top of page
BattleDunbar_450x300_Last stand of Lawer

Detail from "Last stand of Lawer's Brigade at Dunbar," Graham Turner

James Forbes of Hartford, Connecticut

James Forbes (1627 – 1692) of Hartford, Connecticut was one of the earliest House of Forbes immigrants to North America. James Forbes was most likely the son of Captain James Forbes of Caithness, the second son of Duncan Forbes (1572-1654), Provost of Inverness and first lord of Culloden. 

Both Scotland and England were ruled by a single monarch, Charles I, son of James VI of Scotland (James I of England) and grandson of Mary, Queen of Scots. However, the English parliament demanded a constitutional monarchy. Thus, from 1642, Charles I fought the army of the English parliament in the English Civil War. By the end of 1648,  Oliver Cromwell's army had consolidated its control over England. Charles I was executed in January 1649, the monarchy was abolished, and his son, Charles II, fled in exile. The execution of Charles I consolidated Scots against the new English Republic Independents and the Covenanter Parliament of Scotland proclaimed that Charles II was their king.

In 1650, James Forbes, the younger, fought for his king at the Battle of Dunbar. Unfortunately, the Scots were defeated by a much smaller force led by Oliver Cromwell. Over 10,000 Scots were captured and marched to Newcastle. However, holding such a large number of prisoners was expensive. Therefore, the Council of State, which was England's governing body, decided to ship prisoners to New England as indentured servants. After an indentured period of 6 to 8 years, the servant was first recognized as a citizen and was granted land.


Sites of houses of some of East Hartford early settlers


On November 8, 1651, the John and Sarah sailed with about 300 Scottish prisoners on board, of which 272 of them survived to reach Charlestown in the Massachusetts Bay Colony on May 13, 1652.  One of the names on the passenger list was "James farfason." This is most probably James Forbes which was written by an English clerk unfamiliar with Scots Gaelic dialect. This misspelling was similar to the records of John “Fobes” of Bridgewater, Massachusetts, and William “Forbush” of Kittery, Maine.


The first written record of James Forbes in North America occurs in "The Genealogical Items from the Medical Journal of John Winthrop.” Winthrop notes that James Forbes, a "Scotchman," worked on a farm in 1658 owned by Mr. Goodens or Goodwin.


In 1658, James obtained land from John Crow in Hartford. The record of this land transaction notes the spelling of his last name as “fforbas” and describes the land as “One parcell of Meadow lying on the East side of the great River.” “One parcel” was about twenty acres on the Connecticut River. In 1660, records indicate that Forbes relinquished this property and obtained another parcel of land: "more one parcel of mead which he bought of John Crowe lying on ye eaft Side of ye great riuer Containing by estimation about Nine or tenn acres." Forbes prospered and added to his landholdings in 1661/62, 1673, and 1683/84.


In 1688 James and his family resided in the neighborhood of Hartford known as “Scotland,” which was renamed Burnside. James died intestate in 1692 and his total property was valued at about £344. This included a house and lot, barn, 60 acres of woodland, 6 acres of pastureland, 8 acres of swampland and 10 acres of meadowland.


James had 7 children and most them had several children. The details of the subsequent generations are meticulously recounted by Karen Lorraine Forbes in her genealogy Descendants of James Forbes of Hartford, Connecticut (c. 1635 – 1692). She traced twelve generations of his descendants who have settled all around North America. The second and third generations are included below.



1. JAMES FORBES, was born about 1627 in Inverness-shire, Scotland, and died at East Hartford, Hartford County, Connecticut in 1692; he married, KATHERINE FOTHERGILL, (1645-1693).


Children of James and Katherine (Fothergill) Forbes:

2. JOHN FORBES, 1665-1713

3. SARAH FORBES, 1668-1750

4. DOROTHY FORBES, 1669-1757

5. DAVID FORBES, 1671-1729

6. JAMES FORBES, 1677-1752

7. MARY FORBES, 1680


Second Generation


2. JOHN² FORBES, (James¹), was born at Hartford, Connecticut in 1665 and died at East Hartford on 15 Apr 1713. He married, MARY GRIFFEN, (1670-1738).


Children of John and Mary (Griffen) Forbes:

8. JOHN FORBES, 1695-1758.

9. MARAH FORBES, 1697-1763.

10. SAMUEL FORBES, Capt. 1703-1757.

11. JOSEPH FORBES, 1706-1770.

12. LYDIA FORBES, 1707-1796.


3. SARAH FORBES, was born at Hartford in 1668 and died at Hartford on 20 Dec 1750. She married, JOSEPH COLLIER, JR.; NO CHILDREN


4. DOROTHY FORBES, (James¹), was born at Hartford in 1669 and died at Hartford on 12 Feb 1669. She married, WILLIAM ROBERTS, (1663-1735).


Children of William and Dorothy (Forbes) Roberts:

13. ANN ROBERTS, b. 1683

14. JOHN ROBERTS, 1684-1742

15. JAMES ROBERTS, 1686-1766


17. NAZARETH ROBERTS, 1688-1764

18. SYBIL ROBERTS, 1690-1



21. WILLIAM ROBERTS, 1685-1726

22. BENJAMIN ROBERTS, 1698-1774

23. JOSEPH ROBERTS, 1700-1774

24. MARY ROBERTS, 1702-1772

25. SAMUEL ROBERTS, 1704-1765


5. DAVID FORBES, was born at Hartford in 1671 and died in Hartford on 16 Dec 1729. He married, first, MARY (maiden name unknown), (1680-1706). He married, second, SARAH TREAT, (1674-1731).


Children of David and Mary Forbes:

26. DAVID³ FORBES, 1704-1752.

27. SARAH³ FORBES, 1706-1708.


Children of David and Sarah (Treat) Forbes:

26. SARAH FORBES, 1710-1808

27. WILLIAM FORBES, 1712-1785

28. SOLOMON FORBES, 1714-1730

29. MARY FORBES, 1717-1785

30. CATHARINE FORBES, 1725-1788

31. THANKFUL FORBES, 1730-1786


6. JAMES FORBES, was born at East Hartford on 14 May 1677 and died at Hartford in 1752. He married, first, SARAH WILLIAMS, (1680-1724). He married, second, ELIZABETH BUCKLAND HILL, (1666-1725).


Children of James and Sarah (Williams) Forbes:

32. JAMES FORBES, 1704-1737

33. JONATHAN FORBES, 1707-1787


35. ABRAHAM FORBES, 1710-1801

36. TIMOTHY FORBES, 1711-1777

37. SARAH FORBES, 1718-1786



James and Elizabeth Buckland (Hill) Forbes: NO CHILDREN.


7. MARY FORBES, was born at Hartford in Jul 1680 and died at Hartford on 20 Dec 1750. She married, DANIEL GAINES, (1678-1737).


Children of Daniel and Mary (Forbes) Gaines:

39. DANIEL GAINES, 1700-1790

40. SARAH GAINES, 1716-1771

41. HENRY GAINES, 1721-1745


For more information about the Scottish Prisoners of War from the Battle of Dunbar, see


For a copy of Descendants of James Forbes of Hartford, Connecticut (c. 1635 – 1692) by Karen Lorraine Forbes please check with your local library or these institutions: Library of Congress, Washington, DC; Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, Main (Oakland), Pittsburgh, PA; New York Public Library System, New York, NY; Onondaga County Public Library, Syracuse, NY; Rochester Public Library, Rochester, NY 14604 United States; Western Reserve Historical Society, Research Library, Cleveland, OH; and other institutions.

bottom of page