National Records of Scotland

Preserving the past, Recording the present, Informing the future

George Forrest (1873-1932)

George Forrest (1873-1932)

At the age of 18, Forrest was gifted a small legacy and decided to leave his apprenticeship with a chemist, to travel to Australia. Forrest spent his time there panning for gold and on a sheep farm. He returned to Scotland in 1902 and, upon an introduction to Professor Bayley Balfour, then Keeper of the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh, he was offered a job in the Herbarium there.

Forrest joined an expedition of some of the first western horticulturists to visit southwestern China, particularly Yunnan Province. Forrest was one of the most prolific plant collectors to visit China in his lifetime, and between 1904 and 1932 collected over 31, 000 specimens.

Forrest is commemorated in the Archivists’ Garden by the ornamental Birch, which Forrest helped to introduce from western China to the UK.

Birth in 1873

The entry is in the statutory register of births for the registration district of Falkirk and records that his father, George Forrest, was employed as a draper's assistant.

Birth entry for George Forrest, 1873

Birth certificate for George Forrest, Falkirk 1873
National Records of Scotland, 479/1 99/33

1881 Census

The Forrest family also appear enumerated in the Falkirk area in the 1881 census. At this time the family unit consists of father George, mother Mary and their six daughters and one son (George).Their address is given as 34 Graham’s Road.

George Forrest enumerated in the 1881 census

George Forrest enumerated in the 1881 census [part 2]

George Forrest’s family enumerated in the 1881 census [over 2 pages]
National Records of Scotland, 479/17/5

Marriage in 1907

George Forrest married Harriet Clementina Mary Wallace Traill (born Edinburgh 5 June 1877) on 15 July 1907 at Roslyn Chapel. The entry in the statutory register for the Parish of Lasswade shows that the marriage took place after publication according to the forms of the Episcopal Church of Scotland. They went on to have three sons.

George Forrest and Harriet Traill marriage entry, 1907

Entry for George Forrest and Harriet Traill’s marriage in the statutory register for the parish of Lasswade in 1907. 
National Records of Scotland, 691/ 30/15

1911 Census

The growing Forrest family are enumerated in the 1911 census for the parish of Lasswade.

George Forrest enumerated in the 1911 census, Lasswade

George Forrest’s occupation is described as ‘Botanist’ and they have a domestic servant living at the family home.
National Records of Scotland, 691/9/17

Death in 1932

Harriet (known as Clementina) died at Edinburgh, on 21 May 1937 aged 59, and George Forrest died 6 January 1932 in Tengyueh, in Yunnan, China, presumably while on one of his collecting expeditions.  

Death entry of George Forrest, 1932

The British Consulate in Tengyueh notified the Registrar-General of George Forrest’s death in 1932.
National Records of Scotland, 173/CL 294