Tuesday, August 12, 2014


Fellow geneablogger Amy Johnson Crow of No Story Too Small has issued the
52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge. Basically, we have to post something every
week on a different ancestor, whether a story, picture, or research problem. For
this prompt I've tried to concentrate on ancestors I haven't researched as much
as I have others in my family tree. I thought I'd explore my Johnson line, starting
with William Johnson, my 11x great grandfather and one of my immigrant ancestors
who came to Charlestown, Ma.

I found a great article on Google books written by G.W.Johnson. It's from the The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, Volume 33 published in January 1879 and
is one of those old style genealogies, where, for example, the physical appearance of
the Johnson men is judged to have been similar to those descendants living two centuries

WILLIAM JOHNSON, one of the early settlers of Charlestown, Mass., was born in England a little after 1600, was made freeman of Massachusetts Colony, March 4, 1634-5, and the year before became an inhabitant of Charlestown, and continued such over forty-two years, till his death, Dec. 9, 1677, at the age of over 70 years. Charlestown began to be settled in 1628, was laid out as a town in 1629, and, Salem excepted, is the oldest town in the colony, older than even Boston. I have not William's birth date; nor do I know in what part of England he was born; nor what relationship, if any, he bore to contemporary Johnson stocks in the colony

The author then speculates on which other colonists named Johnson might have been
related to William before getting back to him:

William was a Puritan of good parts and education, and brought with him from England a wife and child and means. He with his wife Elizabeth joined the Charlestown church, Feb. 13, 1634-5, of which they continued members in good standing till their death, over half a century. They probably belonged to a Puritan church in England. In order to be made a freeman of the colony, which entitled him to vote and hold office, it was required that the settler be a member of a congregational church, and be correct in doctrine and conduct. Feb. 10 of the same year he signed, with others, "An order made by the inhabitants of Charlestown at a full meeting for the government of the Town," which order the writer saw among the records of Charlestown many years ago. In his signature thereto we have his autograph. It is one of the fairest, and that of a practical penman. "The inhabitants of this town," says Mr. Frothingham in his History of Charlestown, "for a few years transacted all their local business in town meeting. * * * But their local government was not yet to their minds: 'by reason of many men meeting, things were not so easily brought unto joynt issue.' * * * The original proceeding on board the May Flower was imitated, providing for the government of the town by Selectmen. * * * No town has a more perfect history of its local government than is here presented." Within the first four years of his residence, William was assessed for ten separate parcels of land, which he cultivated. By profession he was a farmer, or, as he sometimes calls himself in conveyances, a "planter." This was his leading business, and it is by his leading or principal business a man is to be designated. His secondary employment was brick-making; and if he was called brick-maker in the record of his death, it was to distinguish him from William, son of Capt. Edward Johnson, who was also a farmer. From the start almost he appears to have been a well-to-do, thriving farmer. There were no large estates in the infant town, nor indeed in the colony. In 1658, twenty-four years after he became a resident, a division of town land was made among the two hundred and three heads of families and others of the township, in proportion to the possessions each one then had; and from this division it appears that after having considerably reduced his estate by portioning his children, over two-thirds of the townsmen stood below him in point of property, including Capt Edward Johnson; and many of the other third possessed but little more. His house-lot, on which there was a garden, fronted one hundred feet on "Greate" (Main) street, near the present Square, and was about one hundred and twenty feet deep. On this lot stood the house in which all his eight children, save the eldest, were born, and in which he died, and also stood two barns and two brick-making mills.

William discharged several of the town offices, but no colonial office except that of juror. In his time, office, except the highest, was regarded as a burden. Ill paid, it was not seldom imposed, subjecting him who refused it to a fine. At one time he was one of the five overseers " of ye houses and fields of ye towne," and at another one of the twelve special selectmen, comprising some of the principal settlers, his name standing third in the list, "to settle the rates of all workmen, labourers and servants' wages and for cart and boat hire," no one then being allowed to charge for his labor, &c, a higher sum than that prescribed by law. The judicial records show that William, with another man, was a witness to prove that a neighbor had Quaker books in his house; if a willing one, as probably he was, his sin was that of the entire community and the age in which he lived
. pp82-83

WILLIAM JOHNSON AND HIS DESCENDANTS. By G. W. Jouxson, of Royalton, N. Y.  The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, Volume 33 , Jan 1879 Boston,Ma.


Jacqui Server-Garcia said...

I would like to say hello to you as a new cousin the writer of this short story on the William Johnson of Charletown, MA my 10th Great Grandafather. Nice writing.

Bill West said...

Thank you, cousin Jacqui!

Jacqui Server-Garcia said...

Hi again I am so new to this Blogg I am clueless but it was great finding you as a relation and have you written other blogs on the Johnson family?


Bill West said...

I've written about Jonathan, William's son starting at:

There are several posts after that one discussing his will and estate.