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Porteous Genealogy in a Nutshell

The Very Distant Past

Based on an evaluation of my DNA by FamilyTreeDNA, who are analyzing DNA samples submitted to the National Geographic genographic project, I belong to “haplogroup I2a” (formerly I1b, but reclassified following refinements to the human genetic tree). That is to say, if one were to trace my paternal line (“documented” in my Y chromosomes) back somewhere between 25,000 and 22,000 years, one would find my 1000th or so great-grandfather living in the Middle East. That same genetic haplogroup is associated with the Balkans and Scandinavia.

Further, according to information from the National Geographic’s genographic project, “Today, members of this haplogroup can be found throughout southeastern and central Europe. Relatively high concentrations exist in two distinct regions of Europe: among Scandinavian populations and those in the northwestern Balkans. Some studies suggest that up to 40 to 50 percent of the men in Nordic populations of Scandinavia belong to haplogroup I. A similar frequency is found around the Dinaric Alps, a mountain chain in southern Europe spanning areas of Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro, and Albania. Men carrying marker M170 can also be found in relatively high frequencies in some parts of southern France and Normandy.”

The Normandy reference may tie into a current theory as to the origins of the Porteous surname. The quote below is from Bruce Porteous’ excellent “Porteous Research Project” Web site (

“The earliest reference, according to Lyon King of Arms in Edinburgh, is to a Guillaume Porteuse (later William Porteous), who arrived from Normandy c 1400 under the patronship of the wealthy Fraise family (later to become the Frasers). They had already settled in parts of lowland Scotland, having been granted lands by the King.”

The science behind DNA is solid, but the conclusions drawn re any given individual’s ancestry are dependent on the reference database. In other words, the larger and more varied, both geographically and ethnically the collection, the higher the reliability of the results.

A “haplogroup predictor” utility, which accepts the various marker values shown at Haplogroup I, provides a finer resolution, suggesting membership in haplogroup “I2a” (again, formerly “I1b”).

I am very confident that the laboratory results are not in error as the labs of both Family Tree DNA and Relative Genetics yielded identical results for markers which both companies test.

It was not long ago that I had paid for additional Y-DNA tests; as a result, I now have had 67 markers analyzed. These 67 markers have helped narrow down my more “recent” ancestry. My understanding is that my DNA puts me in a clade identified as I2a1 – Isles B. From this information, it seems likely that my direct paternal line goes back many thousands of years to what is now the British Isles, possibly to hunter gatherers who lived there prior to the advent of farming.

Click the link below for other information about this Y chromosome-based genetic haplogroup, including my results:

Future hyperlink goes here: Haplogroup I

Migration from Yorkshire to Canada

My research suggests that my great-great-grandfather, George Porteous, emigrated to Canada from the York, England area after the 1841 UK census and prior to 1846. Based on his eldest son’s obituary, I suspect that his initial destination was Markham Township, York County in what was then known as Canada West. It may have been there that he met and married his American-born wife, Margaret Stewart.

One other theory I have is that George went first to the States where he met his American wife, then moved north to Ontario. Recently uncovered evidence suggests that George may have had an uncle by the name of Cornelius who came to Upper Canada from York in 1832. Cornelius, his wife and family of 8 children were sent to Prescott, Ontario. They drifted across the border to Ogdensburg and, before migrating to Michigan, appear to have lived in the Toronto area for some years, possibly in either Scarborough or Markham Townships. Perhaps they provided the support that my great-great-grandfather would have needed upon his arrival in Canada West.

I believe that George’s ancestors lived for many years in Dunnington, Yorkshire (from about 1714) and may have migrated from further north, possibly from the Scottish Borders (rumours of “Border Reivers” abound!). There may also have been related families in Lincolnshire. If we go back before about 1400, some Porteous family historians suggest an origin in Normandy (Guillaume Porteuse) and an association with the Fraise (Strawberry) family, a surname which has morphed in Scotland into Fraser.

Further research into “Haplogroup I” led me to information that the Vikings may have conquered and/or settled the area now known as Normandy. Is it possible then that my DNA supports the theory of our Norman origins?

Reach Township, Ontario, Canada

Note: In 1841, Upper Canada became known as Canada West (Ontario) within the Province of Canada; what is now known as the province of Quebec, formerly Lower Canada, became Canada East.

There is an Ontario Land Index entry dated October 11, 1845 that shows that George Porteous acquired land in Reach Township, Ontario County (near present-day Port Perry). I know that until his admission to the Toronto Insane Asylum in 1870 (symptoms indicate a physical injury of some sort), he farmed primarily in Reach Township, except for a period of 2 or 3 years in Somerville Township, Victoria County in the 1860s.

First Canadian-Born Generation

My great-grandfather, also named George, was born in Reach Township as were most of his siblings. The year was 1851. The younger George became a cabinet maker, marrying Magaret (“Maggie”) Reid in Toronto in 1874. Coincidentally, his oldest brother, William Simpson Porteous, was also married in the Toronto area (Yorkville) that year. George and his family moved extensively, first to Almonte in Eastern Ontario, then to Stratford in Perth County, back east to the town of Perth, then to Berlin (now known as Kitchener) and on to Dundas where Margaret died in 1888. George married a school teacher, Agnes Clark Moir, in Dunnville, Ontario in 1892, but he may have met Agnes in or near Guelph where he resided at the time of the marriage. George died in Guelph in 1904, possibly as the result of a brain injury arising from a train accident.

Here is a list of George’s siblings. In cases where I’ve found only a single reference to an individual, I’ve highlighted their name. I suspect they either died young or the one reference may be erroneous:

  • William Simpson (1846-1930)
  • Amy Ann (1848-1931)
  • David? (1849-?) (1861 Census)
  • Mark (1853-1933)
  • Sarah Ann? (1853-?) (Wesleyan Methodist Baptismal Register)
  • John (1857-1938)
  • Silena Margaret (1860-1901)
  • Robert Sidney (1862-1927))

Migration to the Canadian Prairies

His son, my grandfather, Frederick Blake Porteous (born in Stratford, Ontario in 1882), moved from Guelph to Saskatchewan in 1902. We know that he lived for a number of years at the home of his brother-in-law, Samuel james Taylor, and his sister, Clara, in the village of Yellow Grass near Weyburn, and later Pangman. He married Mary Catherine Bell in January, 1914 in Weyburn. His career as a bank manager was well underway at that time. The family also lived in Verwood and Halbrite prior to their migration to Vancouver, British Columbia in 1936. The Depression hit hard and my grandfather ran a small general store in Vancouver until his retirement.

My father and his brothers were all born in Saskatchewan.

British Columbia, Canada

My parents met and married in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Our “return” to Ontario, Canada

Leaving most of our extended family behind several decades ago, we eventually moved “back” to the province of Ontario where we continue to live. We moved to Toronto 3 years after the initial move to Ontario. Dad’s first Toronto job was with the United Church of Canada at the Ryerson Press building, which now houses CITY-TV. Many decades after our relocation to Toronto, I learned that his hitherto unknown grandparents lived at the corner of Nelson and Duncan streets, only yards from the south-east corner of the Ryerson Press building. An odd coincidence after a 3,000 mile move!

Written by Doug

January 24th, 2012 at 7:07 pm