Major Branches of the House of Forbes

Updated: Apr 5

One of your challenges in researching your genealogy is to trace your lineage to one of the 100 different branches of the House of Forbes. During the last virtual Clan Forbes Gathering in March 2021, Clan Forbes Historian Alexander Forbes of Druminnor (pronounced "drum-MEE-nor") Castle (the original Castle Forbes) reviewed the major branches and answered some genealogy and historical questions posed by the Society members.

The Forbeses were most likely descended from the Picts of northern Scotland and this may be confirmed by DNA research. Picts were the very early immigrants to Scotland before the Gaelic invasion or settlement. The tribe of Forbes had settled in the same place for as long as records have survived. The sixth baron, or laird, of the Barony of Forbes was Sir John Forbes, known as “John with the Black Lip,” who died in about 1386. He was appointed as the Crown’s representative, or “crowner,” of Aberdeenshire which gave him tremendous judicial and military authority in the province of Mar.

Sir John had seven sons, four of whom were legitimate. One of the illegitimate sons was called “Evil Duncan” Forbes and he founded a fairly minor branch of Auchintoul (pronounced OCH-in-tool) that lasted for eight generations. In general, they were tenants of Lord Forbes. The four legitimate sons were Alexander, William, John, and Alistair. The eldest son was Alexander who became the first Lord Forbes sometime before 1445. The second one was William who inherited from his father the barony of Kynaldy (pronounced "kin-ALL-dee") and from his wife the estate of Pitsligo (pronounced "pit-SLY-go"). The third one was John who married the heiress of Tolquhon (pronounced "tuh-HUN."). The fourth was Alistair who married the heiress of Brux (pronounced "brucks".).

Lords Forbes

Alexander’s eldest son James, the second Lord Forbes, had three sons, the first of whom, William, called “Grey Willie,” was the third Lord Forbes; the second son was Duncan who founded the Forbes of Corsindae (pronounced "COURSE-in-day"); and the third son was Patrick who founded the line of Forbes of Corse. The line has continued to today with Malcolm, 23rd Lord Forbes.


The Forbeses of Corsindae were quite soon eclipsed by their cadet branch of Monymusks (pronounced MON-ee-musk" in terms of landholdings and wealth. The Forbeses of Corsindae where closest to Aberdeen. They produced a higher proportion of Aberdonian burgesses and merchants then the other branches. While most of the House of Forbes were staunch Protestants, the Corsindae branch reverted to Catholicism and lost their land result under a Protestant government. As a result, the family of Monymusk became the head of that that whole branch. Many Forbeses of Monymusk became scientists, a tradition that has continued through their descendants today.


The Forbeses of Corse produced very distinguished soldiers, particularly through the cadet line of the Irish Earls of Granard (pronounced "grun-ARD") in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. They also produced well-known bishops and presbyterian ministers, on opposite ends of the of the religious spectrum in Scotland. The branch also produced some powerful merchants such as William Forbes, known as “Dantzig Willie” for his successful trade business in the Polish city now known as Gdańsk. William Forbes made an enormous fortune, bought huge estates, and built Craigievar (pronounced "CRAIG-ee-var") Castle.