Alexander Mackree and Anna Hancock are known only from their marriage record and the record of the baptism of their son James. A Richard Hancock is recorded as a resident of Bolsover in 1638, and we may surmise that Anna was his daughter. There is no earlier record of a Mackree. We may guess that Alexander Mackree was a Scotsman, possibly from the West Highlands, for Alexander was a traditional name for MacRaes of Kintail in Wester Ross for many generations. His presence in Bolsover in 1643 was probably connected with the English Civil War, for Bolsover Castle was a Royalist garrison and a house of the Earl of Newcastle, Captain-General of the King's Army in the Midland and Northern Counties. In July 1643, the month when Alexander and Anna were married, and in the same parish church, Newcastle buried his cousin Sir Charles Cavendish who had been killed at the Battle of Gainsborough.

By the time James married Elinor Edson in 1687, he had changed his name from Mackree to Cree, and may thus be considered the founder of a Cree dynasty that was to spread throughout the country and beyond over the next 300 years.

The only baptismal records of James and Elinor's children are those of the twins Richard and Anna at Elmton in 1696. They are described as de Oxcroft and this is the earliest connection between Crees and Oxcroft.

James and his descendants over five generations farmed at Oxcroft until the 1860s. It is a small hamlet between Bolsover and Clowne though still just inside Bolsover parish and actually nearer to Elmton church than to the parish churches of either Bolsover or Clowne.

Sadly the twins both lived less than two months, whereas James, John and Francis (none of whose baptismal records have been found) raised families in Bolsover or Clowne in the 1710s and 1720s. That's why we may reasonably assume they were James and Elinor's sons.

The eldest son, James, married Elizabeth Whitehead in 1709. In 1728 he was described as Jacobus (James) Cree de Oxcroft, Yeoman, when granted letters of administration of the estate of his mother-in-law Ann Whitehead. He was paying farm rent in 1731 both for himself and "for Whitehead", for Lands in Oxcroft. As he was the eldest son, it was his sons James and John who inherited the tenancy of the lands at Oxcroft.

The second son, John, fathered two illegitimate children by Elizabeth Butcher. She died in 1732. The following year John obtained a Settlement Certificate enabling "John Cree, Martha Cree his wife, John Cree their son" to move to Mansfield in Nottinghamshire, just eight miles away. Martha died there in 1737, recorded as the small pox year in the parish register. John Cree junior survived, was apprenticed as a cordwainer in Warsop in 1742, and went back to the Bolsover Overseers of the Poor in 1758 for a Settlement Certificate for himself, his wife Dorothy and son James to move to Mansfield.

Location of Oxcroft
Image produced from the Ordnance Survey Get-a-map service. Image reproduced with kind permission of Ordnance Survey.

John Cree senior married again and named a son James. This James Cree was apprenticed as a carpenter in 1759 at which trade he evidently prospered. He eventually settled in Pinxton, Derbyshire, probably taking over the farm of his wife's family the Habers. James and Mary had six children, of whom the three sons, Thomas, John and William carried on the Cree surname.

The third son of James and Elinor was Francis Cree, known only from the baptism record of his son William who was a hatter. William's children were to spread far and wide, and to found families in Worksop (William, Mary and Francis) and Newark (Joshua) in Nottinghamshire and Beighton (Joseph) near Sheffield, and Alfreton (James) with later generations in Hull, Laxton, Mansfield, Manchester, Nottingham and two separate branches in Leicester.