WELCOME to everyone who is finding this section for the first time. For those who followed links from the JOHNSON / Johnston(e) Study DNA web page, congratulations! You have found your "colonial Virginia" kinfolk. For those still searching for a Virginia home, this page is probably not the best place to begin. I suggest you first visit which was created as a sister site of the DNA page. Here, researchers using DNA along with land records, are tracking families rom other states back into Virginia. My group is blessed with researchers willing to share their findings in the form of reports. But the subject is generally a very specific family with limited descendant information. Conceived as a forum for "Penelope as 'a' Johnson," this section took on a life of its own in recent years. The introduction of DNA as a genealogical tool proved many JOHNSON lines, once thought related, are in fact not. The discovery of major errors in Hinshaw, especially in regards to JOHNSON entries, changed Quaker lines long thought error-free. Our focus is "documented" research in Virginia; our aim is moving some of the JOHNSON lines backward in time. However, this JOHNSON database is a good starting point for everyone.


Upfront: JOHNSON as the surname for Penelope, wife of Christopher Clark (c1681-1754), is disputed by perhaps 2/3 of those researching this couple. It is my personal conclusion the case for her being a JOHNSON is stronger than for her being a MASSIE or a BOLLING. But a good case can be made for the other surnames and no one can cite specific "documented evidence" to prove their side. JOHNSON comes from the birth entry in the St. Peter's Parish Birth Register: "Penelope, daughter of Edward and Elizabeth Johnson." Whether this Penelope is the wife of Christopher Clark is the question. MASSIE comes from family tradition best stated by Gershom Perdue in 1878. This letter may well hold the key to sorting family relationships, but not everyone interprets his words the same. Others, based on the given names of numerous descendants, believe Penelope's surname was BOLLING.

Penelope's MASSIE link is supposedly through an illegimate daughter of the first Lord Shaftesbury, Anthony Ashley-Cooper (1621-1683). Meanwhile, Dr. Lorand Johnson's stated "proof" Edward was the son of Dr. Arthur Johnston is disproven. The cited book was found in the Library of Congress after this report was written. At least three researchers have gone through it, page by page. None found the letter, let alone mention of "cousin" Edward. This breaks all those purported links between Edward and the Johnstons in Scotland as well as the "suggestive evidence" WALKER was the surname for Edward's wife, Elizabeth.

It should be noted here there are only four "documented" children for EDWARD and Elizabeth ( ) of New Kent County: Thomas b. 1680; Eliz. b. 1682; Penelope b. 1684; and Rachell b. 1686/7. So far we've identified only one son for Thomas: Benjamin of Hanover County. Our collective attention was turned in the other direction: searching for clues in Edward's New Kent County neigborhood linking him to (or as) one of the earlier Johnsons in the tidewater area.


It now appears my original theory, that MICHAEL (d. ca.1719) was a son of Edward, was erroneous. New findings indicate Michael was too old to be Edward's son and descendant lines suggest there is no kinship between them. To date, only one participant not linked to Michael by a good paperwork trail, is proven related. Michael, who married the widow Sarah (Watson) Rowan, counts among his descendants Harold Johnson, Bonnie Flythe and Dr. Neil Johnson.

One of Michael's sons was James, known as "the Elder" of Goochland County. Neil shared an interesting autobiography written by James's descendant Elijah (1783-1866), a carpenter by trade. A cousin shared with Bonnie a biography of their great-grandfather, the Confederate soldier George Robert Johnson, who served with Stonewall Jackson and J. E. B. Stuart. Other of Michael's sons include: John, Daniel, Benjamin, Joseph and Isaac. Chancery records are an often over looked genealogical resource; Bonnie discovered primary evidence for two family lines in the Goochland records.


In Memoriam

This section is dedicated to HAROLD JOHNSON, one of the founders of the JOHNSON / JOHNSTON / JOHNSTONE DNA study. Harold was a special person to every one lucky enough to cross paths with him. I never met him in person, but knew him first as a staunch supporter of good source documentation. Then he was first in line to volunteer when the request for assistance with the two DNA studies went out. His ultimate gift to us all was recruiting his own successor for the DNA project. Here are just a few of the many comments from people whose lives he touched:

    Elbert Johnson:

He was a great gentleman ... going far out of his way to help, even calling just to see if he could be of service. We shall miss him.

    Neil Johnson:

Harold was an accomplished student of genealogy and was always willing to help anyone. His leadership was invaluable to the DNA project and he encouraged me to be the second participant in the project. He often talked with pride about his family both current and past. It goes without saying that he will be missed by those who loved him, but also by those who were close but not immediate family.

    Dick Baldauf:

We are all a little better for his having lived. What better tribute could we give?

    Bonnie Flythe:

Harold loved life and family history. His articles always had a lot of exclamation marks in them. That was enthusiastic Harold!

    Suzanne Johnston:

He was such a remarkable person, always interested in and helpful to others. And such a supporter of his grandchildren in their activities. How proud he was of them. Thanks to his granddaughter we had our first web site. We are definitely poorer for his loss.

    Lea Dowd:

Harold always had the time and energy to answer any and all questions -- the patience of a saint. He will definitely be missed by many!


For those who wonder why I chose to place these comments under Michael instead of at the beginning of this section: I think Harold would prefer being near Michael. As his daughter Conni wrote:

I'd like to think Dad is sitting on a porch somewhere, talking to Michael Johnson and learning who he was and where he came from. It brings a smile to my face to imagine he's finally getting an answer to that big question.



MERIWETHER is a name long associated with Christopher Clark; however, there is no documentary evidence that explains why the older Nicholas Meriwether (Jr.) seemingly "mentored" the younger Christopher. Tradition has them law partners; patent records show large tracts of land were granted to them. There appears  to be more going on here than extant records tell us; but so far, no surviving paperwork supports a family connection.

Meriwethers did marry JOHNSONs, just not the same family of Johnsons who married CLARK family members. It began with Nicholas's daughter, Ann, who married Thomas Johnson, son of a one-time-member of the King's Council Richard (1629-1699). Richard (Sr.) had two other sons. The eldest, Richard (died 1734 in King and Queen Co.) was married in England to Oriana (Attwood) but left no issue. Son William "of King William Co." died before his brother Richard; his wife was Grizzel and their only "documented" son, Phillip.

Thomas and Ann (Meriwether) had four sons: Nicholas died 1766; Richard of Hanover Co.; Maj. Thomas of Caroline and Louisa Co.; and William. Maj. Thomas is one of the most colorful men we've researched and his file is worth reading just for the information contained within it. Research continues on Virginia descendants from Richard (Sr.) and on his ancestral line in the British Isles.

Although Lea Dowd has no direct link to these Johnsons, she became curious enough about their origins to delve into the British records. In the process she discovered how much fun research can be when all the records are extant. Locating and transcribing them is the challenge: John Duddleston (grandfather of the younger Richard's wife); Thomas Johnson of Billsby, older brother of Richard (Sr.) of Virginia; Thomas Johnson (who died after his 1626 codicil was written); and Richard of Lincolnshire (died 1607.) At some point all researchers need assistance from those who can access the original records or from experts who explain the full meaning of the record.

Acknowledgement: We are extremely grateful to Peter Foden for his assistance in documenting this family. He is a freelance archivist, paleographer, tutor and genealogical researcher, and a graduate of Cambridge and Liverpool Universities. Based near Nottingham, he is ideally located for research into the Pilgrim Fathers and other First Families from the East Midland counties of Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire. The analysis and deciphering of historical documents are his specialties, having taught medieval and early modern English and Latin Paleography for the Universities of Birmingham, Keele, Leicester and Oxford. He has also developed interests in the history of the family (1200-1900) through a module taught for the University of Nottingham in 2006. For more information and contact details, see his website at:

NEW:  Karen Wood's comments and pictures in A Visit to the "Upper Parish Church of Stratton Major Parish"



We hopefully are past the point of thinking "all families with the same surname who share a creek or fence line are related." Neither should we assume all entries to the same given and surname is just one person. Sorting families with a common surname like JOHNSON can be a real challenge.

One such challenge was Charles Johnson (born before 1707 died ca.1770) and his sons: Charles, James and William. Try as she might, Bonnie couldn't tie this family to Michael.

Valerie Johnson assisted Bonnie with the research on her husband's Middlesex Co. Johnson line: brothers William and Benjamin. They were the only sons to move to Goochland Co. after the death of their father William.



Just like today's society, some colonial families were always on the move, while others lived their entire lives in the same area their grandparents were born. Some stayed only long enough to plant a few crops and have a baby or two before moving on. Other families left behind multiple deeds and detailed wills spelling out family relationships. Meanwhile, the names of those who rented or sharecropped appear, if at all, on one or two tax records and then disappear. Such cases leave us wondering just who this person is. The number of JOHNSON men with the same given name on the Louisa County tax rolls is amazing! Except for those found under MERIWETHER, we are still working on sorting the Louisa County group.

One such family is a group of three brothers -- James, Richard and Isham -- and their sister Susannah.  Isham's 1766 will provides us with the names of these siblings, but nothing which helps identify their parents or birth place.   James probably married his neighbor, Sarah Tenham (daughter of Robert) and left several children when he died in Louisa Co. in 1792. Some descendants are found in Kentucky.  Richard moved to Goochland County about 1769 when he married Dorothy Powers, daughter of William. After Dorothy's death he married Milley Walker. Richard died in Buckingham County in 1831.

Another line is that of William Johnson (born by 1704 - died 1741) and his wife Sarah (died by July 1766) whose surname is not known.  We are fortunate in that this family were more litigious than most.  In 1746 David sued his mother for partial distribution of William's estate. Then after Sarah's death David's siblings sued him for their share of William's estate.   These chancery records clearly identify the six children of this couple as:  David, William, Jane, Elizabeth, Frances and Ann.


In the past decade the traditional view of Virginia Quakers surnamed JOHNSON has taken hits from two different fronts. First, major errors were discovered with Hinshaw's transcriptions, especially relating to JOHNSON entries. Then secondly, DNA results show a non-family-relationship between John, Benjamin, and Michael Johnson. DNA results are only as good as the paperwork trail submitted by the participant, but as of this date, this is the finding. Whereas Michael's relationship to this group was always a bit speculative, it has long been felt that "brothers" John and Benjamin Johnson married "sisters" -- or at least the four were very near cousins. Because John and Benjamin are paired by their affiliation with the Society of Friends, information on them and their descendants will be listed in this section.

Patricia (McDonald) Loughlin shared the family Bible record entries from an 1818 edition Bible once belonging to William Ashley Johnson (and wife Sally Timberlake.) Also included are the children of William's brother, Thomas Moorman Johnson and his wife Betsy Kinzer.



Dr. Arthur Johnston's relationship to Edward and Penelope in Virginia was the main topic of discussion for years. Researchers shared some interesting "other" findings while searching for documentation to contribute to the debate at hand. Many Scottish merchants had close ties with Virginia, to the London Company and England in general. Those ties probably extended into New England, but we didn't spend much time looking there. That may prove to be our biggest mistake.

Early on Doug Tucker covered Dr. Arthur's immediate family, proposing a place for Edward among the numerous children. Susan Stewart used Visitation records for Dr. Arthur's nephew to suggest another "farther-removed than father-son relationship" could exist between Dr. Arthur and Edward. She followed up with two reports providing information on James Johnston "Quaker Merchant" and the Alderman Robert Johnson of the London Company. Both had ties to Aberdeen and Virginia.

Two years later we were still discussing the ties between these Johnsons and Scotland, but Suzanne Johnston was beginning to wonder if these Johnsons were in fact Quakers back in Scotland or even in Virginia as early as Dr. Lorand claimed. Her follow-up study suggests a plan for studying them.

Although this may seem out of place here, the Richmond TERRELL line in New Kent Co. Virginia has a JOHNSTONE in the background.