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16 July 2017

Theodore Forbes, Eliza Kevork Their Male Descendants and Their Royal Cousins Princes William and Harry

It is already known and well documented that Scottish Theodore Forbes[1] and Indian-Armenian Eliza Kevork are ancestors of British Royals, Princes William and Harry respectively.

The direct male Forbes line of descendancy of
Theodore Forbes, Ann Macdonnell and Eliza Kevork

Theodore and Eliza had at least 3 children, Katherine Scott Forbes in 1812, Alexander Scott Forbes in 1814 and a third, possibly a boy who died as a baby.

Baptism record of Catherine Scott Forbes and Alexander Scott Forbes

The royal line can be traced through Katherine Scott Forbes’s marriage to James Crombie and their children, all of which is well documented in various family trees on a number of genealogy websites. More recently a number of news articles published world-wide both in print and digitally, have explored the direct relationship with the Princes, and it is not my intention to investigate this genealogy line today.

However, scarce recognition (so far) has been given about the life and descendants of Katherine Scott Forbes’s brother Alexander Scott Forbes.

But first, not so commonly known is the fact that Theodore Forbes also had another son, not with Indian-Armenian Eliza Kevork but borne by a Scottish woman called Ann Macdonnell.

Theodore Forbes acknowledged his illegitimate son in his Will.

The child was named Frederick Forbes, and is acknowledged by Theodore in his Will[2] as “my respected son Frederick by Ann Macdonnell of Aberdeenshire”. Little Frederick was bequeathed 20,000 Bombay Rupees, only 5,000 Rupees less than Alexander, the son Theodore had with Eliza Kevork. Frederick was born in Scotland on 22 November 1808 and it would seem that after Theodore’s death, Frederick came under the care of his uncle (Theodore’s brother) Alexander Forbes and his wife Annabella nee Reid and their children.

Conveniently ignoring his illegitimacy, Frederick became fully absorbed into the Forbes family, and he went on to graduate from Marischal University in 1827[3]. In 1831 Frederick was nominated by his cousin, John Forbes (son of Alexander Forbes the uncle that took in Frederick)  for entry into the East India Company as an Assistant Surgeon[4]. His preparations for a military career didn’t quite go to plan. Having studied medicine for some time, The Royal College of Surgeons in London wrote that Frederick was “found to be unqualified for the situation” and was therefore referred back to his professional studies for a further six months. Frederick was finally examined and passed as an Assistant Surgeon in February 1832.

The Royal College of Surgeons found Frederick Forbes "unqualified"

From the book: The Visit of Frederick Forbes to the Somali Coast in 1833” by Roy Bridges[5]: an explanation is give as to why: “…..Frederick found himself in the Gulf of Aden in the Red Sea in 1833 because his ship, the brig Tigris, had been ordered to Mocha to keep an eye on developments there as Mohammed Ali's campaigns against his nominal Turkish overlord proceeded…….

….at the time of his [Frederick’s] visit to the Somali Coast he was attached to the Indian Navy. His regrettably brief subsequent life shows that he was on the way to becoming a notable scholar-explorer. At this early stage he obviously had some hopes of travelling in Africa[6] but the accidents of his career led him to make expeditions in the Mesopotamian and Persian regions of South-West Asia.[7]

Frederick’s thesis in 1840 on the “Nature and History of Plague as Observed in the North Western Provinces of India” gained him a gold medal awarded by the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Edinburgh. Touchingly, Frederick dedicated the book to his uncle 

“Alexander Forbes, Esquire
Boyndlie, Aberdeenshire.
This Treatise is Inscribed
As A
Mark Of Respect And Gratitude”

Like so many about to embark into unknown territories, Frederick made a Will on the 3rd April 1841 in Tehran, Persia.  Witnesses were Frederick Hughes of the Madras Company and Syeed Khan.  Frederick appointed “Charles Forbes Esquire or the managing partner for the time being of the firm of Forbes and Company, Bombay, Alexander Forbes Esquire of Boyndlie [his uncle] in the county of Aberdeen, and James Crombie [his half sister Kitty Forbe’s husband and ancestor to Princes William and Harry respectively] now lately residing at Swailand of Elrick in the parish of Newmachar and county of Aberdeen, to be the executors of this my will.”

Frederick ensured his mother (Ann) was provided an annuity for her lifetime.

Frederick’s Will is also evidence of his blood relationship to Alexander Scott Forbes.

I give and bequeath to Alexander Scott Forbes son of my late father
Theodore Forbes of Bombay........

Frederick’s last bequest: “I give and bequeath the residue of my personal estate whatsoever or wheresoever to my said executors Alexander Forbes and James Crombie for their absolute use and benefit for and on account of the trouble they may have in the performance of the trusts of this my will, to be equally divided between them, their heirs or assigns.”

Frederick Forbes left the residue of his estate to his uncle, Alexander Forbes and James Crombie, his half sister Kitty's husband.

 Just 5 months later, in September 1841 Frederick was murdered. 

“Intelligence was yesterday received at Agra of the murder of Dr. Forbes, by Ibrahim Khan, the Beelochee chief of Seistan.  Dr. Forbes, under the protection of Mohumud Reza Khan, the most influential chieftain in Seistan, had completed the circuit of the lake [at Seistan] and visited all sites of interest in the province, accompanied by one Persian servant. From the residence of Mohumud Reza Khan he was escorted to Jehanabad, the fort of Ibrahim Khan, Beelochee, and after remaining with that chief a few days, he left for Sash, with a party of Ibrahim Khan’s horse for a guide.  The Khan joined him at a short distance from the fort; they breakfasted together in a friendly manner, and Dr. F. was immediately murdered. Our report says, that being attacked by a large hound brought out to hunt the hog, he shot it in self-defence, and the Khan in a moment of irritation immediately fired on him.  The other and more probable story is, that the Khan, on pretence of examining his arms, got possession of his gun, pistols, and sword, then immediately gave the signal to his horsemen, who seized the doctor, dragged him through the water of the lake until he was half-drowned, and when he was brought out, the Khan shot him with his own hand.  His Persian attendant was barbarously murdered a day or two after.[8]

Nearly 10 years with the East India Company, and he was dead at 34.

Direct male Forbes descendants of Theodore and Eliza Forbes
Turning now to Alexander Scott Forbes, son of Theodore and Eliza. He married Elizabeth Cobb 29 June 1865 at Dundee, her father James was a Scottish weaver. Alexander and Elizabeth had two children Catherine Forbes in June 1866[9] and Frederick Forbes in February 1869[10]. Alexander Scott Forbes was an insurance agent and comfortably placed financially, so much so that they also fostered two other children Louis and Jenny Mudie[11]. Alexander Scott Forbes died 7 April 1887[12] and by 1891 his widow Elizabeth and their son Frederick where living alone in the family house 14 Ann Street, Arbroath, Scotland. Elizabeth’s income derived from her husband’s estate whilst Frederick was a clerk with a shoe manufacturing company.

Birth record for Frederick Forbes

Alexander and Elizabeth Forbes’s son Frederick married Agnes Low Petrie 27 December 1897 in Arbroath[13]. Agnes was a working girl and employed as a flax reeler, her father was a hairdresser. Frderick and Agnes had 3 children, Elizabeth Ross Forbes born 1898[14], David Buik Forbes born 1903[15] and Ethel Agnes Forbes born 1904[16]. Frederick Forbes was a commercial traveller/shoe salesman, he died of pneumonia in 1909 in Arbroath[17], the death was registered by his brother-in-law Alexander Buik (who had married Catherine, Frederick’s sister in 1888 in Arbroath) leaving Agnes with 3 young children to bring up alone.

Birth record of David Buik Forbes

The vast fortune that had been left to Alexander Scott Forbes by his father Theodore in his Will of 21 September 1820 was diminishing, In the Will Theodore wrote days before his fateful demise: “To my respected son Alexander Scott Forbes by the said Eliza Kewark [sic] and now in India where it is my wish that he should remain, the sum of twenty five thousand 25, 000 Bombay Rupees.” A handsome bequest for the day.

By 1920, Agnes’s eldest daughter Elizabeth had struck up a blossoming friendship  with a fellow Scot, James A. Keith. He was a grocer’s assistant and in December of that year sailed from Liverpool to New York[18] with a view to starting a new life.  It is this innocuous migration of an unrelated Scottish lad that would end up influencing the remaining Forbes family to leave Scotland and start their own new lives in the land of the brave and the free.

On the 23rd June 1923 (Elizabeth) Lizzie Forbes sailed from Glasgow to Boston to meet James Keith, a month later on the 6th August James and Lizzie had married in Troy, Rensselaer, New York[19] a town which would become the home of the migrated Forbes whose roots where originally from India. Lizzie and Keith had two children, Ronald Bruce Keith born 1926 died 2006 and David Forbes Keith born 1929 died 1985.

Missing her daughter and with nothing to keep her and the two remaining children in Scotland, Agnes followed Lizzie to New York in September 1925[20], taking David and Ethel with her. The three of them took up residence in Stow Avenue, Troy, David found employment as a book-keeper whilst Ethel was a cashier.

In 1928 Agnes’s son, David Buik Forbes married a Scottish woman called Una Smith moving just a few houses away in Stow Avenue. David and Una lived in several locations but stayed in Troy for the rest of their days.

In September 1929[21] Agne’s daughter, Ethel married Alexander Smith a migrant Scot like herself. With David and his sister Ethel now married, Agnes moved in with James, Lizzie and their family, where she lived out her days, dying in 1939. 

Image via

Agnes is remembered on a marker stone at Elmwood Hill Cemetery along with that of her son-in-law James Keith who at the time of his death in 1956, had been the manager of the Mohican Markets in Troy and Albany for 20 years. Agnes’s beloved daughter Lizzie Keith died in 1963 and had been an integral member of the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church choir for over 40 years[22]. Remembered on the same memorial is one of James and Elizabeth’s children David Forbes Keith.

David and Una Forbes had two children a boy and girl and thus continued the direct male Forbes descendancy from Theo and Eliza of Surat in India. David was a salesman for over 20 years with the Tetley Tea Co and heavily involved with community life in Troy whilst Una worked for the Denby’s department store and became a well loved and trusted member of staff.

It might come as a surprise that today there are living descendants in New York who share the same common ancestors of Princes William and Harry, Scottish Theodore Forbes and Indian Armenian Eliza Kevork.

[1] For the personal papers of Theodore Forbes including letters from Eliza Kevork to her daughter Kitty Forbes see GB 0231 University of Aberdeen, Special Collections, MS2740: Ogilvie-Forbes, various family members in India, including merchants William Forbes and Theodore Forbes, and in military service, including Captain William Ogilvie and Dr Frederick Forbes: 19th century.

[2] British Library: L/AG/34/29/344
[3] Roll of the Indian Medical Service 1615-1930
[4] British Library: Cadet Paper L/MIL/9-382
[5] The International Journal of African Historical Studies, Vol. 19, No. 4 (1986), pp.679-691. Frederick Forbes left a manuscript journal record of his cruise along the Somali coast and experiences in Berbera in 1833-1834.
[6] Journal of Frederick Forbes, 29 February 1836
[7] More details on Forbes's family background and life appear in Roy C. Bridges, "An Aberdeenshire Family and the Indian-African Connection in the Early Nineteenth Century," An African Miscellany for John Hargreaves, Roy Bridges, ed. (Aberdeen, 1983), 5-10. Forbes's Asian journeys of note were recorded in Journal Royal Geographical Society, IX (1839), 409-430 and XIV (1844), 145-192. Forbes also wrote a medical treatise, Thesis on the Nature and History of the Plague as Observed in the North West Provinces of India ... (Edinburgh and London, 1840)

[8] Agra Ukhbar, 16 September 1841
[9] Scottish Statutory Registers: Births 272/ 0 319
[10] Scottish Statutory Registers: Births 272/0 151
[11] Evidence of this can be seen in the Scottish 1881 census
[12] Scottish Statutory Registers: Deaths 272/ 124
[13] Scottish Statutory Register: Marriages 272/ 1 199
[14] Scottish Statutory Register: Births 272/ 1 539
[15] Scottish Statutory Register: Births 272/1 70
[16] Scottish Statutory Register: Births 272/1 442
[17] Scottish Statutory Register: Deaths 272/1 19
[18] New York\u002C Passenger Lists\u002C 1820-1957
[19] Troy Irish Genealogy Society Rensselaer County Marriage Index Vols. 4 & 5

[20] the New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957. Glasgow to New York 25 September 1925

[21] Troy Irish Genealogy Society Rensselaer County Marriage Index Vol. 9
[22] The Troy Record, 25 March 1963

1 comment:

  1. Hello, this is so interesting. I'm from the Forbes line from gilnarhik in Belfast. My grandfather is of a Wesley Norman Forbes his name is James Frances Forbes and his wife's name is Agnes niblick Hill. My grandmother it's Marion Thompson her dads name is George Thompson. That's one side. My dad's family is Biggs he's Ronald Biggs his father was a service man for the royal Canadian Army. The story here is slightly confusing. Because I don't know my grandmothers maiden.Name. Edward Norman Biggs and he married Alice Jean. She's not from canada. I have slight information as to how they even met. He was stationed somewhere in the tropics or something and he married her. Her sister Mary came with them to Canada I don't even know what year. My grandfather then went to the Yukon with her they had 3 kids. Was in Saskatoon and Bordon and picton. I found a booklet for Toronto 1912 socialist and there is a Percy Biggs noted in the directory for military club and something called the 66. I'm trying to piece it together because it struck me odd that as I don't know my mothers moiddle name on the Forbes side. Then on my dad's the entire loss of my grandmother family. Just a great aunt. As well my step grandmother was in the Holocaust and just her and her aunt Louise survived. I don't know anything of her family. Other than she was adopted in England then moved here Louise moved to New York. I don't know the adopting parents last name nor her maiden name. And she married a Robert Johnstone from Scarborough that was an inventor for honeywell. I am wondering if you know where I would look for resources to patch this all together. I have had some luck but I don't know if I'm reading series that are my family or if it's going onto a while goose chase.

    I appreciate any comments at all. Or just even what to look to go through. Thank you for being the type of person that just freely posts things like this.
    Have a good day