Select Foster/Forster Surname Genealogy

There have been a number of explanations as to how the name “Foster” originated in England. The main line is that Foster is a contracted spelling of Forester, a term which described an official in charge of a forest.  After Forester, Forster became the more usual spelling and then Foster established itself as the most widely used.  We do find evidence of the Foster name by the 13th century if the children’s nursery rhyme Doctor Foster is anything to go by.Foster may also derive from a shortened spelling of the olde English pre-7th century compound cild-fostre and as such is an occupational nickname for a foster parent or possibly a foster child.
Forster (with an umlaut) or Foerster is also a Germanic surname.  As in England, the name means forester or forest ranger.  Forster may also have been an inhabitant of Forst, a town in the Rheinpfalz.  For immigrants into America, the name has often been anglicized to Foster.
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Select Foster/Forster Ancestry

England.  One family lineage of Fosters has been carefully traced to pre-1066 times.  It dates back, according to the family research, to an early period in Flanders. The recorded history of the family begins with Anarcher, the Great Forester of Flanders, who died in the year 837.  The family name was at first Forester.

In 1191 Sir John Forster, who accompanied Richard I during the Crusades, was granted Bamburgh Castle in Northumberland. There the family resided for over five hundred years.  Border skirmishes, and at times real warfare, shaped these Forsters’ lives.   Tom and Dorothy Forster were the last of this Forster dynasty, Tom having backed the doomed 1715 Jacobite revolt.The next largest concentration of English Fosters was in Yorkshire.  The earliest sightings were in the Yorkshire dales.  Fosters there rose to prominence in the 19th century as mill owners, such as John Foster from Halifax.

Ireland.  Forsters in Ireland date from an early time.  Forsters were to be found on the west coast at Galway from the 15th century.  A number held the office of mayor or sheriff of Galway.  Galway today has a Forster Street and a Forster Court Hotel.  Forsters in Dublin date from 1489.  As Fosters they became by the 18th century one of the well-connected and well-to-do families there.

America.  New England and Virginia were early points of immigration for Fosters in America.

New England Fosters became renowned Cape Cod sea captains in the 18th and 19th centuries.  Chillingsworth Foster, was one of the first settlers at Brewster on Cape Cod.   Brewster town records document no fewer than thirteen Foster sea captains after him, including Freeman Foster.  The Chillingsworth Foster homestead stayed with their family for almost three hundred years and has been converted in recent times into a premier restaurant.

Many Fosters in the South trace their ancestry from Robert Foster who set up a plantation in Essex County, Virginia in 1692.  These Fosters settled in Wilkes County, North Carolina and in Spartanburg, South Carolina.  Others went to Tennessee and later to Texas.   Another Foster family moved to Mississippi and Louisiana where they were sugar planters and later established a political dynasty.   Fosters were also sugar planters in Barbados and Jamaica.

Caribbean.  Fosters were early sugar planters in Jamaica, arriving there from Bedfordshire in the 1650’s.  These plantation days are long gone.  But Foster descendants remain in Jamaica.

Australia.  In Australia, the word Fosters means beer, the famous lager which is sold there and all over the world.  But there was no great Foster beer family.  Two American brothers, William and Ralph Foster, arrived in Australia and started their Fosters beer plant in Melbourne in 1888.  However, they soon sold out their interest, returned back to New York, and nothing was heard from them again.

Select Foster/Forster Miscellany

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

Select Foster/Forster Names

Doctor Foster, the subject of a children’s nursery rhyme, is said to be based on King Edward I.
Sir John Forster of Bamburgh was Warden of the Middle Marches of the Border during Elizabethan times.
Tom Forster was the last of the Bamburgh dynasty.  His backing of the 1715 Jacobite Revolt proved very costly.
Lady Elizabeth Foster was a notorious courtesan of the Regency age.  She is most remembered for her “menage a trois” with the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire.
Stephen Foster from Pittsburgh was a popular American songwriter of the 1840’s and 1850’s.  His songs such as Oh! SusannaBeautiful Dreamer, and Swanee River continue to be popular.
E.M. Forster, the English author of novels such as Howard’s End and A Passage To India, was born in London in 1879.
Sir Norman (now Baron) Foster, born to a working class family in Manchester, emerged in the 1960’s as one of England’s leading architects.

Select Fosters Today

  • 68,000 in the UK (most numerous in West Midlands)
  • 84,000 in America (most numerous in Texas).
  • 51,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)