The Early Johnsons


Not much is known about my particular Johnson ancestors a generation before the Revolutionary War, though I have a theory. However, after my father William Herman Johnson passed away, I was given the Johnson Coat of Arms as pictured below, which opened up a pursuit of discovery of where my Johnsons may have originated:

Dad had always said the Johnsons were Scottish. And it was hinted by DNA testing in March 2016 that I am possibly a descendant of the Scottish clan Johnstone/Johnston/Johnson as I am a match for the "Dogwood" family group R1b1 at the Johnson/Johnstone/Johnston DNA Project. I asked an administrator of the project, "Is everyone who matches on the J/J/J DNA project descended from the Johnstone clan?" and his response was "The quick answer is no" as the project has over 43 family groups who have ancestors worldwide. So, I might be. For now, I am still researching the possibility of additional tests to see if I am indeed descended from Clan Johnstone. Please revisit this page for updates. A current project for Johnstone/Johnston/Johnson is at FTDNA. The clan's motto Nunquam Non Paratus means "Never unprepared." The "X" on the crest reflects the Scottish heritage.


Clan Johnstone/Johnston/Johnson Resources



Billy C. Johnson wrote an article, Johnson / Johnston / Johnstone, which not only provides a wealth of information, but encompasses what I found elsewhere. In the article, he suggests that Johnson / Johnston / Johnstone "are classified into DNA Haplogroups, Races, predominately R1b Celts (70%) and I Vikings (20%). Each divided into Family Groups, many Family Groups contain all 3 of the Johnson / Johnston / Johnstone Surname spelling." After a discussion of cultural and language shifts in the British isles as well as how the varying cultures dealt with surnames and patronymics, he writes the following regarding Johnson / Johnston / Johnstone:

The different spelling is due to Literacy of Speller and /or Individual and Pronunciation due to Nationally of Individual, Johnstone/Johnston/Johnson is pronounced by Scots as Jawnson. Frequently in Ulster the "e" was dropped, "e" was pronounced aye, and Johnstons were known as the “aye less Johnstones”. Spelling is not a factor, as many variations exist of all Surnames, such as: Donald; Donaldson and MacDonald all reconignized by Clan Donald as the same Surname, also Forester; Forest and Foster and MacIntyre; MacAntuer; MacKantare. In America, as late as 1915, only 13% of Americans had a High School Diploma, with Surnames "Originating" as early as the 12th Century, some one other than your Ancestor determined the Spelling on Immigration and other Documents, and in some cases your Surname.

Ts deleted, Johnston to Johnson, often on the Scottish Border and in Ulster. Beginning in the 1700s – 1800, Immigration Records list Johnsons as Irish, beginning in the 1800s the T remained most of the time in Irish Johnston immigrants and almost always in Canada. In the 1800s, Scottish Immigrants often retained the t and e, more Literate and Family Name conscious? Ts are often Removed and Reappear on different Documents, of the same Individual, written by different Individuals as late as the 1860s in America.

In Britain the Majority of Johnson, Johnston & Johnstones, reside in the 2 Northern Border Counties of Lancashshire and Yorkshire, occupied by Celts since 800BC, a large Colony of Vikings (900AD) and Saxons after 1066. It probably "Originated" by Celts in the same manner as their near Neighbors in Scotland as Johns Tun (Farm) "Evolving" to Johnston/Johnson and Johnstone. The Vikings may have began as a Johansson, "Evolving" to Johnson, "Adopted" by Saxons and many J/J/J Scotts "Relocating" across the Border. All 3 Spellings occur in all 4 Races.

Other Johnston/es and Johnsons : Kasibeian Johnstons "Originated" on the Scottish Border and also have Johnsons, most notable Dr. Lorand V. Johnson, FSA Scott, many Immigrating to the New World / Clan Gunn of Northern Scotland: less than 5% of Johnsons and Johnstons are of this Heritage, a few Claim Border Heritage, the Name did not appear until after 1478 / Clan Donald states that "less than 2% of Johnsons claim their Heritage". / Perths original name was St. Johns, named after a Monk, "Originating"as St Johnstoun (Johns Land / Farm), " Evolving" to St Johnstone and A few adopting the Surname and not uncommon for the T to be dropped to include Johnson.

The Surname Johnson, Johnston & Johnstone "Originated" on the Scottish Border and was exported to Ulster beginning in 1606 as James 1st brought Law & Order to the Borders and revived the Colonizing of Ulster. For all practical purposes all of the Johnston/es and Johnsons of Dumfries were deported / immigrated. With Death Warrants issued, they willingly immigrated as “Ulster Planters” or escaped to England or Europe. The "Planters" were exclusively Scottish, as no English were to be found of prior settlements. The majority (85%) of all American Johnson, Johnston, and Johnstones today are the descendants of the Ulster Planters that began leaving Northern Ireland in 1707 - 1800, more than 250,000 Scot-Irish, leaving for the New World of Australia, Canada and America.

SOURCE: Johnson / Johnston / Johnstone by Billy C. Johnson

According to

Johnson Name Meaning

English and Scottish: patronymic from the personal name John. As an American family name, Johnson has absorbed patronymics and many other derivatives of this name in continental European languages.


Now what?

So, where do my Johnsons fit in? I am still researching this and it is a challenge. There was a group of Johnsons that migrated from Scotland to Nova Scotia and then south as far as Texas, but I don't know which are "mine" or not. I have a distant cousin matched via DNA named Cheri Dunaway. While we haven't yet verified our connection, she does have a Johnson ancestry. Her Johnson line migrated from Scotland to Nova Scotia to Kentucky, South Carolina to Louisiana to Texas. I encounter multiple cousins with Johnsons in SC, LA or TX via DNA testing, but we are unable to figure out our connection. One thing I do know is that for my Johnson line from Abraham's grandson Jimmy down to Jimmy's grandson Titus, my Johnson men married women who had Celitc ancestry (Skeen = Scottish; Kearns = Irish; Campbell = Scottish). I don't know the origin of Abraham's wife or his son John's wife. We need more Johnson men to take Y-DNA tests. For Y-DNA testing, I recommend FamilyTreeDNA and for autosomal testing, I recommend 23andMe, and uploading that data to and doing a free autosomal transfer to FamilyTreeDNA.

I am wondering if my Johnsons somehow veered off the migration route into VA and on into NC.

In August 2017, I rediscovered some old correspondence I had with Sam H. Johnson, Jr., and it shows some "micro-migration" of some of my distant Johnson cousins. Abraham Johnson (as seen below) was the father of John Johnson, who was father of many including my James "Jimmy" Johnson and Harris Johnson. Sam H. Johnson, Jr., is descended from Harris. In our correspondences in 2008, Sam wrote about a document in the Davidson County records in 1823 showing John's son Randall selling 123 acres of land along Cabins Creek to James Johnson as part of the estate of John Johnson, deceased. Sam further indicated that the 1820 Census didn't show Randall or Abraham living in Rowan or Davidson Co., NC, which means these sons of John Johnson had moved by then. Sam found Harris Johnson, his ancestor in Marion County, Texas, in the 1830 Census where he had gotten land in 1820. The son William served in the Texas army and arrived in San Jacinto two hours after the battle. Harris got his land certificate in Red River County, TX, in 1838.William got his certificate in Gonzala County, TX. BY 1844, they were together in Red River County, TX. Harris' land was part of 4 counties between 1838 and 1860: Red River, Bowie, Cass and Marion. Sam's father was named after his uncle Sam Houston Johnson. The family story is that Sam Houston was traveling in the part of Texas where William lived and they had this new baby who had not been named. They asked Sam Houston to name the baby and he is supposed to have said, "Why don't you name him Sam Houston?" And that is how the name got into Sam's family. Now according to Sam, two of Harris' children have records born in Tennessee. There were more children in the 1830 Census, but by 1833, Harris had married a young woman and was in Arkansas and then came to Texas in 1835. Both Harris and William died in Dallas Co., TX. So that is the story through one son of John Johnson - Harris - who ended up in Texas as part of Johnson migration. So looking at Abraham to his grandson Harris, the migration went from Virginia to North Carolina to Tennessee to Texas. Meanwhile, the son of John Johnson - my ancestor James "Jimmy" Johnson - stayed in North Carolina. It looks like the other sons dispersed.

For now, I consider various leads, which may or may not factor into my patrilineal Johnson line or have branched out of my partrilineal Johnson line:

My theory is that my early Johnsons came from Scotland and my line settled in Virginia in Amelia Co., Isle of Wight or Hanover Co. This is total speculation.

More research is needed.

Abraham Johnson was from Virginia  
Abraham Johnson

There was an Abraham Johnson married to a Sarah, but I am unsure if he is my ancestor Abraham. Source for marriage: Avery County North Carolina Historical Society (compiled and edited), Avery County heritage, biographies, genealogies, and Church Histories (Vol III), page 124, Puddingstone Press, 1981

possibly Sarah of Rowan Co., NC
    b. ?
d. ?
m. ? b. ?
d. ?
            Johnson History
    Sarah Unsure of marriage date, but here is a possible marriage bond, which corresponds to this North Carolina marriage document. If verified, then Sarah's maiden name would be Tailor and the marriage date would be 16 February 1782. This is purely speculative that this couple is in these documents! John Johnson

D.A.R. records indicate John Johnson was a 1770s Revolutionary War soldier who came from Virginia according to family information. He lived in the Uwharrie Hills of North Carolina near Farmer. After the war, he settled in Jackson Hill (in what is now Davidson Co.), NC, with his family. John was given a land grant of 265 acres on Mores Road in Alleghany Township in 1786 (verified by Rowan County land grant records, Salisbury). John received his army discharge in 1780. A younger brother joined the army of 1812 and was never heard of again. John's will dated 7 November 1807 (Wills and Deeds, Rowan County, State of North Carolina, p. 148, probated 1888, p. 101 and 102 B.G.) shows that he and his wife Sarah had 11 children: William, Randal, Harris, John, Abraham (Abram), Willie, James (Jimmy), Lewis, Mary and Nancy. Sons Abraham and Randal were co-executors. According to Avery County North Carolina Historical Society (compiled and edited), Avery County heritage, biographies, genealogies, and Church Histories (Vol III), page 124, Puddingstone Press, 1981, John Johnson's will (John was 3rd son of Abraham and Sarah Johnson of Rowan Co., NC) mentions children: William (the youngest), Randall, Harris, John, Abraham II, William, James b 1793 d 2 Aug 1858, Lewis, Allen, Mary and Nancy. Abraham II and Randall were executors of their father's will. James m. Nancy Skeen; buried in Old Johnson Cemetery, Handy, NC.

  b. ?
d. ?
m. ? b. 1757
d. 1808 or 1828

Some records have the death date as 1852, but the will from Rowan Co., NC, says 1808. Yet, according to Find A Grave Memorial, his death date is 16 December 1828, transcribed on page 79 in Cemetery Records Vol II for the Johnson Cemetery in Denton, Davidson County, North Carolina. So, perhaps we have two John Johnsons. Which do we go with? The will or the cemetery record or the book? What we do know is that John was born in 1757, a son of Abraham of VA, that he married Sarah and that his son James "Jimmy" Johnson was born 1792/1793. My Johnsons were from the Denton, NC, area.

Sam H. Johnson, Jr., provided this will of John Johnson who died in 1808 in Rowan Co., NC:

In the name of God: I John Johnson of Rowan County & State of North Carolina being in a weak and lost condition of health, through the mercies of God in a good and sound memory & understanding at this present time do make and constitute this my last will & testament & desire it to be received at all as such. Imprimis I most humbly bequeath my soul to Almighty God, beseeching His most gracious acceptance of the same. I give my body to the earth from whence it was taken, in full assurance of the resurrection from thence at the last day & as for my burial I desire it to be at the discretion of my wife. As to my worldly estate I will & positively order that all my debts to be paid & all that is owing to me be well & truly collected by my executors, hereafter named. Item I give and bequeath to my dear wife Sarah Johnson all & singular my personal estate & the plantation I now live on after all my just debts is paid, likewise two tracts of land where I now live on, until my youngest son William comes to be sixteen years of age, if she continues my widow, if she should not continue my widow, to have a child's part of my estate. Item I give to my sons Randol Johnson and Harris Johnson, John, Abraham, Willis, James, Lewis, Allen & Mary Johnson; William Johnson & Nancy Johnson, to have each of my children equal share of my estate, both real and personal, excepting fifty dollars out of Harris & John two of my sons, out of their part to be paid to my son William Johnson & daughter Nancy fifty dollars each paid by my executors hereafter named, one still & three head of horses, one tract of land lying on Mores Road, containing two hundred & seventy-five acres of land or less & my tobacco to be sold at my decease, likewise one gray horse I give to my son Abraham, the other half of the value of the horse at twelve months from Christmas next from this date. Likewise I do nominate and appoint my son Randol & Abraham Johnson my two sons my executors after my decease.

In testimony hereof I do hereunto set my hand & seal this 7th day of November 1807.

John Johnson SEAL

Witness Present
William Warel
Lester Lanier

"Also I leave my son Randol & James
the legacy left by my father Abraham Johnson
to be left equal between my sons Randol & Abraham
& WIllis, Lewis, & James, WIlliam & Allen."

This will was recorded in Rowan County on 5 February 1808 as follows: Last Will of John Johnson, Esq., declared proven by William Warel letter. Randol & Abraham Johnson.

Life in 18th Century North Carolina prior to the Revolutionary War Ancestry through parents Jacob and Alliphair (Hearne) Skeen


James "Jimmie" or "Jimmy" Johnson lived and died on his father's farm. He died from overheating while threshing wheat. It is said that Jimmy hid his money consisting of gold and silver on this farm and was never able to find it. More than a hundred years passed when the money was plowed up by the family living there.

  Nancy Charity Skeen
Johnson Genealogy Notes by William Herman Johnson RE: Nancy Johnson

Johnson Genealogy Notes by William Herman Johnson RE: James "Jimmie" Johnson and John Johnson

According to WikiTree and Jimmy and Nancy Charity (Skeen) Johnson had the following children: John Johnson, Pink Johnson, Alson Johnson, Temperance Adderton, Prissy Elliott and Adeline Johnson. Nancy Charity (Skeen) Johnson's siblings were Osborn Skeen, Sr., Pernell Skeen, Benniter Skeen, Allifar Skeen, Matthew Skeen, James Skeen and Jocob Skeen.
  b. December 1792
Rowan Co., NC
d. 2 August 1858
Davidson Co., NC
Burial: Jackson Hill Twp., Davidson Co., NC
m. ? b. 26 October 1792
Davidson Co., NC
d. 26 May 1860
buried in Old Johnson Cemetery, Handy, NC


Click HERE to see pictures, one that includes Allen Harris Johnson Elizabeth Kearns Johnson at the 1897 Johnson Family Reunion.

A. Harris Johnson was a private in the Civil War (Source: Find A Grave Memorial).

  b. 2 March 1821
d. 21 July 1899
m. 1836. Married young. He was 18. She was 15. b. 21 March 1817
Davidson Co., NC
d. 30 September 1905
Buried in Salem United Methodist Church Cemetery, Martha, Randolph County, NC (Sources: Cemetery Census, Find A Grave).

Allen and Elizabeth lived in a cabin on the Johnson farm before moving to the Farmer Community in Randolph County, North Carolina. They farmed. Allen, or "Harris" as he was called, ran a grist mill.

Deed Abstracts (Found in the home of Carl G. Nance, who died Oct. 11, 1980) include the following:

  • 4 Sept. 1872. Allen Harris Johnson to O.P. Johnson and wife Clarinda Coggin Johnson $550.00-135 acres
    (Source: FARMER Yesterday and Today, p. 18)
  • Aug. 1888 Allen Harris Johnson and wife Elizabeth Johnson to Leach Russell of Montgomery Co. adjoining the lines of Steed, Lewis, and Isaac Thompson to a stake in the line of the Meeting House and above the Meeting House spring corner (No doubt Salem) H.H. Kearns line and north side of a branch Martin Skeen line and Harve Lathrum's line. $1050.00-135 acres Attest. D.G. McMasters Signed: A.H.Johnson Elizabeth Johnson
    (Source: FARMER Yesterday and Today, p. 19)

descendants through son Titus Winbourne Johnson via his marriage to Melinda Christine Campbell

Allen "Harris" Johnson (1817-1905) married Elizabeth "Betsy" Kearns (1821-1899). Among their children were my ancestor Titus "Winbourne" Johnson and Jeremiah W. Johnson. Jeremiah W. Johnson (1846-1922) married Elbie Stokes and they had one daughter: Emma Johnson who married Charlie Thompson and they, in turn, had 9 children. Source: FARMER: Yesterday and Today, p. 118.

Children of Allen "Harris" Johnson and Elizabeth "Betsy" (Kearns) Johnson: Titus Winbourne Johnson (1837-1913), Thomas Clark Johnson (1840-1922), John Hansell Johnson (1842-1919), Jeremiah W. Johnson (1845-1922), Clarinda Ellen Johnson Riley (1851-1904), Milton H. Johnson (1853-1900) and Louise Johnson Diffee (1859-1942) (Source: FindAGrave).

            Abraham Johnson (from Virginia)
Sarah   +   John Johnson (1757-1852)
        |       1770s Revolutionary War hero who lived in the Uwharrie
        |       Hills of North Carolina near Farmer.  After the war,
        |       he settled in Jackson Hill, NC, with his family.
        |       Jackson Hill is in what is now Davidson County, NC.
        |       He received his army discharge in 1780. 
     James       Nancy        
     "Jimmie" +  Charity      
     Johnson  |  Skeen        
     |b. 1793 |b. 26  |
     |        |October|       James "Jimmie" or "Jimmy" Johnson lived
     |        |1792   |       and died on his father's farm.  He died
     |d. 2    |d. 26  |       from overheating while threshing wheat.
     |August  |May    |
     |1858    |1860   |
        |        Elizabeth
     Allen       "Betsy"
     Harris   +  Kearns
     Johnson  |  
   ("Harris") |         Click HERE to see pictures, one that includes
              |         Allen Harris Johnson Elizabeth Kearns Johnson at the 1897 Johnson Family Reunion.
    |b. 21|m. 1836|b. 2  | Allen and Elizabeth lived in a cabin on the
    |March|Married| March| Johnson farm before moving to the Farmer 
    |1817 |young: | 1821 | Community in Randolph County, North Carolina.
    |d. 30|He was | d. 21| They farmed.  Allen, or "Harris" as he was 
    |Sept.|18. She| July | called, ran a grist mill. 
    |1905 |was 15.| 1899 |