Ferguson Surname Genealogy

Ferguson name is of Gaelic origin, found in both Scotland and Ireland,
and is the patronymic form of Fergus, i.e. son of Fergus. The old
Gaelic name was Fearghus, comprised of the elements fear (or “man”) and ghus (“vigor” or “force”). It
was the name of an early Irish mythical figure and an early king of the
Ferguson and
are the alternative spellings in Scotland.
The Fergusson spelling persists (it has continued to be used by various
clan leaders). But its general use has fallen – from a 20-25
percent share in the 18th century to less than 5 percent today.

Resources on

Ferguson Ancestry

Ferguson is not one clan but many clans, as the Ferguson name originated at
different times and different places around Scotland (the various
Ferguson clan records were first collected in James Ferguson’s and
Robert Menzies Fergusson’s 1895 work Records
of the Clan and Name of Fergusson, Ferguson, and Fergus
from the 18th century, the head of the Kilkerran Fergussons has
generally been recognized as the chief of all the Fergusons.

The Kilkerran Fergussons claim descent from Fergus, the 12th
century Prince of Galloway. It was in the 15th century that
Fergus, son of Fergus, received lands in Ayrshire from the King of
Scotland. In 1466 John Fergusson signed over a portion of his
estate to his son Fergus Fergusson of Kilkerran in Carrick. The
family fortunes fluctuated in the 17th century but the line has
continued uninterrupted since that time. Their ancestral home is
situated near Maybole in Ayrshire.

Elsewhere Many
other Ferguson families were also being established around

  • in Dumfries there were the Fergussons of Craigdarroch
  • in Perthshire the Fergusons of Atholl and Balquhidder
  • in Aberdeenshire the families of Kilmundy and Pitfour
  • in Argyllshire the Fergusons of Glenshellich (although this line
    died out in the early 1800’s)
  • and in Fife the Fergusons of Raith

There were also Feguson groupings, dating back to the 1600’s or
earlier, in the Western Isles.

The history of these different goups tended to be interwoven with that
of the particular districts to which they belonged. Thus the
Fergussons in Ayr and Dumfriesshire generally supported the cause of
the National Covenant and opposed the Jacobite rebellions;
but many Perthshire Fergusons backed the exiled
Stuarts in 1715 and again in 1745.

By the late 19th century the distribution of the Ferguson name in
Scotland stretched from Ayrshire and the border counties to Perthshire,
but with a concentration in the industrial heartland around
Glasgow. For instance, Sir Alex Ferguson, the former manager
of Manchester United football club, comes from Glasgow.

Ireland. Fergus
was an Irish name and a mythical Irish figure. But it was the
Scots who brought the Ferguson name to Ireland at the time of the
plantations. There were Irish O’Ferguses. This name seems
to have transposed to Ferris.

Among the 17th century arrivals were:

  • the Fergusons of Standingstone in county Antrim. Sir Samuel
    Ferguson of this family said that they were descended from Covenant
    ancestors who had been persecuted in Scotland.
  • the Fergusons of Burt House in county Donegal, the first in the
    line being the Rev. Andrew Ferguson who was ordained there in 1690.
  • the Fergusons of Growell in county Down. From this family
    came Henry Ferguson, pioneer in the development of the modern
    agricultural tractor.
  • and the Fergusons of Ardtrea parish in county Tyrone, where
    Alexander Ferguson was recorded as a tenant farmer in the 17th century.

It can be seen from Griffith’s Valuations of the mid 19th century that
Ferguson became very much an Ulster surname.

England. Fergusons came
south across the border into England, some into Cumberland and some
further south.

Cumberland One
set of Fergusons is
said to have moved over from Galloway to Cumberland sometime in the
early 17th century. From this family came the Fergusons of
Houghton Hall who started a cotton spinning industry in Carlisle.

Another Cumberland family line traces back to Ben Ferguson, born in
1766 in Pardshaw near Cockermouth; and other Ferguson lines at that
time were to be found at St. Bees and Newtown. Richard Ferguson
was mayor of Carlisle in 1881 and 1882.

Elsewhere Some
Fergusons headed further south. These included the military
Fergusons of Polebrook Hall near Oundle in Northamptonshire
(descendants of two brothers who had fled Scotland for Belfast in the
1680’s). From this line came Major Ronald Ferguson and his
daughter Sarah Ferguson.

Fergusons in America are either of Scottish
origin or are Scots Irish. First sightings were in
Virginia. Three family lines there have been well-documented:

  • One line began in Essex county, Virginia around 1680 with John
    Ferguson and Ann Stubbleson. James Edward Ferguson’s 1997 book My Ferguson Ancestors in America: 1680-1993
    traced this family line.
  • Another line was first sighted in Loudon county, Virginia and
    later congregated in
    Wilkes county, North Carolina
    where the Fergusons became
    numerous. There is in fact a township of Ferguson in the county
    named after a former resident Captain Lindsay Ferguson. Hortense
    Abbott’s 1980 book Descendants of
    the Ferguson Families
    covered these Fergusons.
  • Samuel Ferguson was an early settler in Tazewell county,
    Virginia. He moved with his family to new lands in Wayne county,
    West Virginia in 1804. Evelyn Booth Massie’s 1985 book Ferguson Family Genealogical History of
    Wayne County
    recorded the family.

A line in South Carolina started with a Thomas Ferguson who lived
through the Revolutionary War and was recorded as having five
wives. The Confederate general Samuel Wragg Ferguson was
descended from the first of these wives. After the Civil War he
lived in some style in Greenville, Mississippi. However, he was
caught embezzling from the Delta Levee Board in 1894 and – rather than
stand and face his accusers – he fled the country, eventually surfacing
in Ecuador.

Fergusons from Virginia and the Carolinas spread across the
South. Daniel Ferguson left South Carolina with his family
in 1808 for Bayou
Chicot in Louisiana
where he operated a large cotton
plantation. One branch of this family moved to Texas in the
1850’s. Another Ferguson history records a family from Virginia
migrating in the 19th century to Missouri, Texas, and then to

A Ferguson family arrived in Dallas, Texas from Missouri
1860; while Alabama native James Ferguson became a Methodist preacher
in Arkansas before moving to Bell county, Texas in 1847. His son
Jim Ferguson was elected Governor of Texas in 1914 and again in 1916.

“Jim was a powerful and charismatic
speaker who appealed to the rural masses and to ‘the little man.’
However, his administrations were marked by charges of irregularities
so severe that the Court of Impeachment removed him from office.
Unable to hold any office but still extremely popular, Jim nominated
his wife for Governor in 1924 with claims that Texas would get ‘two
Governors for the price of one.’ She won that election and was
re-elected in 1932.”

Ma and Pa Ferguson were two of the most colorful and
controversial figures in the history of Texas politics.

Caribbean. Ferguson is a
common name in the Bahamas. It appears to have been brought there
by Henderson Ferguson from South Carolina in the late 18th century, a
Loyalist who
had struck out for a new life there as a cotton planter.

Canada. Canada was the
destination for many of the Highland Fergusons displaced by the
clearances of the early 19th century. They were to be found,
often after harrowing journeys, in Highland outposts such as Antigonish
and Cape Breton in Nova Scotia and Glengarry in Ontario. An
earlier settler in the Glengarry region was the American loyalist Peter
Ferguson who built a log cabin in Charlotteburgh township (which still
stands) in 1784.

Fergusons were also to be found in Ontario counties such as Perth and
Lanark whose names reflected their Scottish heritage. John Ferguson,
known as Craigdarroch, was an early settler in Perth (Fergusons Falls
was named after him). He prospered as a merchant and
lumberman. Another John Ferguson, who for a time ran the Waterloo
hotel in Perth, married Craigdarroch’s daughter Margaret. A
number of Ferguson families from Balquidder parish in Perthshire
settled in Drummond township, Lanark in the early 1820’s.

Australia and New Zealand.
was one of the early settlers of South Australia,
arriving there with his family on the Catherine
from Ayrshire in 1838. He farmed, first at Little
Para on the Gawler Plains before moving to Glenunga closer to
Adelaide. James Ferguson came out from Glasgow in the 1850’s and
was a storekeeper in Gawler town. He later started a dairy farm
at Craigieburn near Melbourne.

Another early settler was John Ferguson who set out with his family
from Scotland on the Trusty
in 1842 for Western Australia. He did not make a success at
farming. But he applied for and obtained the post of Colonial
Surgeon in Perth which he held for twenty five years.

Fergusons were among the Highland families in Nova Scotia who banded
together in 1850 to find a new home on the other side of the world – in
Waipu, New Zealand. The writer Dugald Ferguson later lived
there. A number of Ferguson families from Ayrshire emigrated to
New Zealand in the 1870’s and settled in Dunedin.

Ferguson Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for
further stories and accounts:

Select Ferguson Names

Adam Ferguson was a noted
philosopher of the 18th century Scottish Enlightenment.
Sir William Fergusson was the
foremost surgeon of mid 19th century England.
Sir Samuel Ferguson was a 19th
century Scots-Irish poet, barrister and antiquarian.
Harry Ferguson was an Irish
engineer and inventor noted for his role in the development of the
modern agricultural tractor.
Jim and Miriam Fersguson were
controversial Governors of Texas in the early 1900’s.
Sarah Ferguson, popularly known
as “Fergie,” is the former wife of the Queen’s son, Prince
Sir Alex Ferguson was the
long-serving manager of Manchester United football club.

Select Fergusons

  • 42,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in Glasgow)
  • 55,000 in America (most numerous
    in Texas)
  • 53,000 elsewhere (most numerous
    in Canada)


PS.You might want to check out the surnames page on this website.It covers surname genealogy in this and companion websites for more than 800 surnames.

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