Scottish Origins

Parents of  James Ferguson  

As for James’ parents, David and Elizabeth, little is known.  No record has been found to suggest that they married in Ireland and likewise no birth records in Ireland for David.  However, when conducting online searches at familyhistory.com for the whole of Great Britain, the only matching information of a David and Elizabeth, for the appropriate period of time to account for James’ birth date, was a marriage of Elizabeth McLeish to David Ferguson on May 15th, 1808, at Methven Parish, Scotland. My record search i 2012 found the most likely birth for David to be on March 30th, 1789, at Dunfermline, Fifeshire. However, Methven parish lies about thirty miles north of Dunfermline in the county of Perthshire.  In 2012 if tentatively traced David’s ancestors back in the parish registers for an additional six generations to the birth of “George Fergussoun” in 1578. However, in 2017 Ken Ferguson (Ontario) contacted me with significant new finds of birth records.  These included the reporting of the birth of James Ferguson on 12 August 1814 and christened 15 Aug 1814 at Methven in Perthshire Scotland to parents David Ferguson and Elisabeth McLeich/Mcliesh. The continuity of place of marriage for David and Elisabeth with the place of birth of James makes this record the most likely pairing of correct data.  Therefore James’ heritage is best described as Scottish but spending most of his teenage years growing up in Moy Ireland before marrying and emigrating.

The surname “Ferguson” is of Scottish origin.  At some point in time between the early 1600’s and 1800’s, there were significant migrations of Scots to Ireland including our Fergusons.  It is indeed quite possible that the Scottish connection begins with this same David and Elizabeth from Dunfermline Scotland.  After all, oral tradition tells us that David and Elizabeth were not native to Moy but rather relocated there sometime after their marriage.  Any clarification of a possible continuation of an Irish pedigree awaits the digitization and publication of additional records.   Hence, for the purpose of this narrative, the following scenario explores the alternative pedigree links to Scotland.

The Scottish Connection  

After extensive internet searches into the birth, marriage, death (BMD) data bases at familysearch.org, findmypast.com, and scotlandspeople.com we are left to conclude that the parents of James were David and Elizabeth from Methven, Perthshire Scotland.  The couple emigrated from Perthshire to one of the pre-existing Scottish communities in Ireland.

Even later census records, which could have been helpful to identify the places of residence and names of other children in the family, have also been destroyed.  This is a rather severe setback to establish the necessary genealogical standards of proof for the identity of James’ parents and their origins.  Nevertheless, the link to David and Elizabeth from Dunfermline lies well within the realm of a “most likely” scenario for both time and place.

The migration of Scottish people’s to Ireland was a feature of Scotland and Ulster’s population dynamics that began after the union of the English and Scottish crowns in 1603. This was a planned migration, which was encouraged by King James I of England to strengthen his royal control over ”his majesty’s Plantation of Ulster”.  The Irish Roman Catholics were generally hostile to English rule and in order to enhance his administrative control over the economic affairs of the land, James I decided to encourage Scottish lowlanders to migrate to Plantation Ulster – which is now Northern Ireland.

Fearing what King James might do the Roman Catholics of Ulster, the Earls of Tyrone and six of the nine other counties of Ulster fled the country and took refuge in Catholic France and Spain.  They had intended to muster support from the Spanish to take back their lands in Ulster.   However, the leaders died a few years later without being able to conclude their plans. This “Flight of the Earls” provided the pretext for the planting of a Protestant colony in Ireland that began in 1607.  The lands the noblemen abandoned were forfeited to the English crown.  These “escheated” lands provided the conditions necessary to entice Scottish and English settlers to take advantage of the opportunities to become tenant farmers.  Wealthy London merchants sponsored the boatloads of Scottish Presbyterians who settled in the “Plantation of Ulster”.  This was the first of several subsequent waves of Scottish migration to Ireland over the following centuries.

Dunfermline, Fife County, Scotland

Dunfermline, Fife County, Scotland

Dunfermline, Fife County

Situated on high ground about three miles from the northern shore of the Firth of Forth, the hamlet of Dunfermline was established as a new seat of royal power by Malcolm III in the mid 11th century.  It remained so until the assassination of James I in 1437.

The traditional mainstay of agriculture in Fifeshire was potatoes, turnips, wheat, barley and oats through the use of a six-year rotation cycle.  Beef cattle were also grazed on the less favourable open lands and sold to the local market.  In the early eighteenth century, the production of linen from locally grown flax grew to become a major influence in the growth of weaving mills in the town.  The availability of abundant fresh water to wash the flax fibers, and water to power the weaving mills, made Dunfermline and ideal location for the industry.  In addition, the nearby ports along the Fife coast were used to export the linen products to the Baltic countries and to Belgium and the Netherlands.

However, an abrupt decline of flax cultivation began in the early 1800’s due to the inability of producers to compete with cheaper flax imported from abroad. The demise of locally produced flax was only one of several factors contributing to the push factors of emigration which influenced many Scottish farmers.  In Ireland flax was grown by farmers as a regular crop, particularly in the counties of Down and Antrim. Emigrating Scottish settlers brought with them more efficient methods of growing and processing flax.

David Ferguson was a typical Scot who decided to immigrate to Ireland after he married. Irish flax remained in production in the early 1800’s.  If his skill was in either growing flax or extracting the linseed oils and fibers he may have felt compelled to relocate to greener pastures in Ireland where other Scottish settlers had established themselves.  In addition, pre-existing family links among the Fergusons of Dunfermline and Ulster may have played a role in his decision to immigrate to Ulster.  In any event, no definitive evidence has yet been found to verify the reasons for David’s relocation.  However, the scenario provided here does lie within the realm of strong possibility.

Parish records of Perthshire provide evidence of several additional generations of ancestors.  Considerable research has yet to be completed to trace the Perthshire line of ancestors.

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