Peasants to Puddles
My Family History - By Nicky Rowberry
John Fraser was my great great grandfather on my mother's side. He was the second of a line of John Frasers. Researching a name like John Fraser in Scotland is not easy and it has taken me a long time to get as far as I have! For details of my earlier Fraser generations, please click on the following link:
John Fraser was born about 1848 in Daviot Inverness-shire, Scotland. I haven't managed to find any record of his baptism yet, so I don't know the exact year of his birth, but on his mother's death certificate in 1855 he is listed as aged six and a half. In 1861 he was living in Boleskine with his widowed father, John Fraser, and older sister Eliza, who was acting as housekeeper. By 1871 John had moved in with his married sister and her husband Roderick Douglas in Dores, along with two of his other siblings. The table below gives a transcription from the 1871 census:
|Page 3||The undermentioned Houses are situated within the Boundaries of the|
|Civil Parish||Quad Sacra parish of||Parliamentary Burgh of||Royal Burgh of||Police Burgh of||Town of||Village or Hamlet of|
|Dores|| || || || || ||Dores|
|No. of Schedule||Road, Street and Name of House||Name and Surname of each person||Relation to Head of Family||Condition||Age||Profession or Occupation||Where Born|
|7||Ploughman's House||Roderick Douglas||Head||Married||26||Ploughman||Kilmorack|
| || ||Jessie Douglas||Wife||Married||26||Wife||Daviot|
| || ||Ann Fraser||Sis-in-law||Unmar||24||Dressmaker||Daviot|
| || ||John Fraser||Bro-in-law||Unmar||22||Ploughman||Daviot|
| || ||Alexander Fraser||Bro-in-law||Unmar||20||Shepherd||Daviot|
John Fraser seems to have moved about a bit, possibly to find work. When he registered his father's death in 1872, he was said to be living in Edinburgh. But by the late 1870s he must have moved to Longside in Aberdeenshire, where he met and married his first wife Eliza Ann Cooper. They had already had a baby girl who was sadly lost to what sounds like a cot death "suffocation from overlying" before they married on Hogmanay 1879. John was working as a shepherd and it may have been the search for employment that took him to Longside. His younger brother, Alexander Fraser, was already living in the area and had married in Longside in 1875.
In the 1881 census John & Eliza Ann are living at 6 Mount Street West, Aberdeen, with their baby son John Fraser - my great grandfather. John Fraser senior was still working as a shepherd and the family was said to have one room with one window. John Fraser was also said to be a Gaelic speaker. The family must have almost immediately moved to Glasgow, because by the time their second son George was born, they were living in Govan. A third son, Roderick Douglas Fraser was born in July 1884, presumably named after John's brother-in-law with whom he had lodged those years ago. Sadly Eliza died only a week after the birth of her third son, leaving John with 3 small boys to bring up. Unfortunately poor little Roderick died just a week or so after his mother, cause of death described simply as debility from birth.
John Fraser then met and married Catherine Shaw in 1886, but again he seems to have been unlucky in his choice of wife! Sadly Catherine died in Govan on 27th September 1888 having given birth to a son, William Shaw Fraser, eight days earlier. So John Fraser must once again have been left with three small boys to raise alone, something that would have been very difficult in those days. John seems to have done the only sensible thing at the time and given his sons to his sisters to look after. In the 1891 census John junior & George were living in Lasswade with their aunt Jessie & her husband, Roderick Douglas. William Shaw Fraser seems to have gone to live with his uncle & aunt, Joseph & Ann Todd (nee Fraser), also in Lasswade. Sadly little William Fraser succumbed to whooping cough and died there aged only 2 in 1890.
Ever the optimist it seems, John Fraser married again in 1891 to Isabella Grant McDonell. So far I've found the births (and sadly deaths) of 4 children. In the 1901 census, John & Isabella and all his surviving children, including the younger John and George, were living together at 25 Ann Street, Glasgow. The table below gives the details from the 1901 census.
|The undermentioned Houses are situated within the Boundaries of the|
|Civil Parish||Parish Ward of||Ecclesiastical Parish of||Quad Sacra Parish of||School Board District of||Parliamentary Burgh||Parliamentary Division|
|No. of Schedule||Road, Street and Name of House||Name and Surname of each person||Relation to Head of Family||Condition||Age||Profession or Occupation||Where Born||Gaelic or G. & E.|
|73||25 Ann Street||John Fraser||Head||Married||50||House Painter||Daviot||G&E|
| || ||Isabella Fraser||Wife||Married||40|| ||Glenmoriston||G&E|
| || ||John Fraser||Son||Single||21||Mercantile Clerk||Aberdeen|| |
| || ||George Fraser||Son||Single||18||Butcher||Govan|| |
| || ||Isabella Fraser||Dau|| ||8||Scholar||Glasgow|| |
| || ||Allan Fraser||Son|| ||3|| ||Glasgow|| |
John & Isabella lost one child (Jessie Douglas Fraser) in infancy and then lost another daughter (Mary Niven Fraser) to TB in 1907. John Fraser died in 1909, aged 56 according to his death certificate, but he must have been a good few years older than that. John died in July 1909 and less than a month later, his youngest son Allan Fraser died too. The image below shows the memorial card for both John & his son Allan.
Poor Isabella was left a widow with just her youngest daughter, another Isabella, still alive. Sadly Isabella junior died of TB just 18 months later. So Isabella outlived her husband and her 4 known children. I have yet to find her in the 1911 census, I hope she wasn't all alone. When her step-son George Fraser died in 1935, his death was registered by a Jean Fraser, who was described as his step-sister. I searched for a long time for the birth of a Jean Fraser to John & Isabella, but I have since found she was born as Jean Beasley Garner in 1910. So it looks as if the widowed Isabella Fraser must have taken young Jean in and adopted her.
For a long time I had hoped to find the grave of this John Fraser, but Glasgow is a big city with a lot of graves. I've also had a small old photo of a grave in my possession, since 1982 when my grandmother (nee Fraser) died. It clearly says Fraser but the rest is illegible. I've always thought it might be of John Fraser's grave, but haven't been able to prove it for 40 years. Just recently the findagrave.com website have uploaded details for graves in Craigton Cemetery in Glasgow, including those John Fraser and his children. So that was the first part of the mystery solved - where John Fraser was buried. I just needed to see if there was still a gravestone there that matched the photo. We were heading north this summer (2022) anyway, so made a detour to Glasgow. And after a lot of searching found the Fraser grave. Although it has fallen over (thankfully the right way up) it is clearly the same stone. So mystery photo now identified too.
The gravestone isn't easy to read in the photo, so here is a transcription:
of her husband
who died 14th July 1909 aged 59 years
Also their children
Mary died 29th Dec 1907
aged 6 years & 7 months
Allan died 15th August 1909
aged 12 years
died 4th Jan 1911 aged 18 years
Jessie who died in infancy
died 7th Nov 1914 aged 7 years
George died 5th March 1935
aged 52 years.
So this raised another mystery - who was Peggy Fraser. Research has now shown that Peggy Fraser was born illegitimately as Isabella Smart Dicker and was adopted by Isabella Fraser. Whether Isabella adopted Isabella/Peggy while her husband was still alive is not clear. It is perhaps more likely that she adopted her along with Jean after John Fraser and all her other children died. As Peggy died too, poor Isabella lost everyone except adopted daughter Jean and step-sons John & George Fraser. It doesn't look like the inscription for George Fraser is included on my old photo, so it must have been taken before 1935.
One final mystery for this family - I have also had this old photo from my granny for the last 40 years. I'm about 90% sure it is of John & Isabella with their 3 surviving children - Isabella, Mary & Allan. If so it would have been taken around 1905, not long before Isabella lost all of them. The kilt certainly suggests a Scottish family and the sizes of the children would fit with the ages of these 3 and the style of clothes is about right for that era. I just need something to confirm it.
The younger John Fraser married my great grandmother Grace Johnstone on 15th October 1906 in Glasgow, with his brother George as a witness. For more information on the Johnstones, please click the following link:
The couple initially lived in Glasgow, before the family moved south to Stockport, where John worked for an engineering firm, Mirrlees, Bickerton & Day. When John & Grace married in 1906, John was said to be living at 47 Scotland Street. This property was actually owned by a company called Mirrlees Watson & Co. In 1908 Mirrlees Watson & Co. changed their name to Mirrlees, Bickerton & Day and decided to open a new factory in Hazel Grove, Stockport. This ties in with John Fraser's arrival in Stockport between 1908 & 1909, suggesting Mirrlees took some of their Scots workers down south with them. The photo below shows John Fraser at the Mirrlees factory in Stockport.
The table below shows the extract from the 1911 census, showing the family living at 41 Great Moor Street, Stockport. I love that John Fraser was described as Boring Machine Man - hopefully that is his job title rather than a reflection on his personality!
|Census of England and Wales, 1911||Number of Schedule: 230|
|Name and Surname of every person in this dwelling on Sunday April 2nd 1911||Relation to Head of Family||Age||Single, Married or Widowed||Completed years of present marriage||Total children born alive||Children still living||Children who have died||Rank, Profession or Occupation||Where Born|
|John Fraser||Head||30||Married|| || || || ||Boring Machine Man||Aberdeen|
|Grace Fraser||Wife||31||Married||5 years||3||3||0|| ||Crawfordjohn|
|Dorithy Fraser||Dau||4|| || || || || || ||Glasgow|
|John Fraser||Son||3|| || || || || || ||Glasgow|
|Grace Fraser||Dau||1|| || || || || || ||Stockport|
|Jane Johnston||Mother in Law||66||Widow|| || || || ||Private Means||Crawfordjohn|
|Agnes Johnston||Sister in Law||29||Single|| || || || || ||Crawfordjohn|
| ||Number of rooms in this dwelling: 4||Signature: John Fraser|
The first two children were born in Glasgow, but by the time Grace Fraser was born in 1909 they were living in Stockport. John must have had fond memories of his time spent living with his uncle, as he named his youngest son after him - Roderick Douglas Fraser. The family lived for many years at 1 Castle Farm Lane, Great Moor, Stockport. John died in Stockport at the relatively young age of 42. He seems to have been well liked and respected in the neighbourhood, the newspaper report of his death described him as "widely known and esteemed in the district, his courteous and genial disposition having gained him many friends." Indeed one of his co-workers even wrote a poem in his memory which was printed in the paper - In Memory of Johnny Fraser. For a full transcription of the poem, please click here
The four Fraser as children, from left: Roderick Douglas "Doug", Grace, John Norman "Jack" and Dorothy
|Roderick Douglas Fraser||Grace Fraser||Jack Fraser||Dorothy Fraser|
His eldest daughter Dorothy (my grandmother) married Leslie James in 1931 in Stockport. For more information on them, please follow this link:
John Norman Fraser (Uncle Jack as I remember him) never married, but spent much of his life living with my grandparents. Grace Fraser married Jim Burdett, but sadly they both died during the Second World War. Jim Burdett was a gunner for the Royal Artillery and is buried at El Alamein Cemetery. The youngest of the family Dougie Fraser was a keen sportsman. He played football for Hazel Grove Celtic and died on the pitch after being struck in the chest by the ball, aged only 38. Doug had only been married a short time to Anne Elizabeth Mulholland Cromie and left behind a small daughter.
John & Grace Fraser are buried in Stockport cemetery. Commemorated with them are their daughter and her husband Grace & Jim Burdett and their son Doug and his wife Anne. The photos below show how the grave looks now and how it looked some years ago.
The family tree below summarises what I know about the Fraser family. It is hopefully reasonably accurate, but if you spot any errors, or any relatives, please feel free to E-mail me
Please click on one of the red links on the tree to move to a different page.
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If any of the above is of further interest, please feel free to contact me at: email@example.com
© Nicky Rowberry 2022
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Peasants to Puddles - My Family History. By Nicky Rowberry