I got the “Forgotten Hero” book in the mail earlier this week, and I’ve dug into the family history of the DNA match who shares a common ancestor with us. Nothing definitive yet, but perhaps some progress!
This post is more about me positing a theory and getting some thoughts down in writing, so I won’t blame you a bit if your eyes glaze over midway through this post and you return to Facebook or whatever.
As I mentioned a few days ago, our Fraser DNA has turned up a very close match of a previously unknown relative whose ancestry merges with ours within 4 to 8 generations of my mom and her first cousins on the Frasier side.
The person with the matching DNA is descended from an Alexander Fraser who died in 1872. Here is how the match person is descended from their Alexander:
That’s six generations, so Alexander must be very closely related to our John.
This lineage is pretty well documented in a book called “Descendants of Simon Fraser of Laggan, Inverness-shire, Scotland and allied families in Scotland, Canada and the United States“. The book is available in its entirety on Ancestry. There are several family trees posted on Ancestry that duplicate all or parts of this family line.
Despite its name, the book seems to really be about the Earle family. Dr. Charles Earle, who fought in the Revolutionary War on the side of England, had two daughters who married Fraser men. One daughter, Jane, married a descendant of Simon Fraser. Another daughter, Anne, married Alexander Fraser but he is not related to Simon Fraser of Laggan, at least as far as anyone in their family knows. The book is well sourced; there are transcriptions of letters, copies of documents and photos, and personal reminiscences of family members. It all seems pretty credible, so I’m fairly confident that the DNA match person really is descended from Alexander Fraser (d. 1872). By the way, the DNA match lives in England – his grandfather (Frederick Earle Fraser Sr.) stayed in England after serving as a pilot during WW I. Frederick Earle Fraser Jr. was a WWII hero, too!
The “Forgotten Hero” book is really well done and contains credible scholarship. It goes back one generation farther than the Simon Fraser book, but it also overlaps some of it. The authors of the “Forgotten Hero” book even referenced the Simon Fraser book as a source, but they had many other independent sources too. The books adds another twist, though: James Alexander Fraser (1823-1879) married his cousin – a grand-daughter of Jane Earle and the other Fraser guy (the one descended from Simon). I’m going to have to learn more about DNA testing to understand the implications of that. But anyway.
The book also contains a helpful appendix called “Too Many Frasers” that describes some of the other Frasers lurking about Ontario at the same time as Alexander.
So who is this Alexander Fraser, who apparently has an ancestor in common with us?
The books says he was born in 1789 in Inverness Parish, Inverness-shire, Scotland and his father was Peter Fraser, a career soldier. The birth date doesn’t match his tombstone, but the the authors of both books found obituaries from the time of his death that corroborate the 1789 birth date, so it’s possible that the tombstone is actually wrong. Alexander’s father, Peter, served in the Revolutionary War for a while and then returned back to Scotland. He had four sons and two daughters. The authors did a pretty thorough job, it seems to me, of tracking down everything they could about Peter and his family. They found a lot of documents in British military archives.
None of Peter’s four sons were named John; they were Alexander, Peter Jr., James and either Evan or Hugh. Furthermore, our John didn’t name any of his kids Peter, either, and we would have expected that if Peter really was his father.
Let’s take a look at the names in our Fraser family. John Fraser had three sons: Donald, Andrew (our ancestor) and Alexander. Traditional naming customs suggest that John’s father was therefore Donald. Andrew would have been named for his mother’s father (Andrew Reid?). And John should have named his third son for himself. Let’s take a close look at our Alexander’s baptism record. It’s dated December 8, 1824.
Note that the name “John” is crossed out and “Alexander” is inserted. In the left margin it says “Fraser xJohn has been inserted by mistake”. Here’s a theory: Alexander should have been named John in accordance with the naming traditions of the time. The minister even assumed as much. But sometimes families disregarded naming traditions if they wanted to name the child after someone important. Were John and Henrite naming their child after the “Forgotten Hero” Alexander in Canada? It doesn’t seem like “Forgotten Hero” Alexander was a brother to John. Maybe a first cousin? (It’s starting to seem far-fetched.)
If we go back one more generation and assume that naming customs hold, we can make some inferences if we believe that “Forgotten Hero” Alexander and our John are first cousins. Were working with male DNA here, so they would need to have the same paternal grandfather. Since Peter’s oldest son was named Alexander, Peter’s own father should also be named Alexander. And sine John’s oldest son was named Donald, John’s own father should also be named Donald.
This theory would therefore have us looking for brothers Peter and Donald Fraser born sometime ca. 1760’s probably in Inverness-shire.Their father would be Alexander, and they would likely have an older brother also named Alexander.
That’s a pretty wild theory but right now it’s all I’ve got. And it all depends on naming customs which, as we saw with our own Alexander, aren’t always followed.
p.s. Cousin Sara is working on a possible Perthshire connection. I’ll post about that another time if anything pans out.