I was at the computer almost all day today entering my newly found records into my genealogy program. Here’s a summary of where things stand after my genealogical research during the trip. (Warning – this is a long genealogy-intensive post for the benefit of other researchers and family members – skip to the bottom for general reflections and links to the travelogue posts.)
John Fraser (?- AFT 1830)
Well, I guess I must first document what didn’t get accomplished. John is my earliest known Fraser ancestor and I didn’t have any luck at all finding out who is parents were or even to confirm his dates of birth and death. There is much of his apocryphal early life history that I cannot yet verify:
- Somewhere along the line, I got the notion that he was born in the year 1800, but I have not found any notes or documentation to that effect and have removed that date from my record-keeping.
- Nor can I confirm his death year as 1830 – that is simply the last mention of him in any record (as the father of his youngest son, Joseph)
- I have a little bit of a hard time accepting that he was born in the Leslie area but yet his baptism went unrecorded. There seems to be a fairly solid pattern of recording baptisms in this parish. So I suspect that he was born elsewhere.
- My great-grandmother Lola recorded that he was descended from the “Castle Frasers”. Castle Fraser is not too far from Leslie, but there are no John Fraser baptisms that match in Inverurie, Kenmay, or any of the other nearby parishes. (Sadly, we did not get to visit Castle Fraser. It was getting dark as we drove from Edinburgh to Leslie, and it was closed by then anyway.) Hard to know if this claim to nobility was wishful thinking on someone’s part, or if he was really part of the clan that owned Castle Fraser.
- Another possibility is that he was part of the Highland Frasers from the Inverness area and a victim (or descended from victims) of the clearances in the late 1700’s. The Inverness region is thick with Frasers. One intriguing possibility is a John Fraser born in 1793 to Donald Fraser and Margaret MacKenzi in Inverness parish in Inverness-shire*. Records suggest that this John had a brother Alexander as well – so a lot of good name-matching here. Still, traveling from Inverness to Insch in the early 1800’s wasn’t typical for people of little means.
- I wasn’t unable to make much headway with his first wife, Henriet Reid, either. There are lots of Reids in and around Leslie, but I can’t pin her down. The first confirmed mention of either John or Henriet is the birth of their son Donald in 1821.
- This is what genealogists call a “brick wall”. The University of Aberdeen has the estate papers for Leslie – it’s possible that there are records about estate laborers during the late 1810’s-early 1820’s that might give some hint about John. This would require a trip to Aberdeen, and I rate the chances for success as pretty slim. Another slim ray of hope exists with the Aberdeen and North-East Scotland Family History Society – to try and hook up with Fraser or Reid descendants still living in the area. I am pursuing those connections next.
In spite of the brick wall, being able to stay and explore in the Leslie area was one of the real highlights of the trip.
Andrew Fraser (1822-1881)
Andrew’s life in America is fairly well documented, although still a few blanks to fill in (would love to find a record of his immigration!). And although my great-grandmother Lola referred to him repeatedly as John Andrew Frasier in her writings, I have not found a single record showing him with any name other than Andrew.
I have tried long and hard to verify his military service during the period between 1840 and 1855 to no avail. Both he and his brother Alexander are nowhere to be found in Scotland in the 1841 census. This lends credence to the military story and suggests that Alexander may have also been out of the country as well. I cannot find either of them in the England 1841 census either, although my search there has not been exhaustive. I’m unclear whether soldiers would be in the census anyway.
He is back in Kennethmont in 1851 living with his step-mother, brother Alexander and half-sister Mary. His next appearance is in 1858 in Wisconsin as the father of my great-great grandfather Edward Alexander Frasier (an 1857 land purchase in Portage County has not been definitively verified).
I was not able to add anything to what I already knew about Andrew. At least I was able to search at length through the 1841 census and the 1855 valuation rolls to rule out some possibilities. Oh, and I found a really good book in the National Library of Scotland with some solid information and tips about researching British military records.
Alexander Fraser (1824-?)
I made some a few strides with Andrew’s brother Alexander and have compiled the following timeline:
- 1843 – he is the subject of several meetings of the Kennethmont Kirk Session in connection with the illegitimate birth of his daughter Ann Susan Beattie Fraser, with Helen Mackie as the mother. Some good juicy stuff here!
- 1851 – living with stepmother Margaret Beattie Fraser in Kennethmont
- 1861 – railway porter in the city of Aberdeen (St. Nicholas parish) – not completely sure this is “our” Alexander
- 1862 – he is the informant for his sister Mary’s death in Kennethmont
- 1871 – farm laborer in Kinellar parish (about halfway between Leslie and Aberdeen) – not completely sure this is “our” Alexander
I can find no record of his death, leading me to believe that he may have emigrated to America. I think the Statutory Death records are pretty reliable after 1855, and we know for sure that he was still living in 1862. If he did go to America, I think we would have gone to Iowa since both his brother Andrew and his daughter Annie Susan were there. Another brick wall….
Mary Fraser (1828-1862)
Mary was a half-sister to Andrew and Alexander. She had a twin sister Margaret whom I believe died young. I found Mary in the 1841, 1851 and 1861 census records and also found her death record in 1862. She lived in Kennethmont her entire life. She died of tuberculosis. She never married nor had children.
Helen Mackie (1814-1920)
Helen was the mother of Alexander’s daughter Annie Susan. Alexander and Helen did not marry and did not appear to ever live together. I have not done any research on Helen’s life in America and rely on Mary Anne Saathoff’s findings. In Scotland, I found her in the 1841, 1851, 1861 and 1871 census records. In 1871, she had Annie Susan’s two children with her (see below). Annie was probably working as a servant on the day of the census; I do not believe that she had abandoned her children to her mother’s care.
Annie Susan Beattie Fraser McHugh (1843-1918)
Annie was a first cousin to Edward and Ella and they maintained contact with one another, especially during the settlement of their uncle Joseph’s estate in 1900 (see below). I haven’t done any original research on Annie’s life in America and again rely on Mary Anne for those details.
In Scotland, I found great detail about her illegitimate birth and Kirk Session Records involving both her parents. I located her in the 1851, 1861 and 1871 census records. I also determined that she had a half-brother James Anderson (born 1842). Annie herself had two children, both illegitimate. Helen Georgina Ewing Fraser was born 4 July 1865 and the father was not named, although I suspect he was a Ewing. William Fraser was born 23 Dec 1868 and his father was George Thain (not Thain Fraser as has been speculated).
Joseph Fraser (1830-1900)
Joseph was a half-brother to Andrew and Alexander. I was able to develop a fairly complete timeline for Joseph:
- born 26 May 1830 at Kennethmont
- 1841 – working as a farmhand in nearby Premnay Parish
- 1851 – farm servant at Kennethmont
- 1861 – “flesher” (I think this means butcher) at Kennethmont
- 1871 – patient at Royal Lunatic Asylum in Aberdeen. I have no doubt that this is “our” Joseph. I wonder what went wrong! I may be able to obtain further records about this.
- 1875 – butcher in Insch
- 1881 – butcher in Insch
- 1885 – farmer in Kennethmont
- 1891 – farmer in Kennethmont
- 1895 – farmer in Kennethmont
- 1900 – death in Insch
And of course, we already have all the details on the settlement of his estate after 1900.
Margaret Beattie Fraser (1793-1879)
Margaret was the mother of Mary and Joseph (awww, that’s cute) and a stepmother to Andrew and Alexander. I have a fairly complete timeline for her as well, having found here in the 1841, 1851, 1861 and 1871 census records. I also found her death record. She lived in Kennethmont her entire life, except for her final years in Insch with her son Joseph.
Margaret’s brother Joseph was a schoolmaster in Leslie. He was married and had children. He died in 1854 with substantial assets but I could not find his will. In 1852, he was involved in some sort of legal matter, but I was not able to inspect the records. I will see about getting a future tour participant to do this for me! I am speculating that he may have been the source of some badly needed cash for the Fraser family in the 1850’s. We shall see.
I found Duncan’s affidavit disavowing a paternity claim in 1820. I found a record a few months later of a woman identifying an “Anthony Campbell” as the father of her baby. I am speculating that she was the woman who had previously named Duncan but that’s only a guess. I was not able to push Duncan’s family tree back in time, other than identifying his parents.
I was not able to track the Campbell family to Glasgow, nor could I confirm Ann Campbell’s birth – supposedly in Glasgow. There are some newspaper articles about their ship Commodore Preble leaving for America in 1831 – so there might be some historical information that I can dig into in that respect.
Duncan Campbell’s wife was Elizabeth Tainsh. I was able to identify a complete list of James and Betty Tainsh’s children (Elizabeth’s siblings). I also identified the parents of both James Tainsh and Betty Taylor Tainsh (that is, Elizabeth Tainsh’s grandparents). Getting a pedigree back to the early 1700’s is pretty good for Scotland, I think.
Two of the Elizabeth’s brothers checked out books at the Innerpeffray Library near Crieff. I will write about that another time. One of Elizabeth’s sisters, Janet Tainsh, stayed in Scotland and married a “handloom weaver” by the name of James Cramb. He had children from a previous marriage. I was able to track Janet through the census records up until her death in 1876.
I suspect that all the other Tainsh children (Elizabeth’s siblings) either died before 1855 or emigrated. If they came to America, I may be able to track them further (in fact, I see a lot of Tainsh’s in Wisconsin). Elizabeth claimed to have a sister that lived past the age of 100. Janet did not live to be that old, and the only other older sister was also named Elizabeth – a cue that she may have died as a child. So that will need some more digging.
- The National Library of Scotland has AMAZING map resources – I found detailed mapping of almost everyone’s farms and homes. Look for blog posts on this in future weeks.
- I have some good narrative information about Leslie and Crieff, shedding some light on the local geography and economy. More blog posts about this at a later time as well.
- I was glad that I could keep busy and successfully find records given that I’m only about 1/8th Scottish, and that my ancestors emigrated before 1855 (the year that the really good records start). Many of the other tour participants were full Scottish and I’m sure felt like they were drinking from a fire hose with the wealth of data that’s available!
- Scottish records are pretty good – it’s certainly easier to trace early 19th century records in Scotland than in the United States. It’s entirely possible to get your family lines back to the 1700’s when there is a national church (as is the case in Sweden and Scotland). In the United States, you’re mostly stuck with wills, probate and deed records if you want to go back prior to the 1850 census. But honestly, the Scottish records pale in comparison the richness of the Swedish Household Examination records. Yay Sweden!
- I would like to learn more about the Highland Clearances. Much of my Scottish ancestry is associated with clan names; in particular, Fraser and Campbell.
- I wish my Scottish ancestry had an Edinburgh connection. Such a fantastic city full of great history. Actually, Dale’s Cogburn side of the family is probably associated with the Borders area, and there is a purported connection to a John Cockburn (1652-1729) who may have Edinburgh roots. Unfortunately, it will be difficult to definitively prove exactly who Dale’s emigrant ancestor was in the Cogburn line, so it’s a real stretch to associate John Cockburn at this point.
- I feel like I have a reasonably good handle on what can and can’t be found with respect to my Scottish ancestry. I must gratefully acknowledge Christine Woodcock of Genealogy Tours of Scotland. This trip was the perfect mix of tourist fun and genealogy study. I highly recommend Christine’s trips to anyone with Scottish ancestry.
- I am sad to report that I have pretty much exhausted my options for foreign genealogy travel. Not that I couldn’t go back and revisit places of course – but I have now explored the ancestral villages of all of my immigrant ancestors. I guess with the one exception of my colonial Bass/Basse line that goes back to England (scholars dispute the Nansemond tribe connections, so it’s difficult to prove which Basse you’re descended from).
In the coming days, I will be updating the family tree and uploading documents to my road13.com/genealogy site, for those of you who want to see all the gory details.
Thanks for reading along, if you made it this far!
Here are the links to the travel diary pages:
- Scotland – Day 1
- Day 2 – Scandals, Hogwarts and Mash
- Day 3 – Library and Church Yard
- Day 4 – Maps and Walking Tour
- Day 5 – More scandal; seafood and wine
- Day 6 – Leslie, Cornhill and Pennan
- Day 7 and 8 – Leslie, Crieff and Edinburgh
- Day 9 – Last Day for Research
By the way, the bike portion of the trip (Days 10, 11 and 12) were absolutely FANTASTIC! I will probably write up another post and photo gallery for that portion of the trip. Stay tuned!
*”Scotland Births and Baptisms, 1564-1950,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:XB92-P9B : 2 January 2015), John Fraser, 27 Apr 1793; citing INVERNESS,INVERNESS,SCOTLAND, reference ; FHL microfilm 990,667, 990,668, 990,669.