Peasants to Puddles
My Family History - By Nicky Rowberry

The Johnstones
Page 1

William Johnstone was one of my 2xgreat grandfathers. He was born in 1844 in Muirkirk, Ayrshire, Scotland; the fourth son of Thomas Johnstone & Helen McKersie. For more information on Thomas & Helen and their family, please click on the following link:

William spent his early years living in the Glenbuck area of Muirkirk with his family. The table below shows him with his parents and most of his siblings in the 1851 census. His older brother James was already working away from home at Parisholm in nearby Douglas as a farm servant aged 12.

Parish of
Ecclesiastical District of
City or Borough of
Town of
Village of
Schedule Name of Street, Place, or Road Name & Surname of each Person who abode in the house, on the Night of the 30th March, 1851Relation to Head of FamilyConditionAgeRank, Profession, or OccupationWhere Born
19 Glenbuck Thomas JohnstoneHeadMarried46LabourerLanark Crawfordjohn
   Helen JohnstoneWifeMarried44 Ayrshire Muirkirk
   Grace JohnstoneDaur 10ScholarAyrshire Muirkirk
   John JohnstoneSon 9ScholarAyrshire Muirkirk
   William JohnstoneSon 7ScholarAyrshire Muirkirk
   Samuel JohnstoneSon 5ScholarAyrshire Muirkirk
   Thomas JohnstoneSon 3 Ayrshire Muirkirk
   Alexander JohnstoneSon 5 mon Ayrshire Muirkirk

By 1861 William had also left home and was working as a shepherd for the same family in Parisholm as his brother had been 10 years earlier. It's possible that both boys got their jobs there through family connections as their uncle John Affleck worked at Parisholm for 45 years from the 1830s onwards. I don't know how long William spent at Parisholm, but by 1869 he was back in Muirkirk at Netherwood, still working as a shepherd. He married Jane Saddler on 31st December (Hogmanay!) 1869 in Crawfordjohn, a small village about 12 miles away from his birthplace of Muirkirk. The wedding was witnessed by William's brother Samuel Johnstone and Jane's uncle William Colthart.

William & Jane must have settled in Netherwood for a while at least. Their first daughter Jane born there just 2 months later in February 1870 and they were still there in 1871 at the time of the census. The table below gives the details from the 1871 census.

Page 4The undermentioned Houses are situated within the Boundaries of the Parish of Muirkirk
Civil Parish Quad Sacra parish of Parliamentary Burgh ofRoyal Burgh ofPolice Burgh ofTown ofVillage or Hamlet of
Muirkirk        Muirkirk
No. of Schedule Road, Street and Name of HouseName and Surname of each personRelation to Head of FamilyCondition AgeProfession or OccupationWhere Born
14 NetherwoodWilliam JohnstonHeadMarried 26ShepherdMuirkirk
   Jane JohnstonWifeMarried 26 Crawfordjohn
   Jane JohnstonDaughter 1 Crawfordjohn

Sadly their first child Jane Johnstone died of the croup aged only 4 years old in 1874, but by that time they had at least one more child - Helen McKersie Johnstone. The 1881 census showed that Helen was born in England. Initially I presumed she had been born in the North of England probably not far from the border, but then I discovered she'd been born in Devon! Her birth certificate shows her to have been born in Badgworthy, near Lynton in 1872, at which time her father William was working as a shepherd on Exmoor. Subsequent investigations have shown that William Johnstone was in fact one of many Scottish shepherds who went to work on Exmoor, including several of his own cousins. For more info on this group of Scottish cousins who went to work on Exmoor, please click on the following link:

William Johnstone couldn't have stayed on Exmoor for very long as by 1874 he was back in Crawfordjohn when his daughter Jane died. My great grandmother Grace Taylor McKersie Johnstone was born in 1877 at which point the family were living at Whitecleugh in Crawfordjohn. In the 1881 census, William & Jane and their 4 young daughters (including my great grandmother Grace) are shown living at The Kilnhouse, Crawfordjohn. The Jane Johnstone shown aged 5 was actually their second child to be called Jane. The table below gives the details from the 1881 census (GRO Ref Volume 636 Enum Dist 1 Page 2)

Crawfordjohn Lanarkshire
Name of Street, Place, or Road Name & Surname of each Person Relation to Head of FamilyConditionAgeRank, Profession, or OccupationWhere Born
Kilnhouse William JohnstoneHeadMarried36ShepherdMuirkirk, Ayrshire
  Jane JohnstoneWifeMarried36Shepherd's wifeCrawfordjohn, Lanark
  Helen JohnstoneDaur 9ScholarEngland
  Jane JohnstoneDaur 5ScholarCrawfordjohn, Lanark
  Grace JohnstoneDaur 3 Crawfordjohn, Lanark
  Agnes JohnstoneDaur 2 months Crawfordjohn, Lanark

Sadly William Johnstone died in 1884, leaving Jane to bring up 4 daughters alone. His gravestone is still there in Crawfordjohn, marking also the deaths of two of his children - Mary and Jane. I have not been able to find a birth or death for Mary so maybe she was also born in Devon?

In the 1891 census, Jane was living at the Gateside Dairy in Douglas, where she was employed as a Dairywoman. With her, were her two youngest daughters, Grace & Agnes. Grace was described as "Assisting as a general servant", Agnes was still at school. By 1901 the family had moved to Glasgow and were living at 87 Caledonia Road. Grace was working as a Boot Saleswoman and Agnes as a Drapery Saleswoman. It was presumably in Glasgow that Grace met her husband to be John Fraser. They married in Glasgow in 1906. The table below gives the details from the 1901 census.

Page 2]The undermentioned Houses are situated within the Boundaries of the
Civil Parish Parish Ward of Ecclesiastical ParishQuad Sacra ParishSchool Board District Parliamentary BurghParliamentary Division
GovanFirst Govan St BernardsGlasgowGlasgowBlackfriars
No. of Schedule Road, Street and Name of HouseName and Surname of each personRelation to Head of FamilyCondition AgeProfession or OccupationWhere Born
6 87 Caledonia RoadJane JohnstoneHeadWidow 56 Crawfordjohn
   Grace JohnstoneDaurSingle 23Boot SaleswomanCrawfordjohn
   Agnes JohnstoneDaurSingle20Drapery SaleswomanCrawfordjohn

Grace Johnstone married John Fraser and had four children. At some point around 1908/1909 they moved to Stockport, Cheshire, where their youngest two children were born. In 1911 they were living in Great Moor Street, Stockport with three children, but also present were Grace's mother Jane and her unmarried sister Agnes Johnstone. I think her mother and sister must just have been visiting, rather than permanently resident there as they both later died back in Scotland.

Grace's mother, Jane Johnstone lived to the ripe old age of 80, before succumbing to "softening of the brain" and dying in Edinburgh in 1925. I don't have any photos of William Johnstone, but I do have these two faded photos of a woman that my mother thought was probably Jane. The photo on the left shows her standing with what would be her daughter Grace. If anyone can prove these right or wrong, it would be much appreciated.

Grace Johnstone died in Stockport in 1941. The two photos below are both of Grace. The photo on the left shows her as a young girl and was taken by Davidson & Sons, photographers of Lanark & Carluke. The photo on the right shows Grace as a young woman.

Two of Grace Johnstone's sisters also married and had children. Helen McKersie Johnstone married Archibald Gall in Douglas in 1895 and so far I've found 5 children for them, shown on the tree below. Jane Johnstone married James Veitch and they had at least 4 children. The photos below show Jane Veitch and Helen Gall as older women. It would be lovely if we could find photos of them as younger women too.

Like the Frasers, the Johnstones seem to have been keen on Memorial cards to commemorate their loved ones. I have these two lovely examples, for Agnes Colthart Johnstone and James Veitch (husband of the younger Jane Johnstone).

The family tree below summarises what I know about this part of the Johnstone family. It is hopefully reasonably accurate, but if you spot any errors, or any relatives, please feel free to E-mail me

Please click on one of the red links on the tree to move to a different page.

If any of the above is of further interest, please feel free to contact me at:

Nicky Rowberry 2014

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Peasants to Puddles - My Family History. By Nicky Rowberry