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 (http://www.medicine.mcgill.ca/history : 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.
(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.