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Mackinac mtDNA

Mackinac Island Fur Trader-Native American Roots Twice Verified by Daughter's DNA Marie Rundquist and Richard Wiles
  1. James Wachter
    James Wachter
  2. Charles Wachter, Jr.
    Charles Wachter, Jr.
  3. Mission House Boarding School
    Mission House Boarding School
Mackinac Island on Lake Huron is central to the histories of North America's fur-trading industry in the the 18th and 19th centuries and the Wachter, Fraser, Fisher, and Farlinger (also known as Farling and McFarland) families of northern Michigan.  On Mackinac Island, a 3.8 square mile spit of land located at the “tip of the mitten,” mid-way between Michigan's Upper and Lower Peninsulas, the North American fur-trading industry found its nexus, and a culture, comprised of Canadian fur-traders and their Native American wives, had its beginnings.

At the root of this family genealogy and cultural heritage is grandmother “Nancy-Anne Fraser,” whose storied, Scottish surname evokes discussion of John Fraser, a founding partner in Canada's McTavish, Fraser and Co. -- chief suppliers and fur brokers for the legendary North West Company.  According to Harry Duckworth, John Fraser had engaged in Canadian business affairs throughout his career, traveling between London and Canada to restore a failed financial position while under the firm of Fraser and Young.  John's association with the North American fur-trading industry began in earnest in the early 1790s, when he was at the mid-point of his life, and the McTavish, Fraser and Company was founded [1].

Based in Montreal, Fraser's company engaged in commerce with Mackinac Island fur trading society [2], fostering the inter-dependency of the two regions: with Mackinac Island serving as a supplier of furs and Montreal acting as its agent and vital link to the markets of Europe [3]. In addition to his wife, Jeanne McKenzie, and two daughters, Justina and Mary, John Fraser had three sons: James, John (whom he helped place on the board of supervisors of the amalgamation of fur-trading giants, the North West and Hudson Bay Companies), and another who became a priest.  According to Duckworth, daughter Mary married an unrelated, “James Fraser of Belladrum [4].” Through his partnership with McTavish, Fraser, and Company, John Fraser had in his later years, re-gained his fortune, established a Fraser family legacy in the North American fur-trading business, and he died in 1825, at the age of eighty-three. [5]

In the early 1790s, when the McTavish, Fraser and Company was gaining a foot-hold in the local fur-trading economy, “Nancy-Anne Fraser,” of unknown parentage, was born.  According to her husband's military records, Nancy-Anne Fraser was a half-breed, a “Metis,” of Anishinaabe (Ottawa (ODAWA)- Chippewa (Ojibwa)) and European (Scottish) ancestry.  The Metis culture on Mackinac Island was born of the Native American “country wives,” and the Canadian fur-traders they never “officially” married, but with whom they had first or second families. This kinship-centered, social structure, an integral component of the fur-traders' economic sphere, survived and thrived on Mackinac Island, despite the political struggles between the United States and Britain in the late 18th century [6].

Family genealogy has, that in 1814, Nancy-Anne Fraser married James Farlinger, a blacksmith born in Ontario; she and her husband began their family on the nearby Drummond Island, following the settlement patterns of other fur-trading families who sought British protection after the War of 1812.  Daughters Marie (born 1824), Josephee (Josette) (1815), Elizabeth (1817) and Nancy (1819), were of an age to have attended a Protestant mission school, established on Mackinac Island, for the purpose of educating Indian children, but whose students were mostly the offspring of fur traders and their Native American “country wives [7].”  James Farlinger and Nancy Fraser divorced after 1824, and James Farlinger remarried a Lamorandiere.  By the mid-1840s, all four daughters had left Drummond Island to marry and begin their own families. 

The Farlinger daughters' choices of spouses and eventual life circumstances crossed political boundaries and cultures.  Daughter Marie and husband Charles Wachter, whose family was part of a commercial, fishing enterprise, married on Mackinac Island, Michigan (1845), and remained close to home. Daughters Josephee (Josette) and Nancy followed the paths of other fur-trader families who moved to Canada with the British: Josephee (Josette) married husband Thaddeus Lamorandiere (1837), and Nancy married David McArthur (1838) at Penetanguishene, Ontario, Canada.  Daughter Elizabeth married into the Beaulieu fur-trading family, established for generations on the Great Lakes [8]; she and husband Clement Hudon married in 1835, in St. Joseph, Michigan, an area that was historically sympathetic to the French [9].  Daughters Elizabeth and Nancy died in Minnesota, on the White Earth Reservation, in 1903 and 1879, respectively, with Elizabeth's name appearing opposite a number on an Indian Roll, her origins described as “mixed blood.”  Daughter Marie died in 1871 on Mackinac Island; her sister Josephee (Josette), died in 1890, in Saginaw, Michigan.

Fast-forward to the twenty-first century, where in 2006, the late-descendant of Nancy Farling combed the Internet, visiting  family genealogy websites with a singular mission: to uncover the origins of her earliest recorded grandmother, Nancy-Anne Fraser, and a hidden family line.  Long after her passing, her posts remain published on the Internet, her earlier questions, and replies received, offering a series of clues, that six years later, in 2012, Petoskey, Michigan historian, researcher Richard Wiles, followed, bread-crumb fashion, as he researched the Wachter et. al. family history.  The late descendant left an especially significant clue for Richard to find, one that revealed Nancy-Anne Fraser's earliest roots – her haplogroup “A”  (Native American) mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) test results, which were published on a DNA project website next to the name of her earliest ancestor, “Nancy Fraser.”  Of genealogical concern, the published haplogroup “A” mtDNA test results revealed the Native American ancestries of Nancy-Anne Fraser and her maternal-line descendant, now deceased.

After researching the haplogroup A mtDNA test results with Family Tree DNA representatives and the Administrator of the Amerindian Ancestry out of Acadia Project, Richard Wiles determined that to verify Nancy-Anne Fraser's Native American ancestry, he would need to locate another test participant.  In search of a second candidate, he compiled the genealogies assessed for the Wachter et. al. family, referenced earlier in the article, tracing maternal-line ancestries from mother to mother, through each of Nancy-Anne Fraser's four daughters, and discovered a second, maternal-line descendant, who agreed to test.

At this point, it is critical to recapitulate the maternal line genealogies of the two candidates:  the first candidate, now deceased, descended from Nancy-Anne Fraser through daughter Nancy (Farling), who died on a reservation.  The second candidate, discovered through genealogy research, descended from Nancy-Anne Fraser through daughter Marie (Farling), who died on Mackinac Island.  For researcher Richard Wiles to verify the accuracy of the compared genealogies, and the Native American ancestry of Nancy-Anne Fraser, the two candidates' mtDNA test results must match!

After several weeks, the second candidate's mtDNA test results were returned: a match had been found between the first and second set of mtDNA test results. The original haplogroup A mtDNA finding received by the first candidate, the late descendant of Nancy (Farling), had resolved to the subgroup “A2i,” [10] as the second candidate, a descendant of Marie (Farling), had completed the full mitochondrial sequence DNA test.

For the Wachter et. al. family, the discovery of a Native American ancestry, twice-verified by matching haplogroup A / A2i  mtDNA test results, revealed the family's historic, Native American – fur trader legacy.  As a result of Richard Wiles' persistence in locating a second descendant, and pursuing further mtDNA tests, an esteemed, Native American [11],  Mackinac Island cultural heritage that had been destroyed by physical isolation, politics, and prejudice has been recovered for the Wachter, Fisher, Fraser, and Farling families.

Richard Wiles invites others who link to this family to email him directly at for further information, comments, and questions and posts the following maternal family lines with the families' permission:

Line 1:

Unknown Ojibwe / Chippewa Woman m. ? Fraser
Nancy-Anne Fraser m. James Farlinger, 1814
Marie Farlinger m. Charles Wachter, 1845, Mackinac Island (Michigan, USA)
Elsie Elizabeth Wachter m. Jeremiah Fisher, 1870, Cheboygan (Michigan, USA)

Line 2:

Unknown Ojibwe / Chippewa Woman m. ? Fraser
Nancy-Anne Fraser m. James Farlinger, 1814
Nancy Farlinger m. David McArthur, 1838, Penetanguishene (Ontario, Canada)
Nancy Jane McArthur m. Thomas Billings Adams ?

For questions about the Amerindian Ancestry out of Acadia Family Tree DNA project, email the Project Administrator at  To view project test results, visit

Copyright 2013

1. Jennifer S. H. Brown, W. J. Eccles, and Donald P. Heldman, eds. The Fur Trade Revisited: Selected Papers of the Sixth North American Fur Trade Conference, Mackinac Island, Michigan, 1991. East Lansing and Mackinac Island: Michigan State University Press/Mackinac State Historic Parks, 1994. pp. 39-50.
2.  Ibid, 311.
3.  Ibid., 310.
4.  Ibid., 47, 56, n. 54
5.  Ibid., 39-50.
6.  Ibid., pp. 161-164, 310.
7.   Ibid, 319. In Keith R. Widder's Battle for the Soul, Metis Children Encounter Evangelical Protestants at Mackinaw Mission, 1823-1837, the names of Elizabeth Farling (age 10), Nancy Farling (age 7), of Drummond Island, are listed in an appendix as attending in the year 1827.  Both were described as "1/4 Chippaway." 
8.   Ibid., 199.
9.   Ibid., pp. 306, 307.
10. December 2012: The mitochondrial DNA subclade designation, A2i, has been updated to A2-C64T. (Update September 2017: "A2" is the present designation of this mitochondrial DNA subclade as part of "Build 17" of the mitochondrial DNA phylotree). 
11.  Wyckoff, Larry M. 1836 Mixed-Blood Census Register, Ottawas and Chippewas of Michigan, Treaty of March 28, 1836,
includes a record of claimant Elizabeth Farling, listed her status as "admitted" and the amount of awarded monies: "486 Elizabeth Farling 3 19 Mackinac 9 1/4 Chippewa Admitted  $95.14 To be retained Does not live with parents."