Will of Mary Huston Rankin, wife of William, with a brief chart

This is a cautionary tale: be careful what you wish for.

One of my Rankin researcher friends says I need to consolidate information about the descendants of William and Mary Huston Rankin into one article. She complained that one must read several posts to assemble information on that family. Even that, she says, is hit-and-miss as to the identity of descendants, because I don’t provide charts.

I plead guilty.[1] I shall try to respond to her request.

William was one of the three sons of Adam and Mary Steele Alexander Rankin, a famous immigrant Rankin couple claimed by many hopeful descendants. Actually, my friend wants a chart for all of Adam and Mary’s line — not just William’s. OK … A draft of one is underway. It is already more than twenty pages long as a Word document because I occasionally succumb to the urge to provide evidence. I will obviously have to post it in multiple parts. Charts of that nature do not make good reading. They don’t even make reading. That’s the “be careful what you wish for” aspect of this.

The upside is that descendancy charts provide an abundance of easy-to-follow information that might help you know where, or if, your family fits into a specific ancestral pool, and where you might need to flesh out the research on your line.

Adam’s line is the main course: to come. This article hardly even counts as an appetizer.

I have started with Mary Huston Rankin’s will because I have mentioned it on this blog before but never abstracted it. It is an important document because it helps prove which of the two David Rankins in Franklin County — one was a son of James, and one was a son of William and Mary, and both were grandsons of Adam — was her son. It also proves fourgranddaughters of William and Mary who are not established by any other records, so far as I know.[2]

Here is an abstract of Mary’s will, followed by an outline descendant chart using information from the will. Then I will flesh it out with more descendants. This will be a “skeleton” chart because it includes only names with very few dates and spouses. No evidentiary clutter. Its utility may be (1) as a starting place for your own research or (2) as confirmation of your existing charts. If it isn’t helpful, hang on for the series on all of Adam and Mary Steele Alexander Rankin’s line.

Mary Huston Rankin’s Franklin County will was dated April 11, 1818; it was proved in 1824. Mary expressly identified her relationships to each beneficiary and, except for one, identified the beneficiary’s Rankin parent. Mary did not name Betsy Rankin, her only proved daughter. She also omitted her eldest son Dr. Adam Rankin, who had moved to Kentucky. Otherwise, she mentioned all of her children.

Mary’s will recites that she resided in Peters Township, Franklin County, Pennsylvania. She was almost certainly living with her son David.[3] Here are her beneficiaries, all of whom received cash bequests:

  • Sons John and Jeremiah Rankin. They were William and Mary’s two youngest sons, although they are the first-named beneficiaries in Mary’s will.
  • Granddaughter Easter Robison, cash when she reached age 18. Easter’s parents aren’t identified. Her mother was probably Mary’s only daughter, Betsy Rankin, who evidently married a Robison and may have died by the time Mary wrote her will.
  • Grandson William, son of her son William, cash for the purchase of books. The will doesn’t say so, but he was a medical student.
  • Granddaughters Betsy, Martha, and Mary Rankin, daughters of her son David.
  • Grandson David Huston Rankin, son of her son David.
  • Granddaughters Betsy and Maria Rankin, daughters of her son Archibald.
  • Granddaughter Maria Rankin, daughter of her son James.
  • Executors: sons Archibald and William Rankin.
  • Witnesses: Robert W. Kerby and Martha Kerby.[4]

Here is a skeleton outline chart one can create for Mary’s family from her will. This chart begins with Adam and Mary Steele Alexander, William Rankin’s parents, as Generation 1.[5] I’ve included some information obviously not available from Mary’s will. The chart ignores descendants of William’s siblings James, Jeremiah, and Esther, who are waiting their turns. This chart lists William and Mary Huston Rankin’s children in birth order and provides their birth dates from a family Bible.[6] They are shown in boldface type.

1  Adam Rankin, d. 1747, Lancaster Co., PA. His wife was Mary Steele Alexander, daughter of John Steele of New Castle Co., DE and widow of James Alexander of Cecil Co., MD. Adam and Mary were married between August 1718 and 1724 in the Colonies.[7] Adam’s reputed father, grandfather, and alleged first wife are unproved, although their names are cast in concrete (or bronze) in the conventional wisdom. The conventional wisdom also claims Adam had a brother John; that notion is now conclusively disproved by Big Y. Adam was the immigrant in his line. Adam and Mary’s four children are not listed here in birth order: James was likely the eldest, Jeremiah likely the youngest, and I have no idea where Esther and William should appear between those two. I put William last because his is the line that is extended in this chart.

     2 James Rankin, who left a will in Franklin dated 1788 and proved 1795.[8] Wife Jean MNU. Four sons, two daughters.

     2 Jeremiah Rankin, died in Franklin (then Cumberland) in 1760. Wife Rhoda Craig. Four sons, all of whom went to Kentucky. I am not aware of daughters, if any.

     2 Esther Rankin Dunwoody. I know virtually nothing about her.

     2 William Rankin and wife Mary Huston. He died in 1792 in Franklin.[9] She probably died in 1824, the year her will was probated.

       3 Adam Rankin, b. 10 Nov 1762, not named in Mary’s will.[10]

       3 Archibald Rankin, b. 10 Apr 1764.

          4 Betsy Rankin, apparently not proved anywhere except Mary’s will.

          4 Maria Rankin, ditto.

       3 James Rankin, b. 20 Apr 1766.

          4 Maria Rankin, apparently not proved anywhere except Mary’s will.

       3 William Rankin, b. 5. Nov 1770.

          4 William Rankin, the med student who received money for books.

       3 Betsy Rankin, b. 13 Oct 1774. Apparently m. Mr. Robison and d. by 1818.

          4 Easter Robison, not proved anywhere except Mary’s will.

       3 David Rankin, b. 5 Feb 1777.

          4 Betsy Rankin

          4 Martha Rankin

          4 Mary Rankin

          4 David Huston Rankin

       3 John Rankin, b. 1 May 1779.

       3 Jeremiah Rankin, b. 26 Nov 1783.

OK, the expanded chart below adds William and Mary Huston Rankin’s descendants down to their great-grandchildren, where proved. I have omitted Generation 1 (Adam and Mary Steele Alexander Rankin) and their children except for William and Mary Huston Rankin of Generation 2. I’ve generally omitted evidence, spouses, dates, and locations, saving all that for later. William and Mary’s children (the generation numbered 3) are again shown in boldface.

2 William Rankin and wife Mary Huston, daughter of Archibald and Agnes Huston. William died in 1792, devising land in his will that makes it easy to track his sons with confidence.[11] According to The Pennsylvania Archives, he was a Revolutionary War soldier. If you are descended from William and Mary, you will have no problem obtaining membership in the DAR or SAR. If you are a male descendant named Rankin, for heaven’s sake, man, please do a Y-DNA test! His wife Mary evidently died in 1824. There is no evidence of a birth year for either William or Mary. William appeared in a plethora of county records. He is NEVER shown with a middle initial, much less a middle name, in any of them. The middle name “Steele” shown for him in internet trees is fiction.

     3 Dr. Adam Rankin, b. 10 Nov 1762. He went from Franklin to Henderson Co., KY, where he died. He married three times: (1) Elizabeth Speed, m. 1 Nov 1792 in Danville, KY (six children, she died 15 Aug 1803); (2) Ann Gamble, m. 23 Oct 1804 (one son, she died 14 Aug 1806); and (3) Susan (Susannah) Anderson, m. 3 Sep 1807 (six children).

       4 Mary Huston Rankin

       4 William Rankin

          5 Adam Rankin

          5 Gwatkin Rankin

          5 Juliet S. Rankin

       4 Elizabeth Speed Rankin

       4 James Speed Rankin

       4 Juliet Spencer Rankin, 1800 – 1871, Henderson Co., KY. Married Dr. Thomas J. Johnson.

          5 Benjamin Johnson

          5 Elizabeth Speed Johnson

          5 Confederate Brigadier General Adam Rankin “Stovepipe” Johnson, see article with photographs at this link.

          5 Thomas J. Johnson

          5 William Stapleton Johnson

          5 Campbell Haussman Johnson

       4 Adam Rankin

       4 John David Rankin

          5 Adam Rankin

          5 Sallie Rankin

          5 Juliet Rankin

       4 Nathaniel Alexander Rankin

          5 Adam Rankin

       4 James Edwin Rankin

          5 Ann E. (Nannie?) Rankin

          5 Sarah A. (Sallie?) Rankin

          5 James Edwin Rankin

          5 Rev. Alexander Taylor Rankin

          5 Coalter Wardlaw Rankin

          5 Samuel W. Rankin

          5 Alice H. Rankin.

          5 Fannie M. Rankin

          5 C. Wardlaw Rankin, the second child by that name.

       4 Lucy Rankin

       4 Archibald Rankin

       4 Susan Daniel Rankin

       4 Weston Rankin

   3 Archibald Rankin, b. 10 Apr 1764. Remained in Franklin County his entire life. His wife was Agnes Long. Only three daughters are proved; one son is probable.

       4 Betsy Rankin, proved by her grandmother’s will.

       4 Maria Rankin, ditto.

       4 Fanny Rankin, proved by a record of the Upper Conococheague Presbyterian Church.

       4 William Rankin, a probable son.

           5 Archibald Huston Rankin

           5 Olivia Catherine Rankin

           5 James Irvine Rankin

     3 James Rankin, b. 20 Apr 1766. Went to Centre Co., PA. Either died or moved away. Had a large family, but only one daughter is proved.

          4 Maria Rankin, proved by Mary Huston Rankin’s will.

     3 William Rankin (Jr.), b. 5 Nov 1770. Went to Centre Co., PA, where he died. Married (1) Abigail McGinley and (2) Susannah Huston.

       4 Adam Rankin

       4 Dr. William Rankin (III), the med student who inherited money for books. Wife Caroline Niven.

          5 Rev. William Alexander Rankin

            6 Annie J. Rankin

            6 William W. Rankin

            6 Percy Randolph Rankin

        5 Mary Adaline Rankin

        5 Dr. David Niven Rankin

        5 Abigail McGinley Rankin

        5 Alfred J. Rankin

        5 James Henry Rankin

        5 Elizabeth Rankin

        5 Joseph Pierce Rankin

        5 Caroline Olivia Rankin

        5 Anna Margaretta Rankin

    4 Dr. James Rankin

        5 Dr. William M. Rankin

          6 Dr. James Rankin

       5 Dr. Andrew Hepburn Rankin

       5 Emily J. Rankin

    4 John M. Rankin

       5 Oliver Rankin

       5 Susannah Rankin

       5 John Rankin

       5 James Rankin

    4 Joseph Alexander Rankin

       5 Abigail M. Rankin

       5 William Blair Rankin

       5 Sarah C. Rankin

       5 Anna M. Rankin

       5 Caroline E. Rankin

       5 John A. Rankin

    4 Dr. Archibald Rankin

    4 Abigail Rankin

    4 Susannah Rankin

  3 Betsy Rankin, evidently married a Mr. Robison. May have died by 1818.

    4 Easter Robison, proved by her grandmother’s will.

  3 David Rankin, b. 5 Feb 1777. Wife Frances Campbell, daughter of Dougal Campbell. Eventually moved to Des Moines Co., IA, where he died. For information on this family, see the links in Note 1.

     4 William Rankin

        5 Frances Elizabeth (“Libby”) Rankin

        5 Samuel Bruce Rankin

        5 Areta Catherine Rankin

     4 Elizabeth (“Betsy”) Rankin

     4 Martha C. Rankin m. Mr. Sweeny.

        5 Frances C. Sweeny

     4 Mary H. Rankin m. Mr. Bruce.

        5 Martha (“Mattie”) Bruce

        5 Lawrence H. C. Bruce

        5 David R. Bruce

        5 Sarah Bruce

        5 Margaret Bruce

     4 Dougal/Dugal Campbell Rankin

        5 David C. Rankin

        5 Hezekiah Johnson Rankin

        5 Sarah F. Rankin

        5 John William Rankin

    4 Frances Rankin (Jr.)

    4 David Huston Rankin

        5 Martha (“Mattie”) C. Rankin

        5 Fannie Rankin

          6 Rankin Rice

    4 Archibald Rankin

        5 Elizabeth J. Rankin

        5 Frances Margaret or Margaret Frances Rankin

        5 Martha Catharine Rankin

    4 Adam John Rankin

 3 John Rankin, b. 1 May 1779. Moved to Centre Co., PA, where he died. Wife Isabella Dundass.

     4 Mary Rankin

     4 Isabella Rankin

     4 Jane Rankin

     4 Eliza Rankin

     4 William D. Rankin

     4 Dr. John C. Rankin

     4 James H. Rankin

        5 Alice Rankin

        5 Jane A. Rankin

     4 J. Duncan Rankin

     4 Luther Calvin Rankin

        5 Mary J. Rankin

        5 Anabella (“Anna”) Rankin

        5 George F. Rankin

        5 Charles Rankin

        5 William Rankin

        5 Edith? Rankin

        5 Eliza Rankin

  3 Jeremiah Rankin, b. 26 Nov 1783. Went to Centre Co., PA with his three brothers. Wife  Sarah Whitehill.

     4 Mary H. Rankin

     4 David W. Rankin

        5 Oscar Rankin

     4 Rachel Rankin

     4 William Rankin

     4 Adam Rankin

        5 Mary Rankin

        5 James Foster Rankin

     4 Robert Rankin

I was amazed to find that this chart, with information largely limited to names with virtually no evidence, required four pages in a Word document — and that is with normal spacing, not the crazy spacing the WordPress format uses.

Jeremiah Rankin, the son of Adam and Mary Steele Alexander Rankin who died in a mill accident in 1760, is up next. Maybe. There are several Rankin projects in the mill, including good stuff happening at the Rankin DNA Project. Meanwhile, a chart for Adam’s entire line continues to grow.

See you on down the road.

Robin

            [1] One can find blog articles about William and Mary’s line here  and  here  and here  and still more here.

            [2] Jessica Guyer, a Rankin data mining bulldog, provided a link to Mary’s will from a new source she found for Franklin County records. My attempts to access the website once produced a message saying “service not available.” Perhaps the website was undergoing maintenance. Sometimes it asks for a password, with no clue how to get one. In any event, the link is accessible as I type it here.

            [3] The 1820 census for Peters Township, Franklin Co., PA, has an entry for David Rankin with a woman over 45, almost certainly his mother Mary, in the household.

            [4] I don’t know how Robert and Martha Kerby were connected to the Rankins, if at all.

            [5] Adam’s parents are unproved, although his purported father and grandfather are identified in a family legend along with an alleged first wife.

            [6] Disc 4, Cloyd tapes. I have lost my references to the Cloyd disk page numbers, for which I apologize. Wading through those disks is a serious MEGO challenge. The information in the Bible appears in the form of chart accompanying a letter dated May 6, 1954, from Rev. J. O. Reed, pastor of a Presbyterian Church in Opelousas, LA, to Flossie Cloyd. Rev. Reed, a descendant of William and Mary Huston Rankin, was the owner of the Bible and drew a small chart for Flossie.

            [7] For proof of Adam and Mary’s marriage date, see the article at this link.

            [8] Franklin Co., PA Will Book A: 345, will of James Rankin Sr.

            [9] Franklin Co., PA Will Book A: 256, will of William Rankin dated and proved in 1792.

            [10] This Adam (in the third generation) is named in his father William’s 1792 will. Franklin Co., PA Will Book A: 256. William named his wife Mary and children (in this order) Adam, Archibald, James, William, Betsy, David, John and Jeremiah. William identifies Betsy, John, and Jeremiah as being less than 21 years old. The family Bible identifies the same children, see Note 6.

            [11] Franklin Co., PA Will Book A-B: 256. William named his wife Mary and children (in this order) Adam, Archibald, James, William, Betsy, David, John and Jeremiah. William identifies Betsy, John, and Jeremiah as being less than 21 years old. The family Bible identifies the same children, see Note 6.

5 thoughts on “Will of Mary Huston Rankin, wife of William, with a brief chart”

  1. Great that you found the will of Mary Houston with help of Jessica Guyer! I was curious about Easter/Esther Robison, and I’ve just discovered more about her with tentative evidence (in brackets). I believe her father was Robert Robison 1768-1857 [land transactions with Archibald Rankin (bro of her ma Betty Rankin); Esther and Robert both buried in Moss Spring Cem in Greencastle]. She was born about 1800 and died March 1880 [1880 Mortality Schedule: Greencastle]. She married late in life (40 years old) in 1840 to widower David Fullerton 1772-1843 [records of Presby Church of Upper West Conococheague] who had lost his wife (and mother of his children), Joanna Lind, in 1837—David and Esther seem to have had no children. An interesting tidbit is that David was the older brother of Esther’s stepmother Anne, the 2nd wife of Robert Robison and mother of Esther’s half-brothers Humphrey and Robert Robison. Not a word did I find about Betsy Rankin so the sole connection to daughter Esther is Mary Huston’s Will.

      1. I found the grave of Elizabeth “Betsy” (Rankin) Robison: Inscription: “Elizabeth / Consort of / Robert Robison / Died April 12 / 1801 / 26 Years” This is in the Brown’s Mill Presby Church in Kauffman (2 miles north of Greencastle). Finally, confirming all the other pieces of the puzzle, Esther Fullerton (widowed, but not so mentioned in the 1850 Census for Greencastle) is in household of her father Robert, half-bro farmer Robert, and sis-in-law Amanda. Esther’s hubby David Fullerton was a prominent citizen of Greencastle, having served in the PA State Senate as well as Represenative in Congress for the Greencastle area.

        1. Hi Ralph! These locations all ring differently to me now as I have just spent the last 3 days traveling through Franklin County vising these sites and doing more research. There is a Rankin we haven’t been able to “place” in the family of the descendants of Adam Rankin. His name is Andrew Brown Rankin. His mother, Ann (Brown) Rankin, was also buried at Moss Spring Cemetery in 1810. Andrew’s father’s name was Nathaniel who was born in Greencastle around 1765. He is in the 1790 census with his wife (Ann) and one son (presumably Andrew.) He was deceased by 1800. But all of these places – Greencastle, Mercersburg, Brown’s Mill, Moss Spring…. and many other places related to these descendants of Adam Rankin…. they are more real to me now after spending time there. I hope to be able to use this locational knowledge to help piece together anything that remains outstanding for this Rankin bunch.

          1. Hi Jessica, Yes, I know of Andrew Brown Rankin, but I don’t think he is a descendant of Adam Rankin & Mary Steele. He crops up all over the place as admin. of estates throughout Franklin Co (try searching for A. B. Rankin at Newspapers.com!) In fact, he was admin. of the estate of David Rankin of “The Corner” [valley of Licking Creek, starting 5 miles SW of Mercersburg] in 1833 (i.e., the son of James Rankin and Jean). A.B. died at age 84 from a blow to his head when he fell on the stone steps down to his cellar [two articles at Newspapers.com].

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