Vernon Dawson Johnston was born in Launceston on 7 Apr 1884, the elder son of James Dawson Johnston (c.1858-1924), chemist and druggist, and his wife Ida Grace Mason (1861-1931). His younger brother Eric was born on 3 May 1888. Vernon attended the Launceston Church Grammar School. He married Annie May Anderson on 18 Apr 1912 at Chalmers Church, Launceston. Their first child, a daughter, was stillborn on 29 Jan 1913. Three other children were born in Hobart: Arthur Dawson on 25 May 1915; and twin daughters, Mary Lewis and Ida Mason, on 24 Dec 1916. Mary died on 25 Oct 1919 in Double Bay, NSW, when she was two years old. Their youngest child Eva was born on 18 May 1920. Vernon died in Sydney on 29 Sep 1956. Both his parents are pictured in the Launceston Family Album.