The original form of the English name John is the Hebrew Jochanaan, which means "the Lord is gracious". It was popular among Eastern Christians, and was introduced into Western Europe by the Crusaders. The name spread throughout Britain in the twelth century in varying forms, but John became the standard spelling, and one of the countless bearers of the name is the distant ancestor of this Johnson family.
Sarah's note: My direct ancestors include another, totally unrelated Johnson family from Hazel Grove in Cheshire.
James Johnson, a tanner, was born in Shropshire in about 1790, and married a woman named Sarah, who was born in Bridgnorth at about the same time. She is possibly the Sarah White whose marriage to a James Johnson is recorded at St Mary Magdalen, Bridgnorth on 15 September 1811, but the common names make it difficult to be certain.
James and Sarah's known children were born in Knighton (Radnorshire), just over the Welsh border from Shropshire:
By 1841 the family had returned to Bridgnorth, and the 1841 census shows a 9 year-old James Johnson living with them - possibly a nephew or grandson.
James died in Bridgnorth in early 1842, but Sarah lived to the ripe old age of 92, dying in Bridgnorth in 1881.
James Johnson, son of James Johnson and Sarah, was born in Knighton in about 1824, and became a carpet weaver. In the 1840s he moved from Bridgnorth to Bewdley (Worcestershire), where he married Anne Vincent in 1851. However, the weaving trade fell into recession, and in the late 1850s James joined his sister Maria and brother-in-law John Goodwin in Wolverhampton, where he is described as a tarpauling worker. The Johnsons and Goodwins lived as neighbours in Wolverhampton for many years.
James and Anne had eight children:
Anne died shortly after her youngest child Alfred was born, and was buried in Merridale Cemetery on 28 August 1870. James probably found it difficult to look after all the children on his own, and Alfred was brought up by his aunt Sarah Johnson and her husband Charles Gregory, later adopting their surname. Emelia (or Emily) seems to be living in an orphanage in Bristol in 1881.
Sarah Johnson, daughter of James Johnson and Sarah, was born in Knighton in about 1828, and by 1841 was working in Bridgnorth as a woollen spinner. In 1865, when she was about 37 years old, she married Charles Gregory in Bridnorth. Charles was a carpet weaver, born in Bridgnorth in 1830, and was the son of John Gregory, a gardener, and his wife Martha Hall. (He does not seem to be related to the Gregory family of Wellington/Wolverhampton in the main line of our genealogy.)
Charles and Sarah had just one child:
They also raised Sarah's nephew, Alfred Johnson (son of James Johnson and Anne Vincent), whose mother died either in childbirth or shortly afterwards.
Mary Johnson, daughter of James Johnson and Sarah, was born in Knighton in about 1830, and like her older sister Sarah worked in Bridgnorth as a woollen spinner. She married Joseph Mansell, a labourer, in Wolverhampton in 1856, and the 1861 census shows the couple living with Mary's widowed mother Sarah, and her unmarried sister in Bridgnorth. Joseph died in 1862, and Mary married Samuel Instone, a mason's labourer, in Wolverhampton in 1870. They continued to live with Mary's mother, and in 1871, Mary's niece Emily Goodwin was part of the household.
Mary died in Bridgnorth in 1872, and Samuel probably lived with his mother-in-law until her death in early 1881: the 1881 census shows him and Emily lodging with a widow in Bridgnorth. Emily married William Rudd the following year, and Samuel lived with the couple until his death in 1918.
Thomas Johnson, oldest child of James Johnson and Anne Vincent, was born in Bridgnorth in 1852, and moved to Wolverhampton with his family as a child. He became an ironcaster, and married Eliza Martin in St John's Church, Wolverhampton on 6 February 1871. Eliza was christened in Wolverhampton on 16 September 1849, and was the daughter of James Martin and his wife Sarah Rea.
Thomas and Eliza had five known children, all born in Wolverhampton:
Thomas died in Wolverhampton at the age of 59, and was buried in Merridale Cemetery on 2 April 1908. Eliza was buried in the same cemetery on 11 August 1923.
Ann Johnson, oldest daughter of James Johnson and Anne Vincent, was born in her mother's home town of Bewdley in about 1853, and moved to Wolverhampton with her family as a small child. She married Edward Higgitt, a blacksmith, in St John's Church, Wolverhampton on 2 September 1872, and their only child was born the following year:
Alfred Edward Higgitt
(died aged 10 months)
Sadly, Ann died in childbirth or shortly afterwards aged just 19, and was buried in Merridale Cemetery on 2 November 1873. Little Alfred lived for less than a year, and was buried in the same cemetery on 9 August 1874. The young widower Edward remarried in 1875 to Frances ("Fanny") Jemison, and raised a large family from his second marriage.
Francis John Johnson, son of James Johnson and Anne Vincent, was born in Bridgnorth in 1856, shortly before his family moved to Wolverhampton. Like several of his relations, he worked in the local iron industry, and at the age of 15 was a hollow ware caster. After this, he disappears from view until his marriage in Bridgnorth on 26 September 1899 to Elizabeth Husband, widow of William Wesley Neesham. (Elizabeth was born in Old Radford, Nottinghamshire in 1845.) To complicate things, Francis was sometimes recorded under his middle name John.
Elizabeth probably died in Wolverhampton in 1900, just a year after the marriage, but Francis is listed on the 1901 census in Willenhall as married, living with his daughter Elizabeth, and his widowed "sister" Alice Price (housekeeper). In 1911, he is recorded as a widower.
Francis had a daughter, whose mother is not known:
Elizabeth was still living with her father in 1911, and filled in the census form for their household.
Francis probably died in Wolverhampton in late 1920, although the record is in the name of John Johnson.
James Johnson, son of James Johnson and Anne Vincent, was born in Wolverhampton in 1861, and worked as a hollow ware caster in the local iron industry. He married Sarah Ann Dunn in West Bromwich in 1882, and the couple settled in Wednesbury. Sarah was born in Wednesbury in 1860, and was the daughter of Francis Dunn and his wife Sarah Ann Wilks.
James and Sarah raised a family of eleven children in Wednesbury:
Alice Maud Johnson
Sarah Ann Johnson
Gladys May Johnson
m. Frederick Clark, 1904
m. Joseph Charles Ratcliffe, 1905
m. John Henry Martin, 1910
m. Edward Jones, 1910
Alfred Johnson, youngest child of James Johnson and Anne Vincent, was born in Wolverhampton in 1870 just before his mother's death. He was brought up by his aunt Sarah Johnson and her husband Charles Gregory, who gave him the middle name Charles at his christening in Bridgnorth on 12 February 1880, and although he is listed on the 1871 and 1881 censuses as Alfred Johnson, he later adopted the surname Gregory. He became a commercial traveller, and married Emma Davies in about 1891. Emma was born in Burton Salmon (Yorkshire) in 1869, and was the daughter of Frederick and Mary Davies: in early 1891, both Alfred and Emma were living in Walsall.
Alfred and Emma had three children:
Alice Maud Mary Gregory
Gertrude Winifred Irene Gregory
m. Charles R Reynolds, 1926
By 1911, Alfred had become a metal roller, and the family was living in Aston, where his daughters were gauge examiners in a metal works. His younger daughter Gertrude died two years later at the age of 18.
William Gregory was born in Bridgnorth in 1866, and was the only child of Charles Gregory and Sarah Johnson, although his cousin Alfred Johnson was raised almost as his younger brother. He worked for a wine merchant, and married Edna Maria Hutchins Brown in Bridgnorth in 1886. Edna was born in Bewdley in 1861, and was the daughter of blacksmith John Brown and his wife Elizabeth Crowther. William was quite successful professionally, and by 1901 had become a wine merchant's manager.
The couple had five children, all born in Bridgnorth:
Ethel Edna Gregory
Frances Naomi Gregory
Lucy Mabel Gregory
Harold William Gregory
Reginald Charles Gregory
m. Arthur Edmund Foxall, 1917
m. Marion M Cox, 1917
Sarah Ann Johnson, oldest child of Thomas Johnson and Eliza Martin, was born in Wolverhampton in 1871, and married William Henry Tonks, a cabinet maker, in 1895. William was born in Wolverhampton in 1873, and was the son of John William Tonks and his wife Hannah Darby.
William and Sarah had eight known children, all born in Wolverhampton, although the 1911 census states that a ninth child died in infancy:
m. Lilian Patty Stean, 1927
m. George Virgil Parkin, 1927
The two oldest children married in a double wedding in Wolverhampton in 1927.
Elizabeth Johnson, daughter of Thomas Johnson and Eliza Martin, was born in Wolverhampton in about 1874, and married Alfred Matthews there in 1896. Alfred was a boot maker, born in Wolverhampton in about 1870.
The couple had five children, all born in Wolverhampton:
Gladys May Matthews
Alfred Thomas Matthews
Harold Douglas Matthews
Raymond Johnson Matthews
m. Florence Clare Boot, 1925
Florence Johnson, daughter of Thomas Johnson and Eliza Martin, was born in Wolverhampton in 1886, and married Thomas Thorley there in 1909. Thomas was born in Wolverhampton in 1884, and was the son of Samuel Thorley and his wife Selina Williams.
Thomas and Florence had three children:
1. Elsie May Thorley
2. Florence Thorley
3. Thomas Thorley
m. Edward Evans, 1931
Alice Maud Johnson, oldest child of James Johnson and Sarah Ann Dunn, was born in Wednesbury in 1883, and married Frederick Clark there in 1904. The couple had eight children:
Frederick James Clark
Doris May Clark
Alice Irene Clark
Albert Cyril Clark
Lilian A A Clark
Pauline F Clark
Eveline R Clark
m. Gladys Bullock, 1928
m. Leonard Hartshorne, 1929
m. William Earl, 1932
m. Sarah Truby, 1932
m. Sidney Millward, 1941
m. Leo Roy, 1945
Albert Cyril Clark - also known as Cyril Albert Clark - was a haulage contractor, and held a Royal Aero Club Aviators’ Certificate in 1938.
Maria Johnson, daughter of James Johnson and Sarah Ann Dunn, was born in Wednesbury in 1885, and married Joseph Charles Ratcliffe there in 1905. Joseph was born in Wednesbury in 1882, and was the son of Charles Ratcliffe and his wife Sarah Ann Ray. The couple had seven children:
Miriam Ruby Ratcliffe
Percy James Ratcliffe
Eva L Ratcliffe
Joseph C Ratcliffe
Royston Ronald Ratcliffe
m. Abraham Dyke, 1933
m. Laura Mumford, 1937
m. Sidney Harris, 1938
m. Joan Hale, 1946
m. Gladys E Edwards, 1947
m. William H Scott, 1950
m. Winifred J Hartshorne, 1951