Johnstone or Johnston

+2 votes

I am trying to find my grandfather Hugh Johnstone or Johnston from Scotland.  He was born in May 1891.  He came over to South Africa as a young man. married my grandmother Elizabeth Allison Totman in 1948.  Died in 1969 in Cape Town.  There are so many hugh's and confusing Johnstone/Johnston's. Found one which matches  a Johnston and I have checked the outward passenger list and found one, but would it be the correct one?  The only evidence I have is his death notice which states his date of birth and country of birth. The home affairs office cannot help me as they don't have a ID number for him.His marriage register shows he was born in Cape Province, but his death notice says Scotland and shows it as Johnstone.
in Genealogy Help by Claudette Oosthuysen G2G Rookie (190 points)
retagged by Ellen Smith
It's common for names like Johnston and Johnstone to be spelled interchangeably in records. It would be a mistake to assume that a record for "Johnston" couldn't possibly be your grandfather "Johnstone."
I was told that the family name was pronounced Johnstone!!! So I assumed that is how it was spelled.  After 20 years the evidence seems to be clear that it may be pronounced one way but it is definately spelled another - at least for the few generations I have been able to ID. That being the case, any one that heard the name and wrote it down (census, directory, even birth or death) might spell it either way.

2 Answers

+2 votes
I would agree with Ellen.  My ancestors left Coldstream, Scotland for Tynemouth, England at the turn of the century.  Some left as Johnstons and others arrived as Johnstones.  I have cousins with both spellings.  Unsure why, but use the related data to verify.  Sometimes it is "most and least probable" which helps makes a decision.  Realistically there are errors we make, then when those errors come up we retool and rebuild as we get more solid data.  Have fun.
by D. Johnstone G2G Crew (940 points)
A few -ston(e) placenames probably began as Something-stan, meaning stone.

But the majority appear to have begun as Somebody's-tun, meaning farmstead.  They acquired an -e in the olde worlde dayes when everyethinge had an e.

Most of those places dropped the e later, but some hung on to it.  In those cases, you get both spellings in the 19th century, and the -stone spelling didn't finally win out until the 20th century.

As for the surnames, some people tracked the placename spelling and some people stuck with the older form.  Nobody could say which was the right policy.  No surname came out of the box with an original permanent spelling.  In Britain, locational surnames mostly do tend to track the spelling of the placename (yes I know there are many exceptions).
+1 vote
Have you tried family they have some african death certificate images available. I managed to find some from about that time though I don't think it has all of them on.

As for Johnston or Johnstone quite often it depends on the person writing it down they will spell it the way they prefer.

King regards,

by Joelle Gilbert G2G Crew (340 points)
Just as most govt census workers do today when they come across foreign names.Johnston probably had a silent e in scotland or Junstoun Junstun Junnystun and more variations all meaning Jun's toun or John's town referring to a community etc They were spelled like they sounded to the foreign persons hearing/ understanding and writing,so its going to vary country to country,county to county due to accents ,person to person.  Then there were those govt workers that played jokes like the following. A family called Piggot (iron worker) had their name shortened to  "pig" which the family was then stuck with.

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