My Fraser ancestors were crofters and farm servants from near Hatton, parish of Cruden Bay, Aberdeenshire.
GGG Grandfather William Fraser 1805-1877
The furthest I can get back is William Fraser born in 1805. There is a fascinating entry in the Parish Register for Cruden which says “27 May 1805, John Sangster in Burnthill presented a child to baptism begot in fornication by William Fraser (as the mother Janet Sangster affirms). The child was baptised and named William. Witnesses John Davidson and William Sangster.” I assume this was my ggg grandfather as there is no other baptism entry that could be him, although one always has to be open to the fact that the baptism record you’re after may not exist. However, the date fits in with the ages given for ‘my’ William at various events in his life, and ‘my’ William farmed Mosside croft, which is a mere hop, skip and jump across a couple of fields from Burnthill croft.
I have been able to trace his mother, Janet Sangster. She was born in 1783 and baptised in Cruden, the daughter of John Sangster and his wife Elizabeth Matthews. She gave birth to William in 1805, and then in 1812 she married William McWilliam. He died before 1841, but they had at least six children. In the 1841 census Janet is living at Nether Kinmundy, which is just a few field away from where William Fraser had settled at Mosside croft. There are clear links between William and his family and the children of Janet McWilliam nee Sangster, which indicates that William most probably grew up with them.
I have my suspicions about who William’s father was but there’s not enough evidence to treat it as proven. There was a William Fraser born in Cruden in 1778, the son of Donald Fraser. He can be found in the 1841, 1851 and 1861 census living with his brother just south of Peterhead, which is just up the road from Hatton. He was an army pensioner and his service record is online: he was with the 92nd Highland Regiment, which he joined in 1807. He was discharged in 1816 as he was badly wounded at Waterloo. H|is father, Donald Fraser, was also a soldier with the 92nd Regiment.
One thing that intrigues me is that when William Fraser born 1805 died in 1871, the informant was one of his younger sons who knew his father was named William Fraser but wasn’t able to name his mother. It makes me wonder whether William knew who his father was and knew about his war time exploits, telling the story to his children who therefore were able to name him.
Ggg grandfather William probably worked as a farm servant from his early teens. He married Christian Hutcheon on 17 January 1828 in the parish of Longside. Christian had an illegitimate son in 1823 named John Bisset. The children of William and Christian were baptised mostly in Cruden parish. In the 1841 census the family are resident at Mosside croft, which not far from the village of Hatton and is now in ruins (or at least was when I last saw it in 2000). William remained at Mosside for the rest of his life and can be tracked through the census. In 1841 he is described as a farmer, in 1851 a shoemaker, in 1861 the croft is called Mossnook and he is a farmer of 2 acres and in 1871 farms 2 acres arable. Christian Fraser nee Hutcheon died 31 August 1874 at Mosside, and William Fraser died 17 June 1877 at Mosside at the age of 72.
GG Grandfather Alexander Fraser 1838-1911
The sixth child of William and Christian Fraser was born 6 January 1838 when “William Frazer in Hardslacks by his wife Christian Hutcheon had a son born and baptised 18th March named Alexander. Witnesses Thomas Sangster and John Pirie” (OPR entry). He lived with his parents at Mosside until some time after 1851. In the 1861 census he can be found at Whiteside Inn, Slains, the home of brothers James Sangster carrier and George Sangster innkeeper, their widowed mother Ann Sangster, and a servant dairymaid called Ann Sangster. Alexander Fraser is an unmarried servant ploughman. Four visitor travellers also spent the night there.
Alexander married Mary Logan on 2 May 1864 at the Manse of Ellon. He was a farm servant of Mosside, Cruden and she was a domestic servant of Drumwhyndle, Ellon. Their son William was born in 1865 when Alexander and Mary were living at Oldtown of Aquarney, Cruden, and when their daughter Mary Ann was born in 1867 they were living at Collieston, Slains. Alexander appears to have worked as a farm servant on a number of farms in the area.
His wife Mary died in August 1867 of tuberculosis at Mosside, leaving him a widow with two small children. It’s therefore no surprise that he married again, in June 1868, to Margaret Booth at Lenabo, Longside. Alexander was a farm servant of Firkendry, Longside and Margaret Booth was a domestic servant. In 1869 Margaret gave birth to twin daughters, one of whom died five days later. By then they were living in the parish of Savoch, which is where they can be found in the 1871 census at Fortrie.
Shortly after the census they moved to Aberdeen, as in 1872 when a son was born, Alexander was a labourer mason of 1 Spital, Old Aberdeen, but by 1876 when a daughter was born he was an agricultural labourer of Govan Brae, Causeway End, Aberdeen. However, on the death of his father in 1877 he took over Mosside croft, as he was living there when all his other children were baptised.
The 1881 census has the family at Mosside with Alexander a crofter of 3.5 acres, and he is still there in 1891 and 1901. Alexander died on 22 February 1911 of inflenza and cardiac failure at the age of 72. In the 1911 census Mosside is the home of his widow Margaret, a daughter and four grandchildren.
Great grandfather William Fraser (Bill) 1865-1948
William (or Bill as he was known) was born 8 February 1865 at Oldtown of Aquaharney, Cruden, the eldest child of Alexander Fraser and Mary Logan. His mother died when he was two and a half years old, after which he was brought up by his stepmother Margaret Booth. In the 1871 census he is with his family at Fortrie, Ellon but is not with them at Mosside in 1881. He is probably the William Fraser age 16 who is a farm servant at Teuchan in Cruden, a farm of 140 acres. William would no doubt have worked as a farm servant on various farms as the custom was for farm servants to move farms regularly.
On 29 November 1889 William married Helen Hay at Mosside. He was a farm servant at Mains of Elrick and Helen Hay was a domestic servant working at a nearby inn. In the 1891 census they are at Mains of Elrick, with a baby daughter. Their next two children were born at Aitkenshill, Foveran, followed by a daughter born at Waterton, Ellon. In the 1901 census the family are at Mill of Brogan, Slains, where William was head cattleman. Another daughter followed.
Tragedy struck in May 1903 when Helen Hay died from chronic enteritis. Inevitably William married again, although it seems his second wife Helen Morgan was first his housekeeper “with benefits”, as they would say today, as she gave birth to their son 18 days before they married in 1907 at their home in Hatton village. Helen Morgan already had a daughter called Chrissie, who was one of the witnesses at her mother’s marriage.
Two more children followed but then, in 1911, his father Alexander died. Not long after William Fraser took over Mosside croft, and it is there that his two youngest children were born. In the 1915 Valuation Roll it is called a croft and house of Hardslacks, estate of Yonderton, where tenant William Fraser pays £6 yearly rent. During the 1920s and early 1930s my mother remembers spending her summer holidays at Mosside croft.
In 1938 Helen Morgan died at the age of 72. William remained at Mosside during the war, as my mother remembers him writing to her when she was in the army. According to the Monumental Inscription at Cruden Parish Kirk, William died on 23 June 1948 at the age of 81 (though he would actually have been 83) but oddly I’ve been unable to track down his death certificate.
A member of the family, now deceased, told me that he was known as “Bill the bull of Buchan” due to his propensity for extramarital liaisons! I never passed that story onto my mother.
Grandfather James Fraser (Jim) 1895-1971
My grandfather James Fraser was born on 9 May 1895 at Aikenshill, Foveran, where his father was a farm servant. His mother died when he was very young. In the 1911 census he was working as a farm servant horseman at Turner Hall Farm, Blindburn (north of Ellon). He said he also worked as a golf caddy at Cruden Bay golf course.
On 15 September 1914 he joined the Gordon Highlanders and went to Bedford for training. On 3 May 1915 he landed at Boulogne, and his company were formed into the 153rd Brigade of the 51st (Highland) Division. He remained in France until, in November 1916, he was shot in the left wrist at Beaumont Hamel during the Battle of the Somme. He was repatriated to Beckett’s Park, Headingley, Leeds ( a teacher trainiing college converted to a hospital during the war). Once recovered and on being discharged, he went on a government funded training course to become a painter and decorator, and found lodgings in Kirkstall, Leeds. Living round the corner was young Clara Green, who he married in 1919 and never went back to Scotland apart from holidays.
James Fraser and Clara Green had two daughters, one of whom was my mother. They lived in Kirkstall all their married lives with James, known as Jim, becoming president of the local working men’s club. He spent many years as a painter and decorator for John Smith’s Brewery and died in Leeds in 1971 at the age of 75.