Four Robert Rankins of Guilford County, NC

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, including Robert Rankin and his wife Rebecca, the colonial patriarch and matriarch of their family. Their descendants belong to Lineage 1A of the Rankin DNA Project.

Some of what I propose in this article 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. The other two are probably  daughters. The latter two have not been identified in any compiled family history or online sources I have found.

the identity of the wife of the Robert Rankin who died in Guilford in 1795. I disagree on that issue with darn near every 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 period.[1]Both Roberts were grandsons of Joseph and Rebecca Rankin of New Castle County, Delaware, whose sons John and William migrated to Rowan/Guilford. Joseph’s line belongs to Lineage 1B of the Rankin DNA Project. Joseph’s line and Robert and Rebecca’s line are a genetic match, although the common Rankin ancestor hasn’t been identified. He almost certainly lived on the other side of the Atlantic in Ireland or Scotland.

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

  1. R&R – Robert Rankin and wife Rebecca.
  2. Robert who died in 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 line. According to a grandson’s autobiography, R&R came to Pennsylvania from Letterkenny Parish, County Donegal, Ireland in 1750 along with some of their children.[2] R&R resided briefly in Chester County, Pennsylvania.[3] In 1755, they settled in the part of Rowan County that became Guilford.[4] According to Rev. Samuel M. Rankin, R&R are both buried at Buffalo Church in Greensboro, although no markers for them survive.[5]

Robert died in 1770-73.[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.[7] Rev. Rankin failed to include Ann, but added a son John and a daughter Rebecca who married James Denny. There is circumstantial evidence in county records for a son John, although the Rebecca who married James Denny was probably a daughter of the Robert Rankin who died in 1795 rather than a daughter of R&R.[8] Rev. Rankin thought that R&R had other children. That seems likely.

Tantalizing probate records in Rowan County suggest two other daughters of R&R besides Ann Rankin Denny. These two women – Margaret (Rankin) Braly/Brawley and Rebecca (Rankin) Boyd are probably R&R’s daughters.

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. More often than not, witnesses to will were family.

The Braly administrator’s bond was dated 8 Jan 1765. Thomas’s nuncupative will established that his wife Margaret 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 R&R’s “probable” daughter because of her age and the two strong Rankin-Braly connections established by the administrator’s bond and will.

Robert Rankin was also security on the Rowan County administrators’ 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 original Braly bond, so it was the same Robert Rankin. There is also circumstantial evidence of Boyd/Rankin connections in some Guilford deeds.[11] Rebecca Boyd was probably also R&R’s daughter.

Here is a brief chart of R&R’s line, including the Robert Rankins covered in this post. 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 article are shown in boldface type.

Outline Chart #1

1 “R&R,” Robert Rankin was born circa 1700, probably in Scotland or Ireland, died in Guilford, NC about 1770. Wife Rebecca MNU.

2 George Rankin was born in 1729 in Letterkenny Parish, County Donegal, Ireland. He died in 1760 in Rowan County, NC. His wife was Lydia Steele Rankin. She married Arthur Forbis after George died.[13]

3 “Shaker” Reverend John Rankin, born in 1757 in Rowan, NC, died in 1850 in Logan, KY.[14] Married Rebecca Rankin, a granddaughter of Joseph Rankin 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 who died in 1795, more on him below.

3 George Rankin (1767 – 1851), married Nancy Gillespie in Guilford in Jan. 1791, died McNairy Co., TN.[17]

4 Arkansas Robert Rankin, 1792 – 1845, more on him below. George and Nancy had other children in addition to Arkansas Robert.

2 John Rankin, lived in Guilford Co., a possible son of R&R suggested by Rev. Samuel M. Rankin. No further record.

2 Ann Rankin married William Denny Sr., lived in Guilford Co. More on them below.

2 Rebecca Rankin (probable) married John Boyd who died in Rowan, NC in 1767.

2 Margaret Rankin (probable) married Thomas Braly/Brawley who died in Rowan, NC, in Dec. 1764.

Next up: R&R’s son Robert.

Robert Rankin, died in Guilford, 1795

Robert Rankin, son of R&R, died in Guilford in 1795. His will did not name a wife, which probably means she predeceased him.[18] He identified only one son, George. Based on the express language of the will, Robert had four daughters. He identified only two of them: Mary Rankin Wilson, who died before Robert wrote his will, and Isabel Rankin, unmarried in 1795. The other two daughters, whose given names Robert did not provide, were apparently already married. One daughter was almost certainly the Rebecca Rankin who married William Denny Jr., whose will named his brother-in-law George Rankin and a daughter Rebecca. His wife evidently predeceased him. I have not identified the fourth daughter. Robert also named his three Wilson grandsons, William Rankin Wilson, Andrew Wilson, and Maxfield Wilson.

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

2 Robert Rankin, died 1795, Guilford

3 George Rankin (1767 – 1851) married Nancy Gillespie in Guilford Co. in Jan. 1791. Died 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, died before 1795. Married Andrew Wilson as his second wife.[19]

4 William Rankin Wilson, born about 1788, moved to McNairy Co., TN.[20] Wife’s name was Lydia, possibly Rev War Robert’s daughter with Polly Cusick.[21] I found no marriage record for them.

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

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

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

3 Rebecca Rankin, born before 1795, probably married 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 the Robert who died in 1795 with his father, who died in 1770-73. But there’s a tougher controversy about the Robert who died in 1795: the identity of his wife. Many Rankin researchers identify her as Jean (or Jane) Denny. They have a basis for doing so. The Guilford County marriage records indicate that some Robert Rankin married some Jean/Jane Denny in February 1775. William Denny Sr. (wife Ann Rankin) definitely had an unmarried daughter named Jean/Jane when he wrote his will in August 1766.[27]

A serious problem with that theory is that Robert d. 1795 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 in Rowan County deeds. 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. Robert Sr. paid 10 shillings for the 640A tract he “sold” to William Denny Sr. for 5 shillings.[29]

That gift deed constitutes compelling evidence that William Denny Sr. was part of R&R’s family. William also witnessed the 1760 will of George Rankin along with his brothers-in-law Robert Rankin and John Braly.[30]Further, a John Rankin witnessed William Denny’s 1766 will.[31] Rev. Samuel M. Rankin believes R&R had a son John, probably the witness to William Denny’s will. They would have been brothers-in-law.

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

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

Iredell Robert was a son of the David Rankin who died in Iredell in 1789.[33] Two men who are proved descendants of David are members of the Rankin DNA project and have Y-DNA tested. They match proved descendants of R&R.

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

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

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

Rev War Robert Rankin (1759 – 1840).

Rev War Robert, a grandson of R&R, was one of two sons of R&R’s son George and his wife Lydia Steele.[35]Robert’s Revolutionary War pension application states 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 in 1803.[38]

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

3 Robert Rankin, Rev. War Robert, was born in Rowan, NC on 29 May 1759, died in McNairy County, TN on 21 Dec 1840. He is buried in Bethel Springs Cemetery in McNairy. He married #1 Mary (nickname “Polly”) Cusick in Guilford, probably in the early 1780s, and married #2 Mary Moody, also in Guilford.

Children by Mary (“Polly”) Cusick:

4 George Rankin, born in Guilford about 1783, died between 1828-1830 in Arkansas Territory. He married Ann McMurray in Guilford in 1803. They were in Arkansas Territory by 1816 and eventually lived in Pulaski Co. They 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, born 1785-86, married Rebecca Rankin in Guilford in 1811. She was a daughter of George and Nancy Gillespie Rankin. They were in Arkansas by at least 1830, when he was listed in the 1830 Arkansas Territory census.

4 Lydia Rankin, born in Guilford about 1789 if she was the Lydia who married William Rankin Wilson. For some unaccountable reason, online trees identify her as “Lydia Lea Isabella.” I would love to see any evidence for that name.

4 Isabel Rankin, born in 1791, Guilford, NC, died in 1861 in Pope, AR. She married Arkansas Robert Rankin, her second cousin, in Guilford in 1812. He was a son of George and Nancy Gillespie Rankin. They went to McNairy County, TN and then the Arkansas Territory, Conway and Pope Counties. See more on this couple below.

4 John Rankin, born in 1797 in Guilford, died 1846 in McNairy Co., TN. His wife was Mary Kirby/Kerby.

4 William Rankin, born in 1799 in Guilford, married Isabel Woodburn there in 1823. They went to McNairy, TN and DeSoto County, MS. Both William and Isabel are buried in Bethesda Cemetery in Tate County, MS.

4 Thankful Rankin, born between 1790-1800 in Guilford, married Hance McCain there in 1818. They may have lived in McNairy County.

Children by Mary Moody:

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

4 Letha Rankin, born about 1820, married Robert D. Wilson, undoubtedly a relative. Lived in McNairy, TN.[40]

With that, let’s move on to the last Robert in this discussion.

Arkansas Robert Rankin

Here is another case in which Y-DNA provides helpful and compelling evidence. Back up for a moment to Isabel Rankin, a proved daughter of Rev War Robert and his first wife Polly Cusick.[41] Isabel married some Robert Rankin in Guilford in 1812.[42] A descendant of Robert and Isabel (call him “Joe”) has Y-DNA tested and participates in the Rankin DNA Project. Joe can prove that Isabel Rankin is descended from R&R – but Isabel didn’t have a Y-Chromosome to pass on. Joe inherited that from Isabel’s husband Robert. 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 to prove. Don’t forget 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 not from Joseph’s line, which has been well-documented by Rev. Rankin. We can discount the Mars theory. That leaves the line of R&R.

Y-DNA testing and land records came to the rescue. George Rankin (a son of Robert who died 1795) and his wife Nancy Gillespie had a son Robert who is conclusively proved, although he is unaccountably missing from many lists of George and Nancy’s children.[43] Robert was the right age to have been the Robert Rankin who married Isabel. Unfortunately, there is no evidence in the marriage bonds or elsewhere to prove that Isabel’s husband 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. This is something of a “last man standing” theory.

More Y-DNA: a proved descendant of R&R’s grandson George Rankin and his wife Nancy Gillespie is a close Y-DNA match to 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 are almost certainly R&R. The Y-DNA evidence is sufficient IMO to establish that Isabel’s husband Arkansas Robert Rankin is the same man as Robert, proved son of George and Nancy Gillespie Rankin.

That’s it for now. Someday, when it is too hot to go fishing, too rainy to garden, and the Astros aren’t playing, I will consolidate the several charts in this article into one table, add a bunch of names, and publish a loooonnnnngggg chart for the descendants of R&R.

See you on down the road.

Robin

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

[1] The Robert C. Rankin who died in Guilford in 1853 and Robert Rankin, who died there in 1866, were grandsons of Joseph and Rebecca Rankin of Delaware through their sons William Rankin and John Rankin, respectively.

[2] The grandson was Rev. John Rankin (1757-1850), a Shaker 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 Ead’s transcript from the Special Collections Library, Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green, Kentucky (WKU), where it is designated “Shaker Record A.” See the post titled “Autobiography of Rev. John Rankin, Grandson of Robert and Rebecca.”

[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 in that county. I did find them in Chester. 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] Id. 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 than R&R’s proven children and was most likely born too late to be their daughter. She might be a daughter of the Robert Rankin who died in Guilford in 1795. See Buffalo Church cemetery records online.

[9] George Rankin, a proved son of R&R, had two sons born in 1757 and 1759. See Shaker John’s Autobiography and his brother 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, another proved son of R&R, had a son George born in 1767. See the 1795 will of Robert Rankin, Guilford Will Books A-B, File #312 (naming a son George) and George’s tombstone on Findagrave. The listing of George’s children at that website omits a proved son Robert.http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GSln=Rankin&GSiman=1&GScid=9234&GRid=6506241&.

[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 630 acres on Little Troublesome Cr., Granville grant to John Boyd Sr. 15 Jul 1760. John Boyd Sr., the original grant recipient, was probably the deceased in the 1767 administrator’s bond. Witnesses to the deed were Robt. Bell, John Rankin, and 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 the waters of North Buffalo. Witnesses William Denney and Rebekah Denney. The witness Rebekah was a daughter of Robert Rankin who died in 1795 and a granddaughter of R&R. Guilford Deed Book 8: 230.

[12] Shaker John’s Autobiography.

[13] Will of Arthur Forbis dated proved 1794 named as executors his “stepsons John Rankin and Robert Rankin.” 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 believes that one of Shaker John Rankin’s children did not convert to Shakerism and that he married and had children. I am skeptical. The Logan Co., KY census and burial records suggest that all ten of Shaker John’s children died single in Logan County.

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

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

[19] Id., the 1795 will of Robert Rankin mentioned Andrew Wilson, Robert’s “former son-in-law.” See also the Buffalo Church History, listing the three wives of Andrew Wilson (Jr.).

[20] 1850 federal census, McNairy Co., TN, William R. Wilson, 62, farmer, b. NC, Lydia Wilson, 61, 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. She 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, although they may have married elsewhere.

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

[25] Isabel Rankin, daughter of Robert d. 1795, probably died single and without children. She was still single in 1795, when her father wrote his will, and she was probably about 30 at that time. Her father specifically bequeathed a slave to provide for her, which likely 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. See also the 1803 deed from James Boyd to Henry Fryar witnessed by William Denny and Rebeckah Denny, Guilford Co., NC Deed Book 8: 230.

[27] Will of William Denny (Sr.), Rowan Co. Order Book 3: 200; Rowan Co. Will Book A: 31. An abstractor of this will, Jo White Linn, made (for her) a rare error about 3 of William Denny’s daughters. Ms. Linn read the will to say that all of William and Ann’s daughters were married, but three of them – Hannah, Agnes, and Jane/Jean Denny – are 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] See an articles about Iredell County Robert Rankin at this link.

[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 Co., NC Will Book B: 435, will of William Cusick dated 1816 naming 3 daughters of Robert Rankin and William’s deceased daughter Polly Cusick Rankin: Lydia, Isbel, and Thankful.

[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. (Melinda) E. Wilson, was the daughter of Letha Rankin and Robert D. Wilson, according to Melinda’s TN death certificate.

[40] Id.

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

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

[43] Guilford Co., NC Deed Book 14: 11, deed of 23 Mar 1819 from George Rankin Sr. to his son Robert Rankin Jr., both of Guilford, 110.5 acres on the south side of North Buffalo. George Sr. at that point was George, son of Robert d. 1795 (who devised that tract to George). Robert Rankin Sr. was Rev War Robert. See also Guilford Co., NC Deed Book 6: 346, survey for George Rankin, land Robert willed to George, a tract on the south side of North Buffalo Cr.

See you on down the road.

Robin Rankin Willis

[1] Robert C. Rankin, who died in Guilford in 1853, and Robert Rankin, who died there in 1866, were grandsons of Joseph and Rebecca Rankin of Delaware through their sons William Rankin and John Rankin, respectively.

[2] The grandson was Rev. John Rankin (1757-1850), a Shaker 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 Eads’s typescript 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 information. It primarily chronicles every thought Shaker Rev. John 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. I did find them in Chester. 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, a rare mistake by Rev. Rankin) are buried in the Buffalo Church cemetery. Rebecca was born in 1760 and died in 1816. She was from a later generation than 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 tract winds up in Rockingham County. John Boyd Sr., the original grant recipient, is probably the deceased in the 1767 administrator’s bond. Witnesses to the deed were Robt. Bell, John Rankin, and 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’s autobiography here.

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

[18] Guilford County, NC Wills Books A-B 1771-1838, Probate 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, 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. She 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.

[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 – are 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, in my opinion) marry Robert Rankin of Iredell Co., a son of the David Rankin who died there 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 deceased 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. (Melinda) 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. at that time was Rev War Robert.

Identifying a family using tax lists (with a digression about surname spelling): two Rankin families of Henderson County, Kentucky

Using tax lists in family history research is not for the faint of heart. No sane person abstracts them, so you can usually kiss off finding an indexed book. The only sources – other than the originals – are images of the  originals. Some are unreadable due to ink bleed-through, a county clerk’s indecipherable handwriting, and/or bad photography. Many are not alphabetized.

The good news is that many have been digitized and are available online. Mining them for information requires eye drops and perseverance, but at least you can curse the clerk’s handwriting in the privacy of your own home. They are often gold mines of information.

This article uses tax lists to identify members of one of the two Rankin families living in Henderson County, Kentucky in the early 1800s. I mentioned one family in a previous article: Dr. Adam Rankin, who came to Kentucky from Franklin County, Pennsylvania. Dr. Adam was a son of William and Mary Huston Rankin of Lancaster, Cumberland, and Franklin Counties, Pennsylvania. William was a son of  Adam and Mary Steele Alexander Rankin of Lancaster County.

Let’s look briefly at Dr. Adam’s family and defer the tax list search for the second family.

Dr. Adam Rankin of Franklin Co., PA and Henderson Co., KY

One doesn’t need tax lists to identify Dr. Adam’s family because an 1887  county history book did the work.[1] It names his three wives, all of his children, and many grandchildren. Dr. Adam’s family was both wealthy and prominent, a contrast to the other Henderson County Rankins. He was living there by no later than 1804,[2] probably died in January 1817,[3] and produced a large number of children. His sons were also wealthy and prominent, and his daughters “married well,” to use an archaic phrase. If Dr. Adam’s immediate family had any serious financial reversals, they aren’t obvious.

For example, Dr. Adam’s eldest son William was a county judge. In the 1860 census, he listed $18,000 in real property and $12,000 in personal property. Even the Civil War didn’t destroy him financially.[4] William’s brother Adam was elected clerk of the circuit court for many years. James Edwin Rankin, a merchant, listed $37,000 of real property and $23,000 of personalty in the 1870 census. Another son, Alexander, was a minister.

The hits just kept coming. Dr. Adam’s grandson Confederate Brigadier General Adam Rankin “Stovepipe”  Johnson captured an Indiana town without firing a shot and later founded the town of Marble Falls, Texas, among other exploits. The Chairman of the Board of Churchill Downs is Dr. Adam’s descendant. In the first year of the Great Depression, a descendant of Dr. Adam owned a $300,000 mansion in Louisville.[5]

Because of their wealth, Dr. Adam’s family leaps out of the tax records. By 1808, Dr. Adam owned  over 2,000 acres and fifteen enslaved persons.[6] Entries for his family fill many pages in the Henderson grantor/grantee indexes. You can undoubtedly find a lot more information with some digging if you are interested in this family’s history.

John Rankins of Henderson County, KY

The John Rankins family in Henderson also jumps out of the tax records. In their case, it is because few of them owned land. You can easily identify members of John’s family with few errors by scanning the “R” names on a tax list and noting the Rankins who had no land.

Here is a weird thing, and a digression. Their surname was most often spelled “RankinS” in both the tax lists and deed books. Dr. Adam’s family’s surname was consistently spelled “Rankin,” sans the “S.” At some point, a new clerk began transcribing the tax lists and they were all, by gosh, Rankin. Likewise, whoever typed the grantor-grantee indexes for Henderson County deeds used the name without the “S” for both families, ignoring what the deed books actually said.

If you talk to enough people about family history, someone will eventually tell you that his Clemson-Withers family is not related to your Clemsen-Withers line. The surnames are spelled differently, he will explain.

YDNA might prove him wrong, and probably will. My Rankin cousin’s closest YDNA match spells his surname Renkin. It’s a different spelling, but obviously the same genetic family. Written records are also evidence on this issue. There is a 1746 deed in Lunenburg County, Virginia in which the grantor’s name is spelled Winn, Wynn, and Wynne.[7]  Which spelling was “correct,” or does it matter? Probably not, since the three spellings all referred to the same man – and the same YDNA. Eventually, a genetic relative chose to spell his name Winn. Another one chose Wynn. A different spelling, but the same genetic family.

The Henderson County Rankin-Rankins families belie the general rule that spelling doesn’t matter. When you find the surname spelled “Rankins” in Henderson County, you can be 95% certain you are not dealing with Dr. Adam’s line. By the time members of the Rankins family moved from Henderson to Crittenden County, though, the “S” had usually vanished, and they were just Rankin.

On that note, let’s finally look at the Rankins family identified by the tax lists.

In 1808, John was the first “Rankins” to be listed. No other Rankins appeared until 1834, making John the likely patriarch. In 1813 and 1814, he was taxed on 200 acres.[8] From 1828 through his death in 1841, he was not taxed on any land.

The deed books don’t reveal what happened to John’s 200 acres. If he sold it, the grantor index omitted the deed, or at least it isn’t indexed under his name. Whatever the reason for the loss, it was a bad omen for the Henderson County Rankins. (Dr. Adam, had he suffered the same loss in 1809, would have had 1,800 acres remaining). Some of John’s sons had a hard time, economically. The Rankins who acquired land, however, did just fine.

From 1834 through 1855, seven “new” men named Rankins who didn’t own land appeared in the tax lists, all possible sons of John: Marston T., James W., John B., William W., Barnett C., Abia B., and George R. Rankins.

This would be a good time to mention the 1804 Henderson County will of Marston Clay, who had sons named Marston and Barnett, among others.[9] John “Rakin,”undoubtedly John Rankins, witnessed and proved the will. Those two unusual names, Marston’s will, and other circumstantial evidence suggest that John Rankins married a daughter of Marston Clay. The circumstantial evidence is correct. According to a great-granddaughter, John Rankins came to Kentucky from Virginia and married Elizabeth Clay in 1806.[10]

Other Henderson County records create a compelling web of family connections among these Rankins. One daughter can also be identified with confidence. Here is a summary of the evidence:

  • James W. Rankins was administrator of John Rankins’ estate in 1841, virtually conclusive evidence of a father-son relationship. Charles W. Clay was security on the administrator’s bond.[11]
  • John B. Rankins was administrator of Marston T. Rankins’ estate. Barnett M. Clay was security on John’s $100 administrator’s bond.[12]
  • John B. Rankins was guardian of Marston T.’s three minor children. Abia B. Rankins was security on the guardian’s bond.[13] Abia Benjamin (“Abe”) is proved as a son of John and Elizabeth Clay Rankins by a 1955 article written by one of his granddaughters.[14]
  • James W. Rankins mortgaged crops and livestock to Barnett C. Rankins, who secured notes for James W.[15]
  • James W. mortgaged a later crop to John B. Rankins, who also secured a note for James W.[16]
  • James W. Rankins and his son George were living in the household of Mary (Rankin) Berry in the 1860 census.
  • George R. Rankins was appointed guardian of James W.’s son, George Luther Rankins.
  • In 1880, John B. Rankins was living in the household of Sarah Elizabeth Berry Read, daughter of John B.’s sister Mary Rankin Berry. John B. moved to Crittenden County and lived in the household of his nephew James L. Rankin, son of Abia B.[17]
  • William W. Rankins was administrator of the estate of Barnett C. Rankins. Abia B. Rankins was a security on the administrator’s bond.[18]

And that’s all the ammo I’ve found to prove seven sons and one daughter of John and Elizabeth Clay Rankins. The 1820 census suggests two more daughters, but I haven’t identified them.

For anyone interested in this family, what follows is the rest of the information I have about them. It is  precious little, with one exception: Abia Benjamin Rankin …

Abia (“Abe”) Benjamin Rankins, b. 1821-1822, d. 23 May 1898.[19]

A photograph of Abe is included in a  wonderful article about him  posted online by Brenda Travis Underdown, a genealogy blogger.  Her article says that Sadie Rankin Terry shared a story about Abe with The Crittenden Press in November 1955. That story was the basis for Ms. Underdown’s article. Sadie, it turns out, was a daughter of William Benjamin Rankin, one of Abe’s sons.

I’m going to quote Ms. Underdown’s entire story verbatim because I cannot write it any better:

“Abia Benjamin Rankin, familiarly known as “Uncle Abe” was born in Henderson County, the son of John and Elizabeth Clay Rankin.

Abe began working on the Ohio River when a young man, loading flatboats and piloting them down the Ohio and Mississippi to New Orleans.

On one such trip he traded his boat for the tract of land between Ford’s Ferry and Weston, from which the Damn 50 Reservation site was sold. He brought his family [to Crittenden County] about 1858 and he continued to run the flatboats down the river.

He conceived the idea of planting 1,000 winter apple trees and when their fruit was harvested he planned on loading them on his flatboat and taking them to New Orleans. When the trees came into bearing they turned out to be summer apples and there was not much could be done with them, it seemed they overdid themselves in their production.

A cider mill was set-up under the trees and barrels of cider were taken south by flatboat.  People came from all around and made what cider they wanted and left without ever going to the house, it turned into a community orchard.

Uncle Abe, tho never much of a farmer, had a yen for “bidding in” any tract of land that was sold at the Court house door, if it joined his tract. At his death, he owned twelve or fifteen hundred acres, extending from the river for many miles around, including Ford’s Ferry island. Mr. Rankin died May 23, 1898 and is buried at Mt. Zion Cemetery.

Abe Rankin’s first wife was Sarah Ann Smith of Illinois, the mother of Ben, Jim and Tom; after his first wife’s death (Sept. 1, 1865, Mt. Zion Cem) he married Nancy Heath of Tennessee, who was the mother of Lee Rankin and Sallie Rankin Holeman.  All five of these children spent their entire lives in Crittenden County.

(2nd wife, Nancy Heath Rankin died April 20, 1910, also buried at Mt. Zion Cemetery)
(Story was shared with The Crittenden Press, Nov. 1955, by Sadie Rankin Terry.)”[20]

Another blogging genealogist, Brenda Joyce Jerome, posted a link to a  Crittenden County deed proving all of Abe’s children.[21] Sidebar: there’s nothing better than finding a couple of genealogists with great blogs.

I wish half as much fun information were available for Abe’s brothers and his sister Mary. Here is much of what I found …

Marston T. Rankins (b. Henderson Co. 1810-13, d. there by May 1847).[22]

Marston and his family mostly stayed out of the records. His wife was Sarah D. Williams, daughter of William Williams.[23] Marston and Sarah had three children, all born by 1847: John W. Rankins, Barnett A. Rankins, and George H. Rankins. According to the 1870 federal census mortality schedule, Barnett A. Rankin drowned in Henderson County in July 1870 at age 25. I have no information on his two brothers.

James W. Rankins (b. Henderson Co. 1813-16, d. there 1861).[24]

James W. married Martha M. Bentley in 1845, widow of Thomas E. Bentley.[25] Martha and James were listed in the 1850 census with Mary Rankins, 8 (probably a Bentley rather than a Rankins), and George Rankins, 2, their only surviving child.

By 1860, James W. and George were living in the household of Mary W. (Rankin) Berry.[26] Things weren’t going well. James gave his occupation as “day laborer” and valued his personal property estate at $25. He died by 25 March 1861, when his brother George R. Rankins was appointed guardian of George L. (Luther).[27] 

The happy economic news in James W.’s branch of the Rankins family is that his son George Luther inherited 142 acres from his Bentley half-sisters.[28] His family did just fine. George Luther moved to Crittenden County, Kentucky, where he was postmaster for many years. He and his wife Jerrie Wilson had eight children, all of whom survived him.[29]

Mary W. Rankin Berry, b. 1808, Henderson Co., d. 1874, Henderson.

Unlike her brothers, Mary Rankin Berry didn’t appear on the tax list. Instead, we identified her via the census, when her brother James W. Rankins and his son George Luther were living in her household. Mary Rankin married Lisander (or Lysander) Berry in Henderson County in September 1827. In 1830 and 1840, the Berrys were living in Hopkins and Union Counties, Kentucky, respectively. They were back in Henderson in 1850. Children in their household in 1850 were Elizabeth, age 18, Francis, 10, and Thomas Berry, 7.

Lysander and Mary Rankins Berry are both buried in the Clay Cemetery in Henderson County.

John B. Rankins (b. 1816-18, Henderson Co., d. 1897, Crittenden Co., KY).

John B.’s wife was Caroline M., maiden name unknown. They evidently had no surviving children.

Like his brothers Marston and James W., John B. did not do well financially. He bought a one-acre tract in 1861.[30] The sheriff sold it in 1862 to satisfy a judgment.[31] In 1866, he and his wife (identified as “Mrs. C. M. Rankins”) had separate listings in the tax records, one of those rare tax facts that provokes a smile: she owned a town lot valued at $400, while he owned a mule and a piano valued at $83.[32] The  following year, they were listed as “J. B. Rankin and wife,” another unusual description in a tax list.[33] In 1867, they owned two acres, apparently Caroline’s town lot. It, too, was sold to satisfy a judgment.[34]

By 1880, John B. was living in the household of B. F. Read and Elizabeth (Berry) Read, a daughter of his sister Mary Rankin Berry. About 1893, John B. moved to Crittenden County, where his brother Abia and nephew George Luther lived. John B.’s 1897 obituary in The Crittenden Press says that he was living with a nephew when he died.[35] The nephew, James Leonard Rankin, was Abia’s son.

Many Crittenden County Rankins are buried in the Mt. Zion Cemetery there. The family surname is generally spelled “Rankin,” ending the only example I have ever found in which a variant surname spelling was important.

George R. Rankins, b. abt 1827 – d. after 1880.

George R. married Sarah L. Cannon in Henderson in December 1859.[36] Their children were Samuel C. Rankin (born 1860-61), John L. or D. Rankin (born 1862-63), and Furna Allen Rankin (a son, born 1819, died 1952 in McCracken County, KY).[37]

And that’s all. Whew! I have no idea what the maximum length for a blog post should be, but am confident this one exceeds it by a long shot. If you made it this far, I applaud your perseverance. You are obviously ready to tackle some tax lists.

See you on down the road.

Robin

[1] Edmund Starling, The History of Henderson County, Kentucky (Henderson, KY: 1887, reproduced by Unigraphic, Inc., Evansville, IN, 1965), 789-791.

[2] Dr. Adam Rankin first appeared on the Henderson tax list in 1804 owning about 800 acres. Henderson Co., KY 1804 tax list, “R” surnames. Online image at Familysearch.org, DGS #7834454, image #101.

[3] Dr. Adam’s inventory was taken 17 Jan 1818, so he may have died that month or in late 1817. Estate inventories were usually taken promptly. Henderson Co., KY Will Book A: 267, inventory of Dr. Adam Rankin dated 17 Jan 1818. Online image at Familysearch.org, DGS #4819887, image #267.

[4] In the 1870 federal census for Henderson, William Rankin was listed with $10,000 in real property (a decline of $8,000 since 1860) and $10,500 in personal property (a decline of $1,500).

[5] 1930 federal census, Jefferson Co., KY, Louisville, Chester A. Rankin, 47, $300,000 home.

[6] Henderson Co., KY 1808 tax list, “R” surnames. Online image at Familysearch.org, DGS #7834454, image #123.

[7] Lunenburg Co., VA Deed Book 1: 71.

[8] Henderson Co., KY Deed Book B: 145, 9 Nov 1808 deed from William B. Smith to John Rankins, 100 acres, online image at Familysearch.org, DGS #8151120, image #359; Deed Book C: 128, 9 Feb 1814 deed from William B. Smith to John Rankins, 100 acres, online image at DGS #8575132, image #68.

[9] Henderson Co., KY Will Book A: 54, will of Mastin Clay dated 19 Dec 1804, recorded June 1807, witnessed and proved by John Rakin. Online image at Familysearch.org, DGS #4819887, image #164,

[10] The Crittenden Press, Marion, KY, Friday, Nov. 12, 1955. Brenda Travis Underdown kindly provided to me a scan of the original newspaper article, which has a story written by Sadie Rankin Terry about her grandfather Abia “Abe” Benjamin Rankin, son of John and Elizabeth Clay Rankins. See Ms. Underdown’s blog here..

[11] Henderson Co., KY Court Order Book E: 40, 25 Oct 1841, James W. Rankins granted administration of the estate of John Rankins, who died intestate, $2,000 bond. Online image at Familysearch.org, DGS #8109186, image #44. Don’t know what John had worth $2,000, but it wasn’t land.

[12] Id., Order Book E: 361, 24 May 1847, John B. Rankins granted administration of the estate of Marston T. Rankins, who died intestate, bond $100, security Barnett M. Clay. Online image at Familysearch.org, DGS #8109186, image #205,

[13] Id., Order Book E: 580, 23 Dec 1850, John B. Rankins appointed guardian of John W. Rankin, Barnett A. Rankin, and George H. Rankins, infant orphans of Marston T. Rankin, dec’d. Security Abia B. Rankin, $200 bond. Online image at Familysearch.org, DGS #8109186, image #316.

[14] See Note 10.

[15] Henderson Co., KY Deed Book L: 307, mortgage dated 28 Sep 1846 from James W. Rankins to Barnett C. Rankins, 12 head of hogs and crops of corn and tobacco on premises belonging to the heirs of Thomas E. Bentley “on which I now live.” Online image at Familysearch.org, DSG #8151123, image #457. James W.’s wife was the widow of Thomas E. Bentley. His daughters owned the land where James W. lived.

[16] Henderson Co., KY Deed Book N: 267, mortgage of tobacco crop to John B. Rankins from James W. Rankins, debtor on a note to merchants in Union Town, John B. is security on the note. Online image at Familysearch.org, DGS #8575133, image #396.

[17] The information about John B. living with his nephew is from John B.’s obituary in The Crittenden Press posted here.

[18] Henderson Co., KY Court Order Book E: 474, 25 Jun 1849, Barnett C. Rankin died intestate, administration granted to William W. Rankins, bond $400, Abia B. Rankins and Thomas Hart, securities. Online image at Familysearch.org, DGS #8109186, image #263.

[19] Abia B. Rankins was enumerated in the federal census for 1850 (b. abt. 1821), 1860 (b. abt. 1822), 1870 (b. abt. 1822) and 1880 (b. abt. 1822).

[20] Brenda Travis-Underdown, “Abia ‘Abe’ Benjamin Rankin, Crittenden County Pioneer,” Forgotten Passages (blogspot.com), Oct. 20, 2016, http://ourforgottenpassages.blogspot.com/2016/10/abia-abe-benjamin-rankin-crittenden.html.

[21] Brenda Joyce Jerome, “Find the Clues in this Deed,” Western Kentucky Genealogy Blog (blogspot.com), Oct. 6, 2008, http://wkygenealogy.blogspot.com/2008/10/find-clues-in-this-deed.html, citing Crittenden Co., KY Deed Book 7: 183.

[22] The 1840 census (the only one in which Marston appeared as a head of household) says that he was born during 1810-20. His first appearance on the tax list was in 1834, suggesting he was born by at least 1813. His date of death is based on the date an administrator was appointed for his estate.

[23] Henderson Co., KY Deed Book N: 192, deed of 7 Jan 1843 from Marston T. Rankins and wife Sarah D. Rankins and William B. Williams, grantors, to George W. Cabell, tract on the waters of Highland Creek belonging to William Williams, dec’d, descended to heirs at law Sarah D. Rankins, formerly Sarah D. Williams, and Wm. B. Williams. Online image at Familysearch.org, DGS #8575133, image #358.

[24] James W. first appeared on the 1837 tax list, suggesting he was b. 1816. He was shown as age 34 in the 1850 census and age 47 in the 1860 census.

[25] Shirley C. Moody, Marriages in Henderson County, Kentucky (Evansville, IN: 1989), Marriage Book 1: 91.

[26] Mary Rankin married Lisander or Lysander Berry in Henderson Co. 6 Sep 1827. Id., Marriage Book 1: 36.

[27] Henderson Co., KY, Guardian Bonds, 25 Mar 1861 bond of George R. Rankins as guardian of Geo. L. Rankins, infant of James W. Rankins. Online image at DGS #7553297, image #26.

[28] Henderson Co., KY Deed Book X: 318, deed dated 30 Jan 1871 from James F. Sandefur and Edward O. Sandefur to George Luther Rankins. Online image at Familysearch.org, DGS #8151125, image #509. It’s a fun and complicated deed involving a mule valued at $150. It establishes that George Luther inherited 142 acres from his half sisters Martha Jane Bentley and Elizabeth Bentley, children and heirs of Thomas Bentley, dec’d. See note 15.

[29] See 1900 and 1910 federal census, Fords Ferry, Crittenden Co., KY, George L. Rankins, b. KY, parents b. KY, b. Feb. 1848, married 20 years in 1900, wife Jerry A. b. Mar 1862, daughter Gertrude, Jul 1881, son James P. (Pinkney), b. Feb. 1884 (died Apr 1944), daughter Margaret, Oct. 1886, son Ear F., Oct. 1888 (went to Iowa, then NY), son Robert, July 1892, son George L. Jr., Aug 1898, son Jerrie, abt. 1903, and son Dick, abt 1907. See also his obituary  here.

[30] Id.at DGS Film #8193424, Deeds, v. S-T 1858-1864, image #421, Deed Book T: 257, deed dated 30 Apr 1861 from Virginia A. Williams and husband Henry D. Williams to John B. Rankins, one-acre tract on the waters of Highland Cr. No witnesses, suggesting a possible Williams-Rankin family connection. In fact, John B.’s grandfather Marston Clay married Elizabeth Williams in Halifax Co., VA in 1771.

[31] Id.,image #431 (Deed Book T: 277, sheriff’s deed dated 9 Aug 1862).

[32] Henderson County tax lists starting sometime in the 1850s had more than 40 columns of information for each listed taxpayer. They were a real pain to search.

[33] Both the 1866 and 1867 listings are at odds with the legal status of women at that time.

[34] Henderson Co., KY Deed Book W: 348, lot in Smith Mills sold by a Commissioner in the case of William M Cooper vs. J. B. Rankin. Judgment to satisfy debt to plaintiff. Online image, Familysearch.org, DGS #8151125, image #227.

[35] You can find John B. Rankin’s obituary from The Crittenden Press  here.

[36] Familysearch.org catalog, Henderson Co., KY, Vital Records, Marriage Records, 1806-1952, DGS #7721293, image #180 (Marriage Bond: 311, bond of George R. Rankins and Miss Sarah L. Cannon dated 22 Dec 1859); DGS 4261112, image #142 (marriage return, G. R. Rankins and Sarah L. Cannon, 26 Dec 1859).

[37] Here is an  image of his tombstone in Paducah, McCracken Co., KY. See also the 1870 and 1880 Henderson Co. census, which appear to have his birth year as 1865.

Articles of “general” genealogical interest (not family specific)

I had an email complaint from a customer this morning. He is a distant cousin who shall remain anonymous. He said this:

“You ought to just rename your website ‘the Rankin-Willis’ blog. I have no interest in either of those families. Why don’t you write something of general interest that might appeal to all family history researchers? Also, please write more articles about the ________ family.”

Huh. Well. That’s actually good constructive criticism, except for the last sentence, which could be viewed as a bit hypocritical. I will keep his complaint in mind, though, and look for more topics that aren’t family-specific.

Meanwhile, since it is possible that he may have missed a few, here are some “non-family-specific” articles that have appeared on this blog.

  • The most frequently read article on this blog is about genealogical evidence and proof.
  • Here is one discussing a few legal principles every family history researcher needs to know. It is amazing how many questions you can answer with just a little knowledge of that kind of stuff.
  • The second most frequently read article on this blog is about the Scots-Irish, specifically the impetus for and timing of their migration. Researching that history gave me a small insight into what was called “the Troubles” in Northern Ireland.
  • We’re recently published two “general interest” articles, one containing  research links for Maryland researchers  and another about finding original county records online.
  • Also not long ago, we published a short primer on YDNA theory.  The article uses a Rankin example to make a point. Perhaps I should start disguising them with an obviously made-up name like “Clemson-Withers.”
  • Here is a short piece about privacy settings in FTDNA accounts. The article was occasioned by an unfortunate experience with a surname project DNA project administrator.
  • If you are a history buff and/or first amendment nerd, you might enjoy this transcription of Madison’s “Remonstrance.” It includes a list of all the signatories at the end of the petition. If you have Virginia ancestors in the last half of the eighteenth century, you might give it a look.
  • Here is a short and simple article about how to determine, for example, whether someone is your second or third cousin.
  • There is also a post about a recent but fairly dumb  genealogy scam.
  • Finally, here is a warning about Ancestry.com’s “leaf” thingies.

We have also posted a couple of articles about “same name confusion,” a plague for family history researchers. One used as an example a Lindsey family and another used an Estes. There are also two posts about using land records to track a family, a valuable tool for family history researchers. I used Estes and Rankin families as examples. All four are so family-specific that I have not included them in the list.

I do hope this keeps my cousin busy for a while. You know who you are. <grin>

And now, back to an article about … you guessed it … two unrelated Rankin families in the same county and how to distinguish them using tax lists.

See you on down the road.

Robin