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Surname Johnston - Meaning and Origin

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My personal journey with iGENEA DNA testing unfolded as an emotional exploration of my ancestry, significantly altering my perception of family and my surname, Johnston. Providing a transformative experience, the test revealed surprising details about the diverse ethnicities intertwined with the Johnston name. It expanded the concept of family beyond immediate blood relations, revealing a globally connected heritage.

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Johnston: What does the surname Johnston mean?

The surname Johnston originates from Scotland and Northern Ireland. It is a locational surname that is derived from the place called "Johnston" in Annandale in the Scottish county of Dumfriesshire. The name Johnston quite literally means "John's town," with "John" being a popular personal name of biblical origin, and "ton" being an Old English term referring to a settlement or town. Thus, individuals bearing this surname were likely to be inhabitants of this place. The Johnston family has a rich Scottish history and they were an influential family during the middle ages. The surname also spread to Ireland during the plantation of Ulster, and is now very common in Northern Ireland. As with many surnames that have been geographically dispersed, there are now many variations in the spelling of Johnston.

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Johnston: Where does the name Johnston come from?

The surname Johnston is of Scottish origin, derived from the place name Johnston in the former county of Annandale and Dumfriesshire, South West Scotland. The name literally translates as "John's town." Scottish clans, known as Border Reivers, used the surname especially those living along the Scottish-English border during the 13th to 16th centuries.

Johnston is a frequent surname in several English-speaking countries today. According to the census data, it is particularly common in Northern Ireland, Scotland, Australia, Canada, and the United States. In Northern Ireland, it is often of Scottish origin where it was brought by settlers during the Ulster Plantation in the 17th century. In the United States, it is especially common in states with high populations of people with Scottish or Irish ancestry. Today, the Johnston surname is also integrated and familiar among many African-Americans.

The variant spelling, "Johnson," is one of the most common surnames in the United States and England, which may also contribute to the prevalence and familiarity of the name Johnston.

Variations of the surname Johnston

The surname Johnston originated in Scotland and is originally a habitational name from various places called Johnston, predominantly one in Annandale in Dumfries. Variants of the surname Johnston include Jonston, Johnstone, and Johnstoun, which all have the same Scottish origin.

Johnston can also be modified with prefixes or suffixes such as "Mac," which means "son of," leading to names like MacJohnstone or MacJohnston. In other regions, the surname was adapted to local languages, leading to versions like Johnson in English-speaking countries.

The Johnston surname was also anglicized in Ireland as Johnston, Johnson or even Johnstown, from the Gaelic Mac Seáin, meaning son of Seán (John).

In written records, the name may also appear with different spellings due to phonetic transcription, the recorder's interpretation, or even the individual's literacy level, leading to versions like Jhonston, Jonstoun or Jhonstoun. Note that these variations are less common.

Overall, the exact spelling and usage of the surname Johnston is dependent on the family, region, and time period.

Famous people with the name Johnston

  • Bruce Johnston: American musician, vocalist and songwriter, as well as a founding member of the Beach Boys.
  • Jessie Johnston: British actress and singer, best known for her role as Cathy in the television series Coronation Street.
  • Lorraine Johnston: Australian singer and actress, best known as a backing vocalist and member of the original CHIC.
  • George Johnston: Australian journalist, author, and politician who was awarded a CBE for his services to literature.
  • Maureen Johnston: Canadian lawyer and former federal Member of Parliament.
  • James Johnston: Scottish rugby union player who represented Fiji at the Rugby World Cup in 2003.
  • Ben Johnston: American composer and educator, best known for his string quartets and other extended works.
  • Duncan Johnston: Canadian actor and television presenter, best known for hosting the television show the Comedy Network.
  • David Johnston: Canadian politician and former Governor General of Canada.
  • Jennifer Johnston: Irish novelist and playwright whose work has been translated into twelve languages.

Other surnames

Johnston of BarraJohnstone

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