Ancestral Anthology, Part 4 – Johnson Family
One of the more intriguing aspects of my family history research has been linking up with the discoveries made by others in my family — those known to me and those newly met — and adding their finds to my own work, or helping them along in their research with what I’ve been able to uncover.
My mom did a lot of digging into the Leys and Weibles, when she was about the same age as I am now. And I’ve benefited from the documents and pictures she saved, as well as the books she stocked on the Leys, Powells, etc.
On the other side of the tree, my grandma Erma (Johnson) Foutz left behind a trove of items from her decades of pondering and pursuing clues into both her family and my grandpa Foutz’s. Countless newspaper clippings, cards from funerals, family snapshots and genealogical lists in her elegant hand — with all the attendant red-ink corrections and deletions and additions.
One of Grandma’s last projects was to begin a series of pocket-size family records she intended to pass on. Her working copy — bound in green — contains the above noted flourishes, as she deciphered and backtracked and polished her understanding of previous generations. Since the summer, I’ve been working in one of her brown-covered blank copies, and delighting as I’ve confirmed or otherwise amplified the information she had collected.
Surprisingly, for such a common last name — I’ll get to all the Charles Johnsons and Thomas Johnsons dotting east-central Ohio later in this post — we know an awful lot about the parents and children of my great-grandfather’s and great-great grandfather’s generations.
It’s immediately after that — or, I guess, before — that records and knowledge start to break down.
Then again, in the spirit of comparing notes, a lot of what I know about the Johnsons today is built upon the research of others — my grandma; my grandma’s niece, Sarah Fitzgerald. And I’ve heard there’s at least one other Johnson son out there who’s racked up a lot of info.
So here’s a look at what we know so far. With some combined sleuthing, we’ll see what corners we can find assured passage around, what dead-ends we can throw a ladder over.
Johnson Ancestry – Looking Back 8 Generations
1. Jonah Robert Foutz and Benjamin Peter Foutz
Born in Illinois, Sept. 6, 2006 and Sept. 9, 2008.
2. Frederick Colt Foutz (married Kathryn Marie Knutson)
Born in Dover, Ohio, June 2, 1976. Educated at Carnegie Mellon University and Columbia College Chicago. Newspaper reporter and columnist in Ohio and Illinois, freelance writer, musician. Currently manages a creative team at a Chicago advertising agency. Married Sept. 21, 2002 in Olathe, Kansas. Katie was born Dec. 8, 1977 in Rochester, Minn. Parents of Jonah Robert, Benjamin Peter.
3. Frederick Charles Foutz (married Janet Louise Ley)
Father. Born in Dover, Ohio, June 5, 1952. Educated at the University of Cincinnati. Salesman, sales manager, customer service rep. Married Dec. 21, 1975 in Dover. Janet was born May 25, 1952 in Dover. Parents of Frederick Colt, Daniel Morgan, Jacob Ley, Samuel Chase.
4. Erma Maxine Johnson (married Donald Dale Foutz)
Grandmother. Born Oct. 27, 1920 in New Philadelphia, Ohio. Died July 16, 2000 in New Phila. Secretary, homemaker. Married May 9, 1942 in Dover. Don was born March 4, 1914 in Dover, Ohio. Died Nov. 14, 1980 in Dover. Parents of Donn Dale, Robert Vance, Frederick Charles. Remarried Jan. 1, 1982, to Max Troendly Miller (1916-2009). Made her home later in life in Green Valley, Arizona and New Philadelphia.
5. Charles Arthur Johnson (married Viola Mae Palmer)
Great-grandfather. Born Nov. 6, 1886 in New Philadelphia, Ohio. Died Sept. 13, 1962 in New Phila. Coal miner, steelworker. President, Local 8607, United Mineworkers of America. First married Feb. 17, 1907 in Tuscarawas County, to Leona Miller. She died shortly after. Second marriage (to Viola Palmer) July 1, 1911, probably in Dennison, Ohio. Viola was born June 3, 1889 in Scio. She died Aug. 16, 1958 in New Phila. Parents of 10: Thomas Leonard, Virginia Mae, Nellie Irene, Carl Arthur (died young), Erma Maxine, Charles Jr. (died young), William Dean, Joseph R. (died young), Lloyd George (twin) and Floyd Clement (twin).
6. Clement A. Johnson (married Anna Burkey)
Second great grandfather. Born March 6, 1863 in Middlebourne, Guernsey County, Ohio. Died Aug. 16, 1947 in New Philadelphia, Ohio. Coal miner. Married Sept. 25, 1884 in Guernsey County. Anna was born July 25, 1867 in Guernsey County. She died Nov. 3, 1929 in New Phila. Parents of 10: Charles Arthur, Carrie Mae, Roy (died young – had twin who died at birth), Helen Viola, Donald D., Dwight Joseph, Delbert M. (twin), Della (twin), Alvin Norman, Adrian L.
7. Thomas W. Johnson (married Nancy Valentine)
Third great grandfather. Born about 1822, probably in Ohio. Died 1864 in Corinth, Miss. Farm laborer. Served the Union Army during the Civil War as a mule skinner. According to family lore, he died of the measles during a march through Mississippi. Because of his non-soldier status, his wife could not collect an army pension, and she is listed on the 1870 census as a pauper, with at least one of her children living in a relative’s household. In the one census record in which his married family appears together (1860), he is listed as not able to read or write. Married Feb. 4 or 9, 1854 in Guernsey County. Nancy was born about 1836 in Guernsey County. She probably died in 1928. Parents of four confirmed children: Violet Melinda, David, Virginia Frances, Clement Arthur.
Gazing into the swirling mists…
8. George Johnson??? (married Mary???)
As family legend had it — or at least what I can remember of it, possibly incorrectly — the Johnson line came from England. But so far I’ve stumbled upon nothing that firms up that rumor.
There are several records that connect a Thomas Johnson born in Ohio in 1822 to a George Johnson as father, and a Mary as mother. However, several of these records show Thomas leading quite a different life after that, with a different spouse in one case, and saved by different descendants and relatives in others. So it’s tough to say what’s what.
There are several Thomas Johnsons that pop up in Guernsey County from about 1820 on, and they have birthdates that could connect to our ancestor as late as 1829. But the single census record in 1860 that shows Thomas W. Johnson’s married family all living together has him as 38 years old, and Nancy as 24. Unfortunately, the transcriptions of their marriage record (which list dates of Feb. 4 and 9, alternately) do not have any more information than the date, location and their names.
The more promising leads on connecting Thomas W. to a father named George are the tax records for Guernsey County which show him living in various parts of the county — Spencer Twp. and Derry among them — and sometimes appearing with the initial R. These could be different George Johnsons. And there are census records for 1850 that list a George Johnson, born 1797 in Virginia, in Cumberland, Guernsey County. This would make him about the right age to father Thomas. But again, these docs need to link up in a convincing way to provide anything approaching proof.
What would be nice is finding a death record for Thomas that lists his parents. Or some fragment from a local history that establishes who the family is and where they came from. Clement’s death record reports his parentage accurately. But his oldest sister’s death record (for Violet Melinda) only contains the curious information that she had a son — without being married — and that he claimed not to know who his grandparents were, or where his mother was born.
Definitive clues could be uncovered by tromping around Guernsey County, or tracking down their actual gravestones. By the 20th century, of course, Clement had moved the family to New Phila, where at least two subsequent generations (my great-grandfather and grandmother) were more or less lifelong residents.