This post involves the family of William Johnston who was born around 1800. He and his wife Nancy had four children, the first three being born in New Hanover Co., NC between 1825 and 1834. Sometime before 1839, the family moved to Telfair Co., GA where the fourth child was born. The Johnstons moved next to Dale Co., AL sometime before 1850. In about 1859, the family moved again, this time to Clarke Co., AL. The oldest child and the only daughter, Sarah Ann, remained in Dale Co. with her husband and children. The next two children, Patrick and Calvin were also married by this time and had children of their own. They moved along with their families, their younger brother Luther, and their parents William and Nancy Johnston to Clarke Co.
Calvin and Luther Johnston both died in the Civil War, and Patrick died soon after. Calvin's widow moved with her and children back to Dale County after Calvin's death. Patrick's widow remained in Clarke County with her children until about 1885 when they moved to neighboring Marengo Co., AL.
There is a story among some of the descendants of Calvin Johnston that one of their early Johnston ancestors was actually born into a family called Rivenbark, and at some point was taken in by or ended up being raised by a Johnston. I did some research on the Rivenbark name, and discovered it is a very rare surname that up until the mid 1800's was only found in one place in the entire United States, and that was in the North Carolina, specifically the counties of New Hanover and Duplin. New Hanover, of course, being the county where three of William Johnston's four children were born. The person who told me of this story had not been aware of the common connection to New Hanover Co., NC.
William Johnston, born around 1800, is the earliest Johnston ancestor that I have been able to find. If the story concerning a Johnston ancestor originally being a Rivenbark is true, and if William was that ancestor, then one possible scenario is that he was orphaned at some point before he reached adulthood which would have been around 1820. Checking the Census reocrds, I had been unable to find an adult male Rivenbark who was alive in 1800, but who had disapeared from the Census records by 1820. However, I did find a Rivenbark who is listed in ancestry.com's database of War of 1812 Soldiers. His name was William Rivenbark. I have also been unable to locate him on any subsequent Census record. If this William Rivenbark had died in the War of 1812, this would certainly fit in with William Johnston having been orphaned. This is of course only theory thus far.
There was in fact a family of Rivenbarks also living in Dale Co., AL by 1860, the family of John D. Rivenbark. John was from New Hanover Co., NC and was born in about 1834. He was the son of an Edward Rivenbark who was born in about 1803.
I had the idea of using Y DNA research to prove that my Johnston line descends from Rivenbarks, but I have had a very difficult time locating living male Johnston descendants. I found one descendant of Calvin Johnston who was unfortunately unwilling to take a DNA test, but he did tell me that he had once had the opportunity to meet a Rivenbark through is work, and he remembered thinking how much he resembled his own family.
My line descends from Patrick Johnston. Patrick only had one son, William Patrick Johnston, and although William Patrick had 10 children, only 4 were boys, and of the 4 boys, only one of them, Chatman Richard Johnston had sons who lived to adulthood. Chatman Richard Johnston died in 1966, and I have been able to obtain a copy of his obituary. At that time, in 1966, he had three adult sons, Marvin, Calvin, and Ray. Marvin was living in Pensacola, FL, and Calvin & the Rev. Ray Johnston were living in Selma, AL. That is were the trail ends. I have not seen any of the three listed on a Social Security Death Index, and have also not been able to locate them through any other means.
The records of New Hanover Co., NC are incomplete due to no less than three court house fires. However, it is still my hope that I will someday be able to locate a male Johnston descendant to obtain an DNA sample to compare with a Rivenbark sample to be able to either prove or disprove the old family story.