I’ve been trying mightily to push my Fraser lines farther back in time, especially trying to corroborate some tantalizing Highlands connections suggested by DNA testing. Unfortunately, I’ve reached the limits of my searching ability.
Along the way, I’ve also found that Andrew Fraser’s military service can’t be verified at all and I guess might be a tall tale spun up by himself or his descendants.
First, let’s look into his military service. Family lore is that he enlisted into the British Army at age 18; was in a ceremonial regiment with a specific height requirement of 6′ 2″; was present for gun salutes for the birth of Queen Victoria’s first two children; and that his military service obligation was bought out by his younger half-brother Joseph. All of these facts should point toward supporting records but nothing turns up and in fact, there are other available records that stand in contradiction.
- Andrew appears in the 1841 census in Leslie, the parish of his birth, working as an agricultural laborer on the Millfield farm in Leslie. I had originally discounted this record because his age was listed as 15 instead of 19, However, I later found out that all ages on this census are rounded down to the nearest five years. Furthermore, I don’t think there’s any way that Andrew could have been a farm laborer on June 6, 1841 in between ceremonial gun salutes in November 1840 and November 1841.
- As we’ve learned in previous posts, Joseph was mentally unstable and likely would not have had the wherewithal to buy out Andrew’s service. Buying out military service was enormously expensive and not within the means of country people.
- There is absolutely no record of Andrew’s military service. I contracted with a researcher in London to look at all of the ceremonial regiments with height requirements and Andrew is nowhere to be found. For the benefit of any future researchers, here are his findings along with source citations from the British National Archives:
Eighteen would be a pretty good age for a young man to enlist and a Guards Regiment, given his supposed height, would seem appropriate so I checked WO 12/1614 and WO 12/1615 which cover the Grenadier Guards between 1840 and 1843. No trace I’m afraid.
I checked the musters for the same period for the Coldstream Guards (WO 12/1733 and WO 12/1748) but again no luck. Likewise for the Scots Guards (WO 12/1839 and WO 12/1855).
Given he was supposed to have had a sword, which would be unusual for an infantryman, I’ve also checked the cavalry (Life Guards) for the period (WO 12/36 and WO 12/13) but no joy there.
I’ve searched the 1841 Army Worldwide Index (compiled by a pal of mine) and the 1851 Army Index but nothing doing I’m afraid.
Given that he might have fired the salute for the birth of the children I wondered if he might have served in the Royal Artillery. Fortunately these records are indexed online and I have checked them and though there are Andrew Frazers mentioned none are from the right period.
As far as Andrew’s father, John Fraser, I contracted with a researcher to look into some possibilities for him and that was a bust as well. John Fraser appears out of no where; the first mention of him in any record is for the birth of Andrew’s older brother Donald in 1821. I had hoped that there would be information about the Fraser family in the papers of the Leith-Hay Estate, the owners of the farms in and around Leslie and Kennethmont.
Again, for the benefit of future researchers, here are her findings:
The brief was to search the papers of the Hay family of Leith Hall to find any mention of the Fraser family or the farms where they lived – Old Leslie, New Leslie and Law.
The papers of the hay family of Leith Hall are held at the National Records of Scotland (NRS) under reference GD225. I searched the catalogue for these papers for the time period of 1815 to 1850 for any likely items that might be useful. I found two that were worth checking-
GD225/988 Statement as to the allocation of the rate money of the parish of Kinethmonth, with note of population in 1831 4 Jun 1817-30
GD225/1031 Miscellaneous papers, 1612-1869, including accounts, legal papers, tacks etc. 1612-1869
I ordered these items but, unfortunately, found nothing specifically relevant.
GD225/1031 was a large bundle of papers which I scanned through but could find nothing useful. Many were too early or related to the Hay family and their own houses.
GD225/988 again had nothing specific to the Fraser family or the locations where they lived.
Since Donald Fraser was born in 1820, before his parents married, I checked for any surviving Kirk Session records for the parish of Leslie. These often refer to illegitimate births as the parents were rebuked before the church. Unfortunately the minutes for Leslie have not survived.
I also checked the Kirk Session accounts for Kennethmont parish. At this time, the Kirk Session was responsible for administering the poor fund. I thought that Margaret Beattie might appear in the accounts as receiving poor relief and so narrow down when John Fraser died. The Kennethmont Kirk Session Cash Book for 1816 to 1841 was checked from 1825 to 1841 (reference CH2/1057/5) but there was no record of Margaret Beattie in this.
The research was concluded at this point.
Not all hope is lost. DNA testing still may provide insights. I’m confident that someday we’ll find out more about our connection to Alexander Fraser.
Note: yes, it’s been more than two months since my last post! I’ve been traveling, knitting, watching the Olympics and bogged down at work. Darn it, sometimes life just gets in the way of genealogy. Things should start picking up again now.