A General History of Clan Forsyth
On St. Andrew’s Day 1978, the Lord Lyon, King of Arms, once again recognized Clan Forsyth as one of the old, whole name Clans of Scotland. Alistair C.W. Forsyth of that Ilk, Baron of Ethie officially became our Chief.
For over 300 years the Clan was unrecognized. The Forsyths had entered historical darkness around 1650 when Cromwell’s ships carrying records of all the Clans as spoils of war, sank off Berwick on Tweed. The then chief failed to re-establish his claim to the name and his Armorial bearings when Charles II instituted a public register of Clans in 1672.
Interest in reviving the Clan began in the early years of the Twentieth Century with the formation of a Forsyth Family Association in Glasgow, Scotland. The ultimate achievement came in 1978 when the Lord Lyon of Scotland accepted the claim of Alistair C.W. Forsyth, Baron of Ethie, the rightful candidate, to be Chief of Clan Forsyth.
Alistair received the nomination because his family genealogy traced back fifteen generations to a Fife laird, Andrew Forsyth, who lived near Falkland, where it is known that in the 16th century Forsyths were courtiers of the Scottish Kings at Falkland Palace. It was therefore appropriate that the formal inauguration of Chief Alistair be held in Falkland Palace.
The early days
The first documented presence of the Forsyth name in Scotland was the signing of the ‘Ragman Roll’ in Berwick on 28th August 1296 by Robert de Fauside. This roll was the instrument by which some 20,000, comprising the landed nobility of Scotland, were compelled to subscribe allegiance to Edward I of England after the failure of William Balliol to defeat the English.
It must be understood that at this time most of the official documents of ancient Scotland had been taken south by the English and much of this very valuable material was lost or destroyed. Thus there are gaps in the historical records of many families as well as the Forsyths.
The next record is of Osbert, son of Robert de Forsyth, who received a grant of part of the lands of Sauchie in the Sheriffdom of Stirling from Robert the Bruce (click here to see a document referring to this grant from our sample newsletter). Osbert fought against the English at Bannockburn and his land charter was confirmed in 1320. Osbert’s son Robert was appointed King’s Macer in 1364 and Constable of Stirling Castle in 1368, he died in 1370.
In 1364 the accounts of the ‘Customers’ of Stirling were rendered by Fersith the Clerk who was probably Robert’s brother and who was granted ú100 per annum from the lands of the Polmaise Marischal by Robert II. In 1418 Robert Forsyth rendered the accounts of the Burgh of Stirling and in 1432 his son Robert became a Burgess of the city and a Bailie in 1470. Duncan and David Forsyth became Burgesses in 1479 and descendants of the family settled in Stirling and held Civic office until modern times.
To Dykes in Lanarkshire
Before 1488 David Forsyth, Burgess of Stirling, bought the lands of Dykes, otherwise known as Hallhill, near Strathaven in Lanarkshire. The ancient castle, which had stood from before that time, fell into ruin and was demolished in 1828. In 1540 the family left Dykes and moved to Inchnoch Castle in Monkland, Lanarkshire. It was this family that subsequently set up branches of the Family in Ayrshire, Aberdeenshire, Glasgow, North America and Australia.
William Forsyth, a Bailie of Edinburgh in 1365, must have been a Burgess of the city from about 1345 to achieve this office. He may also have been a descendant through one generation to the William who signed the ‘Ragman Roll’. William of Edinburgh had two sons, William who became a Burgess of the city in 1374 and a Bailie in 1394 and Malcolm who was a Burgess before 1381. This William had two sons. William, who was a Burgess of Edinburgh in 1423, moved to St. Andrews in Fife and purchased the Barony of Nydie in 1435. John, a Burgess in 1397 became a Bailie of Edinburgh in 1425. Thomas Forsyth was a Burgess of Edinburgh in 1439 and may have descended from John. From Edinburgh spread many branches of the family to the Lothians, the Borders and Dumfries as well as to Fife, Gilcamstoun, Aberdeen, to Ulster and the Americas.
David Forsyth was a Burgess of the city in 1478 and in 1487 Dom Thomas de Forsyth, Prebendry of Glasgow, endowed the chapel of Corpus Christie in the Cathedral. There are continuous records of the family as merchants and Burgesses of the city through the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries. It was from Glasgow that members of the family settled in Argyllshire and Dunbartonshire and emigrated to Ulster, the Americas, South Africa and Australia.
In Fife at Nydie
Nydie, near St. Andrews in Fife, was a Barony under the superiority of the Archbishop of St. Andrews, Henry Wardlaw, when the lands were purchased by William Forsyth in 1435. His son, Henry was beadle of St. Andrews University from 1456 to 1461. In 1484 Alexander, the fourth Laird was appointed Sheriff-Depute of Fife and sold the family lands at Foulford in Edinburgh in 1491. Armorial bearings were granted to him in 1492 by the Lord Lyon, Sir James Balfour. Alexander Forsyth died at Flodden in
1513. His grandson James married Elizabeth Leslie before 1520. Elizabeth was grand- daughter to George Leslie, fourth Earl of Rothes, and great grand-daughter of King James III. In 1523 the superiority of Nydie was transferred to the Earl and the fortunes of this branch of the Forsyth Family became closely tied to those of the Leslies. Descendants of this branch of the family are believed to have continued living in Fife to the present day and are represented in the Forsyths at Falkland who have a documented history from before 1607. Our present Chief, Alistair Forsyth of that Ilk, has connections with Falkland where his family resided as Lairds at the end of the 16th century. There are records that show a Family of Forsyth, believed to be the ancient Chiefly line that had been associated with the Royal House of Stewart and Falkland Palace since the end of the 14th century. From Nydie, branches spread to Dundee and up the east coast to Aberdeen. Descendants are living today in North America and New Zealand as well as other parts of the United Kingdom.
The earliest record here is the sasine of Gilcamstoun in 1456 to David Forsyth who was believed to have moved north from Edinburgh. Later his grandson died with King James IV under the King’s standard at Flodden Field. William Forsyth was the Member for Forres in the Scots Parliament of 1621. Settlement in the North- East took place around 1508 when Alexander, son of David Forsyth of Dykes, settled near Monymusk where anciently his feu was known as ‘Forsithsland’. From him probably descended the Rev. Alexander John Forsyth, who was the inventor of the percussion lock which advanced musketry in the 18th century and earned him a pension from the crown. In the 18th century settlement is documented from the North-East to Canada and the Americas.
By the 16th century Forsyth was a recognized Clan with its own Chief. At the time of Oliver Cromwell’s escapades in Scotland, many of the Scottish Records were lost and as a result, re-registration was necessary some years later. This took place between 1672 and 1676 and our Chief failed to register.
For 300 years there was no Chief and no Chief meant no Clan. During this time, the Family of Forsyth grew and spread world wide. Today there are Clan Forsyth Societies in Australia, Canada, the United States of America, New Zealand and of course, our Parent Society, Clan Forsyth Society of Scotland with its branches covering England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Historical information was obtained from a pamphlet published by the Scottish Tourist Board 23 Ravelston Terrace, Edinburgh, EH4 3EU. ISBN 085419 223 9 3023/12/100M.
Irish American Cousins of Clan Forsyth
It is well known that there were and are many Forsyth and Forsythe families that came to the North American continent from Northern Ireland and settled first along the Atlantic seaboard from Canada to Florida very early on in history. They contributed to the growth of this great nation as did the
Forsyth, Forsythe and other spellings of the name within this Family that came directly from Scotland. Many historical documents show that the name Forsyth is known throughout Scotland as being one of the old Clans and that those now proudly claiming Irish and English heritage also have an earlier Scottish heritage of which to be equally proud.
Facts show that many of our Cousins left Scotland for a new start in Ireland when land grants, job opportunity, and freedom from religious persecution promised new hope. As the new world in America opened a brighter hope, many of these families of Celtic descent from the United Kingdom crosses the wide Atlantic Ocean. Some sought religious freedom, some to escape the potato famine, while others were forced off of lands their families had lived on for centuries. Upon arriving, they cleared lands for farming and homesteading and as their families began to prosper in health and contentment, the challenge for new land and opportunity lured them further west.
There are documents, deeds to lands, cemetery, church and civil records that boast of the lives of our Irish Cousins known as Scotch-Irish, Scot-Irish, Irish-Scot, or Ulster-Scots. It is not our intent to separate or classify ones personal identity. We are all by our birth, members of the ancient Family of Forsyth, a pure one name Clan, no matter where we claim our ancestors came from, they arrived here. Many articles are written in books and magazines explaining the ties and reasons for these happenings in history that have effectively interacted in the lives of the Irish and Scots.
It was always known and understood by this writter, the connection between the Scot, Irish, and English families within Clan Forsyth but it was not openly placed within this web page until a Cousin of Irish descent explained that we were doing a dis-service to Clan Forsyth by not making some comment. I agree with this un-intentional oversight and make an open apology. When I see the name in text anywhere, I have always recognized it as of the Family of Forsyth and never made a distinction as to the origin unless expressly stated. I have been made aware through comments left on the remarks section of the web page that Forsyth people have migrated to about every nation and country of the world.
For those of you who are of known Irish beginnings, I challenge you to continuing research on your ancestry.
I would love to place some important names and short sentence identity here of Irish, Scot-Irish, or Irish American Forsyth or Forsythe people who have made important contributions to this nation. I await some information and factual back-up to my attention by e-mail to Forsyth@xmission.com