This interesting surname has two distinct possible origins, one Scottish and the other Gaelic Irish. In the first instance, the name is of territorial origin from the lands of Forbes in Aberdeenshire, so called from the Gaelic "forba", a field or district, plus the local suffix "ais". These lands were granted to Duncan de Forbes, (see below), by Alexander 111 in the latter part of the 13th Century. One, John Forbes or Forbees occurs in an English Rolls of circa 1306, and Alexander Forbes, first Baron Forbes, was created a Lord of parliament by James 11 of Scotland between 1436-1442. Among the several notable namebearers listed in the "Dictionary of National Biography" are William Forbes, (1585-1634) first bishop of Edinburgh, and John Forbes, professor of divinity at King's College, Aberdeen, 1620-1639. The Irish branch of the family originated with Sir Arthur Forbes, first Earl of Granard, who settled in County Longford in 1620, however, the Forbes of Connacht are a sept of Mac Fearbhisigh, a patronymic from the personal name Firbhsigh, composed of Celtic elements meaning "man" and "prosperity". Giolla Iosa Mor Mac Firbis was the main compiler of the "Book of Lecan" in 1417. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Duncan de Forbes, which was dated circa 1272, Early Charters of Aberdeenshire, during the reign of King Alexander 111 of Scotland, 1249 - 1286. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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