Show ContentsForest History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The Forest surname was no doubt taken on by someone who either lived in or near a forest, or perhaps worked in the forest. The Middle English word "forest" referred specifically to an area of woodland reserved by law as hunting grounds for the king or his nobles. No doubt, as a surname, Forest would have appeared independently in various parts of Britain.

One source claims the name as Norman, descended from Forez, Normandy. There Guerard and Nicholas de Foresta of Normandy were found in 1198 (Magni Rotuli Scaccarii Normanniae). The source continues to note that William Forist held lands in Hampshire in the Domesday Book of 1086. [1] [2]

Early Origins of the Forest family

The surname Forest was first found in Northumberland, but early records include John Forester, listed in the Pipe Rolls of Surrey of 1183, and Richard le Forester listed in the Feet of Fines of Essex in 1240. [3]

The Hundredorum Rolls of 1273 include: Petrus Forestarius, Jordan le Forester; and Nicholas le Forester. [4] There was also a Shropshire family of this name, who held custody of part of the Wrekin forest. An early record of this family lists a Hugh Forester as a witness 1187. [3]

As a trade name, the family were traditional "officers made by letters patent under the great seal, and sworn to preserve vert and venison in the forest; and to attend upon the wild beasts within his bailiwick; to attach offenders there either in Vert or Venison, and to preserve the same at the courts of the Forest." [5]

Early History of the Forest family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Forest research. Another 105 words (8 lines of text) covering the years 1379, 1471, 1538, 1623, 1652, 1655, 1718, 1679, 1690, 1758, 1767, 1828 and 1698 are included under the topic Early Forest History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Forest Spelling Variations

During the era when a person's name, tribe and posterity was one of his most important possessions, many different spellings were found in the archives examined. Forest occurred in many references, and spelling variations of the name found included Forrester, Forester, Forrest, Forster, Foster, Forrestor and many more.

Early Notables of the Forest family (pre 1700)

Notable amongst the family name during their early history was John Forrest (1471-1538), English friar and martyr; Francis Forester (b. 1623) was High Sheriff of Shropshire in 1652; Sir William Forester (1655-1718), of Dothill in Wellington, Shropshire, Member of Parliament for the borough constituency of Wenlock (1679 to his death)...
Another 49 words (4 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Forest Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Forest World Ranking

In the United States, the name Forest is the 4,727th most popular surname with an estimated 7,461 people with that name. [6] However, in Canada, the name Forest is ranked the 876th most popular surname with an estimated 6,087 people with that name. [7] And in Quebec, Canada, the name Forest is the 399th popular surname. [8] France ranks Forest as 632nd with 7,475 people. [9]

Ireland Migration of the Forest family to Ireland

Some of the Forest family moved to Ireland, but this topic is not covered in this excerpt.
Another 43 words (3 lines of text) about their life in Ireland is included in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

United States Forest migration to the United States +

Gradually becoming disenchanted with life in Ireland many of these uprooted families sailed aboard the armada of sailing ships known as the "White Sails" which plied the stormy Atlantic. These overcrowded ships often arrived with only 60 to 70% of their original passenger list, many dying of illness and the elements, were buried at sea. In North America, early immigrants bearing the family name Forest, or a spelling variation of the surname include:

Forest Settlers in United States in the 17th Century
  • George Forest, who settled in Virginia in 1607
  • George Forest, who landed in Jamestown Va in 1607 [10]
  • George Forest, who settled in Virginia in 1608
  • Daniel Forest, who settled in Virginia in 1651
  • James Forest, who settled in Virginia in 1654
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)
Forest Settlers in United States in the 18th Century
  • Jean Baptiste Forest, who arrived in South Carolina in 1755 [10]
  • Paul Forest, who landed in South Carolina in 1755 [10]
  • Anthony Forest, who landed in Pennsylvania in 1758 [10]
  • Benoist Forest, who arrived in Connecticut in 1763 [10]
  • Marie Forest, who landed in Maryland in 1763 [10]
  • ... (More are available in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.)
Forest Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Robert Forest, who landed in New York in 1813 [10]
  • John Forest, who landed in New York, NY in 1816 [10]
  • Lemuel De Forest, aged 30, settled in New York in 1820
  • Joseph Forest, who arrived in Tippecanoe County, Ind in 1848 [10]
  • J Forest, who arrived in San Francisco, California in 1850 [10]

Canada Forest migration to Canada +

Some of the first settlers of this family name were:

Forest Settlers in Canada in the 18th Century
  • Joseph Forest, son of René and Françoise, who married Marie Guillebaud, daughter of Charles and Anne, in Port-Royal, Quebec on 25th November 1720 [11]
  • François Forest, son of René and Françoise, who married Jeanne Girouard, daughter of Alexandre and Marie, in Port-Royal, Quebec on 20th October 1727 [11]
  • Joseph Forest, son of Joseph and Anne, who married Agathe Badaillac, daughter of Gilles and Marie-Thérèse, in Saint-Michel, Quebec on 16th September 1765 [11]
  • Jean-Baptiste Forest, son of Marin-Paul and Marie-Anne, who married Marie-Anne Guérin, daughter of Joseph and Élisabeth, in Terrebonne, Quebec on 3rd October 1768 [11]

New Zealand Forest migration to New Zealand +

Emigration to New Zealand followed in the footsteps of the European explorers, such as Captain Cook (1769-70): first came sealers, whalers, missionaries, and traders. By 1838, the British New Zealand Company had begun buying land from the Maori tribes, and selling it to settlers, and, after the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, many British families set out on the arduous six month journey from Britain to Aotearoa to start a new life. Early immigrants include:

Forest Settlers in New Zealand in the 19th Century
  • Jean Forest, aged 37, who arrived in Nelson, New Zealand aboard the ship "London" in 1842
  • Rev. J. Forest, British settler travelling from London aboard the ship "William Stoveld" arriving in Auckland, New Zealand on 27th November 1843 [12]
  • Henry Forest, aged 23, a saddler, who arrived in Wellington, New Zealand aboard the ship "Oliver Lang" in 1856
  • Maria Forest, aged 27, who arrived in Wellington, New Zealand aboard the ship "Oliver Lang" in 1856

Contemporary Notables of the name Forest (post 1700) +

  • James Hendrickson "Jim" Forest (1941-2022), American writer, Orthodox Christian lay theologian, educator, and peace activist
  • Herbert Léon Forest, American Government Official
  • Lee De Forest (1873-1961), American inventor with over 180 patents to his credit including the vacuum tube
  • Frank Forest (1896-1976), American opera singer
  • Abel De Forest, American politician, Member of New York State Assembly from Otsego County, 1809-10, 1812-14 [13]
  • Jean-Marie Forest, French Brigadier General during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars from 1789 to 1815 [14]
  • Joseph Léon Bertrand Forest, Canadian Government Official, Quebec
  • Jean-Claude Forest (1930-1998), French comic book author and creator of Barbarella
  • Charles Forest McBee (1860-1923), American entrepreneur and innovator, founder of the McBee Binder Co. in Athens, Ohio in 1906 which later featured the McBee One-Write Accounting System
  • Brigadier-General John Forest Goodman (1891-1947), American Commanding Officer, 364th Infantry Regiment (1942-1945) [15]

HMAS Sydney II
  • Mr. McAdam Carruthers De Forest (1922-1941), Australian Stoker from East Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, who sailed into battle aboard HMAS Sydney II and died in the sinking [16]

  1. Williams, Dr Ann. And G.H. Martin, Eds., Domesday Book A Complete Translation. London: Penguin, 1992. Print. (ISBN 0-141-00523-8)
  2. The Norman People and Their Existing Descendants in the British Dominions and the United States Of America. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1975. Print. (ISBN 0-8063-0636-X)
  3. Reaney, P.H and R.M. Wilson, A Dictionary of English Surnames. London: Routledge, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-415-05737-X)
  4. Bardsley, C.W, A Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames: With Special American Instances. Wiltshire: Heraldry Today, 1901. Print. (ISBN 0-900455-44-6)
  5. Lower, Mark Anthony, Patronymica Britannica, A Dictionary of Family Names of the United Kingdom. London: John Russel Smith, 1860. Print.
  6. "What are the 5,000 Most Common Last Names in the U.S.?".,
  7. "Surnames Meanings, Origins & Distribution Maps - Forebears." Forebears,
  8. "The first 1,000 family names by rank, Quebec (in French only)" Institut de la statistique du Quebec,
  10. Filby, P. William, Meyer, Mary K., Passenger and immigration lists index : a guide to published arrival records of about 500,000 passengers who came to the United States and Canada in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. 1982-1985 Cumulated Supplements in Four Volumes Detroit, Mich. : Gale Research Co., 1985, Print (ISBN 0-8103-1795-8)
  11. Internoscia, Arthur E., and Claire Chevrier. Dictionnaire National des Canadiens Français 1608-1760. Vol. 1, Institut Drouin, 1958.
  12. New Zealand Yesteryears Passenger Lists 1800 to 1900 (Retrieved 26th March 2019). Retrieved from
  13. The Political Graveyard: Alphabetical Name Index. (Retrieved 2015, November 11) . Retrieved from
  14. Generals Who Served in the French Army during the Period 1789-1815. (Retrieved 2015, March 4) Jean-Marie Forest. Retrieved from
  15. Generals of World War II. (Retrieved 2011, October 6) John Goodman. Retrieved from
  16. HMAS Sydney II, Finding Sydney Foundation - Roll of Honour. (Retrieved 2014, April 24) . Retrieved from on Facebook