The first apparent recorded use of the Crago name appears to have been by an Allemannic Prince Crago during the 6th century in present-day Germany. According to a Wikipedia article on him, 'The Town of Creglingen in Southern Germany, was founded by Prince Crago 'der Krahe' (the crow), who was an Allemannic 'prince' during the 6th century. Any theory about a possible link to the Crago's of Cornwall some nine centuries later would be pure speculation. For now, this must be treated as simply one 'long-shot' theory of the surname's Origin.
Other researchers have pointed to a few early references to the Craigo surname in Scotland as the first use of the Crago surname, or one of its variants. In 'Scottish Rural Society in the Sixteenth Century', by Margaret H. B. Sanderson, pp 138, 140 and 193, one finds references to John Craigo. But a few earlier usages of the Crago surname, or its variants, in Cornwall, England would point to this Scottish reference as a separate, and perhaps parallel, locational usage in Scotland, associated with the manor of Craigo, in Angus County, Scotland. It's unclear to me, at this point in time, if this Scottish paternal line survives today.
In Cornwall, I've found the first use of the Crago or Cragoe surname, in 'The History of Glasney Collegiate Church, Cornwall.' In that history, we find that 'Peter Crugow, clerk, was inst. 7 June, 1350, to Landewednack R. (Sancti Wynwolay de Landewynnecke in Cornubia, MS), which he held till his resignation in 1380.' I find it noteworthy that the Glasney Collegiate Church seems to be located quite close to Braddock, a parish with numerous Crago references in the sixteenth century.
In the 15th century, we find a few other interesting records. It is recorded that a John Crugowe on 2 Dec 1464 witnessed a Title Grant in the borough of Truro. Other witnesses were John Trenow esquire Mayor of Truro and Reginald Tomas rector there. Later, we find numerous references to a Thomas Crugowe, described as a bailiff or attorney, acting on behalf of Thomas Arundell and others in the 1470's and 1480's in Seynt Columb, Lostwithiel, and Trewynhelek, to name a few locations.
Richard Crago, of Australia, has pointed out that at least one publication purports to know the origin of the Crago surname. According to Ken George's Kernewek Kemmyn (a Cornish-English dictionary published in 1993 by The Cornish Language Board) 'krug', a masculine noun meaning mound, hillock, barrow or tumulus has the plural 'krugow' in Middle Cornish (and not 'krugyow' as may be expected) as evidenced by the place name Cregoe (about 2km south of Tregony) and the family name Crago. Thus Crago means mounds, hillocks or tumuli and the Crago family may have originated from a location noted for its tumuli. Braddock (aka Broadoak, Bradoc) is possibly such a place, as there are a great number of tumuli in the surrounding area (see 6 inch-to-the mile OS maps of the 1800s).
Marc Campeny Crego of Salamanca, Spain also provided some interesting perspective on a possible origin of the Crego surname. He says that his Crego family is from Salamanca, which is only 250 km from Galicia, the region where the Galego language is spoken. In the Galego language 'crego' means priest. Galego is a Latin language related to the Portuguese. He reports that there are also some people in Galicia who have Crego as surname, so he believes it is very possible that Galicia would be the origin of Crego in the Iberian Peninsula. He believes that two possibilities for the Crego usage in Spain must be considered:
1) Crego is a Galician surname, phonetically similar to Crago, Cragoe and other Cornish varieties of the surnames, but with a completely different origin, or
2) The origin of Crego is somehow connected to the Cornish Crago and Crego surnames. He wonders if some people from Cornwall (or Ireland) by the name of Crago, Cragoe, etc. may have entered the Iberian Peninsula via Galicia and the family name was adapted to the Galego language (and Catholic tradition) considering the similarity with the word for priest.
Marc has found references to Irish and British people entering the Iberian Peninsula around 1200-1300 to fight against Muslims during the crusades period, perhaps Templars (?). I wonder, personally, whether the Catholic Church may have sent a priest from Galicia to Cornwall in the period leading up to 1350 AD, when we find our first reference to a Crugowe in Cornwall. He was a priest in the Catholic Church at Landewednack, on the far Southwestern coast of Cornwall.
More generally, with regard to the history of the surname, I've also used the Cornwall Online Parish Clerks website to examine a bit of that history. Although far from exhaustive, I found this review to be interesting.
In the 1500's, beginning about 1542, we begin to see a number of different Crago variant surnames in use in the parish of Gerrans in the Truro District, Cornwall and concurrently, but a bit further away, in the Cornish parishes of St Neot, Braddock and Golant, St Sampson. Specifically, we find the following surnames recorded in the parish registers of that era --
In Gerrans parish during the 1500's, we find Crugowe (1542), Crugow (1543) and Cragow (1552) all used one or more times. We also find Cragowe (1556), Cragoe (1560) and Crago (1591) being used in the St Neot and Braddock parishes, in the Liskeard district.
According to these OPC records, the earliest actual usage in Cornwall of these various Crago surname variants is found in the St Columb Major parish, where Crego (1544) and Cregoe (1539) are first observed. Curiously, however, the 'Crego' and 'Cregoe' surnames don't appear again anywhere in Cornwall until 1650 (Cregoe) and 1682 (Crego) in Gerrans parish. I'm inclined to believe this particular spelling of the surname (i.e., spelled with an 'e') was coincidentally used in St Columb Major, and that it could have been any other of these possible spellings instead, if there were simply a different scribe. Combined with the gap of more than 100 years until its next usage, I believe it would be easy to read too much into its singular usage in St Columb Major parish. Since the surname or its variants do not recur in St Columb Major parish, it raises the question, of course, as to whether these Crego's or Cregoe's moved on to the Truro District or the Liskeard District, or both of them, or they simply 'daughtered out'.
Perhaps bringing some sense to this variance of usage is an entry in 1568 in Gerrans parish which has the surname simply spelled Crgow. I'm not a linguist, but it seems that the Crago name at that time may have had a strong emphasis on the 'gow', 'goe', or 'go' syllable, to the point that the vowel preceding it virtually disappeared in pronunciation. In writing the name, a hearer might logically insert just about any vowel to connect the two syllables. The vowel would be barely pronounced, in any case. Crgow may be a perfect phonetic spelling.
In the 1600's, we find even more variations of the surname, and further evidence of a possible very soft pronunciation of the connecting vowel. In addition to the 'Cra', 'Cre' and 'Cru' first syllables of the 1500's, we now see Craigo, Criggow, Crigow, Crigoe, Cregow, Cregawe, Cregaue, and Crygoe all used one or more times. In the Gerrans parish, in particular, we find the most variation, with about ten different variants of the surname appearing in that one parish alone during the 1500's and 1600's.
By the 1800's, the surnames seem to have settled down to just a few variants in Cornwall. We find just Crago, Cragoe, Crego and Cregoe surnames still in use. This evolution of the surname provides circumstantial evidence for a common ancestral origin for the Crago and Crego lines, but is far from conclusive. The Crago surname seems to have been concentrated in the Liskeard district and the Crego name is almost exclusively found in the early records of the Truro district of Cornwall. We have found no clear immigrant link between England and the United States for the Crego's in America today, and there appear to be few, if any, Crego's in England at the present time.
For the past fifty years or so, I've been seriously studying the Crago's of America. The study started because I simply wanted to figure out who my ancestors were. And, I had one of those 'brick walls' with my GGG Grandfather Thomas Crago b. 1811. I couldn't find his parents. So, I decided to try to explore all of the possible Crago connections. As a pretty uncommon surname, this seemed like an achievable task. Eight early (i.e., pre-1830) American Crago family lines have been pretty well documented as a result of this effort.
Then, about ten years ago, the use of DNA testing for genealogical purposes was introduced. In 2003, I initiated a DNA research project for Crago males at FTDNA, a company specializing in DNA testing. Since then, we have tested 26 males with a Crago (fourteen cases), Craigo (eight cases), Crego (two cases) or Craig (two cases) surname, and we've learned a lot. Specifically, we've found seven different (previously unconnected) Crago family lines which appear to share a recent (i.e., since 1500 AD) common paternal ancestor. Three of those lines have documented roots in the Liskeard, Cornwall district in England.
The evidence in hand suggests that the Crago's and Craigo's of the world (US, England, Australia, Canada, South Africa and New Zealand, specifically) may all share a common paternal ancestor, based primarily on the DNA links found to date. But, there are a couple of caveats.
First, every family tree is likely to have a few non-paternal events, such as infidelity or adoption (one study estimates this rate at 1.3% per generation). In those cases, the observed DNA today will not follow the anticipated pattern even if these persons were raised in a Crago household and were given a Crago surname. Secondly, with only 24 people tested out of 3756 Crago's, Craigo's and Cragoe's worldwide, it's too early to tell with certainty whether we all have familial ties to one paternal ancestor, or two, or more.
The DNA testing, however, has pretty well sorted out the various Crago family lines in the United State of America, where I estimate about 2910 of the Crago's in the world now reside. We have made deliberate attempts to test each of the eight major family lines found there since the 1700's. Some of the more recent immigrant lines have not been tested, but these represent just a fraction of the total number of Crago's in America. We currently estimate that about 65% to 80% of the Crago's in America are genetically related. So, now we're beginning to focus on the other countries of the world where Crago's are known to be located today.
In Cornwall, England, one of the immediate questions we must confront is whether the Crago's of Truro District come from the same paternal line as the Crago's of Liskeard district. They seem to have rather distinct home areas, which stayed relatively intact for generations. But they could conceivably have a common genetic heritage since the 1400's, which DNA testing should detect. A few test subjects (or even one) from Truro (and perhaps Liskeard for further confirmation) should help us answer that question. Since testing usually only takes about six weeks, the question could literally be answered in a couple of months, with a bit of luck.
A second question I have with regard to the Cornwall Crago's is whether the Crago's, Cragoe's and Crego's of today are all related. I'm convinced that we'll find that the Crago's and Cragoe's will prove to be related, but I'm not sure about the Crego's. Many Crego's will tell you they think they have roots in Spain, and there are a large number of Crego's found in Spain and Argentina where we find no Crago's. In Cornwall, however, the Crego's seem to have evolved from the Crugow lines found in Truro District dating back into the 1500's, and perhaps even earlier. It seems that they may have more than one paternal origin. Some Crego researchers have suggested these Cornish Crego's may have arrived at the time of the Spanish Armada, but there is scant evidence for this hypothesis.