29 December 2010

Year End 2010

End of the year. GeneaBloggers stir ourselves once again from the turkey coma. Forthcoming are affirmations of mission statements, re-orientation of goals, new lists, all that stuff. You know, what I accomplished this year and/or what I intend to do in 2011. The earnestness is tangible and sometimes self-admonishing. Wo. Woe. Whoa. It’s not like I for one am going to check up on you mid-June and castigate you for your lapses. Really.

Don’t get me wrong. Personal stock-taking, genealogy-wise or otherwise, is not a bad idea, especially for aging family historians (making it public is another matter). TIME is the biggest element we wrestle with. Time management (Better Time Management) and concentration become paramount. Therefore, fellow aging boomers, I recommend striking everything unproductive out of your daytimer. Everything distracting and interruptive. Forget the movies you wanted to see, forget the friendly lunches, don’t answer the telephone, ignore your kids, hide the tax return forms, and stay off Facebook. See if that helps.

There’s a perverse fly in the ointment, of course. If anyone under say 50 is reading this, you need to know that Getting Old is a full-time job in itself. Your head overflows with life’s accumulation of information and sometimes wisdom. Your mental filing cabinet efficiently retrieves useless trivia and not the information you want right now. Senior people, your very own friends (if you have any left), get struck by impairments without warning. So you’ve unwittingly shouldered an unwelcome parallel goal—to retain command of brain and limbs—while continuing to research and write the family history projects. 

And so the ideally blank daytimer starts to fill again. Annoyingly. With self-protective measures. Be judicious about making medical appointments because at this stage of your life it’s clear your (younger) doctor has less than a 50% grasp of Getting Old. He will refer you to the optometrist, the hearing aid people, the physiotherapist, the neurologist, the chiropodist, the gastroenterologist, the hematologist, the dermatologist, or perhaps yoga classes. Naturally, this is well aside from your dentist who these days is apparently only good for repairing old fillings. The dental industry burgeons with specialists: the surgeon for extractions, the root canal guy, the periodontist, the orthodontist (hopefully we’re past that point), the bridgework technicians, and so on. Breathtaking.

Being judicious means recognizing what’s important and what’s not. When to call for external help or not. A sympathetic computer consultant (the 24-hour kind) should be the only person on your speed dial. Cut back on time-wasting items at every opportunity. Stop sleeping is one suggestion. Catching the flu or a cold should not prevent logging on every day. You aren’t going to get prescription medication for it so why waste time with the doctor. Corns on your feet, stiff joints, cataracts, bursitis, sciatica: we have to suck it up, as they say. It takes too long to commute to the gym but you can exercise at home along with a TV celebrity.

Eating meals—if you still do that—at your computer saves time. Popcorn has some nutritional value; to avoid grease on your keyboard, just dip your whole face in the bowl. I learned that from my children.  Double expressos in the morning are a lifesaver if you were working all night. Pamper the hand that controls your mouse and the arm that controls the hand. They too enjoy small flexibility exercises every so often.
As for your brain, the occasional reality check is useful. You want to ensure your cognitive skills are more or less intact beyond the realm of intense genealogical proof arguments. Some of us like to indulge in crosswords or sudoku but why not just save more time by answering a pre-printed self-compiled quiz like:
Where are the car keys?
What is my social security number?
Name ten items in my fridge.
What day and time did I last water the plants?
Who was the person who told me that obsessive-compulsive disorder is being struck from the DSM-V?
What is my password for PayPal?
Can I raise both arms? No, wait. That was the Have You Had A Stroke quiz.
(Then congratulate yourself on keeping up with the wellness business).

I have done my altruistic part, temporarily (... oh yes, there could be more) to sustain and stave. By now you understand being in such fine shape I have not Made A List. My resolution is simply Get On With It. Happy New Year!

17 December 2010

Christmas Lights

Christmas Tree, Toronto City Hall, Nathan Phillips Square, 2005

09 December 2010

Frasers Part 11 (Inverness-shire)

In researching my ancestor John Fraser—of St Andrews East in Argenteuil County, Quebec—a few clues to his origins emerged. I can say with confidence that he married Margery McIntyre 17 August 1808 at St Gabriel Street Presbyterian Church in Montreal.[1] He stated his age as 32 (inferring birth year ca.1776) and was a “farmer of Rivière Rouge.” Census and land records indicate he lived and farmed on lot 21 of the Rivière Rouge Road by St Andrews.[2] His entry in the 1842 census declared he’d been in the province for twenty-six years. Death and burial information for John and Margery have not emerged.

Underpinning a research plan for John’s Scottish origins were some basic “identifiers,” coming from different sources of information and strengths of evidence:
1. John was from Inverness-shire in Scotland.
This is an assumption relying on a derivative source.[3] A compiler of local history in 1896, when John’s descendants were still there, said John was from Inverness-shire ... probably to distinguish him from other John Frasers in the neighbourhood (e.g. one from Banffshire, another from Perthshire, and so on).
2. John had a first wife called Ann Fraser.
At the baptism of his daughter Elizabeth in 1806,[4] and on her burial record,[5] her parents were cited as John Fraser and Ann Fraser. Highland custom was followed in St Andrews East Presbyterian parish registers in identifying married women by their birth surnames. This also coincided with Quebec usage.
3. John had three children by his first wife: Alexander ca.1802, James ca.1804, Elizabeth in 1806.
The two sons were born in Scotland according to all census returns. The sons stayed very much in synch with Highland naming customs—their first sons were named John after their father; both had daughters called Ann/Nancy.[6]
Therefore, an online search in Inverness-shire (and sometimes all of Scotland) parish registers seemed like a good preliminary. Back a while ago I had used the IGI and then the database when it came online. It was time to update the searches at the excellent site of the National Archives of Scotland, ScotlandsPeople, where digital images are available for all parishes of the established Church of Scotland (OPRs). The site seems to present less indexing/spelling problems than other databases..

Outline of the research plan:
➣ Find a John Fraser & Ann Fraser marriage before about 1802 when their first known son Alexander was born; not confined to Inverness-shire.
➣ Find couples called John Fraser and Ann Fraser having sons called Alexander and James baptized between 1801 and 1805; correlate with marriage and parishes.
➣ Hopefully, find the baptism of a John Fraser using parameters around his age at the second marriage and various census returns, i.e. 1770-1780, with a father called Alexander or James.

Here on the blog I’m trying to condense the increasingly wordy analysis within the Fraser family history itself. It was soon apparent that many marriages have not been recorded in OPRs (no need here to reiterate why there are gaps in such records). Results of the third leg of the search are postponed to another time, because the marriage became so complex.

In the period 1790-1803 there was one marriage that might fit the bill:
✶ John Fraser married Ann Fraser 4 January 1792 in Kirkhill parish, Inverness. An indecipherable place name [Gr___an] appears for the place of marriage, possibly a farm or estate name.
Just to extend the options, there were six John Fraser marriages to women called Ann with other surnames:
✶ Ann McIntosh 3 April 1790 in Inverness (town) parish.
✶ Ann McKenzie 9 September 1790 in Inverness (town) parish.
✶ Ann Reid 27 November 1790 in Inverness (town) parish.
✶ Ann Grant 5 March 1792 in Inverness (town) parish.
✶ Anne Simpson 12 January 1799 in Inverness (town) parish (J soldier in the 21st Regiment)
✶ Anne Mackay 22 February 1802 in Lochbroom, Ross & Cromarty.

Upon investigating births/baptisms of sons 1801-1805, the Kirkhill couple had a son James born 5 October 1803 and baptized 12 October. So far, so good. But Inverness-shire OPRs have no son Alexander for them. But wait ... the IGI has an Alexander, son of  John Fraser & Ann Fraser, baptized 25 July 1802 in Dores parish! Same couple? Timing is plausible between Alexander in 1802 and James in 1803, but the change in “venue” raises a flag. But the IGI entry is an old patron submission uncorroborated in the Dores OPR and contact could not be made with the submitter. Also, why no children between the 1792 marriage and James' birth in 1803? Too many BUTs !

Are any other mothers called Ann (but not Fraser) a match for both sons? The short and long answer is NO, according to the OPRs. A son Alexander was baptized 17 April 1802 in Inverness town to John Fraser & Ann Grant; no son James. A check of Ross and Cromarty parishes is equally unforthcoming.

Baptisms earlier than 1801 to a father John Fraser and mother Ann might eliminate certain couples because no children are known for our John before Alexander ca.1802. Or did not accompany him to Quebec, or survive until the 1825 census. This leg of the search revealed a John Fraser, husband of:
✶ Ann Fraser (three children baptized 1794-1797 in Boleskine/Abertarf/Fort Augustus parish)

Another Ann Fraser possibility? ... The couple in Boleskine parish do not appear again after 1797 (the three place names apparently indicate periods of mission clergy or changing predominance of churches in a rather isolated parish on the southeast side of Loch Ness; again, there are record gaps). Am I to think, if they are “candidates,” that their three pre-1801 children—Grizel, Christian, and William—died as infants? 
Baptisms later than 1806, when our John was in Quebec, show more unrecorded John Fraser marriages, to:
✶ Ann Webster (daughter Ann baptized 9 September 1807 at Inverness)
✶ Ann Fraser (son Donald baptized Inverness town 13 August 1809)
These two mothers are out of the equation because of having children at post-1806 dates, and the same reason eliminates the Anns called Reid, McIntosh, Webster, Simpson, AND the Ann Fraser in Dores who had three more children there from 1807 to 1810.

What about wives Ann McKenzie and Ann Mackay, you ask? John Fraser and Ann McKenzie had a son Hugh baptized in Inverness in 1797, seven years after the marriage. John Fraser and Ann Mackay had a son John baptized in Kirkhill in 1799, clearly different from the same-name couple who married in 1802. I can find no other children for these two couples.

Attention to Inverness District East, Monumental Inscriptions Pre-1855 (Scottish Genealogy Society, 1996) does not give any insight into child deaths or John Fraser deaths in the relevant parishes. Wonderful as the published MI resources are, they too are limited by fallen, missing, or indecipherable  stones.

Is a marriage conclusion even possible in a search among incomplete records and such common names? 
Genealogists, FEEL MY PAIN! 
~ thank you ~
Your comments or remedies, no matter how off the wall or outside the box, warmly received.

[1] Fraser-McIntyre marriage, St Gabriel Street Presbyterian Church (Montreal, Quebec), register 3, p. 47; Archives of Ontario microfilm MS 351 reel 1. Digital images can be seen on “Quebec Vital and Church Records, Drouin Collection, ( .
[2] Quebec Census returns: 1825 York County, Argenteuil Seignory; Library and Archives Canada (LAC) microfilm C-718. 1831 Terrebonne, Argenteuil en Deux-Montagnes; LAC microfilm C-723. 1842 Deux Montagnes, St Andrews parish, p. 1222; LAC microfilm C-728. 1851 County of Two Mountains, ED 11, St Andrews, p. 91, sheet 46; LAC microfilm C-1147. 

[3] Cyrus Thomas, History of the Counties Argenteuil, Quebec, [and] Prescott, Ontario (1896; reprint, Belleville, ON: Mika Publishing, 1981).
[4] Grace D. McGibbon, Glimpses of the Life and Work of the Reverend Richard Bradford as Scholar, School Principal, Chaplain Priest of the Church of England, and S.P.G. Missionary (Calgary: Macleod Letter & Print Services, 1971), 80. Rev Bradford was residing upriver in Chatham by 1805. He kept a register dating from that time but it disappeared. The author of the biography, a descendant, located a duplicate copy of the missing register in the 1940s. Ms McGibbon quotes from it: “The last entries for 1806 were the baptisms of three baby girls, at River Rouge on Sunday November 16th” and “Elizabeth daughter of John Fraser and Ann Fraser was born September 7th, 1806.”

[5] St Andrews Presbyterian Church (St Andrews East, Quebec), register IV, p. 14: died Oct. 27th, 1884, age 79 yrs. [sic], Elizabeth Fraser, daughter of the late John Fraser and Ann Fraser.
[6] St Andrews Presbyterian Church register I, 1827-1850; LAC microfilm C-2950. Alexander’s Ann was born 12 February 1836; James’ Ann was born 3 August 1841.