William FORREST (c1690-c1760)

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The earliest that the FORREST line can currently be traced back to is the late 17th Century with William FORREST from West Calder, Midlothian, who was likely to be born circa 1690.


West Calder Hills

West Calder was described in the early 19th Century as “a Parish of Scotland, in Midlothian, 10 miles long, and 5½ broad; bounded on the south by the Cairn hills, and on the north by the Briech, a river which runs into the Almond, at the north east point of the parish. The south part, adjacent to the parishes of Carnwath and Dunsyre, consists of high moorish grounds, interspersed with large marines, and divided into 15 sheep farms which feed about 6000 sheep annually, besides horses. The soil of the arable parts is a black molly earth, or a wet clay on a till bottom. The height is from 450 to 700 feet above the sea level. From this and its vicinity to the Cairn hills, the climate is cold and moist. Agriculture is but little improved. Oats, potatoes, barley, flax, rye-grass, peas, and turnips are the usual crops. The population, in 1798, was 1289 a decrease of 5 since 1755. In the south part of the parish, there are relics of an ancient castle fortified by Oliver Cromwell. Coals and limestone abound, but the former are not wrought, though the proprietor is intending to work them. The inhabitants are very decent, sober, and industrious, quite free from the vices of the metropolis, though so near it.” [1]

Overgrange, West Calder

The parish baptism records (see below) of William Forrest's children state that he is "of Grange" or "of Overgrange". 19th Century mapping survey documents identify a location in West Calder which has been known by both those names and is described at that time as An ordinary farm steading with which a considerable farm was formerly let.[2], and an Ordnance Survey Six-inch 1st Edition (1843-1882) map of Edinburghshire identifies this area (zoomed pictured right) [3]


The West Calder Old Parochial Records[nb 1] do not give the mother’s name for any of William’s children, and no wills can be found for him that would have provided further information. The records do however show that he had two sons and two daughters as follows,

i. Elizabeth FORREST, born at Grange, West Calder, Midlothian and baptised on the 24th May 1713[4].
ii. James FORREST, born at Grange, West Calder, Midlothian and baptised on the 8th May 1715[5].
iii. Jean FORREST, born at Overgrange, West Calder, Midlothian and baptised on the 12th October 1722[6].
iv. David FORREST, born at Overgrange, West Calder, Midlothian and baptised on the 17th November 1723[7].


  1. Before the introduction of compulsory civil registration in 1855, the Parish Ministers or Session clerks of the Church of Scotland in some 900 parishes kept these registers, which record births and baptisms; proclamations of banns and marriages; and deaths and burials. The surviving registers, approximately 3,500 in number, are not complete. Though the oldest date back to 1553, for some parishes the earliest are from the early 19th century. For other parishes there are no registers at all, these having been damaged or lost to fire, flood and decay over the centuries before coming into the care of the Registrar General in 1855. In addition, registration was not compulsory and a charge was sometimes made, so not everyone would have registered an event. The content and format of record-keeping also varied considerably from parish to parish and from year to year.