The Early Johnsons


Not much is known about my particular Johnson ancestors a generation before the Revolutionary War, though I have a theory. 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 said the Johnsons were thought to be Scottish. However, Y-DNA research by William Reid has shown that the Johnsons did not have origins in Scotland (though they may have lived there at some point), but rather had origins in southern and central England. 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. Please revisit this page for updates. A current project for Johnstone/Johnston/Johnson is at FTDNA.

Upon Y-DNA research determining that the Johnsons did not have origins in Scotland, the Scottish items once on this site are no longer seen by default. To see them, Click here.


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

Y-DNA Research
The Johnsons may have lived in Scotland but were not Scottish in origin.

May 2019: Awaiting Big Y-700 results from FamilyTreeDNA with results estimated to be ready mid- to late-June 2019.

April 2019: Awaiting Big Y-700 results from FamilyTreeDNA. In the meantime, Bill Reid has been working with the Y-DNA ancestry of an Alan Johnston with whom Bill and other Reids share no genetic distance at Y-111. The theory is that the Reids came out of this Johnston line and this Johnston line came out of the ancestral Johnson/Johnston line from which I descend.

March 2019: ca. A.D. 1000, my Y-DNA ancestor lived in Yorkshire County, England. William Reid shared this from the work of Dr. Tyrone Bowes, a genetic genealogist. Prior to that, the following is the path of the Johnson Y-DNA line:

Timeframe of migrationCultureLanguage
A.D. 469 - 519Anglo-Saxon EnglandAnglo-Saxon
480 B.C. - A.D. 19
Note: migration driven by Roman conquest in the 1st century B.C.
La Tène CultureCeltic
1230 B.C.Atlantic Bronze AgeCeltic or other unknown Indo-European
1280-780 B.C.UrnfieldCeltic
2680 B.C. - 2380 B.C.Corded WareGermanic-Balto-Slavic
4180-4080 B.C.Cardium PotteryUnknown

Source: Mygrations > R1b Haplogroup > My Ancestors' Path >: Clade BY53614

February 2019: Researcher William Reid, who has done extensive Y-DNA research on this line as his Reids and my Johnsons share the same Y-DNA, looked at Terminal SNPs in the R1b haplotree. While most of them identify as Scottish, he found some interesting results. He traced back through the Duncan SNP trail until he found the most recent SNP we had in common with them . This goes back millenia and is considered ancient. Meanwhile, the Duncan testers were negative for the Reid/Johnson SNP. He did likewise for Reid/Reed/Read testers who had tested BigY and got the same result -- the first SNP shared is an ancient one. This shows that genetically Reid/Johnson patrilineal lines do not have a deep lineage to either Scotland or Ireland. Genealogically, the Johnson/Reid line does not descend from those people as the connection is ancient, well before the time of the Johnson surname. This is not to say that at some later point in time that Johnson and Reid ancestors moved or lived in Scotland. This is entirely possible especially during the time period of A.D. 1100-1700. No BigY testers trace their families back to Scotland during this time period and there is no corroboration as to where the Johnson/Reid ancestors lived during this time period. If such a move occurred, the Johnson and Reid ancestors undoubtedly would have married women of Scottish descent. Maybe this is how the Scottish connection came about. Mr. Reid did say testing results from A.D. 300-1100 clearly have us related to people who trace their recent origins to various parts of England, specifically, southern England, and on a smaller frequency, central England. Prior to that testing results are scattered with some testers tracing their lineages back to Europe, some in Great Britain and some to the Iberian peninsula. So, there you have it. The Johnsons are genetically not descended from the Scottish/Irish/Welsh in any meaningful way though they may have lived in Scotland at some point.

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 though February 2019 Y-DNA research from William Reid indicates that while the Johnsons/Reids may have lived in Scotland, they are not Scottish in origin, but rather seem to originate in southern and central England. I encounter multiple DNA cousins with Johnsons in NC, SC, LA or TX via DNA testing, but we are unable to figure out our connection. 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 a southward 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.

In January 2019, I came across a WikiTree profile for John Johnson, matching my John Johnson below. It lists three sons, the oldest being Abraham Johnson, who would have been named for his grandfather. A second son listed is Harris Johnson, the ancestor of Sam Houston Johnson, Jr., and from there to Harris' son William, one can see William was born ca. 1809 in Tennessee and died 15 October 1863 in Texas, matching what the late Sam Houston Johnson, Jr., shared with me in the past. And a third son of John Johnson is also mentioned: James Johnson, and the profile matches him being my ancestor below who married Nancy "Charity" Skeen. What is intriguing about the find of John Johnson's profile is that the information there has been independent of my site, but supports my information.

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 was that my early Johnsons came from England or Scotland (Y-DNA research has since disproved Scottish origin though they may have lived there at one time.), coming out of an ancestral Johnston/Johnson line and settled in Virginia in Halifax Co., Amelia Co., Isle of Wight or Hanover Co. This is total speculation.

More research is needed.

Abraham Johnson was from Virginia according to family tradition.  
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 [which seems to be an error and should be 1808], 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.

Military Payment Voucher from "North Carolina Revolutionary Pay Vouchers, 1779-1782," database with images, FamilySearch ( : 7 October 2016), 5-G, Jewell, James to Johnson, Joseph > image 862 of 957; citing State Archives of North Carolina, Raleigh.

  b. ?
d. ?
m. ? b. 1757
d. before 19 October 1808

A Find A Grave Memorial has 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. The ancestry of Norman Harris Johnson and Julia Pricilla Morris Johnson mentions the death date as 1852, but the will from Rowan Co., NC, (see to the right) implies 1808 is more likely. Which do we go with? The will or the cemetery record or the book? The 1825 Probate for John Johnson confirms a death date in 1808 (more on that document below). Further, what we do know is that John was born in 1757, a son of Abraham of VA according to family, that he married Sarah and that his son James "Jimmy" Johnson was born in late 1792. My Johnsons were from the Davidson Co., NC, area.

Further notes from the 1825 Probate for John Johnson: Children of John Johnson are Randal, Harris, John, Abraham, Willis, James, Lewis, Allen, Mary, William, Nancy (p. 61) and both Johnson and Johnston surnames are used. The wife of John Johnson was Sarah (pp. 61, 63). William is the youngest son in 1807 (definitely not yet 16, p. 61). John Johnson's father is Abraham (p. 62) and the document therein is dated "7th day of November one thousand eight hundred seven ... read in Rowan County Court." The sons of John Johnson are listed as Randall, Abraham, Willis, Lewis, James, William, Allen (p. 62). Later, the sons of John Johnson are listed as Randolph, Abraham, Willis, Lewis, James, William, Allen (p. 63). Abraham, son of John (Dec'd) is among those summoned to court 3rd Monday of June 1825 (p. 65).

"October the 19th day of 1808 then ?? of Randol
Johnson Executor of John Johnson Dec'd five pounds twelve
in part of my Sagest(?) Coming to me from the ???
Estate ?? by me
Benjamin Davis

Test Lewis Lanier" (p. 67)

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.

Copy of the Will of John Johnson from his WikiTree Profile which sourced the will from Ancestry

Life in 18th Century North Carolina prior to the Revolutionary War

James "Jimmy" Johnson's (below) father was John Johnson. A fact that ties Jimmy to the above John Johnson is that Jimmy's son Allen Harris Johnson (my great-great-great grandfather) shares names with two of Jimmy's brothers: Allen and Harris. And this ties to the probate and will of John Johnson mentioned above.

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.

The death certificate for O. Pinckney Johnson lists father's name as James Johnson b. in NC and mother's maiden name as Nancy Skeen b. in NC.
  b. December 1792
Rowan Co., NC
d. 2 August 1858
Davidson Co., NC
Burial: Jackson Hill Twp., Davidson Co., NC
Find-A-Grave Memorial
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.

1880 Census - Concord Twp., Randolph Co., NC

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 |