Four Robert Rankins of Guilford Co., NC

If you have searched for a Robert Rankin in Rowan/Guilford counties, North Carolina during the century or so beginning in the 1750s, you really hit the jackpot. There were at least six men named Robert Rankin who lived there during that time. This article is about four of them, and includes some recent Y-DNA test results. I’ve obsessively, perhaps maniacally, provided citations (see endnotes), because some of what I propose is not mainstream Rankin thought, to put it mildly. Specifically, here’s what may be controversial:

I have identified three “new” daughters of Robert and Rebecca Rankin of Guilford – one who may be deemed proved (who does show up in one or two Rankin trees online), one who is a likely daughter, and one who is absolutely speculative. None have been identified in any compiled family history or other published sources, so far as I know. Ditto most online Rankin family trees.

the identity of the wife of the Robert Rankin who died in Guilford in 1795 is controversial, at least in the sense that I disagree with darn near every other person who has ever said anything about the Guilford County Rankins.

This article ignores two of the six Robert Rankins who lived in Rowan/Guilford during that time.[1] Both were grandsons of Joseph Rankin of Delaware (1704-1764), whose sons John and William migrated to Guilford. It is fairly easy to avoid confusing Joseph’s line with the other four Robert Rankins, thanks to Rev. Samuel M. Rankin’s exhaustive genealogy of Joseph’s line in Guilford.

By way of introduction, here are the nicknames that I will use to distinguish among the four Robert Rankins covered in this article. This is the only way I can keep them straight.

  1. R&R – Robert Rankin and wife Rebecca.
  2. Robert d. 1795 – a son of R&R.
  3. Rev War Robert – a grandson of R&R.
  4. Arkansas Robert – a great-grandson of R&R. 

And here we go, off to the world of Guilford County Robert Rankins, from the top …

R&R – Robert Rankin and wife Rebecca

I have written briefly about R&R before. Some of this article will be repetitive if you already subscribe to this blog, see article here. To atone for the redundancy, I’ll introduce the controversial R&R daughters mentioned above.

R&R were the original immigrant ancestors in their Rowan/Guilford line. According to a grandson’s autobiography, R&R came to Pennsylvania from Ireland in 1750 along with some of their children, although the autobiography expressly mentions only their son George.[2] The family resided briefly in Chester County, Pennsylvania,[3] then settled in what was then Rowan County (the part that became Guilford) by 1755.[4] According to Rev. Samuel M. Rankin, R&R are both buried at Buffalo Church in Greensboro, although no markers for them survive.[5]

Robert died about 1770, but in any event by no later than 1773.[6] He left no will. The Rowan and Guilford records establish that R&R had at least children (1) George, (2) Robert, (2) Ann who married William Denny (William Denny Senior, for purposes of this article) and (4) a probable son John.[7] Rev. Rankin also names a daughter Rebecca who married James Denny, although that is almost certainly wrong.[8] Rev. Rankin also erroneously omitted Ann Rankin Denny (see information on her at the discussion of her brother Robert d. 1795, below). Rev. Rankin thought that R&R had other children. That seems likely.

Tantalizing probate records in Rowan County suggest two other possible daughters of R&R besides Ann Rankin Denny. These two women – Margaret (Rankin?) Braly/Brawley and Rebecca (Rankin?) Boyd – should be deemed *** SPECULATIVE ***. My friend Jody Thompson would probably wag her finger at me for even introducing these possible daughters. I weighed the genealogical ethics and concluded that the upside that a Braly or Boyd descendant might identify a maternal ancestor outweighed the negatives of people adding these women to their families as though they are proved. They are not, but keep reading and judge for yourself …

First, Robert Rankin was a security on the Rowan County bond of Margaret Braly/Brawley and John Braly, administrators of the estate of Thomas Braly. A man who acted as security on such a bond was frequently a family member. Even better, John Braly witnessed the 1760 will of George Rankin, along with Robert Rankin. Both George and Robert were proved sons of R&R. Witnessing a will is obviously also compelling evidence of a family relationship. Two such strong Rankin/Braly connections make me think Margaret could be deemed a “likely” daughter of R&R rather than merely “speculative.”

The Braly administrator’s bond was dated 8 Jan 1765. Thomas’s noncupative will established that his wife was pregnant, and was thus of childbearing age. She therefore belonged to the same generation as R&R’s proved children.[9]

Second, Robert Rankin was also security on the Rowan County administrators’ bond of Rebecca Boyd, widow of John Boyd, in January 1767.[10] His signature on the Boyd bond is identical to Robert Rankin’s signature on the Braly bond, so it was the same Robert Rankin – this was not the clerk’s handwriting in either case. There is also circumstantial evidence of Boyd/Rankin connections in the Guilford deed records.[11] However, Rebecca’s name, plus Robert Rankin providing security on her administrator’s bond, is probably the strongest circumstantial evidence suggesting she may have been a daughter of R&R. I still consider her speculative. However, if I were descended from either Thomas Braly or John Boyd, I would take a close look at their Rankin connections.

With that, here is a brief chart of R&R’s line including the four Robert Rankins covered in this post and adding Margaret Braly, Rebecca Boyd and Ann Denny as daughters. R&R’s children are not necessarily in birth order; only George’s 1729 birth date is proved.[12] The men who are the subjects of this post are shown in boldface type.

Outline Chart #1

1 “R&R,” Robert Rankin, b. ca 1700, probably Ireland, d. Guilford, NC abt 1770, wife Rebecca LNU.

2 George Rankin, b. 1729, Letterkenney Parish, County Donegal, Ireland, d. 1760, Rowan, NC. Wife Lydia Steele Rankin (m. Arthur Forbis after George died).[13]

3 “Shaker” Reverend John Rankin, b. 1757, Rowan, NC, d. 1850, Logan, KY.[14] Married Rebecca Rankin, a granddaughter of Joseph of Delaware, in Guilford in 1786.[15] None of his children married: Shakers practiced celibacy.[16]

3 Robert Rankin, Rev. War Robert, more on him below.

2 Robert Rankin d. 1795, more on him below.

3 George Rankin (1767 – 1851), m. Nancy Gillespie, Guilford, NC, in Jan. 1791.[17]

4 Arkansas Robert Rankin, 1792 – 1845, more on him below. George and Nancy had other children as well.

2 John Rankin, lived in Guilford Co. No proved children of whom I am aware.

2 Ann Rankin m. William Denny Sr., lived in Guilford Co., more on them below.

2 Rebecca Rankin (speculative) m. John Boyd who d. Rowan, NC in 1767.

2 Margaret Rankin (possible) m. Thomas Braly/Brawley who d. Rowan, NC, Dec. 1764.

Next up: R&R’s son Robert.

Robert Rankin d. 1795

Robert Rankin died in Guilford in 1795 and left a will.[18] I have written about him before, see the article here. For some new material, I’ve added the controversy about his wife’s identity.

Robert’s 1795 will did not name a wife, indicating that she predeceased him. He identified only one son by name (George). Based on the express language of the will, Robert had four daughters. He identified only two of them by their given names, i.e., Mary Rankin Wilson, who died before Robert wrote his will, and Isabel Rankin, clearly unmarried in 1795. The other two daughters, whose given names Robert did not provide, were apparently already married. One daughter was Rebecca Rankin who married William Denny Jr.; I have not identified the other daughter. Robert also named his three Wilson grandsons (William Rankin Wilson, Andrew Wilson, and Maxfield Wilson).

With the information from his will, we can expand Robert d. 1795’s section of Chart #1 as follows:

2 Robert Rankin d. 1795

3 George Rankin (1767 – 1851), m. Nancy Gillespie, Guilford Co., Jan. 1791.

4 Arkansas Robert Rankin, 1792 – 1845, more on him below. George and Nancy had other children as well.

3 Mary Rankin, d. before 1795, married Andrew Wilson as his second wife.[19]

4 William Rankin Wilson, b. abt. 1788, moved to McNairy Co., TN.[20] Wife’s name was Lydia, reportedly Rev. War Robert’s daughter.[21] Ancestry.com claims that W.R. married Lydia in 1807 in Guilford, although I didn’t find a marriage record for that couple there.

4 Andrew Wilson, b. abt. 1790, m. Permelia/Pamela Denny in 1812, daughter of William Denny Jr. and Rebecca Rankin.[22] Moved to McNairy Co., TN, then Perry Co., AR to live with his son after his wife died.[23]

4 Maxfield Wilson, b. by 1795, m. Sarah Baily in Guilford, 1829. Went to Orange Co., IN.[24]

3 Isabel Rankin, b. before 1795. Probably died single.[25]

3 Rebecca Rankin, b. before 1795, m. William Denny Jr.[26]

3 Daughter Rankin, given name unknown, probably married by 1795 (husband unknown).

A number of online trees and at least one compiled Rankin history wrongly conflate Robert d. 1795 with his father, who died about 1770. But there’s a tougher controversy about Robert d. 1795: the identity of his wife. Many Rankin researchers identify her as Jean (or Jane — the names were usually interchangeable) Denny. They have good reason to do so. The Guilford County marriage records indicate that some Robert Rankin married some Jean/Jane Denny in February 1775. William Denny Sr. (wife Ann Rankin) definitely had an unmarried daughter named Jean/Jane when he wrote his will in August 1766.[27]

A serious problem with the theory that the Robert who died in 1795 married Jean/Jane, daughter of William Denny, is this: Robert was almost certainly Jean’s uncle. We are all accustomed to seeing marriages between cousins, but … an uncle and a niece? Has anyone seen that before?

The evidence about Jean/Jane Denny’s parents, William Denny (Sr.) and Ann Rankin Denny, is in the Rowan County deed records. Here it is. On back-to-back days in April 1755, Robert Rankin Sr. (i.e., R&R) executed deeds to his son George (480 acres) and William Denny (640 acres).[28] The consideration recited in both deeds was 5 shillings, clearly marking them as deeds of gift. Consider this: Robert Sr. paid 10 shillings for the 640A tract he “sold” to William Denny Sr. for 5 shillings.[29]

That gift deed constitutes unassailable proof that William Denny Sr. was part of R&R’s family. There is more, of course. William Denny also witnessed the will of George Rankin (along with Robert Rankin and John Braly).[30] Further, John Rankin, probably a son of R&R, witnessed William Denny’s 1766 will.[31] If you don’t believe Ann Denny was born a Rankin, well, geez … it’s hard to do any better with late 1700s records.

William & Ann Denny’s daughter Jean/Jane, unmarried in 1766, is the only Jean/Jane Denny I can find in Guilford who might have been the right age to marry some Robert Rankin in 1775. I just don’t believe that the Robert Rankin she married was her Uncle Robert d. 1795. She must have married a different Robert Rankin. Her husband might have been a Robert Rankin from Iredell County.[32] Iredell Robert was definitely a genetic relative of the Guilford County line of R&R Rankin.

Let’s divert for a moment into the wonderful world of Y-DNA testing, which is a gift from the family history gods to genealogists.

Iredell Robert was a son of David Rankin who died in Iredell in 1789.[33] Two men who are proved descendants of David Rankin are members of the Rankin DNA project: Steven Ross Rankin and Bill Rankin. Steve has a mutation in his line that occurred after the ancestor he shares with Bill, so that Bill’s Y-DNA profile is a better genetic gauge of any earlier Rankin relationship. Two other men in the Rankin DNA project (Rollie and Michael G.), both of whom are descended from R&R, are a 37-marker match with Bill. Rollie and Bill have a genetic distance of one (one of 37 markers doesn’t match); Michael and Bill have a genetic distance of three.

One cannot conclude from those results that David of Iredell was a son of R&R – although the results don’t preclude a father-son relationship, either. In any event, Y-DNA proves that the Iredell Rankins and the line of R&R of Guilford were closely related, genetically. If David Rankin of Iredell was a son or cousin of R&R, and if Jean Denny of Guilford married David’s son Iredell Robert in 1775 (which I believe to be the case), then Iredell Robert and Jean Denny were cousins of some degree.

That’s a lot more palatable than a man marrying his niece. Perhaps not coincidentally, Robert Rankin of Iredell and his wife Jean (1755 – 1779, per her tombstone in Centre Presbyterian Church in Statesville) had a son named Denny Rankin.[34] I would be happy to wager that his mother’s surname was Denny, but I’ll bet I won’t have any takers.

Whatever the identity of his wife, Robert d. 1795 has only one proved son. That was George, who married Nancy Gillespie (a daughter of Daniel Gillespie and Margaret Hall) in Guilford in 1791. Note also that George was born in 1767, so he was clearly not the child of some Jean Denny who allegedly married his father in 1775. George and Nancy went to McNairy Co., TN, where George died in 1851. The important thing here is that George and Nancy had a proved son (among other children) named … you can no doubt guess this … Robert. George and Nancy’s son was the man I call Robert of Arkansas, but we haven’t gotten to him quite yet.

Rev War Robert Rankin (1759 – 1840).

Rev War Robert, a grandson of R&R, was one of two sons of R&R’s son George and his wife Lydia Steele.[35] Robert was a Revolutionary War veteran who applied for a pension, which told us when and where he was born and when he moved to McNairy County.[36] Rev War Robert married first Mary (“Polly”) Cusick in Guilford in the early 1780s.[37] He married his second wife Mary Moody in Guilford County in 1803.[38]

Rev War Robert’s children by Polly Cusick – there were apparently seven – are fairly easy to identify by tracking census records. His children by Mary Moody are a tougher nut to crack, and I have identified only two. Here’s how I would expand Rev War Robert’s part of Chart #1:

3 Robert Rankin, Rev. War Robert, b. Rowan, NC, 29 May 1759, d. McNairy, TN on 21 Dec 1840. Buried in Bethel Springs Cemetery in McNairy. Married #1 Mary (nickname “Polly”) Cusick in Guilford, probably in the early 1780s. Married #2 Mary Moody in Guilford in 1803.

Rev War Robert’s children by Mary (“Polly”) Cusick:

4 George Rankin, b. Guilford abt. 1783, d. bet. 1828-1830 in Arkansas Territory. Married Ann McMurray in Guilford, 1803. They were in Arkansas Territory by 1816 and eventually lived in Pulaski Co. May have had as many as six children, but I can only identify three possible sons: Robert, William D., and John J. Rankin.

4 Jedediah Rankin, b. 1785-86, m. Rebecca Rankin in Guilford, 1811. Rebecca was a daughter of George and Nancy Gillespie Rankin. Jed and Becky were both great-grandchildren of R&R and were therefore second cousins. They were in Arkansas by at least 1830, when he was listed in the 1830 Arkansas Territory census.

4 Lydia Rankin, b. Guilford abt. 1789, assuming that she was the Lydia who was listed in the census in the family of William Rankin Wilson, b. abt 1788. They went to McNairy Co., TN. For some unaccountable reason, online trees ID her as “Lydia Lea Isabella.” I would love to see proof for that name, especially since Lydia had a proved sister named Isabel.

4 Isabel Rankin, b. 1791, Guilford, NC, d. 1861, Pope, AR. Married Arkansas Robert Rankin, her second cousin (he was a son of George and Nancy Gillespie Rankin) in Guilford in 1812. They went to McNairy Co., TN and then to Arkansas Territory, Conway and Pope Counties. See more below.

4 John Rankin, b. 1797, Guilford, d. 1846, McNairy Co., TN. Wife Mary Kirby/Kerby.

4 William Rankin, b. 1799, Guilford, m. Isabel Woodburn in Guilford in 1823. They went to McNairy, TN and DeSoto Co., MS. Both are buried in Bethesda Cemetery, Tate Co., MS.

4 Thankful Rankin, b. bet. 1790-1800, Guilford, m. Hance McCain in Guilford, 1818. May have lived in McNairy Co., TN, where Hance appeared in some records. I haven’t found them enumerated there in a census, however.

Rev War Robert’s children by Mary Moody:

4 Thomas M. Rankin, b. 1813-16, Guilford, NC, died without issue, 1885, McNairy.[39]

4 Letha Rankin, b. abt 1820, m. Robert D. Wilson, undoubtedly a relative. Lived in McNairy, TN.[40]

On that note, let’s move on to the last Robert in the line of R&R.

Arkansas Robert Rankin

Here is another case in which Y-DNA provides compelling evidence. Back up for a moment to Isabel Rankin, a proved daughter of Rev War Robert.[41] She married a Robert Rankin in Guilford in 1812.[42] Rollie Rankin, a descendant of Robert’s and Isabel’s son Reuben Burr Rankin, has taken a Y-DNA test and is a member of the Rankin DNA project. A problem is that Rollie can prove he is descended from R&R via their great-granddaughter Isabel Rankin. Of course, Isabel didn’t have a Y-chromosome to pass on: Rollie inherited that from Isabel’s husband Robert Rankin. The thing is, Rollie’s family hasn’t been able to prove Robert’s parents via traditional paper genealogy.

Considering all the Robert Rankins floating around Guilford, that’s perfectly understandable. AND there were also two sons of Joseph of Delaware in Guilford … so that Isabel’s husband Robert Rankin may have been from EITHER R&R’s line or Joseph’s line. Or he may have parachuted into Guilford from Mars. I am convinced that he is not from Joseph’s line (well-documented by Rev. Rankin), and heavily discount the Mars theory. That leaves the line of R&R.

Y-DNA testing AND land records to the rescue. George Rankin (son of Robert d. 1795) and his wife Nancy Gillespie Rankin had a son named Robert who is conclusively proved, although he is unaccountably missing from many lists of George and Nancy’s children.[43] He was the right age to be the Robert Rankin who married Isabel. Unfortunately, there is no evidence in the marriage bonds or elsewhere to prove that Isabel’s husband was Robert, son of George and Nancy – although that Robert, as far as I can find, was the only Robert Rankin in Guilford available to marry Isabel.

More Y-DNA: Michael G. Rankin, a proved descendant of R&R’s grandson George Rankin and his wife Nancy Gillespie, recently took the Y-DNA test. Lo and behold, he is a 67-marker match with a GD (genetic distance) of 2 from Rollie Rankin, meaning only 2 markers out of 67 are different.

That is a darn good match. I think it establishes (although I would defer to people who know more about DNA than I do, which is darn near everyone) that Isabel and Robert’s line and George and Nancy’s line share a common Rankin ancestor not very long ago. The common ancestors, based on the paper evidence, are almost certainly R&R. That’s sufficient DNA evidence (in my opinion) to establish that Isabel’s husband Arkansas Robert Rankin was the same man as Robert, proved son of George and Nancy Gillespie Rankin.

And that’s it for now. I will (soon, I hope) combine the several charts in this table, add a bunch of names, and post a loooonnnnnggggg chart for the descendants of Robert and Rebecca under “Rankin Charts” – see the menu at this website.

[1] Robert C. Rankin, d. Guilford 1853, and Robert Rankin, d. Guilford 1866, were both grandsons of Joseph of Delaware through his sons William Rankin and John Rankin, respectively.

[2] The grandson was “Shaker John” Rankin (1757-1850), a Shaker preacher who wrote his autobiography at age 88. He died in Shakertown, Logan Co., KY. The only reference to a full transcription of his autobiography (cited hereafter as “Shaker John’s Autobiography”) that I found is as follows: John Rankin, “Auto-biography of John Rankin, Sen.” (South Union, Ky., 1845), transcribed in Harvey L. Eads, ed., History of the South Union Shaker Colony from 1804 to 1836 (South Union, Ky., 1870), Shaker Museum at South Union, Auburn, Kentucky (SMSU), 29-30. For a typescript of Eads’s history, see Shaker Record A at the Special Collections Library, Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green, Kentucky (WKU).

[3] George Rankin and Robert Rankin appeared on the 1753 tax list for West Nottingham Township in Chester Co., PA. Rev. Samuel M. Rankin (see note 5) claims the family lived in Lancaster Co., but I didn’t find any records for them there. See J. Smith Futhey and Gilbert Cope, History of Chester County, Pennsylvania (Philadelphia: Louis H. Everts, 1881), reproduction facsimile by Chester County Historical Society (Mt. Vernon, IN: Windmill Publications, Inc. 1996).

[4] Shaker John’s Autobiography (see note 2); see also deeds dated April 1755 in which Robert Rankin Sr. gifted land to his son George Rankin and son-in-law William Denny Sr. in Rowan Co. Deed Book 2: 67, 70.

[5] Rev. S. M. Rankin, History of Buffalo Presbyterian Church and Her People (Greensboro, NC: Jos. J. Stone & Co., 1931), cited hereafter as “Buffalo Church History.”

[6] Rev. Rankin says in one place in Buffalo Church History that Robert with wife Rebecca died before the church started keeping minutes, which was in 1773. In another place, he says Robert died about 1770.

[7] Rev. Rankin names George, Robert and John as sons of R&R in his Buffalo Church History. George is proved by a gift deed and Robert is proved by circumstantial evidence in numerous Guilford records. The evidence for a son John is thin.

[8] James and Rebecca Denny (née Rankin, according to Rev. Rankin) are buried in the Buffalo Church cemetery. Rebecca was born in 1760 and died in 1816. She was probably born too late to be a daughter of Robert and Rebecca, unless Rebecca was Robert’s second wife. Buffalo Church cemetery records are available online at this link.

[9] George Rankin, a proved son of R&R, had two sons born in 1757 and 1759. See Shaker John’s Autobiography and Rev. War Robert’s pension application, abstracted in Virgil D. White, Abstracts of Revolutionary War Pension Files, Vol. 3 (Waynesboro, TN: National Historical Publishing Co., 1992). Robert Rankin d. 1795, another proved son of R&R, had a son George born in 1767. See will of Robert Rankin dated and proved 1795, Guilford Will Books A-B, File #312 (naming a son George).

[10] Rowan County Court Order Book 2: 667.

[11] E.g., deed of 1 Feb 1780 from James Boyd to William Boyd, both of Guilford, 20 shillings (a deed of gift), 630A on Little Troublesome Cr., Granville grant to John Boyd Sr. 15 Jul 1760. This land winds up in Rockingham County. John Boyd Sr., the original grantee, is probably the deceased in the 1767 administrator’s bond. Witnesses Robt. Bell, John Rankin, John Bell. Guilford Co. DB 2: 437. See also deed of 18 Oct 1803, James Boyd of Guilford to Henry Fryar, same, £100, 150A waters North Buffalo. Witnesses William Denney and Rebekah Denney. The witness Rebekah was a daughter of Robert Rankin d. 1795 and a granddaughter of R&R. Guilford Deed Book 8: 230.

[12] Shaker John’s Autobiography.

[13] See will of Arthur Forbis dated 10 Apr 1789, proved 1794, naming as executors his “stepsons John Rankin and Robert Rankin” (Shaker John and Rev War Robert). Guilford Co., NC Will Book A: 119.

[14] Shaker John’s Autobiography.

[15] Frances T. Ingmire, Guilford County North Carolina Marriage Records 1771-1868 Volume III Names O-Z (Athens, GA: Iberian Publishing Co., 1984). Another source for Guilford marriage records is Ruth F. Thompson and Louise J. Hartgrove, Volume I Abstracts of Marriage Bonds and Additional Data, Guilford County, North Carolina 1771 – 1840 (Greensboro, NC: The Guilford County Genealogical Society, 1989).

[16] At least one Rankin researcher at Ancestry.com believes that one of Shaker John Rankin’s children did not convert to Shakerism and that he married and had children. The Logan County census and burial records, however, suggest that all ten children died single in Logan County. There is some information about Shaker John in this article.

[17] Ingmire, Guilford County North Carolina Marriage Records.

[18] NC Guilford County Wills Books A-B 1771-1838,” File #312 (will of Robert Rankin d. 1795).

[19] See NC Guilford County Wills Books A-B 1771-1838,” File #312 (will of Robert Rankin d. 1795, naming as guardian of his Wilson grandsons Andrew Wilson, Robert’s “former son-in-law); Buffalo Church History, listing the three wives of Andrew Wilson (Jr.).

[20] See 1850 census, McNairy Co., TN, p. 14, William R. Wilson, 62, farmer, b. NC, Lydia Rankin, 61, b NC, Washington Wilson, 33, NC, Lucinda Wilson, 26, TN, Lydia Wilson, 8, TN, Adaline Wilson, 5, TN, Jesse Wilson, 3, TH, and Louisa Wilson, 1, TN.

[21] Rev. War Robert did have a daughter Lydia, who would have been William Rankin Wilson’s second cousin. See Guilford, NC Will Book B: 435, will of William Cusick naming 3 daughters of Robert Rankin (Lydia, Isbel and Thankful) and his deceased daughter Polly Cusick Rankin. Both Lydia and William Rankin Wilson were great-grandchildren of R&R. I’ve found no evidence in the Guilford records that WRW married Lydia, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t marry. This crowd definitely had a penchant for marrying cousins.

[22] Will of William Denny dated 12 Dec 1824 proved Feb 1825 naming daughter Pamela Wilson; see also Ingmire, Guilford County North Carolina Marriage Records.

[23] See 1850 census, McNairy Co., TN, Andrew Wilson, farmer, 60, b. NC, dwelling #90, with Parmelia Wilson, 59, NC, Jane Wilson, 30, NC, Maxfield Wilson, 28, NC, Nancy Wilson, 25, NC, Parmelia Wilson, 21, NC, James Wilson, 19, NC, Eli Wilson, 16, NC, and Mary J. Black, 7, b. MO; see also 1860 census, Perry Co., AR, household of William Wilson, 45, farmer b. NC, with Andrew Wilson, 70, b. NC, also listed in his household.

[24] Thanks to my new cousin-by-marriage Peggy Derryberry Gould for that information. See 1860 federal census, French Lick, Orange Co., IN, dwl #1131, Maxfield Wilson, 70, b. NC; Ingmire, Guilford County North Carolina Marriage Records.

[25] Isabel Rankin, daughter of Robert d. 1795, probably died single and without children. She was still single in 1795, when her father wrote his will, and she was probably about 30 at that time. Her father specifically bequeathed a slave to provide for her, which may mean he considered her unmarriageable. I found no marriage record for her in Guilford.

[26] Guilford County will of William Denny dated 12 Dec 1824 proved Feb 1825 naming as executor his brother-in-law George Rankin (and children Rebecca Black, Pamela Wilson, William, Nancy, Isabel and Allen). 1803 deed from James Boyd to Henry Fryar witnessed by William Denny and Rebeckah Denny, Guilford Co. Deed Book 8: 230.

[27] Will of William Denny (Sr.), Rowan Co. Order Book 3: 200; Rowan Co. Will Book A: 31. An abstractor of this will, Jo White Linn, made (for her) a rare error about 3 of William Denny’s daughters. Ms. Linn read the will to say that all of William and Ann’s daughters were married, but three of them – Hannah, Agnes, and Jane/Jean Denny – were clearly identified as single in the 1766 will.

[28] Rowan Co. Deed Book 2: 67 and 70.

[29] Rowan Co., NC Deed Book 2: 86, Granville grant to Robert Rankin dated 3 Dec 1753, ten shillings, 640 acres adjacent “Irish Tracts” #14 and #15 (part of the Nottingham Colony grants).

[30] Rowan Co., NC Will Book A: 141.

[31] Rowan Co., NC Order Book 3: 200; Will Book A: 31.

[32] Jean Denny may have married Robert Rankin of Iredell Co., son of David Rankin d. 1789.

[33] Will of David Rankin of Iredell proved Dec. 1789, original will viewed at the NC Archives in Raleigh, C.R.054.801.11, recorded at WB A: 200

[34] Lois M. P. Schneider, Church and Family Cemeteries of Iredell County, N.C. (1992); Iredell County, NC Deed Book D: 650, deed dated 17 May 1802 from Robert Rankin to his son Denny Rankin.

[35] Rowan County, NC Will Book A: 141, will of George Rankin dated May 1760, proved Oct 1760, naming minor sons John and Robert.

[36] National Genealogical Society Quarterly, Vol. 25, No. 4, December 1937, Revolutionary War Pension Applications.

[37] See Guilford, NC Will Book B: 435, will of William Cusick naming 3 daughters of Robert Rankin (Lydia, Isbel and Thankful) and William’s desceased daughter Polly Cusick Rankin.

[38] Ingmire, Guilford County North Carolina Marriage Records; National Genealogical Society Quarterly, Vol. 25, No. 4, December 1937, Revolutionary War Pension Applications.

[39] See McNairy Co., TN Will Book 1: 53, will of T. M. Rankin of Bethel Springs dated 18 Jun 1885 naming two nieces and a nephew. One niece, M. E. Wilson, was the daughter of Letha Rankin and Robert D.Wilson, according to Melinda’s TN death certificate.

[40] Letha’s Daughter Malinda Wilson Lee was named as a niece in the McNairy will of Thomas M. Rankin.

[41] Guilford, NC Will Book B: 435, will of William Cusick naming 3 daughters of Robert Rankin and his deceased daughter Polly Cusick Rankin (Lydia, Isbel and Thankful).

[42] Ingmire, Guilford County North Carolina Marriage Records.

[43] Guilford Co., NC Deed Book 14: 11, deed of 23 Mar 1819 from George Rankin Sr. to his son Robert Rankin Jr., both of Guilford, 110.5 acres on the south side of North Buffalo. George Sr. at that point is George, son of Robert d. 1795 (who devised that tract to George). George Jr. is probably the eldest son of Rev War Robert. Also, Robert Rankin Sr. was Rev War Robert.

Jesse Rankin m. Cynthia Sellers: Who Was His Father?

 

This answer to this question appears to be reasonably straightforward. However, it raises another one … of course.

Here’s the background. In January 2018, I posted an article on this website about some Rankin families I stumbled across in the records of Gibson County, Tennessee. Although the article focused on the identity of the Robert Rankin who applied from Gibson in 1832 for a Revolutionary War pension, it also mentioned other Rankin families in the county.

One of the other Gibson County families was Jesse Rankin and his wife Cynthia. Rankin researchers disagree on the identity of his parents. Some claim he was a son of Shaker Reverend John Rankin from the Guilford County, NC line of Robert and Rebecca Rankin. That John died in 1850 in Shaker Village (now in “Shakertown”), Logan County, KY. Let’s call him “Shaker John.” Other researchers claim Jesse was a son of the Robert Rankin who lived in Rutherford Co., NC, Pendleton District, SC, and Caldwell County, KY. Call him “Rutherford Robert.”

Jesse and Cynthia first appeared for certain in the 1840 census for Gibson County and were probably also enumerated there in 1830, although Jesse’s age group is inconsistent between the 1830 and 1840 censuses.[1] The 1850 census lists the Rankins in Jesse’s household as follows:[2]

  • Jesse Rankin, 55, farmer, born KY, District 9, dwelling #1841, p. 256
  • Cynthia Rankin, 50, born KY
  • James Rankin, 21, farmer, born TN
  • Elias Rankin, 17, farmer, born TN
  • Williamson Rankin, 15, farmer, born TN
  • Madison Rankin, 13, born TN

In 1851, Jesse acquired a land grant of 48.5 acres.[3] That was the last record I found for him until his will appeared in the probate records. The will was dated November 18, 1851, and named his wife Cynthia and “three youngest sons” Elias, Williamson and Madison. I found no record as to when the will was proved, but it must have been submitted for probate or it would not have been in the Gibson County records. Jesse was not listed in the 1860 census, so it is a safe bet that he died sometime between 1851 and 1860. So far as I can tell, only his son Elias remained in Gibson County, where he appeared through at least the 1880 census. Madison was living in Missouri by 1870. I couldn’t find either Williamson or James after 1850. Both were the right age to have been war casualties.

Knowing that both Jesse and Cynthia were born in Kentucky, the obvious next step was to look in Kentucky marriage records. Turns out they were married on January 7, 1821, in Livingston County, KY.[4]

And he was almost certainly not the son of Shaker John of Logan County. A close look at Shaker John’s family confirms that. The Logan County records establish that a different Jesse Rankin was most likely a son of Shaker John. Jesse appeared in the census in Shaker Village, Logan County, every decade from 1850 through 1880. Nine likely Rankin brothers and sisters can also be identified from the Shaker Village death records and the federal census records during 1850 – 1880 naming Rankins in Logan County. Jesse Rankin died there, single, in 1882. It is unlikely that Shaker John’s son Jesse ever married or had any children, since the Shakers practiced celibacy.

OK, so … was Rutherford Robert the father of Jesse Rankin of Gibson County? The answer is almost certainly “yes,” for three reasons.

First, Rutherford Robert left a will dated 1808 and proved 1816 in Caldwell County, KY. It proves a son Jesse. Second, Caldwell County was immediately adjacent to Livingston County in 1821, when Jesse and Cynthia married there, so Jesse most likely lived nearby. Third, the only Rankin family appearing in Caldwell and Livingston County records in the first third of the 19th century was the line of Rutherford Robert. Here are some records in those locations:

  • Elias Rankin, another son proved by Rutherford Robert’s will, was listed in the 1820 and 1830 census in Caldwell County. Elias married Matilda Herring there in 1820. Note that Jesse and Cynthia Rankin named a son Elias, which is not a common name.
  • The “Widow Rankin” (presumably Leah, Rutherford Robert’s wife) was listed in the 1820 census in Caldwell County.
  • Elizabeth and Jennet Rankin, identified as his daughters in Rutherford Robert’s will, married in Livingston County to James George (1806) and John Durly (1809), respectively.

The records connecting Jesse, son of Rutherford Robert, to Jesse Rankin of Gibson County probably don’t qualify as “conclusively proved.” However, they constitute very good circumstantial evidence, IMO.

So much for the question of Jesse’s parents: now for a new one. To which (if any) of the other North Carolina Rankin lines originally appearing in Rowan County, NC is Rutherford Robert related? Originally, Rowan covered a substantial area, including what would eventually become Guilford, Lincoln, Iredell and Rutherford counties – home of several colonial Rankin families. There is apparently no paper evidence on the issue, and Francis Gill was unable to prove that Rutherford Robert was connected to any other North Carolina Rankin families.

We clearly need to turn to Y-DNA testing. So … where is a living descendant of Rutherford Robert? So far as I know, no male descendant from the line of Rutherford Robert Rankin has participated yet in the Rankin Y-DNA project. We need to find one, or – better yet – several.

Is anyone reading this descended from this family? If so, I would dearly love to hear from you!

* *  * * * * * * * * * * * * *

[1] 1840 census, Gibson Co., TN, listing for Jesse Rankin, 2120001-010101. See also 1830 census, Gibson Co., TN, listing for Jesse Rankin, 20001-10111. The 1840 census shows Jesse in the age category born 1790-1800; the 1830 census shows him in the age category born 1800-1810. The latter appears to be incorrect.

[2] 1870 census, Gibson Co., TN, listing for “Lias” Rankin, 35, farmer, with Lizzie Rankin, 41, Sallie, 11, Mollie, 10, Thomas, 8, Divan, 6, Jeff D., 4, and Ada, 2, all born in Tennessee; 1880 census, Gibson Co., TN, listing for E. C. Rankin, 47, wife Elizabeth, 52, daughter Mary E., 20, son Thomas J., 19, daughter L. D., 15, son William A., 14, daughter Ida C., 12, and daughter Nora, 9.

[3] Barbara, Byron and Samuel Sistler, Tennessee Land Grants (Nashville: Byron Sistler & Associates, 1998).

[4] Jordan Dodd, Kentucky Marriages to 1850, online publication at Ancestry.com.

Willis DNA Project … Maryland Group

There are currently about 300 participants in a Willis DNA project. Eleven of those participants are known through Y-DNA testing to descend from John Willis d. 1712 of Wantage in Dorchester County, Maryland. Below is a chart indicating some of John’s descendants. Nine of the current Y-DNA participants are descended from the first seven legs of this chart. The other two do not yet have a paper trail specifying from which of John’s four sons they descend. Currently, none of the participants are from the last two branches, John’s sons Thomas or William.

Willis Y-DNA Chart

 

Some Colonial Rankin lines: a Primer

© Robin Rankin Willis

I recently spent some time in the Tennessee Archives researching Rankins who were in Gibson County, Tennessee beginning about 1830. It was a good reminder about how easy it is to conflate various families with the same surname when they live in the same general geographic area at roughly the same time. It occurred to me that I should have prefaced any Rankin posts on this website with some basic information about certain colonial Rankin lines, hoping to help you distinguish among those families when you run across them … or read the detailed Rankin articles I post. I apologize for my lack of foresight. This post is my belated remedy.

First, a caveat. If you have read my post about Scots-Irish migration, you already know that the earliest colonial immigrants from the Ulster plantations of Ireland (around 1700) settled mostly in New England. Among those were evidently some Rankins. I know absolutely nothing about New England Rankins. I know next to nothing about most of the Rankin families who settled initially in Pennsylvania in the early 1700s, moved to the Shenandoah Valley and then, in the case of some, on to eastern Tennessee.

What I do know with at least a modicum of confidence is something about colonial Rankin families of North Carolina. That is my Rankin wheelhouse. When I started this hobby, I soon learned that my last conclusively proved Rankin ancestor was born in North Carolina around 1800. That was my only clue as to his origin. Searching for his parents consequently involved mucking about in North Carolina Rankin families. I acquired a ton of records in the process, because there weren’t any quick answers.

These are the Rankin families with whom I became acquainted during that research: (1) Joseph Rankin of Delaware (1704-1764), two of whose sons went to Guilford Co., NC; (2) Samuel and Eleanor (“Ellen”) Alexander Rankin of Lincoln Co., NC; (3) Robert & Rebecca Rankin of Guilford Co., NC; (4) David & Margaret Rankin of Iredell Co., NC; and (5) Robert Rankin (wives Mary Withrow, Leah LNU) of Rutherford Co., NC. Here are brief descriptions of each.

Joseph Rankin of Delaware (1704-1764) (“Joseph of Delaware”), wife unknown, two of whose sons moved to Rowan/Guilford Co., NC.

Joseph of Delaware had definitely arrived in the colonies by 1731, when he acquired a tract in New Castle County, DE. He is buried at Head of Christiana Presbyterian Church Cemetery in Newark, New Castle Co., where his tombstone survives. Joseph’s wife’s identity is unproved, despite some claims to the contrary. His place of birth is likewise unproved, although a serious gambler would put a lot of money on the Ulster Plantations of Ireland. He had at least seven children, including four proved sons, two sons established by strong circumstantial evidence, and a daughter Ann, reportedly proved by a will I haven’t yet found. Joseph’s proved sons Joseph Jr. and Thomas remained in New Castle County, where both died. Thomas, a Lieutenant in a Delaware militia company during the Revolutionary War, is buried in the same grave as his father. The DAR placed a “patriot” marker on the grave, probably giving rise to a claim by one researcher that Joseph (who died in 1764) was a Revolutionary War soldier. If so, he was a ghostly presence. It’s hard to decide whether to laugh or cry.

I have been unable to track Robert or James, Joseph’s two sons who are convincingly established by circumstantial evidence. His two other proved sons migrated to that part of Rowan Co., NC which later became Guilford Co.: (1) John Rankin (b. 1736, New Castle Co., DE, d. 1814, Guilford Co., NC, wife Hannah Carson) went to NC about 1765-68; and (2) William Rankin (b. 1744, New Castle Co., DE, d. 1804, Guilford Co., NC, wife Jean or Jennet Chambers) went to NC about 1768-70.

John and William stayed in Guilford County, had many children and grandchildren, and are buried at the old Buffalo Church in Greensboro, NC. Their lines were meticulously researched by Reverend Samuel Meek Rankin. His research is documented in his book, The Rankin and Wharton Families and Their Genealogy, originally published in 1931 and now available online in its entirety at at the UNC library website. My Rankin “to do” list includes writing an article about Joseph of Delaware’s other children. It’s still on the list.

Samuel Rankin (1734 – 1816) of Lincoln Co., NC and wife Eleanor (“Ellen”) Alexander (1740 – 1802)

Thanks to a family legend and Y-DNA testing, I am confident that Samuel and Eleanor are my ancestors. I therefore tend to be a bit prissy with respect to misinformation about them, having something of a proprietary interest. Some researchers claim Samuel and Eleanor were married in Pennsylvania, which is demonstrably incorrect. Eleanor appeared in North Carolina deed and court records with her Alexander family of origin as a child in 1753 and 1755. She married Samuel about  1759-60 (their eldest son William was born in NC in January 1761), almost certainly in North Carolina. Also, some researchers assert that Samuel was born in Paxtang, PA, but none whom I have contacted have any evidence for that claim. Frankly, it is nonsense. Samuel may be the same man as the Samuel Rankin who appeared on the 1753 tax list for Sadsbury Township in Chester Co., PA. There were no other Rankins on that list. There is no evidence whatsoever as to the identity of Samuel’s parents so far as I have found.

Samuel and Eleanor lived on Dutchman’s Creek in the part of Lincoln Co., NC that later became Gaston Co. They had seven sons (William, Samuel, Robert, David, Richard, Alexander, and James) and three daughters (Jane/Jean, Anne, and Eleanor). William, Alexander, James, Jane, and Anne stayed in Lincoln, or nearby. Richard Rankin died in Mecklenburg Co., just east of the Catawba River. (You can see Richard’s headstone on Beatty’s Ford Road north of Charlotte in the left foreground in the banner photo on the home page of this website.) Three of Samuel and Eleanor’s sons (Samuel, Robert, and David) and a daughter (Eleanor Rankin Dickson) went to Rutherford Co., TN. David stayed in Murfreesboro, but his three siblings moved on to Shelby Co., IL.

Two articles on this website argue that (1) Joseph of Delaware was not Samuel’s father ( find it here: Y-DNA evidence is conclusive on that question) and that (2) Robert and Rebecca Rankin of Guilford were not his parents (read it here.) I also posted charts for the line of James Rankin, a son of Samuel and Eleanor, in two formats: a bare outline chart and a longer chart containing documentation. One of these days, I will complete and publish my research on several of Samuel and Eleanor’s other children … including their eldest son William, a man who lost my respect on account of the way he treated Richard Rankin’s widow Susannah Doherty Rankin. It’s amazing how one can acquire likes and dislikes for people who have long since turned to dust.

Robert and Rebecca Rankin of Guilford Co., NC (“R&R”)

This couple arrived in the colonies in 1750 from Letterkenny Parish, Donegal County, Ireland, where their children (or at least some of them) were born. They were in Pennsylvania for only a short while. Robert and his son George Rankin were included on the 1753 tax list for West Nottingham Township in Chester County. R&R then came to Guilford County in 1755 as part of the Nottingham Colony, a group of Scots-Irish members of Nottingham Presbyterian Church, now located in Maryland (it was then in Pennsylvania). [1]

R&R had at least two proved sons who died in Guilford County: George (died in 1760), whose wife was Lydia Steele, and Robert (died in 1795), whose wife’s identity is a matter of controversy among Rankin researchers. Some Rankin family trees and at least one compiled Rankin history conflate the Robert who died in 1795 with his father Robert (husband of Rebecca), who died about 1770-73. The article at this link addresses that issue.

According to Rev. S. M. Rankin, R&R also had a son John who proved to be a research dead-end for me, although the Guilford records suggest such a son. R&R also had a daughter Ann, whose husband was the William Denny who died in Guilford in 1770. Rev. Rankin identifies a daughter Rebecca, although I found no evidence on that issue, and he failed to mention Ann (a rare Rev. Rankin error). R&R probably had other children as well.

All of this is uncontroverted so far as I know, except for (1) the identity of the wife of R&R’s son Robert Rankin who died in 1795 (see discussion under David Rankin of Iredell, below), (2) Ann as a daughter of R&R, and (3) the death date of George Rankin, son of R&R. Rev. Rankin said George died in 1761, but that was probably a typo. George actually died in 1760, when his will was probated. Here is an outline chart for R&R’s line. By the way, I found a couple of really egregious errors in my previously published chart at that link … if you relied on it for any information, please look at it again.

David Rankin of Iredell Co., NC (d. 1789), wife Margaret LNU (“Iredell David”)

David Rankin’s 1789 Iredell will and other records establish a wife Margaret and three children: Robert, James (not explicitly named in the will), and a daughter (ditto).

Iredell David’s son Robert may be the same man as the “Mystery Robert” who applied for a Revolutionary War Pension application from Gibson Co., TN in 1832. I made that argument in this article, although my opinion should be deemed **speculative.** Robert’s wife is also a matter of controversy. Some researchers believe his wife was a Jean Denny (1755-1779) from Guilford County. Some Jean Denny definitely married some Robert Rankin in Guilford County in 1775. Other researchers believe that Jean Denny married Robert, the son of R&R who died in 1795. I disagree, because I believe that Robert (son of R&R) was Jean Denny’s uncle. This question requires a fairly lengthy discussion which I will save for another day.

In any event, Robert and his wife Jean had two sons: (1) Denny, who married Sarah McMinn, and (2) James, who married Elizabeth McMinn. Both families remained in Iredell. Two of Denny’s sons moved to Gibson County, TN (home of “Mystery Robert”) and then to Shelby Co., TN, where they both died. Many of James and Elizabeth’s descendants remained in Iredell; some are still there today.

Iredell David’s son James died in the Battle of Ramsour’s Mill in Lincoln Co. in June 1780. His wife was a Miss Alexander (probably Susannah), and they had four children proved by Lincoln Co. guardian records.

Iredell deed records suggest that Iredell David’s daughter was probably  Elizabeth, wife of Samuel McCrary (or McCreary and other variant spellings).

For an extremely lengthy chart (including supporting records) on the line of David of Iredell, check out this link.

Robert Rankin of Rutherford County, NC (b. 1748-49, d. 1816, Caldwell Co., KY), m#1 Mary Withrow, m#2 Leah LNU (“Rutherford Robert”)

Francis Gill did the definitive research on Rutherford Robert and published a book about him and others. I cannot find a copy of his book available for either purchase or loan. Nor can I find Francis, with whom I communicated in the late 1990s. I lost most of my own research on Rutherford Robert in one of those “black screen of death” incidents more than a decade ago.

All I now know for sure about Rutherford Robert is that he married Mary Withrow in Tryon Co., NC in 1769. He owned land on Second Broad River in what ultimately became Rutherford County. He and his future Withrow in-laws may have been listed on the tax list for Aston Township, Chester Co., PA in 1768, before going to NC. Rutherford Robert and Mary Withrow divorced, and he wound up in Caldwell Co., KY, where he left a will naming his children Margaret, James, John, Rachel and David (children of Mary Withrow) and Elizabeth, Jennet, Jesse and Elias (children of his second wife Leah).  The children evidently scattered to the four winds. I must do some research to track them down.

Whew! That was longer than I expected. Hope this helps a bit in keeping these families straight. One final note: a couple of people who have read my posts admit they never look at the footnotes, which just make the articles too long. I have started omitting them. However, if anyone wants a citation to a source for anything in this or any other article, please let me know and I will be happy to provide it.

See you on down the road …

[1] John Rankin, a Shaker preacher and grandson of R&R, hand-wrote his autobiography at age 88. These details about the migration of R&R are from that autobiography. The only reference to a full transcription of the autobiography which I can find is as follows: John Rankin, “Auto-biography of John Rankin, Sen.” (South Union, Ky., 1845), transcribed in Harvey L. Eads, ed., History of the South Union Shaker Colony from 1804 to 1836 (South Union, Ky., 1870), Shaker Museum at South Union, Auburn, Kentucky (SMSU), 29-30. For a typescript of Eads’s history, see Shaker Record A at the Special Collections Library, Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green, Kentucky (WKU). The above citation can be found at this link.

Thomas Willis … A Descendant of the Quaker Family of Richard and Frances Willis

Another researcher recently asked if I had any information to help connect Thomas Willis to any Willis family on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. She knew Thomas had purchased land in Dorchester County, and his son William had sold land in Caroline County prior to relocating to Guilford County, North Carolina. I believe Thomas Willis to be part of the Quaker family of Richard and Frances Willis, for two main reasons:

For four generations the Dawsons and Willises, including Thomas Willis and two sons, conducted land transactions among themselves. Frances Willis connected to the Dawson family through her first marriage to Richard Dawson.

Additionally, Frances’s will proves relationships supporting Thomas Willis’s inclusion as part of her family.

Richard Willis Family

The Richard Willis family is a Quaker family of Richard Willis who married Frances, widow of Richard Dawson. They had three children, Richard, John and Frances.[1] Thomas is a likely son of either Richard or John.

Willis and Dawson Land Deals – First Two Generations

Real estate deals in the Colonies often involved family members. Land transactions for the Willis extended family fit that pattern. For example, Richard Willis’s will left land to his sons, who later sold it to a son from their mother’s first marriage. Richard Willis patented a tract called Rondley on the Transquakin River in 1687.[2] His 1689 will devised Rondley to sons Richard and John.[3] In 1699, widow Frances Willis married Edward Fisher, who resided on the Nanticoke River.[4] He died about a year later leaving all his land to Frances.[5] In 1718, widow Frances Fisher conveyed some of her land on the Northwest Fork of the Nanticoke to her sons Richard and John Willis, with the proviso that they convey their ownership in Rondley to John Dawson, a son from her first marriage.[6] In 1721, Richard Willis and his wife Ann sold another tract to John Dawson.[7] This pattern of family deals continued after Frances Fisher died in 1729.

Frances Fisher’s Will

Frances Fisher’s 1724 will proved several family relationships including five identified grandchildren.[8] The will named other people without clearly defining the relationship. For example, the will named Obediah, Anthony and Elizabeth as children of Richard Dawson, but did not state Frances Fisher’s relationship to either Richard Dawson or to his three children. Were these children from her first marriage to Richard Dawson, or were they her grandchildren?

Quaker records show the births of Obediah, Anthony, and Elizabeth Dawson, along with others including Richard and John.[9] Some were likely children of Frances and Richard Dawson, although the parents were not named in the register. The record also shows Obediah Dawson died in 1694.[10] Assuming these records refer to the same Obediah (and I have found no other), Frances’s likely son Obediah died 29 years before she made a will. Clearly, Frances Fisher’s will was providing for her grandson Obediah. This means Obediah Dawson’s father named in the will was Frances’s son Richard, born 1674. That fact helps explain other relationships in the land transactions set out below.

Willis and Dawson Land Deals – The Next Generation

A generation after the earlier real estate deals, the pattern of family transactions continued. A Thomas Willis bought one tract from “John Dawson, son of Richard Dawson” in 1757[11] and another in 1765 from “John Dawson, son of Richard.”[12] The John Dawson in those deeds was not Richard and Frances Dawson’s son John. According to a 1730 deed, their son John died earlier.[13]

That begs the question: who was “John Dawson, son of Richard?” First, a clarifying term such as “son of” following a name almost always meant more than one person in the vicinity shared that name. The clarifying phase specified the exact person involved in the record. The best candidate for “Richard” in this clarifying phase is Richard Dawson named in Frances Fisher’s will, implying that John Dawson is another grandchild of Frances.

But wait, you say! If John were Richard Dawson’s son, why did the will not mention him with Richard’s other three children? For that matter, if Thomas Willis were part of this family, why was he not named in Frances’s will? I think the answer is the same for both men … neither was born before Frances died.

“John Dawson of Richard” was likely a son of Richard Dawson, Frances’s son from her first marriage. Thomas Willis was likely a son of Richard or John Willis, sons from her second. The evidence suggests John Dawson and Thomas Willis were about the same age. Both likely were born in 1730 or later, after Frances had made a 1729 codicil to her will. Further, each must have been at least 21 to execute their first land deal in 1757, so each must have been born by 1736. If correct, they were born between 1730 and 1736 and became the third generation involved in these intra-family land transactions.

Willis and Dawson Land Deals – The Last Generation

The families’ fourth generation continued the tradition of land transactions. The record proves that Thomas Willis had at least two sons, William and Elijah.[14] In addition to several deals between just Thomas and his sons, in 1780, William Willis rented land to a John Dawson.[15] In 1793, Thomas’s son Elijah bought land from a “John Dawson (of Richard).”[16] The record proves the Willis sons in these transactions were from the next generation. It is reasonable to think that the John Dawsons in these deals might have been as well.

Conclusion

I believe direct and circumstantial evidence provide a strong case that Thomas Willis descended from Richard and Frances Willis. The land transactions over two generations between various people named John Dawson and the Thomas Willis family continued a pattern of Willis-Dawson family land deals begun two generations earlier. The evidence in Frances’s will coupled with the land transactions strengthens the case. It is highly likely that Thomas Willis was a child of one of Richard and Frances Willis’s sons, either Richard or John Willis. I have not found record evidence as to which.

*****************************

Timeline – Key Events

Est 1682 –        Richard Willis married Frances (LNU), widow of Richard Dawson.

1683 – 1684 –   Richard Willis, Jr. born to Richard and Frances, based on young Richard’s deposition in 1732-3.

1687 –              Richard Willis patented “Rondley” in Dorchester County.

21 Oct 1689 –   Richard Willis made a will leaving “Rondley” to his minor sons Richard and John when they reached 21 years of age. The tract would descend to his daughter Frances if the sons died without issue.

1 Oct 1699 –     Widow Frances Willis married Edward Fisher of Dorchester County at the Quaker Meeting House near Tuckahoe Creek.

25 Oct 1700 –   Edward Fisher, Nanticoke River, Dorchester County, made a will leaving personal property to his brother William Fisher and family. Edward left all real property to his wife Frances. There is no mention of any children. I assume there were none.

26 Jul 1718 –    Frances Fisher conveyed her land, except for her home planation, to sons Richard and John Willis with the proviso that they convey “Rondley” to John Dawson, a son of Frances and Richard Dawson.

7 Aug 1721 –     Richard and wife Ann Willis sold two tracts of land on the Transquakin River to John Dawson.

29 Feb 1723 –   Frances Fisher made a will leaving half her home plantation to son Richard Willis and half to his son Richard, her grandson. The will said some unstated accommodation had been made with her son John Willis. The will identified five grandchildren; three others are proved by analysis.

14 Apr 1729 –   Codicil to Frances Fisher will, proved 7 May 1729.

Before 1730 –    John Dawson son of Frances died. On 9 Mar 1730, Isaac Dawson, likely son of John Dawson, sold land on Transquakin that John Dawson, deceased, had bought from Richard Willis in 1721.

1730 – 1736 –   Thomas Willis likely born during this period to either Capt Richard Willis or his brother John Willis. John Dawson likely born during this period to Richard Dawson.

1732 – 1733 –   Deposition of Capt Richard Willis, age 49, mentions deponent’s mother Frances Fisher, about 29 or 30 years ago.

6 Nov 1741 –     Will of Capt Richard Willis proved 20 Jan 1742.

17 Jan 1757 –   John Dawson, “son of Richard Dawson” of Dorchester sold to Thomas Willis a tract called “Addition to Timber Tree Neck.”

29 Oct 1765 –   John Dawson, “son of Richard” sold part of “Addition to Miles Swamp” to Thomas Willis.

5 Dec 1773 –     Caroline County formed. The Willis lands are now located in the new county.

25 Feb 1779 –   Gift Deed: Thomas Willis gave to son Elijah Willis the part of “Timber Tree Neck” that Thomas owns. Son William owns the other part.

16 Jun 1780 – Deed of Lease: William Willis rented 6 acres of “Addition to Miles Swamp” to John Dawson for 75 years at a fee of 6 pence per year.

23 Oct 1783 –   Thomas Willis and son William sold 7½ acres of “Addition to Timber Tree Neck” to Elijah Willis.

23 Oct 1783 –   Elijah Willis sold “Levin’s Folly Enlarged” to William Willis.

16 Jun 1784 –   William Willis sold 59¼ acres of “Addition to Timber Tree Neck” and 18¾ acres of “Addition to Miles Swamp” to Elijah Willis.

23 Nov 1785 – William Willis sold the rest of his holdings of “Addition to Timber Tree Neck,” “Levin’s Folly Enlarged,” and “Addition to Miles Swamp” to Levin Wright. William then moved to North Carolina.

5 Feb 1793 –     John Dawson, of Richard, sold part of “Addition to Miles Swamp” to Elijah Willis.

[1] Henry C. Peden, Jr. & F. Edward Wright, Colonial Families of the Eastern Shore of Maryland, Volume 5, (Westminster, MD: Willow Bend Books, 1999), V: 312.

[2] Peden, Colonial Families, V: 312, and Calvin W. Mowbray & Mary I. Mowbray, The Early Settlers of Dorchester County and Their Lands, (Self published, 1981), I: 171. A patent issued to Richard Willous for a tract in Dorchester County called “Roaley” (Rondley), 260 acres.

[3] James A. McAllister, Jr., Abstracts from the Land Records of Dorchester County, Maryland, Volume 3 (Libers Old 4 ½ – Old 5), (Cambridge, MD, 1961), III:1. The will of Richard Willis dated 21 Oct 1689, proved 8 Jan 1689/90, devised to his sons Richard and John Willis at age 21 the 300 acre plantation called “Rondly.” His daughter Frances Willis would inherit if sons died without issue. Dorchester County Deed Book 4½ Old 1.

[4] Lucy Kate McGhee, Maryland Quaker Record of Third Haven (Tred Avon), Talbot County, MD, Marriages, Volume 3, pt 1, p. 60, 1 Oct 1699, Marriage of Edward Fisher of Dorchester County and Frances Willis, widow and relict of Richard Willis, at the Meeting House near Tuckahoe Creek, which was a sub-meeting of Third Haven.

[5] Jane Baldwin (Jane Baldwin Cotton), The Maryland Calendar of Wills, (Baltimore: Kohn & Pollock, Publishers, 1904, and reprinted Westminster, MD: Family Line Publications) 1988, V. II p 223, 11: 117, Will of Edward Fisher, Nanticoke River, Dorchester County, dated 25 Oct 1700, proved 4 Mar 1701, To brother William, sister in law Thomasin, Thomas, James and Mary, sons and daughter of brother William Fisher afsd, personalty; To wife Frances (formerly wife of Richard Willis), executrix, and heirs, home plantation, 50 acre “Western” (Weston), and 50 acre “Fishers Landing.” Witness: Jno Rawlings, Dan’l Cox, Thos Peterson.

[6] McAllister, Land Records of Dorchester County, Volume 5 (Libers Old No. 7 – Old No. 8), (Cambridge, MD), 1962, 7 Old 63, 26 Jul 1718, Frances Fisher of Dorchester County sold to Richard Willis and John Willis, her sons, “Weston,” 50 acres; “Addition to Fishers Landing,” 53 acres; “Bartholomews,” 200 acres, and “Fishers Landing, 50 acres. Richard and John Willis to convey “Roadley” (“Rondley”) to John Dawson. Witness: J. Rider, Levin Hicks, acknowledged the same day

[7] Id., at 8 Old 26, On 7 Aug 1721, Richard Willis and wife Ann of Dorchester County, Gentleman, sold to John Dawson, planter, of Dorchester, “Maidens Choyce” on Transquakin River adjoining “Exchange,” 100 acres and White Lady Field” adjoining “Maidens Choyce,” 100 acres. Witness: Cha. Deane, John King. Acknowledged 9 Aug 1721.

[8] Baldwin, Calendar of Wills, V. VI, p. 109; 19: 679, Will of Frances Fisher, Dorchester County, dated 29 Feb 1724, proved 7 May 1729, To son Richard Willis, ½ home plantation on Nanticoke River; To daughter Frances Newton, personalty; To grandson Richard Willis other ½ of said plantation pursuant to an agreement lately made with son John Willis, and personalty at age 21. Son Richard Willis to have charge of estate during minority of said grandson Richard; To granddaughters Frances and Mary (daughters of Edward Newton), personalty; To Elizabeth (daughter of Joseph Thompson), personalty to be delivered to her by her uncle Edward Newton when 18 years of age; To Obediah, Anthony and Elizabeth (children of Richard Dawson), personalty; To sons Richard Willis and Edward Newton, executors, residue of personal estate. Witness: Thomas Griffith, Samuel Long, William Burn (dec’d at date of probate). Codicil: 14 Apr 1729. To granddaughter Elizabeth Thompson, son [sic] Richard and his sister Mary Willis, personalty.

[9] McGhee, Quaker Record of Third Haven, Volume 1, p. 50, Birth dates Obediah 13 Apr 1672, Richard 13 May 1674, Elizabeth 19 Nov 1677, Sarah 15 Sep 1678, John 7 Jun 1681, Anthony 13 Apr 1683.

[10] Id., at 73, Obediah Dawson died 21 Nov 1694.

[11] McAllister, Land Records of Dorchester County, Volume 11 (Liber Old No. 15, folios 1 – 368), 1963, 15 Old 449, On 17 Jan 1757, John Dawson (son of Richard Dawson) of Dorchester County, planter, to Thomas Willis of the same, part of a tract on the east side of the Northwest Fork of Nanticoke River, called “Addition to Timber Tree Neck”, located near John Brown’s home plantation and containing 134 ½ acres. Witness: Henry Hooper, Edward Tripp, Justices.

[12] McAllister, Land Records of Dorchester County, Volume 16 (Liber Old No. 20), 1964, 20 Old 384, On 29 Oct 1765, John Dawson (son of Richard) and Sarah his wife of Dorchester Co, planter, to Thomas Willis of same: part of “Addition to Miles Swamp” on the Northwest Fork of Nanticoke, 32 acres. Wit: Edward Trippe, Wm. Haskins, Justices.

[13] McAllister, Land Records of Dorchester County, Volume 5 (Libers Old No. 7 – Old No. 8), 1962, 8 Old 405, On 9 Mar 1730, Isaac Dawson of Dorchester sold to Joseph Ennalls, of the same, 100 acres, part of lands bought by John Dawson, dec’d, from Richard Willis, on the west side of main branch Transquakin River. Witness: Jno Pitt, Jno Anderton, Richd Dawson. Acknowledged the same day.

[14] Caroline County Deed Records, Liber GFA, Folio 348, Deed of Gift dated 25 Feb 1779 – Thomas Willis to his loving son Elijah Willis a tract of land called “Timber Tree Neck” or “Addition to Timber Tree Neck” and all to the westward of a ditch in the middle now between myself and my son William Willis – has a life clause for he and wife Rebekah to use land.

[15] Caroline County Deed Records, Liber GFA, Folio 487, Deed of Lease – A Deed of Lease dated 16 Jun 1780 between John Dawson and William Willis, rent a tract of land called “Addition to Miles Swamp” containing 6 acres for 75 years at a yearly rent of 6 pence.

[16] Caroline County Deed Records, Deed Book D: 285, John Dawson (of Richard) to Elijah Willis: for £21.19.4, 17 acres, part of “Addition to Miles Swamp” on east side of Northwest Fork of Nanticoke River. John Dawson and Sarah his wife each acknowledged before TW Loockerman, Jos. Douglas, Justices.

New Info – Wm Willis of Dorchester, MD

 

I recently discovered additional information about William Willis, born about 1694. William was the son of the immigrant John Willis who inherited the 50-acre tract in Dorchester County named “Wantage.” William and his wife Judith sold the land in 1734 to Richard Seward, very likely Judith’s brother. The couple then relocated to the Neck Region of Dorchester County, where Judith’s parents John and Mary Seward owned property.

I concluded that William and Judith moved to the Neck Region because they each gave a deposition between 1745 and 1752 about land boundaries in the area. Such testimony would not have been credible unless they were familiar with the property, probably as nearby residents. However, I had not located any deed or other record that placed them in the area. Now we have one: a 1764 deed clearly states that a William Willis was living on Hudson’s Creek at the head of Willis’s Cove.[1] Since there is no record of any other William Willis in the vicinity, this was surely the residence of William and Judith.

Furthermore, we now have circumstantial evidence that William and Judith had a child. A Thomas Willis gave a deposition in 1784 about the boundaries of a tract called “Bridge North,” owned by William Seward. (That land had previously been owned by John and Mary Seward and sold by them to Mary’s sister.) At the time of the deposition, Thomas Willis was 70 years old, meaning he was born about 1714. He testified to being shown the boundary markers in about 1754. He was definitely the right age to have been a son of William and Judith Willis and to have come with them to the Neck Region of Dorchester County as a young man in 1734. If so, he had been a resident of the area for 50 years at the time of his deposition.[2] With no evidence of another Willis family in the area, it is highly likely that Thomas was a son of William and Judith.

I have updated the article previously posted about the second generation of the John Willis Family to reflect this information. You can read the revised version at this link.

[1] McAllister, James A., Jr., Land Records of Dorchester County, Maryland, Volume 15 (Liber Old No. 19, (Cambridge, MD, 1964). 19 Old 343, 11 Jun 1764, John Taylor Sr. of Dorchester Co, Merchant, to Nicholas MacCubbin of Annapolis, Merchant: ½ of “Rosses Chance” containing 42 A. Also 200 A, being part of “Addition to Rosses Chance” on Hudson’s Creek, laid out to said John Taylor for 400 acres. Also “Littleworth” on east side of Hudson’s Creek, at the head of Willis’s Cove near where Wm. Willis lives, 49 A. (Mortgage). Wit: Thomas Taylor, Thos. Harwood. Ackn: Robt. How and Jno. Anderson, Justices.

[2] McAllister, Land Records of Dorchester County, Maryland, Volume 27 (Liber NH No. 5), (Cambridge, MD, 1967), 5 NH 259, 12 Oct 1784 – 8 Oct 1785, Commission to Charles Eccleston, Nathaniel Manning, Stanley Byus and John Trippe of Dorchester Co, Gent., to perpetuate the bounds of Wm Soward’s land called “Bridge North”, and Return. Deposition of Thomas Willis, aged about 70 years, concerning a bounder on a cove of Hudson’s Creek, shown about 30 years ago by Joseph Blades who had possession of the land. Mentions Henry Claridge who was also present when Blades showed the bounder, and who has died in the last two years. The land where the said Joseph Blades lived 30 years ago is the same land where Wm. Lee now lives, called “Bridge North”.

The Mysterious Robert Rankin of Gibson County, TN

© Robin Rankin Willis

Gary and I recently returned from a week in the Tennessee Archives in Nashville, where I wound up mucking about in Gibson County for some reason I cannot recall. I stumbled over a passel of Rankins there. They are my favorite line for several reasons, not least of which is the fact that I was nèe Rankin.

What got me enmeshed in the Gibson County Rankins was the Revolutionary War pension application of one Robert Rankin among the court records. Let’s call him Mystery Robert because his family of origin is a puzzle. He applied for a pension in Gibson in September 1832. His sworn statement is replete with military details. Unfortunately, he did not say where he enlisted, which would likely have led us to his family of origin without much difficulty

I cannot find anyone who claims descent from Mystery Robert among online family trees. This is unusual, because the general rule is that whenever one finds a Revolutionary War soldier, one finds many descendants. I have found no one claiming a revolutionary war soldier ancestor who applied from Gibson County in 1832.

If you know who this man’s family is, please let me know. I’ll send you a box of chocolates, provided that you have proof other than some online tree which cites as sources other online family trees.

Here is what the Gibson records reveal about Mystery Robert, which is precious little.

  • Mystery Robert was 84 when he applied for a pension under the Act of 1832. That was the first Congressional act in which the applicant did not have to prove that he was destitute in order to be eligible for a pension. Since Robert had not applied earlier, we know that he wasn’t destitute. He was born about 1748. He was in the North Carolina militia, which means he almost certainly lived in NC when he enlisted. His pension allowance was $50/year, and the 1835 roll of Tennessee pensioners says that he had received $150 through June 1834. Here is a transcription of his pension application.
  • Robert appeared in the 1830 census for Gibson County in the 80 < 90 age bracket (born 1740 – 1750), consistent with the stated age in his pension application. There is a female 40 < 50 (born 1780 – 1790) listed with him and a male 10 < 15 (born 1815 – 1820). This could be a young wife and son, or a widowed daughter or daughter-in-law who was his caretaker (and her son). I don’t know. The 1830 census only gives names for the head of household. I haven’t been able to identify those two other members of Robert’s 1830 household.
  • The 1830s tax records in Gibson County occasionally list a Robert Rankin, although not consistently every year. It is fairly clear that he owned no land. His only taxable item was “one white poll,” which was undoubtedly himself. However, he was charged no tax, which probably means he was exempt from taxes on account of his advanced age. I don’t know when he died, although he did not appear as a head of household in the 1840 census. I found no probate records for him in Gibson Co.

The thing about Mystery Robert that caused me to sit up and take notice was this: his pension application says that his brother was killed by Tories at the Battle of Ramsour’s Mill. I ran into that battle a long time ago when I was first doing genealogical research. Because it has been a while (pre-Google, in fact), I did some online research about Ramsour’s Mill (also spelled Ramseur or Ramsaur). It took place in June 1780. About 40 patriots (Whigs) died there, although it was not easy to ascertain which bodies fought for which side. The combatants wore no uniforms. The loyalists (Tories) stuck a spring of greenery in their hats; the patriots had a piece of white paper in theirs. These identifiers were sometimes missing from the bodies.

Here is the piece about Ramsour’s Mill where I found this information.

The largest portion of the patriot troops were from Iredell County, NC. About thirteen of the dead patriots were from Capt. Sharpe’s 4th Creek Company, Statesville, Iredell County. (“Company” in this context may refer to a militia company and/or to a tax district).

Family history research, of course, rarely involves dead solid certainties, especially when one is dealing with facts from more than two centuries ago. Sometimes one must play the odds. The obvious odds were that Mystery Robert and his dead brother were from Iredell County, so I went digging among the Iredell records for Rankin families. This was simply a matter of looking up the Iredell research I had done almost two decades ago, when I was a rookie researcher and fixated on finding the family of origin of my last proved Rankin ancestor.

What I found in Iredell was the will of a David Rankin who died in 1789. I looked at the original will in the Raleigh Archives (found in File Box No. C.R.054.801.11 and recorded in Iredell Will Book A: 200). The will names his wife Margaret and son Robert. David also named three grandchildren: (1) David McCreary (obviously the son of David’s daughter Mrs. _______ Rankin McCreary), (2) James Rankin (expressly identified as the son of Robert Rankin) and (3) David Rankin. Grandson David Rankin’s father was not identified, so he wasn’t another son of Robert. He was a minor, under age 21 in 1781, when David’s will was written.

The express language of David’s will – with a Rankin grandson whose father wasn’t Robert – raises the inference that David and Margaret had another son who may have predeceased David.

The next step, of course, was to cast about in nearby records to find a candidate for grandson David Rankin whose father may have died before 1781. This wasn’t difficult, and was also buried among my old research. David was in Lincoln County and was the son of a James Rankin. Here are some relevant Lincoln County records:

  • July 1783, a lawsuit styled the Executors of James Rankin vs. Reuben Simpson. Plaintiff won. So there was a James Rankin who had died before July 1783. The description of plaintiffs as “executors” suggests that James Rankin died testate, but I have found no will.
  • The lawsuit resulted in the public sale of defendant’s land to satisfy the plaintiff’s judgment. Lincoln Co. Deed Book 2: 756, deed dated 21 Sep 1784 from Joseph Henry, Sheriff of Lincoln Co., to Francis Cunningham of same, levy on Reuben Simpson in suit of James Rankin, land on Beaver Dam Branch on the west side of the Catawba River adjacent Francis Cunningham, part of 640 acres granted to Reuben Simpson. A witness to the deed was Robert Rankin, who was almost certainly kin to the dead James Rankin. Perhaps the witness was Robert, son of David and Margaret Rankin.
  • A Lincoln county promissory note (or was this simply security on a guardian’s bond? My rookie notes aren’t clear) from Francis Cunninghan and Daniel McKissick to John Alexander, guardian of minors David Rankin, Jane Rankin, Margaret Rankin and William Rankin, orphans (meaning their father was dead, not necessarily their mother as well) of James Rankin. Generally, children were named in order of age, so David was probably the eldest. Source: Anne William McAllister & Kathy Gunter Sullivan, Civil Action Papers 1771-1806 of the Court of Ps & Qs, Lincoln County, North Carolina (1989).

David Rankin was still in the area on 14 Oct 1800, when he witnessed a deed from James Alexander to Horatio Gates Alexander adjacent the land of David’s guardian John Alexander. Lincoln Co. DB 22:65. John was almost certainly David’s uncle, so John was probably either (1) married to a Rankin or (2) the brother of David’s mother, Miss ___?___ Alexander who married a Rankin.

The final piece of evidence here: the Iredell County Genealogical Society has a collection called the “Philip Langenhour papers,” which were Mr. Langenhour’s collections of stories about local families. His papers mention a Miss Alexander (no given name stated) who married a Mr. Rankin (ditto) who died at the Battle of Ramsour’s Mill. Given the fact that the guardian of James Rankin’s children was John Alexander, it is as good a bet as you can find in genealogy that it was James Rankin who died at Ramsour’s Mill. This is the only piece of evidence I have found that a Rankin died in that battle … other than the pension application of Robert Rankin, whose patriot brother was killed there.

The pieces of this puzzle fall together quite nicely. It is reasonable to conclude that David and Margaret Rankin of Iredell had two sons named Robert and James. James married a Miss Alexander and died at the Battle of Ramsour’s Mill in 1780. James and Miss Alexander had children named David and Margaret (for their Rankin grandparents?), as well as Jane and William. Their uncle John Alexander became their guardian.

And here is where we take a plunge off the high diving board without, we hope (as my friend Jody McKenney Thomson, a descendant of these Lincoln County Alexanders, puts it) “forcing Cinderella’s shoe to fit” – and please forgive the mixed metaphors. Robert Rankin, Revolutionary War pensioner from Gibson County, TN, had a brother who died at the Battle of Ramsour’s Mill. There were only 40 dead patriots in that battle, for pete’s sake, including 13 from the Statesville area. What are the odds that there is ANOTHER dead Rankin in that crew besides James?

I think Mystery Robert is Robert, son of David and Margaret Rankin of Iredell, and a brother of the James Rankin who died at Ramsour’s Mill. Too much speculation? I confess to feeling a bit out on a limb. Jody, does the shoe pinch?

Please note also that Robert Rankin, son of David and Margaret, disappeared from the Iredell and Lincoln county records after 1826 without leaving any probate records. Jody and I have long wondered where the heck he went.

There is a bit more to this story. Robert had two sons who remained in the Iredell/Lincoln area: Denny, born in 1775, and James, born about 1778. Denny and James married sisters, Sarah and Elizabeth McMinn. Two of Denny and Sarah’s proved children were named Robert A. Rankin and Samuel Rankin.

Robert A. Rankin appeared in the Gibson County records starting in 1838. Samuel Rankin began appearing in Gibson in 1837, acting as security on the bond of the administrator of one John McMinn. Keep in mind that these 19th century folks typically migrated in groups of extended family members. In 1838, the Gibson County tax list included Samuel Rankin, Robert Rankin, and Robert Rankin Jr. (and no other Rankins). (“Junior,” of course, didn’t necessarily imply a father-son relationship; it was frequently used to distinguish an elder man from a younger man having the same given name). The fact that known members of the Iredell Rankin family (and a McGinn) appeared in Gibson along with Mystery Robert provides additional circumstantial evidence regarding Mystery Robert’s identity.

I think the shoe fits quite nicely.

Finally, please note that there were other distinct Rankin lines in Gibson County beginning in roughly the mid-1800s. However, I found no evidence to connect any other Rankin line to Mystery Robert. In the 1840 census for Gibson, there was no listing for either of the two Roberts or for Samuel. Robert A. Rankin and his brother Samuel moved on to Shelby County, where both died; Samuel was Robert’s administrator.

Briefly, here are some other Rankins who lived in Gibson County:

  • David F. C. Rankin (1823 – 1885) and his wife Susan Young. David was a son of David Rankin and Anne Moore Campbell of Rutherford County, TN. The senior David Rankin was a son of Samuel and Eleanor (“Ellen”) Alexander Rankin of Lincoln Co., NC.
  • Jesse Rankin, who was born in Kentucky about 1795, and his wife Cynthia Sellers. Some researchers think Jesse was a son of Robert Rankin of Rutherford Co., NC and Caldwell Co., KY and his second wife Leah. Other researchers think that Jesse was a son of “Shaker Reverend” John Rankin of Guilford, NC and Logan Co., KY and his wife Rebecca. Both Robert of Rutherford and Shaker Reverend John had sons named Jesse. I don’t have an opinion yet.

Some Rankin researchers think that Robert Rankin and his wife Isabel (maiden name Rankin) of Guilford Co., NC, McNairy Co., TN and Pope Co., AR may have also lived in Gibson County. I don’t think that is the case, and one of their descendants tells me she has no evidence for that, either.

I’ve clearly got some more digging to do trying to sort out the Gibson County Rankins. Meanwhile, as my cousin Roger Alexander likes to say, “Nobody has more fun than we do!”

Genealogy 101: a Primer on Legal Stuff Every Family History Researcher Needs to Know

This morning, a friend asked a legal question about a recent post of mine. Her question made it obvious that I had failed properly to explain a legal issue affecting a family history analysis. It seems I have a bad habit of throwing around legal terms and principles as though they are familiar to everyone, which is both unfair and thoughtless.

To help remedy that, here is a short and sweet primer of legal stuff that every family history researcher needs to know. My emphasis is on law prior to the twentieth century. Some of these concepts don’t lend themselves to a prose discussion that flows logically from point to point. In those cases, I have simply provided a list of terms with explanations. In other cases, I have carried on as usual.

Disclaimer #1: every colony (and then state) passed its own laws, so the law was not the same in every colony/state. We are talking general concepts here.

Disclaimer #2: I am not going to use the cumbersome “his or her” in this discussion, at least not with respect to laws concerning estates. For my reason why, let’s start with a discussion of women’s legal status prior, for the most part, to the twentieth century.

Laws Concerning Women

Here’s a real golden oldie: the concept of coverture. That refers to the condition or state of a married woman or, alternatively, the legal “disabilities” that attached to a married woman. A single woman had some legal rights: she could own property, enter into a contract, and sue/be sued in her own name.

The “disabilities” of a married woman, on the other hand, were total; states only gradually removed these legal disabilities. The bottom line: a married woman had no legal existence whatsoever apart from her husband. Property ownership? Are you kidding? Absent a prenuptial agreement, anything a woman owned prior to marriage became her husband’s property the moment she said “I do.” If she inherited something while married, it immediately became her husband’s property. If a woman inherited something from, say, her father, the phrase generally used in the records was that the husband owned it “in right of his wife.”

Having no legal existence, a married woman could not sue or be sued in her own behalf. Her husband had to be named as a party. For example, if there was a lawsuit concerning the estate of a married woman’s father, the list of parties would usually include the names of all her brothers (although not the names of the brothers’ wives) and the names of all her sisters (and the names of their husbands). Knowing this sometines helps to sort out the relationships among parties in lawsuits concerning estates.

Moreover, since a married woman had no legal existence apart from her husband, she had no right to enter a contract on her own. A bid at an auction is an offer to enter into a contract to purchase the item being auctioned. When the auctioneer knocks off an item to a bidder, he is accepting the bidder’s offer; a contract of sale and purchase is formed when the hammer comes down.

Consequently, if you see a woman’s name listed as a buyer at an estate sale through (roughly) the entire 1800s, you can rest assured that she was an unmarried woman or a widow.

Dower right: the right of a widow to a life estate in the real property (land) of her husband who died without a will. Keep in mind here: when someone leaves a valid will, the will governs. Absent a will, the law provides the rules. Usually, a widow’s dower right was to one-third of the husband’s land. When you see an entry in a court record or a deed book stating that a woman was “privily examined” regarding her husband’s sale of some of his land, that means she had formally acknowledged her agreement to the sale (even though she had no right to convey land herself). She was thereafter precluded from asserting any dower right to that particular tract of land. This was, of course, to protect the buyer – not the wife.

A widow’s dower right was a life estate, only during her lifetinei.e., her ownership interest ended the instant she died. After the widow died, ownership of the land passed to the husband’s heirs according to the colony’s (or state’s) laws of intestate descent and distribution if he died without a will. See discussion of laws concerning estates, below.

Some colonies (I’m thinking Virginia) at one time gave a married woman a right to disavow her husband’s will if he devised to her less than the dower life estate allotted by law. So you will see records in which a widow accepts or rejects such a will. If she rejected it, then she received the jurisdiction’s dower allotment.

Many colonial and 19th-century men who left a will devised to his wife all or some portion of his land “for life or until she remarries” — not wanting his property to fall into the hands of a new husband. Occasionally, although not very often, one finds an eighteenth or nineteenth century will in which a man left everything to his wife to “dispose of as she chooses,” which did not limit her ownership in any way. I am always tickled pink to be descended from one of those enlightened gentlemen. There weren’t very many.

Laws Concerning Estates

Here it is more straightforward to begin by listing a few definitions.

Estate: property of whatever kind that is owned by someone who has died. “Real property” means land and any improvements – houses, orchards, whatever. “Personal property” means everything else. When an estate inventory was taken, only personal property was listed – not real property. Likewise, a record of a sale of a decedent’s estate typically included only personal property. Under the English common law, adopted by all the colonies, real property – land, the source of all wealth prior to the industrial revolution – had a special place in estate distributions. [Note: once tobacco became the cash crop in Virginia, land – which was absurdly cheap, a way to attract immigration – wasn’t nearly as valuable as the people who worked it. Enter slavery, an institution which might not have become the colonial norm but for tobacco.]

Probate: matters and proceedings pertaining to estates. Used as a verb, as in “to probate a will,” it generally means to present a will and prove it to a court. An estate was probated in the county where the decedent resided. Still is, at least in Texas.

Testator: a person who has left a will. When a decedent leaves a valid will, the estate is distributed in accordance with the wishes of the testator as expressed in the will. Of course, there was no need to name all one’s children in a will. Frequently, colonial men “provided for” their children as they came of age or married with gifts of cash, land, or other property. The ones already “provided for” might not be mentioned at all in a will, or might be left a token gift, such as a shilling. This was not because Dad was cheap, or didn’t like the child who received one shilling (although that happened, too). It was just to prevent a challenge to the will based on the theory that, hey, I was his child, too, and he just forgot to mention me! He must have been unduly influenced … or non compos mentis …

Executor or executrix: a man or woman (sometimes more than one) named by a testator in his or her will to handle the matters of the estate in accordance with the will.

Intestate: a person who dies without leaving a will. In genealogy, it is often better (especially if there are good estate records for the county) to find an intestate among your ancestors than an ancestor who left a will. As noted above, there is no need to name all one’s children in a will. The distribution of an intestate’s estate, however, went to all his “heirs at law” according to the “laws of intestate descent and distribution,” see below. There was therefore potentially a great deal more information to be obtained from a distribution of an intestate’s estate than a testator’s estate.

Administrator or administratrix: a person appointed by the court to handle estate matters of an intestate decedent. Usually, an administrator/trix was a member of the intestate decedent’s family – wife, father, son – who applied for “letters of administration.”

Laws of intestate descent and distribution: let’s call it “law of intestate distribution” for short. This refers to either statutory law (rules passed by a legislature) or common law (principles estabished by common usage and court decisions) governing the distribution of the estate of an intestate decedent.

This is where the law gets really fun as it applies to genealogical research. Remember, every state had its own laws governing the distribution of an intestate’s estate … so there are no hard and fast rules. However, the old English principle of primogeniture – the rule that the eldest son inherited everything – didn’t have much application in its purest form in the colonies, so far as I have seen. Makes sense, because the colonies were populated by, inter alia, some of those younger sons who didn’t inherit.

Some colonies had variations on the notion that the eldest male was entitled to a greater share than other heirs, sometimes with different rules regarding who received how much real property versus personal property. If you are dealing with an intestate distribution, check the applicable law.

Most states passed intestate distribution laws that required a division of an estate between all of the intestate decedent’s heirs. You may have seen the phrase “heirs at law” in court or probate records. That means persons who inherit a decedent’s estate under the laws of intestate distribution. “Heirs at law” are different than “beneficiaries,” who inherit under a will. Be aware that colonial clerks of court did not always make such fine distinctions.

As a general rule, all of a man’s children were his heirs at law. If a child had predeceased his father, then any of his or her children – grandchildren of the intestate decedent – were heirs. If a man had no children, then his parents and his siblings were his heirs. (Reminder: every state has variations). All of these heirs will be named in the distribution of the estate, if you are lucky enough to have those estate records survive. FYI: there are virtually no abstracts of detailed estate records. You have to go to the county courthouse (or wherever the county keeps probate records), or the state archives, or to film available from the Family History Library in Salt Lake City to get those records. If you are a serious family history researcher, those records are well worth it.

Sometimes there are lawsuits concerning an estate, which are (believe it or not) even better. Frequently, an administrator of an estate wanted to sell some land in order to pay debts, or because one of the heirs wanted his money, or because there wasn’t enough land to divide among 13 children in decently-sized tracts. An administrator had to ask the court for permission to sell an intestate’s land, and he had to join all of the heirs – each of whom had an interest in the land (or its proceeds) – as parties to a lawsuit. You will occasionally see lawsuits in such circumstances in which an administrator sues a widow and her children. Those aren’t necessarily unfriendly lawsuits; they were just what the law required to make sure everything was kosher.

Those lawsuits nearly always recited whether any heirs were underage, because any underage children had to be represented by a guardian or guardian ad litem (meaning guardian “for the day,” or for the purpose of the lawsuit). Petitions (or complaints, depending on the jurisdiction) also recited the locations of adult children who may have moved away, because due process requires that all parties to a lawsuit be given notice that they have been sued.

I now see that I have passed 2,000 words, which is more than enough for any one article. So let’s rate this as a “to be continued.” I will make notes of legal issues as they occur to me and will post another article like this when it seems worthwhile.

Shalom!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Part 3 of 5: James Trice of Caroline Co., VA, b. by 1712, d. Orange Co., NC by 1789

This post doesn’t really deal with James Trice of Caroline/Orange, notwithstanding the title. Rather, it concerns the line of James Trice of King William County, VA, whose estate was appraised there in 1769. Two Louisa County chancery court files in the Library of Virginia contain documents about a dispute among two grandsons of James Trice of King William. I relied on evidence from those files in Part 2 of this Trice series, which did deal with James Trice of Caroline/Orange. I also promised to provide abstracts of these files.

This article contains two things: (1) a summary of the Louisa County chancery court dispute and (2) abstracts of the documents contained in the two files, indexed by the Library of Virginia as Louisa County #1804-006 and #1804-011.

The chancery files contain some duplication; I did not abstract any document twice. I have omitted many documents that do not appear to have useful genealogical information concerning the Trice family. I also omitted lists of items in estate inventories. There are several in those 2 files, including the estates of William Anderson (Dorothy Dabney Anderson Trice’s first husband), James Trice of King William (Dorothy’s second husband), and Dabney Anderson (a son of Dorothy and William Anderson and a stepson of James Trice). You know where to find them if you’re interested in details: see links provided in Part 2. Finally, I’ve also omitted most of the testimony and allegations in pleadings specifically concerning the slaves at issue in the two cases – Bess and her son Dick. I may have omitted some relevant documents. There are 116 pages in the two files, some of which are written in an almost incomprehensible hand. Attorneys also succumb to MEGO.

I have numbered and titled the documents, see below, although they are neither numbered nor titled in the actual Library of Virginia files. These are therefore my own numbers and descriptions. My comments are in italics and do NOT reflect what is in the actual file – the italicized comments contain my own clarifications or conclusions.

Summary of the cases

The dispute concerns the ownership of a slave named Dick, who was the son of a slave named Bess. Dick was convicted of a felony in Hanover County and hanged. Under the colonial law of Virginia, if a slave was executed by the state, Virginia compensated the owner for his or her value. Learning this set me on my heels, since I still recoil whenever I see something involving the equation “human = property.” That’s the way it was, America’s original sin.

The court cases divide into two procedural parts. First, William Trice, son of John Trice and grandson of James Trice of King William, sued Charles Crenshaw in Charles’ capacity as executor of his father, Joseph Crenshaw. Joseph had been the administrator of the estate of James Trice, who was Joseph’s father-in-law. The parties to these cases – William Trice and Charles Crenshaw – were first cousins, both being grandsons of James Trice and his wife Dorothy Dabney Anderson Trice.

William apparently filed his claim in 1799, or perhaps late 1788. William sought an accounting of the estate of James Trice from Charles, saying that he (William) hadn’t received his share of the estate. Charles responded that the claim was old and stale and should be dismissed, an equitable defense known as “laches.” William won, and the court ordered an accounting of James Trice’s estate.

Sometime after that, Charles turned up what appeared to be new evidence (it was, it just turned out not to be relevant). He asked that the earlier order be set aside and the case reheard. Charles also filed a cross-claim against William, saying that William had received more than his fair share of James Trice’s estate. The court allowed a rehearing, and the case was tried. William Trice won, and the court ordered an accounting of the estate of James Trice, with the entire value of Dick (plus interest) to be credited in William Trice’s favor.

The archivists at the Library of Virginia created two files for these cases, one reflecting William Trice’s original claim and the other reflecting Charles Crenshaw’s cross-claim. As a practical matter, the two cases concern a single dispute and set of facts, and one needs to review both files to get the entire story.

Here is a summary of the general facts.

In 1720, Dorothy Dabney Anderson, widow of William Anderson, deeded a slave named Bess to her son William Anderson, a minor. The deed provided that ownership of Bess would revert to Dorothy if William died without issue and Dorothy were still alive. William did die as a child, with no children of his own. Ownership of Bess thus reverted to Dorothy.

Dorothy married secondly James Trice of King William County. James apparently did not consider Bess or her children to be his property in fee simple, although that would have been the case under colonial Virginia law. In a lawsuit after Dorothy died, James claimed only a life estate in Bess and her issue. James apparently considered them the property of Dabney Anderson – the only other son of William and Dorothy Anderson, presumably with ownership to revert to Dabney after the expiration of James’ life estate.

Dabney Anderson must also have thought the slaves were his, because he devised them in his will to his stepbrother John Trice. John Trice died intestate. William Trice was John’s only child, so William inherited John’s entire estate. James Trice, Dabney’s executor and the administrator of John Trice, apparently considered the slaves William’s property, as he reportedly said at one point that he wished William would come get his slaves.

William Trice based his claim for Bess’s child Dick (or his value as determined in the wisdom of the Colony of Virginia) on (1) Dabney Anderson’s devise of Bess to John Trice in Dabney’s will and (2) William’s inheritance of all of his father John’s estate. Charles, bless his heart, threw lots of factual issues at the court – e.g., Bess wasn’t listed in the inventory of James Trice’s estate, nor was she listed in the inventory of Dabney’s estate, and other matters, all to no avail. He lost. When the facts are on your side, pound the law; when the law is on your side, pound the facts; when neither is on your side, pound the table. Charles Crenshaw was in the unenviable position of having neither the facts nor the law on his side.

With that introduction, here are the abstracts. They contain more genealogical information than included in the above summary.

File # 1804-006

  1. Cross-complaint of Charles Crenshaw dated April 1802?
  • Charles Crenshaw was the executor of the will of Joseph Crenshaw.
  • Slave Bess was a gift (sic, a devise in a will) from Dabney Anderson (son of Dorothy Dabney Anderson and William Anderson) to John Trice (son of Dorothy Dabney Anderson Trice and James Trice).
  • There is a gift deed in King William Co. by Dorothy Anderson giving Bess to her son William Anderson. However, if William died without children, and Dorothy was still alive, then Bess reverted to Dorothy. Deed dated 15 Feb 1720.
  • William Anderson died without children in Dorothy’s lifetime.
  • Asserts that William Trice (named as defendant) has received more than his just share from the estate of James Trice.
  • Joseph Crenshaw married the sister of John Trice. Plaintiff Charles Crenshaw, “in right of Joseph, being entitled to one moiety thereof” (e., one half of the estate of James Trice), because “the said James Trice, the father of them both (i.e., both John Trice and Joseph Crenshaw’s wife) died intestate.”
  • Seeks an accounting of James Trice’s estate.
  1. Deposition of Henry Edwards and wife Mary Edwards dated 14 Sep 1802.
  • John Trice died at less than twenty years old. Summary of this deposition in the other case says that he died less than age 21.
  • James Trice was John Trice’s father.
  • William Trice of Louisa County was a son of Mary Edwards and John Trice. William was their only child. Mary LNU Trice remarried to Henry Edwards after her husband John Trice died.
  • Mary Trice is age 77. She met James Trice when she was 9. Some researchers believe that Mary was probably nèe Anderson, a daughter of William and Dorothy Dabney Anderson. For what it’s worth, I agree.
  • Henry Edwards (Mary’s husband) was guardian of William Trice. Henry once sued James Trice on William’s behalf in a dispute concerning slaves. Henry did not recover Bess, because James Trice prevailed on his claim that he owned a life estate in Bess.
  • James Trice’s wife had died before that suit.
  • Joseph Crenshaw was the administrator of James Trice when James died.
  • Bess, the slave into dispute, came into the estate of James Trice by virtue of his marriage to Dorothy Anderson.
  1. Deposition of Susanna Crenshaw, 28 Oct 1802.
  • Dorothy Anderson who married James Trice was living in King William County about December 1742.
  1. Appraisal of the estate of James Trice, dec’d, dated 22 Feb 1769 and recorded in King William Co., April 1769.
  • Appraisers were Thomas Crenshaw, George Dabney Jr., and Thomas Baker.
  1. Answer of Defendant William Trice to Charles Crenshaw’s Cross-Complaint dated 11 May 1802.
  • Admits to 1720 gift deed of a slave from Dorothy Anderson to William Anderson and that William Anderson died without issue.
  • James Trice married Dorothy Anderson and took possession of the slave during his life.
  • About five years before William Trice was born, Dabney Anderson died leaving a will that was proved in Caroline County, James Trice, executor. Dabney Anderson’s will was presented for probate by the executor James Trice (Dabney’s stepfather) on 13 Feb. 1735/36, see Caroline Co. Order Book 1732-40 at 319.
  • Dabney Anderson’s will devised a slave to John Trice, the son of James Trice.
  • William Trice is the only child of John Trice, who died intestate at less than age 21.
  1. Gift deed dated 15 Feb 1720.
  • Deed signed by Dorothy D. Anderson, widow of William Anderson, dec’d, of St. Johns Parish, King William County.
  • Gift of slave to son William Anderson, a minor.
  • If William dies without issue and Dorothy survives him, then the slave reverts to Dorothy.
  1. Deposition of Dorothy Hicks in Albemarle Co., 23 Sep 1799.
  • Dorothy lived with James Trice from the time she was a child until a grown woman.
  • Her parents were Godney Trice and Judith Trice. Judith Trice was nèe Anderson (see receipt from Godney and Judith in File #1804-011) and was a child of William and Dorothy Dabney Anderson. Some researchers speculate that Godney Trice was a son of James Trice. However, Godney (who also appears in records as “Goodwin”) was not one of the heirs of James Trice, which means either (1) he wasn’t a son of James or (2) he did not survive James and left no children. However, Godney’s father was definitely not James Trice of King William because Godney left at least one child – Dorothy Trice Hicks – who survived James Trice. If Godney had been James’ child, Dorothy (and any other children of Godney) would have been heirs of James Trice since James died intestate. I don’t know who Godney/Goodwin’s parents were and can’t even speculate intelligently.
  • Dorothy was about 10 – 12 years old when Dabney Anderson died. That would make her b. abt. 1722-23. She is now about 67. That would make her b. abt. 1732. There is clearly some inconsistency in her testimony.
  1. Deposition of Gravet (?) Edwards, 25 Oct. 1802. Dorothy Trice was alive 5 or six years after 1727. Another deponent testified she was still alive in 1742. Another deponent testified that she died before James Trice, so she clearly died by 1769.

File #1804-011

  1. Complaint of William Trice v. Charles Crenshaw as Executor of Joseph Crenshaw
  • Plaintiff William Trice (called William Trice Sr. in various other records in these two files) was the only child of John Trice, dec’d, who was the son of James Trice.
  • Dabney Anderson of Caroline County died sometime in 1735, will dated 16 Dec 1735. Dabney appointed James Trice (the father of John Trice and grandfather of William Trice) executor of his will.
  • Dabney Anderson devised to John Trice 3 slaves in fee, including Bess. John Trice died intestate and William Trice claims the slaves under Dabney’s will.
  • James Trice administered the estate of his son John Trice.
  • John Trice, father of William, died under age (less than 21) and intestate, so that William Trice became entitled as John’s heir at law to the slaves bequeathed to John.
  • Joseph Crenshaw was administrator of James Trice’s estate. Joseph Crenshaw died and Charles Crenshaw was Joseph’s executor.
  • William Trice names Charles Crenshaw the defendant in this lawsuit.
  1. Sale, estate of James Trice.
  1. Answer of Charles Crenshaw to the complaint of William Trice dated 12 Mar 1799.
  • Admits that he is the executor of Joseph Crenshaw, who was the administrator of James Trice, who was the executor of Dabney Anderson.
  1. Inventory of the estate of Dabney Anderson dated 13 Feb 1735.
  • Signed by Joseph Woolfolk, Jos. Martin, Jacob Burrus, and James Trice. Recorded 12 Mar 1735.
  1. Two receipts on one piece of paper, both dated 25 Feb. 1736
  • Godney Trice and Judy Trice acknowleded receipt from James Trice of a slave who was a legacy given them by Dabney Anderson. Evidence that Judith Trice was Dabney’s sister.
  • Joseph Ashburn and Sarah Asburn acknowledged receipt from James Trice of “our part of Dabney’s estate,” a slave who was a legacy from “our brother Dabney Adnerson dec’d.” Evidence that Sarah Ashburn was Dabney’s sister. 

 

Part 2 of 5: James Trice of Caroline Co., VA, b. by 1712, d. Orange Co., NC by 1789.

Yesterday, I posted an introduction to a series of articles about the James Trice who first appeared in the Virginia records in a 1733 road order as a resident of Caroline County. James married as his second wife Ruth Booth (widow of Daniel Booth), and moved to Orange County, NC, where he died in late 1788 or 1789. We’re calling him James Trice of Caroline/Orange for short.

In that introduction, I posed several questions about James, all of which address what I think are misconceptions/misinformation about James Trice of Caroline/Orange. The questions begin with these two:

  1. Was Dorothy (nèe Dabney) Anderson married to James Trice of Caroline/Orange? The answer is “NO,” beyond any doubt. Dorothy was married to a different James Trice. 
  1. Was the James Trice who was married to Dorothy (nèe Dabney) Anderson the father of James Trice of Caroline/Orange? Again, the answer is “NO.” There is no doubt about that, either.

Here is one initial note before we get to the evidence. Writing this article reminded me again of some of the rules of genealogical research, to wit …

Rule #1: follow the land. If there is one thing British common law is finely honed to accomplish, it is to keep track of who owns which piece of earth. If you want to prove, e.g., that Dorothy Dabney married William Anderson about 1700, Virginia land records will do it for you.

Rule #2: keep track of county creation history. If an ancestor suddenly disappears from the records of, say, Pike County, Alabama, it might be because he moved away. Or it might be that he begins appearing instead in the records of Barbour County, which had been created from Pike County.

Rule #3: if you find a chancery court case involving your research targets, consider it golden. Cherish it. Almost everything in this article is conclusively proved by two chancery court files located in the Virginia State Library in Richmond. A very nice researcher named Rubyann Thompson Darnell pointed me toward them.

Rule #4: you have to kiss a lot of frogs to find a charming prince.

OK, back to the Trice questions. Let’s start with Dorothy Dabney Anderson’s family of origin and husband.

Dorothy was the daughter of Cornelius Dabney, who acquired land on Pouncey’s Swamp (or Pownce’s, or several other variant spellings) in the Pamunkey Neck of what was then St. John’s Parish, King & Queen County, Virginia. A committee of the Virginia Assembly “confirmed” this land to Cornelius in 1699, and also named four children who apparently claimed it under Cornelius Dabney’s will.[1] The Dabney children were James, George, Dorothy and Sarah Dabney.

In April 1701, official Virginia land patents were issued for that land to the four Dabney children.[2] By then, Dorothy had married William Anderson. The Anderson patent names both William Anderson and his wife Dorothy in a grant of land in Pamunkey Neck, St. John’s Parish, Pownce’s Swamp, adjacent land of Sarah Dabney. Sarah’s patent expressly states that her tract was adjacent to James Dabney and “land of her sister Dorothy.”

Those particular land records prove, among other things, that Dorothy Dabney, daughter of Cornelius, married William Anderson some time between 1699 and 1701, and that they owned land in St. John’s Parish in what was then King & Queen County. See Rule #1.

By early 1720, Dorothy was a widow. In February that year, she signed as “Dorothy D. Anderson” a deed of gift to her son William. The deed, which was the gift of a slave,[3] was recorded in St. John’s Parish, King William County. Dorothy Anderson had probably not moved. Instead, the county in which she and William lived had just changed when King William was created from King & Queen County in 1700. See Rule #2.

This deed, as well as numerous other records on which this article relies, can be found in two chancery court case files from Louisa County, VA. Both files concern essentially the same controversy, a claim and cross-claim between first cousins. The subject of the controversy, originally filed (as nearly as I can tell) about 1798, was the son of the slave named in the 1720 gift deed from Dorothy to her son William. The Library of Virginia, bless its heart, has digitized those records and made them available online. See Rule #3.

I will summarize my abstracts of relevant records from those files in the next article in this Trice series. If you are interested in them and can’t wait for abstracts, the files are designated Louisa County Chancery cases, index number 1804-006 and 1811-011. Be advised that you will wade through a considerable amount of dross while searching for the gold. See Rule #4.

The files are available online here: #1804-006. And here: #1804-011

Here are two things the chancery court dispute conclusively proves.[4]

  • Dorothy Dabney Anderson, widow of William Anderson, married as her second husband James Trice of King William County. Let’s call him James Trice of King William.[5]
  • Dorothy’s husband James Trice died intestate and his estate was appraised on 22 February 1769 in King William County.

There is no doubt that James Trice of King William was not the same man as James Trice of Caroline/Orange, who died in Orange County in 1788-89.[6] James Trice of Caroline/Orange had left Virginia some time in 1756, when he last appeared in the Caroline County records.[7] He was definitely a resident of North Carolina by no later than 1759.[8] He was still living in North Carolina when the other James Trice died in Virginia.

To turn this into a syllogism:

  1. James Trice of King William (d. by 1769) was not the same man as James Trice of Caroline/Orange (d. by 1789);
  2. James Trice of King William was indisputably the husband of Dorothy Dabney Anderson;
  3. Therefore, James Trice of Caroline/Orange did not marry Dorothy Dabney Anderson. The answer to Question #1 is “NO.”

There is more that the chancery court records prove.

  • James and Dorothy Dabney Anderson Trice had two, and only two, children who have any descendants: John Trice and a daughter, probably Martha Trice.
  • John Trice married Mary LNU and died intestate before age 21. John and Mary had only one child, William Trice, who was one of the claimants in the Louisa county chancery court dispute.
  • James and Dorothy’s other child was a daughter, possibly named Martha, who married Joseph Crenshaw. Joseph and Martha’s son Charles Crenshaw was the cross-claimant in the Louisa chancery court case.

If James and Dorothy Trice had any children besides John and Martha, that child (or children) must have died before 1769 and cannot themselves have had any children who were still alive as of 1769. James Trice’s 1769 King William estate was equally inherited by Joseph Crenshaw (“in right of his wife” Martha) and John Trice’s son William. Because James Trice died without a will, the Virginia law of intestate descent and distribution required that all of his children (or children of a deceased child) share in his estate. Thus, Joseph and Martha Crenshaw (daughter of James Trice) and William Trice (son of John Trice and grandson of James Trice), the only heirs, were James Trice’s only surviving heirs.

Because James Trice of Caroline/Orange was not one of the heirs of James of King William, James Trice of Caroline/Orange cannot have been a son (or grandson) of James Trice of King William and Dorothy Dabney Anderson. The answer to Question #2 is also “NO.”

And that’s all the news that’s fit on print on the first two Trice issues. Please don’t go away, though. As far as Trice controversies are concerned, we have just begun to fight.

[1] Louis des Cognets, Jr., English Duplicates of Lost Virginia Records (Princeton, NJ: 1958).

[2] Marion Nell Nugent, Cavaliers and Pioneers Volume 3: 1695-1732 (Richmond: Virginia State Library,1979) at 46 (abstract of VA Patent Book 9 at 350, 351 and 352).

[3] It pains me considerably to type words showing that some human beings were considered property and could be given by one owner to another.

[4] State Library of Virginia, online chancery court records, Louisa County files indexed as #1804-006 and #1804-011. Records in the two files include the complaint of William Trice and the cross-claim of Charles Crenshaw, William’s answer to the cross-claim, Charles’ answer to the original complaint, 1720 gift deed from Dorothy D. Anderson to her minor son William Anderson, inventory and appraisal of the estate of William Anderson dated 25 Jun 1719, deposition of Henry Edward and his wife Mary (who married John Trice, son of James Trice of King William, and was the mother of William Trice, the plaintiff), appraisal of the estate of James Trice (22 Feb 1769, King William County), 1735 Caroline County inventory of the estate of Dabney Anderson (James Trice, executor), and numerous other deposition notices and the usual detritus of lawsuits.

[5] In addition to the Louisa Co. chancery files, there is other proof that Dorothy Dabney Anderson married James Trice. See will of Susanna Anderson (widow of Cornelius Dabney who remarried to a Mr. Anderson after Cornelius died) dated 4 Mary 1722 and recorded 5 Feb 1724, Hanover Will Book I: 632. The original will book was lost, but a copy of the will was re-filed in 22 Dec 1868. Susanna’s will names her grandson William Anderson (the donee in Dorothy’s 1720 gift deed), William Anderson’s stepfather James Trice, and Susannah’s children Cornelius Dabney, Dorothy Trice (identified as the wife of James Trice), and Mary Carr (wife of Thomas Carr).

[6] Feb 1788 or Feb 1789 (year not clear) entry in Orange County, NC Minute Book IV: 98, original viewed by R. Willis at the NC Archives.

[7] John Frederick Dorman, Caroline County, Virginia Order Book 1755 – 1758, Part One, 1755 – 1756 (Washington, D.C.: 1976), abstract of 8 Apr 1756 entry mentioning lease and release from James Trice and wife Ruth, at p. 160 of the Order Book.

[8] Weynette Parks Haun, Orange County, North Carolina, Court Minutes 1752 -1761, Book I (Durham, NC: 1991), abstract of Sep 1759 court minutes, jury ordered to lay out a road from the Great Road to Cape Fear where James Trice lives. Jury included James Trice, Edward Trice and John Trice.