I have been totally sidetracked this week by my ancestors. I have traced my family on my father’s side, the Johnson family (also called Johnston in some documents,) back to eight generations, to pre Revolutionary War Charles County Maryland, and a farm which later became a tobacco plantation. The trail is halted there at this moment, but next week I will have a chance to look a bit further. It appears that the trail leads back to England.
The beginning so far: Samuel Johnson Sr., born in 1698-1699 married Mary Dement, and had 9 children, one of whom has recorded heirs. Seth Johnson, also sometimes written as Zeth Johnston, married twice. His son, Enos, by his first wife, Monica Burch, is my direct ancestor.
Both of my direct grandfathers, Seth and Enos, father and son, fought in the Revolutionary war, 1775–1783. They moved to Virginia and fought with the Virginia Line, and both survived to old age, long enough to receive pensions after having moved to Hawkins County, Tennessee. The Virginia Line was a formation within the Continental Army. The term “Virginia Line” referred to the quota of numbered infantry regiments assigned to Virginia at various times by the Continental Congress. These, together with similar contingents from the other twelve states, formed the Continental Line.
This journey into the history of my family has been challenging. It is a bit difficult to know what questions to ask the internet, but when I stumble on the right question, I get answers. My best sources have been Ancestry.Com and RootsWeb. I found the best information on Enos through a page detailing the early Johnson-Johnstons of Tennessee.
From Tennessee, my branch of Johnsons went to Kentucky, to a home on the Wolf River — Calvin and wife Abis (Roberts Miller) and their son Henry and his wife Martha (Wood).
From Kentucky, my thread of the family moved to Taney County, Missouri where they remained for three generations before coming to Olympia Washington. Henry’s youngest son, James Crouch Johnson was a well known doctor in Taney, and was my great-great-grandfather.
This has been an amazing journey into history for me. Many side quests have shown small insights into the personalities of my grandfathers and grandmothers. They were not always what I wanted them to be, but am I what they wanted me to be? Who knows–history is a book written by the victors, and the future is a river, filled with constantly changing currents. It would be easy to apply my values to them and dismiss the truth–that the accepted values and moral codes of society are constantly evolving. My eight generations of grandparents were, for the most part, good and honorable people.
When I started looking into this, I had no intention of getting so involved. I wasn’t looking to know them as people, but I can’t separate the people from the history. Their last wills and testaments tell a great deal about them– to one son, Samuel Jr., Samuel Johnson Sr. left a shilling, and to another, John, he bequeathed an iron pot. His entire estate was divided between his children except for Samuel Jr., whom he slighted by giving only the one shilling.
The later generations show records of lawsuits regarding disputes over land. There are casual references to a second wife who was accused of fraud when she applied for a widow’s pension–this tells me these were human beings who each had a story.
I will most likely write their story, but I now know it will be several years in the making, as I have only scratched the surface. I will write it as I go, because I see this as a journal detailing my own journey into the past. I will be writing this in small spurts, as it is not for publication, but is for my family, for my sister and brother and for our children and grand-children.