Harriett Johnston: One Link to the Johnston Family Reunion

This entry is part of the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks series.  This week’s prompt is Reunion.  To see other posts in this series, view my 52 Ancestors in 2019 index


I grew up attending the Johnston Family Reunion most summers. It was always held at the Ogden High School cafeteria in Liddieville, Louisiana, on the fourth Saturday of July. About 100 descendants of William Silas Johnston and Amarentha “Alma” Smart usually attended back in the 1990s. It was at the 1992 reunion that I met Agnes McWeeny Johnston, wife of Roy Johnston, who researched our Johnston family origins.

Before Agnes’s research, I’m not sure if our Horne family understood how we connected with the Johnstons. We seemed to attend because Martille McKaskle Johnston, wife of Andrew Johnston who was the son of William Silas and Alma, was my grandmother Ethel’s maternal aunt. My grandmother lived with “Uncle Ander” and “Aunt Till” for a short time after her mother died, and in the absence of grandparents, they became important family members for my dad and his sisters. But Agnes’s research showed us that the Horne and Johnston families were intertwined since the 1860s. One of these connections was Harriett Johnston, my 2x-great-grandmother.

Continue reading Harriett Johnston: One Link to the Johnston Family Reunion

John Johnston: Military Prisoner of War

This entry is part of the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks series.  This week’s prompt is Military.  To see other posts in this series, view my 52 Ancestors in 2019 index


Memorial Day honors our veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice of their lives for our country. This week I want to focus an ancestor who came close to dying during his military service — my 3x-great-grandfather John Johnston who spent a year as a Civil War prisoner of war.

Continue reading John Johnston: Military Prisoner of War

Malinda McCauley Johnston: Nurturing Wife, Sister, Grandmother, and Aunt

This entry is part of the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks series.  This week’s prompt is Nuture.  To see other posts in this series, view my 52 Ancestors in 2019 index


It’s difficult to know the character of our ancestors when all that remains of their lives are a few impersonal records. But sometimes these records can reveal clues about an ancestor’s nature. The simple choice of who lived in her home, the circumstances of a husband returning from a Civil War prisoner of war camp, and the situation of a widowed sister suggests my 3x-great-grandmother Malinda McCauley Johnston was a nurturing wife, sister, grandmother, and aunt.

Continue reading Malinda McCauley Johnston: Nurturing Wife, Sister, Grandmother, and Aunt

William Silas & Amarentha Smart Johnston: Courthouse Research Uncovers Death Dates

This entry is part of the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks series.  This week’s prompt is AT THE COURTHOUSE.  To see other posts in this series, view my 52 Ancestors in 2019 index


Although genealogy interested me at a young age, I didn’t pick up this hobby — okay, obsession — until the internet made record access easy. I spent my early years researching from home in my pajamas, thinking all the documents I’d ever need were online. Oh, how wrong I was! As my skills improved and I moved onto more challenging research, I learned the records needed to solve difficult problems are rarely online. The most helpful evidence is often squirreled away in libraries or located at county and parish courthouses.

Franklin Parish Courthouse, Winnsboro, Louisiana (photo from Louisiana Fifth Judicial Court)

I visit courthouses around northeastern Louisiana almost every time I travel home. Because the past four generations of my family have lived in Liddieville, I spend a good deal of time at the Franklin Parish Courthouse in Winnsboro, Louisiana. The parish has not experienced any record loss since it was organized in 1843, so over 175 years of documents are available at the Clerk of Court’s office. Marriage, land, probate, civil court, and criminal court records — it’s all there. And none of it is digitized. Researching in rural courthouses like these means skimming through huge, musty-smelling books, asking staff to retrieve boxes from storage, and then personally digging through those boxes of original court documents. I love it!

One of my first big finds at the Franklin Parish Courthouse was a succession that provided death dates for two key individuals in my family tree: William Silas Johnston and his wife Amarentha “Alma” Smart.

Continue reading William Silas & Amarentha Smart Johnston: Courthouse Research Uncovers Death Dates

Analyzing DNA Auto-Clusters with Pedigree Collapse: Paternal Super Cluster A

I’ve been playing with a few of the newest DNA clustering tools this winter, hoping they could give insight to my paternal family. My father’s family has a high-degree of pedigree collapse, and his parents were likely first cousins, once removed (1C1R). Other branches of his family tree also intermarried often, resulting in DNA results that are challenging to interpret.

I ran Genetic Affairs’ auto-cluster tool on my father’s AncestryDNA test with range set to 50 – 250 cM. The tool returned 206 matches, ordered below by cluster. I have also identified “super clusters” and labeled these areas A-D:

Paternal “Super Clusters” as interpreted from results of Genetic Affairs Auto-Cluster Tool, run date of 3 Jan 2019

Genetic genealogist Dana Leeds has a series of blog posts about analyzing super clusters, so I’m taking a cue from her and breaking my analysis into these smaller, more manageable chunks. Today, let’s look at Paternal Super Cluster A.

Continue reading Analyzing DNA Auto-Clusters with Pedigree Collapse: Paternal Super Cluster A