There are a number of different opinions as to the origin of the name Foster. Perhaps the most persistent and widely held view is that it originated in the 6th Century at Bamburgh, in the present county of Northumberland. Bamburgh was the centre of the Angle kingdom of Bernicia - and it's principal officer, who was based at Bamburgh Castle and administered the King's estates, was called The Forister.


By the 16th Century, the area once occupied by Bernicia had become a rather lawless area straddling the border between Scotland and England. Because the border was ill-defined in many areas and generally unguarded, gangs of rustlers and smugglers had pretty much free rein. The gangs were based on families - who could be expected to be bound by family loyalties - and on the English side were called Surnames, or Riding Families.

There were 22 main Surnames, of which Foster (and similar spellings) were arguably the largest. Collectively, the more disreputable families became known as Border Rievers and, because of their violent methods of doing business, gave two new words to the English language - Bereaved and Blackmail. The former of the two words obviously stems from the deaths that frequently resulted from their activities; and the latter from the practice of demanding additional rent, or 'protection' money, from local farmers, whose normal rent was called Greenmail. The Fosters were not the most aggressive or criminal of these Surnames - some were very much worse - but could still assemble 600 horsemen in a short space of time, and were not to be lightly trifled with. As law was gradually imposed in this border area, the Rievers died out, and by the 18th Century the families were assimilated peacefully into the general population

Pearl Foster always maintained that her husband Tom, who was born in Wales, told her that his recent ancestors came from the border area between Scotland and England. He apparently said that two Foster brothers had moved from the area to Wales, settling in the vicinity of the town of Merthyr Tydfil. If this were so - and it hasn't been proven yet - then it could well have been the work available in the growing iron industry that attracted them.

Currently the first Foster definitely known to be our antecedent is Thomas Foster, born around 1795, and father of Rachael, William, Lewis and Evan. He lived in Merthyr, and we are able to trace his sons leaving his home to be married and set up homes of their own. From then on we are able to follow their families through to the 20th Century. In the case of Lewis - from whom our particular branch of the family stems - we can then carry it forward to the present day.

Lewis had a son called Thomas who, in turn, also had a son called Thomas, who was to become the father of Ivor (Bill), whose family now all live in Canada; Michael whose family live in Colchester; Jill, whose family live in South England; and Ray (me) whose family live in London.

The sketchy outline contained in the last paragraph is documented much more fully in the Family Trees and other sections of this site.

It should be noted that the above is not intended to imply a direct genealogical link from The Forister of Bamburgh, which is pretty much impossible to prove either way. It is simply intended to describe a progression of events involving our family name.