In Search of Alexena’s Parents

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Alexena Bowers

Alexena Frazier Bowers

I’ve had a brick wall when it comes to my great-great grandmother, Alexena Frazier.  I’ve been trying to find her parents for some time now.  According to her obituary she was born in 1847 in Nassagaweya, Halton, Ontario, Canada.[1] There are no civil birth records for this time period in Canada. I would have to hope for church records.  Nassagaweya was a remote area back in 1847 so I don’t know if I will find church records, but it will require a trip to Canada.  In the meantime, I try to search from home and archives close to my home.

Alexena’s death certificate states her parents are David Frazier and Catherine McBean.[2]  For years, I have been looking for a David Frazier and Catherine McBean in Nassagaweya with no luck.  I find a David Frazier, but not old enough to be her father and not married to a Catherine McBean.   As Ancestry.com and Familysearch.org add more records, I return to them in hopes that something has been added on Alexena, David, or Catherine.  Recently, while searching on Familysearch for her father, David Frazier, I ran across the death of a David Fraser who died September 21, 1914 in Nassagaweya and his parents are listed as David Fraser and Elizabeth McBean.[3] He was born in 1832[4]  which would make him 15 when Alexena was born.  This would probably make him too young to be her father, but possibly a brother, since his mother’s last name is McBean.  It is possible that whoever gave her mother’s name as Catherine on her death certificate got the name wrong.  Alexena did name her oldest daughter Elizabeth,[5] possibly after her mother Elizabeth.  If I go with the assumption that the David who died in Nassagaweya in 1914 is her brother, it would make sense to trace him backwards, and see if I can find a link to Alexena.

So backwards I went with David.  The first thing I found was David’s grave listed on Find-a-Grave.  He is buried in St. David’s Church Cemetery Campbellville , Halton Regional Municipality.  Tombstone read, Died September 21, 1914 in his 83 year.[6] Find-A-Grave states that David was born in 1831 in Scotland.[7]Also listed on the same tombstone was a Maud Fraser, Died August 12, 1902 in her 27 year.[8] This was David’s daughter.[9]Find-a-grave site states he was married to a Mary Robinson born 1836.[10] I then found David on the 1861 Ontario Canada Census married to a Mary.[11] On the same page further down is a Hugh Frazier married to a Christina.[12] He is 50 and she is 38.[13]  Who is Hugh and is he related to David?  Next I found a marriage record for David to a Mary Robertson, David is 26 and Mary 23.[14]  On the marriage record he lists his father as Hugh Frazier and Mother Elizabeth McBain (spelling different). The next thing I came across was a passenger ship list for David Frazier in 1834 he was 2 years old.[15] He was with a Hugh Frazier(24 years old) and Elizabeth Frazier (21 years old).[16]   Also listed with them is an Isabella Frazier 4 years old.[17] On the passenger list David’s father is now Hugh, the same name listed on the 1861 census near David.  So maybe I should be looking for Hugh as Alexena’s father not David.  I suspect that they do what so many people did back them, go by their middle name. I have run across this numerous times where they switch around first and middle names.  It makes it very confusing when trying to track them down.

My next strategy was to search Hugh Fraser (Frazer, Frazier), so back to the 1861 census. Hugh is not married to Elizabeth, but to a Christina.[18] The next thing I found was that Hugh married Christina in 1859.[19]  I started searching for Hugh’s death when I found an article in the Canadian Champion from 15 May 1873 that reads:  “Notice: Nassagaweya May 5, 1873 whereas my wife Christina Frazer has left my bed and board without just cause or provocation, this is to forbid all persons trusting her on my account.”[20]  Apparently, something happened to his second marriage.  Next, I found a death notice for Hugh Fraser and all it said was Hugh Fraser died on May 31, 1888 at Campbellville.  He was 77 years and 7 months.[21]

Now I needed to find out what happened to Elizabeth. I found that  Elizabeth died 18 November 1852 at 47 years and 4 months.[22]  This makes her a little older than the ships record, but maybe I misread the 21 since it was hard to read.  Also that would make her 42 when Alexena was born. Her tombstone read from Scotland, Inverness Shire, Parish of Moy, wife of Hugh Frazer, who departed this life Nov. 18, 1852, aged 47 years and 4 months.[23] Elizabeth died when Alexena was only 5 years old.

Earlier, when I saw Isabella Frazier on the ship passenger list[24], the name rang a bell.  I remembered that previously I had found Alexena living with an Isabella Thomas on 1861 Canadian Census.[25] Isabella is listed as 30 years old on the census[26] which puts her at the right age to be the same Isabella listed on ships passenger list.  Could Isabella Thomas be the Isabella Frazier on the ship passenger list?  Could this be Alexena’s sister?  Now I needed to find out if Isabella Thomas is Isabella Frazier.  I searched for a marriage record for Isabella Fraser.  I found one on Ancestry.com for an Isabella Fraser married to a George McK Thomas.[27]  Once again, the first name changes. Her father is listed as Hugh no surname and the mothers name is M.[28]  The “M” might stand for McBean.  This is just an index so I will eventually need to see the actual record.  Also, it lists both their ages as 24 in 1859 Nassagaweya Township.[29]  I always wondered why Alexena was living with Isabella in 1861 at the age of 14.  When I saw that Hugh remarried in 1859, only two years before Alexena appears living with Isabella, I wondered if there was a problem between Alexena and Hugh’s new wife.  If indeed this is her father.It could also be that when Elizabeth died, Isabella took over raising Alexena.

While I still have no document to prove the relationship between Alexena, Hugh, and Elizabeth, I do have a lot of circumstantial evidence.  So I feel 95% sure that I am on the right track here.  I really need to make a trip to Canada.  I’ve been on the verge of going a couple of times, but something always comes up that makes it impossible for me to make the trip.  Every year, I hope this is the year!  Sometime after 1861 and before 1868 Alexena came to Ottawa, Illinois.  So far I haven’t been able to find out exactly when she came and why.  I know she was here in 1868 because that is when she married Charles Bowers.[30]

I won’t stop until I find the document that proves the relationship to Hugh and Elizabeth.  I know there is more to be done and more places to look.  If Hugh and Elizabeth turn out to be her parents, I’m pretty sure that I will be able to go back a couple more generations in Scotland

Copyright © 2016 Gail Grunst

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[1] Obituary for Alexena Bowers. Daily Republican Times, (Ottawa, LaSalle, IL) Monday Evening, 8 March, 1926; Vol XLIX, No 208, Page 1 (Front Page).

[2] “Death Certificate for Alexena Bowers”, March 7 1926 (filed March 9, 1926), registered number 37, State of Illinois, Department of Public Health – Division of Vital Statistics, Springfield, IL.

[3] [3] “Ontario Deaths, 1869-1937 and Overseas Deaths, 1939-1947,” database with images,FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:JNQH-ZY1 : David Fraser, 21 Sep 1914; citing Nassagaweya, Halton, Ontario, yr 1914 cn 14898, Archives of Ontario, Toronto; FHL microfilm 1,861,974.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Year 1880; Census Place: Ottawa, LaSalle, Illinois; Roll: 79_223; Family History Film 1254223; Page: 516.1000 & 516.2000; Enumeration District: 81; Image: 0553Ancestry.com and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. United States Federal Census [database on-line].  Provo, UT, USA: The Generations Network, 2005

[6] Find A Grave web site http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=130037355 David Fraser born 1831 Scotland. Saint David’s Church Cemetery, Campellville, Halton Regional Municipality, Ontario, Canada

[7] Ibid.

[8] [8] Find A Grave web site http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=130037355 Maud Fraser, died August 12,1902, in her 27 year.  Saint David’s Church Cemetery, Campellville, Halton Regional Municipality, Ontario, Canada.

[9] Ibid.

[10]  Find a grave web site http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=130037355 David married Mary Robertson born 1836, Saint David’s Church Cemetery, Campellville, Halton Regional Municipality, Ontario, Canada.

[11] Census Record for David and Mary Fraser.  Library and Archives Canada; Ottawa, Ontario, Canada; Census Returns For 1861; Roll: C-1030-1031 Ancestry.com and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1861 Census of Canada [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2009. 

[12] Census record for Hugh and Christina Fraser. Library and Archives Canada; Ottawa, Ontario, Canada; Census Returns For 1861; Roll: C-1030-1031 Ancestry.com and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1861 Census of Canada [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2009. 

[13] Ibid.

[14] Marriage Record for David Fraser.  Ancestry.com and Genealogical Research Library (Brampton, Ontario, Canada). Ontario, Canada, Marriages, 1801-1928 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010. Original Source:  Ontario, Canada, Select Marriages. Archives of Ontario, Toronto.   MS248; Reel: 7

[15] “New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1891,” database with Images, FamilySearch  (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1QVPZ-R762) David Frazier, 1834; citing NARA microfilm publication M237 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); FHL microfilm.

[16] “New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1891,” database with Images, FamilySearch    (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1QVPZ-R762) Isabella Frazier, 1834; citing NARA microfilm publication M237 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); FHL microfilm

[17] “New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1891,” database with Images, FamilySearch    (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1QVPZ-R762) Isabella Frazier, 1834; citing NARA microfilm publication M237 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); FHL microfilm.

[18] Census Record for Hugh Fraser.  Library and Archives Canada; Ottawa, Ontario, Canada; Census Returns For 1861; Roll: C-1031. Ancestry.com and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1861 Census of Canada [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2009

[19] Marriage record for Hugh Fraser.  Ancestry.com and Genealogical Research Library (Brampton, Ontario, Canada). Ontario, Canada, Marriages, 1801-1928 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010. Original Source:  Ontario, Canada, Select Marriages. Archives of Ontario, Toronto.   MS248; Reel: 7

[20] Notice from Hugh Frazer, Canadian Champion (Milton, On), 15 May 1873 page 2. Halton’s Historical and Newspaper records.  http://news.halinet.on.ca/2491105/page/2?n=

[21] Death notice for Hugh Fraser, Canadian Champion (Milton, On) 7 June 1888, page 3.

[22] Find a grave website http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=130451657 Elizabeth McBean Frazer Campbellville Burying Grounds, Campbellville, Halton Regional Muncipality, Ontario, Canada.

[23] Ibid.

[24] “New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1891,” database with Images, FamilySearch    (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1QVPZ-R762) Isabella Frazier, 1834; citing NARA microfilm publication M237 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); FHL microfilm

[25] Census Record for Alexena Fraser Library and Archives Canada; Ottawa, Ontario, Canada; Census Returns For 1861; Roll: C-1031. Ancestry.com and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1861 Census of Canada [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2009

[26] Census Record for Isabella Thomas Library and Archives Canada; Ottawa, Ontario, Canada; Census Returns For 1861; Roll: C-1031. Ancestry.com and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1861 Census of Canada [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2009

[27] Ancestry.com and Genealogical Research Library (Brampton, Ontario, Canada). Ontario, Canada, Marriages, 1801-1928 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010. Original

[28] Ibid.

[29] Ibid.

[30] Marriage record for Alexena Frazer and Charles Bowers dated 1868.  Illinois, LaSalle County.  Marriage License and return #1862.  County Clerk’s office, Ottawa.

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3 responses »

  1. I do know that sometimes, with a passing/death of a spouse, the surviving spouse; could/does marry a sibling of their former spouse. “keep it in the family” and at least know the family… And via their local community, family or church connections.

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