Following up on my trip to Scotland in June, I found out about some DNA testing that is available for males with the Fraser surname. Cousin Sara and I exchanged some ideas, and she quickly recruited her brother to submit a sample. Some really interesting findings have already turned up!
The specialized focus group that is looking at the Fraser surname has their homepage here at FamilyTreeDNA. As near as I can tell, Bruce’s test results haven’t been processed within the Fraser group yet. But the results are “out and about” in the DNA community and there has already been an inquiry from a researcher that is wondering about connections to various Dunbar and Cockburn family groups (those connections would probably pre-date the availability of genealogical records). However, the researcher was guessing that our Fraser DNA matches some “haplogroups” test results that line up with some Fraser men in the Aberdeenshire area – within a 25-50 mile radius from Leslie. So that was encouraging!
Most more importantly, they have also run the results through their general algorithm and compared the results against their entire database (not just the Fraser project). They came up with a super-close match. The match has a “genetic distance” of zero, meaning that there is a 97% chance that the other person is related within six generations or less. Bruce is five generations removed from our “brick wall” Fraser – John Fraser.
To protect privacy, I won’t reveal the name of the match except to say that he DOES have the surname Fraser. But it’s not anyone in our family tree, nor is it anyone I’ve ever heard of before. In the database, he shows his most distant ancestor as Charles Earle, born in 1754 in Ayr, Scotland. Again, names and places I’ve never heard of before.
It turns out that this Mr. Fraser is descended from Charles Earle’s daughter. The DNA testing applies only to males in a direct-line ancestry. So we must look at the husband of Charles Earle’s daughter. And who might that be? Well, according to several family trees published on ancestry.com, it is an Alexander Fraser! Not “our” Alexander (the brother of Andrew) – but he’s the right age to be an uncle of Andrew and our Alexander – that is, he might be a brother to John Fraser, our “brick wall” ancestor!
This Alexander Fraser is a very notable person in Canada and there is quite a bit of information out there about him.
- He is listed here at findagrave.com. The date of birth on the listing page (1789) doesn’t match the math on the tombstone (1872 minus 78 years = 1794).
- More impressively, he has his own page on a War of 1812 Veterans Project site. Turns out this Alexander was quite the soldier! And there are many details here about his military service, meaning that there is a good chance we can dig deeper and confirm whether he was really John’s brother. This website is probably the source of the 1789 birth date that is shown on the findagrave listing.
- There is a particularly well-sourced page about Alexander at ancestry.com, probably based on the Veterans Project information. I exchanged messages with the researcher – he is not a relative, he is collecting information about Alexander as part of a bigger project about all of the veterans in his particular cemetery.
- There are many, many other family trees on ancestry.com that include Alexander, but there is not a lot of agreement on his date of birth or who his parents are. Drat! A lot of people are running with the 1789 theory, with parents Peter Fraser and Jean (or Jeannette) MacDonald of Boleskine, Inverness-shire (near Fort Augustus).
If we accept that his parents really are Peter and Jeannette, I find a Peter Fraser and a Janet MacDonald being the parents of a John Fraser born 16 Sep 1791 in Abernethy & Kincardine parish. No telling if this is the same Peter and and Jeannette from Boleskine. I do know that there were some pretty big Highland clearances occurring in the late 1700’s so it’s not impossible for Boleskine Highlanders to evacuate to the south.
I’m a little troubled by the names though – based on his children’s names, I expected John’s parents to be Donald and Mary (or Margaret). The naming conventions aren’t gospel, but this might suggest that we have to go back one more generation to get the two lines to come together.
But wait, there’s more! I found out that the author of the Veterans Project page actually co-wrote a book about him in 2012, “Forgotten Hero, Alexander Fraser“! I couldn’t whip out my credit card fast enough, my copy is on the way. Can’t wait!
Something that crosses my mind is that if Andrew had a big-shot uncle who was a Colonel in the British Army, this would help pave the way for his own military career. Might Uncle Alexander even have been the source of cash to buy out Andrew’s military service in the 1850’s? This certainly seems more likely than some of the other theories that I have kicked around.
All of this points to the strong possibility that our Frasers are Highland Frasers, that is, the Clan Fraser of Lovat – which is kind of cool.
So stay tuned, I’m following up on lots of leads.
And a huge thanks to Bruce and Sara for coordinating and sharing the DNA testing!