Sarah Maria Forsyth (née McGuffog)

1760 - 7th Jul 1843

Claimant or beneficiary


James Forsyth and his wife Sarah Maria had four children baptised in St Andrew, Jamaica, 1797-1801. James was probably deceased by 1809 when Leighfield in St George was registered to his wife. Sarah Maria was his executrix in 1817.

  1. Their youngest child James Forsyth of Glengorm died at Sorne House, Argyll, Scotland, 24/02/1862. His death certificate gives his parents as James Forsyth of Leighfield in the Island of Jamaica and Sara Maria Forsyth M[aiden] S[urname] MacGuffock.

  2. Born in 1760 "in Craig", Balmaclellan, Kirkcudbrightshire, Sarah Maria was the second of four daughters of David McGuffog and his wife Margaret Mains. Since David McGuffog was not the proprietor of Craig it would seem likely that he was a substantial tenant of the owners of the 1760s, one of the Galloway Gordon families. Sarah Maria and two of her sisters are mentioned in the will of James McGuffog of Stamford, Lincolnshire, in 1828 (proved 1829) and one sister was bequeathed items in the will of his widow (proved 1840).

  3. Sarah Maria's sister Jane (born in 1763) married John Rutherford (?1748-1816), a merchant of Kingston, in St Andrew, Jamaica, in 1786. Another sister, Katherine (born 1766), described as described as "of Jamaica", married William Duff, a City notary in St Nicholas Lane in Shoreditch, London, in 1793. It's not clear when the sisters arrived in Jamaica but Sarah Maria was a widow of St George, Jamaica, with the surname Leigh when she married James Forsyth, a planter of St Andrew, in 1796. Presumably she had inherited Leighfield estate in St George from her previous husband William Leigh whom she married in Kingston 10/12/1787. He is probably the William Leigh buried in Kingston, 30/06/1793.

  4. Her (second) husband was probably the James Forsyth, son of John Forsyth, wheelwright and burgess, and Isabel Strachan, born in Cullen, Banffshire, in 1757, elder brother of Alexander Forsyth, Solicitor to the Supreme Court, and later of Dunach, Argyllshire, (1759 -1833). Little else is known about this James Forsyth, though he may have had legal training – he served as Deputy Judge Advocate in the St Mary Regiment of Militia from at least 1787, and was Clerk of the Vestry and Superintendent of the Workhouse in St Mary, posts he retained after his marriage. The nature of his claim, recorded in the marriage record, to be “of this parish” in St Andrew is not known – one possibility may be that he had owned the Richmond Pen there, later in the hands of his son James. James Forsyth and Sarah Maria had four children baptised in St Andrew: Jane (1797), Isabella (1798), Martha Margaret (1800) and James (1801). James Forsyth disappears from the almanacs after 1807; he probably died around this time. Sarah Maria Forsyth of London Place, Hackney, a widow, was listed as an unclaimed beneficiary of Consols Dividends in 1822 (the holding dated from January 1807). Leighfield is registered to "Mrs Forsyth" in the almanac of 1811 (based on the givings-in of 1809). In the slave register of 1817 the enslaved people on Leighfield were registered by Sarah Maria Forsyth as executrix of James Fosyth.

  5. She may be the S. M. Forsyth who advertised for sale at the Parade in Kingston "an assortment of the most fashionable and choice articles of millinery and haberdashery, and mourning of every description" in the Jamaica Gazette in 1818. After her second husband's death, Sarah Maria Forsyth seems at various times to have been associated with, besides Leighfield, Moscow Pen, and later with the larger Trafalgar Pen, in St Andrew, eventually a Government official residence, which she acquired in 1825 and would seem to have retained for ten years at least, probably until she left the island. Richmond Pen, likely to have been by 1831 in practice the property of her son, James, seems to have been the pen referred to in William Wemyss Anderson's evidence to the Commons in 1840.

  6. James Forsyth junior (who seems to have had English, not Scottish, legal training) had been in Scotland from late 1832, and in early 1833 he inherited Dunach near Oban from his uncle, Alexander, a Solicitor to the Supreme Court of more than thirty years' standing. James Forsyth married Maria Mueller in Wimborne Minster, Dorset, in 1834 and made a visit with his wife to Jamaica in 1836, where she gave birth to and lost her first child, Elizabeth. It may be that this, and her sister Jane's death in 1835, led to Sarah Maria's return to Britain at the end of the 1830s.

  7. At present of Clarence Terrace, Liverpool, when she wrote her will in 1838. Inventory of Sarah Maria Forsyth residing at Blackett Place, Newington, Edinburgh, who died there 07/07/1843 made and given up by Miss Isabella Forsyth her daughter, total value £194 14s 8d. Besides the above moveable property in Scotland the deceased had coming to her by Messrs Aldcorn MacCallum & Co[mpan]y in Australia a sum of £1,800; there was also owing to the deceased a sum of arrears of rents of property in the Island of Jamaica West Indies to the amount of £75.

  8. Sarah Maria's investment in Australia was probably made through her son James junior. A formal partnership (which seems to have run a capacity for around 26,000 sheep) between James Forsyth, Andrew Aldcorn, and Alexander McCallum is recorded as dissolved in 1850.

Sources, Jamaica Church of England Parish Register Transcripts, 1664-1880 [database online].

  1. GROS 1862 544/10 10.

  2. GROS OPR Births 856 10 15 (FR19) Balmaclellan; Will of James McGuffog, Gentleman of Stamford, Lincolnshire, PROB 11/1760/404; Will of Mary McGuffog or MacGuffog, Widow of Stamford, Lincolnshire, PROB 11/1931/155.

  3., Jamaica Church of England Parish Register Transcripts, 1664-1880 [database online]; birth of Jane McGuffog GROS OPR Births 856 10 17 Balmaclellan; her will PROB 11/1856 (with her daughter Jane Bell as executrix and mention of daughters Elizabeth Margaret Muttlebury, widow, in Canada and Maria Catherine Montgomerie, who had married an army captain in Ireland).; birth of Katherine (or Catherine) McGuffog, GROS OPR 856 10 19;, London, England, Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, 1538-1812 [database online]; first marriage, to William Leigh, and his death, by email from Jim Brennan, 22/09/2017.

  4. GROS OPR Births 150/30 196; Jamaica Almanacs available on;, Jamaica Church of England Parish Register Transcripts, 1664-1880 [database online]; The Names and Descriptions of the Proprietors of Unclaimed Dividends on Bank Stock, and on all Government Funds and Securities, transferable at the Bank of England... (London, 1823) p. 83.

  5. Jamaica Gazette 26/12/1818; Jamaica Almanacs.

  6. Alexander Forsyth's testament, Edinburgh Sheriff Court Inventories SC70/1/49;, Dorset, England, Church of England Marriages and Banns, 1813-1921 [database online].

  7. SC70/4/3 Edinburgh Sheriff Court Wills; SC70/1/67 Edinburgh Sheriff Court Inventories.

  8. Port Philip Gazette 11/09/1850.

We are grateful to James Brennan for his assistance with this entry.

Further Information

Maiden Name
[1] William Leigh [2] James Forsyth
With [2]: Jane (1797-), Isabella (1798-), Martha Margaret (1800-), James (1801-)

SC70/4/3 Edinburgh Sheriff Court Wills - precis.

This is the will of me Sarah Maria Forsyth at present of Clarence Terrace, Everton Road, Liverpool and formerly of the Island of Jamaica widow. All my real and personal estate of every description and wherever situate to my daughters Jane Forsyth and Isabella Forsyth. My son James Forsyth of Dunach in Argyllshire to be the sole executor.

Signed 10/04/1838.

Associated Claims (3)

£58 6s 3d
£753 14s 9d
£178 18s 3d

Associated Estates (2)

The dates listed below have different categories as denoted by the letters in the brackets following each date. Here is a key to explain those letter codes:

  • SD - Association Start Date
  • SY - Association Start Year
  • EA - Earliest Known Association
  • ED - Association End Date
  • EY - Association End Year
  • LA - Latest Known Association
1809 [EA] - 1817 [LA] → Executrix
1820 [EA] - 1834 [LA] → Owner

Legacies Summary

Imperial (1)

notes →
Her Scottish Testament, registered in Edinburgh, where she died in 1843, indicates that she, probably in association with her son, had acquired interests in Australian grazing property with a...

Relationships (4)

Wife → Husband
Mother → Daughter
Sister-in-law → Brother-in-law

Addresses (3)

Balmaclellan, Kircudbrightshire, Southern Scotland, Scotland
Blacket Place, Edinburgh, Midlothian (Edinburgh), Central Scotland, Scotland
Clarence Terrace, Everton Road, Liverpool, Lancashire, Merseyside, North-west England, England