Evans, Carol: Who were the Parents of John Johnston?

Who were the Parents of John Johnston?

by Carol Evans

John F. Johnston was found as early as 1838 living on Lot 9 Concession 5 of Rawdon

Township according to the Assessment Rolls done that year. His name appeared as a witness with Adeline (sic Annis) Wright at the marriage of William Harris and Betsey Johnston of Hallowell in 1837, (the record being part of the Marriage Register 1836-1838 of Rev. John Hamm in the Bay of Quinte). Could John and Betsey be related? Had John lived previously in Prince Edward County? If John and Betsey are siblings, who else came with them from Ireland?

John had a mentally challenged son born in 1840 so his marriage to Annis Wright likely occurred prior to this date. Unfortunately the Midland District Marriage Register has been lost so no record of their marriage is available.

According to land records, John bought the property Lot 10 Concession 5 of Rawdon on March 3rd 1842. He was assessed in 1842 again on Lot 9 Concession 5 so this must have been the location of his home. At that time there were 7 males and 4 females in the house. The age distribution makes this his wife Annis and 2 sons, a total of 4 meaning there had to be at least one other family in the home. Did he have his parents or a brother or sister’s family living with him? I do not know any of his siblings by name.

Two children of John and Ann (sic Annis) Johnston were baptized by a travelling missionary on 24 January 1848. This is recorded in the St Thomas Anglican Records of Belleville. These children are stated as born in 1845 but in different months that don’t respect the need for 9 months of pregnancy.

There is no surviving census for Rawdon for 1851 so again there is a lack of documentation. By 1861 John is stated as 56 (so born 1805) living in Rawdon with his wife Annis born Canada and their children Thomas 21, James 19, John 15, Elizabeth 13, Robert 11, Adam 9, William 7 and Murney 2. John’s family were stated as Anglicans.

A John P. Johnston belonged to the Franckford (sic) Masonic Lodge between 1867 and 1869. This may or may not be my ancestor. (The letter P and letter F can look alike depending on old typewriter script.)

In 1871 John Johnston (aged 62 so born 1809) and his family still had Lot 10 of Concession 5 in Rawdon where the land comprised 200 acres, 160 of which had been improved. We know he grew several grains, hay and kept an orchard which produced 100 bushels of apples. Also 305 pounds of maple sugar were made on his farm that year. John sold this property to his son James in 1880 and bought Lots 13, 14, and 15 on West Mill St. in Stockdale from Asahel Vermilyea for $1150.

In 10 years time, John 74 ( so born 1807) was still listed as farmer and living only a few doors from his daughter Elizabeth Foster in Stockdale. Only his wife Annis, his eldest son Thomas, a mentally challenged man of 42 and his youngest daughter Mary Nancy (my great grandmother) were still in his home in 1881. By this time he had made his will dated 12 November 1880.

John passed away only three years after making this will. His death registration gives his demise as 17 May 1883, his occupation as gentleman so he must have retired at last . His tombstone in Stockdale Cemetery states that he was 75 years of age and a "Native of Ireland".

So where in Ireland did John Johnston come from? Johnston is a name known to be Scots-Irish. A 1996 book by Russell Honey called “The Gentle Johnstons” gives a history of the name and makes it seem likely that my ancestor John Johnston came from Northern Ireland also known as Ulster.

When a Northumberland Today.com article was written about this presentation no documents had yet surfaced indicating where John came from in Ireland or when he had arrived. Since then with assistance, an indication of his birth in Belfast was located on the death certificate of his son, Adam.

So............ now there is hope that with research and a great deal of luck I may yet find my great great grandfather’s Irish birth record in Belfast. I then would learn of the identity of his parents. With such a common name and knowing that there are parishes for Belfast in both Co. Antrim and Co. Down there is much work to do.

John Johnston Tombstone in Stockdale Cemetery