Fish in a Tree

Appendix Three

The Johnstone family

Evelyn Greenwell's mother was Jane (Jennie) Johnstone. She probably had the middle name Gladstone. One discovery I made was that she had an older daughter (Ethel Johnstone), whom I have been unable to trace. This is a summary of what I know about Jane Johnstone's father and mother, Robert and Catherine Johnstone, and Jane's siblings.

Robert Johnstone was a domestic gardener, born in Kelso, probably in 1820,1821 or 1822. Most likely 1821. I don't know if he had siblings; nor who his parents were. I guessed the 1841 census in Kelso might tell me that, but I guessed wrong. There were no Johnstones in Kelso in 1841 (although there were Johnstons and Johnsons, none of whom seem very probable).

On 13 June 1850, Robert married Catherine Shine (mis-spelled in one instance in the IGI as Skene) in Kelso (their banns were published on 2 June 1850). The witnesses were James and John Hope. Catherine was born in Dublin in about 1830, but she may have been in Kelso for some time. In the 1851 census, she and Robert are living in Burngrove, Wilton, Hawick, and they have with them an aunt called Margaret Shine, aged 60. Presumably this must be Catherine's uncle's wife, or father's sister. In either case, what is interesting is that she too is shown as being born in Kelso. It may be that the Shine family were in Kelso before Margaret's birth. That is to say, it isn't certain that Catherine was Irish. (On the other hand, the Johnstones in later generations aren't very exact about their places of birth. The name Denis - see below - also causes the enumerator considerable problems in 1851 and 1861, and it is thought to be an Irish name, probably a family name, and spoken in an accent which may have foxed a Scottish enumerator.) Robert may have been working in 1851 for a landowner and J.P. from Selkirkshire, living in Wilton nearby, called John Staverton (pure speculation).

Robert and Catherine were certainly in Hawick for about the next nine years, during which time they had at least five children:

Denis William Johnstone b. about 1851

Margaret Johnstone b. about 1852 named for the aunt?

Robert Johnstone b. 30 June 1855

Janet** Johnstone b. 3 June 1857 **probably known as Jessie

Alison Johnstone b. 10 October 1859

At this point, they moved to Holmhead, Langholm, Dumfriesshire probably in late 1860. They were there until about 1868. Robert was working as a gardener there, too, either for the landlord of Langholm Lodge (name unknown - absent at the 1861 census) or for the 1300 acre farmer Alexander Gray of Potholm. They had the following children while at Langholm:

Catherine Marion Johnstone b. 17 November 1861

Jane Johnstone b. 21 March 1864

Agnes Johnstone b. 8 September 1867

By April 1871, they were back in Wilton, Hawick, where Robert was the gardener at Briery Yards for an elderly retired accountant called David D. Scott and his wife Mary. They had a boarder, a landowner called Thomas Turnbull, aged 72, who was a certified lunatic. A cottage came with the job. Denis, by now 19, is shown as a coachman (Catherine and family are listed at the gardener's cottage, Robert snr. is shown as part of the main household). Denis subsequently dropped his first name, and appears as William. It seems to me likely that Catherine's father was called Denis, and Robert's father William, but this is guesswork. There is a vaguely attractive possibility of a William Johnstone born near Dumfries on 30 Jan 1793, the son of a James Johnstone and Janet Storry.

Janet is incidentally not shown in the 1871 census. I will explain the reference to Jessie further on.

In 1872, they had another daughter in Hawick:

Mary Johnstone .

That makes nine children in all.

In 1872/3, the Johnstone family moved to Cleadon, near Sunderland, with the exceptions of Denis William, Catherine Marion, Alison and Robert, as far as I can tell. The latter three might have gone to Cleadon at first. In 1881, Janet's name is given as "Jessie".

Catherine died on January 8 1874 in Cleadon, after a year's illness. Robert is thereafter duly described as a widower.

Denis William goes to Coxlodge, Newcastle - this is the information I have from David Johnston (sic), Denis William Johnstone's great-grandson. He subsequently married a Helen Swanston in Newcastle, and had two children, the elder being Robert (b. 1875) and the younger being Jane Murray Johnstone (b.1877) and the younger, Robert. He is a coachman there, at Mayfield Lodge.

Robert seems to have moved initially to Bridekirk in Cumberland; here he is to be found working as a gardener with his wife Alice in 1881. Alice is from Co. Durham - I think from Shiney Row originally. His age is given as 29 in the 1881 census, whereas he was in fact 25. The place of birth is given as Burngrove, Hawick, so this is presumably a mishearing. His wife Alice is shown as 37 - twelve years older, if correct, which seems slightly unlikely, and is contradicted by a later record.

The question is - why Cleadon? There must have been, in my view, some relatives in the area. But of course I can't know that. It is not clear where Robert was working, but he is living near a large house called Cleadon Hall, in which there is a family called Wilson. This is the only large house without a named gardener. They move to a house in Front Street, probably opposite or beside one of a row of four which were demolished in the 1960s (and one of which was still a gardener's cottage then). Four of the seven buildings on the north side of Front Street remain. One of the most likely buildings is the one which is currently Cleadon's off-licence; the other is what used to be where the delicatessen now is. There are old photographs in existence of both buildings. I ought not to discount the possibility that they lived in one house in the 1870s, and Front Street thereafter).

The 1881 census for Cleadon shows this:

Robert Johnstone Head Widower 60 Gardener (Domestic) Kelso

Margaret Johnstone Daughter Unmarried 28 Housekeeper Hawick

Jessie Johnstone Daughter Unmarried 24 General Servant Hawick

Agnes Johnstone Daughter Unmarried 13 Scholar Hawick

Mary Johnstone Daughter Unmarried 9 Scholar Hawick

Frank Johnstone Grandson 4 Cleadon

Note that Frank is at first called Johnstone. His birth certificate shows him to have been born Francis Johnstone on May 30 1876. His mother is Margaret Johnstone. No father is named on the birth certificate. You'd think that this would have caused a little bit of a scandal at the time, not least because, even in a tiny community like Cleadon, there was a house set aside where the children of single mothers were normally sent. Jane is not on this occasion there.

Catherine Marion and Alison must either be in service, or elsewhere, possibly even in Hawick. That seems unlikely, since Denis has also moved to the North-East (and becomes William). Of course it's possible that they have died. However, a Marion Johnstone, born in Scotland, and aged 20 - should be 19 - is working as a servant in Manchester (for a priest called Stanford Harris) in 1881, and this could be Catherine (the first name, like Denis's name, may have been dropped). An Alison Johnstone married a William Moffat "in Scotland" on 2 June 1876. This is the only IGI marriage at the right date. Angus Larcombe - see below - thought his grandmother had been called Moffat. But of course, Moffat and Johnstone are both common Scots names.

In the meantime, Agnes had married a gardener from North Hylton (originally a miner's son from Devon) called Ralph Larcombe on April 7 1890. The witness at the wedding is Robert Johnstone. While this could be the father, or even (Dennis) William Johnstone's son, another Robert, it is most likely to be Agnes's brother.

The 1891 census for Cleadon produces this:

Robert Johnstone 70 a gardener born Scotland

Margaret Johnstone 34 his daughter, a dressmaker born Scotland

Mary Johnstone 18 his daughter born Scotland

Frank Robinson (sic) 14 his grandson *born Cleadon

Lilly Johnstone 9 his grand-daughter born Cleadon*

Ethel Johnstone 7 his grand-daughter born Cleadon*

Jane Johnstone 27 his daughter, general servant born Scotland

Robert Johnstone 7 months his grandson born Cleadon

*there is a crossing out of Scotland and then "ditto"

Still no sign, as I say, of Catherine or Alison (they could be married). Jane makes a re-appearance. Janet/Jessie is not there. Agnes has moved on (she has married, more of this in a moment). And there are three more grandchildren - Lilly, Ethel, Robert - all called Johnstone. Meanwhile, the first grandchild, Frank, is recorded as Robinson.

Margaret's age is wrong. She has apparently aged only 6 years in 10. As we will see, Margaret's age will change again.

Lilly (Lily? Lilian? Lillian?) is a puzzle. There is no record of her birth being registered in the South Shields area in the four relevant quarters, and although there is a Lily Johnson (sic), it isn't her. There is later evidence to suggest that she is not Margaret's daughter, although I will come to that. Robert was born on August 25 1890, and is Margaret's son. There is once again no father on the birth certificate. Ethel belongs to Jane, and was born in Cleadon on 16 December 1883. This is a very full house.

Ralph and Agnes Larcombe moved from Hylton to Boldon in about 1892. I am not sure exactly where in Hylton they were to start with, but Ralph was a gardener at Hylton Castle, so a tied house there, I expect. In 1897, when their fourth child, Robert Edward Larcombe, is born, on June 27th, they were at Fernlea Cottage, South Boldon, and Ralph is shown as a "gardener and coachman". At some point between 1897 and 1901, they moved to Coxlodge. There may be a connection with William having been there at an earlier date.

The 1901 census shows them thus

Gardener's Cottage, Westfield, Coxlodge, Gosforth, Northumberland

Ralph Larcombe 33 gardener (domestic) born South Shields

Agnes Larcombe 33 born Scotland

Hilda Larcombe 10 born Hylton (Sunderland)

Stanley F. Larcombe 9 born Boldon

Robert E. Larcombe 3 born Boldon

The missing child is a Ralph Larcombe who was born and died in Boldon in September 1894. (Robert E. Larcombe's second son Angus is still alive, and lives in Newcastle. He is 80. He knows the names but not much else about his cousins. His brother Leslie was killed in the war. His full name is Angus Johnstone Larcombe. He has no children. He cannot remember his grandmother Agnes referring to siblings. He didn't in fact realise that his middle name came from her. Hilda and Stanley have descendants, but not in the North-East).

In the third quarter of 1894, (Denis) William Johnstone died in Sunderland. He may have been there for a decade - it isn't clear when he moved. He and his wife Helen nee Swanston, and their two children Robert Johnstone and Jane Murray Johnstone, were living at 34 Walworth Street (just to the north side of Sunderland's High Street, in the area now covered by The Bridges shopping centre). His daughter Jane married a William Alfred Johnston (sic, no relation) on August 8th 1901. Helen Johnstone, Denis William's widow, is wrongly described in the 1901 census as Ellen; her son Robert's occupation is given as a coachman/stable man. Their home in Walworth Street is by some stables. It seems safe to assume that this is where Robert has worked. The witnesses at the wedding include Robert Johnstone and Robert William Johnstone. One is the brother of the bride. The other one could be Margaret's eleven-year-old son. But most probably, it is the uncle Robert Johnstone, last heard of in the 1881 census in Cumberland.

Robert Johnstone senior died, at the age of 74, in Cleadon, of a cerebral haemorrhage, on 11 August 1896. It actually gives his place of death as Whitburn Road, which presumably means the back road to Whitburn at that date (the modern "Whitburn Road" had not been constructed at that stage) but I don't know what significance this has.

His son Robert shows up in the 1901 census in Rothbury, Northumberland, working as a gardener. His wife Alice has died in the third quarter of 1900 in Rothbury, at the age of 53 - hence my doubts about the accuracy of her age in the 1881 census; he is shown as a widower, aged 44 (should be 45). Living with him is his niece, Ella Openshaw, who has been born in Sunderland, and who is 16. Probably she is a sister of the John Openshaw whose family shown in the Port of Sunderland in the 1901 census, but at 27 Hedley St in 1881. It is interesting that John and his wife Elizabeth have daughters called Lillie and Ethel. The implication is that Robert's wife was born Alice Openshaw, unless this Ella Openshaw is the daughter of Catherine Marion or Alison. Or Ella's mother was a sister-in-law of Alice.

Next door to Robert in Rothbury is an unmarried Jessie Johnstone, shown as 37. If it was the sister Jessie, she should be 44. It is hard to be clear about this Rothbury entry; there are no obvious English alternatives for Jessie.

Now I have to go back a bit. In the 1860s, Ann Herring, the very well-off daughter of a prosperous Southwick ship-owner and landowner, William Herring, married Thomas George Greenwell, whose father Robert was a bankrupt fitter/glass manufacturer/ blacksmith in Sunderland. Thomas Greenwell invested and speculated in land and ships with his wife's money (now his, of course, since it was before the Married Women's Property Act). He did very well, moving quickly from 1 Grace Terrace, off Chester Road in Sunderland, to a large house called Peareth in Roker, and subsequently to a large house called Glenville (probably built on the land that came with Peareth).

Tom Greenwell and Ann Herring had eight children between 1867 and 1878. But by the 1890s, they were not speaking. At mealtimes, husband and wife communicated only through their children (the eldest of whom, Thomas William Greenwell, went on to found a ship-repair yard in Sunderland in 1901). At some point in the 1890s, Tom Greenwell employed Jane Johnstone as the housekeeper at Glenville. He was 50 in 1892, and 18 years older than Jane.

It may well be that he had met her before. There is a Jane Johnson (sic), born in Scotland, aged 18 (one year out, but Jane, like Margaret, changed her age as she grew older) working in 1881 as a servant at 5 Grace Terrace, Bishopwearmouth, Sunderland, for the Ward family, who were wealthy tobacconists, and who knew Tom Greenwell (they too moved to Roker). Tom Greenwell had been living in Grace Terrace only about a decade earlier. It is possible that she was recommended to him by the Wards. (There are no Jane Johnstones of anything approaching the right age or marital status in either Hawick, South Shields or Sunderland at that date).

At any rate, Jane Johnstone soon found herself pregnant by her employer. She was seven months pregnant with Tom Greenwell's child at the time of the 1901 census, when she was not in the Greenwells' employment any more (and by which time one assumes the atmosphere had grown even frostier at Glenville!)

In 1901, the census shows that the Johnstones have split into two households. Jane Johnstone has moved to Jesmond Terrace, White Leas, in the Boldon district (St. Nicholas Parish) of South Shields. [Boldon is not now thought of as being in South Shields, but White Leas is]. With her is Ethel, by now 17. Jane claims to be 36; in fact she has just been 37. She also claims to be a widow. There is a very slim chance that this is true; so slim we can discount it. Both are shown as laundresses.

The 1901 census for Front Street in Cleadon gives

Margaret Johnstone 42 Head Laundress born Scotland

Mary Johnstone 26 Sister Laundress born Scotland

Frank Johnstone 24 Brother Gardener at waterworks born Cleadon

Lydia Johnstone 19 Cousin Laundress born Cleadon

Robert Johnstone 10 Brother born Cleadon

There are several things to note. Frank Robinson has reverted to being Frank Johnstone (at first sight this looks like a mis-hearing in 1891 by the enumerator). Margaret Johnstone has aged only 8 years in 10 (in fact she is now 48 or 49). Lily has become Lydia (there is no Lydia Johnson, Johnston or Johnstone born in 1881/2, either, incidentally) - is that mishearing? She is also described as a cousin. If this is right, her mother could be one of several sisters, including Jane. She could also be Robert's daughter. So Lily/Lydia is turning into an even bigger mystery. Frank has become a gardener like his grandfather and his aunt's husband, and his uncle.

If I had to bet about Lily, I would guess that she was another sister's daughter, and that some circumstance between 1881 and 1891 brought her back to Cleadon to her aunt. I have been looking in the North-East for her birth, which looks like a mistake. I had thought she was Robert and Alice's daughter, but that no longer seems likely.

Two months later, Jane Johnstone gave birth to Tom Greenwell's son, Edward Evelyn Johnstone. He was born on 7 July 1901 at the Jesmond Terrace, White Leas address shown above. She gives her name when she registers Evelyn (as he was known) on 31 August 1901 as "Jennie Johnstone, formerly Johnstone", and says that his father is "George Johnstone". George Johnstone's occupation is given as "Clerk (Ship Broker)". There is no trace of the death of any such person, so this a fiction, like her being a widow.

In 1903, Ann Greenwell left Tom Greenwell, and moved to Harrogate with her unmarried daughters. At about the same time, Tom Greenwell is shown as not allowed to vote in Roker, but in Cleadon (although I can't find him in electoral rolls for Cleadon, which are at Durham). This suggests he has moved there, although he had a house in Falmouth by this time, where he had business (his main office as a ship broker was at 44 Frederick Street, Sunderland). Two years later, at the end of 1905, Ann Greenwell died.

The next spring, Tom Greenwell married Jane Johnstone at Whitburn Church, on March 1st 1906. The witnesses are Frank Johnstone and Jane's daughter, Ethel Johnstone. Jane Johnstone is now living in Sunniside Terrace in Cleadon, not that far from the address given by her new husband, which is Woodside Cottage, in West Park Road, Cleadon. She gives her father as "Robert Johnstone (deceased), gardener." She gives her age as 40. Actually, she is 41. She declares herself as a spinster, not a widow. Thomas George Greenwell, by now 59, claims his father Robert Greenwell (who died in 1890) was a ship owner - which he wasn't. So perhaps we shouldn't assume anything. Evelyn was known as Evelyn Greenwell from this point onwards.

The next event in the Johnstone history is the marriage of Frank. He marries May Gibson of Cleadon at Whitburn Church on Christmas Eve, 1908. He is 32, she is 27. He gives his name as Frank Robinson Johnstone, and his father's name as Frank Robinson (deceased), Ship's Officer. The apparently obvious answer to this is that Frank has discovered from his mother Margaret the name of his father, or has been visited by his father (a seaman with a child in more than one port?), and has temporarily used his name as his surname, before inserting it as a forename. With a name like Frank Robinson, this looks very very hard to begin to trace. However.... in the 1881 census in Cleadon, there is a very prosperous-looking Steam Ship Broker with six children, and who is called Francis Robinson . His last child was born two years before Frank (Francis) Johnstone. It may be that this is the father. I would bet on it. Cleadon was a small place, and Robinson lived very near the Johnstones.

There are four witnesses to Frank's wedding:

Leonora Maggie Mole

J Murdy

H Austin

and Lily Johnstone.

Tom Greenwell had built at least one house in West Park Road, Cleadon. He owned two parcels of land near West Park Road, on the corner of what is now Laburnum Grove, and the cut through to West Park Road. He seems to have installed Jane and Evelyn in Woodside Cottage, West Park Road at some time after the wedding, together with Evelyn.

On February 21, 1910, Jane (Johnstone) Greenwell died at Woodside Cottage, West Park Road, Cleadon of cardiac failure. Her age is given as 43. She was in fact 45, nearly 46. However, the death certificate - registration is the day afterwards - contains two other apparent errors. Her sister, present at the death, is given as J. Johnston ( sic ). This must presumably be Jessie Johnstone, who is provided for in Tom Greenwell's 1920 will (he died in Falmouth in July 1922). It is not clear to what extent, having married Jane, he lived with her. It also calls Jane “Jane Gladstone Greenwell”, wife of Thomas George Greenwell. This middle name looked to me originally like an error for Johnstone, since no middle name has previously been mentioned. But I did eventually discover that Jane Johnstone had an aunt with the name "Gladstone", so perhaps it wasn't an error at all - it is simply the only occasion on which the middle name is mentioned in any relevant place (census, marriage, burial, headstone).


Evelyn was subsequently brought up by his half-brother Harold, at least after 1916, when Tom Greenwell retired, and refused to let Harold continue the business. He bought him a farm in Middleton-in-Teesdale. Harold's death in 1920 is probably what precipitated the writing of the 1920 will. Evelyn Greenwell married Maude Harrison; he became a successful farmer near Catterick; was instrumental in developing Young Farmers associations; received the MBE for this; had no children (although close to his nieces on his wife's side). When he died in 1977, a specially created hybrid rose was named for him. Apart from Harold's children, no other member of the Greenwell family would have anything to do with him. He was airbrushed out of family history, along with his father, of whom no photograph was displayed (it was this mysterious absence that got me going, that and the fact that my father's cousin knew the bare bones of the story, and that my father's sister denied it). Subsequently photographs of Tom Greenwell have appeared in three different places (Gloucestershire, a loft in Chorlton, Lincolnshire). But there are none of Jane Johnstone, whose grave, a Celtic cross, I recently found in Whitburn cemetery. The date of her birth on the headstone (1866) is wrong by two years.

Jane Murray Johnstone's husband, William Johnston, worked for Greenwell's shipyard as a riveter, shortly after Greenwell's yard opened - perhaps when it opened. (It was started in 1901 by Tom Greenwell's eldest son). He must surely have known that his mother's cousin was the boss's half-brother...... (William's son also briefly worked at Greenwell's as a general labourer).

There are no Johnstones on the 1918 electoral roll in Cleadon.

This leaves the following particular mysteries:

1. Where was Lily/Lydia Johnstone born, and who was her mother?

2. What became of Alison and Catherine Marion Johnstone when the others moved from Hawick?

3. What became of Margaret and Mary Johnstone?

4. What happened to Evelyn between 1910 and 1916 (when he appears in a photo with his father, almost certainly in Sunderland)?

5. Did Ethel marry? have any descendants?

6. What became of Jessie? (And was she Janet?)

7. What became of Robert Johnstone, Margaret's son?

Incidentally, there are four Robert Johnstones in this story:

Robert Johnstone b. 1821, Kelso

Robert Johnstone b. 1855, Langholm, his son

Robert Johnstone b. 1890, Cleadon, his grandson

Robert Johnstone b. 1875, Newcastle, his nephew


Chapter One
Chapter Two
Chapter Three
Chapter Four
Chapter Five
Chapter Six
Chapter Seven
Chapter Eight
Chapter Nine
Chapter Ten
Chapter Eleven
Chapter Twelve
Chapter Thirteen
Chapter Fourteen
Chapter Fifteen
Chapter Sixteen
Appendix One
Appendix Two - 1
Appendix Two - 2
Appendix Two - 3
Appendix Two - 4
Appendix Two - 5
Appendix Two - 6
Appendix Three
Appendix Four
Appendix Five
Appendix Six