Forsyth Surname Genealogy

Forsyth origins are uncertain. Some early forms, such as William
de Fersith, suggest a place-name origin. Forsyth may
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.
just about predominates.

Forsyth Resources on

Forsyth Ancestry

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

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
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

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.

Forsyth Miscellany

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

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
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
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)




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

Leave a Reply