The Robert Rankins of Guilford County, NC

This is a reissue to correct a problem with the original article. I posted it when the Rankin DNA Project website was hosted by WorldFamilies. net. The project’s website had a “Patriarch Chart” containing detailed family trees, names, email addresses, and kit numbers of YDNA participants. All of that was kosher under the website host’s rules.

The original post of this article didn’t have all that information, thank goodness, but it did contain the names of several project participants. That could violate the privacy standards of the current Rankin DNA Project website host. I revisited the article this afternoon to answer a question, and was upset to find those names. Here is a reissue to delete them.

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If you have searched for a Robert Rankin in the records of Guilford County, North Carolina during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, you hit the jackpot. There were at least six Robert Rankins in Guilford during that time. This article is about four of them. Some of what I propose is not mainstream Rankin thought. Here’s what may be controversial:

I have identified three “new” daughters of Robert and Rebecca Rankin of Guilford. One of them may reasonably be deemed proved, one is probably a daughter, and one is unproved. The first one is included in a couple of online trees. The latter two have not been identified in any compiled family history or online sources, so far as I know.

The identity of the wife of the Robert Rankin who died in Guilford in 1795. I disagree about that with darn near every other person who has ever said anything about the Guilford County Rankins.

This article ignores two of the six Robert Rankins who lived in Rowan/Guilford during that time.[1]  Both were grandsons of Joseph Rankin of Delaware (1704-1764), whose sons John and William migrated to Rowan/Guilford.

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

  1. R&R – Robert Rankin and wife Rebecca.
  2. Robert d. 1795 – a son of R&R.
  3. Rev (short for “Revolutionary,” not “Reverend”) War Robert – a grandson of R&R.
  4. Arkansas Robert – a great-grandson of R&R. 

And here we go, from the top …

R&R – Robert Rankin and wife Rebecca

R&R were the original immigrant ancestors in their Rowan/Guilford line. According to a grandson’s autobiography, they came to Pennsylvania from Letterkenny Parish, County Donegal, Ireland in 1750 along with some of their children, although the autobiography names only their son George.[2] R&R resided briefly in Chester County, Pennsylvania,[3] then settled in part of Rowan County that became Guilford by 1755.[4] According to Rev. Samuel M. Rankin, R&R are buried at Buffalo Church in Greensboro, although no markers for them survive.[5]

Robert died in 1770-1773.[6] He left no will. Other Rowan and Guilford records establish that R&R had proved children (1) George, (2) Robert, and (3) Ann who married William Denny (William Denny Senior, for purposes of this article).[7] Rev. Rankin also named a son John and a  daughter Rebecca who married James Denny. There is circumstantial evidence for a son John, although Rebecca (m. James Denny) is almost certainly wrong.[8] Rev. Rankin omitted Ann Rankin Denny from his list; see information on her at the discussion of her brother Robert d. 1795, below. Rev. Rankin thought that R&R had other children. That seems likely.

Tantalizing probate records in Rowan County suggest two other possible daughters of R&R in addition to Ann Rankin Denny. These two women – Margaret (Rankin?) Braly/Brawley and Rebecca (Rankin?) Boyd – should probably be deemed unproved. Keep reading and judge for yourself …

First, Robert Rankin was a security on the Rowan County bond of Margaret Braly/Brawley and John Braly, administrators of the estate of Thomas Braly. Even better, John Braly witnessed the 1760 will of George Rankin, along with Robert Rankin. Both George and Robert were proved sons of R&R.

The Braly administrator’s bond was dated 8 Jan 1765. Thomas’s noncupative will established that his wife was pregnant, and thus of childbearing age. She therefore belonged to the same generation as R&R’s proved children.[9] Margaret can reasonably be deemed a “probable” daughter of R&R because of her age and the two strong Rankin-Braly connections established by the administrator’s bond and will.

Second, Robert Rankin was also security on the Rowan County administrator’s bond of Rebecca Boyd, widow of John Boyd, in January 1767.[10] Robert’s signature on the original Boyd bond is identical to the signature on the Braly bond, so it was the same Robert Rankin. There is also circumstantial evidence of Boyd/Rankin connections in some Guilford deeds.[11] I think Rebecca Boyd was R&R’s daughter, but still consider her unproved.

On that note, here is a brief chart of R&R’s line, including the four Robert Rankin men covered in this article and adding Ann Denny, Margaret Braly, and Rebecca Boyd as daughters. R&R’s children are not necessarily in birth order; only George’s 1729 birth date is proved.[12] The men who are the subjects of this post are shown in boldface type.

Outline Chart #1

1 “R&R,” Robert Rankin, b. ca 1700, probably Ireland, d. Guilford, NC 1770-73, wife Rebecca LNU.

2 George Rankin, b. 1729, Letterkenney Parish, County Donegal, Ireland, d. 1760, Rowan, NC. Wife Lydia Steele Rankin m. Arthur Forbis after George died.[13]

3 “Shaker” Reverend John Rankin, b. 1757, Rowan, NC, d. 1850, Logan, KY.[14] Married Rebecca Rankin, a granddaughter of Joseph of Delaware, in Guilford in 1786.[15] None of their children married: Shakers practiced celibacy.[16]

3 Robert Rankin, Rev War Robert, more on him below.

2 Robert Rankin d. 1795, more on him below.

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

4 Arkansas Robert Rankin, 1792 – 1845,more on him below. George and Nancy had other children as well.

2 John Rankin, lived in Guilford Co., a possible son suggested by Rev. Samuel M. Rankin. I found limited circumstantial evidence. No children of whom I am aware.

2 Ann Rankin m. William Denny Sr., lived in Guilford Co., more on them below.

2 Rebecca Rankin (unproved) m. John Boyd who d. Rowan, NC in 1767.

2 Margaret Rankin (probable) m. Thomas Braly/Brawley who d. Rowan, NC, Dec. 1764.

Next up: R&R’s son Robert.

Robert Rankin d. 1795, son of Robert & Rebecca

Robert Rankin died in Guilford in 1795 and left a will.[18] I have written about him in another article, see it here. Robert’s 1795 will did not name a wife, indicating that she predeceased him. He identified only one son by name (George). Based on the express language of the will, Robert had four daughters. He identified only two of them by name: Mary Rankin Wilson, who died before Robert wrote his will, and Isabel Rankin, clearly unmarried in 1795. The other two daughters, whose given names Robert did not provide, were apparently already married. One daughter was Rebecca Rankin who married William Denny Jr. I have not identified the other daughter. Robert also named his three Wilson grandsons (William Rankin Wilson, Andrew Wilson, and Maxfield Wilson).

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

2 Robert Rankin d. 1795

3 George Rankin (1767 – 1851), m. Nancy Gillespie, Guilford Co., Jan. 1791, d. in McNairy Co., TN.

4 Arkansas Robert Rankin, 1792 – 1845, more on him below. George and Nancy had other children as well.

3 Mary Rankin, d. before 1795, married Andrew Wilson as his second wife.[19]

4 William Rankin Wilson, b. abt. 1788, moved to McNairy Co., TN.[20] Wife’s name was Lydia, reportedly Rev War Robert’s daughter.[21] Ancestry.com claims that W.R. married Lydia in 1807 in Guilford, although I can’t find a marriage record for that couple there.

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

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

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

3 Rebecca Rankin, b. before 1795, m. William Denny Jr.[26]

3 Daughter Rankin, given name unknown, probably married by 1795, husband unknown.

A number of online trees and at least one compiled Rankin history wrongly conflate Robert d. 1795 with his father, who died 1770-73. But there’s a tougher controversy about Robert d. 1795: the identity of his wife. Many Rankin researchers identify her as Jean (or Jane) Denny. They have good reason to do so. The Guilford County marriage records establish that some Robert Rankin married some Jean/Jane Denny in February 1775. William Denny Sr. (wife Ann Rankin) definitely had an unmarried daughter named Jean/Jane when he wrote his will in August 1766.[27]

A serious problem with the theory that the Robert who died in 1795 married Jean/Jane, daughter of William Denny, is this: Robert was almost certainly Jean’s uncle. We are all accustomed to seeing marriages between cousins, but … an uncle and a niece?

The evidence about Jean/Jane Denny’s parents, William Denny (Sr.) and Ann Rankin Denny, is a Rowan County deed. Here it is. On back-to-back days in April 1755, Robert Rankin Sr. (i.e., R&R) executed deeds to his son George (480 acres) and William Denny (640 acres).[28] The consideration recited in both deeds was 5 shillings, clearly marking them as deeds of gift. Consider this: Robert Sr. paid 10 shillings for the 640A tract he “sold” to William Denny Sr. for 5 shillings.[29]

That gift deed is extremely persuasive proof that William Denny Sr. was part of R&R’s family. There is more. William Denny witnessed the will of R&R’s son George Rankin along with Robert Rankin and John Braly.[30] Further, John Rankin, perhaps a son of R&R, witnessed William Denny’s 1766 will.[31] In my book, that is sufficient evidence to deem Ann Rankin Denny R&R’s proved daughter.

William & Ann Rankin Denny’s daughter Jean/Jane, unmarried in 1766, is the only Jean/Jane Denny I can find in Guilford who might have been the right age to marry some Robert Rankin in 1775. I just don’t believe that the Robert Rankin she married was her Uncle Robert d. 1795. She must have married a different Robert Rankin. Her husband might have been (and probably was) Robert Rankin of Iredell County.[32]

Let’s divert for a moment into the wonderful world of YDNA evidence.

Iredell Robert was a son of David Rankin who died in Iredell in 1789.[33] Two men who are David’s proved descendants are participants in the Rankin DNA project. Two other men in the Rankin project are descended from R&R. The four men are close matches. There is no doubt that Iredell Robert was a genetic relative of the Guilford County line of R&R Rankin.

One cannot state unequivocally that David of Iredell was a son of R&R – although the results don’t preclude a father-son relationship, either. In any event, Iredell Robert Rankin and Jean Denny were genetic cousins of some degree, and their families almost certainly knew each other

Perhaps not coincidentally, Robert Rankin of Iredell and his wife Jean (1755 – 1779, per her tombstone in Centre Presbyterian Church in Statesville) had a son named Denny Rankin.[34] I would be happy to wager that his mother Jean Rankin’s maiden name was Denny. I’ll also bet I won’t have any takers.

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

Rev(olutionary) War Robert Rankin (1759 – 1840).

Rev War Robert, a grandson of R&R, was one of two sons of R&R’s son George and his wife Lydia Steele.[35] Robert was a Revolutionary War veteran who applied for a pension, which told us when and where he was born and when he moved to McNairy County.[36] Rev War Robert married first Mary (“Polly”) Cusick in Guilford in the early 1780s.[37] He married his second wife Mary Moody in Guilford County in 1803.[38]

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

3 Robert Rankin, Rev. War Robert, b. Rowan, NC, 29 May 1759, d. McNairy, TN on 21 Dec 1840. Buried in Bethel Springs Cemetery in McNairy. Married #1 Mary (nickname “Polly”) Cusick in Guilford, probably in the early 1780s. Married #2 Mary Moody in Guilford in 1803.

Rev War Robert’s children by Mary (“Polly”) Cusick:

4 George Rankin, b. Guilford abt. 1783, d. bet. 1828-1830 in Arkansas Territory. Married Ann McMurray in Guilford, 1803. They were in Arkansas Territory by 1816 and eventually lived in Pulaski Co. May have had as many as six children, but I can only identify three possible sons: Robert, William D., and John J. Rankin.

4 Jedediah Rankin, b. 1785-86, m. Rebecca Rankin in Guilford, 1811. Rebecca was a daughter of George and Nancy Gillespie Rankin. Jed and Becky were both great-grandchildren of R&R and were therefore second cousins. They were in Arkansas by at least 1830, when he was listed in the 1830 Arkansas Territory census.

4 Lydia Rankin, b. Guilford abt. 1789, assuming that she was the Lydia who was the wife of William Rankin Wilson, b. abt 1788. They went to McNairy Co., TN. For some unaccountable reason, online trees ID her as “Lydia Lea Isabella.” I would love to see any evidence for that name, especially since Lydia had a proved sister named Isabel.

4 Isabel Rankin, b. 1791, Guilford, NC, d. 1861, Pope, AR. Married Arkansas Robert Rankin, her second cousin (he was a son of George and Nancy Gillespie Rankin) in Guilford in 1812. They went to McNairy Co., TN and then to Arkansas Territory, Conway and Pope Counties. See more about them, below.

4 John Rankin, b. 1797, Guilford, d. 1846, McNairy Co., TN. Wife Mary Kirby/Kerby.

4 William Rankin, b. 1799, Guilford, m. Isabel Woodburn in Guilford in 1823. They went to McNairy, TN and DeSoto Co., MS. Both are buried in Bethesda Cemetery, Tate Co., MS.

4 Thankful Rankin, b. bet. 1790-1800, Guilford, m. Hance McCain in Guilford, 1818. May have lived in McNairy Co., TN, where Hance appeared in some records. I haven’t found them enumerated there in a census, however.

Rev War Robert’s children by Mary Moody:

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

4 Letha Rankin, b. abt 1820, m. Robert D. Wilson, undoubtedly a relative. Lived in McNairy, TN.[40]

On that note, let’s move on to the last Robert in the line of R&R.

Arkansas Robert Rankin

Here is another case in which YDNA provides compelling evidence. Back up for a moment to Isabel Rankin, a proved daughter of Rev War Robert and his first wife Polly Cusisk.[41] Isabel married some Robert Rankin in Guilford in 1812.[42] A descendant of Robert and Isabel (call him “Joe”) has  YDNA tested and participates in the Rankin DNA project. A problem is that “Joe” can prove that Isabel Rankin is descended from R&R. Of course, Isabel didn’t have a Y-chromosome to pass on. “Joe” inherited that from Isabel’s husband Robert Rankin. The problem is that “Joe” hasn’t been able to prove Robert’s parents via traditional paper genealogy.

Considering all the Robert Rankins floating around Guilford, it’s  understandable that Robert’s parentage is difficult. Don’t forget that there were also two sons of Joseph of Delaware in Guilford … so that Isabel’s husband Robert Rankin may have been from EITHER R&R’s line or Joseph’s line. Or he may have parachuted into Guilford from Mars.

Isabel’s husband Robert was almost certainly not from Joseph’s line, which has been well-documented by Rev. Samuel Meek Rankin. We can heavily discount the Mars theory. That leaves the line of R&R.

YDNA testing and land records to the rescue. George Rankin (son of Robert d. 1795) and his wife Nancy Gillespie Rankin had a son named Robert who is conclusively proved by a deed, although he is unaccountably missing from many lists of George and Nancy’s children.[43] Robert was the right age to be the Robert Rankin who married Isabel. Unfortunately, there is no evidence in the marriage bonds or elsewhere to prove that Isabel’s husband Robert was the same man as George and Nancy’s son Robert. However, that Robert, as far as I can find, was the only Robert Rankin in Guilford available to marry Isabel. Sort of a “last man standing” theory.

More YDNA: a proved descendant of R&R’s grandson George Rankin and his wife Nancy Gillespie is a close YDNA match with “Joe.”  The match establishes that Isabel and Robert’s line and George and Nancy’s line share a common Rankin ancestor fairly recently. The common ancestors, based on the paper evidence, are almost certainly R&R. That’s sufficient YDNA evidence (in my opinion) to establish that Isabel’s husband Arkansas Robert Rankin was the same man as Robert, proved son of George and Nancy Gillespie Rankin.

And that’s it for now. Someday, when it’s too hot to go fishing, too rainy to garden, and the Astros aren’t playing, I will combine the several charts in this table, add a bunch of names, and post a loooonnnnnggggg chart for the descendants of Robert and Rebecca under “Rankin Charts” – see the menu at this website.

See you on down the road.

Robin

[1] Robert C. Rankin, d. Guilford 1853, and Robert Rankin, d. Guilford 1866, were both grandsons of Joseph of Delaware through his sons William Rankin and John Rankin, respectively.

[2] The grandson was “Shaker Rev. John” Rankin (1757-1850), a preacher who wrote his autobiography at age 88 (cited hereafter as “Shaker John’s Autobiography”). He died in Shakertown, Logan Co., KY. See  John Rankin, “Auto-biography of John Rankin, Sen.” (South Union, Ky., 1845), transcribed in Harvey L. Eads, ed., History of the South Union Shaker Colony from 1804 to 1836 (South Union, Ky., 1870). You can obtain a copy of the typescript of Eads’s history from the Special Collections Library, Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green, Kentucky (WKU), where is it designated “Shaker Record A.” The autobiography contains very little of genealogical significance, but what is has is good stuff. Mostly, it chronicles every thought he had about, and events concerning, religion through his long life from youth onward.

[3] George Rankin and Robert Rankin appeared on the 1753 tax list for West Nottingham Township in Chester Co., PA. Rev. Samuel M. Rankin (see note 5) says the family lived in Lancaster Co., but I didn’t find any record of them there. See J. Smith Futhey and Gilbert Cope, History of Chester County, Pennsylvania (Philadelphia: Louis H. Everts, 1881), reproduction facsimile by Chester County Historical Society (Mt. Vernon, IN: Windmill Publications, Inc. 1996).

[4] Shaker John’s Autobiography (see note 2); see also deeds dated April 1755 in which Robert Rankin Sr. gifted land to his son George Rankin and son-in-law William Denny Sr. in Rowan Co. Deed Book 2: 67, 70.

[5] Rev. S. M. Rankin, History of Buffalo Presbyterian Church and Her People (Greensboro, NC: Jos. J. Stone & Co., 1931), cited hereafter as “Buffalo Church History.”

[6] Rev. Rankin says in one place in Buffalo Church History that Robert with wife Rebecca died before the church started keeping minutes, which was in 1773. In another place, he says Robert died about 1770.

[7] Rev. Rankin names George, Robert and John as sons of R&R in his Buffalo Church History. George is proved by a gift deed and Robert is proved by circumstantial evidence in numerous Guilford records. The circumstantial evidence for a son John is thin.

[8] James and Rebecca Denny (née Rankin, according to Rev. Rankin) are buried in the Buffalo Church cemetery. Rebecca was born in 1760 and died in 1816. She was from a later generation that R&R’s proved children and was most likely born too late to be their daughter. Buffalo Church cemetery records are available online at this link.

[9] George Rankin, a proved son of R&R, had two sons born in 1757 and 1759. See Shaker John’s Autobiography and Rev War Robert’s pension application, abstracted in Virgil D. White, Abstracts of Revolutionary War Pension Files, Vol. 3 (Waynesboro, TN: National Historical Publishing Co., 1992). Robert Rankin d. 1795, another proved son of R&R, had a son George born in 1767. See will of Robert Rankin dated and proved 1795, Guilford Will Books A-B, File #312.

[10] Rowan County Court Order Book 2: 667.

[11] E.g., deed of 1 Feb 1780 from James Boyd to William Boyd, both of Guilford, 20 shillings (a deed of gift), 630 acres on Little Troublesome Cr., Granville grant to John Boyd Sr. 15 Jul 1760. This land winds up in Rockingham County. John Boyd Sr., the original grant recipient, is probably the deceased in the 1767 administrator’s bond. Witnesses Robt. Bell, John Rankin, John Bell. Guilford Co. DB 2: 437. See also deed of 18 Oct 1803, James Boyd of Guilford to Henry Fryar, same, £100, 150 acres on waters of North Buffalo. Witnesses William Denney and Rebekah Denney. The witness Rebekah was a daughter of Robert Rankin d. 1795 and a granddaughter of R&R. Guilford Deed Book 8: 230.

[12] Shaker John’s Autobiography.

[13] Id. See will of Arthur Forbis dated 10 Apr 1789, proved 1794, naming as executors his “stepsons John Rankin and Robert Rankin” (Shaker John and Rev War Robert). Guilford Co., NC Will Book A: 119.

[14] Shaker John’s Autobiography.

[15] Frances T. Ingmire, Guilford County North Carolina Marriage Records 1771-1868 Volume III Names O-Z (Athens, GA: Iberian Publishing Co., 1984). Another source for Guilford marriage records is Ruth F. Thompson and Louise J. Hartgrove, Volume I Abstracts of Marriage Bonds and Additional Data, Guilford County, North Carolina 1771 – 1840 (Greensboro, NC: The Guilford County Genealogical Society, 1989).

[16] At least one Rankin researcher at Ancestry.com believes that one of Shaker John Rankin’s children did not convert to Shakerism and that he married and had children. The Logan County census and burial records, however, suggest that all ten children died single in Logan County. There is some information about Shaker John in this article.

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

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

[19] See id., will of Robert Rankin d. 1795, naming as guardian of his Wilson grandsons Andrew Wilson, Robert’s “former son-in-law;” Buffalo Church History, listing the three wives of Andrew Wilson (Jr.).

[20] See 1850 federal census, McNairy Co., TN, William R. Wilson, 62, farmer, b. NC, Lydia Wilson, 61, b NC, Washington Wilson, 33, NC, Lucinda Wilson, 26, TN, Lydia Wilson, 8, TN, Adaline Wilson, 5, TN, Jesse Wilson, 3, TN, and Louisa Wilson, 1, TN.

[21] Rev War Robert did have a daughter Lydia, who would have been William Rankin Wilson’s second cousin. See Guilford, NC Will Book B: 435, will of William Cusick naming 3 daughters of Robert Rankin (Lydia, Isbel and Thankful) and his deceased daughter Polly Cusick Rankin. Both Lydia and William Rankin Wilson were great-grandchildren of R&R. I’ve found no evidence in the Guilford records that WRW married Lydia, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t marry. This crowd definitely had a penchant for marrying cousins.

[22] Will of William Denny dated 12 Dec 1824 proved Feb 1825 naming daughter Pamela Wilson; see also Ingmire, Guilford County North Carolina Marriage Records.

[23] See 1850 federal census, McNairy Co., TN, Andrew Wilson, farmer, 60, b. NC, dwelling #90, with Parmelia Wilson, 59, NC, Jane Wilson, 30, NC, Maxfield Wilson, 28, NC, Nancy Wilson, 25, NC, Parmelia Wilson, 21, NC, James Wilson, 19, NC, Eli Wilson, 16, NC, and Mary J. Black, 7, MO; 1860 federal census, Perry Co., AR, household of William Wilson, 45, farmer b. NC, with Andrew Wilson, 70, b. NC, also listed in his household.

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

[25] Isabel Rankin, daughter of Robert d. 1795, probably died single and without children. She was still single in 1795, when her father wrote his will, and she was probably about 30 at that time. Her father specifically bequeathed a slave to provide for her, which probably means he considered her unmarriageable. I found no marriage record for her in Guilford.

[26] Guilford County will of William Denny dated 12 Dec 1824 proved Feb 1825 naming as executor his “brother-in-law George Rankin” and children Rebecca Black, Pamela Wilson, William, Nancy, Isabel and Allen. 1803 deed from James Boyd to Henry Fryar witnessed by William Denny and Rebeckah Denny, Guilford Co. Deed Book 8: 230.

[27] Will of William Denny (Sr.), Rowan Co. Order Book 3: 200; Rowan Co. Will Book A: 31. An abstractor of this will, Jo White Linn, made (for her) a rare error about three of William Denny’s daughters. Ms. Linn read the will to say that all of William and Ann’s daughters were married, but three of them – Hannah, Agnes, and Jane/Jean Denny – were clearly identified as single in the 1766 will.

[28] Rowan Co. Deed Book 2: 67 and 70.

[29] Rowan Co., NC Deed Book 2: 86, Granville grant to Robert Rankin dated 3 Dec 1753, ten shillings, 640 acres adjacent “Irish Tracts” #14 and #15 (part of the Nottingham Colony grants).

[30] Rowan Co., NC Will Book A: 141.

[31] Rowan Co., NC Order Book 3: 200; Will Book A: 31.

[32] Jean Denny may have and probably did marry Robert Rankin of Iredell Co., son of David Rankin d. Iredell in 1789.

[33] Will of David Rankin of Iredell proved Dec. 1789, original will viewed at the NC Archives in Raleigh, C.R.054.801.11, recorded at WB A: 200

[34] Lois M. P. Schneider, Church and Family Cemeteries of Iredell County, N.C. (1992); Iredell County, NC Deed Book D: 650, deed dated 17 May 1802 from Robert Rankin to his son Denny Rankin.

[35] Rowan County, NC Will Book A: 141, will of George Rankin dated May 1760, proved Oct 1760, naming minor sons John and Robert.

[36] National Genealogical Society Quarterly, Vol. 25, No. 4, December 1937, Revolutionary War Pension Applications.

[37] See Guilford, NC Will Book B: 435, will of William Cusick naming 3 daughters of Robert Rankin (Lydia, Isbel and Thankful) and William’s desceased daughter Polly Cusick Rankin.

[38] Ingmire, Guilford County North Carolina Marriage Records; National Genealogical Society Quarterly, Vol. 25, No. 4, December 1937, Revolutionary War Pension Applications.

[39] See McNairy Co., TN Will Book 1: 53, will of T. M. Rankin of Bethel Springs dated 18 Jun 1885 naming two nieces and a nephew. One niece, M. E. Wilson, was the daughter of Letha Rankin and Robert D.Wilson, according to Melinda’s TN death certificate.

[40] Letha’s Daughter Malinda Wilson Lee was identified as a niece in the McNairy will of Thomas M. Rankin.

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

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

[43] Guilford Co., NC Deed Book 14: 11, deed of 23 Mar 1819 from George Rankin Sr. to his son Robert Rankin Jr., both of Guilford, 110.5 acres on the south side of North Buffalo. George Sr. at that point is George, son of Robert d. 1795 (who devised that tract to George). George Jr. is probably the eldest son of Rev War Robert. Also, Robert Rankin Sr. was Rev War Robert.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Rankins of Henderson County, KY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See you on down the road.

Robin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[14] See Note 10.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rankin DNA Project: “flange it up!”

If you ever worked in the natural gas pipeline business, you might be familiar with the notion that something needed to be “flanged up.” That originally meant the need to get pieces bolted together to complete a job. Over time, it acquired a more general meaning for those who did not deal with actual steel: the need to improve something in some fashion.

The Rankin DNA project needs to be “flanged up” a bit. The project began in 2006 with just two YDNA test participants. It has come a long way, and has 176 members as of July 2019. About seventy members are YDNA test participants who are either men named Rankin or whose YDNA establishes them as genetic Rankins.[1] YDNA testing has been helpful to many project members when traditional “paper trails” were inadequate or disputed.

Progress notwithstanding, there are still ancestry and relationship issues to be addressed. There are also a number of test participants who don’t yet have a Rankin match in the project. Obviously, a key need is to get more Rankin YDNA test participants. Please note, this is not a criticism of Rankin project administrators … I AM one. We just need to have more YDNA participants. Easier said than done.

In the meantime, here is a summary of Rankin YDNA results to date. The project has three lineages having four or more YDNA participants in each one. They are (no surprise here) designated Lineages 1, 2, and 3. All three lineages also have sub-lineages – distinct Rankin families that are genetically related, even though a Rankin common ancestor has not been identified. The families in these lineages include some that I have written about on this website. If you have read some Rankin articles, many of these names will be familiar.

On that note, let’s jump in …

Rankin Lineage 1

Lineage 1 (“L1”) has two sub-lineages: Robert and Rebecca Rankin of Guilford Co., North Carolina (L1A) and Joseph Rankin of New Castle County, Delaware (L1B). Robert is definitely the original immigrant in his line; Joseph probably is. No common ancestor for the two lines has been found. YDNA results establish a low probability that there is one on this side of the Atlantic. He probably exists around 1400, plus or minus a century, and almost certainly in Scotland.

Robert and Rebecca Rankin came to the colonies in 1750 from County Donegal, Ireland, according to an autobiography of one of their grandsons.[2] See some articles about their family here, here, and here.  There is no known evidence of the origin of Joseph of Delaware.[3] Both Robert and Joseph first appeared in county records in the area around the Philadelphia ports, where most Scots-Irish immigrants landed during the “Great Migration” from Ulster.

Joseph of Delaware arrived in the colonies first, roughly two decades earlier than Robert and Rebecca. He may be the Joseph Rankin who appeared as a “freeman” (unmarried and not a landowner) on a 1729 tax list in London Britain Township in Chester County, Pennsylvania. By 1731, he had acquired a tract on White Clay Creek in New Castle County, Delaware. Joseph had four sons proved by deeds (Joseph Jr., Thomas, William and John), two sons proved by circumstantial evidence (Robert and James), and a daughter Ann reportedly proved by a will. Joseph is buried at Head of Christiana Presbyterian Church in Newark, New Castle County. His 1764 tombstone still exists.

Based on known birth dates, Joseph’s children were born in Delaware. Two of his proved sons – John and William – moved to Guilford County, North Carolina. A descendant of each has YDNA tested and they are a good match.[4] Joseph’s wife was named Rebecca, although there is no known evidence of her maiden name. Nor is there any evidence of Joseph’s family of origin.

Robert and Rebecca’s family first appeared in the records in Chester County, Pennsylvania. Robert and George Rankin (either father/son or brothers) were on the 1753 tax list for West Nottingham Township in Chester. Robert and George received so-called “Nottingham Company” land grants in Guilford (then Rowan) County, North Carolina, near Greensboro. According to a grandson’s autobiography, they migrated to North Carolina in July 1755.

Robert and Rebecca’s children were almost certainly all adults when they arrived in Pennsylvania in 1750. Two sons, Robert and George, are proved. There is good circumstantial evidence in the Rowan and Guilford records for other children, including a son John and daughters Ann Rankin Denny (wife of William Sr.), Margaret Rankin Braly or Brawley (Thomas), and Rebecca Rankin Boyd (John).

David Rankin of Iredell County, North Carolina (died there in 1789) may also be a son of Robert and Rebecca. YDNA results establish that David and Robert were close genetic relatives, although there is apparently no conclusive paper proof of the family connection. David was probably either a son or nephew of Robert and Rebecca. Here is an article about David and Margaret’s son Robert.

Rankin Lineage 2

L2 is the largest group in the project. As of July 2019, there were 22 project participants whose YDNA places them in L2. The family lines represented in the lineage are diverse, although the YDNA results are not. The group members are fairly close matches, suggesting a common ancestor no earlier than 400-500 years ago, probably in Scotland. The immigrant ancestor of many of the L2 members first appeared in Pennsylvania or Virginia during the “Great Migration” of Scots-Irish from Ulster. From there, the L2 Rankins spread west into the Ohio Valley or south and southwest into Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee.

There are three Rankin lines in L2 which have at least four participants each. There are also a number of L2 participants who are “one of a kind,” meaning that each man’s last known Rankin ancestor is not (so far as is known) shared with another L2 member. Some members of L2 are “one of a kind” simply because they have provided no information about their Rankin family trees to project administrators, although they may well belong in one of the three known L2 families.

The L2 family lines are (1) John Rankin who died in 1749 in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania (Lineage 2A), (2) Samuel and Eleanor (“Ellen”) Alexander Rankin of Lincoln County, North Carolina (Lineage 2B), and (3)  two families – both David and Jenette McCormick Rankin of Frederick County, Virginia and William Rankin of Fayette County, Pennsylvania (Lineage 2C). Here is a little bit about each one …

Lineage 2A, John Rankin of Lancaster Co., PA (see articles here and  here).

This is the Rankin family memorialized on the famous tablet in the Mt. Horeb Cemetery in Jefferson County, Tennessee – descendants of John Rankin who died in 1749 in Lancaster Co., PA. His wife is traditionally identified as Mary McElwee, although John’s widow was named Margaret. John’s will named Margaret, two sons (Thomas and Richard), six daughters, and two sons-in-law.[5] All of the L2A members are descended from John’s son Thomas. He briefly appeared in the records of Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, moved to Augusta County, Virginia for a time, then migrated to east Tennessee. No member of the Rankin project self-identifies as a descendant of John’s son Richard, who moved from Pennsylvania to Augusta County and died there.

According to family tradition, the John who died in Lancaster in 1749 was a son of William Rankin and grandson of Alexander Rankin of the Scotland “Killing Times” and the 1689 Siege of Londonderry. Apparently, no one has found (or has publicly shared) any proof that John was a son of William, or that William was a son of Alexander. Records in Ireland are limited, however.

There are two project participants who are probable descendants of Adam Rankin of Lancaster County, whose wife was Mary Steele. Family oral traditions for both Adam and John (the common ancestor of the L2A participants) say that Adam and John were brothers. However, Adam’s probable descendants are not a YDNA match with John’s descendants, indicating that John and Adam were not genetically related through the male Rankin line. There are four or five articles about Adam’s line on this website, see, e.g., two articles here and here.

Lineage 2B: Samuel Rankin of Lincoln Co., NC

L2B is the line of Samuel and Eleanor (“Ellen”) Alexander Rankin of Rowan, Tryon, Mecklenburg, and Lincoln Counties, North Carolina. Several misconceptions  about Samuel and Eleanor persist online. One myth is that Samuel was a son of Robert and Rebecca Rankin of Guilford County (Lineage 1A). Another is that Samuel was a son of Joseph Rankin of Delaware (Lineage 1B). Both possibilities are disproved by YDNA. Some researchers also claim that Samuel and his wife were married in Pennsylvania, although Eleanor’s parents James and Ann Alexander  were in Anson/Rowan County by 1753 at the latest. Samuel and Eleanor were married about 1759, almost certainly in Rowan. There is no evidence of Samuel’s birthplace.

Samuel’s tombstone in the Goshen Presbyterian Cemetery in Belmont, NC no longer exists. A WPA cemetery survey taken in the 1930s transcribed his tombstone inscription to say that he was born in 1734 and died in 1816. His will was dated 1814, but wasn’t probated until 1826. His last appearance  in the Lincoln Co., NC records while he was still alive was in July 1816. He left most of his nine surviving children (his son Richard predeceased him) a token bequest, and devised the bulk of his estate to his son James.[6] Samuel and Eleanor’s children either remained in the Lincoln/Mecklenburg/Iredell area or moved to Arkansas, Tennessee, or Illinois. Here are articles about Samuel and Eleanor’s son Richard and their daughter Jean Rankin Hartgrove.

Lineage 2C

Based on descendant charts provided by participants, L2C has two family lines: (1) David Sr. and Jennett McCormick Rankin of Frederick County, Virginia and (2) William Rankin of Fayette County, Pennsylvania. There is no known common Rankin ancestor for the two lines.

David Sr.’s line is represented by three project participants. He left a Frederick County will naming his wife Jennett and children Hugh, William, David Jr. and Barbara.[7] Many online trees identify David Sr.’s wife as “Jennett Mildred,” although all of the Frederick County records identify Jennett without a middle name. Researchers asserting that Jennett had a middle name may have conflated David Sr.’s wife Jennett with an entirely different woman, a Mildred Rankin who was married to one of David Sr.’s grandsons — also named David.

David Jr. married Hannah Province or Provence, probably in Frederick County. They moved from Frederick to Washington County, Pennsylvania and then to Harrison County, Kentucky, where David Jr. died. His brother William and his wife Abigail also moved to Washington County. William died there in 1799. Both David Jr. and William left large families. Some of Hugh’s line probably moved to Kentucky and then to Ohio. Project administrators are looking for descendants of William and/or Hugh who might be willing to YDNA test.

The second family in L2C is the line of William Rankin of Fayette County, Pennsylvania. Many of his grandchildren moved “west,” some to Ohio. Many stayed in Fayette County for several generations. There is no evidence of his origin prior to the time that he began appearing in Fayette.

Rankin Lineage 3

The common ancestor of the four L3 participants is David Rankin Sr. who died in Greene County, Tennessee in 1802. His will identified seven children but not his wife, who evidently predeceased him. David Sr. was reportedly among the “Overmountain Men” who left what was then Washington County, Tennessee to fight in the Battle of King’s Mountain in South Carolina. That battle was a major defeat for the British in the Southern Campaign.

There is some disagreement among researchers about the identity of David Sr.’s wife or wives. His wife is usually identified as Margart Kerr, Anne Campbell, both, or neither, without a citation to any evidence. Another question is where David Sr. lived before coming to Greene County in 1783. It is possible that David Sr. of Greene is the same man as the David Rankin who received a 1771 land patent in Bedford County, Virginia, although that man was a Quaker. Other researchers believe that David Sr. was a son of the William Rankin who died in 1792 in Franklin County, Pennsylvania (wife Mary Huston). That possibility has been disproved by YDNA results.

Rankin researchers can take comfort in the fact that Flossie Cloyd, the premier Rankin researcher of the 20thcentury, was baffled by David Sr.’s ancestry. He may well be the immigrant ancestor in his line.

Whew! That’s more than enough for right now …

See you on down the road.

Robin

[1] For example, the Rankin project includes men whose surname at birth was Rankin but were adopted by a stepfather after the Rankin parents divorced.

[2] Jonathan Jeffrey at  the Department of Library Special Collections at the University of Western Kentucky sent to me a 22-page transcription  of the autobiography of Rev. John Rankin, a grandson of Robert and Rebecca. For the most part, it is a recount of his faith history. It has very little helpful genealogy.

[3] One history says that Joseph came from “Clyde Scotland,” presumably somewhere near the River Clyde. It also claims that Joseph’s children were born in Scotland, which is demonstrably incorrect. See Bill and Martha Reamy, Genealogical Abstracts from Biographical and Genealogical History of the State of Delaware(Westminster, MD: Willow Bend Books, 2001). The Findagrave website claims that he was born in “Ulster Ireland,” which is undoubtedly a good guess but is unsubstantiated.

[4] Only one of Joseph’s proved descendants is a member of the Rankin DNA Project. He has provided information to project administrators about his YDNA match to another proved descendant of Joseph.

[5] Lancaster Co., PA Will Book J: 211.

[6] Lincoln Co., NC Will Book 1: 37. Given the nature of Samuel’s will, there would have been no rush to submit it to probate.

[7] Frederick Co., VA Will Book 3: 443.

Do we exhume ancestors? A YDNA primer, with implications for the Mt. Horeb Rankins

My friend Tony Givens asked me how the heck I obtained the YDNA of my great-great-great-great grandfather Samuel Rankin, who I had identified as my ancestor via YDNA testing. Did we exhume his corpse, or what?

I was initially at a loss how to respond.

The short and almost correct answer is that I obtained Samuel’s YDNA by persuading my cousin Butch Rankin to take a YDNA test. However, I knew that wouldn’t suffice. Instead, I fell back on a standard cross-examination technique, asking leading questions to which I already knew the answer … hoping to answer Tony’s question without delivering an impenetrable lecture.

“So … tell me Tony, you know who your Givens grandfather is, don’t you?”

“Sure,” he said, “his name was David Givens.”

“OK,” said I, “you know the name of David’s father, right?”

“Yep! Harland Givens was my great-grandfather.”

“Well, Tony, if you swab your cheek today for a YDNA test, what would you have?”

Tony looked nonplussed. “A sample of my YDNA?”

“Yes, indeed. You would also have the YDNA of Harland Givens, give or take a few marker values.”

“Can’t be,” said Tony, “he’s been dead for a century.”

At that point, there was no alternative but to deliver a pseudo-scientific lecture about YDNA theory. A short summary follows. I am qualifying it as “pseudo”-scientific because I’m not a scientist and it’s easy to oversimplify these matters. Someone who actually knows something about this stuff may be compelled to post a corrective comment. Bobbi, I hope it will be you. Here goes …

I am female and don’t have a Y-chromosome. Instead, I have two X-chromosomes. Tony, a male, has one X-chromosome and one Y-chromosome. The X and Y are called the “sex chromosomes” because they determine gender.[1] Tony can only have inherited his Y-chromosome from his biological father, since his mother didn’t have one to pass on. Likewise, Tony’s father inherited his Y-chromosome from his father David, who inherited his Y-chromosome from his father Harland Givens, and so on, theoretically ad infinitum up the male Givens line. (This ignores a possible “non-paternal event,” see below).

Those inherited Givens Y-chromosomes could all be identical, in theory. Putting it another way, a male’s Y-chromosome is passed down unchanged from father to son for generation after generation — except for occasional random mutations. If there were no mutations, Tony’s Y-chromosome would be an exact copy of the Y-chromosome of all of his male Givens ancestors.

Thus, the almost correct answer to Tony’s original question was that I obtained my ancestor Samuel Rankin’s YDNA by getting my cousin Butch Rankin to YDNA test. That isn’t quite accurate because mutations have occurred in the intervening generations between Samuel and Butch. If there had been no mutations, then Butch’s Y-chromosome would exactly match his five-great-grandfather Samuel’s.

There is an occasional “oops” in this process, when a man’s Y-chromosome doesn’t match his apparent father’s. This is called a “non-paternal event,” and please don’t get me started on the weirdness of that label. For example, if a male child is adopted, the adopted son inherited his Y-chromosome from his biological father and wouldn’t match his adoptive father. Likewise, if Mrs. Givens were raped and bore a son as a result, the child’s Y-chromosome would be a copy of the rapist’s rather than Mr. Givens’. The same would be true if Mrs. Givens had a son as a result of an extramarital affair.

Except for such non-paternal events, the Y-chromosome follows the line of the male surname without change other than occasional random mutations. This simple fact has given rise to surname DNA projects, in which participants compare their YDNA to other men having the same surname. Women cannot YDNA test, since we have two X-chromosomes. Instead, we cajole our fathers, brothers, sons, uncles and male cousins into swabbing their cheeks for a YDNA test.

There is a potload more science about this, but I’m already in over my head. If you want to learn about STRs (“short tandem repeats”) or SNPs (“single nucleotide polymorphisms”), check out the FAQs at the Family Tree DNA website.  Better yet, go search Roberta Estes’s website, “DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy.” She does an excellent job of making the science comprehensible.

Let’s leave the science and turn to how YDNA testing can be helpful in family history research.

As one example, it can help an adopted son identify his birth father when all other avenues have failed. I have a friend with a remarkable story who has done exactly that.

For another example, let’s assume that six men having the surname Willis have done 67-marker YDNA tests and joined the Willis DNA project. They are all a very good genetic match, having only one mismatching marker out of 67 between any two of these six men.[2] FYI, the number of mismatched markers is referred to as “Genetic Distance,” so any two of them would be considered a “67-marker match, GD =1.”

Five of the men can trace their Willis ancestry with a high degree of confidence back to a John Willis who came to Maryland from the U.K. circa 1700. The sixth man cannot identify a Willis ancestor earlier than 1800. Fortunately, his extremely close genetic match to the other five men makes it a virtual certainty that they share a common ancestor fairly recently, three centuries being “fairly recent” in genetic time. He would be justified in concluding that he is also descended from John Willis of Maryland.

YDNA testing can also disprove relationships. That leads us to the famous Rankin legend inscribed on a bronze tablet in the Mt. Horeb Presbyterian Cemetery in Jefferson County, Tennessee. You can read the entire inscription concerning this interesting piece of family lore in this article.

The Mt. Horeb tablet says this, elided to focus on relevant information:

“William Rankin had … sons, Adam [and] John … Adam married Mary Steele …  John … had two sons, Thomas and Richard, and eight daughters.”

If you have read the Rankin articles on this blog, you know that an Adam Rankin of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania who died there in 1747 did, indeed, marry a Mary Steele. You also know that a John Rankin who died in Lancaster in 1749 left a will naming two sons, Thomas and Richard, and eight daughters.

In short, the Mt. Horeb tablet legend says that Adam Rankin (wife Mary Steele) and John Rankin (sons Richard and Thomas) of Lancaster were brothers.

Six descendants of the John Rankin who died in Lancaster in 1749 have YDNA tested and belong to the Rankin Family DNA Project. They are a close genetic match, and their ancestry “paper trails” are solid. All six are descended from John’s son Thomas.

The Rankin Project also has two participants who apparently descend from Adam Rankin and Mary Steele. They are a 67-marker match with a GD = 5, which is not a very close match. The odds are only slightly better than even that they share a common ancestor within the last eight generations. One man’s “paper trail” back to Adam and Mary Steele Rankin is good as gold. The other man’s chart has one weak link, although it is supported by convincing secondary and circumstantial evidence. It is possible (although unlikely, in my opinion) that these two men do not both descend from Adam and Mary, and, instead, their common ancestor is on the other side of the Atlantic.

In any event, the two men who probably do descend from Adam and Mary Steele Rankin are not a YDNA match to the six men who descend from John. A reasonable and perhaps inescapable conclusion, based solely on the available genetic evidence, is that John and Adam Rankin of Lancaster were not brothers. Perhaps, you may say, they had different mothers? It doesn’t matter from whom they inherited their X-chromosomes, though. We are dealing with Y-chromosomes here, and the YDNA of their descendants says that John and Adam did not have the same father.

This has implications further up the ancestral line. Both sets of descendants believe that Adam (or John) was a son of a William Rankin, and that William was a son of an Alexander Rankin. Based on the limited genetic evidence available, they cannot both be correct. Evidence in actual records about Adam or John’s parents would be wonderful, but I don’t know anyone who has found any.

Whatever is correct about William and Alexander, we need to find another descendant of Adam and Mary Steele Rankin to YDNA test and confirm the above conclusions. We also need to find a descendant of Richard, son of John, to confirm John’s line.

Is there anyone reading this who has a male Rankin relative who hasn’t tested? For heaven’s sake, woman, throw him down on the floor and swab his cheek! Even if he isn’t descended from Adam and Mary, or from John’s son Richard, the results of his test will almost certainly help him (and probably others) learn more about their Rankin family history.

Seriously. Whatever your surname may be, if you are interested in your family history, please  purchase a YDNA test (if you are a male) from Family Tree DNA. For the record, I’m not on the FTDNA payroll. It is the only firm offering YDNA tests. Start with a 37-marker test. If price isn’t a problem, do the 67-marker test. You can always upgrade to additional markers later without having to test again. If you have any reservations, contact me via a comment and let’s talk.

Meanwhile, I’ll be out there looking for another descendant of Adam and Mary … and a descendant of John’s son Richard …

See you on down the road.

Robin

[1] There is a spectrum of gender identity from male to female that involves questions beyond both the scope of this article and my expertise. I’m using “male” and “female” as though those are the only options, which is an oversimplification.

[2] A “marker” is a Short Tandem Repeat. I think. They are what get measured or counted or something in a YDNA test.

A little history: Jeanette and Edna Rankin

Robin Rankin Willis, June 2019

If you are a history buff, the National Museum of American History might be your cup of tea. It is part of the complex of Smithsonian museums on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., and it is a real treat to visit.

One of the wonderful exhibits currently on display there is titled  “American Stories.” It features an eclectic collection of artifacts from different eras in American history, beginning with the nation’s birth. Items on display include, e.g., a fragment of Plymouth Rock, Abraham Lincoln’s pocket watch, a sample of penicillin mold donated by Alexander Fleming, Willie Mays’s hat, glove and shoes, and the trophy awarded to Gertrude Ederle, the first woman to swim the English Channel. The exhibit has some humor: Sesame Street’s “Swedish Chef” muppet is one of the display items.

The exhibition also has roughly 200-250 copies of portraits, photos or drawings – perhaps 8”x 8” each? – of Americans displayed on the walls in chronological groupings. The people pictured include politicians, scientists, entertainers, soldiers, social activists, artists, athletes, and a sprinkling of ordinary folks. Some examples: Gen. Douglas MacArthur, Sojourner Truth, Albert Einstein, Babe Ruth, Charles Lindbergh, Thomas Jefferson, Andy Warhol, and an anonymous woman whose photograph became a powerful image of Depression-era Dust Bowl misery.

I was delighted to spot a photograph of a Rankin. A woman, no less: Jeanette Pickering Rankin, the first woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. Some of you might recoil at her politics, but still admire her courage and principles. Jeanette’s younger sister Edna was also a remarkable and accomplished person. Here, briefly, are their stories.

Jeanette Pickering Rankin (1880, Montana, – 1973, California)

Rankin was born on a Montana farm in 1880, the eldest of seven children of John and Olive Pickering Rankin. She received a B.S. in Biology in 1902 from the University of Montana, where she was undoubtedly the lone female in her science classes. After graduation, she worked briefly as a schoolteacher, apprentice seamstress, and at a settlement house providing social services to poor immigrants. In 1908-09, she studied social work at the School of Philanthropy (now part of Columbia University) in New York City.

She finally found her calling in 1911, when she became a lobbyist for the National American Suffrage Association. She took a leading role in the women’s suffrage movement in Montana, making speeches and testifying before the legislature. She must have had an impact. In 1914, Montana became one of ten states extending voting rights to women, six years before the 19th amendment was ratified.

In 1916, she was elected to an at-large seat in the U.S. House of Representatives from Montana. She was a Republican. As a freshman representative, she cast one of the two votes for which she is now primarily known. A determined pacifist, she was one of only 50 members of the House of Representatives to vote against entry into World War I. The reaction back in Montana was brutal. One newspaper called her “a dagger in the hands of the German propagandists, a dupe of the Kaiser, a member of the Hun army in the United States, and a crying schoolgirl.”[1]

In 1917, Congresswoman Rankin proposed the formation of a Committee on Woman Suffrage. Naturally, she became chair. In 1918 (after the WWI vote), she addressed the House about the Committee report supporting a constitutional amendment on women’s right to vote. Here is what she said, in part:

“How shall we answer the challenge, gentlemen? How shall we explain … the meaning of democracy if the same Congress that voted to make the world safe for democracy refuses to give this small measure of democracy to the women of our country?”

The resolution supporting the report narrowly passed in the House but died in the Senate.

Here is another picture of her which I imagine to be during that time, although I actually have NO basis for dating the image. She looks younger to me than in the first photograph. Strong woman. Gorgeous, IMO …

Congresswoman Rankin didn’t limit herself to the cause of suffrage. She also introduced the first bill to grant women citizenship independent of their husbands. She introduced the first bill supporting health care for women during pregnancy. According to her 1919 passport application, she took an overseas trip to France, England, Italy, Norway, Holland, Sweden and Switzerland as a newspaper correspondent. I don’t know what subjects her reportage covered, but it is a safe bet that they included feminist issues.

She also supported striking copper miners, an unpopular stance in pro-mining Montana. The state legislature responded by eliminating the at-large voting system for House seats and putting her in a heavily Democratic district. Realizing she had little chance at reelection to the House, she ran for the Senate. She narrowly lost in the Republican primary, despite being vilified in the press.

She spent the 1920s and 1930s working as a lobbyist for various social welfare and antiwar organizations. In the federal census, she described her occupations as “orator” (1920), “lobbyist” (1930) and “secretary, social work” (1940). In 1940, she ran again for a Montana House seat. She won with the support of Fiorello La Guardia and other nationally known progressives. She probably also had the support of Montana women who remembered her work getting them the right to vote.

Then came the House vote for which she is infamous. On December 8, 1941, she was the only member of  Congress to vote against a declaration of war with Japan. The verbal hostility directed at her during the roll call vote was so fierce that she was given a police escort back to her office. Of course, a less principled and courageous person might have skipped the vote entirely, knowing it was a hopeless cause.

Discretion being the better part of valor, she did not run for re-election.

She never abandoned  either her pacifism or her social activism. In 1968, at the age of 87, she led some 5,000 women who called themselves the “Jeannette Rankin Brigade” on a march to the U.S. capitol building, where they presented an anti-Vietnam War petition to the Speaker of the House. She also wrote letters and gave speeches against the war.

One of the display cases in the “American Stories” exhibition contains a number of political buttons from the sixties and seventies. She would undoubtedly have approved of all of them. They include, for example, buttons saying “Vietnam Moratorium,” “I support the American Agricultural Strike,” “We Shall Overcome,” and “Don’t call me GIRL, I am a WOMAN.” Another  button contains the language of the Equal Rights Amendment: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” If a young Jeanette’s voice had been part of the national dialog about that amendment, who knows? The outcome may have been different.

Now, on to her sister …

Edna Rankin McKinnon (1893, Montana – 1978, California)

Jeanette’s sister Edna was the the youngest of the Rankin siblings. Sorry about the blurry photo – it was the best I could find. She went to college at Wellesley, the University of Wisconsin, and the University of Montana, where she received her law degree in 1918. She became the first native-born Montana woman to be admitted to the Montana bar. Like her big sister, she supported equal rights for women, joining a suffrage parade down Pennsylvania Avenue when Woodrow Wilson was reelected in 1918.

In 1919, she married John W. McKinnon. A 1974 article about her published in the Clovis News-Journal said this:

“Edna Rankin McKinnon really had few ambitions: she was a delicately pretty and somewhat frivolous girl who felt that with her marriage to a wealthy young Harvard man she had found her place in life.”

Uh-huh. Edna’s marriage lasted eleven years, then she needed to support herself and her children. Jeanette helped her find a job with the Legal Division of the Resettlement Administration, a New Deal agency created by FDR. Soon after that, she attended a public lecture on birth control, and her vocation was born.

“‘I was electrified,’ she said. ‘My questions tumbled out faster than the speaker could answer them. I had never before heard the subject discussed … And I thought that if my own confusion and ignorance were multiplied millions of times, then the needs of the women of the world were staggering.’ “

She went to work for Margaret Sanger, a pioneer in the field of family planning who went to prison eight times for attempting to open birth control clinics. Yes, some state laws made that a crime: see Griswold v. Connecticut,[2] a 1965 Supreme Court case concerning a Connecticut law that criminalized the encouragement or use of birth control.

Here is some of Ms. McKinnon’s employment history:

  • Executive Director of the National Committee for Federal Legislation on Birth Control, a division of the Margaret Sanger Research Bureau
  • Field Worker for the Margaret Sanger Research Bureau in Montana, 1937
  • Executive Director, Planned Parenthood Association, Chicago
  • Field Worker, Pathfinder Fund, which supported family planning in this country and abroad, later supported by a grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Ms. McKinnon visited 32 states helping to establish family planning clinics. Between 1960 and 1966, she traveled to India, Africa, and the Middle East promoting family planning. After officially retiring in 1966, she took another round-the-world tour to continue crusading for family planning.[3]

Edna and Jeanette evidently spent their last years together. Both died in Carmel, Monterrey County, California. Both are buried in the Missoula Cemetery in Missoula County, Montana. You can see Jeanette’s tombstone  here and Edna’s tombstone here.

I have not attempted to trace their Rankin ancestry. The 1880 census says their father John was born in Canada and his parents were born in Scotland. There are no surviving Rankins descended from John, as his only son Wellington (yet another accomplished member of this family) died childless. If anyone in this country named Rankin is related to Jeanette and Edna, he or she must descend from an earlier branch of the Rankin family. One of these days, I will try to find a male descendant from that Scots-Canadian Rankin line who might be persuaded to Y-DNA test.

Meanwhile, other Rankins are tugging at my sleeve. See you on down the road.

Robin

Sources:

(1) https://www.history.com/news/7-things-you-may-not-know-about-jeannette-rankin

(2) Max Binheim and Charles A. Elvin, U.S. Women of the West (Los Angeles: Publishers Press, 1928), entry for Rankin, Jeannette.

(3) https://www.biography.com/political-figure/jeannette-rankin

(4) https://mtwomenlawyers.org/1910-1919/edna-rankin-mckinnon-18/

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[1] I have a hard time visualizing a crying schoolgirl who is a member of an army, but am not surprised that the sophomoric part of that invective was based on her gender.

[2] Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479 (1965). The Supreme Court in Griswold declared the Connecticut law an unconstitutional invasion of marital privacy. Eisenstadt v. Baird, 405 U.S. 438 (1972), established the right of unmarried people to possess contraception on the same basis as married couples.

[3] Edna Rankin McKinnon was the subject of a biography by Wilma Dykeman titled “Too Many People, Too Little Love” (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1974).

Coming attractions …

I told my husband today I must live at least another 20 years in order to complete my to-do list. A significant part of the list has to do with fun family history. Some of it, considerably less appealing, has to do with ridding our closets of a half-century of accumulated stuff. Since we are about to go on vacation – a time when to-do lists and closets are happily forgotten – I thought I might leave some promises in our wake. Perhaps someone will hold me to them.

So here is a list of coming attractions, i.e., posts I have already largely written in my head.

Burkes: it is high time for me to publish an article about Esom Logan Burke of Wilson County, Tennessee and his son William Logan Burke I, the McLennan County, Texas sheriff of the 1880s. William Logan Burke II, the Sheriff’s son, was a polo player, hunter, and well-known teller of tall tales like his great-grandfather John Burke, who died in 1842 in Jackson County, Tennessee. I also have articles about John Burke’s children which are already drafted but which are so boring I haven’t been able to convince myself to post them.

Rankins: in the “famous Rankins” category, an article about James Lee Rankin (1907 – 1996). He argued the amicus curiae brief as Assistant Attorney General in the so-called “segregation cases,” six cases consolidated before the Supreme Court in 1953. The Court rendered its decision in the familiar 1954 case styled Brown v. Board of Education. Atty. Gen. Rankin “argued forcefully for desegregation of the nation’s public schools.” He also represented the American Civil Liberties Union in advancing the landmark case Gideon v. Wainwright, which established the right of an indigent person accused of a crime to have legal counsel at public expense. He was a moderate Republican who managed the Eisenhower for President campaign in Nebraska. Wow. He descends from David and Jeanette (not Mildred) McCormick Rankin of Frederick Co., VA. There is one hinky spot in his lineage that I haven’t quite worked out, but there is no doubt of his immigrant ancestors. That family is Lineage 3 on the Rankin Family DNA Project. I really wish we were related.

… more famous Rankins: Jeanette Rankin and her sister Edna Rankin McKinnon. The Rankin sisters had a habit of being “first” at this and that, as well as being reformers in feminist causes such as suffrage and birth control. Jeanette was the first woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from Montana, in 1916 – before she was even eligible to vote for herself: women didn’t get the vote until 1920, when the 19th Amendment was ratified. Her sister Edna, an attorney, was the first native-born woman to be admitted to the Montana Bar, and was a birth control pioneer. Their Rankin grandfather was born in Scotland, and (so far as I know), no member of that Rankin family has Y-DNA tested and joined the Rankin DNA Project.

… Rev. John Rankin, the famous abolitionist of Ohio, who provided a major stop on the Underground Railroad. He belongs to what is called Rankin “Lineage 2A” in the Rankin family DNA project – namely, the Rankins of Jefferson County, Tennessee and the famous Mt. Horeb Presbyterian Church Cemetery bronze tablet. I am happy to claim Rev. John as a genetic relative. I disclaim the unproved parts of his lineage, which is anyone prior to John Rankin who died in 1749 in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. <grin>

Charts: I am working on charts of several families. First, Adam Rankin who died in 1747 in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, wife Mary Steele Alexander. I have posted articles about that line here, and  here, and  here, and also here.

Second, a chart for the line of David and Jeanette McCormick Rankin of Frederick County, Virginia. I have posted two articles about them, but both are subject to correction so I will eschew links.

Third, a chart for John and Elizabeth Graves Burke of Jackson County, Tennessee. All of the three Burke articles I have posted have been about that family. First, here, then here, and then here.

And that’s enough from me for now. I must go find my Astros t-shirt, because one stop on vacation is Yankee Stadium on Saturday, June 22, when the dreaded Yankees will take on the Houston Astros.

See you on down the road.

Robin

My Disreputable Ancestors

Please note: my friend and distant cousin John Alexander authored this article, notwithstanding that WordPress automatically attributed it to me. John has written a book about his Alexander family, see a book review  here.

His  website has a wealth of information, including the entire book as an HTML file with operable links. Check it out. Enjoy!

Robin

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 My Disreputable Ancestors, by John Alexander (Jun 13, 2019)

If genealogical researchers are ever satisfied that they have done enough digging and get around to writing their family histories, they often present their ancestors as model citizens who never strayed from the strait and narrow or, alternatively, as stick figures without personality. Although my wife assigns me to the second category by accusing my characters of being present only so they can take part in the begetting of future generations, I want to introduce you to three Alexanders, two of them named James, first cousins through fathers and through mothers, and show that these men had foibles just as we do today. One of the men, my great-great-great grandfather James, seems to have always used James C. when referring to himself, probably to avoid confusion with his cousin. However, when I began my research, I found that, in spite of this precaution, many genealogists had mixed up the identity of the two, sometimes making them one person. This tale also involves James C.’s son William.

Although I have never found him mentioned in histories of the region, the man known only as James was among the very first European settlers in western Tennessee, the area lying between the Tennessee River and the Mississippi River. He can be found on the 1820 federal census[1] where he and his brother William are listed near Amos Milligan (sometimes Milliken) and Adam Row (sometimes (Rowe). Milligan and Row, who, along with James House,[2] arrived in 1819, are credited as leading the way in settling Henry County, Tennessee. James and William were soon joined by other family members, including their parents and their cousin James C., although most of them probably arrived after formation of the county in 1821.

Religious meetings in early Henry County likely took place in the homes of settlers, but, in December 1828, as stated in the minutes of Antioch Primitive Baptist Church, James and his wife Hester (sometimes Esther) Siddall/Siddle joined six other people to found one of the first churches in the region. Although he was one of the founders, James was excluded from the church only a few years later, in May 1834, and the minutes of the church report dismissal from the church due to “reports unfavorable to Christian character, excluded for making too free with ardent spirits.”[3] Not too long afterward, James, Hester, and their family left Henry County to settle in western Missouri, where he may have found a new place of worship. Perhaps, he, William, and cousin James C. got together too often in Henry County as might be inferred from James C.’s and William’s episode, just below.

When James C. arrived in Henry County in the 1820s with wife Judith Siddle, son William, son John Priestly (my great-great grandfather), and other children, he appears to have been a man of means since he purchased property and posted money as bondsman for relatives’ legal transactions. However, by the late 1840s, his money was gone, and he and William owed many of their kinfolk and neighbors. I have not found any mention in records of the cause of their decline in fortune, but James C. and William were forced to mortgage their real and personal property and eventually sell it at public auction to satisfy claims against them.[4] Although they were not unique in losing all their money and becoming indebted, the interesting aspect of their situation is the listing of assets that were mortgaged and put on sale. There were the common-place items of “two feather beds and bed clothing, steads, & furniture, one claybank mare, one sorrel studcolt, one cow, & side saddle,” “one small bay horse, three yoke of oxen, one ox wagon,” and “one tract of land lying in the 13thcivil district in Henry County containing by estimation about eighty eight acres,” but, in William’s listing, was also “one still, one cap & worm, & twelve still tubs.” Someone’s love for that still must have prompted separate listing of each component. With twelve tubs to provide raw material for the distillation process, there may have been enough product for William, his father, and his cousin-uncle James all to indulge too freely in ardent spirits. That I sometimes don’t remember whether the still and equipment belonged to William or to James C. can perhaps be explained by my overindulging each time I opened the books on their situation.

Lest one believes from this look into their lives that this trio were extremely different from their neighbors, the reader should know that historians tell us that men and women of that time living in the still-frontier area of western Tennessee and Kentucky did more than a bit of drinking and that speculating in land was not uncommon. James, James C., and William merely had the misfortune to have their failures spelled out in public records for all to see.

The subjects of our story survived their troubles without any record of permanent harm and prospered in their new homes, Webster County, Missouri, for James, and Fayette County and Shelby County in Tennessee for James C. and William. James and James C. – and William – have numerous Alexander descendants living today and very likely have surviving non-Alexander descendants, although I have not attempted to trace non-Alexanders after a couple of generations. These descendants include some rather prominent citizens, and I apologize if any descendants are embarrassed by these revelations. Remember, one was my ancestor also, and I am not ashamed that he was human.

[1] 1820 U S Census, Stewart Co., Tennessee, p. 233.

[2] I have never been able to find James House listed on any early Stewart County or Henry County census.

[3] “Minutes of the Antioch Primitive Baptist Church,” transcribed and annotated by Johnny Walker. A copy is in the Inman Genealogical Room, Henry County (TN) Library.

[4] Registration of Deeds, Grants, in Henry County, 1847; reprinted on-line at https://johnandval.org/genealogy/AlexFamHist.html, Appendix I (upper-case I not  1).

 

Welcome home, sir, and thank you for your service

They weren’t given a welcome back then. About 2.7 million Americans – almost 10% of their generation – served in Vietnam. Fifty-eight thousand names are on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall.

This isn’t a political rant, though. It’s just a story.

One of the American survivors, an Air Force pilot, left Vietnam on the so-called “Freedom Bird” on July 4, 1970. He landed in San Francisco and flew from there to Chicago’s O’Hare Field for a morning flight to Oklahoma City. Lacking cash for a hotel room, he stretched out on a bench at O’Hare. He slept soundly until a janitor working in the area dropped a metal bucket on the floor with a loud crash. The pilot was underneath the bench before he was fully awake.

Anyone living in a forward operating location was attuned to the sound of incoming mortar rounds. Those reflexes were basic survival skills.

This particular pilot was a forward air controller (“FAC”) in Vietnam, flying a plane designated 0-1E by the Air Force. It is a high-wing, tail-dragging airplane, less than 26’ long, able to take off and land in less than 600’. Crew: one person, protected by an armored plate under the pilot’s seat. Armament: eight smoke rockets, four under each wing. The sight for aiming the smoke rockets? A grease pencil mark on the cockpit windscreen to mark the horizon in level flight, installed by each pilot to his individual specifications – a function of the pilot’s height.

Here are a couple of pictures of the plane, one in the air and one on the Bien Hoa flight line at sunset.

These particular planes and the pilots who flew them, plus the supporting ground and radio crews, were part of the “Red Marker” unit. Red Marker FACs flew in close air support of the Vietnamese Airborne Division, elite Vietnamese paratroopers who went wherever in the country they were needed — the hot spots.

The O-1E FACs flew at about 1,500’, directing air strikes and occasionally ground artillery fire. That means the FAC would locate a target, call in a flight of fighter aircraft, make a low pass to fire a smoke rocket to mark the target, then clear each fighter to bomb with the characteristic radio call, “you’re cleared in hot … hit my smoke!”

The Vietnamese Airborne called the FACs “angels in the air.”

The ground living quarters for FACs at forward location bases were well-fortified. Here is an example.

The Song Be residents did not lack for a sense of humor …

And the Red Markers did not lack for pride.

The pilot who returned to U.S. soil on July 4, 1970 wrote a book about the Red Markers. His radio call sign was “Red Marker 18.” He only included a couple of his own stories in the book, because he didn’t want it to be “a personal memoir.” The following is a small supplement.

The propeller story

A so-called “tail-dragging” airplane (see above photos) has its third gear under the tail, as opposed to a tricycle gear plane, which has its third gear under its nose. Consequently, when a tail-dragger is on the ground, the pilot’s line of sight is slightly elevated – he cannot see the ground immediately in front of him.

If a pilot was in a hurry to refuel, reload rockets, and turn around for the next mission, and had been flying 2 or 3 flights a day for some time and was exhausted, he might take a short cut through a small ditch running alongside the runway. If there happened to be a metal runway marker between the runway and the ditch, he wouldn’t have been able to see it. This might be the result to the runway marker and the propeller …

 

The night landing story

The longest day Red Marker 18 had was 11 hours flight time on three separate missions. Long days were common, especially during the Cambodian incursion. One evening, he didn’t get back to his home field until after dark. Runway lights in forward operating locations weren’t standard domestic airport issue. Instead, “runway lights” were what you would call smudge pots — bulbous metal pots with sand in the bottom, filled with diesel fuel and then lit. The duty for lighting the pots rotated among crews. It wasn’t, apparently, popular duty: it may have interfered with beer call.

Red Marker 18 returned to Phouc Vinh one night, low on fuel. The pots weren’t lit, and he didn’t have enough fuel to land at an alternate field. His Red Marker radio control was unable to round up a crew to light the pots, so he took his jeep to the beginning of the runway and parked there with his headlights on. (Not a small heroic feat itself.)

When the 0-1E passed over the jeep and flared for landing, the pilot couldn’t see the runway ahead in the dark. So the jeep chased the plane all the way down the runway, illuminating it for the airplane with its headlights.

The mountain landing story

The 0-1E’s smoke rockets weren’t “armed,” i.e., live, while the airplane was on the ground, for obvious reasons. Before a flight, a crew chief loaded each rocket into a firing tube, four under each wing. Each tube had a safety pin at the rear which prevented an electrical connection needed to fire the rocket. Each pin had a red ribbon attached. Before the FAC took off, the crew chief pulled the pins and handed the ribbons to the pilot through the plane’s window, assuring the pilot that his rockets were ready to fire.

Unfortunately, Red Marker 18 and his crew chief each apparently had a bad day at the same time. About halfway to a pre-designated target area, he realized that his smoke rockets were not armed. The pins were still in, red streamers flying in the breeze. He had three choices. He could return to base to remove the pins, although he would then miss a scheduled rendezvous with a flight of fighters. That would effectively cancel the mission. Alternatively, he could mark the target for the fighters by throwing smoke grenades out of the airplane’s window. (I am not making this up). Of course, the fighter pilots would see the red ribbons, and he would never hear the end of jokes at his expense. His third alternative was to salvage the mission (and his reputation) by doing something which, in retrospect, was really, really ill-advised.

He landed on an abandoned air strip on a mountaintop. In the middle of the jungle in Vietnam. In the middle of the jungle in Vietnam. Alone, for heaven’s sake. He got out of his plane to pull the pins, but did not turn the engine off for fear that it might not restart — possibly the only sensible thing he did that day. This created a problem, because the brakes didn’t prevent the plane from creeping forward. Red Marker 18 had to hold on to the plane while removing the pins on each side of the aircraft.

When Red Marker 18 returned from that day’s mission, he handed the ribbons to the crew chief. No words were exchanged.

There are many more stories, of course. Every person who served in Vietnam, or any other war, has stories to tell.

If you by any chance meet a grizzled old Vietnam vet, please extend your hand and offer the appropriate greeting: welcome home, sir, and thank you for your service.

Here is a picture of Red Marker 18 with his airplane. I am grateful to have him home every day.

Happy 52nd anniversary, June 7, 2019.

See you on down the road.

Robin

In memoriam … Capt. Samuel L. James, USAFA 1967; Lt. Thomas L. Lubbers; Lt. Kennard F. Svanoe, USAFA 1967; Capt. Douglass T. Wheless, USMA 1968.

How many Jeremiah Rankins WERE there near Greencastle, PA in the late 1700s?

The answer depends on who you ask. American Revolutionary Soldiers of Franklin County, Pennsylvania has one opinion.[1]  The Biographical Annals of Franklin County, Pennsylvania[2] and the History of Franklin County, Pennsylvania[3] share a second opinion. The latter two sources add an extra Jeremiah to the family tree of the Rankins of Lancaster, Cumberland, and Franklin Counties, Pennsylvania.

Let’s start with an inventory of the proved Jeremiah Rankins, then assemble them into a family chart for a bigger picture.

Jeremiah #1: the eldest of the lot. He was a son of the Adam Rankin who died in Lancaster in 1747 (“Adam d. 1747”) and his wife Mary Steele Alexander.[4] Jeremiah #1 died in 1760 near Greencastle, which was in Cumberland before Franklin County was created.[5] Jeremiah #1’s only appearance in county records that I have found was in his father Adam’s 1747 will.

Jeremiah #2: a son of Jeremiah #1 and a grandson of Adam d. 1747. He was born during 1756 through 1761.[6] He moved to Fayette County, Kentucky, where he died about 1804.[7]

Jeremiah #3: a proved son of James Sr. (who died in 1795 in Franklin) and Jean Rankin. James Sr. was a son of Adam d. 1747, so Jeremiah #3 was also Adam’s grandson.[8] Jeremiah #3 was probably born in the early 1750s, but definitely no later than 1755.[9] The identity of his children is the main issue in this article.

Jeremiah #4: a proved son of William (d. 1792, Franklin) and Mary Huston Rankin. Since William was a son of Adam d. 1747, Jeremiah #4 was also Adam’s grandson. Jeremiah #4 was born in 1783. He moved to Centre Co., PA, where he died in 1874 at age 90.[10]

Wildcard Jeremiah:  Annals and History add another Jeremiah, which place him as a son of Jeremiah #3. Annals and History also name three other sons of Jeremiah #3, although they disagree on one given name.

Here is an abbreviated outline family chart for the Lancaster, Cumberland, and Franklin County Rankins, including the above list of Jeremiahs.[11]

1 Adam Rankin, d. 1747, Lancaster Co., PA, wife Mary Steele Alexander, possibly wife #2.[12] Their four children (not in birth order):[13]

2 Esther Rankin m. Mr. Dunwoody.

Jeremiah #1 Rankin, d. near Greencastle, Cumberland Co., PA about 1760, wife Rhoda Craig.[14]

Jeremiah #2 Rankin, b. 1756-1761, Cumberland Co., PA, d. about 1804, Fayette Co., KY, wife Nancy.

3 Three other sons of Jeremiah #1 (Rev. Adam, Thomas, and William Rankin), all of whom went to Fayette or Woodford Co., KY.

2 James Rankin, d. 1795, Franklin Co., PA, wife Jean/Jane. Identified as a son in the will of Adam d. 1747.

Jeremiah #3 Rankin

4 Wildcard Jeremiah, added here by Annals and History.

4 Three other sons of Jeremiah #3. Annals identifies them as James, David and William; History identifies them as James, David and Archie.

3 Five other children of James and Jean. All six children are proved by James’ 1788 will.[15]

2 William Rankin d. 1792, Franklin Co., PA, wife Mary Huston. Identified as a son in the will of Adam d. 1747.

Jeremiah #4 Rankin, b. 1783, Franklin Co., PA, d. 1874, Centre Co., PA.

3 Seven other children of William and Mary, all proved by William’s 1792 will.[16]

OK, let’s see what Revolutionary Soldiers has to say about Jeremiah #3, son of James and Jean Rankin:[17]

 “Jeremiah Rankin, Ranger on the Frontier, served in 1778, under Capt. John McConnell and as Ensign, 1780-81, with Captain Wm Huston; a son of pioneer James Rankin of Montgomery Township. He mar. Mary, dau. of James Clark. His will was dated June 1803 and prob. August 1803, only son James Clark Rankin and three daus.: Nancy; Mariah; Esther. The widow Mary later married Charles Kilgore. James, Jeremiah, David and William Rankin were pewholders in the “Lower Conococheague” or Welsh Run Church.[18] Nancy Rankin mar. John Imbrie, Beaver Co., Penna., 10 children. Maria Rankin mar. Samuel Johnston, son of Thos. and Anne Houston Johnston. Esther Rankin mar. Alex. M. Johnston, son of Thos. and Anne Houston Johnston.”

The will of some Jeremiah Rankin was, in fact, dated and proved in 1803, and it did name his wife Mary and the four children listed above.[19] Both the Annals and History associate the 1803 will, wife Mary Clark, and those four children with Wildcard Jeremiah. Revolutionary Soldiers assigns that family to Jeremiah #3. Putting it another way, Revolutionary Soldiers concludes that the Jeremiah who died in 1803 was Jeremiah #3, a son of James d. 1795 and Jean. Annals and History claim that the Jeremiah who died in 1803 was Wildcard Jeremiah, a grandson of James and Jean.

Besides adding a new Jeremiah to the line, Annals throws in three other new Rankins, brothers of Wildcard Jeremiah and also allegedly sons of Jeremiah #3: David, James, and William. History does the same thing, but identifies the brothers of Wildcard Jeremiah as David, James and Archie.[20] History also adds this information: Jeremiah #3, son of James and Jean, “patented 800 acres … he divided his acreage into four farms, inherited by his four sons Jeremiah, David, James and Archie” (emphasis added).

The evidence relevant to this puzzle is not compelling on either side. I’m just going to throw it all out there and hope that someone will offer an opinion in a comment. Or, better yet, tell us about other evidence.

  • I cannot find an 800-acre patent by a Jeremiah Rankin in the Pennsylvania patent records. If one exists, it must have been in an area then considered part of Pennsylvania, perhaps West Virginia or Ohio. I cannot find such a patent in those places, either. I am clearly missing something: surely, History did not just imagine that patent. And the will of Jeremiah who died in 1803 did mention land in Ohio. Perhaps somebody can point me toward a good source …
  • History says the four sons of Jeremiah #3 inherited that 800-acre tract. I have found only one will and estate record for a Jeremiah Rankin in Franklin: the Jeremiah who died in 1803 and had only one son, James Clark Rankin. Thus, if four Rankin sons of a Jeremiah inherited 800 acres, it must have been through the law of intestate descent and distribution rather than a will. However, I can’t find any relevant estate records for a second Jeremiah, who would (according to Annals and History) be Jeremiah #3. If anyone knows anything about the estate of a Jeremiah who died intestate in Franklin, I’d love to hear about it.
  • I cannot find those four alleged sons of Jeremiah #3 in the Franklin records. There was only one Archibald (“Archie”) Rankin and he was easy to track. The sole man by that name in the county during the relevant time period was Archibald (1763-64 – 1845), a son of William and Mary Huston Rankin. If three brothers of Wildcard Jeremiah actually existed, they clearly got the heck out of Dodge early, without bothering to leave significant tracks in the records. All of the David, William, James, and Archibald Rankins who appear in the Franklin Co. records can reasonably be accounted for without any “extras” left over.
  • The family of James Sr. and Jean Rankin lived in the area that eventually became Montgomery Township, Franklin County. James Sr.’s sons William, James Jr. and Jeremiah started appearing on tax lists there in 1778. A wrinkle appeared in 1782, when a second Jeremiah showed up on the same tax list as James Sr. and family. The second Jeremiah is identified as a “freeman,” meaning he was 21 or over, not married, and owned no land. That freeman is obviously not Jeremiah #1 (who died about 1760), Jeremiah #3 (on the 1782 tax list as a landowner), or Jeremiah #4 (who wasn’t born until 1783). Perhaps Annals and History identified Jeremiah the freeman on the 1782 tax list as Wildcard Jeremiah, a son of Jeremiah #3?

That theory doesn’t work. Jeremiah the freeman was too old to have been a son of Jeremiah #3, who was almost certainly born in the early 1750s. Jeremiah, the freeman who first appeared on the 1782 tax list, was born by at least 1761, perhaps 1760.

It is possible that Jeremiah the freeman was Jeremiah #2, son of Jeremiah #1 and Rhoda Craig Rankin. The last appearance I can find in the Franklin records for Jeremiah the freeman is on the 1787 tax list. The first appearance I found for Jeremiah #2 in Fayette County, Kentucky was on the 1789 tax list (although I haven’t had access to Fayette deed records). In other words, the records leave open the possibility that freeman Jeremiah was the same man as Jeremiah #2.

  • The 1790 federal census for Franklin lists a Jeremy Rankin having three males who were 16 and over in his household. The 1800 census makes it clear that the head of household in the 1790 census must have been Jeremiah #3. In the 1800 census, the only Jeremiah was listed in the “over 45” age bracket, born by 1755. That must be Jeremiah #3, son of James and Jean, born during the early 1750s. The 1800 household also includes a male in the age 26 to 45 category, who might be a (highly speculative) Wildcard Jeremiah. The oldest female in the household was also 26 to 45, and there were two females less than 10. Those three females fit the profile for Nancy Rankin (widow of Jeremiah d. 1803) and her two eldest daughters, Nancy C. and Mariah, twins born in 1796. The household also includes a male less than ten who could be James Clark Rankin, whose hazy birth year was 1800 or 1801.

The short of it is that I just don’t rightly know which source is correct. I find myself agreeing with Revolutionary Soldiers for two reasons. First, it’s a pretty tight squeeze to add an extra generation of four sons between Jeremiah #3, who was born in the early 1750s and who was out soldiering on the frontier in 1780-1781, and the death of a Jeremiah with four children in 1803. It is certainly possible, although apparently requiring marriage at an earlier age than was typical of colonial men. Second, Revolutionary Soldiers, written by a woman in conjunction with the Chambersburg D.A.R., has more credible heft than either Annals or History, books churned out for profit for many counties in Pennsylvania, often by the same publishers.

If all else fails, go with a source you trust. I would delete Wildcard Jeremiah and his three alleged brothers from this Rankin family tree. That would make Jeremiah #3 the man who died in 1803, leaving a widow Nancy, three daughters, Nancy, Mariah and Esther, and a son, James Clark Rankin.

See you on down the road. Before I do, I hope one of you will uncover some evidence about those 800 acres. Also, the land located in Ohio when Jeremiah wrote his 1803 will.

Robin

[1] Virginia Shannon Fendrick, American Revolutionary Soldiers of Franklin County, Pennsylvania (Chambersburg, PA: Historical Works Committee of the Franklin County Chapter of the D.A.R., 1969) (copyright 1944), 180.

[2] Biographical Annals of Franklin County, Pennsylvania, Volume I (Chicago: The Genealogical Publishing Co., 1905), 126-28.

[3] S. P. Bates, History of Franklin County, Pennsylvania (Chicago: Warner, Beers & Company, 1887), 68.

[4] Lancaster Co., PA Will Book J: 208, will of Adam Rankin of Lancaster dated and proved in 1747. The will names sons James, William, and Jeremiah and daughter Esther Rankin Dunwoody. For evidence establishing that Adam Rankin’s wife was Mary Steele Alexander, see the text accompanying the footnotes and the citations in notes 5, 6, and 7 of  this article.

[5] Rev. Robert Davidson, History of the Presbyterian Church in the State of Kentucky (New York: R. Carter, 1847), cited in this post this post about Rev. Adam Rankin, a son of Jeremiah #1 and Rhoda. Rev. Davidson’s book is available online as a pdf  at this link.

[6] Jeremiah #2 of Fayette Co., KY had an older brother, Rev. Adam Rankin, who was born in 1755. See link to article in Note 5. The father of Jeremiah #2 and Rev. Adam — Jeremiah #1 — died in 1760. Id. Jeremiah #2 must therefore have been born during 1756 through 1761, inclusive.

[7] Jeremiah #2’s last appearance on the Fayette Co., KY tax lists was in 1803. He had definitely died by 1808, when his son Samuel was identified as a ward in a guardian’s bond.

[8] Franklin Co., PA Will Book A: 345, will of James Rankin dated 1788 and proved 1795. The will names his wife Jean, sons William, Jeremiah, James (Jr.), and David, and daughters Ruth Rankin Tool and Esther Rankin Smith.

[9] Jeremiah #3 was listed in the 1800 federal census for Franklin Co., PA in the over 45 age category, born by 1755.  Jeremiah’s elder brother William was probably born 1746-1750. On balance, a birth year of 1750-1755 is probably a reasonable estimate for Jeremiah #3.

[10] See Mary Belle Lontz, Tombstone Inscriptions of Centre County, Pennsylvania (1984) and Note 11 in  this article.

[11] This Rankin family all lived near Conococheague (or Conogocheague) Cr. in what is now Franklin Co. in southern Pennsylvania, near Greencastle. As nearly as I can tell from the land and tax records, the Rankins stayed in basically the same geographic location for several generations. The jurisdictions in which they resided just changed as new counties and townships were created.

[12] See Note 4.

[13] Adam’s 1747 will named three sons James, William, and Jeremiah Rankin,and a daughter, Esther Rankin Dunwoody. That is likely the correct birth order for the sons.  I don’t know about Esther. Lancaster Co., PA Will Book J: 208.

[14] So far as I know, the only evidence regarding Jeremiah’s #1’s family is oral tradition contained in an 1854 letter and a book about Kentucky Presbyterians, see Note 5. The letter identifies the children of Jeremiah #1 and Rhoda Craig Rankin as (1) Rev. Adam Rankin of Lexington, Fayette Co., KY (the Psalmody fanatic, see Note 5), 1755 – 1827, wife Martha McPheeters, (2) William Rankin, b. 1757, d. 1797 or 1798, Woodford Co., KY, (3) Thomas Rankin, d. Woodford Co., 1808, wife Mary “Polly” Young, and (4) Jeremiah #2 Rankin, d. 1804, Fayette Co., KY. See a transcription of the letter  online here.

[15] See note 8.

[16] Franklin Co., PA Will Book A: 256, will of William Rankin, dated and proved in 1792. I wrote about William and Mary Huston Rankin’s family in this post. Their children were: (1) Dr. Adam Rankin, b. Cumberland, PA b. 1760- 63, d. 1820-30. Went to Henderson Co., KY and married three times. (2) Archibald Rankin, b. 1763-64, d. 1845, Franklin Co., wife Agnes Long. (3) James Rankin, b. 1767-68, d. after 1820. Went to Centre Co., PA. (4) William Rankin, 1770- 1847. Went to Centre Co., PA. Married #1 Abigail McGinley and #2 Susannah Huston. (5) Betsy Rankin, b. abt. 1773. (6) David Rankin, b. 1776-77, d. 1853, Des Moines Co. Wife Frances Campbell. (7) John Rankin, b. 1778-79, d. 1848. Went to Centre Co., PA, married Isabell Dundass. (8) Jeremiah Rankin, 1783 – 1874, moved to Centre Co. Wife Sarah Whitehill.

[17] See Note 1.

[18] The Welsh Run Church is about 4.2 miles southwest of Mercersburg in Montgomery Township, where the family of James and Jean Rankin lived and owned land. Conococheague Cr. crosses PA Highway 995 about a mile NE of Welsh Run. The pewholders named in Revolutionary Soldiers should all be from the line of James d. 1795 and his wife Jean, and are almost certainly their four proved sons. The Presbyterian Church of the Upper West Conococheague, attended by some of the family of William and Mary Huston Rankin, is located in Mercersburg.

[19] Franklin Co., PA Will Book B: 167, will of Jeremiah Rankin of Montgomery Twp. dated 13 Jun 1803 proved 1 Aug 1803. Wife Mary, four minor children, all less than 18: James Clark Rankin, only son; daughters Nancy Rankin, Mariah Rankin and Esther Rankin. Mentions land in Ohio. Executors wife, brother James Rankin, brother-in-law James Clark, brother-in-law David Humphreys.Witnesses John McFarland, David Rankin, John Rankin. Nancy and Mariah were twins, born in 1796. James Clark Rankin was b. 1800-01. Esther was b. 1802.

[20] See Note 3.

WILLIS or WILLEY – A Critical Misread

Occasionally, we each run into difficulty interpreting handwriting in old documents. It comes with the territory. Modern genealogists are not the only ones affected by the problem. Decades ago, clerks who hand copied original documents ran into the same issue. Worse, publishers then printed typeset versions of those recopied texts (or abstracts of them). Once a misinterpreted word gets into print, it becomes accepted wisdom and resistant to change.

The situation is particularly vexing when the misinterpreted word is a person’s name. Willis and Willey provide a good example. Families of each surname lived close to each other in early Dorchester County, Maryland. The handwritten name Willis in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries often ended with a downward swooping tail on the “s,” which made it look like a “y.” [1]

The following illustrates the script anomaly. Parties to legal documents of the era often took an oath on the “Holy Evangels of Almighty God,” meaning the Christian Gospels. Here is the way that phrase appears in a Dorchester County Will Book:

 

There is no discernable difference in the “y” at the end of the words Holy and Almighty and what is supposed to be an “s” at the end of Evangels. The scribe who recopied this deed into a nicely readable volume misread a long-tailed “s” in the original, writing it as a “y.”

No harm done. We know there is no such word as “Evangely,” so we can just move on … maybe tsk, tsk-ing under our breath. But what of the poor Willis and Willey families? A similar misread could easily convert a Willis into a Willey, or vice versa. In fact, an authoritative source of marriages in early Maryland states that Francis Insley married Keziah Willey on 27 Oct 1785 in Dorchester County.[2] However, a land sale by that couple twenty years later provides evidence that the bride’s name was actually Keziah Willis, not Willey.

In 1805, the Insleys’s sold 60 acres of land called “Addition to Adventure.”[3] The Willis family had owned that parcel for four decades, dating back to Richard Willis’s purchase in 1764.[4] The 1805 Insley deed recites that Benedict Meekins and his wife Mary [nee Willis] had sold the land to Andrew Willis, who devised it to his son Andrew. The deed does not state how Francis Insley and his wife Keziah got title to the land from the younger Andrew, and there are no other deeds that explain their ownership.

Explaining the Insley’s ownership is simple, however, if Keziah’s maiden name were Willis rather than Willey. Keziah was one of four children of the elder Andrew Willis and his wife Sarah.[5] The elder Andrew willed the land to his son Andrew, Jr. The younger Andrew subsequently died without a will and without children some time after 1796. His estate therefore passed to his heirs as defined under the Maryland laws of intestate descent and distribution, i.e., his siblings and the children of any already deceased siblings.

Keziah Willis Insley and her husband possessed the land in 1805 because she was Andrew’s only surviving sibling, and her brother George and sister Mary had each died without surviving children. Dorchester records make no mention in the relevant time frame of either George or Mary — no marriage, deed, death, or migration information. Their absence from the record supports the theory that they both died young and without issue.

The circumstantial evidence is sufficient to conclude that 1) a transcriber erroneously interpreted Keziah’s last name in the marriage record, 2) that Francis Insley married Keziah Willis in 1785, and 3) she was a party to the sale of Willis family land twenty years later.

The critical misinterpretation of Keziah Willis’s name will never be corrected in most published sources, but some of us will know the truth.

 

[1]Lower case “i” and “e” are also hard to distinguish.

[2]Palmer, Katherine H., Dorchester County, Maryland: Marriage License Records, 1780-1855, 1960.

[3]McAllister, James A., Jr., Abstracts from the Land Records of Dorchester County, Maryland, Volume 42 (Liber HD No. 21), Cambridge, Maryland, 21 HD 569

[4]McAllister, Abstracts, Volume 15 (Liber Old No. 19), Cambridge, Maryland, 1964, 19 Old 163

[5]Old Trinity Church records show that the elder Andrew Willis and his wife Sarah baptized three children — Andrew, Keziah, and George — between 1768 and 1775. The couple also had a fourth child, Mary.