Antrim, Ireland.
According to Old Nannie Boyd - A True Narrative (see below), she was living in 1799, yet deceased at the time of writing, which was 1834 or before [ONB]. Within this large range, the date is likely to be well after 1799 and well before 1834.

Father: William Boyd?
Mother: Isabella Strachan?
[History of Nancy Boyd (see below)] If these names are correct, nothing else is known about them.

Spouse: Thomas Crawford, d. bef. 1799.
[History of Nancy Boyd (see below); ONB, 310L (see below)]

[History of Nancy Boyd (see below); ONB (see below)]

Robert Crawford, d. 1832, to America after 1799.

William Crawford.

Jack (John?) Crawford, living 1799.

Janet Crawford, b. ca. 1762, d. 9 December 1845, bur. Raloo graveyard;
Matthew Crawford, b. ca. 1760, d. 24 May 1814, bur Raloo graveyard.

Son, living 1799.

Jean Crawford?
Her existence as a daughter distinct from Janet is uncertain. See the discussion below.

The History of Nancy Boyd

The History of Nancy Boyd is the title given to a short typescript narrative of about one and a half pages, whose author is unknown. The copy I received was clearly the result of several previous stages of copying and recopying, and was difficult to read in places. In judging a source of this type, it is important to have as much information as possible about where and when the source originated, and how the author got his or her information. The History of Nancy Boyd was cited as a source (and quoted in part) by C. Stanley Thoburn in his genealogy The Ancestry of the Irish-American Thoburns, published in 1955, where it was stated that the information came from W. J. McRoberts of Larne [Thoburn Ancestry, 109 n. 12]. Thus, The History of Nancy Boyd has existed since at least 1955, and appears to have originated in Ireland. An Irish original is also indicated by the text tiself, as the genealogy is followed in more detail for the MacWilliams branch of the family, which lived mainly in Ireland.



The family of Boyd with many more Scottish settlers came to Ireland in the year 1609. To the district in which they settled they gave the name of Braid in honor of their native place of that name - a large tract of country near Edinburgh. Nancy Boyd was the daughter of William Boyd and his wife Isabella Strackan. Her husband died in early life and left three children, Robert, William and Janet. When Robert grew to manhood he became a freemason. While attending a great meeting of the fraternity at Ballymena he made the acquaintance of a young man named Matthew Crawford from Raloo. It began to snow as darkness set in and Robert Crawford invited young Matthew to spend the night with him at Bogtown. His destiny was there for when he saw Janet the young daughter of Nancy Boyd he determined to make her his wife. In a short time he brought her to Raloo. She had a family of five sons and three daughters. John Crawford, the eldest son married Jane Hunter of Ballyfore; they emigrated to South Carolina; Thomas and Matthew went to Georgia, both married there; Robert married Janet MacWilliam of Mounthill, they were the parents of Janet and Jane Crawford who became the wives of John and Matthew McRobert; James Crawford married Mary Blair Stewart (Stuart) of Carneal, they were the parents of Mrs. Gilmore of Larne and the rest of the family. Nancy Crawford married William McRobert of Ballygowan. Jane Lyle Crawford married Matthew Thoburn of Hydepark near Belfast; they emigrated to Ohio. Their eldest son Major Joseph Thoburn was killed at Fort Sumter during the American civil war; another son was Bishop Thoburn, missionary to India and Isabella Thoburn who went with her brother, taught the Hindostan language to the present Lady Dufferin of Co. Down, when Lord Dufferin was Viceroy of India. Then Elizabeth the youngest daughter of Matthew and Janet Crawford married Samuel MacWilliam of Mounthill. They had six sons and one daughter. Crawford MacWilliam married Elizabeth Moore of Kilwaughter they went to Iowa. Samuel the next son went to Australia and there married Mary Blair Stuart of Carneal. John married Margaret Victoria Jones of Co. West Meath. William Andrew married Mary Jane Kirkpatrick of Ballyclare. Matthew died unmarried and Eliza Jane married her cousin Thomas McRobert on the 26th December 1866. The ceremony was performed by her brother the Rev. John McWilliam in the Methodist Church, Larne.

After many years Nancy Boyd came to live with her son-in-law Matthew Crawford in Raloo.

There she died and is buried in the Crawford plot in Raloo Churchyard beside Matthew and his wife. Nancy Boyd was a small woman but her daughter Janet Crawford was very tall and of commanding aspect. Her hair was golden yellow. The parents of Matthew Crawford of Raloo were John Crawford and Jane Lyle who were married in the old Presbyterian Church, Larne, on the 21st August 1746 by the Rev. Josias Clugston.

Matthew Crawford had one brother William who married a Miss Stuart. They emigrated to South Carolina and left thirteen of a family. And one sister Betty who married William Blair, their only child Rebecca Blair died unmarried.

The oldest legible tombstone in Raloo churchyard is erected in memory of Nancy Blare (Blair) the wife of Patrick Crawford of Raloo. One Sunday morning the 23rd of October 1641 this woman went out leaving her infant son with her servant a girl named Bridget McMurdagh who belonged to Gleno near Raloo. When Mrs. Crawford returned to the house this girl was crying and kissing the baby. Her mistress asked what was the matter. At length she cried, "Fly for your lives, for Raloo will be burned at twelve o'clock." "Where shall we go?" said the frightened woman. "Get your horses ready to ride to Carrickfergus Castle, where the army will guard you," said the noble girl. "I could not bear to see you, my kind mistress, and the rest burned to death. I will be quite safe in the Sheebing at Crosshill, where I was warned to go." When the Crawfords were but clear of Raloo, it was in flames. When some of the burners were hanged and order restored, the Crawfords returned to their burnt homes. The Catholic servant girl returned to them and at length died in her grateful mistress's arms and is buried in Raloo where the Crawfords have buried their dead for over three hundred years.

This Nancy Blair was the daughter of Bryce Blair and his wife Esther Peden.

They came to Ballyvallagh from Ayrshire in 1625 at the invitation of their friend Sir William Edmondstone who had purchased the estate of Groadisland and lived at Redhall near Ballycarry. This gentleman and Bryce Blair were the grandsons of Brude the laird --- in Stirlingshire and he was descended from Mary the second daughter of Bruce the third King of Scotland.

All the race of the Crawfords and Blairs have the blue blood of the Royal Stuart in their veins. This is a matter of history.

(The narrative of The History of Nancy Boyd ends here.)

The title The History of Nancy Boyd which has been inserted at the beginning of this narrative is somewhat misleading, because only a small part concerns Nancy Boyd. The part concerning the burning of Raloo looks out of place and was perhaps not originally a part of the narrative. While there is no good reason to trust the information for the seventeenth century and earlier, in those cases where the eighteenth and nineteenth century information can be checked, the agreement with other sources is good. One possible problem is the statement that John Crawford, eldest son of Matthew and Janet Crawford, went to South Carolina, for other sources show that he was in Guernsey co., OH and then in Van Buren co., IA [see the page of John Crawford]. However, it could very well be that he spent a short time in South Carolina first. The fact that physical descriptions are given for Nancy Boyd and Janet Crawford suggests that the narrative was written fairly early, when these descriptions would have been remembered. Indeed, there appears to be no event described that is clearly later than the late 1880's. Lord Dufferin was viceroy of India from 1884 to 1888, and since the narrative indicates that he was no longer viceroy, it was written after 1888. We also see that Lady Dufferin was apparently still alive at the time it was written, which does not help us much, since she lived until 1936.

"Old Nannie Boyd"

Nancy Boyd also appears as the principal character in a narrative entitled Old Nannie Boyd - A True Narrative, which appeared in the Dublin Penny Journal in 1834, relating events which supposedly took place in 1799 [ONB]. Written with a liberal use of dialogue, in which the author puts many words into the mouths of his characters, this narrative has to be regarded at least partly as a literary creation rather than as a strictly factual account of events. Thus, there arises the legitimate question of how reliable we may regard the small number of incidental genealogical details which occur in the work. The narrative opens by placing the events in the severe winter of 1799, and when Nannie Boyd is named, a footnote informs us: "It is customary in some parts of Ireland, and in Scotland, to call a married woman by her maiden name: Nannie's husband, who was some time dead, was Thomas Crawford." [ONB, 310L] Near the beginning, three individuals are mentioned who seem to be her children (although only Bab/Bob is explicitly so called): "Gang you, Bab, and put the sheep in some safe and sheltry place: ... and gang you, Jack, and bring in mair peats; ... and, Jean, she said to the girl, bring in plenty o' water. ... Her son, wrapping himself up in his great coat, set off with the dog to the hill." [ONB, 310L, with Bab more explicitly called a son later on a couple of occasions] The main story involves the encounter of Nannie Boyd and her family with a stranger, and does not involve any items of genealogical interest. Further on, it is mentioned that Nannie Boyd had two other sons: "He well knew, however, that all the family were not at home; for Nannie had informed him that she had two other sons, who were tradesmen, and would not be home for some time." [ONB, 311LR] Near the end, we learn: "Some years after her son's marriage, Nannie went to reside with her daughter at Raloo, where she died; and is buried in Raloo graveyard, near Larne. Her son, Bob, emigrated to America, and died in 1832." [ONB, 311R] Whether the unnamed daughter at Raloo was the same person as the Jean who appears earlier is not specified. The story ends with Jack encountering the stranger again "many years after". [ONB, 311R]

As noted above, the literary flavor of the narrative detracts from its potential reliability. On the other hand, it is a nearly contemporary account, well within the limits of human memory. Thus, if we temporarily ignore what our other source says about Nancy Boyd, and interpret the statements of Old Nanny Boyd - A True Narrative on its own terms, we get the following outline of five or six children of Thomas Crawford and Nannie Boyd:

1. Bob/Bab.
2. Jack (presumed).
3. Jean (presumed), perhaps the same person as the daughter at Raloo.
4. son, tradesman.
5. son, tradesman.
6. daughter at Raloo, perhaps the same person as Jean.

In comparison, The History of Nancy Boyd gives Thomas Crawford and Nancy Boyd three children, Robert, William, and Janet. Robert is obviously the same as Bob/Bab, and Janet is obviously the same as the daughter at Raloo. If we assume that both narratives are reliable in outline, then William would presumably be one of the tradesmen, as "Jack" would not generally be used as a nickname for the name William. This leaves us with four sons, Robert, William, "Jack" (John?), and another whose name is unknown.

We now encounter the question of whether Janet and Jean were the same person. This can be argued either way, for the names Janet and Jean would be regarded as different on some occasions and as variations of the same name at other times. Janet Crawford, the wife of Matthew Crawford, was married in or before 1791, the date of birth of her eldest child. However, what little we have of the context makes it look as though Nannie Boyd's presumed daughter Jean was living at home in 1799. According to her gravestone, Matthew's wife "Janney" Crawford died in 1845, aged 83, placing her birth about 1762, and making her about 37 in 1799 [Raloo Gravestones, 70]. Someone this old is unlikely to be referred to as a "girl". On the other hand, Jean's appearance in the story is only incidental, and might be one of the fictional elements in a story which might be regarded as "historical fiction". Writing many years later, the author might not have thought about the fact that Janet had left home by 1799. Thus the existence of Jean as a separate daughter from Janet must be regarded as uncertain.

Reference abbreviations

ONB = J. G. (not further identified), "Old Nannie Boyd - A True Narrative", Dublin Penny Journal, vol. 2, no. 91 (29 March 1834), 310-1. (In the citations, L and R indicate respectively the left and right columns of the indicated page.)

Raloo Gravestones = George Rutherford, Gravestone Inscriptions. County Antrim. Volume 2: Parishes of Glynn, Kilroot, Raloo and Templecorran (Ulster Historical Foundation).

Thoburn Ancestry = C. Stanley Thoburn, The Ancestry of the Irish-American Thoburns (Cleveland, 1955).

Compiled by Stewart Baldwin

First uploaded 31 May 2011.