Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Ferguson, James Frederic

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
821977Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 18 — Ferguson, James Frederic1889George Barnett Smith

FERGUSON, JAMES FREDERIC (1807–1855), Irish antiquary, was born at Charleston, South Carolina, in 1807. He was of French descent, his father having been one Jacques Frédéric Jaquemain, a native of Cambrai. During the time of the revolution Jaquemain left France and settled in London, assuming the name of Ferguson in 1793. Six years later he went to America, and in 1800 became deputy-postmaster of Beaufort in South Carolina, where he resided till 1812. After the death of his wife, an English lady, Jaquemain went to London, where he became a teacher of languages. Subsequently he established a school in St. Stephen's Green, Dublin. In 1823 he published a volume of Italian translations from the classic poets. James Frederic Ferguson the younger accompanied his father to Dublin in 1820, and some years later was engaged on behalf of Lord Kingsland in endeavouring to recover for that nobleman the Kingsland estates. His efforts were partially successful, and he next became a collaborator with Lynch, author of ‘Feudal Dignities in Ireland,’ in arranging the voluminous series of ‘Irish Records.’ Valuable and extensive collections of documents were formed, some of which afterwards passed into the library of Sir William Betham. Ferguson's most important work was the indexing of the entire body of ‘Exchequer Records’ in Ireland, which he completed unassisted. The indexes were purchased by the government in order to be permanently deposited in the court of exchequer. In 1850 Ferguson was appointed clerk and secretary to a commission for arranging the records of the Irish courts, and this office he held until its abolition two years later. By direction of the chief baron, he continued in charge of the records from the time of the cessation of the commission until his death. On one occasion he undertook at his own expense a journey to Switzerland, in order to recover some Irish records in the collection of a Suabian baron. These records proved to belong to the Irish court of king's bench in the reign of Edward I, and it was surmised that they had been purloined in the reign of George I when Addison was keeper of the records in the Bermingham Tower. Ferguson purchased them at his own cost, and restored them to the Irish Record Office. In 1843 Ferguson published ‘Remarks on the Limitations of Actions Bill intended for Ireland; together with short extracts from Ancient Records relating to Advowsons of Churches in Ireland.’ To the ‘Transactions of the Kilkenny Archæological Society’ he communicated a calendar of the contents of the ‘Red Book’ of the Irish exchequer; and to the ‘Gentleman's Magazine’ (January 1855) he communicated a description of the ancient drawing of the court of exchequer, contained in the above manuscript calendar. To the ‘Topographer and Genealogist’ he communicated the account of Sir Toby Caulfeild relative to the Earl of Tyrone and other fugitives from Ulster in 1616; a curious series of notes on the exactions anciently incident to tenures in Ireland; a list of the castles, &c., in Ireland in 1676, with a note on hearthmoney; and a singular document of 3 Edward II, relative to a contest between the king's purveyors and the secular clergy of Meath. Ferguson further contributed to the ‘Gentleman's Magazine’ two important articles on the neglected state of the Irish State Records (1853–4), and a paper on the unpublished statutes of Ireland (1855). At his decease he left incomplete a translation of the ‘Norman-French Chronicle of the Conquest of Ireland,’ which M. Michel edited from a manuscript in the library of Lambeth Palace. Ferguson died on 26 Nov. 1855.

[Gent. Mag. 1856, i. 651–2.]

G. B. S.