The First Forsyths in North America

The first evidence of a Forsyth in North American is found in Nell Marions Nugent’s book”Cavaliers and Pioneers – Abstracts of Land Patients and Grants 1623-1800″ published in 1934. Patient Book #2 Page 183.. Here we find John Forsith in Northhampton County, Virginia. He was one of 40 men that Edmund Scarburgh transferred land to on 12 August 1649. This book is available on OpenLibrary.org: https://archive.org/stream/cavalierspioneer00nuge#page/182/mode/2up/search/forsith

We also find reference to a John Forsyth who immigrated to Virginia in 1649. It is thought that John Forsith and John Forsyth are the same person. This can be found in a book by Donald Whythe “A Dictionary of Scottish Emigrants to the USA” Vol. 1. Baltimore: Magna Carta Book Co., 1972. 504p. 2nd pr., 1981.

A will for John Forsyth can be found in the book “Wills and Administrations of Northampton County, Virginia 1632-1802” Compiled by James Handley Marshall.

Also in Donald Whythe’s book we find James Forsyth who immigrated in 1666. This may be the James Forsyth that is found in the book by June Kindard, “Charles Parish Records, York County, Virginia 1648-1789. Two daughter born there; Mary on 7 August 1664 and Elinor on 5 April 1675. Parents were James and Grace. An index for these can be found at both Ancestry.com and Familysearch.org.

If you have evidence of a connection to these families, please let us know.


Oldest Forsyth Line in North America
By John W. B. Forsyth Gardner, MA,

[The following is a compilation from various sources including documents from the Kings County Museum in Wolfville, NS; The History of Kings County, Nova Scotia by Arthur Eaton, MA, DCL; Forsyth Family Notes and Recollections (unpub) by Lora Forsyth Gardner; Memories of Coldbrook, Nova Scotia by Marie Bishop; Niagara Falls Forsyths, United Empire Loyalists; correspondence between Ed Forsyth, Clan Forsyth, USA Genealogist and James Forsyth, Coldbrook, NS and with the author; and family and personal recollections. ]{NOTE: I have throughout corrected the various spellings of our Family name to the current usage of Forsyth.}

Gilbert Forsyth ca.1650-1731, was most likely the first Forsyth to set foot in North America. He was born in Ballandalloch, Banfshire or Aberdeenshire (it is referred to by both county designations). He was the son of Gilbert Forsyth, Burgess of Aberdeen and Elspet Smyth. He came to North America about 1670.


The Line in Scotland

Gilbert Forsyth b.1624, Burgess of Aberdeen married Elspet Smyth 15 Jun 1648. This Gilbert was a descendant of John Forsyth, Lord of Dykes and Baron of Nydie and Hallhill in 1540.

John Forsyth, Lord of Dykes and Baron of Nydie and Hallhill in 1540. With John all references drop the “de” previously used by the family. John was in the military service of France and assumed the title of Comte de Fronsac. He married Louisa de Ravenel who was a descendant of Chevalier Pierre de Ravenel. John was the son of David de Forsyth II.

David de Forsyth II, was Lord of Dykes and Baron of Nydie in 1507. He was the son of David de Forsyth I, Baron of Nydie in 1438 (Nydie was a castle in Fyfe). This David’s father was John de Forsyth.

John de Forsyth, Baron of Dykes, acquired land in Aberdeenshire in 1470. John’s father was Robert de Forsyth

Gilbert Fowler Forsyth 1853-1943. Latest in a line of Gilbert Forsyths going back at least to Gilbert Forsyth b.1624, Burgess of Aberdeen.

Robert de Forsyth was a Crown Officer of Sterling Castle and Baron of Dykes in Lanarkshire. He witnessed a Charter for Robert Keith, Earl Marischall of Scotland in 1473. He married a daughter of Leslie of Rothes. Their five sons established the University of Glasgow. His father was William. His son was John de Forsyth, Baron of Dykes.

William de Forsyth was Baron of Nydie and succeeded his father Robert as Crown Officer of Sterling Castle according to the Exchequer Rolls of Scotland for 1399. He married a daughter and heiress of Douglas, Lord of Dykes. His father was John de Forsyth.

John de Forsyth succeeded his father a Crown Officer of Sterling Castle according to the Exchequer Rolls of Scotland for 1379. His father was Robert de Forsyth.

Robert de Forsyth was Constable (or Governor) of Sterling Castle in 1368 and held lands in Palomaise-Marischull according to the Exchequer Rolls of Scotland for 1368. He was also the 1st Lord of Dykes in Lanarkshire. He died in 1370. Robert was the son of Osbert de Forsyth.

Osbert de Forsyth, whose father was also named Robert, joined the cause of Robert Bruce who had raised an army to try to drive the English, under King Edward II, out of Scotland. The King was occupied with a revolt in England and paid little attention to Scotland until Bruce began a siege of Stirling Castle. Edward then took an army of 100,000 men into Scotland to relieve the siege. Bruce had an army of 45,000 men , whom he stationed in a strong defensive position on Bannockburn Creek about two miles south of the castle. The English attacked on 23 June 1314. The battle was more of less a standoff until a body of 15,000 new troops appeared on the Scottish side. When the English saw these reinforcements, they abandoned the field. The 15,000 were actually camp followers trained by Osbert de Forsyth to look like troops to frighten the English. It was a tremendous victory for the Scots and established the Bruce as King Robert I of Scotland. For his service to the King at this crucial juncture, Osbert was granted the estate of “Nydie” and other lands in the “Sheriffdom of Stirling.

Robert de Forsyth, Osbert’s father, apparently had earlier joined the Scottish cause, for his home in County Peebles was destroyed by the English. He then moved to County Stirling where Stirling Castle is located. The castle was held by the English at the time, but became the home of Scottish Kings when it was recovered by The Bruce with Osbert’s assistance.

William (or Wilhelm) de Forsyth was Robert de Forsyth’s father. He was the son of the immigrant Osbert who came from France and settled in Armondale, county Peebles in 1246. William took an oath of fealty to King Edward I of England on 26 August 1296. This is known as the Ragman Roll. Edward had conquered part of Scotland and required over 2,000 of the landed nobility of Scotland to sign this roll under of confiscation of their property and execution. William is recognized in the Chronicles of Scottish History as a Feudal Lord of Peebles County.


The Line in North America

Our American ancestor, Gilbert migrated to America in 1670. He was a cordwainer (shoemaker) and farmer who first lived around Boston. He served as a British soldier in the King Phillips war (1675-1677). He was in the garrison at Mendon on 20 December 1675 and in the garrison at Hatfield under Captain Turner on 7 April 1676. In June 1676 he received pay under Captain James Oliver having come through the “Great Swamp Fight” with Oliver’s military company from Boston. July 1676 he was paid under Captain Mosley. He took the Oath of Allegiance on April 21, 1679. He was awarded a grant of land along the Connecticut River in what is now East Hartford in1682. He died there in 1731.

He had a son, James born about 1680 who died 3 June 1768. James moved to Groton and married Hannah Lester of Groton on 9 September 1708 and was a cordwainer (shoemaker). They had 12 children: Elizabeth 1709-; James 1711-1768 (Clan Genealogist Ed Forsyth’s ancestor); Hannah 1712-; Gilbert 1715-1802 (my ancestor); Timothy 1717-1796; Jonathan 1720-1801; Mary Avery 1722-1808; Abigail 1723-; Sarah 1725-1807; Nathan 1727-1807; Andrew 1730-; and Amy 1733-.

Gilbert Forsyth (1715-1802) of Groton, Connecticut married Mary Avery Bishop (see correction below) 4 June 1741 in New London, Connecticut. They had six children: Mary 1740-1760; Jason 1742-1825; Gilbert 1744-1830; Caleb 1756-1816; Mary 1760-; and Hannah 1761-1785. In 1860-61 the family, except the second Mary and Hannah who were born in Nova Scotia, emigrated to Horton, Nova Scotia.

(Correction submitted by Paul Russell Forsyth in May 2017) Mary Avery Bishop was not the wife of Gilbert Forsyth.  She was born Mary Forsyth, who married first Ichabod Avery and later John Bishop, Sr.  The person that Gilbert married was Mary Bishop, daughter of Eleazar Bishop of New London, CT.   For more information on Mary Forsyth Avery Bishop, provided by Paul, with sources,  please refer to our "Edward (Eddie) Forsyth Genealogy Records).

Between 1759 and 1768 Charles Lawrence the Governor of Nova Scotia, which at the time included New Brunswick, wanting to bring in English Protestant settlers to occupy the lands previously occupied by the French Acadians that were expelled and sent to Louisiana where they became known as Cajuns. In order to induce these settlers known as “Planters” (the Elizabethan term for ‘colonist’) to emigrate to Nova Scotia, he advertised throughout New England offering grants of land.

Gilbert became one of these Planters and received one of the first effective Grants of Land consisting of one and one-half shares or 750 acres on May 29, 1761. This grant was registered June 13, 1761. The family settled in Horton which is now Wolfville. I have seen the land most of which has been sold off and developed including a gas station and some land still used for farming. Gilbert and most of his family are buried in the Old Cemetery in Wolfville.

Gilbert’s son Caleb 1756-1816 married Eunice Cobb deWolfe in Horton, Kings County, Nova Scotia on May 9, 1783. They had five children: John b.1785; Elizabeth b.1787; Eunice b.1792; Andrew b.1795; and James b.1798-.

John married Mary Jane Peck (one source calls her Rand) November 24, 1808. John and Mary began farming what is now the Forsyth Homestead in 1813 according to family records. That land has been farmed continuously to today. The current owner is my cousin, Brian Forsyth. [See related story: Forsyth Homestead 1813] John and Mary had ten children: Mary A b.1808; William b.1811; Samuel A b.1814; Caleb b.1816; Eliza b.1818;Abigail b.1822; Eunice Ann b.1826; Richard 1828-1887; John b.1830; and James H. b.1830.

          Gilbert Fowler Forsyth 1854-1943

The Homestead passed to Richard who married Emmeline Woodbury 1838-1876. They had six children: Gilbert Fowler 1854-1943; James b.1857; Flora Delphine 1859-1941; Ida May b.1861( who was a Red Cross nurse during world War I); Eliza Davidson 1865-1943; Charles R. b1867. According to family tales, Gilbert and his father did not see eye to eye regarding the way the farm should be run, so Gilbert sold his interest in the farm to his younger brother James and bought a farm in Margaretsville, Nova Scotia. Except for James the rest of the children emigrated to the United States. The girls all settled in New England and Charles emigrated to California.

Gilbert Fowler did not like the name Gilbert and for his lifetime was always called Fowler. He married Rebecca Inez Hutchison 1868-1921. They had five children: Leona Emmeline 1886-1977; Loran Reid 1893-1957; Charles Edgar1897-195x; Verna Dorothy 1903-1984; Lora May 1909-2002. Charles Edgar was in World War I where he caught tuberculosis. He was a military pensioner in Canada until his death in the late 1950s. The rest of the children emigrated to the United States over the years. The last to come to the states was Lora May in the 1920s after her mother died. She lived with her older sister Leona who was a nurse.

Lora May married John Brander Gardner 1904-1983 and had children: John William “Jack” b. February 6, 1938 and Barbara Jean b. December 4, 1941. After his mother’s death John added his father’s middle name and his mother’s maiden name in their honor. He now goes formally by John William Brander Forsyth Gardner.