Looking for DAR membership via a Virginia ancestor?

You might look in Frederick County, Virginia if you may have an 18th-century ancestor there. The court order books in 1782 are loaded with lists of people who furnished supplies “for Continental use.” The lists even include women.

Here is the definition of membership eligibility for providing supplies from the DAR website:

“Those who rendered material aid and supported the cause of American Independence by furnishing supplies, with or without remuneration, loaning money and/or providing munitions. Some states enacted special tax laws to raise money for supplies. Payment of these “supply” taxes is considered patriotic service.”

You can find the page defining what the DAR deems accepted service at this link. 

You can view microfilm of original court records for Frederick County at FamilySearch.org. Film #7897647 has images of Order Books 18-19, with entries beginning in 1781. All you need to access them is a FamilySearch account, which is free and can be created here. They won’t pester you with emails asking for money or proselytizing. If you aren’t able to access the film, just holler and I will try to help.

Here are some surnames from Frederick County Order Book 18, pages 36 and 37 (image 40 on the microfilm):

Jones, Jacobs, Cryer, Holliday, Hess, Noble, Williams, Dorsey, Morton, Smith, Slaughter, Frost, Brown, Booth, O’Neill, Cheek?, Kendrick, Cantmill?, Aldridge, Brooks, Kisner?, Carrick?, Stone, Seacrist, Johnston, Anderson, Throckmorton, Parker … et al.

There are more names on page 37 and in earlier Order Book pages. There are undoubtedly later entries as well. If you run across anything about a Rankin, please send an email!!!

See you on down the road.

Robin

It’s all about the Benjamins …

… but we aren’t talking $100 bills. Our subjects are four eighteenth-century Virginians named Benjamin who hail from the Northern Neck Rankin Cluster. Two of these men will qualify a descendant for DAR or SAR membership. If that is your thing and you may have a Rankin ancestor in the right area, they might be worth a closer look.

But this Virginia Rankin family is a tough nut to crack. Only one of the Benjamins has proved parents. Precise birth years are nonexistent; we mostly have to settle for a likely decade. I’m hoping for a reader who has a Bible or other evidence to help us with these men …

  • Benjamin Rankin of King George County, Virginia, a proved son of the Robert Rankin who died there in 1747/48. Benjamin was probably born in the 1720s.
  • Benjamin Rankin of Frederick and Berkeley Counties, Virginia (later part of West Virginia). DAR information is that Capt. Benjamin was born circa 1740.
  • Benjamin Rankin of King George/Fauquier/Loudoun Counties, Virginia and Fayette County, Kentucky. He was a Revolutionary War soldier, suggesting he was born in the 1750s or early 1760s.
  • Benjamin Rankin of Loudoun and Frederick Counties, Virginia and Mason County, Kentucky. He was probably born in the 1760s. His probable or possible brothers were Lt. Robert, William, John, Moses, Reuben, and George Rankin.[1]

Here’s what county records reveal about them.

Benjamin Rankin of King George County, Virginia, son of Robert Rankin who died 1747/48

Benjamin first appeared in the Virginia records in 1747/48 when he was named a beneficiary of his father Robert’s will.[2]Benjamin and his siblings Mary Rankin Green, Moses, George, and Hipkins each inherited only one shilling. Sons William, John, and James, probably the three eldest, inherited Robert’s land.[3] Robert’s estate was appraised at less than one hundred pounds sterling, so he didn’t have much wealth to spread among his children.[4] As a general rule, that means his sons weren’t likely to be wealthy, either.

After his father’s will was proved, Benjamin didn’t appear again in the King George records until 1753.[5] He must have been of legal age by then, born by 1732. After 1753, he appeared regularly in the court order books through 1767. In at least two records, Benjamin was involved with one of his brothers. In 1753, Benjamin and Hipkins sued the same man for trespass, assault and battery.[6] In 1763, Benjamin was security for Moses Rankin, a defendant in a suit for debt.[7]Benjamin was a carpenter, as was his brother John.[8]

The King George court slapped Benjamin hard on the wrist once — on the record — for presenting what the justices called a “very extravagant” charge for building several structures at Gibson’s tobacco warehouse.[9] The justices instructed that Benjamin be paid a lesser amount than he charged. Benjamin, bless his heart, didn’t take it lying down. He sued, was awarded a judgment, and obtained a writ of execution against the warehouse. The court instructed that the judgment be paid from the county levy.[10] Score: Little Guy 1 – City Hall 0.

Benjamin was moderately respectable by the norms of the day, something one can’t say with confidence about his brothers. They appeared in grand jury presentments for “failing to attend divine services,”[11] swearing,[12] “vagrancy” (failing to appear for militia drills),[13] or in court records as defendants in lawsuits for debts.[14] Benjamin did not belong to the top tier of the social order, though. He was never identified with the honorific “gent.,” nor did he serve in a county leadership position — justice, vestryman, tobacco warehouse inspector, someone who took tithes, or the like. He was, after all, a carpenter.

Benjamin did appraise at least one estate, a court-ordered position of moderate respect and trust.[15] He served on a couple of juries.[16] He was appointed overseer of a road, an indicator of both probable land ownership and public trust.[17] However, I found no record of any land acquisition in the deed books or Northern Neck grants. I also found no evidence of Benjamin’s family, if any.

After 1767, Benjamin disappeared from King George records. Because I found no probate records for him, I assumed he had moved. Then I started digging into the online images of King George order books. It turns out that there are very few surviving court records from the 1770s, or at least I had limited luck in the FamilySearch.org microfilms. Court records for King George are disorganized after the 1760s. Benjamin may have remained there and died intestate in the 1770s. Or he may have moved away. I don’t know. !!%&@!**&%!!

Capt. Benjamin Rankin of Frederick/Berkeley County, Virginia

Benjamin of Frederick/Berkeley first appeared in the records witnessing a 1765 Frederick County lease.[18] He lived in the Bullskin Creek/Bloomery area in the northern part of Frederick that became Berkeley County.[19] He was a Captain in the Berkeley County militia. The DAR deems him a Revolutionary Patriot, apparently for furnishing supplies.[20] The DAR estimates he was born circa 1740, probably based on information provided by a descendant.

He resigned his Berkeley militia commission in 1779.[21] That same year, he purchased more than 700 acres and thirty-seven enslaved persons.[22] He was clearly a wealthy man. In 1786, he was a trustee of the city of Charlestown, indicating he was also well-respected.[23] He died in 1787, leaving a will naming his wife Judith MNU and daughters Molly (Mary) Rankin and Margaret Helm, wife of William Helm.[24] George Rankin, who was surely a relative, witnessed Benjamin’s 1787 will.[25]

I had a notion that Capt. Benjamin of Frederick/Berkeley might be the same man as Benjamin, son of the Robert Rankin who died in King George County in 1747/48.[26] However, a birthdate circa 1740 for Capt. Benjamin, if close to accurate, precludes that possibility. Robert’s son Benjamin was of legal age by at least 1753, and thus born well before 1740.[27] Also, I have since learned from microfilm of court records in King George that Benjamin, son of Robert, was still appearing in records there in 1767, while Capt. Benjamin of  Frederick/Berkeley was in a Frederick County record two years earlier.

I also wondered whether Capt. Benjamin of Frederick/Berkeley might be the father of Lt. Robert, William, John, Benjamin, Moses, George, and Reuben Rankin.[28] Those seven men were almost certainly brothers.[29] Capt. Benjamin was in the right place at the right time to have been their father. However, his only proved children are the two daughters named in his will. Further, a birth date circa 1740 makes him highly unlikely as a father of at least Lt. Robert, born in 1753.

If you are looking for an entrée to the DAR or SAR, Benjamin’s son-in-law William Helm is a sure bet. The Helms children were identified in the SAR application of a descendant.[30]

Revolutionary War Soldier Benjamin Rankin of King George/Fauquier/Loudoun Counties, Virginia and Fayette, Kentucky

This Benjamin lived as a young man in King George County and died in Fayette County, Kentucky. In between, he spent at least some time in Loudoun and Fauquier Counties, because he signed a letter from each county assigning his benefits as a Revolutionary War soldier to a Francis Peyton.[31] One of the letters states that Benjamin served for three years as a dragoon — a cavalry soldier — in Lt. Col. William Washington’s Regiment.

Col. Washington signed Benjamin’s discharge papers as follows: “Benjamin Rankins soldier in the 3d Regiment of Light Dragoons having served faithfully three years is hereby discharged.”[32] The discharge was dated May 17, 1781, suggesting that Benjamin entered the service about May 1778. He was definitely with the unit by July 1778, when he was on furlough. On that date, the regiment was located in Fredericksburg, less than thirty miles west of the King George county seat.[33] I have no idea why he was on furlough so soon after enlisting, which seems unusual.

In September 1778, the regiment was billeted in barns and houses around Old Tappan, New Jersey.[34] The soldiers’ presence was betrayed by loyalist townspeople to British troops in the area. They were attacked during the night in an event known as “Baylor’s Massacre,” named after Col. George Baylor, who was then the regiment’s commander. More than sixty of the Third Regiment men were bayoneted and died.

Benjamin obviously survived the Massacre, unless he was still absent on a pretty long furlough. He was definitely serving in the cavalry regiment when it made mounted charges at the Battles of Cowpens and Guilford Court House, both of which were major patriot victories in the Carolinas.[35]

According to depositions given in the pension application of Benjamin’s widow Jane Hickey, he was a resident King George County when he enlisted.[36] He may have appeared in King George records in the 1770s, although that is the period when court records are apparently lost. Given his military service during 1778-1781, he was probably born in the 1750s or early 1760s.

The first records I have for him are the two 1783 letters from Loudoun and Fauquier Counties assigning his Revolutionary War benefits to a third party. He moved from that area to Fayette County, Kentucky along with another Rankin, relationship unknown. John Rankin of Clark County, Kentucky gave a deposition in connection with the pension application of Benjamin’s widow. John did not (!!) define his relationship to Benjamin, although they were surely related in some fashion. John merely said that his father, not named, and Benjamin moved to Kentucky in 1784 from Fauquier County.[37]

Jane Hickey testified that she and Benjamin married in 1785. They had more than six children, some of whom were named in the depositions supporting her pension application. Children included Sarah (the eldest, born about 1786, married Charles Hall), William, Frances, John, James, and Thomas. Jane gave her deposition from Jefferson County, Indiana. She and her children probably all moved there. Jane, her daughter Sarah Rankin Hall, and two probable sons of Jane and Benjamin can be found in the 1850 census for Indiana in Clark County (Sarah Rankin Hall and Jane) and Jefferson County (William and James).[38]

It is a reasonable bet that Revolutionary War Benjamin was a grandson of the Robert Rankin who died in King George in 1747/48.[39] As to which of Robert’s sons might have been Benjamin’s father, I haven’t found a scrap of evidence. That is par for the course with the Northern Neck Rankin Cluster.

Benjamin Rankin of Loudoun/Frederick, Virginia and Mason, Kentucky

Lt. Robert, William, and John Rankin — three proved brothers who lived in Mason County at one time — definitely had a brother Benjamin. There is evidence for that in two records, which appear conclusive:

  • In July 1783, William Rankin executed a power of attorney authorizing delivery of William’s Certificate of Service to Robert Rankin in order for the latter to obtain William’s land warrant. William’s military service was certified by Capt. William Brady. Both Lt. Robert and William had enlisted in Brady’s company of Stephenson’s Independent Rifle Regiment in 1776, so it is clear we are dealing with those two brothers. Benjamin Rankin witnessed the power of attorney, good circumstantial evidence of a family relationship.[40]
  • In August 1792, the Northern Neck Proprietor executed a lease to Benjamin Rankin of Loudoun County for the life of Benjamin and his brothers Moses and Robert Rankin. George Rankin, relationship unknown, witnessed the lease. William Rankin, Lt. Robert’s proved brother, had a nearby lease for his life and the lives of his wife Mary Ann and son Harrison.

Benjamin and his brothers Moses, Robert, and William were not sons of the Robert Rankin who died in 1747/48 in King George. That Robert did not name a son Robert in his will. More importantly, Lt. Robert was born in 1753; William was born in 1758. If the Robert who died in 1747/48 was their direct ancestor, he was their grandfather.

Benjamin of Loudoun/Frederick did not leave probate records in Frederick, so he evidently moved on. I believe he is the same man as the Benjamin Rankin who appeared in Mason County along with Lt. Robert, William, John, Moses, and George. Benjamin owned a number of town lots in Williamsburg, name later changed to Orangeburg.[41] My notes also indicate he appeared on a tax list with 100 acres on Cabin Creek and an enslaved person.[42] He married Catherine Stubblefield in 1796.[43] His bondsman was George Rankin, who plays a variety of supporting roles in records concerning the Northern Neck Rankin Cluster.[44]

The last appearance in the Mason County records that I found for Benjamin was in 1803. He was not in the 1810 census there. In 1817, a Catherine Rankin — possibly his widow? — married. I found no probate records for Benjamin.

Need I say that Benjamin and Catherine’s children, if any, are a total mystery? We cannot even be positive that the Benjamin Rankin of Williamsburg/Orangeburg, Mason County is the same man as the Benjamin who leased a tract in Frederick County in 1792. They probably were the same man, since families often migrated together, several other Rankin siblings lived in Mason County, and, of course, the appearance of George Rankin in both Benjamin’s Mason County marriage bond and the Frederick County lease for life.

And that’s all the news that is fit to print about the Benjamins of the Northern Neck Rankin Cluster.

See you on down the road.

Robin

                  [1] There are a number of articles on this website about Lt. Robert, his brothers, and their possible parents. They include Part 1, an introduction to Lt. Robert Rankin’s family, Part 2, relevant military information for Lt. Robert and his brother William, Part 3, William’s war story, Part 4, Lt. Robert’s war story, and Part 5A and Part 5B, two articles seeking to identify their parents.

                  [2] Abstract of King George Co. VA Will Book 1-A: 201, George Harrison Sanford King, King George County Virginia Will Book A-I 1721-1752 and Miscellaneous Notes (Fredericksburg, VA: 1978), undated will of Robert Rankin proved 4 Mar 1747/48. Wife Elizabeth. Sons William, John, and James, all of Robert’s land to be equally divided. Daughter Mary Green and sons Moses, George, Benjamin, and Hipkins, one shilling each.

                  [3] William was definitely the eldest because he was summoned to court to object, if he desired, to the noncupative will of Robert’s widow Elizabeth Rankin. King George Co., VA Order Book 1754-56: 470, order dated 3 Apr 1755. The right to object was accorded only to the eldest son under the rules of primogeniture. The fact that William was the first-named child in the will suggests Robert named his children in birth order. Hipkins, the last-named, was almost certainly the youngest. Order Book entry dated 6 Apr 1753 regarding the lawsuit Hipkins Rankins by Richard Green his next friend v. Thomas Burnett. That is the only court record in which one of Robert’s children was proved to be under legal age.

                  [4] King George Co., VA Order Book 1746 – 1751: 577, inventory and appraisement of the estate of Robert Rankins, dec’d, presented and recorded. His inventory is recorded in Deed Book 6: 28. The estate included one enslaved person, who probably accounted for most of the estate’s value.

                  [5] King George Co., VA Order Book 1751-54: 212, May 1753, Benjamin Rankins was a plaintiff in a lawsuit.

                  [6] Id. Benjamin and Hipkins both sued Thomas Burnett for trespass, assault and battery. The suits almost certainly arose out of the same events.

                  [7] King George Co., VA Order Book 1751-1765: 1065, entry for April 1763, Benjamin Rankins was security for Moses Rankins in a suit for debt.

                  [8] Id. at 781, entry of March 1758 binding Henry Jones as an apprentice to Benjamin Rankins to learn the trade of house carpenter. As for John, see King George Co., VA Deed Book 4: 36, 9 May 1753, a mortgage by John Rankins, carpenter of Hanover Parish, to William Bruce, an enslaved person named Sall or Sarah, witnessed by Richard Green, Mary Green, and Joana Pool. Mary Green was John’s sister, see Note 2.

                  [9] Id. at 903, Jun or July 1760 order concerning Benjamin Rankin’s “very extravagant” account for building several structures at Gibson’s tobacco warehouse.

                  [10] Id. at 1078, court order to pay from county funds to discharge Benjamin Rankin’s execution against Gibson’s warehouse.

                  [11] Moses, George, John, and Hipkins were all summoned by a grand jury at least one time for missing church. King George Co., VA Order Book 1754-56: 594 (Moses and John); Order Book 1751-65: 823 (George); Id. at 924 (John and Hipkins).

                  [12] King George Co., VA Order Book 1746-51: 610, grand jury presentment against James and Moses Rankins for “swearing an oath”.

                  [13] King George Co., VA Deed Book 4: 283, Moses Rankin “vagrant,” not appearing for militia drills. I don’t know whether that was one offense or two.

                  [14] E.g., King George Co., VA Order Book 1754-56: 583 (money judgment granted against James Rankins and George Rankins), 580 (judgment against William Rankins for suit on an account), 582 (default judgment against John Rankins). All of those records were in November 1755. There are more.

                  [15] King George Co., VA Order Book 1751-1765: 971, Benjamin Rankins et al. to appraise the estate of Richard Strother.

                  [16] E.g., King George Co., VA Order Book 1751-1765: 903, Benjamin Rankins on a jury. I have always thought that only freeholders could serve on colonial juries, although both Benjamin and Moses did so. Order Book 1751-54: 143, Moses on a jury. Neither inherited any land from their father Robert, and I found no deed or grant in which either one acquired land.

                  [17] Id. at 694, Benjamin Rankins appointed overseer of a road in place of Samuel Kendall.

                  [18] Amelia C. Gilreath, Frederick County, Virginia Deed Books 9, 10, 11, 1763-1767 (Nokesville, VA: 1989), abstract of Frederick Co., VA Deed Book 11: 12, Benjamin Rankins witnessed a lease dated 5 May 1765.

                  [19] Virginia Genealogical Society, Frederick County [Virginia] Road Orders 1743-1772 (Westminster, MD: Heritage Books, 2007), abstract of Frederick Co., VA Order Book 13: 383, entry of 7 May 1767 appointing Benjamin Rankin overseer of the road “from Bullskin to the Bloomery.”

                  [20] You can search for Benjamin Rankin on the DAR website here. See also William & Mary Quarterly, Series 1, Vol. 13, No. 1 (July 1904), “Soldiers of Berkeley County, W. Va.” 29-36.

                  [21] Berkeley Co., WV Order Book 3: 401, 20 Apr 1779, Benjamin Rankin personally appeared in court and resigned his commission as a captain in the Berkeley Militia.

                  [22] Berkeley Co., WV Deed Book 5: 744, deed of 8 Dec 1779 from Richard and Francis Willis to Benjamin Rankin.

                  [23] William Thomas Doherty, Berkeley County, U.S.A.: A Bicentennial History of a Virginia and West Virginia County, 1772 – 1972 (Parsons, WV: McClain Printing Co., 1972) 36 note 9.

                  [24] Larry G. Shuck, Berkeley County, Virginia Deeds and Wills, Abstracts Deed Books 1-5 (1772-1781), Will Books 1-3 (1772-1805), abstract of Berkeley Co., VA Will Book 1: 441, will of Benjamin Rankin of Berkeley proved 16 Jan 1787. Mentioned land on Bullskin. Witnessed by George Rankin.

                  [25] Benjamin, son of Robert d. 1747/48, had a brother named George. See Note 2. That is one reason I had speculated that Benjamin of Frederick/Berkeley was the same man as Robert’s son Benjamin, although I no longer believe that to be the case. I don’t know for sure who George Rankin might be.

                  [26] See Note 2.

                  [27] See Note 5.

                  [28] See Part B of an article about the possible parents of Lt. Robert here  and one identifying Lt. Robert’s siblings here. The only evidence for Benjamin Rankin as a possible father, so far as I found, is that Lt. Robert Rankin and his brother William enlisted in Col. Hugh Stephenson’s Maryland and Virginia Rifle Regiment from Berkeley County, which typically means they resided there. Benjamin lived near the Stephensons. In other words, he was in the right place at the right time.

                  [29] The first four men (Lt. Robert, William, John, and Benjamin) can be deemed proved. Moses, Reuben, and George are possible.

                  [30] See the SAR application of Standiford Helm, a descendant of William Helm, 1755-1806. His first wife was Margaret Rankin, daughter of Capt. Benjamin of Berkeley. William served in the 3rd VA Regiment of the Continental Line. He lived at “Helms Hill” in Berkeley Co. Standiford’s SAR application identifies the children of William and Margaret Rankin Helm as (1) Benjamin Helm, (2) Thomas Helm m. Eliz. Mort 8 Jan 1806, (3) Elizabeth Helm m. John Mort, (4) John Helm, (5) William Helm, (6) Lucy Helm m. Mr. Jennings, (7) George Helm, (8) Ann Helm m. Mr. Williams, and (9) Erasmus Helm m. Lavinia Oliver. Some of the Helms went to Mason Co., KY, as did Lt. Robert Rankin and his brothers.

                  [31] The originals of Benjamin Rankin’s two letters are in the records of the Library of Virginia, although my links to the online images no longer work. Instead, see Annie Walker Burns, Revolutionary War Pensions of Soldiers Who Settled in Fayette County Kentucky (Washington, D.C.: 1936), available online here. The two letters are at p. 52, and are included in the pension applications of “Hickey, Daniel and Jane.” Jane was Benjamin’s widow; Daniel Hickey was her third husband.

                  [32] Christine L. Langner, Baylor’s Regiment: The Third Continental Light Dragoons (Berwyn Heights, MD: Heritage Books, Inc., 2015) 149.

                  [33] Id.

                  [34] Id. at ix.

                  [35] See a brief history of the 3rd Continental Regiment of Light Dragoons here.

                  [36] Burns, Revolutionary War Pensions 49-52, applications for Daniel and Jane Hickey at this link. One deposition identifies a Benjamin Rankin as the deponent, but that was clearly an error. Ms. Burns transcription indicates that a John Rankin signed the deposition.  The only way the testimony makes sense is if the deponent was a John Rankin who came to Kentucky with his father in 1784.

                  [37] Id.

                  [38] Benjamin’s widow Jane Hickey gave her deposition in Jefferson Co., IN in 1847. Their eldest daughter, Sarah Rankin, married Charles Hall and lived in Bourbon Co., KY briefly before also moving to Indiana. Sarah Hall and her mother Jane Hickey are listed in the 1850 census in Clark Co., IN: Sarah Hall, 64, b. KY, with Jane Hicky, sic, 82, b. NC. William Rankin, age 65, and James Rankin, age 51, were enumerated in Jefferson Co., IN in the 1850 census. They may well be and probably are sons of Benjamin and Jane. Both were born in Kentucky and were the right age.

                  [39] I don’t believe Benjamin, the Revolutionary War Soldier, was a son of John and Sarah Woffendale Rankin, although that is possible. John and Sarah’s son Reuben was born between 1736 and 1741. Benjamin was probably born circa 1760. With this crowd, of course, it is anyone’s guess.

                  [40] See a transcription of the power of attorney letter here. It is not clear from the letter where William was living when he wrote it. Knowing that might help determine which of the several Benjamins was the witness. I believe Benjamin the witness was William’s brother, the grantee in the 1792 lease for life, although he might well have been Capt. Benjamin of Berkeley.

                  [41] Mason Co., KY Deed Book C: 73, 75, deed dated March 1796, Benjamin Rankins of Mason Co. bought three lots in Williamsburg; deed dated March 1794, Benjamin purchased Lot #10 in Williamsburg. My notes also have Benjamin on a tax list showing him taxed on 100 acres on Cabin Cr. and one enslaved person. I failed to note the FamilySearch Film number and now cannot find such an entry.

                  [42] My notes say that FamilySearch films of Mason County tax lists were the source of that information. I cannot find it again. Doing so will require going through the films page by page, a commitment I am not ready to make after my adventures in the King George court order book films.

                  [43] Mason County, Kentucky Marriage Records 1789 – 1833 (Kokomo, IN: Selby Publishing, 1999), marriage bond for Benjamin Rankin and Catherine Stubblefield, 20 Apr 1796, bondsman George Rankin.

                  [44] George, the supporting actor (or some other man named George Rankin), also witnessed the 1787 will of Capt. Benjamin Rankin of Berkeley and Benjamin Rankin’s 1792 lease for life in Frederick.

Trust, but Verify

“Trust, but Verify” was an oxymoronic slogan from the era of nuclear weapons treaties during the Cold War. Diligent researchers understand the value of that approach. Restated and applied to genealogy, the rule is, “Never dismiss out of hand any documentary evidence, including census data, but don’t assume census data is always 100% accurate.”

There is clear rationale for that caution. First, census data is subject to error multiple times. The person supplying information to the census taker can be mistaken as to any number of things such as ages or places of birth of people in the household. The census taker can record the data incorrectly. Further, the data collected was organized and rewritten into a final document. Each reproduction of the census information presented an opportunity to introduce errors, including misreading another person’s handwriting.

In addition, census data was not subject to the same checks and balances as other official documents. For example, original deeds and wills copied into court records benefitted from court oversight of the process. Witnesses attested to the accuracy of those document, heirs could question a misstatement that affected their interests, and neighbors could request resurveys of land boundaries they thought to be in error. No such process accompanied the tabulation and publication of a census. As a result, that data is far more prone to error than other records.

I recently ran across two illustrative errors in the same census entry. Searching for Henry Willis, carpenter of Maryland and Philadelphia (1829-1906), I found the family of John and Rebecca Kilgore Willis of Cecil County, Maryland. They had six sons and four daughters. By 1850, three sons were of age and no longer listed in John’s household. Hoping one of the three might be Henry, I looked for them in the 1850 census. I did not find Henry, but found James Willis and “David” T. Willis living next door to each other. The census entry showed the following:[1]

Family #

     123             Sarah H. Shivery        27 M

James Willis               21 F

Mary                           3  M

Joseph                         1  F

Sarah A.                      27 M

     124             David T. Willis           22 F

Hannah A.                  3  M

George A.                    1  F

Margaret R.                5/12 F

Mary E.                       40  F

     125             Hannah Terry            9  M

The problem with this data is obvious: the genders and ages do not match the named people. Whoever completed the census form moved that information up one line from its proper position. James Willis’s proper age and gender are 27 and M. That data is shown on the form one line above his name. It is incorrectly associated with a child named Sarah H. Shivery who is the youngest daughter of George Shivery in the adjacent family #122.

No problem. To get the correct information, just mentally move the data down one name.

However, that is not the only error. James Willis’s neighbor is supposedly David T. Willis with a wife Hannah A. Willis and several children. However, Daniel Willis, not David, married Hannah Ann Sutton on 15 April 1847.[2] In fact, there was no David Willis in that location in 1850. Whoever entered the data in the census form apparently misread someone else’s handwriting and thought the name Daniel was David. That is not hard to do. A script “n” can easily be mistaken for a “v” and the “el” as a “d.” Try it in your own handwriting to see how easy it is to make the two names look the same.

Of course, the opposite could be true, Maybe it was David Willis who married Hannah Sutton, and there is no Daniel Willis. This is where the “Verify” part of the slogan becomes important. The proof is found in subsequent records. Daniel Willis registered for the civil war draft in 1863[3] and appeared in the 1870,[4] 1900,[5] and 1910[6] censuses. David did not – – because, of course, he did not exist.

So, the message is to confirm the data found in censuses with other sources. Many people on Ancestry.com have not done so. As a result, there is a fictitious David T. Willis running amok on many trees. We all make mistakes. They come with the territory. This is a zillion piece puzzle, and we only have a few thousand pieces available to make sense of the picture. However, diligence can easily eliminate some errors. It is worth the effort.

[1] 1850 Census, Cecil County, Maryland https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HY-XCHQ-7X5?i=109&cc=1401638&personaUrl=%2Fark%3A%2F61903%2F1%3A1%3AMD46-PD2

[2] Cecil County Marriage Licenses 1840-1863, Genealogical Society of Cecil County, August 1990, 20 at https://web.archive.org/web/20150214151843/http://www.cecilhistory.org/virtuallibrary/marriage3.pdf

[3] Civil War Draft Registration 1863-1865. https://www.ancestry.com/discoveryui-content/view/3912656:1666?tid=&pid=&queryId=66dc11368cf6a04f330078b4413841ae&_phsrc=Uwh1&_phstart=successSource

[4] 1870 Census, Cecil County, Maryland. https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HY-D15S-Y4W?i=4&cc=1438024&personaUrl=%2Fark%3A%2F61903%2F1%3A1%3AMN38-D3L

[5] 1900 Census, Cecil County, Maryland. https://www.ancestry.com/discoveryui-content/view/20341258:7602?tid=&pid=&queryId=66dc11368cf6a04f330078b4413841ae&_phsrc=Uwh3&_phstart=successSource

[6] 1910 Census, Cecil County, Maryland. https://www.ancestry.com/discoveryui-content/view/10469167:7884?tid=&pid=&queryId=66dc11368cf6a04f330078b4413841ae&_phsrc=Uwh2&_phstart=successSource

Henry Willis, Carpenter of Maryland and Philadelphia (1829-1906), Part 2

Introduction

In Part 1 we established that Henry Willis, a carpenter born in Maryland in 1829, married Martha Anne (Annie) Stewart in about 1880. They appeared in the 1900 census in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, with their children Lola and Harry.[1] The couple lived in Philadelphia during the 1880s. They appeared in a city directory and in records showing the deaths of two children and the baptism of a surviving child. Henry died and was buried in Philadelphia in 1906.

Beyond those few facts, Henry does not exist in records where we would expect to find him. He does not appear in the 1850 through 1880 censuses. There is no record of his marriage. Henry bought no land either in Maryland where he was born or in Philadelphia where he lived.

 Search for a Family of Origin

Finding little record evidence of Henry Willis, I stopped looking for him and searched instead for people who could have been his parents. Since Henry was born in Maryland and family legend says he married in Cecil County, I focused the search there. Because he was a carpenter, I looked for a Willis family that included others of that trade. With those criteria in mind, I went to the usual sources:

    • The standard people-search features of Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org.
    • The Maryland land records at MDLANDREC.net
    • The Cecil County Historical Society at cecilcountyhistory.com with its links to Maryland and Delaware records, and
    • The separate birth, death, marriage, and probate records for Cecil County and neighboring counties in Maryland and Delaware at FamilySearch

Results

The search involved many records, lots of note taking and analyzing, and an interesting but frustrating twist at the end. One family in Cecil County fit the search criteria – the family of John and Rebecca Kilgore Willis who married in Cecil County in 1817.[2] According to the 1830, 1840 and 1850 censuses, they had at least ten children – six sons and four daughters. John Willis and several of his sons were carpenters.

So far, so good. To see if his could be Henry’s family, we dug deeper into the censuses and other records.

 1820 Census

Although married in 1817, John Willis does not appear as a head of household in the 1820 census for Cecil County. He should have been listed with a wife and a daughter under five years of age. He and Rebecca were also not listed with her parents, James and Isabella Kilgore.[3]

1830 Census

John does appear in the 1830 census. It shows John Willis and a female between 30 and 40 years old with six minors — three females and three males. The two youngest males, under five years of age, fit Henry’s later-proved birth year of 1829.[4] This is promising.

1840 Census

The 1840 census shows even more promise. John’s eldest daughter is gone from the household, possibly married. Five earlier listed children remain, and three younger children are added to the family.[5] Henry, at age 11 in 1840, fits the age 10 to 15 reported for one male in that census. The census states one person in the household is engaged in agriculture. Four people are engaged in “manufacturing or the trades,” which includes carpentry.

1850 Census

The 1850 census reveals that John is 53 and Rebecca is 54. The older children, including our possible Henry, are all of age and out of the house. The remaining children are George, 19; Amos, 15; Andrew J., 13; and Rachel R., 10. Those ages track perfectly from the previous census data.[6]  The census lists John, George, and Amos as farmers, not carpenters. However, later records show George as a carpenter and Amos and Andrew as iron mill workers.[7] Separate records prove two adult sons to be James Kilgore Willis and John Thomas Willis. Both are carpenters.[8]

 Deed Records

Deed records reveal more about these families. John Willis’s wife Rebecca Kilgore had an older sister Rachel who married Samuel Burnite in 1810. Gift deeds prove the sisters to be daughters of  James and Isabella Kilgore. In 1826, James and Isabella sold 20 acres of land north of Elkton in Cecil County to John Willis for one dollar.[9] Kilgore had inherited the land from his mother in 1788.[10] In 1827, the Kilgore’s sold about 50 acres to Samuel Burnite for three dollars.[11] Prior to those sales, Willis and Burnite owned no land. We can reasonably conclude they already lived on the lands, probably since the date of their marriages to the Kilgore sisters.

The timing of the gifts seems apparent in retrospect. James was obviously in ill health. The couple liquidated all their assets in 1827. They sold the  8-acre lot that contained their house for $100 and much of their personal property for $86. James died shortly afterwards.

 John and Rebecca Willis lived on their piece the Kilgore land for another 29 years as they raised their family. They sold the place in 1856 for $2,500.[12]

Probate Records

John Willis made a will in December 1857 and died before the end of the year. Probate records do not include the names of any of his children, except the eldest son James. John left his entire estate to his wife Rebecca for her lifetime. The will stated that at or before her death she could dispose of the estate among the heirs as she saw fit.[13]

The estate, all personal property, amounted to $1,456 after debts and expenses. Rebecca loaned $500 to her eldest son James Kilgore Willis, secured by a mortgage on his property, 20 acres located near the former Kilgore place.[14]

On behalf of himself and all the heirs at law, i.e., “the children of John Willis,” James K. Willis sued his mother and Benjamin C. Cowan the co-executor of John’s estate in 1870. James asked that the estate funds be invested under the court’s supervision to protect the money for the benefit of the heirs at law. James claimed the heirs feared the estate would be squandered without the court’s intervention. Rebecca did not object but responded that $500 was already committed to a secure investment – her son’s property. The court agreed and in June 1870 ordered the co-executor to arrange for secure interest bearing mortgage investments of the remaining $956. The court also ordered interest from all investments go to Rebecca for her use.

Unfortunately, the probate files for John’s estate do not include a final distribution of funds identifying the heirs. There is no will or probate file for Rebecca. She died in 1886 at the home of her daughter Isabella and John T. Steele.[15]

Identity of the Six Sons

Our review of census, deed, and probate records to this point revealed six sons and proved the identities of five. The 1850 census proves the three youngest: George, Amos, and Andrew J. Willis. Probate records prove the eldest son James K. Willis. James and John T. Willis appear often in the deed records of Cecil County from 1850 through 1861 – James nine times and John four. Several of those transactions, including short term loans, are between the two of them. That activity is good circumstantial evidence that James K. and John T. are related and likely brothers.

That accounts for five of the six sons. Who is the sixth? Could it be our Henry?

Well, heck no.

The remaining son is Daniel Willis. He appears in several Cecil County records in the 1880s that do not definitively connect him to the family.[16]  However, the 1900 and 1910 censuses do the trick. In 1900, he is in the household of John T. Steele, the husband of John and Rebecca’s daughter Isabella Willis. Daniel is listed as a brother-in-law at age 77. This is the same place Rebecca Willis died in 1886. In 1910, Daniel is listed at age 87 as an uncle in the household of Annetta S. Crossan. She is a Steele daughter who married Samuel Crossan in 1869 and who had no children. Daniel died in 1911. Clearly, Daniel is a son of John and Rebecca Willis.

Conclusion

Our search for Henry Willis turned up a perfectly interesting Willis family of carpenters in Cecil County, Maryland. It just does not include Henry Willis. Below is a table setting out the data from the 1830, 1840 and 1850 censuses for John Willis’s household. The column of names and the information in the last two columns are proved by the census or other sources.

Name 1830 1840 1850 Born Comment
John Willis 30-40 40-50 53 Dec 1796 Carpenter/Farmer
Rebecca Willis 30-40 40-50 54 1796 Married 1817
Female 10-15 1815-20
James K. Willis 5-10 15-20 1821 Carpenter
Daniel Willis <5 15-20 1823 Carpenter
Female <5 15-20 1820-1825
John T. Willis <5 10-15 1827 Carpenter
Isabella Willis <5 10-15 1830 m. John T. Steele ~1849
George Willis 5-10 19 May 1831 Farmer/Carpenter
Amos Willis 5-10 15 1835 Farmer/Iron Mill
Andrew J. Willis <5 13 1837 Iron Mill Worker
Rachel R. Willis <5 10 1840 m. Dennis Dwyer~1858

The table highlights in bold the age range in the 1830 and 1840 censuses that I had mentally reserved for our Henry Willis. Cleary, that slot is occupied by John T. Willis. After this effort, I am convinced that Henry is not a native of Cecil County. So, the search for the will-o-the-wisp Henry goes on …

In any event, I hope that some descendants of John and Rebecca Willis will take DNA tests and join the Willis DNA Project (https://www.familytreedna.com/groups/willis/about) to see where they fit in the broader scheme.

 

Post Script – Part I of the search for Henry Willis was also published in the Spring 2022 edition of Chesapeake Cousins, the semiannual journal of the Upper Shore Genealogical Society of Maryland (USGSMD). I will also submit this Part 2 to them for publication. I recommend USGSMD, now in its 49th year, as a worthwhile organization for any researcher with ties to the Eastern Shore.

[1] 1900 Census Philadelphia, Ward 26, District 0628 at FamilySearch.org

1335 Kick [sic South Hicks] Street

Henry Willis head May 1829 71 M20  MD MD MD Carpenter Rent House

Annie Willis wife Jun 1846     53 M20  4/2 DE DE DE

Lola Willis son [sic Dau] Apr 1882 18  S  PA MD DE

Harry Willis son  Oct 1885 14  S  PA MD DE

[2] Married 28 Jul 1817 per Maryland Compiled Marriages, 1655 – 1850, at Ancestry.com

[3] James Kilgore appears in Cecil County in the 1820 Census at age 45+ with two women. One age 45+ is obviously his wife Isabella. The other woman is age 16-26, the correct age for Rebecca. However, there is no entry for people who could be her husband and/or her child. The indicated woman is likely Rebecca’s younger sister.

[4] 1830 Census Cecil County, Maryland, District 2, John Willis (2 1 – – – 1 – – – – – – –  – 1 – – 1 – – – – – -) https://www.ancestry.com. The household also contains a second female age 30 to 40. We can reasonably assume she is an adult relative of John or Rebecca. She may have been the single female aged 16-26 listed with James Kilgore in 1820, possibly a younger sister of Rebecca.

[5] 1840 Census Cecil County, Maryland, District 2, John Willis (1 2 1 2 – – 1 – – – – – – 1 – 1 1 – 1 – – – – – – ) https://www.ancestry.com. The ages in the census fit a perfect progression from the 1830 census, that is: John and Rebecca are 40-50; two elder sons are 15-20; a remaining elder daughter is 15-20; the third son and a younger daughter are 10-15; two new sons are 5-10; and the youngest daughter is under 5. The household includes four enslaved persons.

[6] 1850 Census Cecil County, Maryland, District 3, https://www.ancestry.com

John Willis M 53 Farmer  DE $1,200 real property

Rebecca       F 54                    MD

George        M 19 Farmer   MD

Amos           M 15 Farmer  MD

Andrew J.   M 13                   MD

Rachel R.    F  10                    MD”

[7] No enslaved persons are associated with the household in 1850. The separate Slave Schedule for 1850 shows no Willis as an owner of an enslaved person. Deed records do not record any manumissions.

[8] 1860 Census Cecil County, Maryland, District 4, https://www.ancestry.com

James Willis M 40 Carpenter MD $,1500 real property $800 personal

Mary               F  30                 MD

Joseph            M  13                MD

Sarah              F  11                 MD

Kate                F   9                  MD

Clara               F    7                  MD

Georgeanna F   4                   MD

Mary               F   1                   MD

1860 Census Cecil County, Maryland, District 4, https://www.ancestry.com 

John T. Wiles (Willis) M 33 MD Carpenter $500 real property, $100 personal

Catherine               F 28         MD

Mary                         F 7            MD

Louisa                      F 4            MD

[9] Cecil County, Maryland Deed Book JS 23:357, “James Kilgore, Esq., of North Milford Hundred, Cecil County, Maryland” sold to “John Willis, Carpenter, of the same hundred, county, and state.” The deed is signed by James Kilgore and his wife Isabella is named as having been privately questioned regarding her approval of the sale. The land was part of a 378-acre tract called Wallace’s Scrawl originally patented in 1737 to Matthew Wallace It was resurveyed and patented again in 1791 at 496 acres to Andrew Wallace. MSA S1194-1063 and S1194-1062, respectively.

[10] Cecil County, Maryland Will Book 5:213, Will signed by Rebekah Kilgore dated 3 Jun 1785, probated 25 Oct 1788, gave 5 shillings each to five sons and three daughters. Daughter Elizabeth Alexander received all Rebekah’s wearing apparel. Son James Kilgore received the family plantation and the remainder of the personal estate.

[11] Cecil County, Maryland Deed Book JS 25:39, on 31 Mar 1827 Kilgore sold 50+ acres to Samuel Burnite for $3.00

[12] Cecil County, Maryland Deed Book HHM 7:304, The deed recites that the 20 acres descended to James Kilgore by will and that Kilgore sold it to Willis, and that the land is part of a tract called “Wallace’s Scrawl.”

[13] Maryland Probate and Guardianship Files, 1796-1940, https://www.familysearch.org

[14] James later sold the land, subject to the existing mortgage, for a tidy profit.

[15] The Midland Journal, Rising Sun, Maryland, 5 Feb 1886, Friday, p. 5. At www.newspapers.com. Mrs. Rebecca Willis widow of the late John Willis died at the residence of he son-in-law John T. Steele on Saturday, the 9th instant (9 Jan 1886) in the 91st year of her age. Her remains were interred at Head of Christiana Cemetery on the Tuesday following (12 Jan 1886).

[16] Daniel Willis married Hannah Ann Sutton on 15 Apr 1847 in Cecil County. They appear in the 1850 census living next door to James Willis. Hannah likely predeceased Daniel because he registered in 1863 for the Civil War draft as a single man at age 41, occupation carpenter. Daniel appears in the 1970 census in a boarding house as a single man, age 45, occupation carpenter. If he had children, he likely would have resided with one of them.

A Willis-Rankin connection … with a foray into history

No, I am not talking about the Willis-Rankin connection in our immediate household. Instead, this is about a man named James Lee Rankin. However, the story begins with Gary’s father, Noble Sensor Willis.

Noble was a native of Wilmington, Delaware, but wound up in the deep south during World War II. On June 13, 1942, he graduated from the Navigation School, Gulf Coast Air Corps Training Center, at Kelly Field in San Antonio, Texas. His “Certificate of Proficiency” was signed by “D. H. Rankin, Captain, A.A.F., Secretary.”[1] “A.A.F.” stands for Army Air Force.

I saw that record for the first time this week. I wondered which (if any) lineage in the Rankin DNA Project could lay claim to Captain Rankin. I started searching for him the easy way – at Ancestry. How to begin with only the information on Noble’s certificate? Well, to have been a Captain in 1942, he was probably about 25 to 30 years old.[2] He was certainly born by 1920, probably in the 1910s. My search criteria were:

     D. H. Rankin, born 1915, plus or minus 5 years, and lived in San Antonio at one time

A “David H. Rankin” was #42 on the list of hits resulting from that search. Hit #42 showed that David was enumerated in the 1950 census in Ft. Worth, Texas. That made him an attractive choice, so I clicked on his name. The sidebar links suggested for him included a marriage record in May 1945 in Ft. Worth for Major David Henry Rankin, Adjutant, Army Air Force Training Command.

Bingo.

Records for him also included census entries for his family of origin,[3] a World War II draft registration card, the information that he graduated from the University of Nebraska, and a Find-a-Grave memorial.[4] The census entries reveal a brother James Lee Rankin (1907-1996), an attorney who also graduated from the University of Nebraska. He went by Lee.

Bells started ringing in my memory. I ran across Lee several years ago and had intended to write an article about his remarkable career. Something intervened. Here we are, better late than never.[5]

Lee Rankin’s career started with a private law firm in Lincoln, Nebraska. He quickly became involved in politics. A moderate Republican, he helped organize the 1948 campaign for Thomas E. Dewey in Nebraska. In 1952, he managed Dwight D. Eisenhower’s presidential campaign in Nebraska. He became assistant attorney general the following year.

In 1956, he became solicitor general, the third-ranking job at the Justice Department. In that capacity, he was instrumental in resolving claims among Western states to Colorado River water, as well as establishing a balance of Federal and state jurisdictions in offshore oil drilling. He developed the Justice Department’s position in lawsuits concerning legislative reapportionment fights that ultimately led to the principle of “one person, one vote.” If you have never had the pleasure of listening to former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, don’t miss this video  in which she and former Justice Stephen G. Breyer discuss Baker v. Carr and Reynolds v. Sims, two cases dealing with the issue.

After his career in the Justice Department, Lee was chief counsel for the Warren Commission, which investigated the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. He represented the ACLU as amicus curiae in the 1962 landmark case Gideon v. Wainwright, which established the right of an indigent person accused of a non-capital crime to legal counsel at public expense.[6] He was former New York City Mayor John Lindsay’s Corporation Counsel from 1966 to 1972, heading a staff of 378 attorneys. Their duties included defending New York City in a wide range of litigation and developing opinions on various municipal issues. Later, Lee taught constitutional law at New York University Law School.

Perhaps the most outstanding part of his career is that he argued dozens of cases before the U. S. Supreme Court in his capacity as solicitor general. The pièce de résistance in that job was his participation in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, a consolidation of five separate cases challenging the constitutionality of school segregation. The Supreme Court issued its unanimous decision in 1954.[7] Brown reversed the 1896 decision in Plessy v. Ferguson, which had held that the constitution permitted separate facilities for Blacks and Whites so long as the facilities were equal.[8] For more than a half-century, Plessy had provided the legal underpinning for de jure segregation — i.e., segregation according to law. Brown eliminated that underpinning. The case is probably best known for the principle that “separate facilities are inherently unequal.” Thurgood Marshall, then the head of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, was the lead attorney for the Plaintiffs.[9]

But Lee Rankin also participated in the argument, which took place over several days. As Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Justice Department’s office of legal counsel in 1953, he supported the argument that Plessy’s “separate but equal” doctrine violated the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment.[10]

His New York Times obituary says this about Lee’s further role:

“In an effort to avoid violence that might arise from the decision, Mr. Rankin argued in a presentation requested by the High Court that the effort to desegregate schools — overturning decades of entrenched practices — should take place gradually. Accordingly, he suggested the plan by which local school districts submitted desegregation plans to Federal judges in their states.”

This was a radical departure from normal practice. Usually, the Court’s decision that a law was unconstitutional required an immediate end to enforcing that law, period. After the decision in Loving v. Virginia, for example, all laws forbidding interracial marriage became unenforceable immediately. In Brown, on the other hand, the Court ordered integration “with all deliberate speed.”[11]

Lee lived until 1996, so he was around to see how “all deliberate speed” played out. I would give my right arm to ask him whether he thought the principle gave rise to unconscionable delay, and whether it successfully avoided violence. What, I wonder, did he think of the need to send the U. S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division to Little Rock to allow the “Little Rock Nine” Black students to enter Central High School? Or the fact that all of Little Rock’s public schools were not fully integrated until 1972?[12]

On to the genealogy question: does James Lee and David Henry Rankin’s ancestry place them into one of the identified lineages of the Rankin DNA Project? The answer is YES. Their line belongs to Lineage 2, so I can happily claim the brothers as my genetic cousins. Their Rankin line is that part of Lineage 2C which descends from David and Jennett McCormick Rankin of Frederick County, Virginia. David, who died in Frederick in 1768, was most likely the immigrant Rankin ancestor in that line.

Here is a brief outline chart for Lee’s and David’s Rankin ancestors. When (!!!) I finally do a full-fledged descendant chart for the family of David and Jennett McCormick Rankin, I will include citations to evidence. Meanwhile, here are the bare names and places:

1 David and Jennett McCormick Rankin of (probably) Ulster, Ireland and Frederick Co., VA.

   2 William and Abigail Rankin of Frederick, VA and Washington Co., PA, see an article about them here. William was one of four proved children of David and Jennett. He and Abigail had ten known children.[13]

      3 John and Rebecca Rankin of Washington Co., PA. John predeceased his father William, who devised some Washington County land to John’s two children, James and Mary Rankin.[14] James moved to Harrison Co., KY.

         4 James Rankin Sr., b. Washington Co., PA, d. Harrison Co., KY. His wife was a Miss Montgomery. Two different men in this extended Rankin family married Montgomery women; Gen. Richard Montgomery was a near neighbor of the Rankins in Washington County. James Sr. and his wife had a son named Richard Montgomery Rankin.

            5 James Rankin Jr. m. Anna Dills of Harrison Co., KY and Menard County, IL.[15]

               6 William L. Rankin of Harrison Co., KY – Springfield, IL and his second wife Susan Jane Primm. [16]

                  7 Herman Primm Rankin of Menard Co., IL – Lincoln, Lancaster, NE and his wife Lois Cornelia Gable.[17]

                     8 James Lee Rankin and David Henry Rankin. [18]

And that is all the news that is fit to print about James Lee Rankin. If I could choose my relatives, Lee would be high on my preferred list. I am tickled pink that he actually IS a distant cousin, and that his brother David certified the passing grades in navigation school for Gary’s father Noble Willis.

In a strange coincidence, today is the anniversary of the date the so-called “Little Rock Nine” Black students first attempted to attend classes at Central High School.[19] Gov. Faubus had the Arkansas National Guard surround the school to prevent their entry.

See you on down the road.

Robin

[1] Noble’s certificate was signed on Captain Rankin’s behalf by E. W. Earnest.

                  [2] When Gary was in the Air Force, it normally took three years from an officer’s initial commission as a Second Lieutenant until a promotion to Captain. In the Army, it took two years. Gary doesn’t know what the standard was during WW II. He says there were some Lieutenant Colonels in their twenties, although he suspects they were typically fighter or bomber pilots. David Rankin was not a combat soldier, so his promotion progress would have been considerably less spectacular.

                  [3] 1920 federal census, Lincoln, Lancaster Co., NE, household of Herman P. Rankin, 42, printer, b. IL, father b. KY, mother b. VA, with wife Lois C., 39, daughters Marta M., 15, Lois C., 14, and Mary J., 10, and sons James Lee, 12 and David H., 5. All children were born in NE. See also the 1930 federal census, Lincoln, Lancaster Co., NE, Herman P. Rankin, 52, wife Lois C. Rankin, 50, sons Lee, 23 and David, 16, daughter Mary Jo, 20, and mother-in-law Josephine Gable, 70. James Lee’s S.A.R. application identifies his father as Herman Primm Rankin, b. 31 Jul 1877, and his mother as Lois Cornelia Gable, b. 20 Mar 1880. It also identifies his paternal grandparents, William L. Rankin, b. 15 Sep 1816, d. 1902, and Susan Jane Primm, b. 20 Mar 1809, d. 1885.

                  [4] David Henry Rankin’s find-a-grave memorial is at this link.

                  [5] For information about Lee Rankin’s career, see obituaries by Robert D. McFadden, “J. Lee Rankin, Solicitor General Who Was a Voice for Desegregation, Dies at 88” (New York Times, June 30, 1996, Section 1, p. 33) and Santa Cruz Sentinel, 29 June 1996, at 1, 12. Lee died in Santa Cruz, CA.

                  [6] Before Gideon v. Wainwright, a criminal defendant was only entitled to legal counsel at public expense if he were accused of a capital offense. For a description of the case, see this link.

                  [7] There is a good discussion of Brown at  at this link; see also the second link in Note 11 concerning “all deliberate speed.”

                  [8] For an example of a case dealing with allegedly equal facilities, see Sweatt v. Painter.

                  [9] A number of important SCOTUS cases concerning segregation and involving Thurgood Marshall are described in Gilbert King, Devil in the Grove (New York: HarperCollins, 2012). The central story in the book is a criminal case in Florida in which some Black men were wrongly accused of rape. The book is a clear-eyed and graphic account of Jim Crow-era treatment of Blacks. It won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction.

                  [10] The fourteenth amendment has two clauses, known as the “equal protection” and “due process” clauses. Section 1 of the amendment reads in part, “[No State … shall] deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” (Emphasis added).

                  [11] See a brief discussion of the “deliberate speed” notion at this link. A more detailed explanation can be found here.

                  [12] Here are a few facts from post-Brown history. One of our acquaintances would refuse to read any of this, saying he will not participate in what he deems “white shaming.” He does not grasp the fundamental difference between recounting the history of an admittedly shameful event and seeking to make someone feel personally shamed about the event. I certainly don’t want anyone to feel ashamed. If you feel as our acquaintance does, please skip this footnote.

Lee Rankin would probably agree that, as a practical matter, “all deliberate speed” facilitated obstruction and delay. In Shreveport, my high school was still all-white when I graduated in 1964, ten years after Brown. It finally integrated several years later. Many churches in the city promptly opened all-white schools. De jure segregation — segregation as a matter of law under Plessy — became de facto segregation, i.e., separation of Blacks and Whites as a result of segregated neighborhoods, economic status, and alternatives to public schools. Shreveport’s experience was undoubtedly typical of many cities.

Further, gradual desegregation did not prevent violence, as the experience of the “Little Rock Nine” illustrates.  This History Channel article has their story. When nine Black students attempted to enter Little Rock’s Central High School on Sept. 4, 1957, they were met by a mob of 400 people shouting racial epithets and threatening violence. One Black female student was surrounded by the mob, which threatened to lynch her. Her stoic visage  and the women screaming at her became an iconic image of desegregation. Although the mob had grown to 1,000 by Sept. 24, the Black students were ultimately admitted after the 101st Airborne was called in. Throughout the school year, they continued to suffer verbal and physical assaults. One student had acid thrown in her eyes; one was pushed down a flight of stairs.

The ultimate iconic image of desegregation is probably the famous Norman Rockwell painting of four U. S. Marshalls escorting a six-year-old pigtailed and beribboned little girl into a classroom. The painting pictures stains left by tomatoes thrown at her, as well as a racial epithet scrawled on the wall. Ruby Bridges was probably Rockwell’s inspiration for the painting. As an adult, she recalled people throwing things and screaming by the hostile New Orleans crowd. Her father lost his job; her grandparents were forced off their land in Mississippi. Information on Ruby’s story can be found at this link. And see Rockwell’s painting here.

                  [13] Washington Co., PA Will Book 1: 206, will of William Rankin of Raccoon Creek identifying ten children, two of whom predeceased him.

                  [14] Will of John Rankin written and proved in 1788 naming his wife Rebecca and children James and Mary. Washington Co., PA Will Book 1 : 81.

[15] Here is a link to James Rankin Jr.’s Find-a-Grave memorial.

                  [16] See Note 3 and William’s Find-a-Grave memorial at this link.

                  [17] See Note 3. Here is Herman’s Find-a-Grave memorial.

                  [18] The Find-a-Grave memorial  for James Lee Rankin has a picture of him from an obituary. See a link to David’s memorial in Note 4.

                  [19] See Note 12.

Humdinger of a lawsuit in King George, VA: estate of Thomas Turner Sr.

If you trace your family back to Turners and/or Dixons in King George County, Virginia during 1740-1760, there is a virtual gold mine waiting for you in the county court order books. These particular court records are unusual because the pleadings, depositions, and an estate accounting in a suit in chancery are all entered verbatim in the order book. Usually, those juicy details are squirreled away in obscure files in the county courthouse. Many have not been filmed.

My reading of film of the original records didn’t do the suit justice. I was skimming. Half the pages are extremely faded, difficult to read, and require close attention. I gave the suit short shrift because my research mission in King George concerns Rankins (plus Berrys, Marshalls, Woffendalls, and Harrisons) rather than Turners. But even a brief glimpse made it clear that Thomas Turner Sr., the deceased whose estate was in dispute, was probably the richest man in the county. Thomas owned thousands of acres in King George and Prince William Counties. More than 100 enslaved persons are mentioned in the lawsuit records. He left a will, a codicil, some statements and promises relevant to his testamentary intent, and a conflict among his descendants.

Even skimming, here is some of what jumped off the pages

  • Thomas Senior had a son Thomas Junior who, I think, married Elizabeth Smith. One of his sons or grandsons married an Elizabeth Smith.
  • Thomas Senior also had a son Harry who evidently managed his property poorly. Harry was described by his father as a fool, according to one deponent.
  • Thomas Sr. had a grandson Edward Dixon. Edward had a brother whose name did not make it into my notes.
  • The suit mentions numerous King George inhabitants, a number of whom were justices or who gave depositions. The list includes Joseph Berry, an Arnold, Thomas Jett, John Triplett, Charles Carter, Benjamin Robinson, Nathaniel Harrison, Caleb Lindsay, George Rankin, and many others.
  • The accounting lists all of the names of the enslaved persons Turner owned as of 1743 and possibly later.

You can find the suit recorded in the King George Order Book entry for 6 May 1762. The images of the originals are available online at FamilySearch.org. You must have a membership to view them, but membership is free and does not involve advertisements or solicitation emails. It is the best deal in genealogical research, bar none.

The chancery suit records are on FamilySearch Film # 4145191 at images 414 through 436, inclusive. Those images contain pages 992 through 1012 of the Order Books for 1751-1765.

I hope a Turner or Dixon whose roots reach back to King George County in the mid-eighteenth century reads the court records and finds new information. Maybe she or he will find something comparable about a King George Rankin, Marshall, Harrison, Berry, or Woffendall and will share it with me. Or perhaps he/she will transcribe the court records concerning the suit, in which case I would be happy to post it on this website for other Turner/Dixon researchers.

See you on down the road.

Robin

Who were parents of Lt. Robert Rankin (1753 – 1837)? Part 5B of 5  

Repeating the bottom line from Part 5A: I don’t know. These two articles just present possibilities, hoping someone will comment saying, “Theory #____ is the answer, and here is conclusive evidence!” That hasn’t happened, so we will slog on. So far, we have covered Theories 1 (parts A and B) and 2. To refresh our memories, here are the options.

Old business:

… Theories #1A and #1B identify Lt. Robert’s parents as Robert William Rankin (or William Robert Rankin) and Margaret Massena Marshall (or Massena Margaret Marshall). This is the conventional wisdom. However, there seems to be no evidence that people by those names ever existed. Further, the people identified as Massena Marshall’s parents are improbable. HOWEVER, I received an email saying there is a family Bible in the DAR Library and Museum proving that Lt. Robert’s mother was “Margaret Massena Marshall, daughter of John of the Forest.” If anyone has seen it, please yell!!!! I searched the DAR Library database for Bibles and had no luck.

… Theory #2 proposes a William Rankin, wife’s name unknown, as Lt. Robert’s father. He reportedly died after 1761 in Frederick County, Virginia. The only William Rankins I can find at that time and place are from the wrong lines. However, research on men named William Rankin in Frederick County is daunting, and I may have overlooked someone. Meantime, this theory remains possible although speculative.

New business:

… Theory #3  says Lt. Robert’s father could have been Benjamin Rankin of Frederick County, Virginia and Berkeley County, Virginia/West Virginia.

… Theory #4 identifies Lt. Robert’s parents as John and Sarah Woffendale (various spellings) Rankin of King George County.

… Theory #5 proposes that John Rankin and Elizabeth Marshall (daughter of William Marshall) of King George County, Virginia were Lt. Robert’s parents.

Theory #3: Lt. Robert’s father could have been Benjamin Rankin of Frederick County, Virginia and Berkeley County, Virginia/West Virginia.

 So far as I know, no researcher has endorsed this theory. I don’t endorse it either, notwithstanding that I may have invented it. However, we are definitely getting warmer. Benjamin can not only be identified as a real person, he appeared in a number of records in Frederick and Berkeley Counties. That’s a pretty low threshold for credibility, but I’m afraid that’s where we are with this puzzle. Benjamin lived at the right time in the right place, in the northern part of Frederick County that became Berkeley County, Virginia (later West Virginia) in 1772.

Berkeley County is what made me sit up and take notice. That is because Lt. Robert’s brother William enlisted from there in 1776.[1] Lt. Robert probably also enlisted in Berkeley, because he and his brother enlisted in the same company in the same regiment in the same month. William was only about seventeen when the brothers enlisted.[2] At that age, one would expect he was still living with family. This provides good geographic plausibility for Benjamin being a relative of some sort. The only other Rankin I can find in Berkeley about that time is a William who was almost certainly a son of Abigail and William Rankin and grandson of David and Jeanette McCormick Rankin of Frederick.[3] That line is not related to Lt. Robert’s family.

Frederick and Berkeley County deeds reveal some interesting connections.[4] Benjamin Rankin lived near Hugh Stephenson and John Berry on Evett’s Run in the part of Frederick that became Berkeley County. You will recall that Lt. Robert and William enlisted in Hugh Stephenson’s Maryland and Virginia Rifle Regiment. Yes, that is the same Hugh Stephenson. Also, Lt. Robert’s wife was Margaret Berry, daughter of Thomas Berry. He and John Berry were brothers.[5]

This theory has problems. The most daunting is that Benjamin Rankin’s 1787 will didn’t name either Lt. Robert or his proved brothers William and John.[6] Of course, wills sometimes omitted children, especially if they were children of a first wife and had previously been “provided for.” The absence of those names does not eliminate a possible father/son relationship between Lt. Robert and Benjamin. It does throw serious cold water on the possibility.

Benjamin’s will is not the only cold water on Theory #3. Lt. Robert and his wife Peggy consistently named their children for family and friends. Lt. Robert and his proved brothers William and John had twenty-eight children among them. None are named Benjamin. When the evidence in records is scarce, you look anywhere you can … including family names.

Finally, there is the matter of Benjamin’s age. He is a recognized D.A.R. patriot. The D.A.R. indicates his birth year was circa 1740. If so, that is obviously too young to have been the father of Lt. Robert and his siblings. I don’t have any reasonable basis for estimating his age.

If he were actually born in the 1720s, Benjamin could have been another son of Robert and Elizabeth Rozier Rankin of King George. Robert’s will named sons James, William, John, Benjamin, Moses, George, and Hipkins or Hopkins.[7] Theory #2 suggests Lt. Robert’s father was William, the second of those seven sons. Theory #3 suggests Benjamin, possibly the fourth son. Taking the hint from those theories, I turned to King George records.

Theory #4: John Rankin and Sarah Woffendale of King George County, Virginia were Lt. Robert’s parents

It didn’t take long to identify other Rankins in King George County who could have been Lt. Robert’s father. There were two men named John Rankin in King George who might fill the bill. One John was married to Sarah Woffendale. I don’t know who his father was. The second John was a son of Robert and Elizabeth Rozier Rankin, the third name in the above list of seven sons. For that couple, see Theory #5. The two John Rankins were definitely not the same man.[8]

The key to Theory #4 is a man named Reuben Rankin. King George records concerning him prove (1) John and Sarah Woffendale Rankin were his parents,[9] (2) he was born between 1734 and 1741,[10] and (3) the Woffendale and Berry families were closely related.[11]

I haven’t identified any other children of John and Sarah Woffendale Rankin. I don’t know whether the couple stayed in King George or moved and, if the latter, where. The last record I can find in King George that is definitely John, husband of Sarah, was in 1765. In light of those unknowns, I pursued their son Reuben looking for Rankin connections.

Fast forward to 1770 in Frederick County, Virginia. That year, a Reuben Rankin and a Robert Rankin witnessed two deeds in which Benjamin and Joseph Berry were grantors.[12] Thomas Berry, the father of Margaret “Peggy” Berry Rankin who married Lt. Robert Rankin in 1781, was their brother. The Berrys were related to Sarah Woffendale Rankin and thus to her son Reuben. Lt. Robert would have been seventeen in 1770.

Were those witnesses Reuben, son of John and Sarah Woffendale Rankin, and Lt. Robert? Certainty is an elusive creature in this puzzle. It is a solid bet, though, that (1) the Rankin witnesses were connected to the Berry grantors and (2) the two Rankins were related to each other. These deeds are surely the records convincing some researchers that Lt. Robert and Reuben were brothers. Others are also convinced that they were sons of John and Sarah Woffendale Rankin of King George.

Naturally, the loyal opposition is poised to identify problems. I mentioned in Part 5A that I had some inchoate resistance to Theory #4. That feeling led me to wade through my voluminous King George data yet again, looking for the source of my unease. Here’s what I found.

Problem #1: George H. S. King, an extremely well-respected genealogist and historian cited the Draper Manuscripts, also an authoritative source, for the proposition that John and Sarah Woffendale Rankin were married in 1720 – 1722.[13] In fact, Mr. King abstracted the first volume of King George County wills, see Note 9. The 1720-22 marriage works just fine for Reuben, who was born between 1734 and 1741. But it might be a stretch for Sarah’s childbearing years to throw in Lt. Robert, born in 1753, William, born about 1759, and John, birth year unknown, but before 1765.[14] Sarah was still alive in 1762, so a possible second wife for John doesn’t circumvent that problem. In fact, Sarah was still alive in 1790, when her sister Ann Rankin Thornley wrote her will. If she had been married in 1720-22, she certainly reached a ripe old age.

Problem #2: there is another record that unambiguously concerns John, husband of Sarah Woffendale Rankin. In 1765, John Rankin sold the enslaved woman Peg, the subject of the earlier lawsuit.[15] According to the terms of the lawsuit settlement, John would not have had the right to convey Peg unless Reuben died before age 18 or died and left no heirs.[16] That suggests Reuben, son of John and Sarah Woffendall Rankin, died by 1765 without heirs. There seem to be no records in King George for Reuben after 1762, so he either died or migrated, either abandoning Peg or conveying her to his father. I found no such conveyance. Abandoning Peg is highly unlikely in light of the enormous value of enslaved people.

Given the paucity of evidence in actual records for any other theory, the two Berry deeds witnessed by Reuben and Robert Rankin should probably be displayed in neon lights. The glaring issue is the 1765 sale of Peg by John Rankin.

The only reasonable conclusion is that the Reuben who witnessed the Berry deeds is NOT the same man as Reuben, son of John and Sarah Rankin. It does seem possible that Reuben and Robert were brothers. But not sons of John and Sarah Woffendale Rankin.

 Theory #5: John and Elizabeth Marshall Rankin (daughter of William Marshall) of King George County were Lt. Robert’s parents

 Attorneys say that an equitable claim or defense in a lawsuit is “the last refuge of the desperate.” This is similar to using family names as evidence of a parent-child relationship. Since family names constitute the only rationale I have found supporting John and Elizabeth Marshall Rankin as Lt. Robert’s parents, this patently qualifies as a last-ditch, desperate theory.

It does seem likely there was a Marshall on Lt. Robert’s tree, given the recurrence of the name in the Rankin line,[17] the (perhaps) family oral tradition about a maternal Marshall, and deposition testimony of Judge Lippincott in Lt. Robert’s pension application that Robert and Justice Marshall were “near kin.” Massena Marshall, who may never have existed, appears to be a dead end, no pun intended. Further, neither of Lt. Robert’s proved brothers (William and John) gave a daughter that unusual name.[18]

On the other hand, Lt. Robert, William, and John all named a daughter Elizabeth. In fact, Elizabeth was Lt. Robert and Peggy’s eldest daughter — and Peggy’s mother was named Frances, not Elizabeth. The three Rankin brothers also all had sons named John. Further, the name William Marshall Rankin, another son of Lt. Robert and Peggy, points a laser beam directly at one particular Rankin couple in King George. Theory #5 may be the best option for placing the Marshall family in Lt. Robert’s maternal line, if that is your thing. If you are looking for evidence in county records, not so much.

Theory #5 definitely involves people whose existence can be proved, an almost embarrassing threshold question for this puzzle. A John Rankin in King George County married Elizabeth Marshall, a daughter of William Marshall, between July 1746 and September 1752. John was a son of Robert and Elizabeth Rozier Rankin, with whom we are already acquainted.[19]

Here is the evidence that John Rankin married Elizabeth Marshall. First, William Marshall bequeathed to his daughter Elizabeth a “mulatto named Sarah to be delivered on the day of her marriage.”[20] William Marshall’s King George County will was dated July 24, 1746, so Elizabeth was not married as of that date. In September 1752, John and Elizabeth Rankin sold to Thomas Turner the 100 acres where they lived that he inherited from his father.[21] In May 1753, John Rankin, “carpenter of Hanover Parish, King George,” mortgaged a mulatto enslaved person named Sall or Sarah.[22] John Rankin thus married William Marshall’s daughter Elizabeth sometime between July 1746 and September 1752. That couple could easily accommodate Lt. Robert, born in 1753, William, born about 1759, and John, born by 1765.

Evidence of this couple’s children eluded me, although there is circumstantial evidence for a son named Francis and possibly another son.[23] John probably died in King George County. His widow Elizabeth is mentioned in a 1783 deed in which Thomas Turner sold the 100-acre tract where Elizabeth then lived, the same tract Turner had previously purchased from John and Elizabeth.[24] She may also be and probably is the Elizabeth Rankin shown on King George tax lists in 1787 – 1790 with one white tithe.

The bottom line, though, is that Theory #5 is pure speculation.

I would love to hear your opinions. I would also love to hear from someone who has some actual evidence on this question. Meanwhile, I may sort through some of the Benjamin Rankins (there is more than one), Reuben Rankins (ditto, probably), Moses, George, and others who hail from King George.

See you on down the road.

Robin

                  [1] Pension file of William Rankin, S.31315, sworn declaration supporting his pension application dated 22 Nov 1833 in Mason Co., KY. See a good online transcription by Will Graves here.

                  [2] Id. William was 74 when he applied for a pension in Nov. 1833, so he was born about 1759. He would have been about 17 in July 1776.

                  [3] William Rankin of Berkeley was a trustee of the Hopewell Presbyterian Church when it was still located in Frederick. See Berkeley Co., WV Deed Book 1: 83, Nov. 1771 conveyance to six trustees of the Hopewell Presbyterian Congregation, including William Rankin. Lt. Robert’s line of Rankins probably migrated from England and left no evidence of Presbyterianism. William Rankin was listed on the 1783 tax list of John Davenport in the Sleepy Creek Valley, an area now in Morgan and Berkeley Counties in WV. William H. Rice, The 1774 List of Tithables and Wheel Carriages in Berkeley County, Virginia (Parsons, WVA: McClain Printing Co., 2006) 28.  He left a will in Morgan County naming, inter alia, a daughter Abigail. Morgan Co, WV Will Book 1: 199, will of William Rankin dated 1815, proved 1820. Sons Samuel, Simon/Simeon, and William, and daughter Abigail. See Note 20 of Part 5A for William’s probable parents (Wm. and Abigail) and grandparents (David and Jeanette McCormick), all of whom were Presbyterians down to their toes.

                  [4] Frederick Co., VA Deed Book 13: 366 and Deed Book 14: 457, conveyances in 1770 and 1771 to Benjamin Rankin witnessed by three Stephensons, including Hugh. The land was on drains of Evets Run (also Evetts or Evatts) and was adjacent to John Washington. John Berry also had land on that creek, see Frederick Co., VA Deed Book 10: 180. William Davis, the grantor in the 1770/71 conveyances, wrote a will witnessed by his neighbors John Berry and Benjamin Rankin, see Berkeley Co., VA Will Book 1: 14. See also 1779 deed to Benjamin Rankin for 313 acres adjacent Col. John Washington, Charles Washington, and “widow Stephenson.”

                  [5] I’m not going to get into the complicated Berry family of King George and Frederick.

                  [6] Berkeley Co., WV Will Book 1: 441, will of Benjamin Rankin of Berkeley Co., VA dated and proved in 1787. George Rankin, relationship unknown, was a witness. Benjamin named his widow Judith, two daughters, and a daughter’s son. Margaret Rankin, one of the daughters, married William Helm who migrated to Mason County, Kentucky, where the three proved Rankin brothers lived.

                  [7] King George Co., VA Will Book 1:A: 201, undated will of Robert Rankins proved 4 Mar 1747/48. Wife Elizabeth, sons William, John, James, Moses, George, Benjamin, and Hopkins, and daughter Mary Green.

                  [8] John, son of Robert and Elizabeth Rozier Rankin, married Elizabeth Marshall between July 1746 and September 1752. Sarah Woffendale Rankin, wife of the other John Rankin, married John before 1741 and was still alive in 1762.

                  [9] The agreement in a lawsuit concerning an enslaved person named Peg proves that John Rankin and Miss Woffendale (given name not stated) had a son Reuben. King George Co., VA Order Book 1751-1754 at 71, from abstract by Mary Marshall Brewer, King George County, Virginia Orders 1751 – 1754 (Lewes, DE: Colonial Roots, 2007) 42. The will of Reuben’s aunt Mary Woffendale proves that her sister Sarah Woffendale married a Rankin; Mary named her nephew Reuben executor. King George Co., VA Will Book A: 149, from abstract by George Harrison Sanford King, King George County Virginia Will Book A-I 1721-1752 and Miscellaneous Notes (Fredericksburg, VA: 1978), will of Mary Woffendale dated and proved in 1762.

                  [10] Id. Together, the lawsuit and will establish that Reuben was born between 1734 and 1741. Reuben was less than 18 when the lawsuit was settled in June 1752. He was of age and probably in his mid-twenties when his Aunt Mary Woffendale wrote her will naming him executor.

[11] The will of Mary Woffendale (see Note 9) names a number of her relations, including her sisters Elizabeth Kendall and Sarah Rankins. It also identifies a number of nieces and a nephew, although she called them “cousins.” Those include Reuben Rankin (son of sister Sarah Woffendall Rankin), Elizabeth Butler, Jenny Humston (daughter of Mary’s sister Frances Woffendall Humston), and Catherine Berry. Mary Woffendale’s will and other documents nicely illustrate the relationships between several King George families. (1) Mary Woffendale’s sister Elizabeth Woffendale married Samuel Kendall; Elizabeth and Samuel Kendall were the parents of Frances Kendall who married Thomas Berry; and Frances and Thomas Berry were the parents of Margaret “Peggy” Berry, who married Robert Rankin. (2) Mary’s niece Catherine was the wife of Capt. Joseph Berry. Catherine and Joseph Berry were the parents of the Thomas Berry who married Frances Kendall.

                  [12] Frederick Co., VA Deed Book 17: 75, deed dated 13 Nov 1770 from Thomas Berry and wife Frances of Frederick Co., VA to Elisha Williams of Frederick, MD, 337 acres, witnessed by two Benjamin Berrys, Robert Rankin, and Reuben Rankin; Frederick Co. DB 18: 224, deed of the same date from Benjamin Berry to Elisha Williams, witnessed by John Humphrey, Benjamin Berry, James Smallwood, Reuben Rankins, Thomas Berry, and Robert Rankins.

                  [13] George H. S. King cited the Draper Manuscripts for the proposition that John and Sarah Woffendale Rankin married in 1720-22. I have not been able to penetrate the Draper Manuscripts yet. See George’s sterling qualifications at this link.  I have not viewed either the Draper Manuscripts or Mr. King’s collection. The attribution to him for the date of John and Sarah’s marriage can be found at Linda Starr’s website here.  Linda, now deceased, was a serious Rankin researcher. She was led astray about Lt. Robert’s parents by Ms. Cloyd, who was led astray by Ms. Calloway. Otherwise, Linda’s research merits the highest respect.

                  [14] John Rankin’s eldest daughter Nancy was born about 1793; his eldest son Marshall was born about 1800. Four daughters were born 1800-1810. I haven’t been able to get a good handle on John’s likely birth year. The census reveals only that he was born by 1765.

                  [15] King George Co., VA Deed Book 5: 635, deed dated 6 Sep 1765 from John Rankin to Thomas Jett, enslaved person named Peg.

                  [16] Here is the entire order book statement about the lawsuit as abstracted by Mary Marshall Brewer: “John Rankin v. Francis Woffendale, suit in case. Parties agreed (bond posted) to abide by the award of Charles Carter and Thomas Turner, gent. They decided Francis Woffendale should deliver Peg an enslaved person, to John Rankins, who is to have the use of Peg and her increase for his life, and at his death, Peg and her increase to go to Reuben Rankins, a child of the said John Rankins by Francis Woffendale’s daughter. But if Reuben dies before age 18 or without children, then Peg and her increase to remain the absolute property of John Rankins. Woffendale to pay costs.”

                  [17] Lt. Robert’s brother John had a son Marshall Rankin; Lt. Robert had a son William Marshall Rankin.

                  [18] If you Google the name “Massena,” you will come up with an Italian general and the name of a town in New York.

                  [19] Theory #2 proposed that William, son of Robert and Elizabeth Rozier Rankin, was Lt. Robert’s father; Theory #3 said Benjamin, son of Robert and Elizabeth, may have been Lt. Robert’s father.

[20] King George Co., VA Will Book A-1: 212-214, will of William Marshall dated 24 Jul 1746.

[21] King George Co., VA Deed Book 3: 496, conveyance dated Sep. 1752 from John Rankins and wife Elizabeth of Hanover Parish, King George, to Thomas Turner, Gent., 100 acres where grantor lives given to him by will of his father Robert Rankin.

[22] King George Co., VA Deed Book 4: 36. There are two available abstracts of this mortgage. The Brewer abstract provides the name of the enslaved woman. An abstract by the Sparacios does not. Mary Marshall Brewer, Abstracts of Land Records of King George County, Virginia 1752 – 1783 (Lewes, DE: Colonial Roots, 2002); Ruth and Sam Sparacio, Deed Abstracts of King George County, Virginia (1763 – 1773) (McLean, VA: The Antient Press, 1986).

[23] A Francis Rankin witnessed the 1779 will of Philip Peed along with John Rankins. King George Co., VA Will Book A: 409. Philip Peed’s wife was Margaret Green, daughter of Richard Green, see Will Book A: 388. Richard Green was married to Mary Rankin, daughter of Robert and Elizabeth Rozier Rankin. Evidence of a possible second son of John and Elizabeth Marshall Rankin is in county tax lists during the late 1780s, when Elizabeth was shown with one tithe. The tithable would necessarily have been a male because free women were not taxable.

[24] King George Co., VA Deed Book 6: 401, Thomas Turner, Gent. and wife Mary convey 100-acre tract in Hanover Parish where Elizabeth Rankin now lives adj. Green’s corner. Robert and Elizabeth Rozier Rankin’s daughter Mary married Richard Green.

Who Were the Parents of Revolutionary War Lt. Robert Rankin (1753-1837)? (Part 5A of 5)

The short answer is I don’t know. This article merely offers theories. You choose the theory you prefer. “None of the above” is a reasonable answer.

This was difficult to write because Lt. Robert’s family of origin is such a will-o’-the-wisp. Some of the people in these theories are probably phantoms who cannot be either proved or disproved. I have a nagging suspicion I’m missing something important. And this article is too long, so I shall post it as Parts 5A and 5B of the Lt. Robert series.[1]

To be clear, the subject is Robert (no middle name)[2] Rankin, a Revolutionary War officer who first appeared in Frederick County, Virginia marrying his fiancé Margaret (“Peggy”) Berry in 1781. Lt. Robert was surely from the Rankin family which spread westward from Richmond County across Virginia’s Northern Neck beginning in the late seventeenth century.[3] William Rankin (also a Revolutionary soldier) and John Rankin were his proved brothers. The three all lived in Mason County, Kentucky at one time, although Lt. Robert moved on. Theory #4 suggests another sibling, although I remain skeptical for inchoate reasons.

Here are the possibilities I’ve identified. There may be others.

… Theories #1A and #1B identify Lt. Robert’s parents as Robert William Rankin (or William Robert Rankin) and Margaret Massena Marshall (or Massena Margaret Marshall). “Massena” has various spellings.[5] This is the conventional wisdom.

… Theory #2 claims a William Rankin, wife’s name unknown, as Lt. Robert’s father. He reportedly died after 1761 in Frederick County, Virginia.

… Theory #3  says Lt. Robert’s father could have been Benjamin Rankin of Frederick County, Virginia and Berkeley County, Virginia/West Virginia.

… Theory #4 identifies John and Sarah Woffendale Rankin of King George County as possible parents.

… Theory #5 proposes that John Rankin and Elizabeth Marshall (daughter of William Marshall) of King George County, Virginia were Lt. Robert’s parents.

Theories #1A and 1B: Lt. Robert’s parents were William Robert Rankin (or Robert William Rankin) and Margaret Massena Marshall (or Massena Margaret Marshall).

Theories #1A and 1B identify the same couple, although with their first and middle names in different orders. The two theories differ only in the identity of Massena’s parents. Evidentiary and credibility problems abound.

Right off the bat, there is no woman named Margaret Massena Marshall or even Massena Marshall in any record as far as the eye can see, anytime, anywhere. It is true that colonial women can be difficult to find. That doesn’t eliminate the need for some evidence that such a person actually existed. The same is true for William Robert/Robert William Rankin. No such man seems to have manifested himself. These two people may be phantoms, or possibly figments of someone’s imagination.

The likely source for the conventional wisdom does not inspire confidence. Flossie Cloyd, a respected Rankin researcher in the early to mid-1900s, identified William Robert Rankin and Margaret Massena Marshall as Robert’s parents. The “oh, no!” here is Ms. Cloyd’s source. She was assembling an ambitious Rankin family history in collaboration with other Rankin researchers/descendants.[6] She did not do any original research regarding Lt. Robert or his family.[7] Instead, she relied on May Myers Calloway, a descendant of Lt. Robert’s.

Ms. Calloway is credited with several whoppers about Lt. Robert. No, General George Washington did not personally hand Lt. Robert Rankin his discharge papers and call him “Colonel.” Lt. Robert never served in the same company as future Chief Justice John Marshall. And Rankin County, Mississippi, was not named for one of Lt. Robert’s children.[8]

Ms. Cloyd’s papers provide no evidence about Lt. Robert’s parents that I could find. It’s reasonable to conclude that Ms. Calloway offered Ms. Cloyd no evidence except family oral tradition.

Ms. Calloway also corresponded with Louis Wiltz Kemp, a historian whose papers on Lt. Robert can be found at the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History in Austin.[9] Mr. Kemp’s papers don’t contain any evidence regarding Lt. Robert’s parents, either. Ms. Calloway sent Mr. Kemp some of her own poetry, for Pete’s sake![10] How about evidence? Even family oral tradition is usually supported by some evidence. Yes? No?

But wait! The most damning problems with Theories #1A and B are facts.

In Theory #1A, Massena was allegedly a daughter of Thomas Marshall and his wife Mary Randolph Keith. Both are buried in the Marshall graveyard in Washington, Mason County, Kentucky. However, Thomas and Mary’s children were too young to have included Lt. Robert’s mother. Lt. Robert was born in 1753. Thomas and Mary Marshall’s children were born during 1755-1781.[11] That would mean Lt. Robert was born before his mother. Oops!

Perhaps recognizing this problem, some researchers backed up a generation and proposed Theory #1B. In this view, the elusive Massena Marshall was a sister rather than a daughter of Thomas Marshall. Massena’s parents would then have been John Marshall (known as “John of the Forest”) of Westmoreland County, Virginia and his wife Elizabeth Markham.

John of the Forest’s will is not helpful.[12] John named his daughters. No Massena. None of his three married daughters had husbands named Rankin. Only his youngest unmarried daughter, Peggy (whose given name was presumably Margaret), is a remote possibility to have been Robert’s mother.[13] However, Peggy/Margaret reportedly married a Hugh Snelling.[14] And she was probably too young to have been Robert’s mother in any event. The Marshall website puts her birth year as 1745, making her eight years old when Lt. Robert was born.[15]

Here is the pièce de résistance:  an extraordinary old chart of descendants of John of the Forest, available at this link. A label states that the chart was “drawn by W. M. Paxton, Platte City, Mo.” He was William McClung Paxton (1819 – 1916), whose mother was Anna Maria Marshall Paxton. Her great-grandfather was John of the Forest. Mr. Paxton was an attorney and family history researcher who published a book about the Paxtons in 1903.[16] This is one of those cases when I am comfortable relying on someone else’s research because he has good creds.

Mr. Paxton’s chart is circular, making it difficult to read. The print is small and faded, increasing the degree of difficulty. If you persevere and squint, you will find no Rankins and no one named Massena on the chart. John of the Forest’s daughter Peggy is listed, with her husband’s surname given (as best as I could tell) as Smellan, close to the Snelling identified on the Marshall website.

My take on Theories #1A and 1B as described above is that they zoom past “speculative” and land squarely on “highly improbable.” If Lt. Robert’s mother was in fact named Marshall, proponents of that notion need to look in a different Marshall line. For that option, please see Theory #5.

However, if you decide the Margaret Massena/William Robert theory is the best available option, you have plenty of company on internet trees.

Theory #2:  Lt. Robert’s father was a William Rankin who died after 1761 in Frederick County.[17] William’s wife isn’t identified.

 This theory appears on the Marshall website which (along with Mr. Paxton) identified Margaret “Peggy” Marshall’s husband as Mr. Snelling/Smellan.[18] The Marshall website says that William Rankin’s father — Robert Rankin (wife Elizabeth Rozier) — left a will in King George County identifying his children.[19] This gives Theory #2 heightened credibility right off the bat. It at least deals with people whose existence can be proved: William Rankin, son of Robert and Elizabeth Rozier Rankin of King George. And it has geographic appeal, because it says William Rankin died in Frederick County after 1761. That is where Lt. Robert first appeared in 1781 and where his brother William moved after the Revolution. It is also comforting that William doesn’t have a highly improbable middle name.

There are some rocks in this road. Evaluating the theory runs into a “too many William Rankins” issue. That is just a research problem, though, and doesn’t diminish the theory’s credibility. Having said that, the only William Rankin(s) I can find in Frederick after 1761 are (I believe) from the line of David and Jeanette McCormick Rankin,[20] plus a family which lived there too late to matter and moved to Missouri in any event.[21] Y-DNA tests negate any genetic relationship between Lt. Robert’s line and David’s line. If you have a dog in this hunt, you need to do a deep dive into Frederick, Berkeley, and Morgan County records, because I might be wrong again.

The only William I can identify in Frederick County after 1761 who does not fall into the two irrelevant lines (David and Jeanette’s family and the Missouri family) is Lt. Robert’s brother William. He reportedly moved to Frederick County “not long after the war”[22] (presumably the early 1780s) and was definitely a resident of Frederick by 1792.[23]

 A William Rankin who died in Frederick after 1761, if one can be found, definitely has more cachet than the spectral Massena Marshall. However, that qualifies as “damned by faint praise.” This theory should probably be considered speculative.

That is it for Theories #1 and #2. Part 5B in this series will attack the remaining three theories. Here’s hoping there are some comments on this article that provide some helpful grist for this mill.

See you on down the road.

Robin

 [1] Part 1 of the “Lt. Robert series” was an Introduction.   Part 2 discusses Revolutionary War history relevant to both Lt. Robert and his brother William. Part 3 tells William’s amazing war story. Part 4 has Lt. Robert’s story.

[2] At least one source identifies Lt. Robert as Robert Marshall Rankin. Another identifies him as Robert Richard Rankin. In the hundreds of records Gary and I reviewed while researching Lt. Robert and his family, we have never seen him identified with either a middle initial or middle name. Those middle names are fictional.

[3] E.g., Richmond Co., VA Order Book 1692-1694: 10, order dated 4 May 1692, John Rankin, who married the Executrix of John Overton, to appear and give security. If this John Rankin was the patriarch of the Northern Neck Rankins (I do NOT know if that is the case and am NOT saying it is!), it would help explain the appearance of more than one John Rankin at a time in King George Co. in the mid-1700s.

[5] One of Lt. Robert and Peggy’s daughters is identified as Mathina, Marsena, or Masena McComb in the 1850, 1860, and 1870 Polk Co., TX censuses, respectively. I use “Massena” because that is how it is spelled in Peggy’s will.

[6] Ms. Cloyd never published a book, but her voluminous research materials are available on CDs from the Tennessee State Library and Archives.

[7] The Cloyd CDs are a long, painful slog. I reviewed the CD cited by Linda Kay Starr for Ms. Cloyd’s conclusion about Lt. Robert’s parents. I found only information provided by May Myers Calloway.

[8] Rankin County was named for the Christopher Rankin who served in the U. S. House as a Representative from Mississippi. See information about him at this link. His will was probated in Washington, D.C, see “Washington, D.C., U.S., Wills and Probate Records, 1737 – 1952” on Ancestry. The will recites that Christopher was “a native of Washington County … Pennsylvania” but was then “a Citizen of the State of Mississippi and Representative of said state in the Congress of the United States.”

[9] Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas, Austin, papers of Louis Wiltz Kemp, Box 2R232, General Biographical Notebooks, Ranb-Reavis. Viewed Feb. 8, 2020.

 [10] Ms. Calloway’s poetry is so gosh-awful that I wish I had taken notes so I could share.

[11] See the birth years for Thomas Marshall’s children at this link.. This website is owned by Mike Marshall and has a number of researchers and contributors, as well as extensive footnotes and sources. See also the will of Thomas Marshall, Mason Co., KY Will Book B:212.

[12] Will of John Marshall of the Forest dated April 1, 1752, recorded in Westmoreland Co., VA Deed & Will Book 11: 419. Transcribed here.

  [13] Those of us who wonder where crummy information originates might speculate that the name of John of the Forest’s youngest daughter Peggy inspired someone to put Margaret in front of the standard Massena Marshall for the name of Lt. Robert’s alleged mother.

[14] See the Marshall website  here for the birthdate and husband of Peggy Marshall, daughter of John of the Forest.

 [15] Id.

[16] W. M. Paxton, We Are One (Platte City, MO: Landmark Press, 1903). See image of the book cover and other information about Mr. Paxton on his Find-a-Grave memorial  here.

 [17] Rankin data mining bulldogs, here’s a juicy one. The Marshall website’s information about William Rankin’s death in Frederick County — “after 1761” — implies that William was known to be alive that year. That is, there must be at least one record for William in Frederick County specifically in the year 1761. I haven’t found one. If anyone can, she is named Mary Buller or Jess Guyer.

 [18] The Marshall website adds several siblings to Lt. Robert, William, and John. As far as I can find, there is no evidence for the relationships. In all fairness, the webiste’s focus is on Marshalls, not Rankins.

 [19] King George Co., VA Will Book 1-A: 201, undated will of Robert Rankins proved 4 Mar 1747/48. Sons William, John, and James, all my land. Daughter Mary Green and sons Moses, George, Benjamin, and Hipkins, one shilling each. Wife Elizabeth Rankins. Witnesses William Rankins and James Rankins. NOTE: if you ever wrestle with the King George Rankins, please pay particular attention to this will. Keep in mind that beneficiaries do NOT witness wills — unless someone wants the will to be invalid. So who the heck were the witnesses William and James? Definitely not testator’s sons William and James, who were beneficiaries. I don’t know the answer.

[20] David Rankin died in Frederick in 1757, leaving a will naming children William (Sr.), David, Hugh, and Barbara. Frederick Co., VA Will Book 3: 443. William Sr. moved to Washington Co., PA and left a 1793 will stating that his son William (Jr.) was living in Virginia where William Sr. formerly lived. Washington Co. Will Book 1: 206, will of William Rankin, wife Abigail, leaving to William Jr. the place in Virginia where William Sr. formerly lived. William Sr. and Abigail’s land in Virginia was located in Berkeley County. Berkeley Co., VA DB 3: 386, 390, 1775 deeds from William and Abigail Rankin of Berkeley County.

 [21] The 1810 Frederick census has a William Rankin and Matthew Rankin, probably kin, in the same age group. The line disappeared from Frederick after the 1830 census and moved to Cooper Co., Missouri.

 [22] Deposition of John Kercheval in support of the Revolutionary War pension application of William Rankin of Mason Co., KY.

 [23] Frederick Co., VA Deed Book 24A: 152 conveyance from Denny Fairfax, the Northern Neck proprietor, to William Rankin of Frederick, lease for lives of William, wife Mary Ann, and son Harrison. This is Lt. Robert’s brother William, who moved to Mason Co., KY.

Rankin families in the darn book

I hope this is the last time I blather about The Compleat Rankin Book, which continues to nip at my heels. I’m ready to move on to Volume 2.

I’ve received two emails asking me which Rankin families are included in the book. Also, one blog commenter speculated that her line is not in it. In response, here are some short blurbs for the lines in the book to let you know which Rankins are included and generally who they are …

Robert and Margaret (“Peggy”) Berry Rankin of Virginia, Kentucky, Alabama, Texas, and Louisiana. Lt. Robert and his brother William were both Revolutionary soldiers. Their fabulous individual war stories are covered in some detail. Lt. Robert died in Louisiana, but is buried in the Texas State Cemetery in Austin … or so the Cemetery believes, despite some hilarious evidence to the contrary. Lt. Robert’s brother William died in Mason County, Kentucky, as did his brother John. The three brothers (there may be others) left large families — twenty-eight children among them. Their descendants should be legion. Their parents are not proved. The next article I post will share my opinion about their family of origin, assuming I am able to formulate one that isn’t just rank speculation.

Joseph and Rebecca Rankin (“J&R”) of New Castle County, Delaware. Their sons John and William went to Guilford County, North Carolina. Their descendants are well-documented in a book by Rev. Samuel Meek Rankin.[1] J&R’s son James went to Washington County, Pennsylvania. Only J&R’s sons Joseph (Jr.) and Lt. Thomas Rankin stayed in New Castle. J&R’s probable son Robert is a mystery. Their daughter Ann lived with her brother Joseph (Jr.) and apparently never married. No, Samuel Rankin who married Eleanor (“Ellen”) Alexander was not J&R’s son, despite Rev. Rankin’s speculation on that issue.

Four of J&R’s sons fought in the Revolution, assuming Rev. Rankin is correct about John and William fighting at Guilford Court House. His family tradition that they fought in that battle accords with the fact that every able-bodied patriot for miles around reportedly participated. Ostensibly a British victory, it was nevertheless a major blow to Cornwallis in the Southern Campaign. If you haven’t been to the Guilford Courthouse National Park in Greensboro, it is worth a trip.

Robert and Rebecca Rankin (“R&R”) of Guilford County, North Carolina. Their son Robert died there in 1795, leaving one son named George and four daughters. R&R’s son George married Lydia Steele and died in Rowan County (from which Guilford was created) in 1760. George left two young sons, John and Robert, who left Guilford for Kentucky and Tennessee, respectively. R&R also had at least three daughters: Ann Rankin Denny (proved), Rebecca Rankin Boyd (probable) and Margaret Rankin Braly/Brawley (also probable).

R&R’s line includes at least one Revolutionary War soldier and the famous Rev. John Rankin of the Shaker colony in Logan County, Kentucky. Shaker Rev. John was kind enough to pen an autobiography identifying where the family lived before they came to the colonies. That is a rare case of certainty about a Rankin family’s specific Ulster location. Otherwise, Rev. John’s autobiography is a piece of work. I challenge you to get through it.[2]

David and Margaret Rankin of Iredell County, North Carolina. David may have been a son of Robert and Rebecca Rankin of Guilford. Y-DNA tests allow that possibility, although there seems to be no evidence in the paper records. David and Margaret’s son James died at the Battle of Ramsour’s Mill in 1780, leaving four underage children in Lincoln County. Their son Robert survived Ramsour’s and moved to Gibson County, Tennessee, where he filed a Revolutionary War pension application.

Robert had proved sons David and Denny Rankin, both of whom remained in Iredell and married McGin sisters. Robert also had a daughter Margaret Rankin Finley, who appeared with him in Gibson County in a deed of gift. Descendants of Robert and his wife, probably Jean Denny of Guilford County, still live in Iredell County.

John Rankin of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. He died there in 1749, leaving a will naming a wife Margaret, two sons, and eight daughters.[3] His son Richard went to Augusta County, Virginia. Son Thomas also went to Augusta, then moved on to East Tennessee. Thomas was the patriarch of the line of Rankins celebrated in the famous Mt. Horeb Presbyterian Church Cemetery tablet in Jefferson County, Tennessee. This family has also been thoroughly documented, especially by a 19th- century descendant named Richard Duffield Rankin. One descendant is Rev. John Rankin, the famous abolitionist whose home in Ripley, Ohio was a waystation on the underground railroad. He deserves an article of his own. Another fairly well-known descendant is John Knox Rankin, who was among those who faced Quantrill’s Raiders in Lawrence, Kansas in 1863. Both Rev. John and John Knox Rankin are high on my to-do list.

Adam and Mary Steele Alexander Rankin of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Adam died there in 1747, leaving a daughter and three sons. This is perhaps the best known of all Rankin families. Adam and Mary’s children, possibly not in birth order, were James, Esther Rankin Dunwoody, William, and Jeremiah. James married Jean/Jane Campbell and lived in a famous location in Montgomery Township, Franklin County called “the Corner.” Tales of “mint julip” (moonshine?), evil groundhogs, and a haunted house in the Corner abound. Story to follow. James and Jean had four sons and two daughters. David, William, and Jeremiah remained in Franklin. The fourth son, James Jr., is elusive.

Adam and Mary’s son William married Mary Huston and had seven sons and a daughter, Betsy Rankin Robison. Four of their sons — William Jr., James, Jeremiah, and John — went to Centre County, Pennsylvania, where they owned land devised by their father. William and Mary’s son Adam, their eldest, became a doctor and moved to Kentucky. Son Archibald married Agnes Long and remained in Franklin County. Son David married Frances Campbell and wound up in Des Moines County, Iowa.

Adam and Mary’s son Jeremiah (wife Rhoda Craig) died in a mill accident in Franklin County, Pennsylvania in 1760. Jeremiah seems to be totally absent from Pennsylvania records other than his father’s will. His four sons went to Kentucky.

Famous descendants of Adam and Mary include Confederate Brigadier General Adam Rankin “Stovepipe” Johnson, who was the father and grandfather of two major league baseball players. Stovepipe is also buried in the Texas State Cemetery in Austin. He is from the line of William and Mary Huston Rankin through their Kentucky son Dr. Adam. Another famous descendant of Adam and Mary is Rev. Adam Rankin of Lexington, Kentucky, a son of Jeremiah and Rhoda. Rev. Adam was well-known among Presbyterians for his obsession with the so-called “Psalmody controversy.”

Samuel and Eleanor (“Ellen”) Alexander Rankin of Lincoln/Gaston Co., NC. His nickname was “Old One-Eyed Sam,” according to a descendant who grew up across the Catawba River from Sam’s home in Lincoln. I haven’t found many good stories about this family, other than their grandson Samuel who was indentured as a thirteen-year-old. Indentured servitude was fairly uncommon in a family as prominent and wealthy as the Lincoln County Rankins. Sam’s two brothers escaped that fate, making me suspect that young Sam was a handful. He married Mary Frances Estes in Tishomingo County, Mississippi and wound up in Jefferson County, Arkansas.

Sam and Mary had eight sons and two daughters. Four of their sons were Civil War soldiers. Two joined the Confederate army and two fought for the Union, probably after having been first captured as Confederate soldiers.[4] One of Sam and Mary’s sons, my ancestor John Allen Rankin, deserted the Army of the Confederacy after a terrible loss at the Battle of Champion Hill east of Vicksburg. Private John Allen’s war story intersects with a good love story about meeting his future wife, Amanda Lindsey. One of John Allen and Amanda’s great-grandchildren still flies a Confederate battle flag on his front porch, citing his “proud southern heritage” as justification. He might not know about his ancestor’s desertion. My cousin and I fly different flags.

Robert Rankin of Rutherford County, North Carolina and Caldwell County, Kentucky. Robert married Mary Witherow in North Carolina. The couple apparently divorced, which was evidently rare at that time. Alternatively, Robert may have just walked away. He left North Carolina while Mary W. Rankin was still alive. He eventually remarried. I haven’t found any fun stories about his family, although I haven’t looked very hard. Their descendant Francis Gill is the expert on Rutherford Robert’s line. The Compleat Book contains entries from several family Bibles that Francis kindly shared. If this is your crowd, the Bibles provide good information. The book also has an article about Robert’s son Jesse, who married Cynthia Sellers and went to Gibson County, Tennessee. He has been confused with another Jesse Rankin, a son of Shaker Rev. John Rankin.

William and Abigail Rankin of Washington County, Pennsylvania. William was a son of David and Jeanette McCormick Rankin of Frederick County, Virginia. William and his brother David were easy to track; their brother Hugh, not so much. That translates to the fact that I have unfinished business with this line. William and his wife Abigail left a passel of children, many of whom remained in Washington County. Their son David left Washington County for Kentucky. One son, Zachariah, died of hydrophobia after being bitten by a rabid wolf. The most charming stories about this family concern the detailed list of Zachariah’s clothing in his inventory and the amount of whiskey purchased for his Washington County estate sale. Who says probate records are dry and boring? You can bet that estate sale was neither.

William Jr. and Jane Rankin of Fayette County, Pennsylvania. This is an interesting line in early Pennsylvania which also deserves more research. Some of their line remained in Fayette County, where the cemeteries are awash with their descendants. Some went “west,” which often meant “the Ohio Country.” That referred to land roughly west of the Appalachian Mountains and north of the Ohio River.[5] One of their sons who went “west” had accumulated an overwhelming amount of debt from lenders in at least two states, leaving mind-boggling deeds about it. What, I wonder, did he spend all that money on? If I could suss it out, it would surely be a good story.

Jeanette Pickering Rankin and her sister Edna Rankin McKinnon. It isn’t easy finding famous women in family history research. Jeanette is known for her terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, where she was the first female. She is famous (or infamous) for her votes against entering both World Wars. She was a woman of integrity and courage, no matter what one thinks about those votes. She also did considerable work obtaining the vote for women in her home state of Montana. In her eighties, Jeanette led an anti-Vietnam war march in D.C. The marchers dubbed themselves the “Jeanette Rankin Brigade.” Her little sister Edna is famous for her work in Planned Parenthood. If those two Rankin women had been around at the right time, there would undoubtedly have been some rousing good speeches in favor of the Equal Rights Amendment.

Now … I need to see if I have sufficient evidence to formulate a semi-cogent opinion about the parents of Lt. Robert Rankin and his brothers William and John. If not, there are plenty of other genealogical mysteries and interesting Rankins waiting in the wings.

See you on down the road.

Robin

                  [1] Rev. S. M. Rankin, The Rankin and Wharton Families and Their Genealogy (Greensboro, NC: J. J. Stone & Co., printers and binders, 1931, reprint by Higginson Book Co., Salem, MA).

                  [2] 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.”

                  [3] More accurately, John Rankins’s 1749 will named six daughters and two sons-in-law.

                  [4] Captured Confederates were sometimes allowed to play a “get out of jail free” card by renouncing the Confederacy and joining the Union Army. Usually, the ex-prisoner served in the west, where he was unlikely to be shooting at members of his family.

                  [5] The “Ohio Country” consisted roughly of modern-day Ohio, eastern Indiana, western Pennsylvania, and northwestern West Virginia.

The Compleat Book of Rankins … or at least what I have so far

Like all fine literature and authoritative non-fiction, The Compleat Book of Rankins has reviewers’ blurbs on the back cover. Here is what they say:

— Old One-Eyed Sam Rankin: “These family histories provide unexpected insights.”

 — Brigadier General Adam Rankin “Stovepipe” Johnson: “A picture is worth a thousand words — so is a nickname.”

 — Genghis Khan: “They will need to add me to this book if they go back far enough.”

— John Cleese: “This book proves genealogists are not a dull, humorless lot. Check out the Index entries for Star Trek, Mars, Dr. Richard Kimble, Sesame Street’s Swedish Chef, Tommy Lee Jones, and Victorian Era Silly Walks.”

— Sponsors of the Mt. Horeb Presbyterian Church Cemetery Tablet:    “Family legends are rarely completely accurate — but some are nevertheless cast in bronze.”

— Former Bastard Stable Boy, now Laird of the Manor: “DNA does not lie.”

Truth in lending compels me to admit that the Book is not actually complete. It contains Rankin articles published on this blog, the majority of which have been updated and corrected since publication. New Y-DNA results and new information arrive daily. I was revising the book this morning to add information about a Rankin wife’s maiden name when Gary threatened mutiny. He prepared the book’s Index, a thankless task because Word’s indexing tool alphabetizes people by given name. If you want to look up entries for everyone named John, I suppose that’s a perfect approach. Gary converted the entries so that they are organized by surname. This required a substantial investment of time.

My addition of a Rankin wife’s maiden name and her father’s identity required revising the index. Thus the near mutiny. If the pagination had changed (rendering the existing Index obsolete), he would have been justified in resigning his commission.

More on incompleteness: in addition to newly arriving Y-DNA results and other info, there are a half-dozen new Rankin articles floating around in my head. They are screaming to reach fruition on my laptop, but have been deferred while I corrected the damn book. Allegheny County, Pennsylvania has several Rankin families which need to be distinguished. Ditto Westmoreland. Rankin disinformation abounds on the web. I have some Rankin outline descendant charts in progress, including one for the line of Adam and Mary Steele Alexander Rankin. An article about a mill in Antrim Parish, Franklin County, Pennsylvania, is begging to be written (assuming I can sort out conflicting info about the mill and find some Rankin who owned land on Muddy Creek).

Also, of course, I could not add new articles to the book without screwing up the Index. I knew better than to cross that Rubicon.

You get the drift. Meanwhile, as the subtitle (“or at least what I’ve got so far“)  suggests, it is time to cut bait and fish. Belly up to the bar. Choose your pithy saying. There is clearly a Volume II in my future.

I chose to have the current book bound in hardcover rather than paperback. That is because many libraries receiving softcover books promptly pay to have them recovered in hardback to prevent rapid deterioration. Libraries are notoriously penurious, except for the FHL in Salt Lake City, and I didn’t want any to incur that expense. Here’s the rub: the Compleat Book‘s publisher, Lulu Publishing, sets the purchase price. IMO, it is a bit dear (almost $40). No one except a Rankin, library, or genealogical/historical  society would conceivably have any interest in this book. And most Rankins presumably have something better to do with discretionary funds than purchase a book which devotes only a chapter to their own Rankin line. This was never intended to be a profitable venture in any case. My goal was and is to make information available to Rankin researchers.

Accordingly, here’s my plan. I can buy the book at cost. If you will email to me information for your local library and/or genealogical/historical society, I will simply pay for a copy to be mailed to that address. If you have any interest in those pithy back cover blurbs, or our son’s imaginative cover, you will know where to find it.

So … Happy Fourth of July! I feel like a brand-new nation all by myself, having finally gotten that damned thing finished.

See you on down the road. New posts are calling, and some of them aren’t even about Rankins.

Robin