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52 Ancestors # 5: Carl Johnston

The more I dive into genealogy research and read about people who’ve had success tracing their family’s roots, the more hopeful I am that I can discover more about some “missing” relatives.
I spent some time last weekend visiting with my dad and stepmom. She’s also trying to trace her roots and has run into some roadblocks (like we all have, I’m certain) with one particular person. We lamented how difficult it is sometimes to find out more or deeper information. (Her search is hampered by a lack of records because the relative is of Cherokee ancestry.)
But, I’m sure with some perseverance we’ll figure out these little mysteries and be all the better amateur geneaologists for it.
Perhaps one day I’ll be posting the full story of Carl Johnston on this site. Until then, here’s a little bit about what I know:
Carl Johnston is the father of my grandfather, James Frank Johnston. But it could easily be that Johnston isn’t actually their surname. You see, I have some sketchy notes (in my own handwriting) taken from a conversation with a second cousin, who says that the family name likely is Yarbrough.
Apparently, there was a need at some point to take on an alias. I have no idea about Carl’s background, really.
Here’s what my notes relay about his life:

    He was born as Derwood Yarbrough (or Yarborough), the son of Frank Yarbrough and Edith Meyer in 1892 in Texas. (I can find such a person having existed.)
  • He was baptized as John Thomas while living with John O’Shea in Texas. (No idea how O’Shea is connected, but he might also have been called Derwood.)

It gets pretty sketchy then – maybe he lived in Tennessee, Montana or Missouri, and maybe he had a daughter, Grace Marie. I can’t tell much more about his early life to know how he got from Texas to Missouri.

  • City directory and census records show him living in St. Louis in 1930 with his wife, Grace, and three sons, John, Derwood and James. Derwood later became known as Jerry.

I lose track of him again shortly after 1930 when my grandfather was an infant. I know that my grandfather ended up in foster care after his mother left the family. My dad says that Carl put the boys into foster care.

  • Carl then went on to marry Alice. They’re listed as living in St. Louis in the 1940 directory. He worked as a custodian at a church in 1952 and was living on 19th Street in the city. I believe that he and Alice had three sons, Carl, Wesley and Ronald. These would have been my grandfathers half-brothers. I have no idea if he ever knew of them, however.

To my knowledge, the family remains in the St. Louis area and operates a construction business.

I’m at a loss for historical records about Carl.

  •  No birth records show up, especially if he was born in 1892. I can find information about his death in 1958 at age 66. If he was 38 years old when my grandfather was born it is very possible that he had another family earlier in his life.
  • And, what did he do that would have warranted a name change, if in fact that story is accurate?

I know there is a rich story to be told here, and some of it could be quite colorful or horrific.

There is talk among the family that perhaps Grace, his wife in 1930, is actually his daughter and that Carl fathered children with the sisters of his wife or wives, too. Clearly there is much research to be done to get to the bottom of this story — it’s hard for me to know if any of it is factual. But that’s what all those historical documents will prove — if I can ever find them.



2 thoughts on “52 Ancestors # 5: Carl Johnston

  1. Pingback: 52 Ancestors Challenge: Week 5 Recap | No Story Too Small

  2. Fascinating little mystery you’ve got there. The skeletons on the tree are the most interesting and I’m sure you will find out more. Thanks for sharing.

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