The surname of FORSYTHE was of local origin, from the place so called in Scotland. Local names usually denoted where a man held his land, and indicated where the orginal bearer of the name actually lived. The use of fixed surnames or descriptive names appears to have commenced in France about the year 1000, and such names were introduced into Scotland through the Normans a little over one hundred years later, although the custom of using them was by no means common for many years afterwards. During the reign of Malcolm Ceannmor (1057-1093) the latter directed his chief subjects, after the custom of other nations, to adopt surnames from their territorial possessions, and there created 'The first erlis that euir was in Scotland'. Early records of the name mention William de Fersith, who was a merchant trader of Scotland in 1365. Robert Ferthithsoun rendered to the Exchequor the accounts of the baillies of the town of Dumbarton in 1428. James Forsith is mentioned in 1446 as servant of the king, and Forsith Sutor was burgess of Aberdeen in the same year. Robert of Forsythe was granted a safe conduct into England from Scotland in 1424. Thomas Foresyth was a tenant of the lands of Ardmanock in 1504, and William Forsith was the vicar of Moneky in 1512.
The name was originally from the Gaelic personal name FEARSITHE, composed of the elements 'fear' (man) and 'sithe' (peace). Some early forms with prepositions, as for example William de Fersith (Edinburgh 1365) seem to point to an alternative origin as a habitation name, but no placename of suitable form has yet been discovered. The associated arms are recorded in Sir Bernard Burkes General Armory. It has long been a matter of doubt when the bearing of coats of arms first became hereditary and it was not until the Crusades that Heraldry came into general use. Men went into battle heavily armed and were difficult to recognise. It became the custom for them to adorn their helmets with distinctive crests, and to paint their shields with animals and the like. Coats of arms accompanied the development of surnames, becoming hereditary in the same way.
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