Nielsen Hayden genealogy

James Forbes

Male - 1692


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  • Name James Forbes 
    Gender Male 
    Death 27 Mar 1692  Hartford, Hartford, Connecticut Find all individuals with events at this location  [1, 2
    Person ID I30520  Ancestry of PNH, TNH, and others | Ancestor of TWK
    Last Modified 20 Sep 2020 

    Family Catharine 
    Children 
    +1. Sarah Forbes   d. Aft 1712
    Family ID F18215  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart
    Last Modified 20 Sep 2020 

  • Notes 
    • He was very likely Scottish. Forbes is a Scottish name, and Winthrop Jr. calls him a "Scotchman" in a journal entry in 1658.

      A small cottage industry appears to have developed around the idea that he was a son of Capt. James Forbes of Caithness, second son of Duncan Forbes (1572-1654), first lord of Culloden. Supposedly this James Forbes fought at Dunbar (or, alternately, Philiphaugh), and was then, with his fellow defeated Scotsmen, marched by the victorious English to Newcastle (or, in one especially marvelous version, to the Tower of London), then shipped to America as an involuntarily indentured servant. In some versions he was a "captain in the Royal army" and "fought under Montrose." In most of them he is represented as later becoming "a prominent resident of the Colony" in Hartford. (He was a poor farmer.) Almost invariably, these claims are hedged about, not with citations to primary sources, but rather with throat-clearing language like "it is believed", "most likely," and "indications are." In the mouths of serious historians and genealogists in possession of actual facts, phrases of this sort are meaningful. In barrages of fancy like this, the phrases exist to distract the reader from the emptiness of the claims being made, by suggesting that great intellectual exertions are happening here. These writers have heard these phrases being used by people who know what they're talking about, and they fancy that using them themselves will grant them the same credibility.

      It is entirely possible that James Forbes had an interesting life before coming to Hartford. The fact that he was a poor farmer who played a minor role in Hartford affairs hardly makes this impossible. He may well have had forebears who were notable for one reason or another. But the very language in which these claims are couched reveals them to be the nonsense that they are.

  • Sources 
    1. [S2254] Families of Early Hartford, Connecticut by Lucius Barnes Barbour. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1977.

    2. [S468] A Genealogical Dictionary of the First Settlers of New England by James Savage. Boston: Little, Brown, 1860-64., year only.