Fraser Surname Genealogy

Fraser is a Scottish clan name. There are various possible origins for the
name. The most likely is the heraldic term fraisse which describes a
strawberry. The clan were known as “strawberry bearers” from
their coat of arms.Alternative spellings are Fraser, Frazer and Frazier.
Fraser and, to a lesser extent, Frazer, are found in Britain.
Frazier is American. Fraser may also be a Jewish name when it
represents an Americanized form of
one or more like-sounding Jewish surnames.
Resources on

Fraser Ancestry

The earliest record of the name was Simon Fraser of Oliver who held the
lands of Keith in East Lothian in 1160. These Frasers later
occupied Neidpath castle in Tweeddale on the Scottish borders.

1375 a propitious
marriage to the daughter of the earl of Ross gave the Frasers the
Bisset lands around Beauly near Inverness. This became the
Highland base for the Lovat Fraser clan and their Macshimidh (sons of Simon).
Other Fraser branches, based in Aberdeenshire, were the Frasers of
and the Frasers of Muchalls. The port of
was created by Sir Alexander Fraser, the 8th
Lord of Philorth, in 1592.

The Lovat Frasers were the most numerous of these Frasers. They
would bribe poor parents with “a bow o’ meal” for their children to
take the clan surname as their own. The old Gaelic saying around
Beauly was: Frisealach am boll a mine,
“Frasers of the boll of meal.”

Like most Highlanders, the Frasers were involved in countless
instances of clan warfare. In 1544 they fought the “Battle of the
Shirts” against the MacDonalds of Moidart on the shores of Loch
Lochy. Only five Frasers and eight MacDonalds survived.

Later Fraser History.
the 18th century, however, they were to face a new enemy, the
English. Simon “the Fox” Fraser, the clan chief at that time,
supported the British Government in the 1715 Jacobite uprising but
turned round and backed Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1745. The
Frasers fought on the front line at Culloden. After the defeat,
Simon “the Fox” was captured, tried for treason, and beheaded in
London. His estates were forfeited, lands laid waste, and the
Fraser clan way of
life effectively came to an end.

A Fraser later wrote:

“Although the Lovats never cleared
their people from the glens to make way for sheep, there was small
prospect of advancement in life for the younger sons unless they went
south to one of the cities or emigrated, which is what many of them
did. They went to Edinburgh, Glasgow or London. Many went
to America, Canada, Australia or New Zealand and prospered there.”

Some Frasers – such as Robert Fraser, a warping master in the Gorbals –
found work in the cotton industry in Glasgow. D.D. Fraser was a
well-known clothier in the eastern end of this city. And Hugh
Fraser began
in 1849 in Glasgow what was to become the House of Fraser chain of
department stores. It remained family-owned
until 1985.

Another alternative was the army. This started in the 1750’s when
Lovat Fraser raised a Highland
regiment (the 78th) to fight against the French in America.
Captain Simon Fraser distinguished himself in the storming of
Quebec. Many
of these Frasers stayed
on after the war was
over. Augustin Fraser, for instance, married a French woman in
while Alexander Fraser set off to the Saskatchewan backwoods.

Frasers would feature prominently in later British
military campaigns, from Waterloo to World War Two. Alexander Fraser of
the Gordon Highlanders served in the Crimea and during the Indian
Mutiny and lived onto 1927! Meanwhile, the Reelick
Frasers produced a number of 19th century adventurers and wanderers,
including the writer James Baillie Fraser.

Ireland. Frasers from
Scotland became Frazers in Ireland. Some evidently arrived.
Colonel Frazer’s Reel is a
traditional Irish flute tune. A branch of the Lovat Frasers
settled in county Leitrim and the Frazer name is to be found elsewhere
in Ireland.

England. The
Inverness Frasers of Achnagairn set up their stall as merchants in
London in the late 18th century. Unfortunately, they went broke
following the defeat of the British army in America. Alexander Fraser
was a Scottish painter who gravitated to London in the 1820’s.
Later came Fraser army and navy men.

general, however, Frasers were mainly to be found in
the north of England, nearest to Scotland. James Fraser, the son
of a failed India merchant, became the Anglican bishop of Manchester in
1870. George MacDonald Fraser, who died recently, was the author
of the Flashman series of stories.

Canada. There were a
number of Fraser Loyalists who had come to America from Scotland in the
1750’s and 1760’s and then migrated to Canada after the Revolutionary
War was over.
Among them were:

  • Thomas Fraser who settled in Edwardsburgh township in
    Quebec and built
    a sawmill there. His son Richard became a fur trader and
    prominent local
  • and Simon Fraser who worked for the Montreal-based
    NW Company and was responsible for the company’s fur trading operations
    west of the Rockies. In 1808 he explored what is now
    known as the Fraser river in British Columbia. His exploratory
    effort in what was then uncharted territory was primarily
    responsible for Canada’s border being established on the 49th
    parallel after the War of 1812.

Frasers also arrived directly from Scotland. James Fraser
reached Halifax in 1780 and set himself up as a merchant
and trader along the Miramichi river in New Brunswick. He later
developed a shipbuilding business on Beaubear’s island. A
descendant born on the island, John Fraser, rose to be a prominent New
Brunswick politician in the late 1800’s.

Nova Scotia The
Highlanders on the Hector
who reached Pictou in Nova
Scotia in 1773 included Alexander Fraser, a Lovat
Fraser, one of the few who could speak English (as opposed to Gaelic),
and the forebear of the Rocklin Frasers in Pictou county. Alexander made
his home at Sheet Harbour
, his brother Duncan at
Chance Harbour, and his brother John on Cape Breton Island.
Another contingent of Highlanders and Frasers arrived on Hugh Denoon’s
smallpox-infested vessels in 1801.

The Fraser name would soon be found at Pictou communities such as New
Glasgow, McLennan’s Brook, McLennan’s Mountain, Springville, West
Branch, and Blanchard Road. Fraser in fact had become such a
common name in these parts that it was sometimes necessary to have
nicknames to distinguish families and individuals. One of the
most colorful characters was Thomas Fraser, Buie (he with the yellow
hair), who lived to be close on a hundred (as did his son).

Not all Frasers stayed in Pictou county. Simon Fraser set
off in the 1850’s for the goldfields of Australia; James Duncan Fraser
left in the 1870’s for California and then joined the gold rush to
Alaska; and Thomas Fraser became a California state senator.

Frasers also came to Ontario; and some headed West. Daniel Fraser
joined the Hudson Bay Company in Manitoba in 1874. He later set
up his own saw and flour mill in Edmonton, Alberta. George Fraser
reached Victoria in British Columbia in 1885 where he designed and
built Beacon Hill Park. Fred and Catherine Fraser were
pioneer settlers in Revelstoke, living there from 1885 to 1919 and
raising nine children.

America. In 1650, two
Philorth Frasers, James and William, were captured and sent to America
in servitude. To protect themselves from Puritan wrath, they
changed their names from Fraser to Frissell. James ended up in New
England, William in the Carolinas. Together, the two of them were
said to have
been responsible for most of the Frissells in America.

There have been Fraziers and Frazers in America, as well as Frasers.

Frazier Among
the Frazier arrivals were:

  • Colin Frazier who came to Newbury, Massachusetts from Inverness
  • and Alexander and Sarah Frazier who arrived in Chester county,
    around 1710 (their descendants moved onto

Frazier, who was born near Richmond, Virginia, fought in the
Revolutionary War
and ended up in Illinois. The family story is that his
father, a
tailor from Scotland, made the first frock coat that George Washington
ever wore. Ian Frazier, a staff writer for the New Yorker, recounted his family
history (which went back to Revolutionary days) in Family, published in 1994.
Meanwhile another John Frazier, this time from
Maryland, was George Washington’s Indian scout in the 1750’s.

The Frazier name was also to be found across the South, primarily in
Georgia and Texas. William Frazier from South Carolina built the
Frazier plantation house in SW Arkansas in 1852.

Frazer Persifor Frazer,
whose father had arrived in America from Ireland in 1735, was a
Pennsylvania farmer and a fighter during the Revolutionary War.
After the war he was an iron manufacturer and merchant and was the
founder of one of the most prominent families of Philadelphia.
The Frazer papers at the University of Pennsylvania document over 200
years of this family’s life.

Fraser There
were fewer early Frasers in America. The Rev. John Fraser
served as rector of the Aquia church in Virginia in the early
1700’s. Family accounts tell of a Daniel Fraser reaching Virginia
as a stowaway in the 1740’s and a John “Cuffy” Fraser arriving there in
the 1750’s (before settling in North Carolina). Another Daniel
Fraser, born in Virginia, moved onto Tennessee
around 1820.

Australia. The most
famous early Fraser was a Scottsh woman named Eliza Fraser
whose ship was wrecked off the coast of Queensland in 1836 and she
was captured by Aborigines. Fraser Island is named after
her. A greater tragedy occurred in 1857 at the outback station
of Hornet Bank in Queensland. Here eight members of a Fraser
family were massacred. The sole survivor, Billy Fraser, went on a
rampage against the Aborigines afterwards.

Simon Fraser, the son of a Scottish timber miller in Nova Scotia, came
to the Victorian goldfields in the 1850’s in search of a
fortune. He was a contractor there and did become wealthy.
family later became active in Australian politics, culminating in
Malcolm Fraser – Australia’s Prime Minister in the 1970’s.

Fraser Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for
further stories and accounts:

Select Fraser Names

William Fraser, Bishop of St.
Andrews, was through his diplomacy one of the leading political figures
in Scotland in the late 13th century.
Simon Fraser, the 11th Lord Lovat of
clan Fraser, was famous for his violent feuding and for his changes of
allegiances (he was known as “the Fox”). He had supported the
English in 1715 and the Jacobites in 1745.
Simon Fraser was the man who
first explored Canada west of the Rockies. He has been called the
father of British Columbia for this pioneering effort.
James Frazer was the Scots
author in 1890 of The Golden Bough,
a famous book which documented similarities in magical and religious
beliefs across the world.
Peter Fraser, born in Scotland,
was Prime Minister of New Zealand in the 1940’s.
Malcolm Fraser was Prime
Minister of Australia in the 1970’s.
Lady Antonia Fraser is a
writer of English biographies and history.
Dawn Fraser was the Australian
swimming legend who triumphed three times in the Olympics in the 100
meters freestyle.
Joe Frazier, known as Smokin’
Joe, was a heavyweight boxing champion of the 1970’s, famous for his
fights with Mohammed Ali.

Select Frasers Today

  • 50,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in the Scottish borders)
  • 60,000 in America (most numerous
    in Texas).
  • 61,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada).



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