My hair’s on fire: “just the facts, ma’am”

The title of this post doesn’t do justice to the Southern roots of the “hair” idiom. It should be rendered phonetically: “mah har’s on far.”

What does it mean? It is clearly intended to convey a sense of urgency. A feeling of being overwhelmed gets to the essence.

The Rankin families of the Northern Neck of Virginia are guaranteed fire starters in the “overwhelming” sense. There are too many Rankin records in too many counties, with too many interconnected families[1] along for the ride. There is also a prodigious amount of hogwash about at least one of these Rankins.

I flailed about in county records (no hogwash there) for Northern Neck Rankins several years ago. Mah har caught far and I abandoned them on some flimsy pretext. This time around, I vowed to limit my research to Robert Rankin (1753-1837), a Revolutionary War soldier buried in the Texas State Cemetery in Austin. Lieutenant was his highest rank in the Revolution, so I will call him Lt. Robert. My sole objective was to prove his parents. Spoiler alert: hahahahaha …

Lt. Robert’s story has several parts. I plan to spread them out over several posts along the following lines:

  • This post, subtitled “just the facts, ma’am,” invokes Sgt. Joe Friday of “Dragnet.”[2] With him in mind, you can take to the bank the facts in this post about Lt. Robert and his children. There is one exception: a legend regarding events that took place in 1936, when Lt. Robert’s remains were removed from Coldspring, Texas to the Texas State Cemetery. Like most oral retellings, it probably contains elements of both truth and fiction. You be the judge.
  • Next, a post titled “Lt. Robert Rankin: fact vs. fiction.” It will include information about the military unit in which he served, as well as additional material from his 117-page pension file. As a contrast, we will include some outrageous claims from his family’s oral history. If you want to continue believing that Lt. Robert was at Valley Forge, you might want to skip that post.
  • Third, the pièce de résistance: “Who were Lt. Robert Rankin’s parents?” That article’s appeal may be limited to genealogists who enjoy solving puzzles by analyzing many pieces of information – or at least giving it the old college try. You can decide whether any (or none) of the proposed answers are satisfactory.

Let’s start with an article about Lt. Robert in the Handbook of Texas Online.[3] It succinctly covers the essential facts and includes some informative links.[4]

 “RANKIN, ROBERT (1753–1837). Revolutionary War veteran Robert Rankin was born in the colony of Virginia in 1753. He entered the service of the Continental Army in 1776 with the Third Regiment of the Virginia line and participated in the battles of Germantown, Brandywine, and Stony Point, as well as the siege of Charleston, where he was captured; he remained a prisoner of war until exchanged, at which time he received a promotion to lieutenant. On October 1, 1781, during a furlough, he married Margaret (Peggy) Berry in Frederick County, Virginia. He returned to active duty on October 15 and served until the war’s end. Robert and Margaret Rankin had three daughters and seven sons, one of whom was Frederick Harrison Rankin. The family moved to Kentucky in 1784. In 1786 Rankin was named by the Virginia legislature as one of nine trustees for the newly established town of Washington, in Bourbon County (later Mason County), Kentucky. In 1792 he served as a delegate from Mason County to the Danville Convention, which drafted the first constitution of Kentucky. He also became an elector of the Kentucky Senate of 1792. The last mention of Rankin in Mason County, Kentucky, is in the 1800 census. The Rankins moved to Logan County, Kentucky, in 1802 and to the Tombigbee River in Mississippi Territory in 1811; the area of their home eventually became Washington County, Alabama. Four of the Rankin sons fought in the War of 1812. The family suffered a severe financial reversal around 1819–20, probably in conjunction with land speculation and the panic of 1819. In July 1828 Rankin first made an application for a pension for his Revolutionary War service.

In 1832 the Rankins moved to Joseph Vehlein‘s colony in Texas, along with the William Butler and Peter Cartwright families. Rankin was issued a certificate of character by Jesse Grimes on November 3, 1834, as required by the Mexican government. He applied for a land grant in Vehlein’s colony on November 13 of the same year and received a league and labor in October 1835.[5] The town of Coldspring, San Jacinto County, is located on Rankin’s original grant. Rankin had the reputation of being a just and diplomatic man. He was a friend of Sam Houston, and his influence with the Indians in the region was well known. Houston reputedly called upon him in the spring of 1836 to encourage neutrality among the Indians during the crucial Texan retreat toward San Jacinto. Toward the end of 1836 Rankin became ill, and he and his wife moved to St. Landry parish, Louisiana, where he died on November 13, 1837.[6] His body was brought back to the family home near Coldspring, in the new Republic of Texas, and buried in the old Butler Cemetery. In 1936 he was reinterred at the State Cemetery in Austin. His widow lived in Texas with her sons, William and Frederick, in Polk, Montgomery, and Liberty counties until her death sometime after December 1852.”

Besides being a Lieutenant in the Revolutionary War, Lt. Robert was a Colonel in the Kentucky militia, commander of a group of scouts.[7] He was a clerk of court in Mason County.[8] Lt. Robert was plainly an accomplished, admired, and well-liked man. The documents in the huge pension file establish that Peggy and her sons were also highly regarded. The couple lived in Frederick County, VA; Bourbon, Mason, and Logan Counties, KY (Bourbon and Mason while they were still part of the “Kentucky District, State of Virginia); Mississippi Territory; Washington Co., AL; Texas Territory when it was still part of Mexico; the Republic of Texas; and St. Landry Parish, LA, where Lt. Robert died.[9] Peggy also lived in the state of Texas after it was admitted to the Union in 1845.

Lt. Robert and Peggy Rankin’s three daughters and seven sons are conclusively proved. The first eight children and their dates of birth are established by a transcribed page from the family Bible that is included in Peggy’s 1844 application for a widow’s pension.[10] Peggy’s will named the two children who weren’t included in the Bible record.[11]  The ten children:

  1. Thomas Berry Rankin (Sr.) was born in Virginia, 17 May 1783; he was named for his maternal grandfather. He and his younger brother Joseph both died in 1813 at Ft. Mims during the Redstick War.[12] Thomas B. and/or Joseph Rankin had sons (and perhaps other children) who also came to Texas prior to its independence from Mexico in March 1836. Character certificates in the Texas General Land Office provide their likely identities: James Rankin Jr. and William Rankin.[13]
  2. Elizabeth Rankin was born 27 Jan 1785, also in Virginia. I have found no further record of Elizabeth. She may have been one of the four Rankin children who had died before Peggy Rankin filed her 1844 pension application.
  3. William Marshall Rankin was born 24 Aug 1786 in Bourbon Co., VA.[14] His wife was Sarah Landrum. Four related Rankin/Landrum families all arrived in Texas in January, 1830:[15] (1) William Marshall and Sarah Landrum Rankin, (2) Sarah’s parents Zachariah and Lettice Landrum, (3) William’s sister Frances Rankin Huburt and her husband M. Huburt, and (4) a second William Rankin, who was almost certainly a son of one of the two Rankins who died at Ft. Mims. William and Sarah Landrum Rankin were in Montgomery Co., TX in the 1850 census.
  4. Joseph Rankin was born 4 Nov 1788 in Kentucky. He died at Ft. Mims.[16]
  5. John Keith Rankin fought in the War of 1812d; he was born 5 Jan 1791 in Kentucky. He and his wife Elizabeth Butler moved from Washington Co., Alabama to Hinds County, Mississippi (later Rankin County, which was not named for John Keith). The couple moved to Texas during the 1840s, lived briefly in Polk County, then moved to DeWitt County. He died there on 17 Nov 1884. He and Elizabeth had eight children: (1) Moses Butler, (2) Mary, (3) Masena, (4) James, (5) Samuel, (6) Mary Ann, (7) Robert, and (8) Malinda Rankin.[17]
  6. James Rankin Sr.[18] was born 27 Jun 1792 in Kentucky. He died in Texas before 26 Apr 1847, when his mother Peggy wrote her will naming her grandchildren John B. Rankin, Berry Rankin, Peggy Rankin, and Rebecca Rankin, children of her son James Rankin, dec’d.[19]
  7. Frederick Harrison Rankin was born Feb. 15, 1794 in Kentucky and died July 2, 1874 in Ellis County, Texas. He received title to land that is now in Harris County as one of Stephen F. Austin’s “Old Three Hundred” colonists. He is on one or more 1826 tax lists in “Austins Colony, Texas Territory” and/or “Austin, Mexicounty Territory.”[20] In 1936, Texas erected a joint monument to Frederick and his wife Elizabeth Smith in the Myrtle Cemetery in Ennis, Ellis Co., TX. Frederick and Elizabeth had eight children: (1) Harriet, (2) Robert S., (3) Napoleon Bonaparte, (4) Emily, (5) Mollie, (6) Alexander, (7) Austin, and (8) a child who died as an infant. [21]
  8. Henry Rankin was born 7 Feb 1796 in Kentucky. I found no further record for Henry. He may have been one of the four Rankin children who had died by 1844.
  9. Massena Rankin McCombs, wife of Samuel McCombs.[22] Her first husband was a Mr. Brown.
  10. Frances Rankin Hubert also came to Texas in 1830.[23]

Finally, I promised a story about the removal of Lt. Robert’s remains from Coldspring, Texas to the Texas State Cemetery in 1936. I heard it from Mary Buller, a serious Rankin researcher descended from Lt. Robert and Peggy through one of their sons who died at Ft. Mims. Mary heard the story in a telephone conversation with a woman I will call “Faye.” If Faye is still alive, she is in her nineties. She is (or was) a local historian in Coldspring, TX.

Faye said that the family’s side of the re-interment project was spearheaded by a “hoity-toity DAR type,” despite opposition from Lt. Robert’s descendants still living in the Coldspring area. The DAR lady was insistent. The descendants capitulated.[24]

Faye told Mary she doesn’t believe that Lt. Robert is actually buried in the Texas State Cemetery. Instead, she thought, his remains probably didn’t make it back to Texas from Louisiana. She explained that during the 1936 disinterment at the Butler Cemetery in Coldspring, the coffin fell open and a skeleton toppled out. Family members and curiosity seekers were there, according to Faye. The men rushed to put the remains back in the coffin. One man, a dentist, opined that the skeleton’s teeth were not those of an 80-year-old man. They were more like the teeth of a man in his thirties, he said.

According to Faye, the family remained silent – in my imagination, they were all dressed in black and had somber, stoic expressions – and the removal continued. Faye thought that lack of refrigeration in 1837 would have discouraged shipping Lt. Robert’s remains from St. Landry Parish to Coldspring, a distance of more than 200 miles. She didn’t have an opinion on who is buried in the Texas State Cemetery, but the dental evidence convinced her it isn’t Lt. Robert.

There is also the possibility of poor grave location records in what was initially a family cemetery.

Take that for what it’s worth: oral history from someone who was old enough to have heard it from a participant. It may be the most colorful family legend I’ve ever heard.

More to come on Lt. Robert. See you on down the road.

Robin

[1] Families connected to the Northern Neck Rankins include Woffendalls (various spellings), Marshalls, Harrisons, Berrys, Keiths, Kendalls, and Keys.

[2] The original “Dragnet” aired during the 1950s. If you didn’t get the reference, you are clearly younger than I. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dragnet_(1951_TV_series)

[3] Ann Patton Malone, Handbook of Texas Online, “RANKIN, ROBERT,” accessed January 31, 2020, https://tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fra40.

[4] I must comment on the link to the state cemetery in Austin, lest your preconceived notions about Texas get even worse. Andrew Forest Muir, Handbook of Texas Online, STATE CEMETERY, accessed Feb. 18, 2020, https://tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/les02. The Handbook cites a 1970 article from the Austin American Statesman. The article sounds as though the cemetery is populated entirely by old white men and Confederate soldiers. Although that is substantially correct numerically, it doesn’t include recent notable additions. Governor Ann Richards is buried there, with a characteristically unique, swirly, white marble tombstone. So is Don Baylor, an African-American who was a member of the 1987 World Series champion Minnesota Twins and American League MVP in 1989. Representative Barbara Jordan is also buried there. Her oratory and distinctive voice at the 1974 Watergate hearings in the House Judiciary Committee are unforgettable (“My faith in the Constitution is whole, it is total, it is complete …”). Tom Landry and Darrell Royal are also buried in the State Cemetery, introduction probably not necessary. There is a tombstone for former Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson, still living, and her husband, who died in 2014. A former Harris County GOP bigwig said the Senator was “so tough you could strike a match on her backside.” Having survived the oil and gas business from 1974-1987, it seems to me that is probably a truism for most women our age who worked in non-traditional professions.

[5] “League” and “labor” refer to the acreage in a grant. A labor was 177 acres and a league was 4,428 acres.  https://tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fau14

[6] All sources agree that Lt. Robert died in November, 1837. However, three different specific dates appear in his pension file, number w26365 (cited hereafter as “Pension File;” images are available online at Fold.3/Ancestry.) Peggy’s 1844 pension declaration gives Lt. Robert’s date of death as November 13.  I would bet she knew exactly what day her husband of 56 years died. Pension File p. 15 et seq.

[7] Robert enlisted in the Revolutionary War as a private, was promoted to Ensign, and ended the war as a Lieutenant. If you don’t have a Fold.3/Ancestry subscription so that you can view the entire Pension File, see Will Graves’ partial transcription at https://revwarapps.org/w26365.pdf. See also Murtie June Clark, American Militia in the Frontier Wars, 1790-1796 (Baltimore: Clearfield Publishing Co., Inc., 1990) at p. 1, identifying a regiment of scouts for Mason Co., KY commanded by Col. Robert Rankin.

[8] See, e.g., Mason Co., KY Deed Book A: 171, deed dated 26 Nov 1789 from the trustees of Charles Town in Mason Co. (including Robert Rankins) to Henry Berry, lots in Charleston. The Clerk of Court was Robert Rankins.

[9] I began inserting footnotes proving that Lt. Robert actually resided in all of those places. It quickly got out of hand, partly because jurisdictions changed even though the location may not have. With one excessively long footnote already (the comments on the Texas State Cemetery), I decided to omit the citations. If anyone needs evidence, you know how to reach me.

[10] Transcription from Rankin Bible. Pension File at p. 24. This was obviously not a verbatim transcription: the transcribed added “Sr.” to the names of Thomas Berry and James Rankin. Those designations would not have been added until a later generation of the family had men by those names.

[11] Will of Peggy Rankin dated 26 Apr 1847, proved 25 Oct 1858, Polk Co., TX, Will Book A: 28. Peggy made bequests to her sons Frederick H. Rankin and William M. Rankin and daughters Frances Huburt and Massena McCombs. She also named grandchildren John B. Rankin, Berry Rankin, Peggy Rankin, and Rebecca Rankin, children of her deceased son James Rankin. She appointed her sons William M. and John executors.

[12] See, e.g., Gregory A. Waselkov, A Conquering Spirit: Fort Mims and the Redstick War of 1813-1814 (Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press, 2006), Appendix #1, p. 250-51. It identifies Joseph Rankin as a “Tombigbee resident, born in Kentucky, brother of Thomas Berry Rankin.” The book also lists Thomas B. among those who died at Ft. Mims. The book has two errors about the Rankin family. First, it identifies Joseph and Thomas B.’s father as “Richard Robert Rankin.” I’ve never seen a record in which Lt. Robert appears by any name other than Robert, and there are many records for this man. Second, the book names Lt. Robert’s wife as “Margaret Kendall Rankin.” I have found no evidence for that middle name, either. I am 99% certain that both “Richard” and “Kendall” are incorrect.

[13] See Gifford E. White, Character Certificates in the General Land Office of Texas (Austin: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1985). White’s (apparently assigned) No. 1660 says: “San Felipe de Austin, 10 Jun 1830. To Mr. S. F. Austin, Empresario. I have emigrated to this Colony… my name is James Rankin. Age 22 years. Single. My father is dead and I have no parent in this Country to represent me. I removed from Alabama, arrived in this colony in 1827. Occupation farmer. Signed James Rankin Junior.” See also No. 1663, “To Mr. S. F. Austin, Empressario (no date). I have emigrated to this Colony. William Rankin 21 years old. Unmarried. An orphan. From Alabama and arrived in this colony in January 1830.” See also Note 15: William Rankin, age 21, arrived in Texas the same month as his likely uncle William Marshall Rankin, likely aunt Frances Rankin Huburt, and William M. Rankin’s in-laws, Zachariah and Lettice Landrum.

[14] The Handbook of Texas Online (see Note 3) says that the Rankin family moved to Kentucky in 1784, suggesting that William Marshall Rankin, born in 1786, was born there. However, the 1850 census for Polk Co., TX identifies William M.’s birth state as Virginia, muddying the issue. The explanation is that William was born in what was then the state of Virginia but is now Mason Co., KY. See G. Glenn Clift, History of Maysville and Mason County, Volume 1 (Lexington, KY: Transylvania Printing Company, Inc., 1936) p. 56. Two days before William was born, Lt. Robert signed a petition from the town of Washington in “the Kentucky area of Virginia” in what was then Bourbon Co., District of KY, state of Virginia. Thanks to Kevin Thompson for the correct information and the source.

[15] Villamae Williams, Stephen F. Austin’s Register Of Families, From The Originals In The General Land Office, Austin, Texas (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1989). Entry No. 392, M. Hubert, 34, wife Frances (Lt. Robert and Peggy’s youngest child), 32, and 2 daughters came from Alabama and arrived in Texas in Jan. 1830; No. 393, Wm. R. Rankin, 43, wife Sarah, 33, two sons, and 2 daughters came from Alabama and arrived in Texas in Jan. 1830; No. 394, Zachariah Landrum, 64, and wife Lettuce (sic, Lettice), came from Alabama and arrived in Texas in Jan. 1830; and No. 395, William Rankin, 21, single, came from Alabama and arrived in Jan. 1830. Records also available online at Ancestry.

[16] See Note 12.

[17] Information for John Keith and Elizabeth Butler Rankin was provided to Louis Wiltz Kemp, a Texas historian, by May Myers Calloway, John Keith’s great-granddaughter. Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas, Austin, papers of Louis Wiltz Kemp, Box 2R232, General Biographical Notebooks, Ranb-Reavis. Viewed Feb. 8, 2020. Cited hereafter as “Kemp papers, Box 2R232.”

[18] A pension abstract by Virgil White and a transcription by Will Graves both show James in the Bible page transcription as James Junior. The image in the Pension File (page 24) appeared to me that both James Rankin and Thomas Berry Rankin were designated as “Sr.” In any event, James, son of Lt. Robert and Peggy, appeared in all other records I found as “Sr.”

[19] See Polk Co., TX, Will Book A: 28, will of Peggy Rankin naming children of her son James Rankin, dec’d: John B. Rankin, Berry Rankin, Peggy Rankin, and Rebecca Rankin.

[20] Online images of tax lists at Ancestry. Frederick Harrison’s family was listed in Polk County, TX in the 1850 census. In 1860 and 1870, they were enumerated in Ellis County, TX.

[21] Kemp papers, Box 2R232.

[22] See Note 11 and the 1850 census of Polk Co., TX, household of S. McCombs, 60, farmer, b. SC, Mathinia [sic] McCombs, 45, b. KY, Jas. McCombs, 14, Mary McCombs, 12, Elizabeth McCombs, 10, and Martha Brown, 18. All children born in Texas. Martha Brown was Massena’s child from a prior marriage.

[23] See Note 15.

[24] There is correspondence about permission for the re-interment among the Kemp papers. I failed to make notes about it when I looked at them. The next time I’m in Austin, I will remedy that error. It might confirm my strong suspicion about the identity of the hoity-toity DAR type.

Friendship Andrew Willis – Part II, the Last Man Standing

Researcher Ann Wilson recently received Y-DNA results for two male Willis cousins that placed her lineage within “The Maryland Group” in the Willis DNA Project. That lineage descends from “Wantage John” Willis, died 1712, who occupied 50 acres called Wantage in Dorchester County, Maryland. Ann’s paper trail, however, leads to “Friendship Andrew” Willis, died 1777, who is not currently tied to Wantage John. Those facts launched the search for Andrew’s parents among a couple of Willis families. Part I of this analysis posted earlier concluded that Andrew Willis did not descend from the family of Quaker Richard Willis.

Part I Recap

The analysis showed the following as to Friendship Andrew:

    • He may have been born between 1720 and 1730, or likely sooner.
    • His first appearance may have been 1743 when an Andrew Willis posted a bastardy bond.
    • He was a planter of Dorchester County when he bought land called Friendship in 1753.
    • Friendship was located in Caroline County after 1773.
    • Friendship Andrew died in late 1777 or early 1778.
    • His eldest son distributed per his father’s direction Friendship Andrew’s land among five heirs including four surviving sons.
    • Andrew was likely Quaker. Two of his sons were Nicholite, or New Quakers, a sect which later merged with the Quaker

And as to the Quaker Richard Willis family:

    • Quaker Richard had a daughter Frances and sons Richard II and John:
      • Richard II had a daughter Mary and a son Richard III, who had no children.
      • John had no children.
    • Quaker Richard “daughtered out” with no male descendants beyond Richard III.
    • Friendship Andrew is not descended from Quaker Richard.

Part II

This post continues the search for Friendship Andrew’s parents within Wantage John Willis’s family. This analysis will try to eliminate men who could not have fathered Friendship Andrew, concluding with “the last man standing” as his parent. Wantage John had four sons:

    • Andrew – six known sons, one named Andrew
    • William – possible sons William and Thomas
    • Thomas – no children
    • John Jr. – six known sons, none named Andrew

Neither Andrew Willis, Son or Grandson of Wantage John, is Friendship Andrew

Andrew Willis, son of Wantage John, was born in 1690.[1] His well-documented family lived in southern Dorchester County, and he died in 1738.[2] He had a son named Andrew born around 1719, about the right time to be Friendship Andrew.[3] However, that son Andrew lived until at least 1781 in southern Dorchester, not the part that became Caroline County in 1773.[4] Moreover, young Andrew was not Quaker. Three of his children were baptized at Old Trinity Church between 1768 and 1775. His children were not the known sons of Friendship Andrew.[5] Therefore, neither Andrew Willis born 1690 nor his son is Friendship Andrew.

William Willis, Son of Wantage John May Be Friendship Andrew’s Father

William inherited the family homestead under Wantage John’s 1712 will and lived there with his wife Judith (neéSeward/Soward). In 1734, they sold the property to Judith’s brother Richard.[6] Dorchester records do not show them buying or inheriting other land. However, deed records show they gave a deposition in 1748 about the boundaries of a tract in the Neck Region of Dorchester County.[7] William testified he had known the property for about 25 years near Hudson’s Creek. William and Judith must have moved there even before they sold Wantage, maybe as early as 1723. Such a move makes sense because Judith’s family owned land in that region.

Dorchester records do not show William and Judith had any children. However, two deed book entries indicate they may have had sons. In 1764, a sale of land on Hudson’s Creek locates the tract at the head of Willis’s Cove near where William Willis lives.[8] This reference could be to William husband of Judith, or it could be to a son of that couple. Second, a Thomas Willis gave a 1784 deposition about the boundaries of Bridge North, property of William Soward.[9] At the time, Thomas was about 70 years old, therefore born about 1714. He stated he had been shown one boundary marker of the tract about 30 years ago. Thomas is the right age to be a son of William and Judith.

Beyond those two instances, the records give no clue about children of William and Judith. Regardless, the couple is the right age to have had a child Andrew, a relatively common name among William’s extended family.

One factor not in their favor, besides the lack of circumstantial evidence, is geography. Friendship Andrew Willis in 1753 purchased land a considerable distance from the Neck Region of Dorchester County. That distance brings into question how a son of William would know about the land or the owner from whom he bought it. Two siblings, Thomas and John Jr., lived much closer to Andrew’s land purchase and are thus more geographically desirable.

 Thomas Willis, Son of Wantage John, Is Not the Father of Friendship Andrew

Thomas and Grace Willis are not Friendship Andrew’s parents. They are in the right place, the part of Dorchester County that became Caroline. However, there are no children in the record and circumstantial evidence indicates there were none.

No Children in the Record

In 1717, Thomas Willis purchased 50 acres of land, one half of a tract called Sharp’s Prosperity, adjacent his brother John Jr. in what would become Caroline County. Thomas died intestate in 1722, and Grace Willis administered his estate. His brothers Andrew Willis and John Willis signed the inventory of his estate as kindred. John was on the adjoining property. Andrew was not too distant, living at the time on Shoal Creek some fifteen miles away. The record does not state whether Grace Willis is Thomas’s widow or his sister, nor does it indicate if he had children. However, the inventory of Thomas’s estate lists only one bed and bedstead suggesting Grace is his widow, and they were childless.[10]

Land Records Also Suggest No Children

The ownership history of Sharp’s Prosperity also suggests the couple had no children. Various parties paid the rents on the tract after Thomas’s death.[11] The last such entry, thirty-four years after Thomas’s death, shows payment by “heirs of Thomas Willis.”[12] If Thomas and Grace had children, those children would be the heirs. If there were a single child, that child at maturity would have taken over the land and payment of rents, which did not happen. If there were multiple children, they likely would have sold the land and divided the proceeds. The record shows no such sale.

If there were no children, Thomas’s siblings and his spouse would be the heirs. In that case, Grace may have been living on the tract, and her in-laws farmed the land and helped pay the rents. The debt books show no rent payments after 1756.[13]Upon non-payment of rents the land reverted to the proprietor. We do not know why the heirs quit making payments. Possibly, Grace died. Also, her brother-in-law John Jr. acquired some additional land in 1756. Both of those events would be reason to let the land go.

Clues in the Probate Record

Thomas’s probate record reveals a couple more facts about Grace. First, she was not a Quaker. The inventory states that she took an “oath on the Holy Evangels”, that is, swore on the Bible, that her inventory filing was true and correct. Quakers did not swear on the Bible, they “affirmed” or “testified according to law” and the record usually noted that fact. The couple’s religious affiliation is significant because Friendship Andrew was probably Quaker. Two of his sons were members of the Nicholites, or “New Quakers.”

Secondly, Grace’s maiden name may have been Bexley. Her administration bond listed William Woods and William Bexley as sureties.[14] Normally, bondsmen assuring probate administration performance included one or more relatives and, if necessary, a non-relative wealthy enough to be good for the bonded amount. It surprised me to see no Willis as a surety. In 1693, a William Bexley in Talbot County made a will naming a son William. That son may be the listed bondsman.

Thomas’s estate inventory shows total assets of only £12.10.4, including a debt William Bexley owed the estate of 2 shillings, 4 pence. William Bexley’s debt suggests he may be a relative. No one else owed money to the estate. In colonial Maryland, wealthy people loaned money on a regular basis. Non-wealthy people like Thomas Willis did not, except to family. However, Thomas’s inventory of cobbler tools and leather shows he was probably a shoemaker. One explanation for the debt might be that Bexley bought a pair of boots and had not yet paid for them. We just do not know. However, we do know that there are no hints in the record that Thomas and Grace had children or that they were Quaker.

All things considered, we can be relatively certain that Thomas and Grace were not Friendship Andrew’s parents.

John Willis Jr. Could Be Friendship Andrew’s Grandfather

John Willis Jr. had six sons, none named Andrew. However, his eldest son John III is a candidate to be Friendship Andrew’s father. John Willis III was born to John Jr. and his first wife Mary about 1704.[15]  Documentary evidence does not help us here. History does not record a marriage, land purchase, children, or even the death of John III.

If John III were Anglican, the records of St. Mary’s White Chapel Parish might have that information. However, those records do not survive. If Quaker, John III likely would have attended Marshy Creek Meeting established in 1727 near his family’s home. However, I cannot find records of that meeting. Other meetings he may have attended such as Northwest Fork Meeting do not record his name.

John III died sometime after 1771, likely during the period 1776-1790 when there is a gap in the Caroline County probate records. If Friendship Andrew were born between 1724 and 1732, John III was about 21 to 29 years old at that time. That makes John III a reasonable candidate to be his father. John III is the only son of John Jr. that fits as a possibility. The other sons are either too young or their families are well documented and do not include a son Andrew.

 Conclusion – The Last Man Standing

Two of Wantage John’s four sons cannot be the forebearer of Friendship Andrew:

    • Direct evidence shows Friendship Andrew did not descend from Wantage John’s son Andrew.
    • Solid circumstantial evidence rules out son Thomas.

That leaves William and John Jr.

    • Son William is geographically undesirable but has a proved marriage and likely children. William could be Friendship Andrew’s father.
    • Son John Jr. had a son John III the right age to be Friendship Andrew’s father. John III is in the right place at the right time, but nothing else in the record argues either way as to his parentage.

Between William and John III, the latter is more likely the father of Friendship Andrew based on location, but we cannot prove it. Possibly down the road more facts will emerge. Until then we have two “last men standing,” and cannot conclusively prove either one.

 

[1] Dorchester County Deed Book 8 Old 404 – 4 Sep 1730, Deposition of Andrew Willis, aged about 40.

[2] Maryland Will Book 21:918 – 24 May 1733, Will of Andrew Willis submitted to probate 23 Aug 1738

[3] Birth year estimated.

[4] Dorchester County Deed Book 28 Old 356 – 22 Sep 1781, Andrew Willis of Dorchester County, planter, purchased  for £60 current money 49½ acres from Benedick Meekins of Dorchester County, planter, and Mary his wife, being part of a tract called Addition to Adventure and part of a tract called Adventure

[5] Palmer, Katherine H., transcribed Baptism Record, Old Trinity Protestant Episcopal Church, Church Creek, MD, Cambridge, MD – Children of Andrew and Sarah Willis: Andrew 12 Feb 1768; Keziah 12 Oct 1770; George 3 Dec 1775.

[6] Dorchester County Deed Book 9 Old 214 – ­­­­15 Aug 1734, William Willis and wife Judeth of Dorchester County, planter, for £6 current money sell to Richard Seward of Dorchester County 50 acres called Wantage near the head of Blackwater River adjoining Littleworth. Signed William (M) Willis, Judeth (+) Willis

[7] Dorchester County Deed Book 14 Old 658 – 3 Sep 1748 Judah [sic Judith] (+) Willis age 50 stated she had heard of the tracts Rosses Range and David Ropies but did not know the bounders; Wm (M) Willis age 52 stated he has known the place for 25 years but not the bounders.

[8] Dorchester County Deed Book 19 Old 343 – 11 Jun 1764, John Taylor Sr. of Dorchester County, Merchant., to Nicholas Maccubbin of Annapolis, Merchant for £285.14.6, three tracts totaling 291 acres on Hodsons Creek, at the head of Willis’s Cove near where Wm. Willis lives.

[9] Dorchester County Deed Book NH 5:259 – 4 Dec 1784, Deposition of Thomas Willis, aged about 70, regarding the boundaries of Bridge North, property of William Seward/Soward.

[10] Perogative Court of Maryland Inventories, 9:9 – Inventory of the Estate of Thomas Willis, 15 Oct 1722.

[11] Skinner, V.L. Jr., Abstracts of the Debt Books of the Provincial Land Office of Maryland, Dorchester County, Volume I and II, Genealogical Publishing Company: Baltimore, MD, 2016

[12] Ibid, Vol II, p 234, 1756, Book 20:159, Heirs of Thomas Willis, Sharp’s Prosperity, 50 acres.

[13] Ibid, Vol I and II, Rent entries, which include the years 1758, 1766, 1767, and 1770, show no property named Sharps Prosperity nor any payments on behalf of Thomas Willis.

[14] Testamentary Proceedings of the Perogative Court of Maryland, 26:77, on 28 Nov 1722 John Pitts, gentleman, of Dorchester County exhibited bond of Grace Wallis administratrix of Thomas Wallis. Sureties William Bexley, William Woods, dated 29 Sep 1722. Also filed inventory of the estate.

[15] Dorchester County Deed Book 25 Old 26, 13 Nov 1770 -2 Aug 1771, Deposition of John Willis the Elder of Dorchester Co, aged about 67 years, mentions his father John Willis and a bounder of land called Painters Range on Hunting Creek Mill Pond.

Friendship Andrew Willis – Mystery Man, Part I

Researcher Ann Wilson recently received Y-DNA results for two male Willis cousins that placed her lineage within “The Maryland Group” in the Willis DNA Project. That lineage descends from John Willis, died 1712, who occupied 50 acres called Wantage in Dorchester County, Maryland. We refer to him as Wantage John. Ann’s paper trail, however, leads to Andrew Willis, died 1777, who is not currently tied to Wantage John. This article explores how John and Andrew might be related.

What We Know About Andrew

In 1753, Andrew Willis “of Dorchester County, Planter,” bought a 28-acre tract for £6.10.00 in Dorchester called Friendship, so let’s call him Friendship Andrew.[1] He was therefore a resident of the county at the time of the purchase. He was not a yeoman farmer who tilled the land. A “Planter” had others, sometimes enslaved people, doing the hard work. Frustratingly, Dorchester records do not show Friendship Andrew before 1753, so there is no indication how he qualified as a “Planter.”Friendship Andrew’s first appearance in the record may have been ten years earlier. In 1743, an Andrew Willis posted a bastardy bond in St. Mary’s White Chapel Parish.[2] That parish covered the region of Dorchester County that included the tract called Friendship.  After his initial 28-acre purchase, Andrew had his land resurveyed twice to confirm boundaries and add vacant land, resulting in a tract that by 1764 totaled 304 acres called Friendship Regulated.[3]

Friendship Andrew had five sons. He orally directed that should he die without a will, his son Thomas was to divide Friendship Regulated among the five, with 100 acres each to Thomas and Andrew, 70 acres to Ezekiel, and the home plantation to his youngest son Elijah except for a parcel to Joseph.[4] Friendship Andrew died intestate in 1777 or 1778. In Aug 1778, Thomas essentially followed his father’s request and deeded parts of Friendship Regulated to Andrew, Ezekiel, Joseph, and to Isaac Collins.[5] Thomas did not deed any land to Elijah, who must have died before 1778. Likely, Isaac Collins married Elijah’s unnamed daughter, who would be entitled to a share of the land under the Maryland law of intestacy.

Between 1783 and 1786, Joseph, Andrew Jr., and Ezekiel sold all or part of their inherited land.[6] Each was most likely at least 21 years old at that time. Therefore, all were born by 1765. If their father was 25 – 35 years old at that date, he would have been born between 1730 and 1740. Since Friendship Andrew was a “Planter” by 1753, his birth date was probably sooner, maybe in the range of 1720-1730.

What we do not know are Friendship Andrew’s parents. Two groups from which he might directly descend are the family of Wantage John Willis and the Quaker family of Richard and Frances Willis. This article will examine Quaker Richard’s family. I will address Wantage John in a later post.

Quaker Richard married Frances, widow of Richard Dawson, about 1683.[7] Quaker Richard died in 1690 leaving a will that proved their sons Richard Jr. and John and a daughter Frances.[8] Based on the following analysis, it is highly unlikely that Friendship Andrew descended from either son of Quaker Richard.

 Friendship Andrew Is Not Descended from Richard Willis Jr.

Richard Willis Jr. was born 13 Oct 1684.[9] He is the right age to be Friendship Andrew’s father. However, Richard Jr.’s mother Frances wrote a will in 1723/4 and a codicil in 1729 in which she named three children, two sons-in-law, and eight grandchildren. She did not name an Andrew as a son of Richard Jr. Instead, she identified Richard (III) and Mary as Richard Jr.’s children.[10] Frances divided her real property between her son Richard Jr. and his son Richard III.[11] In 1741, Richard Jr. made a will that, like his mother Frances, did not name a son Andrew.  Richard Jr. left all his property to his wife and at her death to a grandchild, with a nephew as a conditional devisee.[12] Surely, if Andrew were a son of Richard Jr., that child would have been named in either his father’s or grandmother’s will, if not both. We can reasonably conclude that Friendship Andrew was not a son of Richard Jr.

Furthermore, Andrew was not a son of Richard Jr.’s son Richard III. In his 1737 will, Richard III gave everything to his sister Mary, except some bequests to two cousins.[13]  Clearly, he had no widow and no children. Thus, neither Richard Jr. nor Richard III, son and grandson of Quaker Richard, was Friendship Andrew’s father.

John Willis Is Not Friendship Andrew’s Father

Quaker Richard’s son John was born 7 Sep1686 and married Margaret Cox 10 Jul 1712.[14] He died intestate in 1723 almost certainly without surviving children. First, there is no mention of children in the record. Second, there was no division of his estate as required by the laws of intestate distribution if children are involved.

No Mention of Children in the Record

If John and Margaret had any children, the eldest would have been about ten when John died. The accounts filed by his widow, however, do not mention any children, who are often identified in such filings.[15] Further, there are no guardianship records as required for minor children … no guardian bond, no guardian accounts, no distribution of the estate to indicate an heir other than Margaret.

Division of Estate

If John and Margaret had children, John’s estate would have been allocated by law one-third to the widow and two-thirds to the children.[16] Margaret died just three years after John, and her personal property was almost identical to her husband’s. John’s estate inventory totaled £103.14.04.[17] Hers amounted to £102.17.11, rather than a third that amount.[18] Having no portion carved out for any children indicates there were none.

If John had no children, the widow would get one-half the personal estate according to law and the other half would go to the deceased’s siblings Richard Jr. and Frances.[19] In that case, one would expect Margaret to have controlled only about £50. However, with no minor children involved, the adult heirs could easily have forgone receiving anything immediately from their sister-in-law. Taking their share would have only made her life more difficult. It makes sense that they would put off a distribution until a later date. In this case, the delay was only three years until Margaret died.

Land – The Final Evidence

The final argument against Friendship Andrew descending from Quaker Richard’s sons is that Andrew received no land from them. Families almost always passed down land from father to son. Maryland Provincial Land Office records show the subsequent owners of the lands of Quaker Richard and Frances Willis and their sons. Friendship Andrew Willis inherited none of that land.[20] Were he in the line of succession, he most likely would have ended up owning some of their land.

Conclusion

It is safe to conclude that the mystery man, Friendship Andrew Willis, is not descended from the line of Quaker Richard and Frances Willis. Neither Richard Jr., his son Richard III, nor John Willis is Andrew’s father. The next article will look at the sons of Wantage John for a possible father.

 

[1] 15 Sep 1753, Dorchester County Deed Book 14 Old 738 – Thomas Hackett of Dorchester County, Planter, and wife Sarah for 6 pounds, 10 shillings, paid by Andrew Willis of the same place, Planter, sell part of a tract of land called Friendship adjoining Grantham and containing 28 acres.

[2] Wright, F. Edward, Judgement Records of Dorchester, Queen Anne’s and Talbot Counties, Delmarva Roots: Lewes, Delaware, 2001, p 34 – Aug 1743, Dorchester County Court Judgment Records, p 231 – Presented that Sarah Willis of St. Mary’s White Chappel Parish, spinster, on 10 May 1743 committed fornication and begat a bastard child. Fined 30 shillings. Andrew Willis her surety to indemnify the inhabitants of the county for 7 years from keeping and maintaining a bastard child.

[3] 6 Apr 1754 survey, 23 Sep 1760 patent, Dorchester County, 113 acres, Patented Certificate 1174, MSA S1196-1317, the survey found Friendshipencroached on an elder 1,000-acre tract patented in 1684 called Grantham located in “woods near Catarine Creek.” The resurvey eliminated the encroachment, realigned his tract adjoining Grantham, and added vacancies for a new total of 113 acres then called Friendship Regulated. And 23 Mar 1764, Dorchester County, 304 acres, Patented Certificate 1175, MSA 21196-1316 added vacant lands for a total of 304 acres called Friendship Regulated.

Note: The reference to Catarin Creek is an error. The land was located about five miles north of Federalsburg, estimated by the location of “Davis’s old field,” “lands of Abraham Collins,” “Collins Crossroads,” and Raccoon Branch referenced in other tracts adjoining Grantham and Friendship Regulated.

[4] Caroline County Deed Book D:381, 27 Aug 1793 – 10 Dec 1793, Deposition of John Walker, carpenter, age 52, said he was at the house of Andrew Willis, father of the late Thos. Willis dec’d, of whom Sina Willis is widow, and heard Andrew say he intended 100 acres of his land for Thomas, 100 acres for son Andrew, 7 [sic 70] acres for son Ezekiel, and the home plantation for his youngest son Elijah excepting a parcel to be laid off for the said Andrew’s son Joseph; and that in the event of his death without a will, that Thomas would so convey; to which Thomas agreed and so did. The deposition was requested by Abraham Collins who bought part of Friendship Regulated from Ezekiel in 1786.

[5] Caroline County Deed Book GF A:285-287, 21 Aug 1778. Rather than the instructions conveyed in the above 1793 deposition, Thomas conveyed 87 ½ acres to Andrew, 50 acres to Ezekiel, 32 ½ acres to Joseph, and 29 ¾ acres to Isaac Collins. This left Thomas holding 104 ¼ acres for a total of 304 acres contained in Friendship Regulated.

[6] Caroline County Deed Books, A:650, 659 – Joseph, 1783; A:773 – Andrew, 1784; B:116 – Ezekiel, 1786.

[7] Marriage date estimated based on the 13 Aug 1684 date of the birth of Richard Willis Jr.

[8] Dorchester County Deed Book 4 ½ Old 1 – Will of Richard Willis dated 21 Oct 1689, probate 2 Jan 1690. 300 acres called Rondley to go to his sons.

[9] Quaker Birth Records, Third Haven Monthly Meeting, 1665-1930, p 21, Richard Willis 8th Mo 13th 1684. Note: 1st month for Quakers is March.

[10] Maryland Will Book 19:679 – Will of Frances Fisher dated 28 Feb 1723/4, codicil 14 Apr 1729, probate 7 May 1729. Note: the widow Frances Willis married Edward Fisher who predeceased her.

[11] Ibid, ­­­679 and 680

[12] Maryland Will Book 22:439 – Will of Richard Willis dated 6 Nov 1741, probate 20 Jan 1742 – To wife Mary the dwelling plantation which at her death to pass to granddaughter Elizabeth Jolley and heirs. Should Elizabeth Jolley die without heirs the plantation would go to Willis Newton son of Edward Newton [and Richard’s sister Frances Willis Newton]. Personal property bequeathed to wife Mary and to Elizabeth Jolly at age 16. Wife Mary executrix. Wit: Thomas Smith, James Billings, Robert Jenkins Henry. [Note: at the time of his will, Richard Jr.’s son Richard was already dead. Richard Jr.’s daughter Mary’s husband Francis Jolly had died (with his estate underwater), and she had married Hugh Rimmer. Richard, Sr. was guardian of grandchild Elizabeth Jolly. At Richard’s death, Major James Billings became guardian. Elizabeth Jolley died without heirs, and the land went to Willis Newton and eventually his son Thomas Newton.]

[13] Maryland Will Book 21:814 – Will of Richard Willis, wheelwright, of Dorchester County dated 11 May 1737, probate 19 Nov 1737 – To sister Mary, executrix, entire estate except legacies of personal property to cousins John Newton and Margaret Newton children of Edward Newton [and Frances Willis Newton]. Wit: Richard Webster, Sr, Sarah Whaland, Anna Webster.

[14] Quaker Records, Third Haven Monthly Meeting, 1665-1930, p 21, John Willis 7th Mo 7th 1686, and Marriage Book 1668-1938, p 100, 10 Jul 1712 at their Meeting House in Dorchester County. Note: The record is in the books of Third Haven Monthly Meeting in Talbot County.

[15] Perogative Court Accounts 5:280, 19 Sep 1723 – Account for estate of John Williss of Dorchester Co, total account £103.14.4, payments made £25.15.8, dated 19 Sep 1723. Payments to William Ennals, John Orell, Dr. William Murray, William Hemsley, John Hodson Jr., Capt John Rider. Administratrix Margaret Williss.

[16] “An Act for the better Administration of Justice in Testamentary Affairs granting Adminisrcons recovery of Legacies Secureing filiall portions and distribution of Intestates Estates” (1715)  (Ref: Proceedings and Acts of the General Assembly of Maryland, Proceedings and Acts of the General Assembly of Maryland, April 26, 1715 – August 10, 1716, Acts of the Assembly, April 26-June 3, 1715, Archives of Maryland, Volume 30, William Hand Brown, Maryland Historical Society, 1910, pp. 331-347) – “… one third part of the said Surplusage to the wife of the Intestate and all the residue by Equall portions to and amoungst the Children of such persons dying Intestate and such persons as Legally represent such Children …”

[17] Perogative Court Inventories 8:191, 9 May 1723 – ­­­­Inventory of the estate of John Willis, £103.14.04 appraised by Thomas Hides, Charles Dean; creditors Jno Rider, W Ennalls; kindred Richard Willis, Daniel Cox: filed 16 July 1723 by Margaret Willis administratrix, who “gave testimony according to law” that the inventory was true and correct.

[18] Perogative Court Inventories 11:399, 4 Jul 1726 – Inventory of the estate of Margaret Willis, £102.17.11 appraised by W Ennalls, Edward Newton; creditors W Ennalls, John Rider; kindred Dan’l Cox, Betty Cannon; filed 5 Jul 1726 by Richard Willis administrator.

[19] Testamentary Affairs Act, “And in Case there be no Child or Children nor any Legall representatives of them then one Moyety of the said Estate to be allowed to the wife of the Intestate the residue of the said Estate to be Distributed Equally to Every of the next of kindred of the Intestate who are in Equall Degree and those who Legally represent them(Provided there be no representatives admitted among Collatteralls after brothers and Sisters Children) …”

[20] Skinner, V.L. Jr., Abstracts of the Debt Books of the Provincial Land Office of Maryland, Dorchester County, Vol I, Genealogical Publishing Company: Baltimore, 2016 – p 152, Richard III tracts owned by Phil. Covington, p 193, Richard Jr.’s tracts owned by John Leatherbury “for his wife.”

[21] Dorchester County Deed Book 7 Old 63 – 26 Jul 1718, Frances sold all her real estate to sons Richard and John Willis for 2,000 pounds of tobacco. The deed provided that when ready to make a division, John would have first choice as to the part he would take. The deed also required them to sell Rondley to John Dawson, possibly Frances’s son from her first marriage.

[22] John received 2,000 pounds of tobacco “on account of the land” and another 2,000 pounds as compensation for not receiving an enslaved person (Frances willed five enslaved people to various legatees).

[23] Jenkins, Dan, Baja Oklahoma, Antheneum, division of Simon & Schuster: New York, 1981

Online family trees: are you dead or alive?

I started a message on Ancestry a few nights ago to a man I don’t know. I was making a tongue-in-cheek offer to send him a crisp, new $50 bill if he could produce any legitimate evidence whatsoever that a person named Margaret Masena Kendall Marshall Rankin ever existed. While defining “legitimate evidence,” I realized the message sounded unkind and might make him angry. I also remembered yet again that I (like every other genealogist) don’t always find all the available evidence. Moreover, I sometimes misinterpret evidence that is right under my nose.

I cancelled the message. He may have missed out on an easy $50.

I turned my frustration with the elusive Mrs. Rankin into a project. I sent an email to the five best family history researchers I know: John Alexander, Roberta Estes, William D. (“Bill”) Lindsey, Jody McKenney Thomson, and Gary Noble Willis. I asked them to share examples of humorous or common mistakes they have seen in family trees.

Our stories identified seven categories of common and/or funny errors:

  • biologically impossible
  • are you dead or alive?
  • invent your own facts
  • proving the wrong thing
  • geographic hopscotch
  • same name confusion
  • GEDCOM in, GEDCOM out (“GIGO”)

Here they are, illustrated by my friends’ stories.

Biologically impossible

John started our conversation like so:

“It’s hardly even worth writing about the cases of a child who was born when his or her parents were eight years old (or less) and of the parents who came back as ghosts to have children.”

John provided a link to a WikiTree site that analyzes a “shared” family tree for members who participate in an error assessment program called “Data Doctor.” A recent posting said that “Data Doctor analysis has found 21,635 men on our shared tree who became fathers before age 10 … 1,223 women who had children after age 100 … 2,134 who married before they were born and 2,904 who married after death.”

Talk about common errors! If you haven’t made one, you are apparently a rare breed.

Jody has a somewhat related story, although the error in question has an Oedipal twist:

“… years ago, I found an Ancestry tree that had my father, James Wilson McKenney (1908 – 1976), married to his mother, Edna Mae Durfey (1885 – 1969).  Grandpa was completely left out of the story! I wrote to the owner of the tree telling him that I knew both Wilson and Edna intimately and that it just was not so. I asked nicely if he would please change the error and gave him the correct relationships. A year later he had not made the change so I implored him, pointing out how ludicrous this was. It took him FIVE years to make the correction.”

Jody subsequently found a great alternative. Rather than contacting the owner of a tree containing an error, she attaches a “note” to the tree  and provides accurate information. Mission accomplished: correct information is available to anyone viewing the tree. No imploring required. I will use that approach henceforth.

Are you dead or alive?

Roberta’s story is surely one of a kind. In her own words:

“My favorite one is that I’m dead. I wrote to the person assuring them I’m not, and they accused me of being a crook, to put it nicely. (They were anything but nice.) They told me they knew me and I’m dead. It was the most bizarre discussion I’ve ever had. I told them I’ve never heard of them and they said “of course not, you’re dead.”

I finally had to contact the company and ask them to remove my death information from that person’s tree because the fact that I was “dead” allowed my private information to be shown to others.

Multiple times. They kept killing me off again. Seriously.”

John asked if the person was just trying to be funny. Roberta’s response:

“Nope, they were dead serious, pardon the pun. They were angry with ME for wanting them to remove my death date in their tree. I suggested that perhaps it was another Roberta Estes and they very condescendingly said, ‘No, that’s not possible, I know you and you’re dead.’”

I was compelled to ask Roberta if she was already dead when she and I met about twenty years ago in Halifax, Virginia for research in the county courthouse. I would love to be able to say that I met an actual ghost in the flesh, so to speak.

Invent your own facts

Bill’s story would be funny if it didn’t involve unalloyed meanness. To wit: he had a long exchange with the administrator of a certain DNA project about an ancestor issue. He provided reams of documentation to the administrator. (For the record, it was NOT the Lindsey/Lindsay DNA project administrator.) The administrator had written an article about one of Bill’s collateral relatives named Thomas “Doe” of South Carolina.

Bill describes the administrator’s article as “entirely divorced from reality.” Attempting to connect Thomas Doe of South Carolina to a John Smith in Mississippi (where Thomas Doe never set foot), the administrator claimed Thomas changed his name in Mississippi from Thomas Doe to John Smith. I probably don’t need to add that there was no evidence of any name change. The administrator also claimed Bill had provided no support for his argument, thoroughly insulted him, and threw him out of the DNA project with a false claim that he was sharing DNA results.

Bill’s story probably wins some kind of prize for the administrator’s mendacity and petty cruelty. The apparent lesson: if the facts don’t support your argument, invent some facts. Get out your Sharpie and alter the weather map.

Proving the wrong thing

Gary’s story wins the trifecta category for awards because it qualifies as “proving the wrong thing” as well as two other categories described below, “geographic hopscotch” and “same name confusion.”

Here it is. Having exhausted available records in the library and the Family Search website, Gary looked on Ancestry for any evidence of the children of a Hugh Rimer/Rymer and Mary Willis of Dorchester County, Maryland. Voilà! Gary found a tree including Hugh Rymer and wife Mary of Maryland. The only problem was the supporting record proved Hugh and Mary Rymer had eight children who were all born in England. The English couple could not possibly have been the same Rymers as the Maryland couple. Oops!

Geographic hopscotch

Gary’s story would have a Maryland couple repeatedly crossing the Atlantic to have children. One example I found concerns a man whose Revolutionary War pension application (and his widow’s) say that he was born and died in Pennsylvania. Census and other records establish that most of their eight children were born in Tennessee. You’ve either got to smile – or be amazed. That was one busy woman, going back and forth from Pennsylvania to Tennessee eight times. I wonder if she took all the kids with her on those trips.

When you see a lot of intra-generational geographic moves, be alert … you’re often on the trail of some bad genealogy. Those eight children were probably just attached to the wrong parents.

Same name confusion

This is a common error which we have all undoubtedly made. I’ve written articles about it a number of times on this blog, including articles about Lyddal Bacon Estes,  Edward Buxton Lindsey, Robert Rankin  — two different Robert Rankins, including Robert Rankin of Gibson Co., TN  and Robert Rankin (died 1795),  Jeremiah Rankin, and David Rankin of Franklin Co., PA. One of those “same name” stories taught me that people do not like hearing they are wrong, even in the context of family history – where we all make errors!

Here’s what happened. I “met” a close match through FTDNA autosomal tests. Both of us have Rankin ancestors. We compared notes and learned we share Rankin great-great-grandparents. We had a pleasant exchange of emails sharing personal info and family histories. I looked closely at his tree, and found that it showed one of our shared ancestors – Lyddal Bacon Estes – married to two different women at the same time. This is a common error for Lyddal. It is really  understandable in light of his unusual name(s).

I sent my distant cousin information about our ancestor’s one-and-only wife. I included citations to county records. The email was not rude or unkind, and didn’t suggest he change his tree … it was just an “FYI, here is another view” message. Not only did I never hear from him again, he barred me from viewing his tree. That’s pretty angry.

GEDCOM in, GEDCOM out (“GIGO”)

Bill recalls a woman he met decades ago at an LDS family history center. Her research consisted of printing GEDCOM after GEDCOM on a dot matrix printer. She then painstakingly inserted the information from the printout into her own family tree. That takes almost as much effort as doing the original research, although it wouldn’t be nearly as much fun. Bill calls her approach “GEDCOM in, GEDCOM out,” or GIGO for short – meaning “garbage in, garbage out.” If you ever worked with computers, you are familiar with that acronym.

It is now absurdly easy to import GEDCOMs having thousands of names and to merge them with your own tree. One cannot possibly confirm all that information. This is a great way to construct a tree that shows you as a descendant of, say, a Mayflower pilgrim, Sitting Bull, Charlemagne, and the Buddha. More power to you if that’s what you want from this hobby. As we like to say in the south, bless your heart.

Instead of starting a rant, here is my view and Roberta’s of  evidence and proof with respect to online family trees. Both articles (mine contains a link to Roberta’s) assert that they are not genealogical evidence. If you want to argue with that assertion, please send me a crisp $50 bill. Then we can talk.

It is unquestionably true that many online trees are conscientious attempts to construct an ancestry through research into actual evidence. It is also true that many online trees are simply GIGO, like the tree constructed by the woman who printed GEDCOMs.

GIGO trees contain a plethora of errors. We will all run into them. As for me, I have sworn off contacting anyone about bad information on a tree. If you are thinking about doing that, please send me a message first. I will do my best to dissuade you.

See you on down the road.

Robin

Do You Know a Noah?

I certainly did not until I bumped into Noah Willis who married Eliza Blake on 31 Jan 1827 in Talbot County, Maryland. He appears three years later in the 1830 census for Talbot heading a household of a whopping 16 people. What gives?

Thanks to detailed records at FamilySearch.org, the Maryland State Archives Online, and at MDLANDREC.net, we can answer many questions about this man and his descendants. The record reveals that he was born in Maryland, but not his family of origin.[1] We have no clue about his parents and cannot connect him to my ongoing project identifying descendants of “Wantage John” Willis who died 1712 in Dorchester County, Maryland.

But let’s go back … what does the record show about Noah?

First, there is his marriage in 1827 to Eliza Blake.[2] Then, there is the 1830 census for Talbot that shows the following household residents:

  • Seven white boys – 1 male under 5 years, 3 males age 5-9, 3 males 10-14,
  • Two white men – 1 male 30-39, and 1 male 40-49
  • One white girl – 1 female under 5
  • One white woman – 1 female 30-39
  • One free black woman -1 female age 10-23
  • Two enslaved girls – 2 females under 10
  • One enslaved teenage girl – 1 female age 10-23
  • One enslaved woman – 1 female 24-35

Further investigation shows Eliza had been married before and Noah may have been. Noah Willis at age 26 to 44 appears in the 1820 census for Talbot County with a woman age 45+, presumably his wife but maybe his mother or sister. The remainder of that household are 43 enslaved people … 16 males and 27 females, with 17 members of the household employed in agriculture. I have not identified the woman in Noah’s household, but there were no children. Furthermore, the woman disappeared before Noah married Eliza in 1827, or at least before the census in 1830.

Talbot County deed records show Noah purchased 140 acres of land in 1823.[3] Likely, he was renting and farming that same land at the date of the 1820 census. He sold that land in 1828 after his marriage to Eliza, and they lived on her property.[4]

As to Eliza’s first marriage, on 20 Nov 1816 Eliza Ray wed John Blake.[5] The 1820 census lists the Blake household near the Willis lands. It shows John Blake and his wife both at age 18-25 with three children, a girl age 10-18 and two boys less than 10.[6] The rest of the household consists of 8 enslaved males and 9 enslaved females. John Wilson Blake purchased more than 400 acres of land in 1821 in the Miles River Neck for $10,500, entering into a fifteen-year mortgage for about half of that amount.[7] The Blake couple had three more sons before John died intestate in 1826 leaving his widow and six orphan children.[8]

In 1828, Samuel Roberts, administrator of the estate of John W. Blake, deceased, began filing annual reports as acting guardian of Blake’s six orphan children … five boys and a girl, naming each one.[9] His reports include an item of expense for each child as “Board and clothing paid to Noah Willis.” Obviously, these six children are in the Willis household in the 1830 census. The personal property attributable to each orphan is a one-sixth share of the annual rent derived from the land owned by their deceased father (net of their mother’s dower). Eliza Blake Willis nee Ray is clearly the mother of these children.[10] In about 1828, Eliza gave birth to a son by Noah, James Willis. With this information we can name all of the white occupants of the household except one man and one boy, whom we can reasonably assume are related to Noah or Eliza, possibly her brother and his child:[11]

  • Noah Willis – age 40-49
  • Unidentified male – 30-39
  • William Blake, John Blake, Theodore Blake – 10-14
  • Richard Blake, Thomas Blake, unidentified boy – 5-9
  • James Willis – under 5
  • Eliza Ray Blake Willis – 30-39
  • Mary Ann Blake – under 5

Talbot County guardian accounts show that from 1833 through 1836, Noah Willis served as guardian of the six children. I am uncertain why Samuel Roberts vacated that office. Appraisers periodically assessed the real estate of the deceased John W. Blake and submitted to the Orphan’s Court a fair annual rental for the property. The property descended through the laws of intestate descent and distribution to Blake’s orphan children, subject to their mother’s rights during her lifetime. The Willis family occupied the property and Noah Willis “rented” it from the estate. Had a third party occupied and rented the farm, an arms-length transaction would have established the value and the annual rental. However, Noah’s renting the farm necessitated the third-party appraisals. Noah’s guardian accounts dutifully tabulated each orphan’s one-sixth share of the rental income (after dower). The deducted expenses attributable to each child were a share of taxes and filing fees, with the difference between income and those expenses listed as the cost of boarding and clothing the child. Therefore, the resulting balance due each child was zero. Noah “paid” rent into the guardian account and then “paid” himself from the account for caring for the children, so no money really changed hands except for the taxes and fees paid to the county.

The appraisal process established an annual rental of $400 in 1831, $350 in 1834, and $275 in 1836. The record shows a detailed description of the land and improvements.[12] The land amounted to about 430 acres of which 200 was forested. The rest was arable with the soil ranging from very good to thin. The farm had three fields. The first contained 220,000 hills of corn, and the other two about 140,000 to 150,000 hills. Two apple orchards existed. The older one with 152 trees was in a bad state of decay; the second with 50 trees thrived. A fenced vegetable garden was under a new rail fence, strong and good.

The appraisers described the farms buildings in this manner, a “frame house with two good rooms and a passage and stair case on the first floor and three rooms above, good cellars, a good brick lodging room adjoining and a good brick kitchen. All these are in pretty good repair. A good frame smoke house about 12 feet square, a good corn house of about 12 by 24 feet, and four other out houses, such as poultry houses, a stable and quarters, all wretchedly dilapidated. There is a large barn of about 60 by 28 feet, good frame but suffers for want of a good roof.  There is also the roof of a corn house, quite good, but no house or underpart. This roof is about 50 or 60 feet long. The fencing on the farm is tolerably good, but the general state of the farm is somewhat out of order.”

Noah and Eliza had two more children, Margaret (who died an infant) and Eliza A., before Noah Willis died about 1837. On 31 May 1838, Noah’s widow married William T. Stitchberry in Talbot County.[13] She and Stitchberry entered into a prenuptial agreement stipulating that she was seized of property in Miles River Neck and the property was to remain hers separately. Any rents and profits from the property she could invest as she saw fit and could dispose of the profits during her life as she determined. The investments would be made in the name of John B. Ray, Trustee, [likely her brother] or whoever she designated in the future.[14]

The Stitchberrys appear in the 1850 census in Talbot County with the two surviving Willis children, James E. and Eliza A., plus two children of their own, William G. and Sarah E. Stitchberry.[15]

Noah’s only son, James E. Willis married by 1870 when the census lists him as a farmer with a wife Martha W. Willis. He has $600 of personal property but no real property and is living very close to his stepfather Stitchberry’s farm. Possibly, he was still working there. The 1880 census lists James and Martha with six children, a daughter … M. E. age 9, and five sons … Jas E. age 8, Wm Geo. age 5, T. F. age 4, N. A. age 2, and H. C. age 3 months born in April 1880. Other researchers have attributed the following names to James’s and Martha’s children … M. Emily, James E., William George, T. Frank, Albert Addison, and H.C.

That is all the time I have now for the mysterious Noah Willis. If anyone has more information, please share it! My next step will be to convince Robin to help find a living male descendant of one of James Willis’s five sons … someone to take a Y-DNA test. She is very good at finding such candidates and I hope she will help.

[1] 1880 Census for Talbot County lists James E. Willis, son of Noah and Eliza, showing both of James’s parents as born in Maryland.

[2] Maryland State Archives Online, Talbot County Marriage Licenses, by the Reverend Mr. Thomas, 1825-1840, p 18.

[3] Talbot County Deed Book 44:385, Noah Willis paid $300.00 to William Watts and James Saulsbury, Sr., for 140 acres lying at the headwaters of St. Michaels River, parts of tracts called St. Michaels Fresh Run, Carter’s Range, and Carter’s Forest near the mill pond at the headwaters of the St Michaels River and on the main road to Potts Mill.

[4] Talbot County Deed Book 48:131, Noah Willis and wife Eliza Willis sold to William T. Clark for $400.00 the property Noah bought in 1823.

[5] Maryland State Archives Online, Talbot County Marriage Licenses, by the Reverend Mr. Thomas, 1794-1825, p 241.

[6] The census also lists an older John Blake in the vicinity.

[7] Talbot County Deed Book 43:104, 16 May 1821, Fayette Gibson sold to John Wilson Blake for $10,500 tracts near the waters of Saint Michaels River [i.e., Miles River] called Batchelor’s Branch, Batchelor’s Branch Addition, Thief Keep Out, Bennett’s Neglect, Bennett’s Neglect Resurveyed, part of Triangle and as much of the adjoining Halls Range to make up 400 acres … also some small acreage called Partnership and Spring Field in Miles River Neck. At DB 43:107 Blake mortgages the property as security for the repayment of $5,500 in fifteen equal annual installments plus interest to be paid before 1 Jan 1837.

[8] Talbot County Guardian and Administration Bonds, 1813-1829, p 159, 2 Sep 1826, Samuel Roberts bound at $10,000 as administrator of the estate of John W. Blake along with E. Roberts and Andrew Skinner. Subsequent account filings show a net personal estate of more than $4,500.

[9] Talbot County Guardian Accounts, Vol 10, pp 106-110.

[10] The land confirms this Eliza is the mother of the orphan children of John W. Blake. That would have been an easy conclusion to make had she been the only Eliza in the Ray and Blake families. However, the record is a little more complex. William Blake, Sr. who died in 1813 had five children: son John Wilson Blake who married Eliza Ray on 2 Nov 1816; daughter Eliza S. Blake who married William Ray on 28 Sep 1813; son William Blake who married Elizabeth Hardin on 8 Nov 1821; daughter Frances Blake; and son James Blake. The land helps prove that the Eliza Blake who married Noah Willis was the Eliza Blake nee Ray who married John W Blake and not the Eliza Ray nee Blake the daughter of William Blake, Sr. nor the Elizabeth Blake nee Hardin who married William Blake, Jr.

[11] I cannot identify the enslaved persons by name. Samuel Roberts’ 1828 guardian filing records the sale of four slaves: Garrison, age 9; Betty, age 6; Levina, age 19; and Harriet age 6 months, presumably Levina’s daughter, both sold to the same person. The remaining population of 60 enslaved people from the Blake and Willis households in the 1820 census are unaccounted for.

[12] Talbot County Guardian and Administration Bonds, 1830-1838, pp 239, 296, 321

[13] Talbot County Marriage Licenses, 1825-1840, married by the Reverend Mr. Potts, MSA Reference C1890-5, p 92.

[14] Talbot County Beed Book 54:1, signed 31 May 1838 by William (X) Stitchberry, E. R. Willis, and John B. Ray, recorded 1 Jun 1838. While the document states she is seized of the land, she only held it during her lifetime. Upon her death it descended to the children of Eliza and John Blake.

[15] 1850 Census, Talbot County, William T Stitchberry, 37, farmer, $1,600 of real estate, cannot read or write; Eliza Stitchberry, 49; James E. Willis, 22, farmer; Eliza A. Willis, 14, attended school; William G. Stitchberry, 11; Sarah E Stitchberry, 10.

Revised: Joseph Rankin of New Castle County, Delaware and the Bastard Stableboy

This post has corrections and additions to an article having this title originally posted Saturday, Nov. 9, 2019. A couple of thoughtful readers commented privately on the original article. One gentle friend suggested (“if you ever revise it”) including information from Rev. S. M. Rankin’s book on two of Joseph’s sons. That is a good idea. Another noted with mild chagrin that I had provided minimal source citations. Guilty. Since I often kvetch about unsourced family histories, that constitutes serious hypocrisy on my part. This revision therefore adds citations. The process of checking my sources uncovered several errors, always a good thing. Here is the revised article.

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Joseph Rankin of New Castle County (1704 – 1764) once generated some lively controversy among members of the Rankin DNA Project.

Back in the day, the conventional wisdom was that Joseph was the father of Samuel Rankin of Lincoln County, NC, husband of Eleanor (“Ellen”) Alexander. One member of the Rankin Project (call him “Joe” Rankin) has an unimpeachable paper trail back to Joseph. However, Joe is not a YDNA match to descendants of Samuel and Eleanor. Not even remotely. Almost everyone concluded that Joe couldn’t be a descendant of Joseph of Delaware. Someone told Joe he must have an NPE (“non-paternal event”) in his Rankin ancestry. Perhaps a Mrs. Rankin had an extramarital fling, producing a son named Rankin but who wasn’t a genealogical Rankin.

That couldn’t be the case, because Joe is clearly a genealogical Rankin. He has Rankin YDNA matches who aren’t descended from Joseph. Nevertheless, the naysayers held firm.

Joe’s frustration simmered until he identified another Rankin having a solid gold paper trail back to Joseph of Delaware. Joe persuaded him to YDNA test. Bingo! They are a 37-marker match with a genetic distance of one. Said Joe: “I feel like I’ve gone from being the bastard stable boy to laird of the manor.”

Joe and his recruit descend from different sons of Joseph, so their close YDNA match is not a result of a recent shared ancestor. Joseph of Delaware is their common Rankin ancestor, and he was born more than three centuries ago. Joe’s YDNA match to his recruit established that Samuel of Lincoln County was not a son of Joseph of Delaware.

There are other issues with Joseph’s family. His wife is frequently identified as Rebecca Armstrong, although there seems to be no evidence for her surname (Rebecca is correct for her given name).[1] Some say he was born in Scotland,[2] although he almost certainly arrived in one of the Philadelphia ports in the late 1720s, during the Great Migration of Scots-Irish from Ulster. Some sources say his children were born on the other side of the Atlantic, although the evidence suggests they were born in the colonies.[3] Some say Joseph served in the Revolution. If so, he was a ghostly presence, because he died in 1764.[4]

Joseph was most likely the original Rankin immigrant in his line. His descendants belong to the same Rankin YDNA lineage as (1) Robert and Rebecca Rankin of Guilford County, NC and (2) David and Margaret Rankin of Iredell County, NC. Joseph was neither the father nor the son of Robert or David. No common ancestor for these three Rankin family lines has been identified, although David of Iredell may have been a son of Robert and Rebecca of Guilford. YDNA results establish a low probability that there is a common Rankin ancestor for these families on this side of the Atlantic. The common ancestor probably exists around 1400, plus or minus a century, almost certainly in Scotland. On the Rankin DNA Project website, Joseph’s line is “Lineage 1B.”[5]

Joseph of Delaware may be the same man as the Joseph Rankin who appeared as a “freeman” (i.e., unmarried and not a landowner) on the 1729 and 1730 tax lists in London-Britain Township in Chester County, Pennsylvania.[6] That township is in the southeastern corner of Pennsylvania bordering the Maryland and Delaware state lines. Strickersville, the largest town in the township, is less than four miles from Head of Christiana Presbyterian Church in Newark, Delaware, where Joseph is buried.

By 1731, Joseph (hereafter, “Joseph Sr.”) had acquired a tract on White Clay Creek in New Castle County, White Clay Creek Hundred.[7] If Joseph of New Castle was the same man as Joseph of London-Britain Township, then Joseph must have married sometime after the 1730 tax list.

Joseph Sr. had four sons conclusively proved by deeds: Joseph Jr., Lt. Thomas, John, and William.[8] A daughter Ann is proved by the will of Joseph Jr.[9] Joseph Sr. also had two probable sons established by circumstantial evidence: James and Robert. Based on birth dates that are known and Joseph Sr.’s likely marriage after 1730, Joseph’s children were born in Delaware.

Here are Joseph’s proved and probable children, in no particular order except that the proved children are listed first.

John Rankin (1736 – 1814). Rev. S. M. Rankin’s 1931 book said this about him: “John Rankin, the son of Joseph, was born near Newark, [New Castle Co.,] Delaware, 1736, came to Guilford County, North Carolina, in 1764 … he was married to Hannah Carson just before or within a year after coming to North Carolina. He died in 1814.”[10] He was “tall and slender,” he and Hannah had twelve children, and they are both buried in the Buffalo Presbyterian Church cemetery in Greensboro.[11] A deed conclusively proves Joseph Sr. was John’s father.[12] Hannah Carson Rankin was also from New Castle, which makes me suspect she and John probably married there. Three of John Rankin’s proved or probable brothers served in Hannah’s brother Walter Carson’s Company in the Revolutionary War. Although John didn’t serve in Delaware, his family’s oral tradition was that he fought at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse in 1781. Rev. Rankin’s book extensively traces the lines of both John Rankin and his brother William.

Thomas Rankin died in 1795, birth year uncertain. Some sources say he was born in 1735, which is possible. Lt. Thomas may be buried in the same grave as his father because a DAR marker with Thomas’s name, rank and unit (“2 Delaware Militia”) is installed at the base of Joseph Sr.’s tombstone.[13] The stone’s inscription says that Joseph died in 1764 at age 60. Some sources apparently assume that Lt. Thomas died at age 60. His estate was administered in 1795, the year he died. Thus, some conclude Lt. Thomas was born in 1735. I found no evidence of a date of birth.

Like three of his brothers, Lt. Thomas is proved as a son of Joseph Sr. by a deed.[14] Also, Lt. Thomas signed a 1778 loyalty oath in New Castle at the same time and place as three other Rankin men (James, Joseph Jr. and Robert).[15] Of the three, only Joseph Jr. is a proved brother. Lt. Thomas served with the other two, probable brothers James and Robert Rankin, in Capt. Walter Carson’s company in the Revolutionary War.

Lt. Thomas’s wife was Elizabeth Montgomery (1760 – 1830).[16] Their five children, all born 1786 – 1795, are proved by Orphans’ Court records.[17] They were also beneficiaries or devisees in the will of Joseph Jr., who named his nieces and nephews Montgomery, Hannah, Margaret, Joseph (III) and Thomas Rankin (Jr.).[18] At least two of them – Joseph III, born about 1786, and Thomas Jr., born in 1795 – went to live with their uncle Joseph Jr. after Lt. Thomas died.[19] There was no better way in the colonies to become destitute than to be the mother of young children whose father dies. Orphans’ Court records confirm that Lt. Thomas’s personal estate was insufficient to pay debts.[20]

William Rankin (1744 – 1804)[21] was administrator of his father’s estate along with his mother Rebecca Rankin.[22] William married Jane Chambers in 1772 in Guilford County;[23] the couple had nine children.[24] William was still in Delaware in 1768, when two deeds recited that he was “of New Castle Co.”[25] The deeds appointed someone to acknowledge them in court for the grantors, suggesting that William probably left soon after executing them. Rev. Rankin says William arrived in Guilford in the latter part of 1768 and lived with his brother John for about three years.[26] I first found William in the Guilford records in 1772 when he bought a tract from John.[27] S. M. Rankin believes that William also fought at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse.

Joseph Rankin Jr. died in 1820, birth year uncertain. He may have married Margaret Carson, sister of Hannah Carson Rankin and Capt. Walter Carson, in Philadelphia. That marriage was in a Lutheran church, though, and the Rankins were serious Presbyterians. Online trees (yes, I know, they aren’t worth the paper it would take to print them) say Walter Carson’s sister Margaret married a Mr. Byers, not Joseph Rankin. Other trees say Joseph Jr. never married. The marriage issue is essentially moot, because Joseph Jr. had no children of his own. Instead, he became the family caretaker, taking in his single sister Ann and at least two of the orphaned children of Lt. Thomas.[28] He was also an administrator of Lt. Thomas’s estate.[29]

Naturally, a deed conclusively proves Joseph Jr. was Joseph Sr.’s son.[30] Joseph Jr. also signed the 1778 loyalty oath along with the other Rankin men, but did not serve in Capt. Carson’s company. His 1819 will is a nice display of both affection and determination. He provides that his sister will live with his two nephews, and states how they should treat her in uncompromising terms: “in the same manner as she has lived with me and that my said nephews shall and will take care of her and use her as well in every respect as I have ever done during her natural lifetime.” (Emphasis added.)

Ann Rankin apparently never married. Joseph Jr.’s will was the only source of information I found on her.[31]

James Rankin is a probable son of Joseph Sr., based on circumstantial evidence. He also signed the 1778 loyalty oath and served in Capt. Carson’s company. Most importantly, James was listed in the 1783 tax list for White Clay Creek Hundred along with Lt. Thomas and Joseph Jr.[32] That was his only appearance on a tax list that I found, but viewing those lists online is a nightmare. James owned no land, so he was likely farming with his brothers, who owned a tract in common.[33] 1783 was James’s last appearance in the New Castle records. There are neither probate nor cemetery records for him, suggesting he moved away. I suspect that is the case. An article on him will follow if my theory pans out.

Robert Rankin is also a probable son of Joseph Sr. Robert signed the 1778 New Castle County loyalty oath and served in Capt. Carson’s company. Robert was listed on the 1777 and either the 1778 or 1779 tax list for White Clay Creek Hundred, as were Thomas and Joseph. He isn’t listed in New Castle cemetery or probate records, and doesn’t appear in the grantor or grantee indexes of New Castle County. Some Robert Rankin married Martha Latimer in 1765, although the marriage license was a record of the Emmanuel Protestant Episcopal Church of New Castle. I have no idea where Robert might have gone. He was not the same man as Robert Rankin of Rutherford Co., NC who married Mary Withrow as his first wife. Nor was he the same man as the Robert with wife Rebecca of Guilford Co., NC.

And that’s a start on Joseph of Delaware. I promise to work on an outline descendant chart for this line. I was also reminded when checking my sources that there was a second Rankin family in New Castle. I should probably write an article on them as well. If you are sucker for detail, check out my transcription below, of the extraordinary New Castle deed proving four of Joseph Sr.’s sons following the footnotes.

See you on down the road.

Robin

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[1] See estate account of William Rankin and Rebecca Rankin, administrators of the estate of Joseph Rankin, dated 16 April 1765, in Delaware Wills and Probate Records, 1676-1971, Register of Wills, Anna Racine – Lydia Rash, file of “Rankin, Joseph 1765.”

[2] See, e.g., Bill and Martha Reamy, Genealogical Abstracts from Biographical and Genealogical History of the State of Delaware (Westminster, MD: Willow Bend Books, 2001), citing p. 445-446 of History:

“Joseph Rankin was b. near the Clyde in Scotland; to DE with his wife and children long before the Revolutionary War.”

[3] Id.

[4] Find-a-Grave has a photograph of Joseph’s tombstone at Head of Christiana Presbyterian Church Cemetery  here. Gary and I visited the cemetery in 2008. The only information on the tombstone is that Joseph Rankin died 29 Jul 1764 at age 60. It does not say Joseph was born in Ireland; a Find-a-Grave contributor added that commentary.

[5] See a brief discussion and charts for Rankin Lineage 1 on the Rankin DNA Project website at this link.

[6] www.familysearch.org, Chester County (Pennsylvania) Tax Records, 1715 – 1820, Film No. 7857857, images #162 (1729 tax list for London-Britain Township) and #179 (1730 tax list for London-Britain Township). Joseph doesn’t appear on the 1732 list. I couldn’t find a list for 1731.

[7] I couldn’t find a listing for a 1731 deed to Joseph Rankin in the grantee index. The only proof I can find for the land purchase is recitations of the provenance of the tract in later deeds. E.g., New Castle Co., DE Deed Book Y1: 499, deed dated 9 Apr 1768 from John Rankin and wife Hannah of Orange Co., NC and William Rankin of New Castle County, grantors, to Thomas Rankin and Joseph Rankin of New Castle, grantees. The deed describes a grant from William Penn, proprietor of PA, to Robert French on the “south south (sic, southwest) side of White Clay Cr. in White Clay Cr. Hundred.” French conveyed to David Miller, who sold 150 acres to James Miller in 1730. James Miller conveyed the tract to Joseph Rankin in 1731. Joseph Rankin by will dated 13 Jul 1764 conveyed part of the tract to John and William Rankin.

[8] New Castle Co., DE Deed Book G3:249-255 expressly names Joseph, Thomas, John, and William as sons of Joseph Rankin of New Castle. The deed also identifies tracts devised by Joseph Sr. to those four sons, subject to “their mother’s dower interest,” by will dated 13 Jul 1764. I couldn’t find a listing for Joseph Sr.’s will in the probate index. So far as I know, deeds are the only evidence that Joseph Sr. died testate. The probate account refers to William and Rebecca as administrators rather than executors.

[9] New Castle Co., DE Will Book S: 116, will of Joseph Rankin dated 28 Oct 1819, proved 7 Jun 1820, naming sister Ann ($100 cash, and to live with nephews Joseph and Thomas Rankin). He also bequeathed cash to his nephew and nieces Montgomery Rankin, Hannah Rankin and Margaret Rankin, and devised his Mill Creek Hundred tract of 256 acres to Joseph III and Thomas Rankin Jr.

[10] Rev. S. M. Rankin, The Rankin and Wharton Families and Their Genealogy (Salem, MA: Higginson Book reprint, originally published Greensboro, NC, 1931), 55.

[11] Id. at 21 and 55.

[12] See Note 8.

[13] Find-a-Grave has an image of the DAR plaque for Lt. Thomas placed at the foot of his father’s tombstone at this link.

[14] See Note 8.

[15] Eleanor B. Cooch, Delaware Signers of the Oath of Allegiance (National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, 1937). This book is out of print. Ms. Cooch may have abstracted the oath of allegiance information from the History of Delaware. See J. Thomas Scharf, Index to History of Delaware, 1609-1888 (Historical Society of Delaware, 1976).

[16] Elizabeth Montgomery Rankin is also buried in Head of Christiana Presbyterian Church Cemetery. Her tombstone reads, “In Memory of Elizabeth Rankin, wife of Thomas Rankin.” The Find-a-Grave transcription incorrectly gives her date of death as 1886. I read her date of death from the original stone as 18 Apr 1830, age 70 years. That would make her birth year about 1760.

[17] Sarah Deakyne Burke, Orphans’ Court Proceedings of New Castle County, Delaware, Book No. 5 April 1793 – April 1802(Lewes, DE: Colonial Roots, 2008). A record dated 15 Dec 1801 describes the petition of Joseph Rankin and David Nivin of White Clay Creek Hundred, administrators of Lt. Thomas’s estate. The petition recites that the administrators settled the estate on 15 Jul 1798, paying £134.2.3 over the amount they received. Petitioners asked for sale of part of Lt. Thomas’s land. The petition also states that Lt. Thomas was survived by his widow Elizabeth and five children: Joseph, Hannah, Montgomery, Margaret, and Thomas. It also recited that the eldest, Joseph III, was only 15 (born about 1786).

[18] See Note 9.

[19] The federal census records for New Castle are spotty. The 1810 census for Mill Creek Hundred (incorrectly designated on Ancestry as Brandywine Hundred) lists Joseph’s household as 01101-00020. The male over 45 is Joseph Sr. and the two young males are the right ages to be Lt. Thomas’s sons Joseph III (b. 1786) and Thomas Jr. (b. 1795). The females age 26 < 45 are a mystery to me, but one should be Joseph Jr.’s sister Ann. If so, she is in the wrong age bracket. See also the 1820 census (the last before Joseph Jr. died that same year), Mill Creek Hundred, Joseph Rankin, 45 and over, with a female his own age (presumably his sister Ann), a male and female age 26 < 44 (his nephew Joseph III and wife Sarah), a male age 16 < 25 (his nephew Thomas, b. 1795), 4 children under the age of 15, and a free black woman.

[20] See Note 17.

[21] Rev. S. M. Rankin, The Rankin and Wharton Families, 149.

[22] See Note 1.

[23] Frances T. Ingmire, Guilford County North Carolina Marriage Records 1771-1868 Volume III Names O-Z (Athens, GA: Iberian Publishing Co., 1984), marriage bond dated 13 Nov 1772 for William Rankin and Jean Chambers. Rev. Rankin gives her name as Jane. Guilford County records also spell it as Jean or Jine. E.g., Guilford Co., NC Deed Book 9: 429.

[24] Rev. S. M. Rankin, The Rankin and Wharton Families, 149.

[25] New Castle Co., DE Deed Book Y1: 499 and 565, Familysearch.org film #6564. E.g., DB Y1: 499, deed dated 9 Apr 1768 from John Rankin and wife Hannah of Orange Co., NC (a predecessor to Guilford) and William Rankin of New Castle County, grantors, to Thomas Rankin and Joseph Rankin of New Castle, grantees.

[26] Rev. S. M. Rankin, The Rankin and Wharton Families, 21, 149.

[27] Guilford Co., NC Deed Book 1: 179, John Rankin of Guilford to William Rankin of same, 218 acres on the North Side of Buffalo Creek that John purchased from Alexander McNight (or McKnight) in 1765.

[28] New Castle Co., DE Will Book S: 116, will of Joseph Rankin dated 28 Oct 1819 proved 7 Jun 1820 provided that his sister Ann was to live with my two nephews Joseph and Thomas Rankin (sons of Lt. Thomas and Elizabeth Montgomery) “in the same manner as she has lived with me and that my said nephews shall and will take care of her and use her as well in every respect as I have ever done during her natural lifetime.” Joseph Jr. also left her $100.

[29] See Note 17.

[30] See Note 8.

[31] See Note 28.

[32] Familysearch.org catalog, New Castle Co., DE, Taxation, “Tax Lists (New Castle County, Delaware) 1738-1853,” Film No. 7834264, “Tax Lists v. 1=17, 1738 – 1790.” Unfortunately, I failed to record image numbers.

[33] There is no listing for either James or Robert Rankin in the New Castle County grantor and grantee indices.

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Transcription of New Castle Deed Book G3: 249-255. Proves 4 of the sons of Joseph Rankin. Transcription is verbatim, except that I have started new paragraphs between topics. The original deed is all one paragraph. My comments are in italics.

To all People to whom these presents shall come We Joseph Rankin and David Nivin of Whiteclay Creek hundred in the County of Newcastle and State of Delaware administrators of all and singular the goods and chattels rights and credits which were of Thomas Rankin late of the county afsd decd at the time of his death who died Intestate and the said Joseph Rankin as Copartner and Tenant in Common with the said Thomas Rankin in the lands and premises herein after about to be granted and conveyed. The grantors in this deed are (1) Joseph Rankin and David Nivin in their capacities as administrators of Thomas Rankin’s estate and (2) Joseph Rankin in his capacity as tenant in common in the tracts being conveyed in the deed.

Send greeting whereas William Penn Esquire proprietor of the State [then the province] od Pennsylvnia and territories in and by a certain Instrument or Patent under the hands of Edward Shipper Thomas Story and James Logan his then Commissioners of property and the Seal of the Province annexed did grant and confirm unto Robert French a certain tract of land containing three hundred acres situate on the South West side of Whiteclay Creek in Whiteclay Creek Hundred and County of Newcastle afsd as in and by the the said Patent bearing date the fifteenth day of December in the year one thousand seven hundred and two and recorded in the Rolls (?) Office at Philadelphia in Patent Book A Vol 2d page 422 as (?) relation being thereunto had may more fully and at large appear

and whereas the said Robert French so thus being seized by his deed bearing date the twentieth day of April in the year one thousand seven hundred and three did grant and convey the said tract of land unto a certain David Miller as in and by the said deed Recorded in the Rolls Office at Newcastle in Lib B folio 266 relation being thereunto as will more and at large appear

and whereas the said David Miller made over and conveyed one hundred and fifty acres of the said Land unto James Miller as by deed dated the thirtieth day of January in the year one thousand seven hundred and thirty and the said James Miller made over and conveyed the same unto Joseph Rankin [Father of the aforesaid Thomas Rankin and Joseph Rankin] in the year one thousand seven hundred and thirty one

and whereas the said Joseph Rankin so thereof being seized made and published his last Will and Testament in writing bearing date the thirteenth day of July in the year one thousand seven hundred and sixty four wherein among other things he devised twenty one acres and three quarters of the said land unto his two Sons John Rankin and William Rankin their heirs and assigns for ever and the residue of the said land he devised unto his two Sons to wit the afsd Thomas Rankin the afsd decd and the afsd Joseph Rankin party to these present to be held by them their Heirs Executors Administrators and assigns in common Tenancy for ever subject nevertheless to their Mother’s thirds thereof (?) of during her natural Life. [RRW note: Joseph Sr.’s will isn’t indexed in the New Castle probate records. Extant records identify William and Rebecca as administrators rather than executors of Joseph Sr.’s estate. I’m puzzled by all that and have no explanation.]

and whereas the said Joseph Rankin in his last Will and Testament afsd did also convey unto his two sons John Rankin and William Rankin another piece or parcel of land with the appurtenances lying in Whiteclay Creek Hundred afsd and adjoining the above mentioned tract and containing forty seven acres and the customary allowance of six acres patent for roads and highways being a part of the land belonging to the Pennsylvania land Company in London and was made over and conveyed unto John Rankin the younger by Jacob Cooper Samuel Shoemaker and Joshua Howell, Attornies for John Fothergill, Daniel Zachary, Thomas How, Devereaux Bowley, Luke Hind, Richard How, Jacob Hagan, Sylvanus Grove and William Heron of the City of London Trustees of the Pensylvania land Company in London as afsd to the sd John Rankin and William Rankin their Heirs and assigns in common Tenancy for ever, as in and by the said will proven according to law and filed in the registers Office at Newcastle relation being thereunto had may more fully and at large appear

and whereas the said John Rankin Rankin and Hannah his wife and the said William Rankin of the above mentioned twenty one acres and three quarters of land so being seized by an Indenture of Sale under their Hands & Seals bearing date the ninth day of April in the year one thousand seven hundred & sixty eight for the consideration mentioned did grant bargain and sell the said twenty one acres and three quarters of land with the appurtenances unto the afsd Thomas Rankin and Joseph Rankin their heirs and assigns for ever as in and by the said Indentures acknowledged in open Court of Common Please held at Newcastle for the County of Newcastle in August term the same year & recorded in the Rolls Office at Newcastle in Book Y page 499 et. Relation being thereunto had will at large appear

and whereas the afsd John Rankin and Hannah his wife & the afsd William Rankin & of the aforesaid forty seven Acres and allowance being seized by an Indenture of Sale under their Hands and Seals bearing date April the ninth in the year one thousand seven hundred and sixty eight for the consideration therein mentioned did grant bargain and sell the said forty seven acres with the appurtenances unto the said Thomas Rankin and Joseph Rankin their Heirs and assigns for ever as in & by the said Indenture acknowledged in open Court of Common Pleas held at Newcastle for the County of Newcastle in August Term the same year and recorded in the Rolls Office at Newcastle in Book Y folio 565 & relation being thereunto had may more fully and at large appear

and whereas a certain Charles Jacobs (?) and Grizzle his wife by an Indenture of Sale under their Hands and Seals dated the twenty eight of January in the year one thousand seven hundred and seventy two for the consideration therein mentioned did grant bargain and sell unto the afsd Thomas Rankin and Joseph Rankin a certain piece or parcel of land situate lying and being in White Clay Creek Hundred afsd adjoining the first above mentioned tract and containing fifty two acres with the appurtenances thereunto belonging to hold the said land and Premises with the appurtenances unto the said Thomas Rankin and Joseph Rankin their Heirs & assigns for ever as in and by the said Indenture acknowledged in open Court of Common Pleas held at Newcastle for the County of Newcastle in February term the same year and recorded in the Rolls Office of Newcastle in Book B Vol 2d folio 223 relation being theirunto had may more at large appear

and whereas the said Thomas Rankin and Joseph Rankin so of the four above mentioned tracts or parcels of land with the appurtenances being seized and having erected a Merchant Mill thereon the said Thomas died intestate without any division or partition having been previously made or done between the two parties

and whereas the administration of all and singular the goods and Chattels rights and Credit which were of the said Thomas Rankin dec’d to wit upon the third day of November in the year one thousand seven hundred and ninety five By James Booth Esqr at that time Register for probate of Wills and granting Letters of Administration for the County of New Castle afsd were to us the said Joseph Rankin and David Nivin committed (RRW note: Lt. Thomas died in October or November 1795 — his youngest son, Thomas Jr., was born in April 1796).

And whereas upon arranging settling and adjusting the accounts of the said deceased it was to us made known that there were sundry debts to ______ persons due by the said deceased which we had it not out the goods and chattels of the said dec’d then in our hands in any wise then in our power to discharge and pay without selling the Real Estate of the said deceased as abovementioned or at least a part therof

Therefore we took upon ourselves to present a petition to the Honorable the Orphans Court held at Newcastle for the County of Newcastle the fifteenth day of december in the year one thousand eight hundred and one setting forth that the said Thomas Rankin died Seized in his ____ of fee and in the one moiety or half part of the aforesaid tracts of land with the buildings improvements and appurtenances which was holden by him and the afsd Joseph Rankin one of the Petitioners in moieties and that we had not any means then in our hands out of the goods and Chattels of the sd decd to pay the out standing debts then due but by a sale of the whole or a part of the afsd Real Estate and praying the Court for an order to sell the moiety or half part of the said Real Estate which was of the said deceased or as much thereof as might be deemed necessary to pay and satisfy the said debts pursuant to the directions of the act of Assembly in such cases made and provided

Whereupon it was ordered by the Court that We the administrators as of should make sale of one moiety of the above mentioned tracts of land with the buildings improvements and appurtenances or so much thereof as may be deemed sufficient to satisfy and disharge the Just debts of the said in testate and that we should make return thereof to the next Orphans court

and whereas afterwards to wit upon the fourth day of November in the year one thousand eight hundred and two We the said Joseph Rankin and David Nivin administrators of the said Thomas Rankin ________ pursuance of the said Order and I the said Joseph Rankin Copartner and Tenant in Common with the said Thomas Rankin after we had given due notice of the time and place of such date to be given according to the directions of the act of Assemby in such case made an provided the whole of the before mentioned tracts and parcels of land with all singular the Improvements and appurtenances did set to public auction or _______ and the same was purchased by James Crawford of Mill Creek hundred in the County of Newcastle and State of Delaware aforesaid for the sum of three thousand seven hundred and ten dollars lawful money of the State of Delaware afsd he being the highest and best bidder

Now know ye that we the said Joseph Rankin and David Nivin administrators of the sd Thomas Rankin as afsd and I the said Joseph Rankin as Copartner and tenant in Common in the afsd lands & premises with the said deceased by force and virtue of the afsd Order and the Act of Assembly in such case made and provided and for an in Consideration of the afsd sun of three thousand seven hundred and ten dollars money as afsd to us in hand well and truly pay at and before the ensealing and delivery or these presents the receipt whereof we do hereby acknowledge and from every part and parcel thereof do acquit release and discharge the said James Crawford his heirs Executors and administrators for ever by these presents

Have granted bargained sold aliened released enfeoffed conveyed and confirmed and by force and Virtue of the afsd Order and the act of Assembly in such case made and provided do grant bargain sell alien release enfeoff convey and confirm unto the same James Crawford heir Heirs and assigns all the above mentioned tracts and parcels of land lying and being situated as afsd and bounded and described [as to the out lines thereof] as followith to wit

Beginning at an old Spanish oak stump on the west side of Whiteclay Creek which is also a corner of Obadiah Sergeants? land and running thence by the lines of the said Sergeants land south seventy two degrees west two hundred and forty eight perches to a forked poplar and South three degrees East forty six perches to a marked corner hickory standing by the great Road leaning from Newark to new London Cross Roads thence by said road North forty two and a half degrees West eighty nine perches and a half Northfourteen and a half degrees West sixty three perches and a half and north thirty three and a half degrees West twenty one perches and a half to a corner Blackoak standing on the east side of the great road afsd which is a corner of land late of Samuel Armitage thence therewith North seventy eight and a half degrees East eighty perches and a half to a corner blackoak in the line of Joseph Rankins first purchase then with the same North three degrees west thirty nine perches and two tenths of a perch to a stake about three perches west of a large Chestnut tree and thence north eighty five degrees East one hundred and twenty perches and eight tenths of a Perch to a stone set in line of a corner whiteoak on the East bank of a small run at the beginning corner of that piece or land bought of Charles Graham _____ thence by the lines of the same North twenty eight degrees West sixty eight perches to a Stone and north eighty one degrees East one hundred and twenty five Perches to a whiteoak standing by Whiteclay Creek and thence down the said Creek by the several courses thereof and binding thereon to the place of Beginning containing in the whole two hundred and eighty acres [RRW note: I get only 249A or 255A. ???] be the same more or less within the said described boundaries

Together with all and singular the Houses out Houses Mills Mill Houses Mill ponds Mill dams Millraces gardens orchards Meadows Woods Ways waters water courses rights liberties Privileges hereditaments and appurtenances whatsoever to all and every th hereby granted premises belonging or in any wise appertaining and the reversion and reversions remainder and remainders rents Issues and profits thereof and all the estate right title Interest trust property claim and demands which was of the afsd Thomas Rankin decd and now is of the aforesaid Joseph Rankin , of, in, to, or out of the same or any part of parcel thereof

To have and to hold the said plantation and tract of land with all and singular the improvements and appurtenances hereby granted or mentioned and intended so to be unto the said James Crawford his Heirs and assigns to the only proper use benefit and behoof of the sd James Chawford his Heirs and assigns for ever as fully and absolutely as we the said Joseph Rankin and David Nivin might could or ought to sell and convey the same by force and virtue of of the aforesaid Order and the Act of Assembly afsd in such case made and provided under and subject to the yearly quit Rents payable thereout of to the chief Lord or Lords of the fee thereof

And I the said Joseph Rankin as Copartner and Tenant in common with the afsd Thomas Rankin and rightful owner of the one moiety or undivided half of the before mentioned and described lands and premises with the improvements and appurtenances hereby bargained and sold or mentioned or intended so to be for myself and my heirs do hereby covenant grant and agree to and with the said James Crawford his Heirs and assigns that I the said Joseph Rankin and my heirs the above mentioned moiety or undivided half part to me belonging out of the before mentioned and described land and premises with the improvements and appurtenances hereby bargained and sold or mentioned or intended so to be for myself and my heirs do hereby covenant grant and agree to and with the said James Crawford his Heirs and assigns that I the said Joseph Rankin and my heirs the above mentioned moiety or undivided half part to be belonging out of the before mentioned and described land and premises with the appurtenance unto the said James Crawford his Heirs and assigns from and against myself the said Joseph Rankin and my Heirs and against all & every other person and persons whatsoever _____ claiming or to claim the same by from or under me them or any of them shall and will warrant and for ever defend by these presents

In witness whereof the said Joseph Rankin and David Nivin as administrators of Thomas Rankin decd and the said Joseph Rankin as Copartner and tenant in common with the sd Thomas Rankin have hereunto set their hands and seals this               day of              in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and three.

Signed sealed and delivered                                                            Joseph Rankin (seal)

In the presence of us                                                                         David Nivin (seal)

Saml Williamson

Joseph Rankin Junr [son of Lt. Thomas, dec’d]

$3710             We do hereby acknowledge to have received of the before named James Crawford the sum of three thousand seven hundred and ten dollars money as afsd in full of the consideration moned mentioned in the foregoing Instruments of writing as witness our hands the day and year last before written.

Same witnesses, same signatures.

Acknowledged in open court May Term 1808 and recorded June 23 1809.

Maryland Land Records Online

One advantage of researching Maryland ancestors is the wealth of data available online. For example, https://mdlandrec.net/main/ contains deed records from the beginning of the colony. For first time users, here is a step-by-step guide to find what you are seeking.

First, go to the site at the above link and set up a free account. After log in, you will see a nondescript page that looks like this:

Select a county from the pull-down menu in the toolbar at the upper left. For demonstration purposes, select Talbot County and the following will appear:

If you already have a book and page number from another index source, insert them in the “Jump to new volume” section, click the “Go!” button, and the selected page will pop up. If you do not have that information, you can search for it in an index. To do that, select “Active indices” from the vertical list at the left side of the page, and you will get this:

Toggle the box showing the “Series” of active indices to see the choices, shown below. Click on one of those choices.

I selected the first index to find the earliest transactions. Then click the “Search!” button on the right side of the “Series” box. The following page appears showing four records to choose from … an early period for surnames beginning with the letter A through K, an early period for L through Z, and later periods for both.

Of the four, I wanted the first one to find early purchases by the Blake family. Click on “MSA_CE92_1” in the far right column titled “Accession No.” on the same row as the desired index. The first page of the index document appears as below, with a “command” panel to the right of the image.

Here is where you must do a little guesswork. The index groups all the names beginning with an “A” into a chronological list beginning with Liber 1, page 1 through the end of that book. It then moves on to Liber 2, page 1 and so on for all the “A” surnames through Liber 50 (in this particular document). After that, the listing repeats the process with names beginning with “B” at Liber 1, page 1, and so on through the alphabet. Finding the list with the surname you want is where the guesswork comes in. I was looking for “Blake,” so I needed to find where the “B” list begins.

One alternative is to click on “Next” in the right-hand panel to page through the index one page at a time. A faster approach is to guess a page number, insert it in the “Jump to new page” in the box and click “Go!” You can then adjust from that result to find the beginning of the list you need.

I found the first page of the “B” list at page 15 of the index document, which looks like this:

Next, click on “View document in separate tab” at the top of the right-hand panel. Clicking this button will open a new tab in your browser that gives a full page width view, which is much easier to read, as shown below:

When you are finished copying the data you need, close the tab. Your computer will revert to the previous tab showing the selected page with the panel on the right side. Click the “Next” button on the panel to bring up the next page and repeat the process of opening the document in a separate tab.

I scrolled through five index pages before finding the first Blake surname in Liber 7. The entries looked like this:

As you can see from the above screen shot, the information is in five columns. The first column shows the name of the “B” surnamed person who is a party to a recorded transaction; the next column shows “to” or “from,” indicating the indexed party was grantor or grantee, respectively; the third shows the name of the other party; the fourth column lists the type of transaction or instrument; and the last column has the page number in the deed book. The Liber/book number is set out at the beginning of the list of entries and is not repeated at each line. The entry I am interested in states: “Blake, Chas, Jr/from/Peter Sayer & wife/Deed/102,” and the entries are all under Liber 7. I can now return to the search page for Talbot County and insert 7 and 102 to find the deed from the Sayers to the Blakes.

There are a couple of ways to get to that original search page. On the horizontal toolbar at the top of this page, you can use the pull-down menu under “Select New County” to pick Talbot County, or click “Home” and again select Talbot County. Either way returns you to the screen where you can input the liber and page number that you have just discovered. A shorter method is to click on “Jump to New Volume” in the toolbar, and several boxes pop up for you to insert the liber and page numbers.

Whichever way you get there, insert the book and page number, click “Go!”, and, voilà, the deed in question pops up. The deed at book 7, page 102 shows that on 20 Nov 1694, the gentleman Peter Sayer and his wife Frances of Talbot County conveyed to Charles Blake, Jr. of Hampshire, England, 300 acres of land in Talbot County on the east side of Eastern Bay for four score (80) pounds.

The process is a slow slog at first, but it is well worth it. So far, I have been through 28 pages of the deed index and found 38 entries involving a person named Blake, including deeds, mortgages, and many manumissions of enslaved people.

When I look for data in other states, I often regret they do not have the same accessible information.

 

Autobiography of John Rankin, Grandson of Robert & Rebecca Rankin of Guilford, NC

I previously promised to reproduce on this blog H. L. Eads’s transcription of Rev. John Rankin’s 1845 autobiography. That’s not going to happen, for reasons described below. Instead, this article reproduces verbatim only the limited genealogical material in the autobiography. It also contains a general overview of the document and additional details about Rev. John’s family.

Rev. John (1757 – 1850)[1] was the elder son of George and Lydia Steele Rankin.[2] He was a grandson of Robert and Rebecca Rankin of Rowan/Guilford Counties, North Carolina.[3] According to the autobiography, Robert, Rebecca and George were originally from Letterkenny Parish, County Donegal, Ireland, when it was still part of the province of Ulster. Robert was the family’s immigrant patriarch.

Here’s why I must retract my promise to type the entire autobiography.[4] It is impenetrably dense prose. It is dreadfully prolix.[5] The content zooms miles past uninteresting and lands squarely in boring. It would surely cause readers to experience MEGO (“My Eyes Glazed Over”). Also, the type is so blurry it is almost unreadable.

My husband Gary described it as “word salad.” He quit reading on page two of twenty. I persevered through the entire document and expect to receive some sort of Rankin Family Research prize for doing so. A quart of Visine would be an appropriate reward.

Rev. John spent the vast majority of the autobiography recounting his education, religious development, opinions, and mental state — beginning at age six. He was 88 when he wrote the autobiography. His self-absorption and memory are mind-boggling. My overall impression was that the autobiography is primarily theological navel-gazing. E.g., at about age nineteen, “my mind preponderated in favor of the newlight [sic, New Light”] scheme, and I greatly desired living religion that would reach my senses and understanding.”

As an adult, he reluctantly bought an enslaved person. He described the purchase in semi-exculpatory detail. He stated the exact date of his marriage but did not even mention his wife’s name! She was Rebecca Rankin, a daughter of John and Hannah Carson Rankin of Guilford County.[6] John Rankin was a son of Joseph Rankin of New Castle County, Delaware (1704 – 1764).[7] YDNA testing establishes that John and Rebecca were genetically related, although definitely not closer than second cousins. The couple’s common Rankin ancestor almost certainly lived on the other side of the Atlantic, either in Ulster or Scotland.[8]

Rev. John also failed to mention the given names of his father George, his only sibling Robert, or the stepfather with whom he grew up. Rev. John’s younger brother was Robert Rankin (1759 – 1840), a Revolutionary War soldier who married (1) Mary (“Polly”) Cusick, then (2) Mary Moody. Robert died in McNairy County, TN in 1840.[9] Rev. John’s widowed mother Lydia Steele Rankin married Arthur Forbis (or Forbes) about 1764, when John was seven.[10]

Rev. John was raised and originally ordained a Presbyterian, of course: he belonged to a family of Scots-Irish immigrants. But he was depressed by Presbyterian doctrine and practices. He longed for something more. He finally had some sort of transformative experience while preaching at a revival meeting in Casper’s River, near the place that eventually became the Shaker colony at South Union, Kentucky. His sermon moved many to tears and trembling. He became a Shaker and was essentially the patriarch of the South Union colony.

If I have unfairly characterized his autobiography, I hope someone who has read it will post a comment.

Here are relevant parts of it, quoted verbatim. My commentary is in italics.

“My parents emigrated from Ireland to the state of Pennsylvania & County of Lancaster in their youth – My Mother Lydia Steele, Jun., in the 13th year of her age under the superintendence of my grandmother Lydia Steele, Sen’r & the then single part of her family, in or about the year of 1746 from the County of Derry & parish of Newton; – the elder branches of the family removed before; and after this period, my eldest uncle John Steele, who was educated in Scotland & settled a Presbyterian preacher in the Town of Carlisle, with pay for life. – My father from the County of Donnegal [sic, Donegal] & parish of Letterkenny, about the year 1750, having then arrived to the year of maturity. [This suggests that George Rankin, Rev. Shaker John’s father, may have been born about 1729. George’s wife Lydia was born about 1733.]

… My Parents after a suitable acquaintance entered into that civil connection natural to the human family, who design living according to the order of the first Adam. After their union, they made preparation & emigrated to North Carolina in the month of July 1755 to lands purchased of Earl of Granville, the British proprietor, by a company in Lancaster County Pa. of which my father was a partner. [The Granville grants to Lancaster Co. Scots-Irish were collectively called “the Nottingham Settlement.” Many of the grantees were members of the West Nottingham Presbyterian Church, then located in Lancaster Co., later located in Rising Sun, Cecil Co., MD after the Mason-Dixon survey of the PA-MD line.[11] Most grantees lived in the disputed PA-MD area known as the “Nottingham Lots.”[12]] This grant of land contained 32 tracts of the first choice & was laid off in so many square miles (with some exception) about the center of Guilford County, & of course in the vicinity of Greensboro. The above mentioned company, who were principally Presbyterians of the old order, about this period emigrated, each to their respective possessions …

… I was born on the 27th of November 1757 two and a half years afterwards my Father was removed by death, & my Mother left a widow with two helpless infants, He left each of us children a tract of the above mentioned land. My Mother remained in her widowhood four years …

… On the 5th of December 1786, I entered a new relation in life & settled myself in a family capacity. [This is the date John and Rebecca married. The marriage bond was issued a few days earlier.]

… [I was licensed as a Presbyterian minister in] the year 1795 … and [went to Sumner County Tennessee at a friend’s invitation] … [where] I found the inhabitants of the Presbyterian denomination comparatively a barren waste in a religious point of view … at the approach of Spring [1796], I returned home attended to my farm, and other secular concerns, received my Presbyterial appointments and fulfilled them through the summer … I concluded, in union with my family to remove to the western country [Tennessee] without any visible prospect of regular settlement or congregational support. I sold my lands, crop & other disposable property and set out on the 6th of October in [1796], in company with Jesse McComb & family & arrove [sic] in the vicinity of Gallatin, Tenn. about the 15th of November; tarried there three months and then removed into the bounds of a small society on the ridge in Sumner County. In this place and two others equally destitute, I continued preaching near two years.

I … removed to this place, now, South Union, in December 1798.

John Rankin, sen. Now in the 88th year of my age.”

Unquote. End of excerpts.

And that’s all the news that’s fit to print about Shaker Rev. John’s autobiography. Other ancestors are tapping on my shoulder.

See you on down the road.

Robin

[1] Jim Small, Shaker Birth and Death Records, South Union Kentucky, accessed 24 Oct 2019 at this link. See also Shaker Union burial records  here.. The latter says, probably incorrectly, that Rev. John Rankin (shown as John Rankin Senior) was born in Pennsylvania. If John’s autobiography has the correct date for his parents’ move from PA to NC, he was born in North Carolina.

[2] See will of George Rankin dated and proved in 1760. He named his wife Lydia and two sons John and Robert. Guilford Co., NC Will Book A: 141. Lydia remarried, and her second husband, Arthur Forbis, named his stepsons John and Robert Rankin executors of his will. Guilford Co., NC Will Book A: 119.

[3] See deed from Robert Rankin and wife Rebecca to George Rankin, 5 shillings for 480 acres. Rowan Co., NC Deed Book 2: 70-73. The token price establishes the conveyance as a deed of gift as well as a family relationship between grantor and grantee.

[4] If you wish to see the typed transcription of the original autobiography, you can obtain one from the Manuscripts & Folklife Archives, Library Special Collections, Western Kentucky University. The first page is headed “Auto-Biography of John Rankin, Sen., Written at South Union, Ky. 1845, & copied here, Aug. 1870 by H. L. Eads.” A handwritten note on the first page describes it as “South Union Shaker Record A.”

[5] The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines “prolix” as (1) “unduly prolonged or drawn out: too long; (2) marked by or using an excess of words.” See it here. My articles are frequently prolix.

[6] 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), marriage bond dated 28 Nov 1786, Rev. John Rankin and Rebecah Rankin, bondsman Robert Rankin. The bondsman was most likely Rev. John’s brother or his uncle, as his grandfather Robert died about 1770. See also Rev. S. M. Rankin, The Rankin and Wharton Families and Their Genealogy (facsimile reprint by Higginson Book Company, Salem, Massachusetts) at 55: Rebecca, a daughter of John and Hannah Carson Rankin, m. Rev. John Rankin in 1786, son of George and Lydia Rankin.

[7] Rankin, Rankin and Wharton Families at 52, 55. Rev. Rankin incorrectly identified Samuel Rankin of Lincoln Co., NC (wife Eleanor “Ellen” Alexander) as a likely son of Joseph Rankin of New Castle, DE. YDNA testing has disproved this, but the error has a life of its own. See discussion in this article..

[8] See discussion of “Lineage 1” in the horizontal “Results” tab of the  Rankin DNA Project.

[9] There is some information about Shaker Rev. John’s little brother Robert Rankin in this article.

[10] See will of Arthur Forbis dated 10 Arp 1789, proved 1794, naming stepsons John Rankin and Robert Rankin executors. Guilford Co., NC Will Book A: 119. The autobiography says that Rev. John’s mother Lydia “remained in her widowhood four years,” so she married Arthur about 1764.

[11] See history of the Mason-Dixon Line, including the PA-MD portion,  here.

[12] You can find information about the Nottingham Lots at this link.

Findagrave.com information — fact or fiction? (e.g., Dr. John M. Rankin, 1833-1909)

Quickly, tell me the birth years of your parents …

Did you immediately know the answer? Did you have to consult a record to confirm your memory? Granted, if you are reading this article, you are surely a family history researcher. If so, those dates will roll off your tongue. Could your children handle the same question as easily, though? I’m not sure our sons could accurately recall our birth years right off the bat. Our grandchildren wouldn’t have a clue.

That little quiz, strangely enough, has to do with the reliability of information on Findagrave.com. I’ve run into several errors on its website lately, and have considered posting on the topic. I asked my husband for thoughts, trying not to telegraph my own opinion.

Me: do you ever use Findagrave.com?

Gary: yes.

(OK, I said to myself, he is a good witness who answers the question asked and only the question asked. Go for open-ended questions.)

Me: what do you think of it?

Gary: I like the tombstone pictures. Surely the date of death is accurate! But I’ve sometimes found problems with a birth year when I compare the tombstone to information provided by the deceased — a U.S. draft registration form, maybe. The deceased is not around to dispute his birthdate with his survivors! And some people have been known to shave a few years off their age …

(Well, that takes care of the “birthdate of your parents” issue, thought I).

Me: what else?

Gary: I think anything other than information from the tombstone image falls in the same category as online family trees. It doesn’t qualify as evidence, much less proof. It’s just a clue. My understanding is that anyone can put anything they want on Findagrave if they have an account. I never take information that is not on the tombstone as proved unless I can confirm it in actual records.

Me: silence …

Gary: well, except that Findagrave sometimes includes the text of an obituary. Those are often priceless. Also, other burials in the same cemetery can provide great clues.

*  *   *   *  *   *   *

Thanks to Gary’s talent for cutting through the BS and getting straight to the heart of the matter (with only minor edits), that pretty much exhausts everything I could say about Findagrave.com.

Happily, that allows me to move on to a Findagrave error I recently ran across. It concerns Dr. John M. Rankin, a Union Army Assistant Surgeon from Pennsylvania who wound up in Kalamazoo County, Michigan. Ah, those multiplying, migrating and confounding Pennsylvania Rankins! The Findagrave mistake is the identity of Dr. John’s parents. And the fun just begins there. A more intriguing question is the identity of his earlier Rankin ancestors.

First things first: the Findagrave entry for Dr. John M. Rankin starts out OK. It identifies him as having been born in 1833 and died in March 1909, and notes his service in the 11th Pennsylvania Infantry – all from his grave markers and confirmed by other sources. Information added by a Findagrave poster, however, identifies his parents as James (no middle initial, or “NMI”) and Margaret Hull Rankin of Armstrong and Clarion Counties, PA.

Actually, Dr. John M. Rankin’s parents were James Huston and Margaret McCurdy Rankin of Franklin, Armstrong and Clarion Counties, PA.[1]

The mistake is understandable. There were two James Rankins who had a wife named Margaret in Clarion County. There were also two John M. Rankins in Clarion county – both doctors. Fortunately, the two James and the two Johns can be distinguished.

    • First, Dr. John M. Rankin of the Pennsylvania Infantry left Clarion Co. as a young man. He was enumerated in Arcola, Douglas Co., IL in the 1860 and 1870 census, and in Kalamazoo Co., MI in 1880 and 1900. The other John M. Rankin stayed in Clarion County and was listed there in the 1850 and 1860 census.
    • Dr. John M. Rankin’s Piney Township, Clarion County will was dated 1863 and proved in 1869.[2] Further, the 1850 census for Piney Township, Clarion, lists him as age 58, born about 1792. However, Dr. John M. Rankin of Kalamazoo was born in 1833 and died in 1909.

Dr. John M. Rankin of Kalamazoo, MI was definitely not the same man as Dr. John M. Rankin of Clarion County, PA. That still doesn’t prove, though, that Dr. John of Kalamazoo was a son of James Huston and Margaret McCurdy Rankin.

Fortunately, there are Clarion County wills for BOTH James (NMI) and James Huston Rankin.

    • The will of James NMI Rankin of Toby Township, Clarion Co., was dated 1862 and proved in 1863.[3] It named his wife Margaret, sons James Johnston Rankin and Joseph Rankin, and Mary Jane Summerville. The will does not name a son John M. The 1850 and 1860 census for James NMI and Margaret both list James, Joseph, and Mary in the household … but no John.
    • The will of James Huston Rankin of Clarion Township, Clarion Co., was dated 1859 and proved 1872, suggesting he was either good at planning ahead or had a dim view of his prospects for a long life.[4] He named his wife Margaret. The will recites that he had four sons and four daughters, as does the biography of Dr. John in a history of Kalamazoo County.[5] He identified his children as follows:
    1. Eldest son James McCurdy Rankin.
    2. Second son Calvin A. Rankin.
    3. Third son John McGinley Rankin.
    4. Four daughters Sara Ann, Margaretta, Elizabeth, and Narcessa Jane Rankin.
    5. Fourth son Albert Brown Rankin.[6]

The history of Kalamazoo County[7] fleshes out Dr. John M. Rankin’s life a bit and provides information confirming that he was a son of James Huston and Margaret McCurdy Rankin. Here is what it says, with my comments in italics.

    • He was born 12 Feb 1833 in Franklin County, Pennsylvania.[8] So far as I have found, the line of James (NMI) and Margaret Hull Rankin never lived in Franklin County. Instead, they first appeared in Pennsylvania in Armstrong County, then in Toby Township, Clarion Co.[9]
    • History says that Dr. John’s parents James H. and Margaret McCurdy Rankin had 4 sons and 4 daughters, as recited in James Huston Rankin’s will.
    • John married three times. First, to Harriet Sharp in 1858.[10] She died in 1871.[11] John and Harriet had three sons: Edmund (or Edmond),[12] Charles,[13] and James Rankin.[14] Second, he married Miss Susan Rankin in 1873 (Rankin family connection, if any, unknown). He and Susan had one son, John M. Rankin.[15] She died in 1879.  In 1881, he married his third wife, Martha A. McClelland.[16]
    • He graduated from Rush Medical College in Chicago in 1863.
    • Dr. Rankin enlisted in the 11th Pennsylvania Infantry in February 1865. He was at the battles of Hatcher’s Run and Five Forks and the surrender at Appomattox. He was discharged in July 1865.
    • He was a Presbyterian. We would have been surprised if he were anything but.

*  *   *   *  *   *   *

Let’s turn now to the identity of Dr. John’s grandparents, i.e., James Huston Rankin’s parents.

To begin with, History tells us that Dr. John M. Rankin, son of James Houston Rankin, was born in Franklin Co., PA. Further, the obituaries and/or death certificates for two of Dr. John’s brothers (Calvin Alexander Rankin and Albert Brown Rankin) state that they were also sons of James Huston and Margaret McCurdy Rankin and were born in Franklin Co.

On those facts, the safest bet in genealogy is that James Huston Rankin was from the line of Adam Rankin who died in 1747 in Lancaster County and his wife Mary Steele Alexander.[17] Adam and Mary had two sons – James and William– who lived in a part of Cumberland County that became Franklin County in 1784.[18] Virtually all of the late 18th and early 19th century Rankins in Franklin County descend from James or William.

Here’s the evidentiary trail. There is one obvious weak link.

First, Adam and Mary’s son James Sr. named a son James Jr. in his 1788 Franklin Co. will.[19] James Jr. inherited the land where he was living, so James Jr. was a grown man and probably married by 1788. James Huston Rankin was born about 1794 – the right age to have been a son of James Jr.. The tract James Jr. inherited was adjacent to a James Huston. Based on the process of elimination among the Franklin County Rankins, I suspected James Jr. was the father of James Huston. I set about tracking James Jr.

There is little information about James Jr., who didn’t appear in the Franklin Co. records often. In 1803, he was named executor of his brother Jeremiah’s will.[20] In 1818, James Jr. and his wife Mary conveyed the tract James Jr. inherited from his father James Sr.[21]

James Jr. appeared consistently in the census for Montgomery Township, Franklin County every decade from 1790 through 1820.[22] Taken together, the census entries suggest six possible children. Both the 1800 and 1810 census listings have a male the right age to be James Huston Rankin.

I cannot find James Jr. in the 1820 census, although an 1821 conveyance recites that he was still living in Montgomery Township.[23] After 1821, James Jr. disappeared from the Franklin records. He left no trace in Franklin probate records. That raises the possibility that he moved away.

With that in mind, a man who may be James Jr. surfaced in 1830 in Clarion Township, Armstrong County. James and the elder female in his household were both enumerated in the 60 < 70 age bracket, born during 1760-1770 – the right generation to be James Jr., who was an adult living on his own tract in 1788 if he were born in the early part of that period. In that same census, James Huston Rankin was still living in Franklin County, enumerated in Metal Township immediately adjacent the entry for Mary McCurdy, likely his mother-in-law.

So … what is the evidence of a connection between James of Clarion Township, Armstrong, and James Huston of Franklin?

Land records to the rescue, as usual. Viola! A deed provides a link between the two men.[24] It concerns a tract in Clarion Township, Armstrong County which James Rankin owned. In February 1839, James promised (apparently in writing) to convey the tract to James Huston Rankin, whose middle name is spelled out several times in the deed. The consideration was that James Huston Rankin would “keep and maintain the said James Rankin and his wife” for the remainder of their lives. James failed to make a deed for the tract during his lifetime, so James Huston petitioned the court for specific performance in order to obtain a deed from the administrator of James’s estate. James died intestate, so all of his heirs were summoned to answer the petition. The heirs agreed that the promise to convey the tract had been and that James Huston had performed. The administrator made the requisite deed.

All of that is recited in the deed from the administrator to James Huston Rankin. You would think (hope!) it would also recite the relationship between James and James Huston Rankin. No such luck. Nonetheless, the deed is clear and convincing (if just short of conclusive) proof that James Huston Rankin was a son of James Rankin of Clarion Township, Armstrong County.

There is one obvious leap of faith required in my reconstruction of this family. Namely, one must conclude that James Rankin, father of James Huston Rankin, was the same man as James Jr., son of James Sr. who died in 1795 in Franklin. With that in mind, James Huston Rankin’s ancestry must be qualified as unproved … despite my gut hunch that it is correct.

Here is my view of Dr. John McGinley Rankin’s line in outline descendant chart format.

1 Adam Rankin d. 1747, Lancaster Co., PA, and wife Mary Steele Alexander.

2 James Rankin Sr., b. circa 1720, Cecil Co., MD or Lancaster Co., PA. Died 1795, Franklin Co., PA. Wife Jean.

3 James Rankin Jr., b. abt 1760, Cumberland Co., PA, d. before 1850, Clarion Township, Armstrong or Clarion Co., PA. Wife Mary MNU. It is unproved that this James Rankin of Clarion Township is the same man as James Jr., son of James Sr.

4 James Huston Rankin, b. 1794, Montgomery Township, Franklin Co., PA, d. 1872, Clarion Township, Clarion Co., PA. Wife Margaret McCurdy.

5 Dr. John M. Rankin, b. 1833, Franklin Co., PA, d. 1909, Kalamazoo. MI.

And that’s it from me on Dr. John M. Rankin and James Huston Rankin.

See you on down the road.

Robin

[1] Dr. John M. Rankin’s death certificate (image available at Ancestry) identifies his mother as Margaret McCurdy.  A History of Kalamazoo County says Dr. John’s father was James H. Rankin and his mother was Margaret McCurdy. David Fisher and Frank Little, Compendium of History and Biography of Kalamazoo County, Michigan (Chicago: A. W. Bowen & Co., 1906), 323 (hereafter, “History”). James Huston Rankin’s will identifies his third son as John McGinley Rankin. Clarion Co., PA Will Book B: 216. The will also recites that he had four sons and four daughters, which is precisely what History says about Dr. John’s family of origin. John M. was listed with James H. and Margaret Rankin in the 1850 Clarion Co. census, age 17 (born 1833), along with a presumed sister Sarah Rankin (who was enumerated in 1860 and 1870 as “Sarah A. Rankin”). In the 1880 census, Sarah A. Rankin was living with Dr. John and identified as his sister. If you aren’t convinced yet, please keep reading and let me know.

[2] Clarion Will Book B: 126. The Clarion County probate index identifies him as Dr. John M. Rankin, although the will itself does not.  Likewise, the 1850 census for Piney Township showed his profession as “Dr. of [unreadable].

[3] Clarion Co., PA Will Book A: 381.

[4] Clarion Co., PA Will Book B: 216.

[5] Fisher and Little, History and Biography of Kalamazoo County, see Note 1 for full citation.

[6] Compare the names in the will with the 1850 census for Clarion, which omits Calvin Alexander Rankin. The household enumerates James H. Rankin with Margaret Rankin and seven children: James, Sarah,J. M. (male, John McGinley), A. B. (male, Albert Brown), Margretta, Mary (Arcessa in the 1860 census), and two females named M. E. The 1850 census taker or transcriber may have been getting careless about the younger children, but he nailed the names of first five.

[7] Fisher and Little, History and Biography of Kalamazoo County, 323. See link here.

[8] 1900 census, Richland, Kalamazoo Co., MI, John M. Rankin, physician, b. Feb 1833,age 67. Evidence that he was born in Franklin Co. is the biography in History and the death certificate and/or obituaries for his brothers Calvin Alexander and Albert Brown. They establish that Calvin (older than Dr. John) and Albert (younger than Dr. John) were also born in Franklin and were sons of James Huston and Margaret McCurdy Rankin.

[9] For what it’s worth, that’s what Findagrave.com says about James and Margaret Hull Rankin’s line.

[10] John M. Rankin married Hattie S. Sharp on 29 Jun 1858, in Coles Co., IL. “History” incorrectly says they were married in PA.

[11] Harriet S. Rankin’s tombstone in the Hillside Cemetery in Plainwell, Allegan Co., MI is inscribed “died 11 Jul 1871.”

[12] A biography  of Edmond Rankin says he was born about 1856 in Pennsylvania. That conflicts with the 1870 and 1880 censuses, both of which say he was born in Illinois. The bio identifies him as a son of Dr. John Rankin. It also says that he was a dry goods merchant, engaged in the insurance business, and was mayor of Kalamazoo in 1902. He died in 1924 and is buried in the Mountain Home Cemetery in the city of Kalamazoo.

[13] Death certificate for Dr. Charles E. (Everett) Rankin, Grand Rapids, Kent Co., MI. The certificate says he was born 2 Jul 1863, Arcola, IL, d. 24 Feb 1937, and that he was a son of Dr. John M. Rankin and Harriet Sharp. Buried in the Oakhill Cemetery, Grand Rapids, MI.

[14] 1880 census, Richland, Kalamazoo Co., MI, John M. Rankin, 47, physician, b. PA, Susan C. Rankin, 47, PA (had cancer), with son Charles E. Rankin, 16, b. IL, son James S. Rankin, 9, b. MI, son John Rankin, 6, b. MI (Susan’s only child), and Sarah A. Rankin, sister, age 52, b PA. James S. (possibly Sharp) may be the James S. Rankin, M.D., buried in the Fairview Cemetery, DeKalb, Dekalb Co., IL, whose tombstone gives birth and death dates as 1870 – 1950.

[15] Michigan death certificate for John M. Rankin, d. 22 May 1898, age 24. Born in Michigan; son of John M. Rankin (b. PA) and Susan C. Rankin (b. PA). Certificate signed by his father Dr. John M. Rankin (Sr.) Buried in the Hillside Cemetery, Plainwell, Allegan Co., MI.

[16] Her tombstone identifies her as “Martha Ann McClellan, wife of John M. Rankin.” I haven’t found marriage date information other than the date provided by History and the 1900 census, which says they had been married 18 years (census taken June 1900).

[17] I’ve written several articles on this blog about the line of Adam and Mary Steele Alexander Rankin. See articles at these links:  here,   here, here,   here, and (finally!) here.

[18] Adam and Mary Steele Alexander Rankin also had a son Jeremiah, see Lancaster Co., PA Will Book J1: 208, will of Adam Rankin dated and proved in 1747. Jeremiah died in Cumberland in 1760, and all of his probable children moved to Kentucky. Thus, only Adam and Mary’s sons James and William are likely candidates to be James Huston Rankin’s ancestor.

[19] Franklin Co., PA Will Book A: 345, will of James Rankin Sr. dated 1788, proved 1795.

[20] Franklin Col., PA Will Book B: 167, will of Jeremiah Rankin of Montgomery Twp., Franklin Co., PA dated 13 Jun 1803, proved 1 Aug 1803.

[21] Franklin Co., PA Deed Book 12:28, deed dated 27 Mar 1818 from James Rankin (Jr.) and wife Mary to Jacob Klein. 107 acres of the conveyance was part of a tract surveyed in 1742 to Adam Rankin which was devised to James Jr. by James Sr. by his will dated 25 Mar 1788, see Note 19. James J. Huston was a witness.

[22] 1790 census, Montgomery Township, Franklin Co., James Rankin Jr., 12300; 1800 census, Montgomery Township, James Rankin, 11110-11110; 1810 census, James Rankin, Franklin Co., 00211-01201.

[23] Franklin Co., PA Deed Book 12: 710, deed dated 8 May 1821 from James Rankin Sr. to David Donwoody or Dunwoody, both of Montgomery Township, Franklin Co. James Sr. became known as James Sr. after his father died in 1795.

[24] Family History Library DGS Film #8088009, images 284-85, Clarion Co., PA Deed Book 6: 371-72.

The Robert Rankins of Guilford County, NC

This is a reissue to correct a problem with the original article. I posted it when the Rankin DNA Project website was hosted by WorldFamilies. net. The project’s website had a “Patriarch Chart” containing detailed family trees, names, email addresses, and kit numbers of YDNA participants. All of that was kosher under the website host’s rules.

The original post of this article didn’t have all that information, thank goodness, but it did contain the names of several project participants. That could violate the privacy standards of the current Rankin DNA Project website host. I revisited the article this afternoon to answer a question, and was upset to find those names. Here is a reissue to delete them.

*   *   *   *   *   *  

If you have searched for a Robert Rankin in the records of Guilford County, North Carolina during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, you hit the jackpot. There were at least six Robert Rankins in Guilford during that time. This article is about four of them. Some of what I propose is not mainstream Rankin thought. Here’s what may be controversial:

I have identified three “new” daughters of Robert and Rebecca Rankin of Guilford. One of them may reasonably be deemed proved, one is probably a daughter, and one is unproved. The first one is included in a couple of online trees. The latter two have not been identified in any compiled family history or online sources, so far as I know.

The identity of the wife of the Robert Rankin who died in Guilford in 1795. I disagree about that 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 Rowan/Guilford.

Here are the nicknames I will use to distinguish among the four Robert Rankins covered in this article.

  1. R&R – Robert Rankin and wife Rebecca.
  2. Robert d. 1795 – a son of R&R.
  3. Rev (short for “Revolutionary,” not “Reverend”) War Robert – a grandson of R&R.
  4. Arkansas Robert – a great-grandson of R&R. 

And here we go, from the top …

R&R – Robert Rankin and wife Rebecca

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

Robert died in 1770-1773.[6] He left no will. Other Rowan and Guilford records establish that R&R had proved children (1) George, (2) Robert, and (3) Ann who married William Denny (William Denny Senior, for purposes of this article).[7] Rev. Rankin also named a son John and a  daughter Rebecca who married James Denny. There is circumstantial evidence for a son John, although Rebecca (m. James Denny) is almost certainly wrong.[8] Rev. Rankin omitted Ann Rankin Denny from his list; 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 in addition to Ann Rankin Denny. These two women – Margaret (Rankin?) Braly/Brawley and Rebecca (Rankin?) Boyd – should probably be deemed unproved. 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. 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.

The Braly administrator’s bond was dated 8 Jan 1765. Thomas’s noncupative will established that his wife was pregnant, and thus of childbearing age. She therefore belonged to the same generation as R&R’s proved children.[9] Margaret can reasonably be deemed a “probable” daughter of R&R because of her age and the two strong Rankin-Braly connections established by the administrator’s bond and will.

Second, Robert Rankin was also security on the Rowan County administrator’s bond of Rebecca Boyd, widow of John Boyd, in January 1767.[10] Robert’s signature on the original Boyd bond is identical to the signature on the Braly bond, so it was the same Robert Rankin. There is also circumstantial evidence of Boyd/Rankin connections in some Guilford deeds.[11] I think Rebecca Boyd was R&R’s daughter, but still consider her unproved.

On that note, here is a brief chart of R&R’s line, including the four Robert Rankin men covered in this article and adding Ann Denny, Margaret Braly, and Rebecca Boyd 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 1770-73, 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 their 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, d. in McNairy Co., TN.[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., a possible son suggested by Rev. Samuel M. Rankin. I found limited circumstantial evidence. No children of whom I am aware.

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

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

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

Next up: R&R’s son Robert.

Robert Rankin d. 1795, son of Robert & Rebecca

Robert Rankin died in Guilford in 1795 and left a will.[18] I have written about him in another article, see it here. 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 name: 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, d. in McNairy Co., TN.

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 can’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 Co., NC in 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 1770-73. But there’s a tougher controversy about Robert d. 1795: the identity of his wife. Many Rankin researchers identify her as Jean (or Jane) Denny. They have good reason to do so. The Guilford County marriage records establish 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?

The evidence about Jean/Jane Denny’s parents, William Denny (Sr.) and Ann Rankin Denny, is a Rowan County deed. 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 is extremely persuasive proof that William Denny Sr. was part of R&R’s family. There is more. William Denny witnessed the will of R&R’s son George Rankin along with Robert Rankin and John Braly.[30] Further, John Rankin, perhaps a son of R&R, witnessed William Denny’s 1766 will.[31] In my book, that is sufficient evidence to deem Ann Rankin Denny R&R’s proved daughter.

William & Ann Rankin 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 (and probably was) Robert Rankin of Iredell County.[32]

Let’s divert for a moment into the wonderful world of YDNA evidence.

Iredell Robert was a son of David Rankin who died in Iredell in 1789.[33] Two men who are David’s proved descendants are participants in the Rankin DNA project. Two other men in the Rankin project are descended from R&R. The four men are close matches. There is no doubt that Iredell Robert was a genetic relative of the Guilford County line of R&R Rankin.

One cannot state unequivocally that David of Iredell was a son of R&R – although the results don’t preclude a father-son relationship, either. In any event, Iredell Robert Rankin and Jean Denny were genetic cousins of some degree, and their families almost certainly knew each other

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 Jean Rankin’s maiden name was Denny. I’ll also 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 a 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 quite gotten to him yet.

Rev(olutionary) 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 seven – are fairly easy to identify. 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 the wife 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 any evidence 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 about them, 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 YDNA provides compelling evidence. Back up for a moment to Isabel Rankin, a proved daughter of Rev War Robert and his first wife Polly Cusisk.[41] Isabel married some Robert Rankin in Guilford in 1812.[42] A descendant of Robert and Isabel (call him “Joe”) has  YDNA tested and participates in the Rankin DNA project. A problem is that “Joe” can prove that Isabel Rankin is descended from R&R. Of course, Isabel didn’t have a Y-chromosome to pass on. “Joe” inherited that from Isabel’s husband Robert Rankin. The problem is that “Joe” hasn’t been able to prove Robert’s parents via traditional paper genealogy.

Considering all the Robert Rankins floating around Guilford, it’s  understandable that Robert’s parentage is difficult. Don’t forget that 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.

Isabel’s husband Robert was almost certainly not from Joseph’s line, which has been well-documented by Rev. Samuel Meek Rankin. We can heavily discount the Mars theory. That leaves the line of R&R.

YDNA 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 by a deed, although he is unaccountably missing from many lists of George and Nancy’s children.[43] Robert 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 Robert was the same man as George and Nancy’s son Robert. However, that Robert, as far as I can find, was the only Robert Rankin in Guilford available to marry Isabel. Sort of a “last man standing” theory.

More YDNA: a proved descendant of R&R’s grandson George Rankin and his wife Nancy Gillespie is a close YDNA match with “Joe.”  The match establishes that Isabel and Robert’s line and George and Nancy’s line share a common Rankin ancestor fairly recently. The common ancestors, based on the paper evidence, are almost certainly R&R. That’s sufficient YDNA 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. Someday, when it’s too hot to go fishing, too rainy to garden, and the Astros aren’t playing, I will 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.

See you on down the road.

Robin

[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 Rev. John” Rankin (1757-1850), a preacher who wrote his autobiography at age 88 (cited hereafter as “Shaker John’s Autobiography”). He died in Shakertown, Logan Co., KY. See  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). You can obtain a copy of the typescript of Eads’s history from the Special Collections Library, Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green, Kentucky (WKU), where is it designated “Shaker Record A.” The autobiography contains very little of genealogical significance, but what is has is good stuff. Mostly, it chronicles every thought he had about, and events concerning, religion through his long life from youth onward.

[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) says the family lived in Lancaster Co., but I didn’t find any record of 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 circumstantial 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 from a later generation that R&R’s proved children and was most likely born too late to be their daughter. 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.

[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), 630 acres 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 grant recipient, 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, 150 acres on waters of 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] Id. 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] Guilford County, NC Wills Books A-B 1771-1838, File #312 (will of Robert Rankin d. 1795).

[19] See id., 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 federal census, McNairy Co., TN, William R. Wilson, 62, farmer, b. NC, Lydia Wilson, 61, b NC, Washington Wilson, 33, NC, Lucinda Wilson, 26, TN, Lydia Wilson, 8, TN, Adaline Wilson, 5, TN, Jesse Wilson, 3, TN, 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 federal 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, MO; 1860 federal 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 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 probably means 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 three 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 and probably did marry Robert Rankin of Iredell Co., son of David Rankin d. Iredell in 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 identified as a niece in the McNairy will of Thomas M. Rankin.

[41] Guilford, NC Will Book B: 435, will of William Cusick naming three 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.