23 June 2011

Frasers Part 15 (Inverness-shire)

A speculative hypothesis to add to the mix: Did my mysterious John Fraser “from Inverness-shire,” the farmer at St Andrews East in Quebec, have a brother called Donald? ... more searching for clues to his origins.
A Donald Fraser appears in the 1825 St. Andrews census in the age category of 25-40, with a wife and four or five children.[1] The poor microfilm quality and continuing folio pages of these early census returns make it extremely difficult to follow some columns with certainty. Donald’s location is on the east side of the River Rouge Road, same as John. He appears again in 1831 when his household of youngsters expands, still ranging from under the age of 5 to the age 14 and under 18 category.[2] His own age is between 30 to 60.

Then Donald and wife Mary McLean of River Rouge had a daughter Marianne baptized 19 September 1833 by the minister of Chatham.[3] After that he’s not to be found. 

Donald’s age is rather critical for a potential relationship. The census age category opens a birth window of approximately 1785-1800. Any parents in Scotland looking the same as John’s? A couple with both an appropriate John (ca.1776) and a Donald? A possible match is in Kiltarlity, a Donald baptized 19 March 1797 to father Alexander at Easter Cluim, mother un-named. (A son John was baptized 24 Nov 1776 in Kiltarlity, father Alexander at Ballehagan). Ah, yes. The recurrent, ubiquitous Alexander whose-wife-is-not-named (no doubt one of several Alexanders-whose-wives-are-not-named). But hey, a man could have moved to another farm within the parish in the intervening 21 years, right?

Without putting the cart before the horse, does it stand to reason a man born in 1797 would have four children by the age of 28? Barely! Allowing for the usual two-year birth interval, Donald would have had to begin fathering at the age of 20 and we assume a marriage before that. As far as I know, that’s rather young for your average hard-working Scots farmer in those days. For the sake of argument, let’s assume the Donald of 1825 was more like age 35-40. Still, he is a needle in a haystack at ScotlandsPeople if his baptism was indeed recorded.  

Alternate theory ... could Donald have been a hitherto unknown oldest son of John our farmer? What does ScotlandsPeople tell me? Recorded baptisms do not uncover a couple called John and Ann Fraser with two such sons. No joy here. Meanwhile. This focus on Donald forced me into some analytic acrobatics.  

Daniel Fraser “in Argenteuil,” married Mary McLean of the same place on 17 February 1823 in Montreal, “being both of them arrived at the years of maturity.”[4] Witnesses were Allan Cameron and James Mc[Ewen?]. Wouldn’t you know it, this begs more questions:
How interchangeable were the names Donald and Daniel? Phonetically, to listeners and even among Gaelic-speakers, it was close. The written record could depend on the scribe’s ear.
Is this the Donald of the 1825 census? Only if he’d been a widower when he married in 1823, because two years later he had four or five children. Mary is described as spinster in the marriage record, but the status of “Daniel”is unremarked.
How mature is “maturity”? Rev. Robert Easton of St Gabe’s used this phrase often in marriage records, so it may signify no more than the parties were 21 years of age or older.
Could Daniel be the son of some other Fraser in Argenteuil? In the 1825 census already mentioned, my John had an eligible male, but he was not a Donald or a Daniel. Our subject Donald did not have such an eligible male in his household. Another John Fraser at North River had only a wife and a young girl.   

Information gleaned in the St. Andrews area points to a Daniel Fraser. He was a witness at the 1821 baptism of John Fraser’s daughter Elisabeth.[5] Again in 1845 Daniel was recorded at the burial of my John’s son Charles.[6] The timing between the two events is almost a whole generation.

Oh, did I say? My John named his sixth son Daniel, born 21 July 1824.[7] He could well have been the man at the burial because Donald-with-so-many kids was not “seen” in the area after 1833.

Moreover, a Donald Fraser “of Argenteuil, parish of St Andrews”[emphasis added] and wife Mary McLean had a son born 29 May 1823, baptized 4 March 1824 in Montreal.[8] Is this “Daniel” of the 1823 marriage? What are chances of both a Donald Fraser and a Daniel Fraser from the same place having a wife Mary McLean? I tend to think this couple was just in the nick of time to baptize a “three-month” baby. Could be that’s why they chose a church other than their 1823 marriage location. Indeed, one might ask why Donald was apparently avoiding the Presbyterian minister at St Andrews, who’d been available since 1818. 

So we have a family man Donald at St Andrews/River Rouge 1823-1833 minimally, in close proximity to John. Then we have a Daniel present at the 1821 baptism, who married two years later. Perhaps there was a rather short interval between the death of Donald’s first wife, mother to most of the 1825 children, and his new wife. Despite the forename variation and all too brief appearances in meager sources, I’m concluding for now that they are one and the same man. “Mary McLean” is the common thread that binds them. Whether it’s convincing remains to be seen. 

An interesting exercise—but no light bulbs illuminating a relationship to my John, nor to their origins in Scotland. Surely sources are not totally exhausted yet.

[1] Donald Fraser household, 1825 Census Quebec, York County, Argenteuil Seignory, p. 1276; Library and Archives Canada (LAC) microfilm C-718.
[2] Donald Fraser household, 1831 Census Quebec, Terrebonne, Argenteuil en Deux-Montagnes, [east side] route de la Rivière Rouge, p. 1854; LAC microfilm C-723.
[3] Eileen Whillans, “Church of Scotland Records, Argenteuil, Quebec,” [transcript of Chatham Presbyterian Church records], Prescott County GenWeb (http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~onpresco/chatham.htm : accessed 8 April 2008). Online access to the transcript has since been removed.  
[4] “Quebec Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection) 1621-1967,” digital image, Ancestry.ca (http://www.ancestry.ca : accessed 10 June 2011), Fraser-McLean marriage, 1823; citing St Andrews Presbyterian Church (Montreal, Quebec).

[5] St Andrews Presbyterian (St Andrews East, Quebec), church register 1818-1827, Fraser baptism 1821; LAC microfilm C-2905.
[6] St Andrews Presbyterian church register, 1827-1850, Fraser burial 1845; LAC microfilm C-2905.
[7] St Andrews Presbyterian church register, 1818-1827, Fraser baptism 1824; LAC microfilm C-2905.
[8] “Quebec Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection) 1621-1967,” digital image, Ancestry.ca (http://www.ancestry.ca : accessed 10 June 2011), Fraser baptism, 1824; citing St Gabriel Street Presbyterian Church (Montreal, Quebec).

LABELS: Frasers, Inverness-shire, Argenteuil, St Andrews,

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