Heads up: a genealogy scam

We learned about a new genealogy scam today. It seems unlikely that many people would fall for it, but … just in case, here’s a heads up. Here’s how the scam works:

  • The scammer hacks someone’s account at Ancestry.com (or at least finds their Ancestry password and accesses the account). From there, he can view any tree on Ancestry and send messages to any tree owner via the Ancestry messaging system.
  • He sends the message quoted below to anyone on Ancestry who seems a likely target. In the email below, the scammer is targeting a man named Willis, attempting to peddle Willis family records.
  • The name of the message sender is genuine: it is the name of the person whose account has been hacked. The account owner is unaware of the scam.
  • The scammer tells the potential victim to contact him directly, rather than the actual account owner (see boldface sentences in the message).

Bottom line: the scammer tries to sell alleged family history documents to the message recipient. 

Here’s an actual scam message, verbatim except for names at the beginning and end. Some of the information about William Willis in the second sentence may be genuine. I didn’t check. It would certainly make the scam more credible if it included accurate info, although that sounds like too much work for a grifter.

“A message from John Doe [name of person whose Ancestry account was hacked]

Good Afternoon [name of potential victim], I am writing you because I recently acquired a box full of genealogical information on your family from an auction in Sykesville, MD. Documents are mostly from the 1920-30s by William Nicolas Willis (1879-1939), a noted author, poet, genealogist and historian. This is a true treasure trove of family history that goes back at least 7 generations from his perspectives. There are some interesting photographs of family members, family properties, tomb stones, several trees illustrating the connections, many dozens of letters to & from his desk, journals, contemporaneous newspaper articles, etc. it appears from how William Willis drew his family tree there is a solid connection to George Washington during the 1600’s timeframe. There is even two photos of a family Elm tree from the John Willis plantation that is most suiting for this project of his. It appears that William had only one son, William, Jr. … so perhaps with his death the papers co no longer be passed to a next generations, so I ended up with them at an auction that would have thrown it all away otherwise. Please contact me so that I can go into detail and see if you would be interested in acquiring this tribe which I am definately certain will beef up your family tree on this site. I am using my nephew John Doe’s page on Ancestry so please write to me at {email address} If you respond on this site my nephew (in Ohio) will receive it but not know why as this is not his project. I look forward to hearing from you. [name of person who will receive the responsive email]”

End of message.

We don’t know whether the person who originally received this message reported it to Ancestry (we don’t know who he/she is – just that he a Willis researcher). If you get something similar, please do report it.

Anyone who reads carefully would probably not fall for this. It was plainly written by someone for whom English is a second language, not unlike those emails from a “Nigerian Prince” that we have all received. However, it’s hard to overestimate the appeal of all those alleged family history records, supposedly establishing a connection to the line of George Washington.

Also, based on the amount of obvious errors one finds in online trees, perhaps there are naïve possible victims for this scam on Ancestry. 

Here’s my latest experience with bad trees, also passed on as a caution.

I recently took Ancestry’s autosomal test, and then learned that I really needed to post a tree to make it useful. That is no fun at all, and it quickly escalated my blood pressure. Here’s why.

If you have worked on building a family tree at their website, you know that Ancestry provides “clues” every time you enter a name. For example, I added to my tree the name of an ancestor born in the early 1800s. Up popped a “clue” to the name of his parents. The suggested parents were so far out in left field that I couldn’t even imagine how someone invented them. I’d never heard of them.

Fortunately (or not), Ancestry lets one connect to the source of the information in its clues. When I went to one of the trees sourcing that bad clue, I found a host of Ancestry trees having a picture of my mother. Several of them gave her an inaccurate name or a nonexistent middle initial. 

A number of friends have told me how upset they get by the bad information posted online about their families. I am not usually among them. Still. This was my mother. Golly gee, if someone can post my mother’s picture, he or she could at least get her name right! I realize that is a minor error that won’t lead anyone down the wrong ancestor trail, so it is really of no consequence.

NONETHELESS: I promptly fired off a really cranky message to one of the portrait/wrong name posters (who also had the error about an ancestors’ parents, a meaningful one), implying that she was giving serious genealogists a bad name by copying other peoples’ info without verifying it. Upon further examination of the tree, I figured out the identity of the tree owner and her relationship to me. Unfortunately, it’s a close one. Ergh.

Gee, I wish I hadn’t fired off that cranky message!

Takeaways from that experience …

  • Don’t accept information posted on other family trees without confirmation in ACTUAL records. I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: online trees don’t prove anything except how easy it is to construct and copy family trees that are full of errors. Look closely at posted trees, and you will find, say, a 9-year-old women having children. Or a woman marrying a man who was already married. See, e.g., “Nancy” Ann Allen Winn, who allegedly married in Lunenburg Co., VA a man named Lyddal Bacon Estes who lived in Maury Co., TN). My favorite: a 120-year-old woman who was still reportedly having children, nontwithstanding that she had been dead for 60 of those 120 years. I’ll bet you have one that can top it. If so, please share.
  • Likewise, don’t accept Ancestry’s “clues” at face value. Check them out. Just because Ancestry provided the will of some William Rankin, that doesn’t mean it is your William Rankin — an error called “same name confusion.” At least take the time to read the damn will, where you might learn that the testator wrote the will in Franklin Co., PA in the 1790s, while your ancestor William Rankin died in 1850 in Lackawanna Co. You wouldn’t believe how many wills, S.A.R. applications, church and other records are attached to the Ancestry profile of a person who has no family connection whatsoever to the attached “source.” They might not even share a given name, which really boggles the mind.
  • Don’t be an old grouch who attempts to correct someone else’s tree, as I did. You will be wasting your time. They probably won’t give a fig if their info is wrong, especially if they just copied it from someone else’s tree – or blindly accepted an Ancestry clue. Furthermore, errors on Ancestry multiply faster than Tribbles: exponentially. Trying to correct them is a losing battle. Finally, don’t send a cranky message to the owner of the erroneous tree because you might wind up regretting it.

That’s it for now. More Rankins are calling. Also Burkes, Trices, Estes, Winns, and Lindseys. Oakes, Odoms, Stubbs, and Hubbards. Powells, Vaughans and Perrymans. As a distant Alexander cousin likes to say: NOBODY HAS MORE FUN THAN WE DO. <grin>

See you on down the road.

Robin

Will the “correct” David Rankin of Franklin Co., PA please stand up?

I told my husband at breakfast several days ago that I was working on an article to correct bad information about some Rankins in the Pennsylvania Archives 5th Series.

He put down his fork, arching his eyebrows. “Are you kidding me? You’re taking on the Archives? That’s practically sacred scripture among Pennsylvania family history researchers.”

“Well,” I said (yeah, I realize this sounds prissy), “the Archives has confused two men named David Rankin who were contemporaries in the late 1700s – early 1800s.”

“So,” said Gary, “who would care, anyway?” 

“Hmmmm,” I temporized, “perhaps descendants of either of the two men? Or someone who is trying to track early Rankin families around, as I am doing? Perhaps people with D.A.R. or S.A.R. aspirations? One of these two men was a soldier in 1780, but the other was too young.”

“You realize you will receive a dozen comments from people saying there are ‘many online trees’ showing you are wrong?”

At this point, I dug in. I’m not a Scots-Irish Rankin for nothing. “You’re undoubtedly right,” I responded, “but I’m writing the article anyway.”

Here ‘tis. It includes (1) a very brief chart, (2) the Archives’ misinformation, (3) the bottom line, (4) the argument supporting the bottom line, and (5) an Epilogue about where one of the men migrated. 

(1) A brief Rankin family chart 

Let’s start by putting the two men in their Rankin family context.

Adam Rankin was the immigrant ancestor in this Rankin line and was the grandfather of both Davids. He died in 1747 in Lancaster Co., PA. His wife was Mary Steele Alexander, widow of James Alexander.[1] Adam’s 1747 will named his sons James, William, and Jeremiah, and a daughter, Esther Rankin Dunwoody.[2] We’re only concerned with James and William in this article. I’ve written about Adam’s family on this blog before, see this link: http://digupdeadrelatives.com/2018/07/27/adam-d-1747-lancaster-mary-steele-rankins-son-william-follow-land/

James Rankin, son of Adam and Mary Steele Rankin, died in 1795 in Montgomery Township, Franklin Co., PA. James’ wife was Jean, whose maiden name is unproved so far as I know. His will named sons William, Jeremiah, James and David #1, and two daughters, Esther Rankin Smith and Ruth Rankin Tool.[3]

William Rankin, son of Adam and Mary Steele Rankin, died in 1792 in Antrim Township, Franklin Co.[4] His wife was Mary Huston, daughter of Archibald and Agnes Houston.[5] His will named seven sons and one daughter: Adam, Archibald, James, William, Betsy, David #2, John, and Jeremiah.[6] (A quick aside on a case of “same name confusion” in this line: William Rankin, son of Adam and Mary Steele Rankin, was most emphatically not the same man as the William Rankin who married Victoria Alcorn or Alcoran. That  William migrated to Orange Co., NC by 1765.[7] “Many online trees” incorrectly identify Victoria as the wife of William who died 1792.)

I will continue to distinguish these two David Rankins by number simply because it helps me to keep them straight.

(2) What the Pennsylvania Archives got wrong

Here’s what the Archives says about one of these two Davids:

 “David Rankin is shown in 1780, as a private under Captain William Smith. The will of David Rankin of Montgomery Twp., was dated 1829 and prob. 1833. He names wife Molly and two children, James and Betsy. To Mary Elizabeth Sellers, only child of daughter Molly, who had married Alexander Sellars, Oct, 7th 1824.  Miss Molly L. McFarland of Mercersburg stated the above David was the son of William Rankin of Antrim Township who died 1792.[8]

(3) The bottom line

With all due respect to Miss Molly L. McFarland of Mercersberg, the man the Archives describes was David #1, son of James and Jean, not David #2, son of William and Mary Huston Rankin of Antrim Township. 

Here are the key factors for telling the two men apart: age, wife’s identity, and – the pièce de résistance – location. As epilogue, we’ll see where David #2 went when he left Franklin County.

(4) The argument

Age. Although the law or custom varied from time to time, men were typically required to serve in the militia beginning at age sixteen (although sometimes boys served as early as 13).[9] Thus, the David Rankin who was a private in 1780 must have been born by 1764, and certainly no later than 1767. According to county tax lists, David #1, son of James and Jean Rankin, was born no later than 1767-68.[10] On the other hand, David #2 was most likely born about 1776-1777, and definitely in the 1770s. Estimating his birth year was tedious, as this supporting footnote illustrates.[11] In short, David #2 was too young to have been a member of a militia in 1780. Strike 1, Archives.

Wife’s identity. We know the wife of the David Rankin who died in 1833 was named Molly, maiden name unproved. We don’t know how long they were married, although it was apparently long enough to have three children including a daughter, also named Molly. I have found no deeds or other records identifying the wife of David #1. We have better luck with David #2, because deeds conclusively establish that he was married to Frances (“Fanny”) Campbell, daughter of Dongal Campbell.[12] Frances and David #2 were grantors in a deed dated August 1827, not long before the David who died in 1833 wrote his June 1829 will.[13] In short, the evidence strongly suggests that Molly’s husband was David #1. Strike 2, Archives.

Location. Here is the pièce de résistance: a deed dated 27 May 1818 from James Rankin (brother of David #1) to Jacob Kline conveying a tract in Montgomery Township. Part of the tract was surveyed per a warrant to Adam Rankin dated 11 Nov 1742 and devised by James Rankin, dec’d, to grantor 25 March 1788.[14] The tract clearly passed from Adam Rankin to his son James Rankin Sr. (whose will was dated 25 March 1788), then by will to James Sr.’s son James Jr., the grantor in this 1818 deed. The conveyed tract was adjacent to David Rankin, inter alia. That would be David #1, who inherited the Montgomery Township tract where his father James Sr. lived.

The deed proves that David #1 owned a tract adjacent to Jacob Kline (the grantee in the above deed) in Montgomery Township at some point in time. There are two other relevant facts:

  • In the 1830 federal census for Montgomery Township (three years before David #1 died), David Rankin was listed adjacent Jacob Kline, grantee in the above deed.[15] He was the only David Rankin in Montgomery.
  • David Rankin’s 1829 will, proved in 1833, referenced his Montgomery tract adjacent Jacob Kline.

Plaintiff rests. The David Rankin who died in 1833 was David #1, son of James Sr. and Jean Rankin, and not David #2, son of William and Mary Huston Rankin.

(5) Epilogue

This is a long post, so I will cut to the chase. Some genealogists (the ones who didn’t believe the Pennsylvania Archives about which David died in 1833) believe that David #2 went to Greene Co., TN.[16] He didn’t. He went to Des Moines Co., Iowa with at least three of his children.

Here’s the thing. While he lived in Franklin, David #2 almost certainly attended the Presbyterian Church of the Upper West Conococheague,”[17] as did his brother Archibald.[18] On the other hand, David #1 and his brothers were pew holders in the Welsh Run Presbyterian Church, also known as the “Lower Conococheague” Church.[19] Ironically, I am relying on the Pennsylvania Archives for that fact. 

The Upper West church kept baptism records, although they are plainly not complete.[20] Four children of a David Rankin who is almost certainly David #2 are listed: Frances Rankin (baptized 9 May 1814), David Huston Rankin (28 Apr 1817), Archibald Rankin (10 Oct 1819), and Adam John Rankin (13 Feb 1822). The family names are compelling, aren’t they? In light of David Rankin’s entry in the 1820 Franklin census (seven children in the household), you would expect other children.[21] 

The family left Franklin between 1827 and 1830. I didn’t find David again until the 1840 census in Iowa Territory.[22] The 1850 census in Des Moines County lists him as age 73, born in Pennsylvania about 1777.[23] Here is a link to an image of his tombstone in the Round Prairie Cemetery in Des Moines County. It says he died 14 Mar 1853, age 77, making him born about 1776. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/53261457/david-rankin

Also buried in the Round Prairie cemetery: Adam J. Rankin, born 29 Dec. 1821. I will bet my right arm that his full name was Adam John Rankin, and that he was baptized in the Upper West church on 13 Feb 1822 at age six weeks or so. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/53251244/adam-j_-rankin.

Here is another tombstone in Round Prairie cemetery: D. C. Rankin, 1812 – 1885. Iowa death and burial records identify him as Dugal Campbell Rankin, a male, born 1812 in Franklin Co., PA.[24]  Can there be any doubt that he was a son of David #2 and Frances Campbell Rankin, daughter of Dongal (or Dugal) Campbell? 

Finally, the Kossuth Cemetery in Des Moines County has a tombstone for Archibald Rankin, born  1 Aug. 1819. I’m betting that Arch was baptized in the Upper West church on 10 Oct 1819 at about two months of age. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/15858856/archibald-august-rankin

Quit drilling, Robin. You’ve struck oil.

See you on down the road.


[1] For evidence establishing that Adam Rankin’s wife was Mary Steele Alexander, see the text accompanying the footnotes and the source citations in notes 5, 6, and 7 of this article: http://digupdeadrelatives.com/2018/07/27/adam-d-1747-lancaster-mary-steele-rankins-son-william-follow-land/

[2] Lancaster Co., PA Will Book J, Vol. 1: 208, will of Adam Rankin dated 4 May 1747 proved 21 Sep 1747.

[3] Franklin Co., PA Will Book A: 345, will of James Rankin of Montgomery Township dated 25 Mar 1788, proved 20 Oct 1795.

[4] Franklin Co., PA Will Book A: 256, will of William Rankin of Antrim Township dated 20 Oct 1792, proved 28 Nov 1792.

[5] Franklin Co. WB A: 110, will of Agnes Huston, widow of Archibald Houston, dated 15 Nov 1776, proved 14 Mar 1787. Her will names William Rankin, husband of daughter Mary, as an executor.

[6] See Note 4.

[7] The William Rankin who m. Victoria lived in Hamilton Township, Franklin Co. and is fairly easy to distinguish from William, son of Adam, who lived in Antrim Township. See Pennsylvania land grant to William Rankin dated 8 May 1751, 100 acres in Hamilton Township, Cumberland Co., adjacent ThomasArmstrong (image available online at Ancestry.com); Cumberland Co., PA Will Book A: 79, will of Joseph Armstrong of Hamilton Township dated 1760 proved 1761 devising “land between Robert Elliot’s and Willm Rankins,” establishing that a William Rankin lived in Hamilton Township; Cumberland Will Book A: 88, will of James Alcoran naming daughter Victoria and husband William Rankin; and Franklin Co., PA Deed Book 6: 124, deed dated 30 Oct 1765 from William Rankin of Orange Co, NC, farmer, to James McFarlan of Cumberland, 2 warrants by Rankin for a total of 250A in Hamilton Twp., Cumberland, adj Thomas Armstronget al.

[8] Pennsylvania Archives, 5th Series, Volume 6: 275. Betsy was a nickname for Elizabeth Rankin, see Franklin Co. Deed Book 16: 507.

[9]See https://allthingsliberty.com/2014/06/explaining-pennsylvanias-militia/ and/or https://www.battlefields.org/learn/articles/fighting-man-continental-army and/or https://www.constitution.org/jw/acm_3-m.htm

[10]David #1 was listed on the Montgomery Township tax list for 1789 along with his father James (Sr.) and brothers William, Jeremiah, and James Rankin. David was a “freeman,” meaning that he was age 21 or older and not married.

[11] BIRTH YEARS OF THE CHILDREN OF WILLIAM AND MARY HUSTON RANKIN. I’ve listed William’s children in the order he named them in his 1792 will, which is almost certainly their birth order.

  1. Adam was born 1760 – 1763. Adam first appeared on the 1785 Franklin Co. tax list as Dr. Adam Rankin. At minimum, he was of age by 1785 and born by 1764. He was definitely born before 1763-64, when his younger brother Archibald was born. Dr. Adam went to Henderson Co., KY and married Elizabeth Speed in Danville, KY on 1 Nov 1792. In the 1810 Henderson Co. census, he is listed as > 45, and therefore b. by 1765. My age range for Dr. Adam is just a reasonable guess, since children seem to have born quite regularly in this family.
  2. Archibald was born 1763 – 1764. Records from the Upper West Conococheague Presbyterian Church (images available online at Ancestry.com) establish that Archibald died 24 Jun 1845 at age 81.
  3. James was born about 1767 – 68. James is listed in the 26 < 45 age category in the 1810 Centre Co., PA census, and was thus born 1765 – 1784. That’s no help. Based on his birth between Archibald and William, whose birth years are known, 1767-68 seems a reasonable estimate for James.
  4. William was born 5 Nov 1770. Commemorative Biographical Record of Central Pennsylvania: Including the Counties of Centre, Clearfield, Jefferson and Clarion (Chicago: J. H. Beers, 1898) at 100-101.
  5. Betsy was born about 1773. She was less than 21 when her father William’s will was executed on 20 Oct 1792, so she was born after Oct 1771. I’ve estimated Betsy’s and David’s birth years by spacing them out more or less evenly between their siblings William and John, whose birth dates are established by credible evidence.
  6. David #2 was born about 1776-77. It is certain that David was born sometime between 1775 (see the 1790 Franklin Co. census, when he was included in his father’s household and was < 16) and early 1778, a year prior to the birth of his younger brother John.
  7. John was born 1 May 1778 or 1779. See his tombstone in the Bellefonte Cemetery: John Rankin, 8 May 1778 – 22 Apr 1848, 69Y 11M 4D. Another source, John Blair Linn, History of Centre and Clinton Counties, Pennsylvania (Louis H. Everts, 1883, reprinted Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott & Co., 1975) at 222-223 says that John Rankin was born 1 May 1779.
  8. Jeremiah was born November 1783 according to his tombstone in Centre County, PA. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/21518757/jeremiah-rankin

[12] Franklin Co., PA Deed Book 9: 288, deed dated 8 May 1807 from David Rankin of Franklin and wife Fanny conveying land devised to David by the will of William Rankin dated 20 Oct 1792. Frances/Fanny’s father is also conclusively proved by a deed, see Franklin DB 14: 245.

[13] Franklin Co., PA Deed Book 14: 266, deed dated 28 Aug 1827 from David Rankin and wife Frances of Montgomery Township, 54 acres in Peters Township, deed witnessed by Archibald Bald.   

[14] Franklin Co., PA Deed Book 12: 28.

[15] 1830 federal census, Montgomery Township, Franklin Co., household of David Rankin, 0000101-000010001 adjacent Jacob Kline. There are two people age 20 < 30 in David’s household, as one would expect: his daughter Molly was already married when David #1 wrote his will in 1829. The age category for the eldest male is clearly erroneous. He should be in the same age category as the eldest female, age 60 < 70 (born in the 1760s).

[16] See, e.g., https://npgallery.nps.gov/GetAsset/29dbc658-cdcc-4f12-8c30-8dc877e7fdb4. Please be advised that this application for historic site designation contains Rankin history errors and unproved assertions.

[17] The archaic spelling was Conogogheaue with, as you would expect, several variants.

[18] The Upper West church records show Archibald’s marriage to Agnes Long, as well as his death date. Recall that David and Archibald each inherited a part of their father William’s “Mansion Place,” so they originally lived next to each other. You would expect they would both choose the nearest Presbyterian church.

[19] Pennsylvania Archives, 5th Series, Vol. 6, p. 262, 269, 274, 282, 374. “Jeremiah Rankin, Ranger on the Frontier, served in 1778, under Capt. John McConnell and as Ensign, 1780-81, with Captain Wm Huston; a son of pioneer James Rankin of Montgomery Township. He mar. Mary, dau. of James Clark. His will was dated June 1803 and prob. August 1803, [named] only son James Clark Rankin and three daus: Nancy; Mariah; Esther. The widow Mary later married Charles Kilgore. James, Jeremiah, David and William Rankin were pewholders in the “Lower Conococheague” or Welsh Run Church.”

[20] Some records of the Upper West Conococheague church are available online at Ancestry.com. They name only one child of Archibald and Agnes Long Rankin, a daughter Franny who died the same day as Agnes. The Franklin census records suggest that Archibald had five or six children.

[21] David #2 was then living in Peters Township and is listed as age 26 < 45 (born 1775 – 1794). There were seven children in his household, including 1 male and 2 females age 10 < 16 (born 1804 – 1810), plus 3 males and one female under age 10 (born 1810 – 1820).

[22] 1840 federal census for Iowa Territory, Des Moines Co., David Rankin, age 60 < 70 (born 1770 – 1780).

[23] The 1850 census for DesMoines Co. for David Rankin’s household includes Dugald Camel, 30, b. PA, and Frances Camel, 14, b. Indiana. Given the spelling perversions one finds in the census, I read “Dugald Camel” as Dugal Campbell. Not quite Dongal Campbell (the name of Frances Campbell Rankin’s father, see Franklin Deed Book 14: 245), but it’s close.

[24] Ancestry.com. Iowa, Deaths and Burials, 1850-1990 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014.

Query: Ann Winn Webber of Northam Parish, Goochland, VA

A recent comment on a Winn post on this blog asked the following (lightly edited):

“I am wondering if you, or anyone else reading this blog, might have run across an Ann Winn who married William Webber III on 1 August 1764 in Goochland County, Viriginia. The marriage is recorded in the Douglas Register. The family seems to have resided in St. James Northam Parish, where William Webber died in August 1794. William Webber III and his wife Ann Winn had at least the following children: Philip (named for William Webber III’s father), Benjamin, John, Mary , Keturah, Susannah Winn, Charles, William IV, and Archer. I’ve also seen a son named Archibald attached to this family, although Archer and Archibald may be the same person. Ann Winn Weber is sometimes identified as a daughter of John Winn and Mary Pledger of Hanover County, but my impression is that their daughter Ann was married to Nathaniel Holman and no one else. Any information, thoughts, theories, or suggestions on who this Ann Winn was and where she fits in the Winn family would be much appreciated. Thanks.”

OK, Winn experts, please weigh in! Either post a comment on this blog or communicate directly with Jeff Duvall, who is looking for this information, by email at jduvall@iupui.edu. Sissy? Bill? Anyone?

Hope this gets some results! Thanks in advance …

Robin

Rankin, Upton County, TX

Want to see two characters from Lonesome Dove taking a selfie? Get yourself to Rankin, Texas. The town is perched atop the Edwards Plateau in the Middle of Nowhere, population 778.[1]

I have no idea what the town is best known for, but I’ll put my money on an old corrugated tin building decorated with a funky Texas flag and portraits of Augustus “Gus” McCrae and Woodrow F. Call of Lonesome Dove. Someone with a puckish sense of humor painted the pair on horseback, with Call taking a selfie.[2] Tommy Lee Jones would probably approve.

Google says the town is named for F. E. Rankin, a “local rancher.”[3] In fact, F. E. did receive a grant of 640 acres in Upton County in 1911.[4] However, he apparently never lived in Rankin. Instead, he and his family lived in Midland County. He is listed in the 1910 census there as “Finis E. Rankin” with his wife Eliza and son Porter, age 20 (born about 1890). The name Porter Rankin rang a tiny bell, but I wasn’t sure why. Finis, Eliza and Porter were born in Tennessee, and the couple’s parents were also born in Tennessee.[5] The 1900 Midland census reveals that F. E. was born in January 1856 and was a “cattle raiser.”[6]

The “Findagrave” website often has errors in its unsourced obiter dicta, but the tombstone pictures and obituaries posted there are pretty good evidence.[7] The Fairview Cemetery in Midland has a tombstone for F. E. Rankin (“father”), 1856 – 1916, and Eliza Rankin (“mother”), 1862 – 1953.[8] Better yet, there is a Midland County death certificate for Robert Porter Rankin (1890 – 1 Nov 1962). It identifies him as a son of F. E. Rankin and Eliza Smith. Best of all, it says Porter was born in Belt Buckle, TN. That town is in Bedford County, telling us where to go look for Finis et al. before they came to Texas.

With a name like “Finis” and the additional information, tracking this line was a piece of cake. There is a marriage record for F. E. Rankin and Elizabeth Smith for 27 Jul 1879 in Bedford County, TN. At age 5, Finis and his younger brother Porter were listed in the 1860 census for Bedford County with their presumed parents Robert and Matilda Rankin.[9] The 1850 Bedford census adds a middle initial: his name was Robert D.Rankin, and there was a David G. Rankin, a child, in the household.[10] The 1880 census identifies David G. Rankin as a son of Robert D. and Matilda.[11]

At this point, bells began to ring in earnest. The names David G. Rankin and Porter Rankin are firmly planted in my memory … and in my family tree software. David G. Rankin was a son of Samuel and Eleanor (“Ellen”) Alexander Rankin of Lincoln Co., NC – my ancestors. I have written several article about Sam and Eleanor on this website. Here is one of them: http://digupdeadrelatives.com/2017/10/22/samuel-rankin-abt-1734-abt-1816-m-eleanor-alexander-new-post-replace-old-ones/ David. G. Rankin’s wife was Anne Moore Campbell, and they had a son, Rev. James Porter Rankin, who died at age 26.[12]

David G. and Anne Rankin migrated from Lincoln Co., NC to Rutherford Co., TN. A deed there identifies a Robert D. Rankin as a resident of Bedford Co., TN; other records make it clear that Robert D., father of Finis, was a son of David and Anne.[13]

And that’s enough for Rankin, TX: I’ve just written more words than there are people in the town. And whoda thunk I’d find relatives near there.

See you on down the road.

Robin


[1]Rankin’s population of 778 is per the 2010 census. https://www.google.com/search?ei=M5lkXIi3H42Q0PEP3_GU-Ag&q=population+of+rankin+texas&oq=population+of+rankin+texas&gs_l=psy-ab.3..0i22i30.409200.413316..421342…0.0..0.231.2861.10j15j1……0….1..gws-wiz…….0i71j0j0i67j0i131i67j0i131j0i22i10i30j33i22i29i30j0i13i30.Uev8UFzyER0

[2]A friend who writes a travel blog called Wanderwiles took these two pictures and kindly sent them to me.

[3]See Note 1.

[4]Texas Land Title Abstracts, Certificate No. 982, file No. 85690, 640-acre grant to F. E. Rankin dated 26 Oct. 1911.

[5]1910 federal census, Midland Co., TX, household of Finis E. Rankin, age 54, b. TN, parents b. TN, with wife Elisah (sic, Eliza), 48, TN/TN/TN, and son Porter Rankin, 20, TN/TN/TN.

[6]1900 federal census, Midland Co., TN, T. E. or F. E. Rankin, b. Jan 1856, age 44, married 20 years, cattle raiser. Household includes wife Eliza, b. Feb 1862 who has had 3 children, all living, daughter Maud, b. Apr 1880, son P. B., b. Dec 1881, and son Porter, b. Feb 1890.

[7]The deceased isn’t ever around to give his/her date of birth, and my experience is that children often haven’t a clue what year their parents were born. Tombstones are subject to that possibility. AND, once in a while, people have been known to shave a few years off their ages, a frequent occurrence in census records.

[8]https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/18412790/finis-ewing-rankin  

[9]1860 federal census, Bedford Co., TN, District 4 has household of Robert Rankin, 45, farmer, $16,500 realty, $15,000 personalty, b. TN. Also listed in the household (all born in TN, and all with the surname Rankin, were Matild (sic, Matilda) 35, Nancy 21, David 19, Thomas 17, Jame 16, Ellen 13, Susanah 11, Malinda 9, Virginia 7, Finis, 5, and Porter, 1. 

[10]1850 federal census, Bedford Dist. 4, Robert D. Rankin, farmer, $7K real property, b. TN. Matilda Rankin, 33, Nancy A. Rankin, 10, David G. Rankin, 9, William Thomas Rankin, 8, Janes? C., female, 6, Martha E., 4, and Susannah M., 1. 

[11]1880 federal census, Bedford Dist. 5, David G. Rankin, 38, farmer, b. TN, parents b. TN, wife Laura T., 30, NC/NC/NC, sonsRobert E. Rankin, 12, Wm A Rankin, 10, Leon Augustus Rankin, 7, Albert E. Rankin, 2, and Osman G. Rankin, 1.

[12]Rev. James Porter Rankin, born May 10th, 1805, died Sep 11th, 1831, aged 26 years 1 mo. & 1 day. (obit in National Register & States Gazette, Sept. 17, 1831, says Rev. J. P Rankin died in Rutherford Co.). Tombstone in the Old City Cemetery in Murfreesboro, TN shows May 10, 1805 – Sep 11, 1831. His parents David G. and Anne M. C. Rankin are buried in the same cemetery. https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&amp;GRid=24947618&amp;ref=acom

[13]Rutherford Co., TN Deed Book Z: 93, bill of sale dated 15 Jan 1842 from Robert Rankin of Bedford Co., TNto Martin Alexander of Rutherford, an enslaved person. See also Rutherford Co., TN Deed Book 1: 523, Robert D. Rankin and William C. Rankin, administrators of the estate of their sister Mary (Rankin) Montgomery. Mary M. Rankin married Joseph A. Montgomery in Rutherford County in 10 Sep 1831.