poetry and prose about place

family history – the Johnson brothers

with 6 comments

If you have followed my blog for a while, you may be wondering what has happened to my virtual biking along the northern coast of New Brunswick.


Well, this is what happened.  As I cycled one day, I took a side road.  It was a narrow road I had not travelled in quite a few years.  And as I cycled, I felt drawn further and further into the past.  I began to explore this past, lured by wiggling leaves that popped up as I biked along.  Yes, you have guessed it  … I found myself at , building a forest of family trees.


I discovered I could learn about my family quite quickly… thirty minutes of biking gives me time to explore an ancestor or two … I can travel back in time to the 1880 USA Census to search the byways of Wyoming or the country roads of Pennsylvania … I can discover great-grandparents I have known for some time, or great-great grandparents I have never encountered before.


So, for a little while, my exercise program will not be about discovering new places, but about discovering new family members.  I promise to return to the present and my virtual geographic travels eventually.


The first people I have met on my new travels are the Johnson brothers, my great-granduncles.   They are the sons of my great-great-grandfather James Johnson.  My Mom was very interested in this part of our family and worked to leave us a little of their history.  I have photos of most of them, including a family grouping in a sepia tin-type. The original tin-type is small, about 2″ by 3″.  Tin-types are photos imprinted on a metal surface.  Most tin-types are on iron, coated with black paint or lacquer.  This type of photo was popular from the 1860s through to the 1910s.



Johnson brothers

some of the Johnson brothers in an old tin-type photo


The brothers were John (born 1849 ), Daniel (born 1851), James (1854), Alexander (1857), and Isaac (1866).  They had two sisters Kate (born 1847) and Mary Jane (my grandmother, born 1859).  There is some question about which of the brothers are in the photo, but my Mom had it figured out based on the boys’ ages, and photos of them at an older age.


Only a few details survive for the brothers.  I know birth and death dates, as well as the names of wives and children.  John, James and Alexander were farmers.  John and James were adventurers and visited the west.  Daniel and Isaac were doctors.


So much information is lost, but for now, I am enjoying small discoveries about their lives.


Copyright  2014  Jane Tims

Written by jane tims

April 23, 2014 at 7:04 am

6 Responses

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  1. Love this, Jane! (Family histories always get me excited!) Happy hunting!


    Barbara Rodgers

    April 24, 2014 at 10:52 am

  2. Now Jane, enough of this ‘they were doctors and adventurers’ stuff. Scoundrels, they were; every last one of them! I can see it in their eyes. Grave robbers, more’n likely.
    Anyways, I’ll be looking forward to reading future posts as more info becomes available. (Hint: you might want to check the Cheyenne Jail prisoner records. And, look at that! You’re in luck. An Ancestry map shows it sittin’ hard by the town saloon.
    Here’s lookin’ at ya,



    April 23, 2014 at 4:50 pm

    • Hi Neil. Well, that is the role of historians. To set the record straight. Actually, this family was made up of fine, upstanding citizens. Let no speculation besmirch their record. Jane


      jane tims

      April 23, 2014 at 6:26 pm

  3. We were worried. We were convinced you had driven off the road into a ditch while gawking around at the scenery. Aren’t those old pics cool?



    April 23, 2014 at 9:10 am

    • Hi. I took a blogging break, but I was working hard, sorting through Mom’s papers and photos on the Johnsons. The old photos are cool, so detailed and, in spite of their dark colouration, quite clear. I imagine they have seen their share of handling over the years. Before I leave this project, I want to make a good electronic copy of all the photos and I could use your advice on how to bring the best out in the old photos. Jane


      jane tims

      April 23, 2014 at 9:32 am

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