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The Mystery of Jotham Forbes 

by Barry Robert (Bart) Forbes


My Forbes family in central New York State was very fortunate to have a relative who was an experienced genealogist. In 1990, George Forbes Weighart presented to us an exhaustive report of "Our Forbes Family Genealogy" which traced our lineage back through the First Forbes in America (John Forbes or Fobes born in 1608) to John de Forbes, born circa 1165 in Scotland, during reign of William the Lion. This was a fascinating look of my personal connection with figures throughout Scottish and American history. 

However, the genealogy turned up one mystery that had puzzled me for decades. This report was conducted before the plethora of records became available online. I dutifully entered all the information into my account which helped provide documented "hints" to validate cousin George's manual research. For generations, my ancestors lived in Bridgewater in Plymouth County until one "Jotham Forbes." The genealogy then notes another "Jotham Forbes" appeared in Livingston County in Central New York State in the first decade of the nineteenth century. To add to the mystery, two different "Jotham Forbes" appeared in the online documents. What was the connection? 

I attacked the mystery though both hints and through a series of Google searches. in the process, I discovered a number of excellent online resources. First was Google Books. Google has digitized a mind-boggling array of books that were helpful in my search, including the "Pension Roll of 1835" with a list of all Revolutionary soldiers. There I found the elusive Jotham Forbes listed as a soldier in the Revolutionary War. A second resource is the Internet Archive which is a non-profit library of millions of free books. There I found the book "Massachusetts Soldiers abd Sailors of the Revolutionary War." 

The most productive resource is Fold3, a pay service of, which provides original military records. There I hit the jackpot of the service record and pension details of Jotham Forbes the Senior -- and his son, Jotham Forbes, the Junior. Turns out that Junior also enlisted in the Army for the war of 1812. There was the connection: the two  Jotham Forbes were father and son, both veterans. 

But how did Senior end up in Central New York? Most Revolutionary War veterans received land grants in the Military Tract. However, Senior lived in Livingston County when he applied for his military pension in 1831. This was in the Phelps & Gorham Purchase, far west of Military Tract designated for Revolutionary War Veterans. On to solving the next genealogical mystery!

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