Born in Muthill parish, Perthshire, Scotland, son of John Ferguson and his wife Helen King (from Comrie parish).
Moved as a child with his family to Kilsyth parish, Stirlingshire where he married Margaret Brash in August, 1819. Having borne 8 children, Margaret died in Scotland in 1852.
In 1854, the widower James and most of his adult children emigrated to Kent county, Ontario, Canada where he died in Thamesville in 1866.
St. James Presbyterian church in Thamesville was apparently named in his honour.
His son, Robert Ferguson, was a very popular member of the Ontario Provincial Parliament (MPP) for Kent East for many years.