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Dr. James Johnson and his family

Updated: Oct 29, 2021

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But to look first at the Johnstons and in particular Dr. James Johnson as it was the convincing particulars of his career which made me sure I could locate him: an author, a ships surgeon … and sure enough his books are available on-line (The Oriental Voyager, or Descriptive Sketches and Cursory Remarks on a Voyage to India and China in His Majesty's ship Caroline, performed in the years 1803–4–5–6, 1807 and Tour in Ireland, with Meditations and Reflections, London, 1844 and several medical books), his Life was written by his son in The Medico-Chirurgical Review of 1846, he is in A Directory of Ulster Doctors (who qualified before 1901) by R.S.J.Clarke, in the Dictionary of National Biography, two portraits exist which are reproduced here.

James Johnson (1777-1845) was the youngest son of John Johnston (or Johnstone for they were originally from Scotland) from Lisnahilt, Co. Antrim and Anne Barclay of Broughshane, Co. Antrim. The family lived near Ballymena and James had older brothers Robert (who married Catherine O’Hara mentioned above) and John who was a linen buyer. The family was Nationalist and the older brothers took part in the Battle of Antrim in 1798. James was in London at this time finishing his studies but he too was one of the United Irishman. (See Ethna Carbery. Anna Johnson McManus by Helen Meehan, Published by Letterkenny, Co Donegal: Browne Printers, 2013).

This lovely pencil portrait of Dr. James Johnson was drawn by John Smart in early 1799 (and is reproduced here with the permission of The National Portrait Gallery, London). The portrait defines the moment when the newly qualified twenty-two year old Dr. James took his first trip as a ship’s surgeon in the navy and sailed to Newfoundland and Nova Scotia. For the next fourteen years James Johnson sailed the world and wrote books of his travels and of the diseases he encountered. One of these trips took him to India and China during 1803-1806 and it must be assumed that in 1806 he visited his native homeland as he was married that year to Charlotte Wolfenden (1787-1869) of Lambeg, Co. Antrim - Charlotte is the daughter of Richard Wolfenden (1757-1816) and Mary Gayer (1759-1832).

Dr. James continued at sea until the Napoleonic Wars ended in 1814 when, while serving in The Impregnable in which the Duke of Clarence was conveying the emperor of Russia and the King of Prussia to England, he tending the unwell Duke. Dr James and the Duke became friendly, so much so that when the Duke of Clarence became King William IV in 1830 he made Dr. James his physician extraordinary. James set up a prosperous medical practice in London and Portsmouth.

The visit to Ireland described by great grandma took place in 1843 and James Johnson in Tour in Ireland, with Meditations and Reflections, London, 1844 gives a delightful account of 15th August 1843 when he attended the Daniel O’Connell rally on the Hill of Tara.

The image below is © Royal College of Physicians. Many thanks for permission to use this great painting.

James and Charlotte a daughter and five sons. These are James Henry Wolfenden Johnson (1807-1889), Georgeanna Maria Jane Johnson (1810-1900), William John Johnson (1812-1861), Thomas Edward Johnson (1816-1853), Charles Stewart Johnson (1817-1836), Athol Archibald Wood Johnson (c1821-1902).

James Henry Wolfenden Johnson was born in Portsea, Hampshire, in 1807. He was a medical doctor/surgeon. In 1830, in London, he married Mary Harding. Then, in 1837, in London, he married Mary Alicia Charlotte Jackson. Miss Jackson’s family were landed gentry from County Cork. Her father, Warren Hastings Rowland Jackson, was born in India in about 1781. James and Mary had at least three children namely Elizabeth Charlotte Johnson (1838-1919), Anna Maria Charlotte Johnson (1841-1866) and Henry James Rowland Johnson (Johnstone) (1850-1932). The two daughters didn’t marry. Henry J R Johnstone married Alice Ethel Borradaile, formerly Haig, nee Ellis in 1894, they seem not to have had children.

Georgeanna Maria Jane Johnson was born in 1810, in Devon. Georgeanna married barrister Joseph Crawford Bromhead (c1816-1902) in 1843, in London. Georgeanna and Joseph seem not to have had children.

William John Johnson was born in Portsea, Hampshire, in 1812. William was a Barrister, who seems not to have married. He died 1861 aged 51.

Thomas Edward Johnson was born in Portsea in 1816. Thomas was a solicitor who seems not to have married. He died in 1853 aged 37.

Charles Stewart Johnson (1818-1836) was baptised in Portsea on January 1st 1818 so I assume he was born in late 1817. Charles died in 1836 aged eighteen in New South Wales, Australia having travelled there as 3rd Officer on The Royal Sovereign which was a convict ship.

Athol Archibald Wood Johnson was born in about 1821 and became a surgeon. Athol married three times.

In 1846 he married Charlotte Mortimer (c1826-1849) in Edinburgh. Charlotte was the daughter of George Mortimer of Fonthill Park, a landed estate in Wiltshire. Athol and Charlotte have a daughter Georgina Maria Ann Johnson born in 1847 in South Leith, Scotland. Charlotte and her daughter died in 1849.

In 1851 Athol married Emily Harriet Frances Postlethwaite who died in 1861. I cannot find children for this marriage.

In 1861 on July 17th Athol married, in London, Ellen Wilkinson daughter of Benjamin and Ann Wilkinson. Athol A W and Ellen lived in Brighton and had two children Athol Crawford Harrington Johnstone (1861-1932) and Edith Caroline Johnstone (1864-1906).

Edith Caroline Johnstone (1864-1906) married in 1888, in Brighton, surgeon Herbert Langton. They had three children, Edward Athol C Langton (1889-) who was married in 1924 to Mariel C Hodding, Elsie Kathleen (1890-1952) probably unmarried, and Edith Marjorie (1892-) who either married Ernest E Gibbons in Uckfield, Sussex in 1926 or who died unwed in Horsham, Sussex in 1977.

Athol C H Johnstone (1861-1932) emigrated to the United States of America where, in Ohio, he was married in 1887 to Addie F Raines born in Ohio c1868. They have three children Roy H Johnstone (c1892-) , Edith L Johnstone (c1895-) , and Ruth A Johnstone (c1896-) all born in Kentucky. Ruth A married C Mott Hendall and they had three children Edith A Hendall c1922- , Ruth N Hendall c1925- , and Dorethea A Hendall c1927- , all born in Ohio. Edith L Johnstone married in 1926 Lon Kughn having previously married and divorced Carl Nanna; by the 1930 census she described herself as single and lived with her parents.

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