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Johnstone (Johnston) Family History & Ancestry

Family Crest Motto: NUNQUAM NON PARATUS (Never unprepared)

Let me share with you the remarkable history of your family, the Johnstones. The name Johnstone, derived from ‘John’s Tun,’ which refers to a substantial farmstead in Annandale, is distinct from the similar-sounding ‘Johnson.’ Although the exact identity of this John has been lost over time, your family, the Johnstones, were once among the most influential border clans in Scotland. The earliest recorded family member was John Johnstone, who settled on his lands prior to 1194. During that time, Sir John Johnstone, a knight from Dumfries, showed his loyalty to Edward I by appearing on the Ragman Roll in 1296.

In 1381, Sir John’s great-grandson became one of the wardens of the western marches. His son, Adam Johnstone, served as Laird before 1413 and fought alongside the Scottish army at the Battle of Sark in 1448. Your ancestor, John, aided James II in suppressing the Douglas family and was rewarded by the king with their former lands of Buittle and Sannoch. Despite the Johnstones primarily focusing their attention on the English rather than raiding their neighbors, they found themselves entangled in a feud with the Maxwells. The Battle of Dryfe Sands in 1593 saw the Johnstones emerge victorious, with the powerful Lord Maxwell losing his life. However, the ninth Lord Maxwell retaliated by killing Johnstone of Johnstone at a meeting in 1608, intended to reconcile their differences. In 1614, Lord Maxwell paid the ultimate price as he was executed for murder.

In recognition of your family’s significance, James Johnstone, the chief of the Johnstones, was made Lord Johnstone of Lochwood by Charles I in 1633. A decade later, he was elevated to the title of Earl of Hartfell for his unwavering loyalty to the royalists led by the Marquess of Montrose. However, he was subsequently captured by the Covenantors and imprisoned throughout the Commonwealth era. Following the restoration of the monarchy, Charles II bestowed further titles and lands upon Hartfell. Later, William, Earl of Hartfell, was promoted to the rank of Marquess of Annandale.

Another notable figure in your family’s history is Sir Archibald Johnston of Wariston, a prominent leader of the Covenanting movement in the mid-seventeenth century. He vehemently opposed Charles I’s attempts to impose Episcopacy on the Church of Scotland. Despite his tumultuous career, Warriston was executed in 1663 in Edinburgh on the orders of the restored Charles II and his government. Numerous historic buildings associated with Clan Johnston, including Lochwood Castle, their ancestral seat, can be found in the Scottish Borders.

Your family, the Johnstones, held a central position in Annandale and left an indelible mark on Scottish history. From their loyalty to the crown to their conflicts with rival clans, their story is filled with moments of bravery and resilience. The Johnstones’ connections span from notable figures in politics, such as Sir George Johnston of Caskieben, to scholars like Arthur Johnston, Rector of King’s College, Aberdeen, and Archibald Johnston of Warriston, a principal framer of the National Covenant. The Johnstones have made significant contributions throughout the centuries, leaving a lasting legacy that you can proudly claim as part of your family heritage.

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Family Crest Motto: NUNQUAM NON PARATUS (Never unprepared)

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