Fraser Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Fraser Meaning
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.
Select Fraser Resources on The Internet

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

Fraser Origins.  Although the Fraser name was first associated with the
district of Tweeddale on the Scottish borders, its exact origins remain
undetermined.  The early recorded spelling forms included de Fresel, de Friselle, and de Freseliere, which would indicate
a French locational origin, possibly in Anjou.  But there was and
is no
place in France corresponding to any of these names.

Some Fraserologists nevertheless see a French
connection.  During the 18th century, Simon Fraser, while in exile
in France, declared an alliance with the French Marquis de la
Frezeliere and claimed common origin from “les seigneurs de la

Fraser may be derived from the French fraise, meaning strawberry, and fraisier, strawberry plant.
The story goes that a nobleman from Bourbon named Julius de Berry
entertained the King with a dish of fine strawberries.  De Berry
was later knighted and took strawberry flowers on his arms and adopted
the name of Fraiseux or Frezeliere.  A descendant of his was said
to have been the lord of Neidpath castle in Scotland.  Fraser, however, may in fact not be French at all.  The
word fraisse heraldically
describes a
strawberry and it is known that the early lands of the clan included an
area at Neidpath in Tweeddale where strawberries would grow
prolifically.  The clan
were then known as “strawberry bearers” from their coat of arms.

The Frasers of Philorth.  The Frasers of Philorth have long maintained that they
are the senior line of Frasers.  In his book The Frasers of Philorth, published
in 1879, Alexander Fraser of Philorth, the 18th Lord Saltoun, stated:

“A Fraser branch, which also held lands in Forfarshire,
obtained large possessions in the districts around Inverness, became
very numerous, and originated or formed the Highland clan of the name.

But the senior line, which continued to have their
principal seat in the Lowlands and those of the surname who remained in
that section of Scotland where Teutonic institutions prevailed and
whence the patriarchal system of clans and clanship had long been
banished, had nothing to do with the origin or formation of the
Highland clan and never belonged to it.”

Flora Fraser, a subsequent Lady Saltoun, repeated this
view in her 1997 Clan Fraser: A

The Wine Tower at Fraserburgh.  The Wine Tower is an old three
storey quadrangular building standing on top of a cave, rising from a
rock which overhangs the sea some 50 yards east of Fraserburgh
castle.  The only entrance is to the second floor, a vaulted
chamber, by ladder.

The tower is best known for one of the region’s most
sinister tales.  According to folklore, in the late 1500’s Sir
Alexander Fraser, the 8th Laird of Philorth, was so enraged by the love
affair between his daughter Isobel and a piper that he had the hapless
suitor chained in the sea cave beneath the tower.  The piper
drowned and the laird’s distraught daughter is said to have killed
herself by jumping onto the rocks below.

Some say the piper can still be heard playing at the
tower on stormy nights.

Reader Feedback –  John Frazier, George Washington’s Indian Scout.  I am a direct descendant of John
Frazier, referred to in George Washington’s biographies as the
General’s Indian
scout in the 1750’s.  He and his wife Jane ran a tavern at Lick
Creek near
Cumberland in Maryland. I have traced John Frazier’s direct line back
to the
first Lord of Lovat in Inverness in the 1300’s.  Due
to his common mention in the
Pre-Revolution America days, I think he
should be included in your history.

Judi Romaine, Indiana

Persifor Frazer and The Start of His Revolutionary War.  Persifor Frazer and Polly Taylor married in 1766 and lived a decade
later with their four young children on a farm in a hilly district a
few miles from a lazy creek called the Brandywine.  The land had
come through her family.  But it was Persifor who farmed it and it
was he who mixed with Anthony Wayne in the local politics that resisted
a growing Crown power.

When Pennsylvania formed its troops for the Continental Army in
early 1776, Frazer was elected captain of a company in the Fourth
Battalion, which had Wayne for its colonel.  He already was in
uniform when the Declaration was signed.

The war came home for these people on September 11, 1777, when the
British marched up from Delaware bound for Philadelphia, and George
Washington tried to stop them at the Brandywine.  The little
Frazer girls were at school in Thornbury that day.  They heard the
gunshots and cannon firing on the hot fall day.  Sally, the
oldest, was eight then.  The teacher went out and listened for a
while, then returned and said: “There is a battle not far off,
children.  You may go home.”

“As we returned, we met our mother on horseback,” Sally wrote years
later, “going over towards the place of action, knowing that … our
father must be in the midst of the affray.”

The Americans held the river crossing.  But the British pulled
off a daring move and, relying on loyalist guides to take them over the
upstream fords, dropped a third of their army on Washington’s
right.  Washington had had confused
reports all day from this quarter, some saying the British had a force
headed in that direction. The most authoritative reports from
his officers reported no enemy in front of them.

However, a local farmer maintained that a large redcoat attack was
looming on the
right.  He added: “If you doubt my word,
put me under guard until you can ask Anthony Wayne or Persie Frazer if
I am a man to be believed.”  The names of Frazer and Wayne
prompted Washington to send
reinforcements to his right, just in case.  These reinforcements
arrived just in time for most of
Washington’s army to escape the British trap.

Alexander Fraser at Sheet Harbour.  Alexander Fraser came to Sheet Harbour in Nova Scotia with sixty
other members of the garrison in 1784.  He made his home at the
bend of the East river on what has long been known as “the Fraser

After he had made his home in Sheet Harbour, he set out on a journey
through the wilderness from Sheet Harbour to Pictou to marry the girl
he left behind in Halifax in 1773.  She was Alice MacGregor and he
married her in 1785.   After they were wed, Alexander brought
his bride to his new home at Sheet Harbour through the pathless woods,
a distance of some 50 kilometers, carrying her over streams and swamps
and a great part of the distance on his back.  At the time of
their marriage, he was 49 years old and she was 32.

The Frasers raised a family of six children at Sheet Harbour.
Both Alexander and Alice are buried at Church Point Cemetery
there.  Their tombstone reads: Alexander Fraser of Scotland,
1785-1830, and Alice MacGregor, 1782-1827.

Fraser Island.  Fraser Island was first called K’gari (or Paradise) by
its inhabitants before being discovered by Captain Cook in
1770.   He skirted Fraser Island’s eastern shore and supposed
it to be a long headland.

On the night of May 22 1836, the ship Stirling Castle struck a coral reef
hundreds of kilometers north of Fraser Island.  On board were
eighteen people including Captain James Fraser and his wife
Eliza.  The crew launched a longboat, towing behind them the
captain and his wife in a separate vessel.  This was eventually
cut loose by desperate rowers in an attempt to hasten their boat’s

Landing in the vicinity of Waddy Point the crew abandoned
their vessel in search of drinking water and were captured by the
aborigines.  Stripped of their clothes, they were kept with the
aborigines and forced to live a native existence.  They suffered
extreme hardship for several weeks.  An aborigine speared Captain
Fraser when he was unable to carry wood and he died eight days
later (another account has him dying of starvation).   Eliza
Fraser did survive and returned to England in 1837.  Her ability
to tell a good yarn became highly profitable for her and the much
sensationalized account of her ordeal was sold in bookstores all over

The ordeal of Captain and Eliza Fraser became legendary
and the island, the world’s largest island sand mass, was renamed
Fraser Island.  The story has continued to fascinate.
Various writers have chipped in with their fictionalized
accounts.  The 1976 Australian film Eliza Fraser starred Susannah

Fred and Catherine Fraser, Pioneer Settlers in British
Fred and Catherine Fraser arrived in British Columbia in
1885.  Fred lived until 1939, Catherine a further fourteen
years.  Radio station CFJC Kamloops paid her the following tribute
on air soon after her husband had died.

“It is our pleasure to honor several of the real pioneers
who played their parts in the history of Revelstoke and the Big Bend

Mrs. Frederick Fraser of Vancouver, we salute you, the
first white woman to arrive in Revelstoke.  In you we see the true
Canadian pioneer.  In you we see the characteristics and the
principles that we cherish most and the spirit that has made Canada the
country that it is today.  Much could be written of the part
played by you and your late husband from the time you came west with
railroad construction and arrived in Revelstoke in 1885.”

That year, 1940, she flew for the first time.  In an
interview with the Penticton Herald,
she said: “Flying over the Rockies were certainly a far cry from the
days when I travelled through the country on horseback, sleighs,
handcars, freight trains, and railway locomotives.  I think it was
the most wonderful experience I ever had.”

On her 90th birthday she flew to Yellowknife to visit her
son Fred.  She lived onto ninety seven.

Frasers, Frazers, and Fraziers.  The table below shows the current incidence of Frasers, Frazers, and Fraziers.

‘000’s Frasers Frazers Fraziers Total
UK    40      4     44
USA    80      2    25   107
Canada    35      1     36
Australia    15      3     18
New Zealand     5      5

Reader Feedback – Micajah or James Frazier?  I’m attempting to document my connection to James Aaron Lowe and to Sarah’s supposed father Micajah
Frazier.  Micajah Frazier married Susanna
Hamilton and I would like to add him to my DAR list of Patriots.
I also found
a family tree online that said that this Sarah Frazier was
born in Spotsylvania,
Virginia in 1788 and was the daughter of James Frazier there.  I have no way of knowing which is correct.  My mother was a Frazier but has passed

James A. Lowe, born in 1774, married Sarah
Frazier and their daughter Sarah Lowe married Henry Hun who was born in
1822 in
Pike county, Kentucky.  I descend through
two Frazier lines.

Fire Babe (


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 Fraser Numbers 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).


Select Fraser and Like Surnames

The Scottish Highlands were Gaelic-speaking and their clan names appeared first in Gaelic and only later in an English version.  Each clan controlled its own local territory and frequently fought with neighbors.  Many, however, took the clan name in order to receive clan protection.

The clan downfall came following the 1715 and 1745 uprisings with the Battle of Culloden when the clan culture was broken up and clan tartans banned (although they came back into fashion with Queen Victoria a hundred years later).  The Highland clearances, supplanting people for sheep, was a further blow and many Highlanders were forced into emigration, still speaking their native Gaelic, to Canada and then to Australia and New Zealand.

Here are some of the clan surnames that you can check out.




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