Thursday, August 21, 2008

David Johnston, my great-great grandfather

David JOHNSTON was my maternal great great grandfather.
Part of his story is how I learned about him. With the aid of her mother, many years ago, my mother wrote down a skeleton family tree. At the top of one page was David Johnston married Hannah Hemingway. Their children were listed and in turn their children. There were no dates or no locations. My mother's sister knew that David Johnston had lived in Unionville, Ontario. When I got interested in my family history, I began attending the Ontario Genealogical Society annual seminar. The seminar in 1993 was in Toronto. As part of the event, the Markham Historical Society came to the event with copies of the township history. After discovering that David Johnston (spelt in it Johnson). was mentioned several times in the book, I made the purchase. On a research trip to Unionville, my mother and I started to visit the cemeteries in search of David Johnston, but we did not find his grave. A couple of months later, at a meeting of the Bruce-Grey Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society, everyone was asked to speak for a couple of minutes about their research progress. I mentioned that my mother and I had been unsuccessful in finding the grave of David Johnston. At the end of the meeting, someone came up to me and said she was from that area. She took my name and address. To my delight, I heard from her later. She had found the grave marker and she sent me photographs of it. What an act of kindness!

So now on to hearing what I know of his story.

David Johnston, son of James Hardy Johnston and Margaret Byers, was born 26 October 1816, Annan, Dumfries, Scotland [1] and married 26 February 1840 in Toronto, Ontario, [2] to Hannah HEMINGWAY, who was born 4 March 1819, [3] Markham Township, York County, Ontario, d. 13 October 1887, Unionville, Ontario. [4] Both are buried in Hagerman East Cemetery Markham Township Ontario. [5] David died 6 November 1892 West Toronto Junction, York County, Ontario [6]

David spent his early years in Annan, Dumfrieshire, Scotland. David was the first born child. His siblings were Margaret Dickson Johnston, John Johnston, James Johnston and William Johnston.

David came to Canada from Annan Scotland with his parents and siblings in 1833. They lived in Richmond Hill for a year and a half. [7] It is not known whether, David moved with his family to Scott Township or remained behind in York County.

David was married 26 February 1840 to Hannah Hemingway, daughter of Josiah Hemingway and Anna Stiver. Rev. James George (Presbyterian minister) of Scarborough, Ontario performed the wedding ceremony that united Hannah and David. Gilbert Barker and James Lawrie acted as witnesses. [8] At the time of his death, David had property at Lot 13 Concession 5 Markham Township. [9]

David was a shoemaker as had been his father in Scotland. Had he learned his trade from his father? David had a thriving boot and shoe repair business. In the 1851 census it indicates that David had a store on his property. [10] In Lovell's Canadian Dominion Directory of 1870-1 David Johnson, shoemaker is listed.[11] Unionville had a population of about 250 at that time. In the Mercantile Agency Reference Book (and Key) containing Ratings of the Merchants, Manufacturers and traders generally through the Dominion of Canada, March 1883, David is listed as having a pecuniary strength estimated at less that $500, with no credit rating given. [12]

David and family were Methodists. The specific variety would change but most likely this reflected the union of the various Methodist denominations in the 1800s in Canada. In 1851, David was Episcopal Methodist. In 1861 and 1871, he was Wesleyan Methodist. By 1881, he was Canada Methodist. Central United Church, Unionville had its beginning as a Methodist Church in 1840. The sanctuary goes back to 1879, so the Johnstons would have attended services there. [13]

Hannah and David had James, Josiah, Nancy, Salome, Margaret, David, Caroline and Hannah Maria. I am a descendant of Josiah.

After the death of Hannah, David may have lived for some time with his daughter Maria, son-in-law Wilfred Frisby and grandson Cleaver.[14]

His obituary appeared on 10 November 1892 in the Markham newspaper and it states:

Mr. David Johnson, an old and respected resident of this place went to visit his daughter at Toronto Junction, on Saturday last. He arrived safely and apparently none the worse of his journey, when on Sunday he had a paralytic stroke and in a short time passed peacefully away. The remains was brought to Unionville on the 4 p.m. train on Tuesday and buried in the Methodist burying ground at Hagerman's Corners.[15]

David Johnston is buried in Hagerman cemetery on the east side of Kennedy Road, south of Unionville, Ontario. William Stiver (teacher) and Hannah Maria Frisby were the executors for David’s will. In his will, David left all the real and personal estate to his daughter Hannah Maria, who was the wife of Wilfred Frisby of the said village of Unionville. At the time of his death, David had real estate on part of Lot 13, Concession 5 in the Township of Markham and it was valued at $200. His household goods and furniture were valued at $50 and he had $45 in the bank.[16]

[1] Church of Scotland. Parish Church of Annan (Dumfrieshire). "Parish Registers for 1703 - 1855"; microfilm #102307, Family History Library Salt Lake City
[2] oops can't find the citation not in my software - will come back and add.
[3] tombstone inscription in Hagerman East Cemetery, Markham Township, Ontario
[4]Hannah Johnson Ontario civil death registration 022281 (1887); microfilm FHL 1853487, Family History Library, Salt Lake City
[5] tombstone inscription in Hagerman East Cemetery, Markham Township, Ontario
[6] David Johnston Ontario death registration #020485 (7 November 1892); digital image ( : accessed 19 August 2008), citing MS 935 reel 66, Archives of Ontario, Toronto [date of death unclear] & David Johnston death announcement Markham Economist Thursday, 10 November 1892.
[7] Helen Johnston. Descendants of James Hardy Johnston, 1777-1872 and Margaret (Byers) Johnston, 1793-1866 of Annan Scotland and Quaker Hill, Queensville, Ont. : H. Johnston, 1979-1984. This book was handwritten. Unfortunately, I did not discover her work until after her death. Her material on my great great grandfather's line was very sketchy. A copy of this work is in the Uxbridge-Scott Museum, Uxbridge, Ontario.
[8] oops can't find the citation not in my software - will come back and add.
[9] David Johnston will & estate papers 24 November 1892, York County Surrogate Court estate files, RG 22 -302; microfilm GS 1 Reel 1031, Archives of Ontario
[10] 1851 Census of Canada West, York County District 42, Markham sub-district 3, p. 257, line 37; digital image Library and Archives Canada, ( : accessed 21 August 2008)
[11] Lovell's Canadian Dominion Directory of 1870-1. Ontario Lovell, 1870, p. 874
[12] Mercantile Agency Reference Book (and Key) containing Ratings of the Merchants, Manufacturers and traders generally through the Dominion of Canada, Montreal : Dun Wiman, March 1883
[13] Central United Church, Unionville, Ontario ( : accessed 20 August 2008)
[14]1891 Census of Canada, York East, District 130, sub-district Markham, Wilfred Frisby household; digital image Library & Archives Canada, citing microfilm T-6379
[15] David Johnston death announcement Markham Economist 10 November 1892
[16]David Johnston will & estate papers 24 November 1892, York County Surrogate Court estate files, RG 22 -302; microfilm GS 1 Reel 1031, Archives of Ontario


  1. Thank you so much for this treasure-trove of information about David Johnston and Hannah Hemingway and their families. I have been researching my family tree and had been stimied - possibly because I was spelling their names as David Johnson and Hannah Hemmingway. I am descended from their daughter Margaret, who married John Hoover Doner - they were my great-grandparents.

    Elizabeth Holden, in Ottawa, Ontario

  2. Hello Elizabeth
    I am so pleased that you discovered my blog and I hope that you read the various pages about the Johnstons (sometimes spelled Johnson in some records) and the Hemingways (also spelt Hemmingway and Hemmenway). If you want to take it back another generation on the Hemingway side, read the articles on the Stiver family.


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