William Robert Johnson

Research led me to realize that I had attached William Robert Johnson to the wrong parents. In 1850 James and Martha Logwood Johnson lived in Appomattox and had an eight year old son named William. They were the only Appomattox Johnsons with a son of about the right age with the name William. When I found them, I knew I had found his family.

Discrepencies exist in the records, however, as they always do. I found 3 and together they eventually led me to look elsewhere for his parents.

Name: In 1850 William is listed without a middle initial, and in 1860 he is listed as William H. The family lived in Campbell County. As an adult he routinely listed his name as W.R. or William R. on official papers so he must have felt the initial necessary to distinguish him from other William Johnsons. Census eumerators did make errors, and sometimes records are hard to read, but in this case the H is quite clear.

Age: He almost always rounded off his age, making it a little hard to tell whether he was born in 1842 (as would be necessary to equate William H., son of James and Martha, and our William R.) or in 1839 (as he reported to the 1900 census). Wm. R. is listed in the 1870 census as 28, but he is listed as 40 in the 1880 census, as 60 in 1900 (pension application), as 70 in the 1910 census. All the other records that don't match this pattern show him as somewhat older - 61 in 1900; 70 on his 1907 pension application (if he was 65 would he have rounded off?); and 85 in 1920. The birth date given in the 1900 census would encourage him to give an exact age that matched. There is no reason to doubt this birth date of May 1839 other than his identity with the son of James and Martha.

Location: I started my search in Appomattox, since that was where he lived out his life, and immediately found a likely family. However, in 1860 this family lived in Campbell County. In 1863 he was conscripted into the army from Prince Edward County. What was he doing in Prince Edward County?

I started my investigation of Johnsons in Prince Edward County looking for relatives with whom he might have been living. Instead, I found the family of Isaac Johnson, who had a son listed in the 1860 census named William R. who was 21 years old, that is, he was born in about 1839.

Other evidence which suggests that this is the correct family:

William Robert Johnson (52) (1839-aft. 1920) lived with his parents in Prince Edward County in 1860 when he was 21. Of course the Civil War greatly impacted his prospects. He survived 2 years of service in the Confederate army, and married Alice Cora [--?--] (53) (1848-aft. 1910) 3 years later. He never owned his own land. He could claim to read and write, but samples of his signature show it was unpracticed.

© 2005 Footie Lund
revised March 2007