Appendix to The John Willis Family and The Maryland Supply Tax of 1783

An abbreviated descendant chart for John Willis of Wantage with highlighted names of people and tracts of interest. This Appendix supplements the narrative article “The John Willis Family and The Maryland Supply Tax of 1783,” which is located immediately below this posting:

 

….. 1 John Willis b: Bef. 1660, Wantage, Berkshire, England, d: Nov 1712 in Dorchester Co, MD (patented Wantage in 1702)

……….. 2 John Willis, Jr. b: Abt. 1683 in Dorchester Co, MD, d: Bef. May 1765 (1717 land on Marshy Creek, Willis Regulation)

……….. + Mary Unknown d: Bef. 1731, m: Abt. 1702

…………….. 3 John Willis b: Abt. 1703 (25 Old 26), d: likely Bef. 1783

…………….. 3 Mary Willis

…………….. + Unknown Clift (Poss. Joseph or Mark)

…………….. 3 Judeath Willis

…………….. 3 Elizabeth Willis

…………….. + Unknown Killingsworth

…………….. 3 Isaac Willis d: Abt. May 1789 (Letters Admin to Henry & Joshua Willis)

………………….. 4 Henry Willis b: Bef. 1760 (“of Isaac” in Loyalty Oath 1778)

………………….. 4 Andrew Willis b: Bet. 1761-1767 (“of Ic” in 1783 Supply Tax)

…………….. 3 Richard Willis b: Abt. 1718 (15 Old 452), d: 1764 in Dorchester Co., MD

…………….. + Rebecca Granger d: Aft. 14 Aug 1771

………………….. 4 Richard Willis, Jr. b: 08 Aug 1759 in Dorchester Co., MD, d: 14 Feb 1823 in Caroline Co., MD (Sarah’s Delight, New Foundland)

………………….. + Britannia Gootee b: Abt. 1765 in Dorchester Co., MD, d: 03 Jan 1826 in Caroline Co., MD, m: 22 Jan 1788 in Caroline Co., MD

………………….. 4 Mary Willis

………………….. 4 Thomas Willis d: 1795 in Caroline County, MD (Perry’s Delight, New Land)

………………….. + Elizabeth Perry

………………….. 4 Joshua Willis b: Abt. 1765, d: Bet. 1793-1805 (Good Luck, New Land)

………………….. 4 Robert Willis d: 1804 in Caroline County, MD (Perry’s Discovery)

………………….. + Sarah Rumbold b: 31 Oct 1757, m: 08 Nov 1774 Dorchester Co., MD

…………….. 3 Joshua Willis b: Abt. 1720, d: Abt. 1797 (First Constable Caroline Co.) (Painter’s Range, Bank of Pleasure, Willis’s Right)

…………….. + Susannah Unknown poss. Richardson d: Bef. 1774

………………….. 4 Elizabeth Willis b: Abt. 1762

………………….. + William Everngham m: 1786

………………….. 4 Joshua Willis b: Abt. 1763

………………….. + Elizabeth Wright m: 02 Sep 1799

………………….. 4 Frances Willis b: Abt. 1767

………………….. + Charles Baker d: Bef. 1805 in 23 HD 181, m: 1785

…………….. +Deborah Greenhawk m: 1774

………………….. 4 Deborah Willis

………………….. + Joshua Lucas m: 1789

………………….. 4 Charles Willis b: Abt. 1776, d: Bef. 1801

………………….. 4 Peter Willis b: Abt. 1777, d: 03 Oct 1834

………………….. + Elizabeth Holmes m: 1798

………………….. 4 Thomas Willis b: Abt. 1778, d: Bef. 1801

………………….. 4 James Willis b: Abt. 1779

………………….. 4 John Willis b: Abt. 1780

………………….. 4 Annaretta Willis b: Abt. 1781

………………….. + Unknown Fleming

………………….. 4 Mary Willis b: Abt. 1783

…………….. 3 Dorcas Willis

…………….. + Benjamin Nicols

……….. + Elizabeth Sharp d: Aft. Nov 1768, m: 1730

…………….. 3 John Willis III b: 1731, d: Abt. Nov 1794 (inherited Willis Regulation)

…………….. + Keziah Unknown d: Aft. Nov 1794

………………….. 4 Philemon Willis b: 1764, d: 05 Mar 1836 in Talbot Co., MD

………………….. 4 John Willis

………………….. 4 William Willis

………………….. 4 Lewis Willis

………………….. 4 Sarah Willis

………………….. + John Nabb

………………….. 4 Nicholas Willis b: Aft. 1771

………………….. 4 Henry Willis b: Aft. 1771

…………….. 3 Gernay “Jarvis” Willis b: 1735, d: 1799

……….. 2 Grace Willis b: Abt. 1685, d: Aft. 1722

……….. 2 Elizabeth Willis b: Abt. 1688

……….. 2 Andrew Willis b: 1690, d: 1738 in Dorchester Co., MD

……….. + Jennet Jones d: Bef. Apr 1728

…………….. 3 William Willis b: 1717, d: 1782

…………….. + Unknown poss. Elizabeth Hill

………………….. 4 Elizabeth Willis b: Abt. 1736, d: 1793

………………….. + James Buchanan b: 1737, d: 1805

………………….. 4 William Willis b: Abt. 1740, d: 1793

………………….. 4 Jacob Willis b: Abt. 1742, d: 1782

………………….. + Elizabeth Nancy Eaves b: 1756, d: 1782

…………….. 3 Thomas Willis b: 1715, d: 1751

…………….. + Rachel Bullock d: 1757

…………….. 3 Andrew Willis b: 1719, d: 1778

…………….. + Sarah Hill b: 1720

………………….. 4 Andrew Willis b: 12 Feb 1768 in Dorchester Co., MD (Fisher’s Venture)

………………….. 4 Keziah Willis b: 12 Oct 1770 in Dorchester Co., MD

………………….. 4 George Willis b: 03 Dec 1775

………………….. 4 Mary Willis

…………….. 3 Sarah Willis b: 1721

……….. + Rebecca Goostree b: 1697, d: 1746 (inherited land that became New Town)

…………….. 3 Richard Willis b: 1721, d: 1773 (inherited New Town)

…………….. + Rachel Possibly Pritchett

………………….. 4 Mary Willis b: 17 Feb 1754 in Dorchester Co., MD (inherited New Town)

………………….. + Benjamin Meekins b: 03 Oct 1747 in Dorchester Co., Maryland, d: Bef. Sep 1782

………………….. 4 John Willis b: 03 Jan 1755

………………….. 4 Elizabeth Willis b: 08 Dec 1755 in Dorchester Co., MD (inherited Buttons Chance)

………………….. + possibly Budd Shinton (owner of Buttons Chance in 1783)

………………….. 4 Richard Willis b: 20 Mar 1761 in Dorchester Co., MD

………………….. 4 Sarah Willis

…………….. 3 George Willis b: 1723, d: Bef. 1784 without issue

…………….. 3 John Willis b: 1725, d: Aft. 1784 (inherited New Town through George)

…………….. + Ann/Nancy Unknown

………………….. 4 Jarvis Willis b: 06 Dec 1758 in Dorchester Co., MD, d: 1852 in Lawrence, AL

………………….. 4 John Willis b: 21 Apr 1762 in Dorchester Co., MD

……….. 2 Thomas Willis b: Abt. 1692, d: 1722

……….. 2 William Willis b: Bet. 1694-1700, d: Aft. 1746 (inherited Wantage)

……….. + Judith Seward/Soward b: Bet. 1696-1702, d: Aft. 1746

…………….. 3 Thomas Willis b: Abt. 1714, d: Aft. 1784

 

 

The John Willis Family and the Maryland Supply Tax of 1783

A friend recently pointed me toward a great resource, the Maryland Supply Tax of 1783. The Continental Congress periodically levied a tax on each state to pay for soldiers’ salaries and supplies during the Revolutionary War. Many of the Maryland records of the 1783 tax survive and are preserved in the Maryland State Archives (MSA). Best of all, the records are available online so you can review them from home.

MSA published an index of the records for some counties at: http://msa.maryland.gov/msa/stagser/s1400/s1437/html/ssi1437e.html

Most importantly, the Maryland Society of the Sons of the American Revolution (MDSSAR) scanned the surviving records and posted them on their website at: https://www.mdssar.org/membership/marylandtaxlists

Like most tax records of the era, these contain a wealth of information about the property owners. The records list all heads of household along with details such as land holdings, names of the tracts, numbers of slaves by age and gender, numbers of horses and cattle, the value of each asset and the total tax assessed. Some jurisdictions also describe the real property as to location, condition of the soil, and improvements. Additionally, the lists show the number of white inhabitants for each household, sometimes divided by gender. Males without taxable property between the ages of 18 and 50 were listed and assessed a default tax of 15 shillings. Paupers were listed as such and assessed no tax.

I recommend beginning at the searchable MSA index to identify the pages and tax district where a person of interest or a named tract of land is listed. Then logon to the MDSSAR site and scroll to the proper location. The scanned records are alphabetical within each tax district, making the site easy to use. I was pleased to find my family, the descendants of John Willis, listed here.[1]

The John Willis Family

In 1702, the John Willis who settled in Dorchester County patented 50 acres of land named Wantage located on the Little Blackwater River about three or four miles from Cambridge. John had four sons: John Jr., Thomas, Andrew, and William. We know from county land records the following information:

John, Jr. bought land in 1717 on Marshy Creek in what would become Caroline County. John’s land became known as Willis’s Regulation and stayed in the family for several generations.

Thomas purchased land on Marshy Creek adjoining John’s tract. However, he died without issue.

Andrew ultimately lived in Dorchester County on his second wife’s inherited land located west of the main Blackwater River. He expanded his holdings with a patent called New Town in 1730.

William inherited Wantage from his father John, Sr. in 1712 and lived there until 1734 when he sold to William Soward, one of his wife’s brothers.

Sons John, Jr. and Andrew, Sr. had proven children. Son William had one likely son Thomas, who does not appear in the records. The Caroline County assessment lists the following sons of John, Jr.: Joshua, John III, and Jarvis; and his grandsons Henry, Andrew, Richard, Thomas, Joshua, and Robert. The Dorchester County assessment lists three grandsons of Andrew, Jr.: Andrew, John, and Jarvis.[2] That list also shows William Soward as the owner of Wantage, the Willis family’s original tract, and Levin Hughes as the owner of New Town, previously owned by Andrew’s family. Let’s turn to the detail within each county’s assessment.

Caroline County Assessment

The 1783 assessment divided Caroline County into three districts – Upper Choptank, River, and Lower Choptank Districts.[3] All the sons and grandsons of John Willis, Jr. listed on the 1783 rolls are in Lower Choptank. There are other Willis families in the county not related to the John Willis of Marshy Creek. Those Willis groups can be identified and distinguished generally by their lands.[4] Here is what the record reveals about each Willis related to John, Jr., grouped by family:

Isaac Willis, son of John, Jr., was alive until 1789 when Letters of Administration issued on his estate. However, he is not listed in the 1783 tax assessment. We can conclude he did not own land and was too old to be otherwise listed. Therefore, he was exempt from taxation. Neither of his sons owned land either.

Henry Willis, listed as “of Isaac” in the 1778 Loyalty Oath records, is shown in the tax assessment. He does not own land and heads a household consisting of one male and two females. His property including 3 horses and 3 cattle are valued at £30.

Andrew Willis, listed as “of Ic” in the 1783 tax assessment, is shown with no land and a family of one male and three females. His personal property is assessed at £10.

Apparently, these Willis men worked land owned by others, possibly relatives. As seen below, many in the family owned significant acreage.

Richard Willis, son of John, Jr., died in 1764. His four sons listed below owned 1,000 acres of land and total property valued at £727.

Richard Willis, son of Richard, Sr., owned 200 acres called Sarah’s Delight, Addition to Sarah’s Delight and Newfound Land. Only 20 acres was cleared while the rest was forested. Richard lived alone in 1783, however he had a female slave age 14-36 and two older slaves. He did not marry until five years later. His property was assessed at £185.

Thomas Willis, son of Richard, Sr., owned 400 acres being part of Perry’s Delight and part of New Land, 100 acres of which was under cultivation. He owned one slave and 5 cattle. His household apparently consisted of just him and his wife (known from other sources to be Elizabeth Perry). Thomas was one of the more prosperous young men in the region with property valued at £260.

Joshua Willis, Jr., son of Richard, Sr., owned 200 acres named Good Luck and part of New Land adjoining his brother Thomas. The improvements on his land were noted as “Bad,” presumably in need of repair. He owned one slave and 22 cattle with a total property value of £190. He headed a household of two males and four females.

Robert Willis, son of Richard, Sr., owned 200 acres of land, which was part of Perry’s Discovery. The improvements on his land were also noted at “Bad.” His household consisted of three males and three females. Robert’s property was valued at £92.

Joshua Willis, son of John, Jr., owned 464 acres called Painters Range, Bank of Pleasure and Willis’s Luck. Acreage under cultivation totaled 180 acres and property improvements were listed as “Good.” Joshua owned ten slaves, three of them males ages 14-45. He also had seven white males in his household, which explains his ability to farm so much acreage. He had 23 cattle and nine horses. His property assessed at £676, clearly the wealthiest individual Willis on the list. His total household was seven males and five females.

John Willis III, son of John, Jr. and his second wife Elizabeth Sharp, owned 163 acres called Addition to Willis’s Regulation. This land combined the original tract on Marshy Creek purchased by John Willis, Jr. with other patents and resurveys. John III inherited the land under his father’s 1764 will after the death of his mother Elizabeth. Improvements on the land were in Bad condition, but 100 acres were under cultivation. John had four slaves, five horses and 11 cattle, and headed a household of seven males and two females. His property value totaled £192.

Jarvis Willis, son of John, Jr. and his second wife Elizabeth Sharp, did not own land. He headed a household of one male and three females and had property assessed at £10.

The Willis families descended from John, Jr. owned 1,627 acres and total property valued at £2,105 – quite impressive for a group that began from the humble beginnings of John Willis of Wantage. Sadly, the record also shows that among their “property” were nineteen human beings. Their aggregate white households totaled 24 males and 23 females.[5]

Dorchester County Assessment

The Willis families in Dorchester related to John Willis of Wantage were descended from John’s son Andrew. This branch of the family was not as successful in the state of Maryland as the John Jr. branch. Many of them migrated to the mainland, seeking improved fortune in Virginia, North Carolina and other places. The descendants who remained did not have significant property. The Willises or the lands related to the Willises are scattered among Dorchester County’s three districts – Upper, Middle, and Lower.[6]

Andrew Willis, Jr., son of Andrew, Sr., is not listed because he died in 1778.

Andrew Willis, son of Andrew, Jr., owned 60 acres called Fisher’s Venture located near Staplefort’s Creek in the Lower District. Cleared acreage amounted to 8 acres. Andrew had eight cattle and a total property value of £71. His household included seven people total. Dorchester County records do not indicate gender of the white household members.

Richard Willis, son of Andrew, Sr., is not listed because he died in 1773. He had inherited in 1738 half of land called New Town from his father. Richard willed his half of New Town to his daughter Mary, wife of Benjamin Meekins. Richard willed other land he owned called Buttons Chance to his daughter Elizabeth.

After her husband died, Mary Willis Meekins, daughter of Richard, sold her share of New Town to Levin Hughes in 1782. Therefore, she is not listed.

Elizabeth Willis, daughter of Richard who inherited Buttons Chance, is not listed as its owner. Instead, a Budd Shinton is shown as the owner of 27 acres called Buttons Chance in 1783. I found no purchase of Buttons Chance by Shinton. It is possible that he married Elizabeth Willis. He owned two other tracts: 54 acres being part of Johns Delight plus 93 ½ acres unnamed.

John Willis, son of Richard, is listed as a pauper with no assets yet a household of eight people. There are three Johns who could be this pauper. One is John, mentioned below, who inherited and sold part of New Town. He was not likely to be without assets in 1783. John who inherited New Town also had a son John, but he was too young to have a household of eight people. Therefore, I eliminated both of these men leaving the listed pauper as John, son of Richard.

John Willis, son of Andrew, Sr., is not listed. He inherited the other half of New Town from his father through the demise of his brother George. Andrew’s 1738 will gave New Town to sons Richard and George with their share to fall to son John should either die without issue. George apparently died without children because John sold half of New Town to Levin Hughes at some time before the 1783 assessment. That sale was recorded in 1784. I surmise that John had moved away before 1783. Levin Hughes is therefore listed as the owner of 85 acres called Addition to New Town in the Lower District of Dorchester.

Jarvis Willis, son of John, is listed in the Upper District without any land. He has two horses and five cattle and total property valued at £23. He headed a household of eight people.

The last land of interest to the Willis family is the original 50-acre tract called Wantage. John of Wantage willed it to his son William. William and his wife Judith sold it in 1734 to William Soward, one of her brothers. The 1783 tax list shows William Soward as owning 50 acres being part of Bridge North and 50 acres called Wanton [sic Wantage] both in the Middle District of Dorchester. Improvements on the property included an old frame dwelling, two logged houses and an orchard.

One possible disparity in the record is that the lands are stated as situated on the Little Choptank. That is certainly true of Bridge North, which is located in the neck region of Dorchester on Hudson’s Creek. However, Wantage is located near the Great Choptank River which might be in the Upper District. The custom of the day was that property owners rendered their own property, sending a notice to the tax assessors of the tally of acreage and other taxable property. William Soward likely lived in the Middle District on Bridge North, property long held by his family. I suspect as a matter of convenience, Soward rendered both properties to the Middle District commissioners rather than making separate submissions to the Middle and Upper District. In any event, I am confident the property in question was the original Wantage.

I highly recommend everyone take a look at the data available in these records. They help form a better picture of the life and circumstances of folks who lived so long ago.

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

[1]Note: The Willis surnames in Caroline County appeared in the MSA Index but were missing on the MDSSAR site. However, knowing where they should be from the index, I requested and got copies of those pages from the Maryland Archives.

[2] See separate Appendix to The John Willis Family and The Maryland Supply Tax of 1783 for an abbreviated descendant chart for John Willis of Wantage highlighting the names of people mentioned here and related land.

[3] Caroline County’s normal jurisdictional subdivisions or “Hundreds” were Great Choptank, Fork, Tuckahoe, Bridgetown and Choptank. The 1783 tax districts were as follows: 1) Lower Choptank District – made up of Great Choptank Hundred and Fork Hundred. This district encompassed the entire southern part of the county bordering Dorchester and bounded on the east by the Choptank River and on the west by Delaware; 2) River District – parts of Tuckahoe and Bridgetown Hundreds; and 3) Upper Choptank District – the remainder of Tuckahoe and Bridgetown Hundreds and all of Choptank hundred.

[4] The Willis data are found on pages 57-59 of Lower Choptank District, Caroline County.

[5] Other Willis listings in Caroline County include two families descended from Quakers Richard and Frances Willis. Elijah, Thomas and William are clustered around land called Timber Tree Neck. The second group includes Andrew. Joseph, Ezekiel and Thomas associated with land called Friendship Regulation. Needless to say, none of these families owned slaves.

[6] The Upper District included Great Choptank Hundred and Nanticoke Hundred, which bordered Caroline County and Delaware, respectively. I do not know the western or southern boundary. The Middle District covered Transquakin and Little Choptank Hundreds. The Lower District was everything south of Transquakin and Little Choptank.

 

Alexander Family History: a “Must-Read”

If you follow this blog, you know that Gary and I do not cite compiled family histories as sources. Alexander Family History by John Alexander  will be an exception. It has many things to commend it, beginning with excellent, easy-to-read writing and meticulous research. It is an absolute “must-read” if you are from the line of James and Ann Alexander of Amelia County, Virginia and Anson/Rowan, North Carolina.

Before we get into the book itself, you can order it by contacting John Alexander at this email address:

jfalex37@comcast.net

The book is also available as an html version at this link. Make a note of that link, because John will continue to add to and correct the html version. John strongly encourages other Alexanders to add to the accumulated knowledge of this family via your own research. He is also happy to hear differences of opinion, provided they are backed up with citations to records.

Alternatively, John says he will send you a copy of the pdf file of the current book, and you can print away to your heart’s content. For those of us who are addicted to highlighting, this is clearly a good option.

Despite these nice alternatives, I strongly recommend that you order a bound copy of the book from John – even if you aren’t connected to this Alexander line – and donate it to your local library. Such donations are deductible. John says about $20 will cover the cost of the book plus postage.

For some information about the book, let’s just have it tell you about itself. The cover page, a good place to start, says this:

“James and Ann [Alexander], born around 1700 or shortly after, may be original American colonists or may have been born in the colonies. The story follows four of their sons, James, John, David, and Robert, and their only daughter, Eleanor, from the earliest-discovered records several generations toward the present.”

Here is some very brief information about these children that might help you determine whether any of these lines are of special interest to you …

  • James Alexander, son of James and Ann, was probably born about 1730 in the colonies. He appeared in the Anson, Rowan and Tryon records, and ultimately lived in Spartanburg County, SC. His wife was named Mary, MNU. He had four children of whom John is fairly certain, perhaps more. John identifies the four as James Jr., Matthew, William and Thomas. Matthew and William went to Logan County, KY, while most of the family remained in Spartanburg.
  • John Alexander, son of James and Ann, also born circa 1730, married Rachel Davidson and moved to the area that became Buncombe County, NC. Their four proved children were James, Ann, Mary and Thomas.
  • David Alexander, son of James and Ann, was born about 1736-37. He married Margaret Davidson (also spelled Davison) in Rowan County in 1762. They lived in Pendleton District, SC. David’s 1795 will (proved 1795, Anderson Co., SC, filed in Will Book c: 77) named his children Anne Gotcher, Jane Moore, David Alexander, Margaret Davis, Catherine Brown, Ellenor Read, James Alexander, Elizabeth Woods, John Alexander, William Morrison Alexander, and Ruth Alexander. 
  • Eleanor Alexander, the only daughter of James and Ann, married Samuel Rankin in Rowan County about 1760. The Rankins and their children lived in Lincoln (later Gaston) and Mecklenburg counties, North Carolina. Four of their ten children migrated to Rutherford County, TN and Shelby County, IL.
  • Robert Alexander, the youngest child of James and Ann, appeared in Rowan, Tryon, and Lincoln county records. He served in the Revolutionary War and was a Justice of the Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions in Lincoln County, where he died. His first wife was Mary Jack; his will names his wife Margaret, MNU. His children (not necessarily in birth order) were Lilly, Ann, Robert J., Polly, Margaret, Elisa, Evalina and Charity Amanda

For the record, James and Ann had a fifth son, their eldest, William Alexander. Unfortunately, there are apparently no records that can be attributed to him with any degree of confidence after the 1750s.

The book also includes copies of many original records, photographs, and a discussion of Y-DNA analysis. Again, the best thing to do is to let the book tell you about itself. Here is the table of contents:

Preface and Dedication

Chapter 1: What They Knew

Chapter 2: The Genealogical Digging

Chapter 3: James (died 1753) Alexander and Ann

Chapter 4: James Alexander of Spartanburg County, SC

Chapter 5: The Alexander Family in Western Kentucky

Chapter 6: Henry County and Beyond

Chapter 7: James C.’s Fayette County Branch

Chapter 8: James Alexander Jr. and the East Tennessee Branch

Chapter 9: Thomas Alexander and Mary

Chapter 10: Other Alexander Kin, Parentage Not Certain

Chapter 11: Family of John and Rachel Davidson

Chapter 12: Family of David and Margaret Davidson

Chapter 13: Family of Eleanor and Samuel Rankin

Chapter 14: Family of Robert and Mary Jack

Appendix A: Pension Applications Of Matthew And Eleanor

Appendix B: Documents from Amy Riggs, Born Amy Gore

Appendix C: South Carolina Deeds, James of Spartanburg

Appendix D: Records Relating to James (died 1753) and Ann

Appendix E: Legal Documents Relating to the Death of William McMillin

Appendix F: Siddle Documents and the Alexanders in Robertson County

Appendix G: Descendants of James (d. 1753) and Ann

Appendix H: 19th Century Marriages in Western KY and Western TN

Appendix I: Deeds of Trust, William and James C. Alexander, 1847

Appendix J: SC Documents Relating to Thomas Alexander

Appendix K: Documents from James Alexander and Rhoda Cunningham

Appendix L: Documents Relating to Ann (Alexander) Craig

Appendix M: Wills of Samuel, Alexander and James Rankin

Appendix N: Published Histories that May Be Difficult fo Find

Appendix Y: YDNA and YDNA Testing

I plan to sit down with this book, one chapter at a time, and make sure that my own family history software reflects John’s information. If it doesn’t, then I have some work to do.

Enjoy!
Robin

Samuel and Eleanor (“Ellen”) Alexander Rankin: a Few Corrections to the Record

Here we are, tilting at windmills again, just for the fun of it. The idea is to correct some frequent errors about Samuel and Eleanor Alexander Rankin, who appeared in the records of Rowan, Tryon, Mecklenburg, and Lincoln Counties. A cousin has asked why I write these “correction” articles. That’s an easy one. Thanks to the the ease of “copy and paste” and importing other peoples’ family trees in a few clicks, online genealogy errors have multiplied exponentially, like the Tribbles in the original Star Trek. Anything that has appeared in print is taken as gospel. While it is a truism that every family history contains errors, I assume that most people prefer to eliminate them when possible. Thus, cousin, I’m providing a Tribble extermination service here, even though some of these errors are minor. <grin>

So let’s turn again to Samuel and his wife Eleanor. Two previous articles on this website dealt with erroneous theories about Samuel’s parents. The first article dealt with the persistent notion that he was a son of Joseph Rankin of New Castle County, Delaware. The second article addresses speculation that Samuel was a son of Robert and Rebecca Rankin of Guilford County, North Carolina. Y-DNA testing has conclusively disproved both possibilities. So far as I have found, there is no evidence on this side of the Atlantic as to the identity of Samuel’s parents.

And now, on to new territory. Here are the positions I’m taking with regard to some of the conventional wisdom on Samuel and Eleanor:

  • Samuel was probably born in 1734 (not 1732) and he probably died in 1816 (not 1814).
  • There is no reason to believe that Samuel was born in New Castle County, Delaware. There is no evidence where he was born, so far as I know.
  • He and Eleanor married in Rowan County, North Carolina, and not in Pennsylvania.
  • Samuel had arrived in North Carolina by no later than April 1760.
  • His wife’s given name was Eleanor. “Ellen,” the name on her tombstone, was a nickname.
  • Eleanor was born in 1740, not 1743.
  • Eleanor’s father was not the David Alexander who sold Samuel a 320-acre tract on James Cathey’s Mill Creek aka Kerr Creek. David was her brother. Her parents were James and Ann Alexander.

Let’s start at the top.

What were Samuel’s dates of birth and death?

Samuel’s birth: many Rankin researchers, including a “findagrave” website for the Goshen Presbyterian Cemetery in Belmont where Samuel was buried, say that he was born in 1732.[1] His tombstone has disappeared, or at least my husband and I couldn’t find it when we visited the cemetery in August 2001. I haven’t seen any evidence that he was born in 1732, although that doesn’t mean there isn’t any. So far as I have found, the only evidence of his birth date is on a film titled “Pre-1914 Cemetery Inscription Survey, Gaston Co., prepared by the Historical Records Survey Service Division, Works Progress Administration.”[2] That survey, taken during the Great Depression when the tombstone was obviously still extant, says that Samuel Rankin was born in 1734. Of course, even in the 1930s, the stone was already more than a century old and could easily have been misread. Or Samuel’s children might not have known his actual date of birth – and Samuel wasn’t around to correct them. However, the WPA survey is apparently the only available evidence.

Samuel’s death: findagrave and many online family trees give Samuel’s date of death as December 16, 1814. That is the date that Samuel executed his will, and the probability that he died on the same day is slim to none.[3] In fact, the actual probability is zero, because he appeared in the Lincoln County records in 1816. On July 26 of that year, he conveyed to his son James a tract on Stanleys Creek adjacent James’ brothers William and Alexander (and Thomas Rhyne, see my article about Samuel’s grandson Sam, son of Richard).[4] That is the last entry I found for Samuel in the Lincoln records until his will was proved in 1826.[5] The WPA cemetery survey says Samuel died in 1816.

Where was Samuel born?

Many Rankin researchers claim Samuel was born in New Castle County, Delaware. That is probably a holdover from when many believed he was a son of Joseph Rankin of New Castle. Since that has been disproved, there is no logic for placing Samuel’s birth where Joseph lived. In fact, I found no evidence of a Rankin named Samuel in New Castle County in the relevant time frame, although there are many records concerning Joseph’s proved sons (Thomas, Joseph Jr., John and William) and possible sons (Robert and James). There seems to be no evidence for any place of birth for Samuel, or even any evidence that he was born in the colonies rather than on the other side of the Atlantic.

Where did Samuel and Eleanor marry, and who were her parents?

The couple undoubtedly married in North Carolina, not Pennsylvania, despite the view of Minnie Puett, who wrote a history of Gaston County. Eleanor’s family – her parents James (not David) and Ann and her brothers William, James, John, David and Robert – were in that part of Anson County that became Rowan by at least March 1752, when there was a Granville grant to James Alexander “of Anson Co., Gent.”[6] Eleanor Alexander was the grantee in a gift deed of livestock from her father James on January 12, 1753, when she was not quite thirteen. Before they came to North Carolina, the Alexander family was in Amelia County, Virginia. Here is an article about Eleanor’s family.

 When did Samuel come to North Carolina, and from where?

It is possible that Samuel came to North Carolina from Pennsylvania, as many Rankin researchers think. So did many other Scots-Irish settlers of the Piedmont Plateau. If you had to guess, you would probably say that Samuel came to NC from either Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, or Virginia. The only evidence I have found for a man who might be the same man as Samuel Rankin prior to his arrival in NC is in Chester County, Pennsylvania. Some Samuel Rankin is listed as a freeman (i.e., age 21 or over and single) on the 1753 tax list for Sadsbury Township of Chester County.[7] There are no other Rankins on that list, although there are a number of other Scots-Irish whose names will be familiar to Lincoln/Rowan County researchers. There were several Moores, Beatys and Campbells, as well as a McCleary, Erwin and Kerr. The Samuel Rankin taxed as a freeman in 1753 was born by at least 1732, which might be why some researchers have deduced that date for his birth.

Wherever he came from, the evidence establishes that Samuel was in North Carolina earlier than some researchers believe, including Minnie Puett. His first land acquisition was a purchase from David Alexander in a deed dated July 14, 1760.[8] The tract was on James Cathey’s Mill Creek (also known as Kerr Creek), and not on Kuykendahl/Dutchman’s Creek, where the family eventually settled. The Revolutionary War Pension application of Samuel’s son William says that William was born in January 1761 in Rowan County, which puts Samuel in NC no later than April 1760.[9] Assuming he took more than a few months to court Eleanor and that William was their eldest child, one would conclude Samuel was in NC by no later than 1759.

Samuel’s wife was named Eleanor and she was born in 1740, not 1743

Her Goshen Presbyterian Cemetery tombstone, which was still intact (although barely legible) when we visited in 2001, calls her “Ellen.” So did the Rev. Samuel Meek Rankin in his book about the Rankin and Wharton families, probably based on that tombstone.[10] Her family and friends undoubtedly called her Ellen. Almost all Rankin researchers do the same, and I have been corrected more than once for calling her Eleanor. Nevertheless, I persist. <grin> The records establish that her given name was Eleanor. Period. Her father called her “Elener” [sic] in a gift deed.[11] A Rowan County court called her “Elinor.”[12] At least three deeds (one with her signature as “Elender”) do the same.[13] She and Samuel had a daughter and at least five granddaughters, all named Eleanor rather than Ellen.[14] Those facts surely establish that her given name was Eleanor, or I will eat my hat. If I owned one. Her nickname was Ellen.

Eleanor was almost certainly born in 1740, not 1743. The Rowan County court allowed her to choose her own guardian in 1755.[15] Doing so required her to be at least fourteen, so she must have been born by at least 1741. Two tombstone surveys say the date of birth on her tombstone was 16 April 1740.[16] The date is now so eroded, however, that it could reasonably be read as 1743 – although that date is foreclosed by the court record.

… and that’s it for now. I’m not done with this family, though: there is more to come.

[1] The findagrave website contains several errors about Samuel and Eleanor, mostly minor, some not so minor. https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GSln=Rankin&GSiman=1&GScid=1192379&GRid=127500305&

[2] Family History Library Microfilm No. 0,882,938, item 2.

[3] North Carolina State Archives, File Box C.R.060.801.21, will of Samuel Rankin of Lincoln County dated 16 Dec 1814, proved April 1826. Recorded in Lincoln County Will Book 1: 37.

[4] Lincoln County Deed Book 27: 561, conveyance from Samuel Rankin to James Rankin witnessed by William Rankin and Benjamin Hartgrove. The grantor is not Sam Jr., who owned land in Mecklenburg, not Lincoln and had already sold his Mecklenburg tracts before 1816.

[5] There was no hurry to probate Samuel’s will because he left each of his surviving children $1, except for James, to whom he left the rest of his estate. With nobody anxious for their payout, there was no reason to rush to the courthouse.

[6] Rowan County Deed Book 3: 547, Granville grant of 25 Mar 1752 to James Alexander, 640 acres in Anson adjacent Andrew Kerr. James gifted half of that tract to his son David Alexander, and David sold it to Samuel Rankin in 1760. See Anson County Deed Book B: 314 et seq. for charming gift deeds of land and livestock from James Alexander and his wife Ann to five of their six children, including Eleanor.

[7] 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).

[8] Rowan County Deed Book 5: 272, deed dated 14 Jul 1760 from David Alexander to Samuel Rankin, 320 acres both sides of James Cathey’s Mill Cr. (AKA Kerr’s Cr.).

[9] Virgil D. White, Genealogical Abstracts of Revolutionary War Pension Files, Volume III: N-Z (Waynesboro, TN: The National Historical Publishing Co., 1992).

[10] Rev. S. M. Rankin, The Rankin and Wharton Families and Their Genealogy (Greensboro, NC: J. J. Stone & Co, 1931).

[11] Personal copy of Rowan County Deed Book B: 315 (obtained by mail from the clerk of court), gift deed from James Alexander to his daughter Elener.

[12] Jo White Linn, Abstracts of the Minutes of the Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions, Rowan County, North Carolina, 1753-1762 (Salisbury, NC: 1977), abstract of Order Book 2: 90, entry of 22 Oct 1755, David and Elinor Alexander (spelling per abstractor) came into court and chose their mother Ann Alexander as their guardian.

[13] Jo White Linn, Rowan County North Carolina Deed Abstracts Vol. II. 1762 – 1772 Abstracts of Books 5, 6, 7 (Salisbury, NC: 1972), abstract of Deed Book 6: 225, deed dated 31 Aug 1765 from Samuel Rankin and wife Eleanor (spelling per the abstractor) to John McNeeley, 320 acres on James Cathey’s Mill Creek; original of Lincoln Co. Deed Book 1: 703 (viewed by me at the courthouse), deed of 26 Jan 1773 from Samuel Rankin of Tryon to Philip Alston, 150 acres on Kuykendall Creek signed by Samuel Rankin and Elender Rankin.

[14] At least five of Samuel and Eleanor Rankin’s children named a daughter “Eleanor” (not “Ellen”), including Samuel Rankin Jr., Jean Rankin Hartgrove, Robert Rankin, David Rankin, and Eleanor (“Nellie”) Rankin Dickson. See, e.g., an image of the tombstone of Eleanor, wife of Joseph Dickson, Ellis Cemetery, Shelby Co., Ill., died 4 Apr 1848, age 62, at www.findagrave.com.

[15] Linn, Abstracts of the Minutes, abstract of Order Book 2: 90, 22 Oct 1755, David and Elinor Alexander came into court and chose their mother Ann Alexander as their guardian; the court appointed Ann guardian for Robert, about age 12, son of James Alexander, dec’d.

[16] Family History Library Microfilm No. 0,882,938, item 2. See also Microfilm at Clayton Genealogical library titled “North Carolina Tombstone Records, Vols. 1, 2 and 3,” compiled by the Alexander Martin and J. S. Wellborn chapters of the DAR; transcribed lists were filmed 1935 by the Genealogical Society of Utah. Tombstone of Ellen Rankin, b. 16 April 1740, d. 26 Jan 1802.