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Malcolm, Lord Forbes, Clan Chief


Complete Alphabetical Listing of Common Surnames Associated with Forbes

With the spelling variations of Forbes and its septs, along with the “allied and dependent families” who may be “connected” to the Forbes tartan, here is the current list of surnames associated with Clan Forbes:

  • Bannerman

  • Berry 

  • Boyce

  • Boyes

  • Boyse

  • Coowatt

  • Faubus

  • Fobbs

  • Fobes

  • Forbas

  • Forbes

  • Forbess

  • Forbis

  • Forbus

  • Forbush

  • Furbish

  • Fordyce

  • Lumsdaine

  • Lumsden 

  • MacAout

  • MacFirbis

  • MacGertie

  • MacGerty

  • MacGirtie

  • MacGirty

  • MacGurtie

  • MacGurty

  • Macouat

  • MacOwat

  • MacQuattie

  • MacWater

  • MacWatt 

  • MacWatter

  • MacWattie

  • Meldrom

  • Meldrum

  • Michie

  • Michieson

  • Middleton

  • Vobes 

  • Vorbes

  • Walter

  • Walters

  • Wason

  • Wasson 

  • Waters

  • Watkins

  • Watson

  • Watt

  • Wattie

  • Watts

  • Wattson

  • Watty

Fordyce, Aberdeenshire



[ 1 ] Skene, William Forbes, Editor. 1867. Chronicles of the Picts, Chronicles of the Scots, and Other Early Memorials of Scottish History. Edinburgh: H.M. Register House

[ 2 ] Skene, William Forbes. 1837. The Highlanders of Scotland: Their Origin, History, and Antiquities. London: John Murray.

[ 3 ] Tayler, Alistair and Henrietta. 1937. House of Forbes. Aberdeen: Third Spalding Club.

[ 4 ] “Members.” Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs.

[ 5 ] “Sept.” Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

[ 6 ] Adam, Frank. 1896. What is My Tartan? or The Clans of Scotland, with Their Septs and Dependents. Edinburgh and London: W. A. K. Johnston, Ltd. 

[ 7 ] Adams, Frank. 1908. The Clans, Septs & Regiments of the Scottish Highlands. Edinburgh and London: W. A. K. Johnston, Ltd. 

[ 8 ] Eyre-Todd, George. 1923. The Highland Clans of Scotland: Their History and Traditions. New York: D. Appleton and Company.

[ 9 ] Smith, Philip D. 1986. Tartan For Me!, Third Edition.

[ 10 ] Plean, George Way, and Squire, Romilly. 1994. Scottish Clan & Family Encyclopedia. HarperCollinsPublishers. 

[ 11 ] Black, George F. 1946. The Surnames of Scotland. Churchill & Dunn Ltd.

[ 12 ] Dorward, David. 1995. Scottish Surnames. Edinburgh: Mercat Press.

[ 13 ] Adams, Frank. 1908; Eighth edition 1970. The Clans, Septs & Regiments of the Scottish Highlands. Edinburgh and London: Johnston and Bacon.


[ 14 ] Ibid.

[ 15 ] Ibid.

[ 16 ] Black, George F. 1946. The Surnames of Scotland. Churchill & Dunn Ltd.


[ 17 ] Adams, Frank. 1908; Eighth edition 1970. The Clans, Septs & Regiments of the Scottish Highlands. Edinburgh and London: Johnston and Bacon.

[ 18 ] Smith, Philip D. 1986. Tartan For Me!, Third Edition.

A Forbes By Any Other Name:
Clan, Septs, and Associated Families

Clan Forbes Chief Malcolm, Lord Forbes


My own personal view is that anyone – whatever their current name – who regards themselves as in any way associated with the clan should be welcomed with open arms! As you can imagine, we receive a lot of visits from people claiming to have connections, including of course some on the “official” list of septs, and I always try to encourage them to wear the tartan. 

In this troubled world, I think there is every reason for encouragement to be given to anyone who would like to be associated to our peaceful clan where grace is our guide.

You do not need to have a surname of “Forbes” to be considered a part of Clan Forbes! Traditionally, a man with the same surname as the chief or a woman who marries such a man are considered members of that specific clan. However, the notion of a clan has evolved in the past few hundred years. Clan Forbes also welcomes everyone who has an ancestor that was a Forbes, a birth surname that is a spelling variation such as Fobes or Forbush, descendants of one of the traditional “septs” of Forbes such as Fordyce or Watts, and anyone who has an interest or spiritual connection to Clan Forbes.

Evolution of Clans

"Clan" is the modern spelling of the Gaelic word "clanna" and "clainn" meaning "children" or "family." The Irish missionary Columcille or Saint Columba (521 –597) recounted: "Moirsheiser do Cruitline clainn, Eaindset Albain i seclit raind, Cait, Ce, Cirig, cethach clanii. Fib, Fidach, Fotla, Fortrenn." The English translation is "Seven children of Cruthne divided Alban (Scotland) into seven divisions. Cait, Ce, Cirig, a warlike clan. Fib, Fidach, Fotla, Fortrenn." [ 1 ]  The people in these Pictish regions were ruled by hereditary chiefs, later known as mormaers and earls. The Forbes dúthchas, or ancestral land, was located in the mormaerdom of Mar within the region of Cé. The people of Forbes were governed by the Mormaers and Earls of Mar, their first chiefs. 

Forbes as Clan

As the family living in Forbes grew and gained power, they established their own clan. In the year 1271 (or 1272 in the later Gregorian calendar), Alexander III (1241–1286) officially granted the ancestral lands of Forbes to Duncan de Forbes (or Forbeys.) [ 2 ] He was the first Laird of Forbes and the first Clan Forbes Chief.

Forbes as Surname

The use of surnames was not common in Scotland before the 14th century. Instead, people usually bore the names of their fathers (such as “Angus mac Donald” or Angus son of Donald) or the lands they owned (such as “Duncan de Forbes” or Duncan of Forbes.) The common use of Forbes as a surname started within the lifetime of Alexander, 1st Lord Forbes (circa 1380 - 1448.) In 1402, the charter of the lands of Edinbanchory and Craiglogy, was granted by Isabel Douglas, Countess of Mar, to "Alexander de Forbes, Miles" (soldier.) In 1423, Alexander Stewart, Earl of Mar, granted the lands of Alford to "dilecto consanguineo sui Alexandrae Forbes, milite, et carissimo consanguinee Elizabeth de Douglas" The translation is "beloved cousin Alexander Forbes, soldier, and dear cousin Elizabeth of Douglas." Elizabeth was Alexander's fiancée and granddaughter of Robert III, of the House of Stewart. [ 3 ] 

Variations of Forbes

From the Middle Ages until about the 19th century, the spelling of surnames was more of an artform than a standard. In many cases, illiterate people had to rely on a government or commercial clerks to spell their names phonetically for immigration forms or census rolls. As Scots emigrated, their accents were often misunderstood even by speakers of English. This has given rise to many different spellings of the same family name of Forbes. Some of these variations include: Faubus, Fobbs, Fobes, Forbas, Forbess, Forbis, Forbish, Forbus, Forbush, Furbish, Furbush, Vobes, and Vorbes.
Lineage of Forbes

Even if you do not have the surname of Forbes or one of its spelling variations, you may still be a Forbes by lineage. Everyone has 8 great-grandparents – and one birth surname may be “Forbes!” Many clans observe the Medieval tradition that a man is born into a clan and a women must take the clan of her husband. The modern tradition rejects this misogynist patriarchy. In fact, at least seven women have been recognized by the Lord Lyon as chiefs. [ 4 ] Many people honor their mothers, grandmothers, and other ancestors by adopting Forbes as their chosen clan.

Septs and Affiliated Families 

Many clans also recognize “septs” or families associated  with the clans. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the word “sept” has been used since 1518 to denote “a branch of a family.” [ 5 ] The first publication to link “septs and dependents” with their clans was written by Frank Adam in 1896. [ 6 ] Adam conducted additional research on clan septs in 1908 [ 7 ] and George Eyre-Todd expanded on this research in 1923. [ 8 ] According to these sources, families with the same surname may have lived in different regions and may have been affiliated with different clans. 

In the later part of the twentieth century, the term “sept” fell out of favor with some researchers: “The preferred modern usage is to simply describe these as what they are – surnames of the main family and of allied and dependent families.” [ 9 ] Researchers George Way Plean and Romilly Squire note that “the subject of septs is a contentious one” but they include a “guide to the possible connections a name may have to a recognized clan or family…” [ 10 ]  

Clan Forbes tends to use the single syllable of “sept” rather than the polysyllabic term “allied and dependent families” – but both terms indicate members of the clan.  The following are considered to be septs allied with Clan Forbes:

Berrie / Berry 

In the latter end of the seventeenth century Berries and Berrys were located in in Strathdon, under Forbes of Brux, and in the parish of Coldstone under Farquharson of Invercauld. [ 11 ] A branch migrated to Strathdon and Coldstone in the 17th century; tartan-seekers have their choice of Forbes or Farquharson. [ 12 ] 


The Bannermans were hereditary standard-bearers to the Scottish kings, about the time of Malcolm IV or William the Lion. They were later deprived of the above distinction, which was bestowed on the ancestors of the Viscount Scrimgeours. The Bannermans intermarried largely with the Forbeses, whose followers they became. [ 13 ] 

  • Clan Chief: Sir David Bannerman of Elsick, Bt.


Fordyce is an ancient family from the Fordyce area of Aberdeenshire, Scotland, and was considered a long-time ally of the House of Forbes. Therefore, the family is considered a sept of Forbes.



The name Michie appears for the first time about 1530 in Morayshire. Thence the Michie spread into Strathdon, in Aberdeenshire. In the latter district they acquired considerable influence through their intermarriages with the Forbeses, whose followers they became. [ 15 ]  The Chiefship of this sept was in the family of Corryhoul, a place occupied for more than 200 years, and now represented by Lieut. Col. John Forbes Michie, Toronto, who. Only three years ago, disposed of the last of his ancestral rights in the old home. [ 16 ] 


Many of this name hail from the Aberdeenshire Highlands (Strathdon, Cromar, Glenbucket, Glenesk, and Glenisla). The great bulk of the Watts, however, appear to have remained on the Forbes’s lands, especially in the parishes of Innernochty, Strathdon, and to have been intimately connected with the Forbes Clan. Macouat, MacQuattie, MacWatt, MacWattie, Walters, and Watson are all varieties of the names Watt. [17]

Tartans and Other Family Names 

While tartan-like cloth has been found in Great Britain since mid-third century A.D., no documentation exists of tartans associated with specific clans before the 19th century. Popular interest in Scottish culture was kindled with the 1814 publication of the novel Waverley; or, 'Tis Sixty Years Since by Sir Walter Scott. This led to King George IV visiting Scotland in 1822, the first time a reigning British monarch came to Scotland in nearly two centuries. This prompted the publication of the bogus 1842 tome called Vestiarium Scoticum which contained many "newly discovered old clan tartans." Another questionable source of “clan tartans” was a volume called Clans Originaux, “published” in Paris in 1880 by J. Claude Fres. & Cie. However, this was actually a single “swatch book” (sample book), now in the possession of Pendleton Woolen Mills of Portland, Oregon. (See Clan Forbes Tartan.) Any person can wear any tartan, except those that are specifically copyrighted and those reserved for the British royal family. However, some researchers attempted to link family surnames with specific “clan tartans.” For example, Philip D. Smith presents the connections of these “allied and dependent families” to the specific “clan tartans.” [ 18 ] 

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