This interesting surname is of early medieval Scottish origin, and has two distinct possible sources, each with its own history and derivation. Firstly, Forsyth may be of locational origin from some minor, or now lost place called "Fersith" or "Forsith", believed to have been in Midlothian. The component elements of the placename are most likely the Old Gaelic "fer", grass, or "for", hill, mound, with "si(the)", fairies; hence, "fairy mound", or "fairy pastures". Locational surnames, such as this, were originally given to local landowners, and the lord of the manor, and especially as a means of identification to those who left their birthplace to settle elsewhere.William de Fersith was one of an inquest in Edinburgh (1402), and Thomas de Forsyth witnessed a precept by Robert dominus de Lyle in 1452. The surname may also derive from the Olde Gaelic personal name "Fearsithe", a compound of the elements "fear", man, with "sithe", peace. Osbert filius (son of) Forsyth had a charter of a hundred shilling land in the tenement of Salahill, Stirling, from Robert 1, circa 1308. An interesting bearer of the name was Alexander John Forsyth (1769 - 1843), who was offered 20,000 lira by Napoleon to reveal the secret of the percussion lock which he invented. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of William de Fersith, bailie of Edinburgh, which was dated 1365, in the "Early Medieval Records of Scotland", during the reign of King David 11 of Scotland, 1329 - 1371. 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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