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Canadian History
John Fraser de Berry

John Fraser de BerryJohn Fraser de Berry (1816-1876) spent a lifetime inventing and reinventing his ancestry and genealogy, as evidenced by the following examples, firstly, from published sources in Quebec, and secondly, from The Scot in British North America, by W.J. Rattray [Toronto, Maclear and Company, 1880].

John Fraser was acting as tutor to the sons of his deceased uncle Alexander Fraser by Pauline Michaud, namely, William (1830-1908) and Edouard Fraser (c1832-1874) of Rivière-du-Loup. He was represented by Alexis Morin, then married to Pauline Michaud. As usual, John seized the opportunity to display all his titles, in 25 lines, extracted from the notary document:

10 Feb 1851 - Notary Jean-Baptiste Pouliot

JOHN FRASER, Ecuyer, Seigneur des Seigneuries de Contrecœur et de Cournoyer, dans le district de Montréal, Notaire Public, de la susdite partie de la dite Province du Canada, Juge a Paix, pour le dit district de Montréal; un des Conseillers Municipaux du comté de Terrebonne; President des Commissaires pour la décision sommaire des petites causes pour la Paroisse de Terrebonne et des environs; un des Commissaires des Ecoles, de la dite Paroisse de Terreboone; Deputé Régistrateur du comté de Terrebonne; Capitaine et Adjutant du premier bataillon de la Milice du dit comté de Terrebonne; president de la Société Saint Jean-Baptise, pour la Paroisse de Terrebonne; Commissaire nommé pour recevoir les affidavits, pour la Cour Supérieure du District de Montréal; Tresorier de la Société d’Agriculture, du dit comté de Terrebonne; Cultivateur et grand propriétaire des comtés de l’Ottawa, Lac des deux Montagnes, Terrebonne, Leinster et Verchères; President de la Société Anglaise de Tempérance partielle pour le dit comté de Terrebonne; Tresorier de l’Association de la dite Paroisse de Terrebonne, pour la Colonisation des terres de la Couronne; Patron de la Paroisse "St. Jean de Fraser," dans le township de Lochaber, dans le comté de l’Ottawa; Agent de partie des Seigneuries Ramsay, Bonchemin et Langan; Membre des Sociétés de Tempérance totale, de la Propagation de la Foi, d’Agriculture; de plusiers comtés, et de diverses autres Sociétés et Associations, résidant en les Paroisse et Comté de Terrebonne, dans le dit District de Montréal.

Lequel, en sa qualité de Tuteur, dûment élu en justice, à Messieurs WILLIAM FRASER et EDOUARD FRASER enfants mineurs, Seigneurs et propriétaires du Fief et Seigneurie de la Rivière-du-Loup, dans le dit District de Québec, reconnaît par son dit Procureur avoir baillé et concédé à titre de Bail à cens et rentes Seigneuriales, foncières, et non rechetables, et promet faire jouir, paisiblement au dit tître à ….

After discovering that John was the "patron" of St-Jean-de-Fraser, Quebec researcher Paul Lessard observed that he had never heard of this parish and wonders if it was ever officially accepted as such. However, he speculates that it could be the parish of St-Jean-l’Évangéliste de Thurso, which was named after John Brady, priest and missionary between 1842 and 1855, according to Dictionnaire Historique et Géographique des Paroisses, Missions et Municipalités de la Province de Québec (1925) par Hormisdas Magnan:

Saint-Jean-l’Évangéliste. (B. de P. "Thurso.") Comté de Papineau. Diocèse d’Ottawa. Desservi par voie de mission de 1842 à 1864, date de la nomination du premier curé en titre et de l’ouverture des registres de la paroisse. Erection canonique: 4 octobre 1887.

Erection civile: 9 décembre 1887. Le territoire de cette paroisse comprend une partie du canton de Lochaber… Le nom du saint patron de la paroisse rappelle la mémoire du premier missionaire, M. l’abbé John Brady, 1842-1855. Le nom du bureau de poste et du village a été donné parce que plusieurs des premiers colons venaient de Thurso, petite ville située au nord de l’Ecosse.

20 Nov 1876 - Quebec Morning Chronicle

The Hon. John Fraser de Berry, Legislative Councillor for the division of Rougement expired at his residence, St Marc de Cournoyer, on Wednesday evening. Mr. Fraser had been in ill-health for some time, but he insisted upon proceeding to Quebec to be present at the opening of the session. He was seized with an alarming attack upon the floor of the House, and had to be removed to his hotel, and subsequently home. His decease has not been wholly unexpected therefore, and very general regret will be felt at the loss of a man who has been before the public for many years. He will be especially missed from the Legislative Council, where, despite many eccentricities of manner and style, he imparted to the deliberations most of their life.

Mr. Frazer claimed descent of such antiquity as makes the genealogy of the Plantagets appear as but of yesterday. "Julius de Berry," says the Parliamentary Companion, whose descendants became seigneurs of Troile, in Brittany, came from Germany to France A.D. 250; members of the family removed to Scotland and the Isle of Man, as ambassadors to Charlemagne, A.D. 784." The deceased Councillor was son of Dr. Simon Fraser, a lieutenant in the 42nd Royal Highland Regiment, the famous "Black Watch," an officer who took part in all the engagements in which that corps was engaged from 1795 to 1803; and one of the descendants of that Lord Lovat, who fought at the capture of Quebec and the battle of St. Foy in 1760. [Ed: He was not descended from Lt.Colonel Simon Fraser of Lovat (1726-82) who raised the Fraser’s Highlanders for service during the Seven Years War in Canada; nor did Lt.Colonel (later Lt.General) Simon Fraser ever succeed his own father, 11th Lord Lovat (c1668-1747), as Lord Lovat.]

He was born in St. Martin, P.Q., in 1816, educated in Terrebonne and Montreal, and embraced the notarial profession. He was, by inheritance, Seigneur of Cournoyer and Contrecœur, and duing his career he filled several civil and municipal positions. He was President of the St. Jean Baptiste Society. One of the efforts of his life was to organize the "Clan Fraser," by gathering all the descendants of "Fraser’s Highlanders" scattered around the country into one association. He was as much a French-Canadian as a Fraser; all his feelings and sympathies were French, though he commanded both languages, and spoke with equal ease in French and English. He was devoted to antiquarian research, and has written a good deal of curious matter at various times. The Fraserian Almanac was one of his productions. Under the elective system he was a candidate for Montarville in the Leglislative Council in 1858, but was defeated. In 1867 he was nominated by the Crown, and, on taking his seat, assumed the ancient French name of his family, de Berry.

Mr. Fraser was a man of the most profound courtesy in his manner, a veritable specimen of the courtly school. He was under the medium height; his head was uncommonly large, and as he was robust, he appeared to be shorter than he really was. He was a Conservative of the independent order - so much so, that he constituted himself the leader of the Opposition in the Upper House. Originally a Protestant, he embraced the Roman Catholic religion many years ago, and died in that communion. - Montreal Star.

The Scot in British North America

by W.J. Rattray, B.A., Toronto, Maclear and Company, 1880

In a previous chapter, the Frasers of Quebec were mentioned in connection with the conquest of the Province. The Hon. John Fraser de Berry, who sat in the Legislative Council until 1877, or thereabouts, was the Lord of the clan Fraser, and took the name of De Berry from the seigniory he had acquired. He was descended from Simon Fraser, Lord Lovat, a Jacobite in the rebellion of 1745. A son of the same name fought under Wolfe, and was wounded severely at the taking of Quebec. He remained in the Province after the capitulation, and received the seigniory of Montmorency with other property. At the time of the American invasion he distinguished himself as captain of the 84th or Royal Highland Emigrant Regiment. He was also a Judge in the Province. The Hon. Mr. Fraser’s father, Dr. Simon Fraser, was an officer in the 42nd or Black Watch and saw active service from 1795 to 1803, having been present when Sir Ralph Abercrombie was slain at Alexandria in 1801. During that memorable action about three-fourths of this gallant Highland Regiment were either killed or wounded. The son was born at St. Martin’s, Quebec, in November, 1816, and married, in 1842, his cousin, Elizabeth Fraser de Berry, and added the name of the seigniory to his own. Being the lineal descendant of the head of the family, he became chief of the clan Fraser, and aided by his pen and influence in its formal organization. From his French connections, Mr. Fraser was made President of the St. Jean Baptiste Society - a striking instance of the fusion of old nationalities which has been previously noted. In 1858, he contested the Montarville Division for the Legislative Council unsuccessfully, but in 1867 was nominated as a life member of that body.

Fact vs. Fiction

John Fraser (1816-1876) was the son of Dr. Simon Fraser (1768-1844) by Marie Semur (1798-1883), although no Fraser-Semur marriage has been found in Quebec records. Simon Fraser was the fourth child and third son of Malcolm Fraser (1733-1815) by Marie Allaire (1739-1822). There is also no evidence of a Fraser-Allaire marriage in Quebec records, making it obvious why John Fraser wanted to make it appear that he was the lineal descendant of Lord Lovat, rather than the grandson of Malcolm Fraser, who had been an ensign, then lieutenant, in Fraser’s Highlanders during the Seven Years War (1757-63) between Britain and France.

According to family tradition, Malcolm Fraser’s father, Donald Fraser, was killed at the battle of Culloden in 1746. Malcolm Fraser from Abernethy, Strathspey, joined the 2nd Highland Battalion, also called 63rd Regiment of Foot and 78th Regiment of Foot (Fraser’s Highlanders), raised in 1757 by Lieutenant Colonel Commandant Simon Fraser (1726-82). Malcolm Fraser was wounded at the battle of the Plains of Abraham on September 13, 1759, and Ste-Foy on April 28, 1760. Malcolm Fraser stayed in Canada when the regiment was disbanded in 1763 and purchased the seigniory of Mount Murray from James Murray. With the outbreak of the American Revolution, he helped to recruit former Fraser Highlanders for the 1st Battalion, 84th Regiment (Royal Highland Emigrants), in which he was gazetted a captain on June 24, 1775. In 1797 he was Brevet Major and Captain in the 1st Battalion, 60th Regiment of Foot but, as the regiment was ordered to embark for England, and he wished to remain in Canada, he resigned. Malcolm Fraser was a staunch Presbyterian. He had issue by three women, namely, Marie Allaire (1739-1822), Margery McCord (1749-1774) and Marie Ducros (1763-1837).

Colonel Simon Fraser, son of the infamous 11th Lord Lovat, Simon "the Fox", was still recovering from wounds suffered at Montmorency (Beauport) July 1759, so did not personally lead his regiment at the battle of the Plains of Abraham on September 13, 1759; and was again wounded at Ste-Foy on April 28, 1760. Having passed command of the regiment to Major John Campbell of Dunoon, Colonel Fraser left for London in the spring of 1761 to take up his seat in the House of Commons as an elected Member of Parliament for Inverness, which would have made it impossible for him to have been the father of Dr. Simon Fraser who was born in Canada in 1768. Simon Fraser of Lovat married but died, without issue, in London on February 8, 1782, aged 55, having reached the rank of lieutenant-general in the British army.

Actually, Simon Fraser of Lovat (1726-82) missed the two biggest battles of his career : having arrived too late to take part in the battle of Culloden in April 1746; and was still recovering from wounds suffered at Montmorency in July 1759, which prevented him from taking an active role in the battle of Quebec in September 1759.

Beaufort Castle

After Culloden, Castle Dounie had been replaced by a small square building costing £300 in which the Royal Commissioner resided until 1774, when certain of the forfeited Lovat estates were granted to then Major-General Simon Fraser (1726-82) in recognition of his military service to the Crown and the payment of some £20,000. Later, two modest wings were added.

On the death of General Fraser’s younger half-brother, Colonel Archibald Campbell Fraser (1736-1815), without legitimate surviving issue, Thomas Alexander Fraser of Strichen (1802-1875) succeeded to the Lovat estates. He was created a peer in the United Kingdom in 1837 and in 1857 became 14th Lord Lovat. However, it was not until the 1880s that his son, Simon Fraser 15th Lord Lovat (1828-1887) built the baronial style Beaufort Castle by the site of Castle Dounie, on a high bank overlooking the Beauly River, dominating the countryside to the north and to the east.

In 1873 John Fraser "de Berry" wrote his cousin Andrew Lauchlin Fraser, son of his uncle Joseph Fraser (1766-1844), posing specific questions about the ancestry of Malcolm Fraser, and the relationship between him and the Grants who were at one time at Rivière-du-Loup [Malcolm’s sister Janet had married Thomas Grant, and their son Malcolm with his wife and children came to Canada in 1803]. The letter, dated Saturday, this 19th July 1873, from "Beaufort Castle" St. Mark (Quebec), was addressed to Lieut. Colonel A.L. Fraser, Esquire, J.P., Chief of the "Frasers" of the Electoral District of Wellington River du Loup (en bas), and was signed, Your affectionate Cousin, John Fraser de Berry, Chief of the New Clan Fraser of British North America.

One can only speculate whether John Fraser de Berry used "Beaufort Castle" as his address when he wrote to Lord Lovat in Scotland. He received the following response, dated December 21, 1875, written from Beaufort Castle, Beauly, N.B. [North Britain]:

Dear Sir,

I beg to thank you for the many interesting books, papers & extracts you have kindly sent me relating to the Frasers in your Country…. I very much regret that so many good Frasers were driven from this Country & even off the Lovat estate in old times. They seem however to have generally been successful in their new Country & I am glad to hear retain so much loyal feeling for old Scotland.

Believe me, with many thanks, very truly,


The 14th Lord Lovat died in June 1875. In the 1881 British Census, the 15th Lord Lovat and his family were living at 8 Beaufort Mansion House, Kiltarlity.


I doubt that Malcolm Fraser (1733-1815) would have been amused by the suggestion that his grandson, John Fraser (1816-76) claimed as his father, Simon Fraser (1726-82), son of Simon Fraser 11th Lord Lovat. Unfortunately, such fantastic stories continue to be repeated by some writers who do not take the time to check their sources.

Marie Fraser  Clan Fraser Society of Canada

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