by Shannon Sambells
In 2009 cousin, Candi Hart MacLean and I started to chat about our many first Ferguson cousins. There are 21 of us still scattered all over North America from Bermuda to Panama to Hawaii and to the west coast. We even have a cousin who resides in New Zealand with her husband and family. Most of the cousins are great travellers and most have had children who also are scattered around the world from Sweden to New Zealand. With all the diversity within our Ferguson clan, Candi and I decided that it was time to reconnect with our cousins. And so, in 2009 we began to organize the first reunion in the beautiful Qu’Appelle Valley where our grandparents, George and Helen Ferguson, lived and worked and raised our parents.
Each of us has a connection to Saskatchewan, whether we have lived in the area or simply visited at our grandparents’ cottage on Echo Lake. It was the correct location for our first reunion. Most of the cousins were able to make the trek to Fort Qu’Appelle in the summer of that year. Candi arranged for rooms and meals at the Prairie Christian Training Centre which allowed for cousin interaction and proximity to Fort San where grandfather, Robert George Ferguson, became a leading member of the medical community in its fight against tuberculosis. We all had a chance to visit the beautiful cottages of Colleen and Alan Barss and George and Shirley Hart. It was a great weekend and over far too quickly.
So….cousin Sheelagh Ann Barrable Cooper decided that we should have a second reunion at Mont Tremblant in Quebec in 2011. She and Alex arranged the entire event at their beautiful chalet home in the Laurentian mountains. Fewer cousins were able to attend but it was still a great weekend. We took the gondola to the top of the mountain, wandered through the beautiful little shops in the village, walked through the woods, meditated together and ate too much and thoroughly enjoyed our reconnection with each other. Sheelagh and Alex opened up their home and arranged for some of us to also stay with close friends next door. It was a memorable reunion and the cousins discussed the possibility of a third reunion in our ancestral country.
There had been an ongoing discussion between George Ferguson’s children, Robert, Sheelagh, Patty and David, through the years as to whether our Ferguson clan is Scottish or Irish. (Wise Margie probably knew the answer all along). And so, in the spring of 2012 I asked my brother-in-law, Frank Sambells, who is familiar with genealogy research to begin the ancestral search of the Fergusons based upon some Ferguson records relating to the lineage. We also collected family history information from many of my maternal relatives who were descendents of Irish Canadian pioneer farmer, James Ferguson. Frank began researching primary birth, marriage and death records in both Scotland and Ireland, as well as Canada and the United States as he followed the footsteps of our Ferguson ancestors. At the same time, my husband Harry, decided that he would take on the daunting task of arranging another Ferguson reunion for Aug 2013 in Scotland and Ireland to coincide with the tourism-led initiative called “The Gathering Ireland – 1013.” It aimed to mobilize ancestors of the Irish Diaspora to return to the country of their roots to be part of specially organized gatherings and events during the year. Although this project was an initiative of the Republic of Ireland, many sites and activities of Northern Ireland were included in the calendar of events for the year.
I must thank my big brother, Frank, for his wonderful focus and attention to the Ferguson research and the presentation of the results on this web blog. He has uncovered a great deal of information about the Fergusons…some of it is very interesting and amusing. Frank even discovered that a grandson of James (who emigrated from Ireland in the mid 1800’s) is still alive in Ontario.
Also, I must thank Harry for all his work to put the UK reunion together. He has been tireless in organizing the details and contacting the cousins. And thank you, Candi, for arranging the Edinburgh day tour and, Cousins, for your input and assistance with ideas about what we should see during our reunion. It all has been wonderfully helpful.