Select Forsyth Surname Genealogy

Forsyth origins are uncertain.  Some early forms, such as William de Fersith, suggest a place-name origin.  Forsyth may alternatively have derived from the Gaelic name Fearsithe, meaning "man (or place) of peace."   Forsyth in Scotland has the stress on the second syllable.

There is also a story that the name started long ago with a Norseman called Forsach who, as the Viscomte de Fronsac from his lands in France, came to England and then to Scotland in the 13th century and brought the Forsyth name with him.  The Forsyth/Fronsac connection would recur later.

Forsyth comes in two varieties, Forsyth and Forsythe.  Forsyth just about predominates. 

Select Forsyth Resources on The Internet
Select Forsyth Ancestry

Scotland.  A William de Fersith signed the Ragman's roll in Berwick in 1296 with other Scottish nobles and keaders.   Forsyths were recorded in Stirling in the 14th and the 15th century, having been granted lands there after Bannockburn.  In the 16th century James Forsyth of Nydie married the daughter and heiress of Douglas, Lord of Dykes and there were later Forsyths at Failzerton in Stirling.

There were also Forsyths in Lanarkshire, Edinburgh, Fife and Aberdeenshire by this time.  There was even for a short time a Forsyth clan chief. However, many of the clan records were destroyed by Oliver Cromwell during the Civil War.

Their main presence was in Fife and Aberdeenshire.  In Fife they have been the Lairds of Falkland since the 16th century.  Alexander Forsyth was the 18th century Presbyterian clergyman from Aberdeen who invented the percussion lock for muskets.  Napoleon Bonaparte offered Forsyth a reward of 20,000 if he took his invention to France, but he declined.

Many Forsyths were opposed to the growing English presence in Scotland (one Forsyth even proposed that Scotland adopt the French language instead).  Some Forsyths left for Ulster and others for new colonies in the Americas.

Ireland.  The Forsyths who settled in Cork descendants of Robert Forsyth of Failzerton - called themselves Forsayths.  Thomas Forsayth was a merchant in Cork in the early 18th century.  His brother Matthew left Ireland for America in 1742 and settled in Chester, New Hampshire.

.  William Forsyth, born in Aberdeenshire, came south to London in the 1770's and trained as a gardener at the Chelsea Garden Physic.  He co-founded the Royal Horticultural Society in 1804 and the flowering plant forsythia was named after him.  His great grandson was the gardener and landscape architect Joseph Forsyth Johnson and the line then extended to the popular TV personality Bruce Forsyth. 

John Galsworthy's The Forsyte Saga, written between 1906 and 1921, depicted the lives of a fictional upper class English family over time.  It was made into a popular TV series in 1967.

America.  Forsyths came to New Hampshire in 1719 as part of a colony of Scots Irish who had been refused entry to New England because they were Scots not English. 

The colony proved successful and Matthew Forsyth, connected to both the Forsyths of Dykes and the Fronsac family in France, arrived there from Ireland in 1742 and settled in Chester, New Hampshire.  It was said that he brought with him considerable property and silver plate engraved with his family crest.  He also brought a curved Moorish sword, a family heirloom.  He died in Chester in 1790 in his ninety second year.

His family were divided by the Revolutionary War.  Some fought on the American side, others relocated to Canada.  His eldest son Dr. Matthew Forsyth died in France.
Robert Forsyth came to Virginia from Scotland in the early 1770's and served as a captain during the Revolutionary War.  After the war he moved to Georgia where he was appointed US Marshal.  But in 1794, at the age of forty, he was shot dead in the line of duty.  His son John became Governor of Georgia in 1827 and his grandson John was a prominent newspaper editor.  Forsyth county in Georgia was named after the elder John Forsyth. 

Canada.  Gilbert Forsyth from Aberdeen, by trade a shoemaker, had been one of the earliest settlers of Hartford, Connecticut in America, arriving there around 1670.  His grandson James, a Loyalist, crossed the border into Canada in 1778 and was the forebear of the Niagara Forsyths. 

"In 1802 James Forsyth purchased 400 acres in Barton township that later became part of the Gore of Ancaster.  He later sold them to his son Caleb for two hundred pounds and 'love and affection.'"

William Forsyth was another Forsyth who made the transition from America to Canada at this time.  But he is remembered less affectionately.

Other Forsyths moved onto Nova Scotia.  Jennie Forsythe Jeffries' 1920 book A History of the Forsyth Family covered these Forsyths in New England and Canada.

James Forsyth had come to Canada from Scotland in 1784 and his family established themselves as one of the leading commercial families in Canada, based in Montreal and operating initially in the fur trade.  His son James moved to Quebec and built up a much larger commercial enterprise, expanding into steamships and railroads.

Select Forsyth Miscellany

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

Select Forsyth Names

Alexander Forsyth was the inventor of the percussion lock which did much for musketry in the 18th century.
William Forsyth was an 18th century horticulturist after whom the flowering plant forsythia was named.
Frederick Forsyth is the British author of thrillers like The Day of the Jackal.
Bruce Forsyth, born Bruce Forsyth Johnson, has been an English TV personality of great longevity, from Saturday Night at the London Palladium in the 1950's to Strictly Come Dancing in 2010.

Select Forsyth Today
  • 12,000 in the UK (most numerous in Dumfries)
  • 7,000 in America (most numerous in Tennessee) 
  • 12,000 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.

Click here for reader feedback
Click here for return to front page