Craton, Crayton, Creighton... Which Spelling Is Correct?

Anyone who has flipped through telephone books in various cities — and certainly anyone who has devoted much time to the study of our family’s history — quickly learns that there are several ways to spell the family name. Among the most commonly found forms of spelling are Craton, Crayton, and Creighton. Other forms may include Crichton, Crydon, Creiton, Crieton, Crighton, Cryton, Crechton, and Kreytton.

Which is the correct spelling?

This, unfortunately, is a question for which there is no ready answer. The problem arises from the fact that, throughout most of history, the spelling of names has not been standardized. In the past, names were generally spelled as they were pronounced, and this would include not only the way the bearer of the name may have pronounced it, but also the way a scribe entering the name in a public document might pronounce it based on his own dialect.

For instance, the name Creighton (usually pronounced CRAY-ton) also can be pronounced CRY-ton, depending on locale. Hence the name Crichton (pronounced CRY-ton) is very likely a variant of the more Gaelic Creighton (which can be pronounced either way).

Based on my own limited research, I believe it is very probable that the American Cratons and Craytons, the Scottish and Irish Creightons, the Dutch Creijhtons, and the British Crichtons all descend from a common stock. While the relationships between these branches of the family today may be so distant as to be virtually meaningless, they nevertheless do likely stem from the same root.

As for our particular branch of the family (the Paulding County, Georgia, line), all our ancestors consistently used either Craton or Crayton in the spelling of their name on the American continent. I have yet to discover any of our direct ancestors who used any other spelling. The name sans y actually appears to be more commonly used by our line and hence may safely be said to be the “correct” way for it to be spelled, if only by virtue of its consistency of use.

Once we are able to make the jump back to the Old Country (wherever that might be), we will likely encounter other spellings. If, for example, we are able to trace our roots back to Scotland, I believe within a very few generations we will find many Creightons and Crichtons in our line.

As for the meaning of our name, it seems to refer to the “castle of plunder,” which may mean either that our family took its name from the fact that they lived in or near a plundered castle, or perhaps that they were known for plundering castles. Other sources suggest that the name means “from a rocky place,” simply a description of the landscape from which we hailed. If anyone has other information on this, I would very much like to hear from you.

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