Wednesday, January 3, 2018

52 Ancestors: START with Frazier

Amy Johnson Crow has presented another challenge for 2018 – to research and write about 1 ancestor each week, 52 ancestors in 52 weeks. This year she has included a weekly theme or prompt. Week 1 is appropriately titled “START.” So let’s START with one of my lines that has been neglected for quite some time: Frazier.

My oldest known Frazier is my 4X great-grandfather John Frazier of Albemarle and Greene counties in Virginia. Census records suggest he was born in Virginia about 1770 and died before 1850. So far Frazier researchers have not been able to pin down any specifics on those important dates, nor have they been able to prove conclusively, absolutely, without doubt and once and for all who his parents were and from where the Fraziers of Virginia came.

Like many folks, I enjoy checking the family trees on Ancestry and FamilySearch to see what others have found in their research. I use the information and MISinformation for clues. Genealogy nerds will find the Frazier research to be very amusing. In reality, though, it is not funny because innocent novices will be fooled into taking the family trees as gospel.
Sample of Frazier Trees on Ancestry

Take for example the trees naming John Frazier’s parents as Thomas Frazier and Agnes Johnston. According to those “family historians” (and I use that term loosely), John Frazier was from Inverness, Scotland and was naturalized in 1807 in South Carolina where he worked as a merchant. The father Thomas was supposedly born in either the Netherlands or Scott County, Virginia. He married Agnes Johnston in 1770 in Guilford, North Carolina and then married her again in 1799 in Patrick County, Virginia. Makes perfect sense – Thomas and Agnes were so in love, they married twice. And they were so in love, they took a honeymoon trip to Scotland were little baby John was born before zipping back home to North Carolina or Virginia or South Carolina or wherever. Yeah, that’s a good story. Totally believable – NOT!

Or maybe other researchers got it right when they claimed John was son of Thomas N. Frazier and Sarah Joyce. These researchers follow Thomas’s line back to Robert Frazier of Ireland who sailed from home to Philadelphia and then on to Orange County, Virginia where he took the Oath of Allegiance in 1740. He married Clara Frances Graham and together they had 9 or more children. Sons Thomas, William, and Micajah left enough paper trail to place them in the geographic vicinity that makes sense, Orange and Albemarle Counties, but eventually they all moved to Campbell County. Micajah went on to Amherst County. Some of them wound up in Kentucky and Missouri. Therefore, there are still many question marks with this family constellation even though it feels like we are close to determining the STARTing point for my Fraziers.

One Frazier cousin whose research I admire is Kevin who grew up in Page County surrounded by his Frazier family who could trace their roots to John Frazier of Greene County without question. Like me, Kevin cannot push back further with any certainty, but he has the good sense to post his tree with parents “unknown.” 

Kevin’s family lore includes a story that the early Fraziers came to Virginia from debtor’s prison in England. They supposedly participated in Bacon’s Rebellion in 1676 before moving westward into Orange County.

If that story is true, it puts our family here in Virginia well ahead of the big influx of Scotch-Irish around 1730 when Governor Gooch was freely doling out land in the Shenandoah Valley.

Reconstructed Irish farm at Frontier Culture Museum
Staunton, Augusta Co, VA
(image from flickr under Creative Commons license)
It is certainly possible that our John Frazier descends from one of those early Scotch-Irish settlers. There is a will for a John Frazier in Rockingham County dated 1788, not Kevin’s and my John Frazier but maybe a relative. Since he was a man with land, farm equipment, clothing, and rifles to divide among his heirs, he was not a young man, but likely born in the early 1700s. He mentioned a wife Jennet but no children. He named brothers Joseph, George, and William, and a sister Mary Galloway. Maybe our John was son of one of them.

An 1809 will in nearby Augusta County offers another possible link. In this one, John Frazier apparently did not marry or did not have children because he left his sizeable plantation and mansion to a brother James and to 2 nephews named Samuel Frazier and John W. Frazier. I have never seen MY John Frazier with a middle initial, so this is probably a different John Frazier.  

This is not to say I believe John’s father was also named John. The vast number of Frazier trees say his father was Thomas, and although the research is very shaky, Thomas is a good bet as suggested by the many descendants named Thomas.

John Frazier was such a common name that efforts to push back another generation have been difficult, even for the most astute and dedicated researcher. Maybe one of these days a family bible or colonial record will surface like the Rosetta Stone to reveal the history of the Fraziers in Virginia.

© 2018, Wendy Mathias. All rights reserved.


  1. G'day Wendy,
    There are some weird and wonderful connections on trees on Ancestry. I had my tree on there for a while but since so much is now being digitized, I am finding some things I included are incorrect - my paper trail had led me down the wrong line. Thank goodness we can make changes.

  2. Happy New Year, Wendy, and best of luck with the 52 Ancestor Challenge. I'm looking forward to reading your posts.

  3. Happy New Year, Wendy! I'm glad you're taking part in the 52 Ancestor challenge. I think it's a great way to continue - or get back into - blogging!

    I enjoyed your post. I, too, have a few lines where there is a LOT of speculation about who the parents are and not a lot of "proof." It's great that you're sharing your thoughts here. Perhaps "newer" researchers will find your information and not take other trees as gospel truth!

  4. Good luck sorting through your Frazier family "facts" to determine which are actual facts. Hopefully 2018 will bring you good luck with this family line.

  5. 52 ancestors? Yikes, my genealogy ADD wouldn't allow that.

    Glad you're back to blogging!

  6. The further back you go the harder it gets to find the facts and paper trail.

    I hope you're enjoying taking part in 52 Ancestors. I know I am :)

  7. Hello Wendy! I have stumbled onto your blog while researching my Frazier ancestry. First let me say that I thoroughly enjoy reading your blog entries! What an excellent writer you are! Thank you for the pleasure you bestow! I loved the entry about the memorial chimneys erected by the Blue Ridge Heritage Project! My oldest known Frazier relative is Micajah Frazier - according to his Revolutionary Pension Affidavit he was born in Albemarle County 25 Dec 1753. This is the Micajah that is often listed as a child of Robert Frazier you mention who immigrated from Ireland. However, there is nothing out there to substantiate that claim. He is also listed as a child of several other Fraziers - unsubstantiated. Like you, I have hit a brick wall in finding Micajah's parents - until now. I have connected with another Frazier online who matches my father's Y dna and he thinks that his oldest ancestor was a brother to Micajah. We are working on that lead. The stories one uncovers on this journey are amazing and sometimes heartbreaking. Keep up the good work!! Many thanks for your delightful blog entries! Cheers, Beth Frasher - yes we spell it that way!