Primary record research
After a comprehensive review of family sources, my genealogy investigations necessitated researching records that were made at the time of the event by someone who was there. These primary documents are the most reliable records upon which to base a family pedigree. They include civil registration, census records, parish registers, probate records and land records such as tithe or valuation surveys. Today many of these records are easily accessed online.
The primary record that I used first was the death certificate and 1901 Ontario Census record for James Ferguson. They revealed that he was born on July 8th, 1814 near Moy, in Tyrone County Ireland, to parents Elizabeth and David Ferguson. Moy is situated on the west bank of the Blackwater River, south of Lough Neagh in the parish of Clonfeacle in what is now Northern Ireland. This information supplied the initial clues to trace his family pedigree from online data banks at various family history websites. James died at the age of 88 at the family farm in Nottawasaga, Simcoe County, Ontario on Oct. 7th, 1902.
In Britain civil registration records and the parish registers are the primary sources from which ancestral identities may be clarified. The British parish church records were first established in the mid 1500’s. They were compiled by the respective churches in each parish and contain the entries of births, baptisms, bans and marriages as well as deaths and burials. However, during the 19th century, rapid urbanization contributed to the diminishing influence of the Church and a decrease in registration in these areas. It was not until the mid 1800’s that the government commenced a process of civil registration to record this type of information.
Civil registration of non-Roman Catholic marriages began in Ireland in 1845, but the full registration system only came into operation in 1864, when all births, marriages and deaths were first registered. These dates are relatively late, at least when compared with the starting years of the civil registration systems in other parts of the United Kingdom. Full registration was introduced in 1837 in England and Wales and in 1855 in Scotland.
The Irish Census records may also have been helpful in the search for James’ ancestors. However, all these records from the 1800’s were destroyed either by design, or by conflagration. It should also be noted that even the surviving Irish parish registers are incomplete as a result of an intentional destructive fire in the Public Record Office of Ireland during the civil war in 1922. During the Battle of Dublin, in June 1922, the national records office was located at “The Four Courts”. The building had been taken over by Anti-Treaty forces on 14 April 1922 and used to store ammunitions. On June 28 & 29 the National Army forces bombarded the site resulting in a huge explosion. Sadly the conflagration destroyed a huge collection of primary documents dating back to the thirteenth century. The loss eliminated a significant collection of Irish cultural history. Only two sets of records from county Tyrone survived and did not include Clonfeacle parish where James was likely born.
The following is a partial list of the website sources referred to in this research project
• Records of the Clan and name of Fergusson
• Fergusons of Tyrone
• Scottish Tartans Museum: – article on “The Move to Ulster” www.scottishtartans.org/ulster.html
• “Scottish migration to Northern Ireland” article by Phil Norfleet
• Rootesireland -largest Irish family records database
• County Tyrone website of genealogy resources
• Public Records Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI)
• The Ships Lists of immigrant passengers
• Archivescanada -a gateway website to archival resources
• Ontario Census Transcripts 1790-1911
• Family Links Canadian Ontario record collection
• History of Bruce County by Norman Robertson, 1906
• International Genealogy Index –the largest global BMD database available through
• ScotlandsPeople -largest online soucre of Scottish genealogical information
• ScotlandsPlaces -search by county for various digital maps and records