30 April 2008

Frasers Part 3: Dr. William Fraser, continued

A postscript to my post of 9 April 2008. The recently released index to the Drouin Collection on the subscription database provider,, drew my attention. “Drouin,” as we casually refer to it, was a concerted filming project by l’Institut Généalogique Drouin in the 1940s. Copies of all Quebec parish registers were by civil law deposited with area courthouses as vital records of births (baptêmes), marriages and deaths (sépultures). Baptismal entries normally include the date of birth; burial/interment records include date of death. The magnitude of the collection is immense. Family historians with Catholic ancestors have long used this collection to uncover multiple generations of ancestors. Now we have an index linked to digital images.

If the new index (and the collection, for that matter) indeed covered all Quebec parishes, could I find my Protestant Frasers? Yes, .. and no. The Ancestry statement“Searching may produce records that have not yet been indexed” applies to the Anglican and Presbyterian churches at St. Andrews East (St-André d’Argenteuil), home of my direct-line Frasers. Under the search box is an alphabetical place name list. It’s essential to read the notes to see how complete the indexing may or may not be for individual parishes or churches. Indexing continues, with promises for completion by the end of the year.

Nevertheless, entries for many Protestant churches in Montreal are available. Besides the marriage and death of Dr. William Fraser, which I had previously obtained by other means, the following were uncovered, much to do with the family of his wife, Miranda R. Charles:

• John Charles age 35, dealer & manufacturer of hair powder, married Lucy LeBrun age 19, both of Montreal, on 19 June 1800 (she with parental consent). Witnesses: Jon? Josh? L– or S– , Elis– Fraser, J. Woods. (Christ Church Anglican)
John Charles' occupation probably indicates he was a supplier to apothecary shops, among other places, with which Dr. Fraser was later associated.

• Maranda daughter of John Charles, trader, and wife Lucy Le Brun was born 11 December 1814, baptized 1 January 1816. Sponsors: John McGillivray, Frederick ___nerman. (St Andrews Presbyterian)
I have not yet determined how many other children were born to this couple in the gap 1800-1814. Miranda did have an older sister Lucille according to my 1987 correspondence with a great-granddaughter of Lucille Charles. Oddly (?) Miranda always bore a second name Robertson, passed on to two of her children—a prominent maternal surname in the family of her future husband-to-be.

• John Charles 58, merchant, died 29 March 1823 and was buried in “the new Protestant Burial ground Quebec suburbs.” Witnesses: Edward Wilcock, George Savage; Robert Easton officiating. (St Andrews Presbyterian)
Despite the word “Quebec” appearing in the burial entry, I am told this would refer to Mount Royal Cemetery in Montreal.

• Lucille Margaret daughter of William Fraser MD and his wife Marinda was born 2 May 1843, baptized 5 October 1843. Sponsors: D. Macdonell, James Dougall. (St Andrews Presbyterian)
The doctor’s second child and second daughter; entries have not yet been confirmed for their five other children. Another coincidence, the name Dougall appearing as a witness.

• Maria Catherine Robertson Fraser and Charles Frederick Goodhue were married 25 September 1862 by Rev. John Bethune; witnesses were W. Fraser MD, John Macbeth, M.L. Fraser, and D. Macmillan. (Christ Church Anglican)
This was the oldest daughter of Dr. William. She died ten years later after bearing two children.

• Miranda R. Fraser, widow of the late William Fraser MD of Montreal, died 14 November 1891, buried 16 November. Witnesses: D. McEadman? J.J.M. Pangman. (Christ Church Anglican)
About nine years before her death, Miranda Fraser presented the Medical Faculty of McGill with her husband’s library and surgical equipment.

• Duncan Robertson Fraser age 47 died in Montreal 20 July 1892, buried 21 July. Witness: James Robertson. (Christ Church Anglican)
Duncan was the youngest son of William and Miranda; he had spent his previous years in Queensland and Sydney, Australia. His will was probated in Montreal 23 September 1892.

If only MY John Fraser ancestors had died "in plain view"!

12 April 2008

Colour Me Red

Jasia’s Carnival of Genealogy ( provides me, at last, with a legitimate opportunity to write about one of my obscure interests. The theme is identifying hereditary family traits. My choice is RED HAIR. Yes ... a subject worthy of more scholarly attention, although I am not the first to raise the flag. On a scale of 1-10 with 10 being of utmost importance in global interest, the topic might rank as -5, possibly as high as a 1 for Celtic people. To be sure, and with all due respect, discussing red hair is potentially more
(ID protected! ^^^^^^^^)
appealing than some wretched family traits like Six Toes or Sleep Apnea.

Born a redhead is a very special thing. People comment on your red hair when you’re little. Strawberry blonde or ginger are some of the nicer comments. When you’re older, they think you dyed it. Listen up, folks. No chemical mixture has ever simulated the real thing. Truly red hair. Brown-haired people with reddish glints in the sunlight don’t count. Red hair starts to forge character right from birth and conscientious parents of redheads need to prepare. Minimally, reading Maggie Muggins or Anne of Green Gables would help (my sell-by date is showing).

Red hair is a mark of distinction not for the faint of heart. Believe you me, red hair can be an endurance test from the word go. You stick out like a sore thumb at school and will inevitably be nicknamed Red (or much worse these days), even if you like your real name. On the other hand, teachers and assorted persons of authority seem to notice “the redhead” in case you wanted to be noticed but it’s usually to get blamed for something you didn’t do. One young redhead I knew struggled to apply black shoe polish in a failed attempt to disguise himself. I remember when I was 17 and my new friend from Germany confided that Europeans considered all people
with red hair to be congenital dimwits. What is their problem, anyway? Losers! I’d say no other vizmin in history has survived centuries of such superstition and slagging from the resentfully less-endowed.

My Dad was born a redhead in a family of three redheads. He was known as “fiery Red Dougall” among his RFC comrades in the First World War. I am told the hair comes from our Campbell line (um, see below Who’s For Dinner 12 Feb 2008; reminds me Bella had some positive attributes). Therefore the gene skips around like a dizzy kelpie from one generation to the next, or the next. It might be called genetic drift or autosomal inheritance but clearly involves interference from culpatory invading genes. Dad in turn produced a family of three redheads. After that, the red hair gene went to sleep. It shows up again in two out of six grandchildren—proper, unmistakable, sensational red hair.

Little ones may seek comfort and inspiration from many role models like today’s Prince Harry. For my part, it was no coincidence that The Red Shoes movie starred a red-haired ballerina, my own adolescent heroine ... saw that movie 14 times and still counting.

Red hair is a flaming mark that—alas—may not last a lifetime. Consumed by its own brilliance, one might say. One day a disrespectful friend bellowed to get my attention: “Hey, blondie!” (surely that wasn’t me he called). But time has a way of eclipsing great things. That is why red hair is special. It’s a lottery if and when it will turn up or how long it will last. Parents, if you like what you have wrought, you see what you are up against. Know your genetic genealogy. Cross-examine anyone whom your redheads plan to marry. Better still, send the kids to to perpetuate the species. Long live small kiddies with red mops.

09 April 2008

Frasers Part 2: Dr. William Fraser

Thanks to this man I was able to extend one of my Fraser lines several generations into the Perthshire area of Scotland. Both parents of great-grandmother Catherine Fraser were un-connected Frasers. My serendipitous moment was finding a newspaper death notice for Catherine’s mother (Nancy). Among other pieces of identifying information, the notice stated that Nancy was the sister-in-law of Dr. William Fraser of Montreal. Nancy Fraser’s husband John Fraser, who died young, was William’s brother. Almost nothing is known about John Fraser other than he was a blacksmith at St Andrews East, Quebec, and he fathered four children. Exploring sources for a public figure like a doctor made it possible to learn more about the origins of the two brothers in Perthshire, Scotland.

Notman Photographic Archives, Musée McCord Museum,
Montreal; negative no. 18406 (1864-1866).

William Fraser received his medical licence in 1834 from the College of Physicians and Surgeons in Glasgow, Scotland.(1) His brother John the blacksmith was already living in St Andrews East, married, and starting a family. That year, William decided to emigrate to Canada and was appointed Apothecary at Montreal General Hospital.(2) After continuing studies, he graduated as an M.D. from McGill University in 1836.(3) Thus began his long association with both the hospital and the university. On 4 August 1840 William married in Montreal Miranda R. Charles, daughter of the late John Charles and Lucille Lebrun.(4) For almost 25 years he held the chair of Institutes of Medicine at McGill. He died 24 July 1872 in Montreal.(5) When his widow Miranda died in 1891, there is some unconfirmed hearsay that she bequeathed her Charles family residence to the university.(6) Their large monument in Mount Royal Cemetery records his birthplace as Killin, Perthshire.

Preliminary research using the International Genealogical Index (IGI) for the Old Parochial Registers of Scotland was encouraging. William Fraser was baptized 23 March 1810 in the parish of Killin, son of Duncan Fraser and Catherine Robertson. His brother John was the oldest child, baptized 12 April 1808. They had other siblings: Robert (1812), Margaret (1815), Duncan (1817), and Donald (1819). The parents Duncan and Catherine married in Killin on 18 July 1807. Duncan’s baptism also occurred there on 24 January 1783, son of John Fraser and Janet Buchanan. This last John Fraser may be the son baptized in 1751 to Duncan Fraser and Margaret McKerchar. Not a bad beginning for pedigree drafting! Correspondents tell me that many Frasers migrated to Perthshire from the Highlands after the rebellions of 1715 and 1745.

Photo: McGill Faculty of Medicine, Brief History of Medicine at McGill ( : accessed 9 April 2008); first McGill Medical School c1872.

Of Dr. Fraser, it was said “He began life as a very poor man, but by sheer doggedness he eventually built up a most prosperous practice, starting with a small drugstore on McGill Street. Plain in manner and with no pretence at any oratorical ability, he greatly impressed his students with his earnestness and common sense.”(7)

(1) H.E. Macdermot, A History of The Montreal General Hospital (Montreal: The Montreal General Hospital, 1950), p. 62.
(2) Canada Medical and Surgical Journal, Vol. 1 (August 1878), pp. 92-93.
(3) Ibid.
(4) Fraser-Charles marriage (1840), Christ Church Anglican Cathedral, Montreal.
(5) Montreal Gazette, 25 July 1872. Gravestone in Mount Royal Cemetery, Montreal.
(6) Correspondence to author from Elizabeth Stevenson O’Neill, 29 October 1987.
(7) A History of The Montreal General Hospital, p. 62.

06 April 2008

Idle Hands

The (previous) hot pink wasn't really me after all. Spring cleaning brings changes as I idle in a hiatus between manuscript submission and final page proofing. Before I start the next great Canadian novel. Or finish writing my family histories. Maybe they will all come together somehow. As for colours, I can't help it, I'm a Leo. More to come, to be sure.