(The data given here consists of corrections to early misunderstandings, primarily those repeated from the writings of Sir Bernard Burke. The Editor welcomes amendments and additions from other historians working in this field.)
In his Dormant and Extinct Peerages Sir Bernard Burke wrote of the first of the name: "Hugo de Johnstone, flourished and was proprietor of large estates in East Lothian" - copying this from the Robert Douglas Peerage of 1764 (a conditionally useful book, but notoriously unreliable for those new to mediaeval Scottish history). The evidence for Hugo's existence is said to be a charter from the Soltray chartulary. He may have had a son John, as Soltray charters have been claimed to prove, but there is no proven link from these two to the Johnston(e)s of Annandale, nor is there any ground on which to assume one to exist.
Between 1191 and 1215 there were several Annandale charters to Gilbert of Johnstoun, son of John. This Gilbert appears again in 1218 as cautioner (guarantor) for Robert Bruce, Lord of Annandale, and as Sir Gilbert of Johnstone he is noted twice at dates unknown but which have to be before 1245 (when Robert Bruce, 5th Lord of Annandale, died).
This Gilbert appears to have been succeeded by a Gilbert of Johnstone who was a witness to a transaction recorded in the Calendar. And that, owing to the Maxwells having burned Lochwood Castle and its charter chest (in 1585), is all we know for certain of the early line.
However, the Sir John of Johnstone who is featured on the 1296 Ragman Roll appears to have succeeded Gilbert. (His seal on the Roll is indistinct, but his arms could have been: on 3 garbs a canton dexter bearing 3 mullets.) There is a Gilbert of Johnstone also in that Roll who may have been his brother or his son. (This Gilbert is not the Gilberti de Swanstoun [a false reading of Johnestoune] who, probably in 1315 [but Sir James Balfour Paul puts it at 1309], received the lands of Whitriggs [Hwytryggis] and Redmyre, for that Gilbert was a son of a Thomas Johnston, and those lands were in Kincardine, not in Lanark as early writers believed.)
John of Johnstone and Gilbert of Johnstone appear together in this order in an undated charter from the period 1315 to 1332. They could have been brothers or father and son. Gilbert of Johnstoune reappears later holding the lands of Brackenthwaite, and in 1347 he is recorded as a juror.
The next Laird of Johnstone of whom there is a record appears in 1377 as Sir John. He was more probably the grandson of the above Gilbert, rather than his son, but it is difficult to be certain. (If he was the grandson, then his father could have been the Adam Johnstone who held the lands of Mollins and Crunzeanton - but this is speculation.) Sir John subsequently enjoyed a notable reputation for his military prowess as Warden of the Western Marches, and disappears from our view in 1398, at which time he was surety for keeping the peace of the Eastern March under the Earl of Douglas. Some writers have assumed he died in 1398, but there appears to be no evidence for this. (Readers comparing this proposed succession with that in the Dormant and Extinct Peerages should note that Sir John is the first in the Burke lineage that can be identified clearly with this Sir John, and that the two Sir Johns listed by Burke as father and son are probably the same man.)
Sir John's successor was Adam Johnstone of that Ilk, the first known to be so designated "of that Ilk", and appears to have been probably Sir John's son. His deeds are noted in many records as he led a very active life, diplomatically and militarily. He died towards the end of 1454. His first wife remains unidentified. His second wife was Janet (probably née Dunbar as daughter of the Earl of March), widow of William Seton, yr of that Ilk (killed at Verneuil 1424) and mother of George, 1st Lord Seton. By his first wife he had a son John, his successor. By his second wife he was said in Sir Richard Maitland's House of Seton to have had many sons, but only two can be positively identified as hers, these being Gilbert (who married the heiress of Elphinstone, Agnes, took her name, had issue, but whose direct male line is now extinct), and Patrick. Archibald, William, Herbert and Mathew (of Pettinain, ancestor of the Lairds of Westerhall) are less certainly from this marriage.
Adam's successor, John Johnstone of that Ilk, first appears as his son and heir on 8 November 1438 (in a notarial instrument) and succeeded shortly before May 1455. He achieved considerable distinction in military affairs and was active politically. He was still alive in 1493, his only known legitimate son having predeceased him. This was James whose elder son, John, also predeceased his namesake grandfather, leaving the younger son, Adam, to succeed as the next Johnstone of that Ilk. (The grandfather John had also by a Janet Herries a son John, who received the lands of Wamphray from his father in 1476, and who had a son John who married about 1513 Katherine, daughter of John Boyle of Risholme, but had no issue by her, the widow marrying Robert Scott and then having a son Adam.)
The grandfather's successor, Sir Adam Johnstone of Johnstone (and of that Ilk - both designations being found in use, as with his successors, somewhat promiscuously) married twice, his 2nd wife being Marion Scott, widow of Archibald Carruthers of Mouswald. She survived him and was still alive in March 1511. They had two sons, James the heir, and William (who was alive in 1519 but of whom nothing else is known).
James Johnstone of Johnstone appears first in 1504 as a surety, and thus being of age would not have been the son of the 2nd marriage, Marion Scott's first husband being alive still in June 1484. He married Mary, eldest daughter of John, 3rd Lord Maxwell by Agnes eldest daughter of Sir Alexander Stewart of Garlies. (The numbering has to be watched carefully. Robert, 2nd Lord Maxwell had resigned the barony of Maxwell to his son, the 3rd Lord's father, John, Master of Maxwell, who, as he died in his father's lifetime did not inherit the peerage title but was Baron of Maxwell, the feudal title. Burke, in common, regrettably, with several other writers, did not understand this and designated him as the 3rd Lord, making the Master's son John, father of Mary, the 4th Lord.) Burke showed Mary to have married her husband's great grandfather (stated by Burke to have died "before 1484" ~ but who was still alive in 1493). James had issue, of which at least six sons were by his wife Mary:
1. John, who succeeded
2. Adam Johnstone of Corrie who died 1544 leaving a son James (whose grandson George resigned Corrie to Sir James Johnstone of Johnstone in exchange for Girthhead). This line ended with four co-heiresses around 1750.
3. William Johnstone of Harthope
4. John, recorded as alive in 1588
5. Simon Johnstone of Eremynie who probably had no surviving issue.
6. James Johnstone of Wamphray married Margaret M'Lellan. His direct line appears to have ended in 1656.
7. James Johnstone, Abbot of Soulseat, whose legitimacy is uncertain.
8. David Johnstone, legitimated 1543 under the Great Seal.
9. John Johnstone, legitimated 1543 under the Great Seal.
1. Mariota married circa 1544 Symon Carruthers of Mouswald
The Editor invites any researchers working on Clan Johnstone,
and particularly on its early generations,
to submit notes and suggested amendments.