11 January 2009

Frasers Part 5: John Fraser, Missing in Action

Well, I have to believe he was active somewhere when he went missing. Of the several John Frasers I have, I speak of the blacksmith at St. Andrews East (St-André Est) in Argenteuil County, Quebec. He was only about 40 years old or less when he disappeared from the genealogical radar.

There are few facts to cling to. He was baptized 12 April 1808 in Killin parish, Perthshire, Scotland.(1) He married in Canada in 1832 Nancy (formally, Anne) Fraser, the daughter of another John Fraser. In the Presbyterian Church at St. Andrews four children of John Fraser, blacksmith, are duly recorded with dates of birth and baptism. The last child Elizabeth Fraser was born 4 February 1839. That at least tells me John was living in 1838 at the time of her conception.
St Andrews East, October 1844 by Solomon, at Alain Chebroux, Comte d’Argenteuil ( accessed : 22 June 2008); original oil painting in the Argenteuil Regional Museum collection.

John Fraser dropped from sight after that. No more children born locally. Nancy was a widow in the 1851 census with the three younger children. In the 1842 census for St. Andrews, the two John Frasers can be identified as other men (one being Nancy’s father). John the blacksmith, or for that matter his widow Nancy, is not recorded in St. Andrews Protestant cemetery.(2) Deaths and burials were not registered as vital records in Quebec in that time period. The cemetery transcribers noted:
“This is a very old cemetery. Some of the graves date from the early 1800's and some of the people were born in the mid 1700's. This graveyard is well looked after but the stones are very old and many are laying on the ground, are buried in the ground, as well as many which have parts cracked or missing. A few are so old that the writing has disappeared altogether.”

Did the transcribers poke and prod for the buried stones? Could John and Nancy be there, and their grave markers have not survived? None of their children stayed in the area. Are they even “resting” together? Nancy died half a century later in 1895 and her grave has not been located. Was John buried on the family farm on the River Rouge Road despite the local cemetery? Not too likely, I think.

Moving to other scenarios, did John die away from home? Was he away on business, as we say today? Where would he have gone? Was he visiting his brother, Dr. William Fraser, in Montreal? Did additional siblings emigrate to Canada whom he went to visit, and an accident or terrible illness did him in? Had he decided to visit his aged parents in Scotland and he succumbed to something fatal there? Death and cemetery records records for Killin parish are scarce.

Even the date and place of John’s marriage is nebulous. A marriage bond exists, dated 5 January 1832.(3) It was taken out and signed in Longeuil Township, Prescott County, a location across the Ottawa River in Upper Canada. On the Canadian Genealogy Centre database for Upper and Lower Canada marriage bonds, this entry has a notation “married in Longeuil” but the bond itself does not say that. The bondsmen were two men called James McIntosh, one a tailor and the other addressed as “Esq.” The witness was Alexander Fraser, probably Nancy’s eldest half-brother. So far, the actual church marriage record eludes me. A Presbyterian Church opened in 1832 at L’Orignal, the seat of Prescott County, and could be the likely venue. I have not been able to discover where its records are now. The church itself (and its Scottish congregation) are long gone.

Map of southern Quebec and Ottawa River from Microsoft Map Point.

Eagle-eyed genealogists will spot the clues and potential pathways here. I’m making a list.


(1) Killin parish extraction, International Genealogical Index ( accessed : 10 February 2006).
(2) Suzanne LeRossignol and Pennie Redmile, transcribers, St. Andrew’s East Protestant Cemetery (Pointe Claire, QC: Quebec Family History Society, 1990-1991).
(3) Fraser-Fraser bond, no. 3322 (1832), Upper Canada Marriage Bonds 1803-1865, RG 5 B9; Library and Archives Canada microfilm C-6782.


Diane Bishop said...

My daughter and I just visited this cemetery with amazing luck finding missing members of four generations! You have been much more professional than we have been. Thanks for the details since they will be helpful in our future efforts to fill in more information.

BDM said...

[from Hamish]You mention a Marriage Bond for a John Fraser witnessed by James McIntosh (tailor) and James Esq. These two gentlemen fit the description of my ancestors. James Jr. (tailor who became jailer in L'Orignal) and his father James (Esq.) who had recently emigrated to join his four sons. James Jr. married Beatrice Fraser who is likely the Beatrice born in Breadalbane, Scotland. Her father Hugh Fraser apparently brought his family to Canada in 1815 on the ship Dorothy and went to Lochiel Township, Glengarry County. Beatrice Fraser married James McIntosh Jr.

[Brenda: Breadalbane is also in Perthshire, Scotland; maybe there is a family connection between Hugh Fraser and my John's father, Duncan Fraser.]