Forrets from Fife

The FORRET family originated from a Simon de Foret who came over with William the Conqueror in 1086. This was the first time the name is recorded in Scotland. Forret was an old family which possessed the estate of Forret in the parish of Logie, Fifeshire, from the reign of William the Lion till the seventeenth century. The surname is sometimes erroneously given as Forrest. John Forret of Forret, was in 1466, on of the assize, who was assigned to clear the marshes for the Abbot of Dunfermline. By the mid 1400s to 1500s, the Forret name is prominent in St.Andrews. A charter by Robert Forret granting to Walter Arnot of Balbertane and Janet Forret his spouse, annual rent of forty shillings of his lands of Forret, lying in the sheriffdom of Fife and barony of Kynloch. Forret 10 September 1491. Witnesses: David Forret, Andrew Neilson and John Ramsay, notary public and divers others. In 1561, a lawsuit was brought forward by Elizabeth Leslie, Lady of [Nydie], against her husband, Johne FORRET of that Ilk. who she married, not knowing he was already promised to, and had carnal knowledge of Elizabeth Auchterlonie, Lady of Auchterlick.

Thomas Forret (died 1540), was vicar of Dollar, Clackmannanshire, and a Scottish martyr. Forret was descended from the family which possessed the estate of Forret in the parish of Logie, Fifeshire, from the reign of William the Lion till the seventeenth century. The surname is sometimes erroneously given as Forrest. His father had been master stabler to James IV.

Our own FORRET surname can be definitely traced back to an Andrew (Andro) Forret born in 1647 in Kettle, Fife to a father called James. The only James we can find in Scottish records who lived in that area, at that time, was James Forret, a skipper from St. Andrews. He had a ship that sailed between Scotland and Boston and is recorded in several records. We have yet to prove that THIS James Forret is OUR James Forret, but if he is, than we can trace the family back in St. Andrew’s till the mid-1500s. This has been a brickwall of mine for 20 years!

We do have a very interesting FORRET ancestor. His name was Andrew Forret and he was born in 1817 in Fife. He was the father of 9 and grandfather of 42 and lived to be 101 1/2 years old! He died in 1919 and he was written about in the local papers.

Andrew Forret 1817-1919Here is an article written about him. I think my husband’s grandmother Eunice resembles him a lot. This was HER grandfather.

Andrew Forret Obit 3

Andrew Forret Obit 7

How amazing that he lived to be this age in an era without the healthcare we have now, and no antibiotics! He must have been a very strong man and now I see where my husband’s grandmother inherited her longevity and strength!

Now on to our scandalous FORRET. This is a story that I found out about when I was told the story by Eunice that when she arrived in Canada with her mother in 1920, the first thing her mother wanted to do was look up HER father who had left the family in 1889.

It seems that Eunice’s grandfather (the youngest son of the above Andrew) named William Norman Forret was a stonemason. He married a Susan McGregor in Perthshire in 1874. He was born in Fife but moved up to Longforgan and was working in that area. He and Susan had 5 children, the youngest being twins born in 1883. Around 1889 he decided he was coming to Canada. The family story is that “Susan didn’t want to go”, so he just left the whole family and came on his own. I believe he probably just left and Susan had no choice in the matter!

Here is a photo taken of the family just before he left. You can see the sadness in Susan’s eyes and the eyes of his children!!

Andrew Forret family c-1890

The Forret Family circa 1889 in Longforgan, Scotland

Eunice’s mother is the little girl standing on the right. She is the one who went looking for him when she arrived in Toronto as a widow with 3 children. She hadn’t seen her father in 31 years!

While William was in Canada he worked on the Parliament buildings in Ottawa and then Old City Hall in Toronto among other places. I found a photo of him in a book called “Toronto, Carved in Stone” written by Margaret E. McElvey. I immediately recognized him in the photo. He is in the center of the first row at the bottom.

university college Wm.Forret

Here he is sitting on the steps of University College in 1892 just after the restoration was being done after a large fire. It’s amazing to me that I live near this city and he had a part in making some of our most famous landmarks…..BUT

William met and married another woman named Emma Burch in 1891. He went on to have another 5 children with her. They all grew up and married. When his daughter arrive in Toronto in 1920 she looked him up. My husband’s grandmother recalls walking up to a house with her mother and this man with snow white hair and a big mustache sitting on his front porch. She said he stood very tall and straight and said, “Mamie? Is that you?”  (Mamie was his nickname for her- she was called Jemima). So recognized her! Jemima’s brother Andrew had also emigrated to Toronto by this time. Their father asked them to not reveal who he was to anyone. When he died in 1923, he left a will. In the will, he left his entire estate TO HIS FIRST FAMILY FROM SCOTLAND!!! His poor wife Emma, had NO idea he had ever been married before or that he had other children. She went to court to file an affidavit that she had been married to him for 32 years and she had NO knowledge of any other family. She stated that his “nephew” Andrew had stayed with them and never once declared himself his son. In the end, she lost as it could be proven that they were his children.

In a way, it’s great that he contributed to our city and helped build some of our greatest landmarks but on the other hand, he broke two women’s hearts and was a bigamist! I’m sure this happened a lot back then as there was no way to prove there was a previous marriage.


About tiesthatbindsite

I'm a genealogist with a passion for Scottish and English ancestry. I'm trilingual so I can also do research in French Canadian records and Italian records. My love for family history began 35 years ago and continues to grow every day. My family is very important to me and I hope to instill in them a love for "where they came from" so that they can better understand who they are. I also want to share my love of family history with anyone who understands how important it is to not lose site of their ancestors. They all have a story to tell.
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