Find-a-Grave struck again, although I was minding my own business

One of my favorite Rankin researchers sent a Christmas Eve email that began, “I was minding my own business, when …”

I was grinning by then because I knew in my bones that what followed would be some variation of “genealogy intervened.” Indeed, it was. Since you are reading this family history article, you probably also saw it coming.

Another friend zapped me when I was otherwise occupied by sending a link to a Find-a-Grave site for a cemetery in Elizabeth Township, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. One of the graves purports to be that of a man who almost certainly never set foot — much less an entire corpse — in Allegheny County.

I will proceed gingerly. The last time I did anything concerning Find-a-Grave, I received an email from an angry man in a western state awash with militia. His last email said he would keep me apprised of his “confirmed kills” in the “impending civil war.”[1]

The recently received Find-a-Grave entry is allegedly the grave of the William Rankin who died in Franklin County, Pennsylvania in 1792, son of Adam and Mary Steele Alexander Rankin. William’s wife was Mary Huston Rankin, named as a beneficiary in William’s 1792 will. According to the Find-a-Grave poster, Mary died in 1790, two years earlier.

These claims raise interesting questions. Why would a man who died in Franklin County be buried in a town 150 miles away?[2] And why would he have made his wife a beneficiary of his 1792 will if she had already died in 1790?

Someone out there must have answers to these questions, because the Find-a-Grave site for Round Hill Cemetery in Allegheny County says this unusual couple is buried there.  Here is a link to a picture of William Rankin’s tombstone (there is no image for Mary’s).[3] Please ignore the text on that entry for the time being because it is rife with errors … and please keep reading.

The tombstone is difficult to read. Other than the boilerplate “DIED” and “in the ____ year of his age,” the clearest information is the name “William Rankin.” There is no middle name. His date of death looks like 18___. It appears to be 1812 or 1813 in a sharpened and printed image. If that is correct, this is surely not the tombstone of a man who died near Greencastle in 1792, unless the trip to Elizabeth, Allegheny County, took waaaaay longer than one would expect.

There is an intestate estate for a William Rankin in Elizabeth Township, Allegheny County about that time. The Allegheny Probate Proceedings Index gives the date of his Inventory and Appraisement as 1813.[4] Because the I&A is customarily done soon after an estate is submitted to probate, that establishes that a William Rankin of Allegheny County died in 1812 or 1813.

More evidence lies in the cemetery (no pun intended). The DAR did a survey of tombstones at Round Hill Presbyterian Church near Elizabeth in the summer of 1940. The DAR listed a tombstone for “Rankin, William, d. Feb. 11, 1813, aged 69 years.” We can reasonably conclude that was the same William Rankin whose inventory was taken in 1813. The DAR also lists “Rankin, Mary wife of William d. July 22, 1808 in 62nd year.” Mary definitely died before her husband, which makes it unlikely that this couple could have been William and Mary Huston Rankin of Franklin County.

William’s tombstone itself provides additional evidence. The marker is an unadorned rectangular solid with an inscription in this format:

NAME

DIED

Month, day, year

    in the ___ year of his age

There are two other extant Rankin tombstones in Round Hill cemetery with the identical unadorned shape, format, and “typeface.” One is for Andrew Rankin and another is for Mary Rankin. It appears from the hard-to-read inscriptions that both died in the 1790s. The 1940 DAR survey says that Andrew died in 1794 at age two, and that Mary died in 1795 at age 14. Find-a-Grave claims that both were children of “William and Mary Rankin.” Given the remarkably similar tombstones for William, Andrew, and young Mary, the three were clearly family.

That brings us to the family Bible of William and Mary Huston Rankin of Franklin County.[5] It identifies their children and their dates of birth as follows. Information other than names and dates is from my research, not the Bible. 

    • Adam Rankin, b. 10 Nov 1762. He was a physician. He went to Henderson Co., KY, married three times, and had many children. See more about him in the footnote links.[6]
    • Archibald Rankin, b. 10 Apr 1764. Archibald stayed in Franklin County until he died. His wife was Agnes Long.[7]
    • James Rankin, b. 20 Apr 1766. He went to Centre County, PA with his brothers William, John, and Jeremiah. All four of them inherited land there. For more information about them, see the article at the link in this footnote.[8]
    • William Rankin, b. 5 Nov? 1770. He also went to Centre County with three of his brothers. He married #1 Abigail McGinley, #2 Susannah (probably Huston).[9]
    • Betsy Rankin, b. 13 Oct 1774. No further record.
    • David Rankin, b. 5 Feb 1777. His wife was Frances Campbell, daughter of Dougal Campbell. David and his family migrated to Des Moines, Iowa. See more information about them at the link in this footnote.[10]
    • John Rankin, b. 1 May 1779. He went to Centre County with James, William, and Jeremiah.
    • Jeremiah Rankin, b. 26 Nov 1783. He also went to Centre County.

William’s family Bible records the birth of neither a son Andrew nor a daughter Mary. William named each of the above children, and his wife Mary, in his 1792 will.[11] The Andrew who died in 1794 and young Mary who died in 1795, both buried in Round Hill Cemetery in Allegheny County, were not the children of the William who wrote his will in 1792. According to the family Bible, William died on October 25, 1792.

Unfortunately, all of the information about William at the Find-a-Grave link is unsourced. That is normal. Much of it is clearly erroneous. You’ve got to laugh, and then try to guess how the Find-a-Grave poster strayed so far from the facts. A reasonable guess is “same name confusion” between two of the numerous William Rankins in Pennsylvania in the 18th century. That’s a common and understandable error.

Here is what Find-a-Grave says about William, shown in italics. My comments are in normal typeface. If anyone has evidence supporting the Find-a-Grave claims, please share it.

Birth 1713. There is no evidence for an exact birth year that I have found for William Rankin, son of Adam, husband of Mary Huston. William’s first appearance in the records seems to have been a 1749 warrant for a tract in Antrim Township, Franklin Co.[12] That doesn’t provide much of a clue.

 County Antrim, Northern Ireland. There is no evidence for William’s exact place of birth. If Mary Steele Alexander Rankin was his mother, he must have been born in the colonies because Adam and Mary married there.[13]  

Death 30 Nov 1792 (age 78 -79). That is the date William’s will was proved in Franklin County. The odds that someone’s will was presented in court the exact day he or she died are virtually nil. The family Bible says that the William whose wife was Mary Huston died on Oct. 25, 1792. Submitting a will to probate about four weeks after the testator died falls within a normal range.

Franklin County, PA. That is surely correct. William, son of Adam and husband of Mary Huston, lived and owned land in Franklin, and his will was probated there.

 Burial Round Hill Cemetery, Elizabeth, Allegheny Co.” Well. Some William Rankin who died in 1812-13 is buried in Round Hill Cemetery. I will bet a huge pile of genealogical chips that it is not William Rankin, son of Adam and husband of Mary Houston Rankin. In fact, I would place real money on that wager.

Continuing with Find-a-Grave information:

“William Steele Rankin was born in 1713 in County Antrium (sic) in the Northeast part of Northern Ireland. He was the son of Adam Rankin, born 16 Jul 1688 in Stenhousemuir, Stirlingshire, Scotland and died 4 May 1747 in Lancaster Co., PA and his wife Mary Steele, born about 1692 in Lancaster, Lancaster Co., PA and died 21 Sep 1747 in Somerset Co., PA.”

Let’s take this one alleged fact at a time.

… there is no evidence in a county or Bible record, or county history books, that William Rankin, son of Adam, ever used a middle initial — much less a middle name. It would have been highly unusual for a man born in the early 18th century to have a middle name. They didn’t come into common usage until the 19th century. Even George Washington and Thomas Jefferson had no middle name, for pete’s sake.

… If William were in fact a son of Adam and Mary Steele Alexander Rankin, he was undoubtedly born in what is now Pennsylvania. Adam and Mary married in the colonies sometime between August 1718 and Sept 1724.[14] On the other hand, if William were a son of Adam and a wife prior to Mary Steele, it is possible that he was born in what was then the Province of Ulster in the northernmost part of Ireland. There was no such country as “Northern Ireland” until May 1921.

… there seems to be no evidence for either Adam Rankin’s birth date or place. If family oral history about their migration and birth year are correct, he was probably born in Scotland. We would all dearly love to see evidence of a precise date and/or location. For a discussion of what is and is not evidence, see the article at the link in this footnote.[15]

… Adam’s will was dated 4 May 1747 and proved 21 Sep 1747 in Lancaster County. The odds that he wrote his will the day he died are almost zero, particularly since the will wasn’t presented for probate until September. The only thing the probate records prove is that Adam died sometime between 4 May 1747, when he wrote his will, and 21 Sep 1747, when it was submitted to the court.

… Adam’s wife was definitely Mary Steele Alexander, widow of James Alexander. If anyone has any evidence for her dates or places of birth and death, I hope you will share.

Whew! Here’s hoping you are now convinced that the Find-a-Grave poster erred when he or she identified the William Rankin buried in Round Hill Presbyterian Cemetery as William (wife Mary Huston Rankin), a son of Adam and Mary Steele Alexander.

But that raises the obvious question: who the heck are the William and Mary Rankin buried in Round Hill Cemetery? Jess Guyer and I have concluded they are William and Mary Stewart Rankin, who were married in Franklin Co., PA on 28 Feb 1774.[16] A follow-up article on that family will follow. Eventually.

See you on down the road.Robin

[1] See an article about it at this link.

[2] The Franklin County Rankins lived on Conococheague Creek near Greencastle, Franklin Co., PA. The distance from Greencastle to Elizabeth, Allegheny Co. by the fastest current route is about 150 miles.

[3] Here is an image of the tombstone.

[4] Allegheny County, PA Probate Records, 1683-1994, Proceedings Index 1778-1971, Vol. 30, page 305, Block 5. It notes an Inventory and Appraisement, estate of William Rankin, dec’d, in 1813. FamilySearch.org Film No. 877053, Image No. 775, Block 5.

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

[6] Here is the first article and here is a second.

[7] Records of the Upper West Conocochegue Presbyterian Church show Archibald Rankin’s marriage to Agnes Long on 9 March 1790 and his death on 24 Jun 1845 at age 81.

[8] Here is an article about the children of William and Mary Huston Rankin.

[9] Id.

[10] An article about the two David Rankins is here.

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

[12] Land Warrants for Lancaster County, PA are online  here. See page 183.

[13] The country of Northern Ireland wasn’t established until May 1921. See an article about Scots-Irish history here. The Find-a-Grave poster probably meant what was then called the Province of Ulster in the northernmost part of Ireland. For the marriage of Adam and Mary Steele, widow of James Alexander, see the next footnote.

[14] For conclusive proof, see the citations in Notes 4 through 7 and the accompanying main text in this article. My gratitude again to Floyd Owsley.

[15] Re: genealogical proof.

[16] Records of the Upper West Conococheague Presbyterian Church, Franklin Co., PA.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here ‘tis. It includes (1) a very brief chart, (2) the misinformation in the Archives, (3) the bottom line, (4) the argument supporting the bottom line, and (5) some additional information about this family just for fun – including the only photo I could find of a descendant. What’s not to like about a handsome man in a old-timey baseball uniform?

(1) A brief Rankin family chart

Let’s start with a short outline descendant chart to put the two Davids in their family context.

1 Adam Rankin was the immigrant ancestor in this Rankin line. The two David Rankins who are the subject of this article were his grandsons. Adam’s wife was Mary Steele Alexander, widow of James Alexander.[1] Adam’s 1747 Lancaster County, Pennsylvania will named his sons James, William, and Jeremiah, and a daughter, Esther Rankin Dunwoody.[2] This article deals with only James and William – fathers of the two Davids.

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

2 William Rankin, son of Adam, died in 1792 in Antrim Township, Franklin County.[4] His wife was Mary Huston, daughter of Archibald and Agnes Houston.[5] William named seven sons and one daughter in his will: Adam, Archibald, James, William, Betsy, David #2, John, and Jeremiah.

I will refer to these two David Rankins by numberbecause it helps me keep them straight. David #1was a son of James d. 1795, Montgomery Township; David #2 was a son of William d. 1792, Antrim Township.

(2) What the Pennsylvania Archives got wrong

Here’s the bad information the Archives provides about one of the two David Rankins. Only the boldface text is wrong; the rest is correct.

 “David Rankin is shown in 1780, as a private under Captain William Smith. The will of David Rankin of Montgomery Twp., was dated 1829 and prob. 1833. He names wife Molly and two children, James and Betsy. To Mary Elizabeth Sellers, only child of daughter Molly, who had married Alexander Sellars, Oct, 7th 1824.  Miss Molly L. McFarland of Mercersburg stated the above David was the son of William Rankin of Antrim Township who died 1792.”[6]

(3) The bottom line

No, the David Rankin whose will was proved in 1833 was not David #2, son of William Rankin of Antrim Township. With all due respect to Miss Molly L. McFarland, the man the Archives describes was David #1, son of James and Jean Rankin of Montgomery Township.

Here are the key factors for telling the two Davids apart: age, wife’s identity, and – the pièce de résistance– location.

(4) The argument

Age. Although the law or custom varied from time to time, men were typically required to serve in the militia beginning at age sixteen. Sometimes boys served as early as 13.[7] Thus, the David Rankin who was a private in 1780 was probably born by 1764 and definitely no later than 1767. According to county tax lists, David #1, son of James and Jean Rankin, was born no later than 1767-68.[8]

On the other hand, the family Bible in Flossie Cloyd’s material establishes that David #2 was born in 1777. He was definitely not the man who was a militia private in 1780. Strike 1, Archives.

FYI, here is information from the family Bible listing the birth dates of all eight children of William and Mary Huston Rankin. In case you wish to track any of them, I’ve added enough information to tell you where to look.

  1. Adam Rankin, born March? 10, 1762. Adam first appeared on the Franklin Co. tax list in 1782, identified as a doctor. He inherited land in Westmoreland County that his brother Archibald sold for him.[9] Adam moved to Henderson County, KY, married three times, and had a large family. He was the grandfather of Confederate Brigadier General Adam “Stovepipe” Johnson[10] and the ancestor of a Rankin who is (or was, at one time) the chairman of the board of Churchill Downs.[11]
  2. Archibald Rankin, born April 10, 1764, married Agnes (“Nancy”) Long. He remained in Franklin County his entire life. Records from the Upper West Conococheague Presbyterian Church record his death on June 24, 1845 at age 81.
  1. James Rankin was born April 20, 1766. He moved to Centre County along with his brothers William, John, and Jeremiah. He may have died between 1820 and 1830. I’ve found no evidence establishing his children or his wife’s identity.
  1. William Rankin (Jr.) was born Nov. 5, 1770. He moved to Centre County, married Abigail McGinley and then Susannah, possibly Huston. He died in Centre County.[12]
  1. Betsy Rankin was born Oct. 13, 1774.
  1. David #2 Rankin, one of the subjects of this article, was born Feb. 5, 1777.
  1. John Rankin was born May 1, 1778 and died Apr. 22, 1848.[13] He moved to Centre County with his three brothers, married Isabella Dundas in 1804, and died in Centre County.[14]
  2. Jeremiah Rankin, born Nov. 26, 1783, married Sarah Whitehill. The date is confirmed on his tombstone in Centre County, PA.[15]

Wife’s identity. Based on his will, the wife of the David Rankin who died in 1833 was named Molly, maiden name unproved. I have found no deeds or other records identifying the wife of David #1. We have better luck with David #2. Deeds conclusively establish that he was married to Frances (“Fanny”) Campbell, daughter of Dougal (Dongal/Dugald/Dugal) Campbell.[16] In case there is any lingering doubt, the Rankin family Bible transcript Ron Rankin provided says that Frances Campbell and David #2 were married on June 13, 1799.  In short, Molly’s husband was David #1. Strike 2, Archives.

Location is a great tool for establishing family connections. An 1818 Franklin deed from James Rankin (brother of David #1) to Jacob Kline conveyed a tract in Montgomery Township. Part of the tract was devised in 1788 by James Rankin Sr. to his son James Rankin (Jr.), the grantor in the 1818 deed – so we are certain that the deed deals with the line of James Rankin Sr.[17] The conveyed tract was adjacent to David #1. The deed thus proves that David #1 owned a tract adjacent to Jacob Kline in Montgomery Township at some point. And …

    • In the 1830 federal census for Montgomery Township (three years before David #1 died), David Rankin was listed adjacent Jacob Kline, grantee in the above deed.[18] He was the only David Rankin listed in Montgomery in the 1830 census. His census profile “fit” the family of the David Rankin who died in 1833.
    • David Rankin’s 1829 will, proved in 1833, referenced his Montgomery Township tract adjacent Jacob Kline.

Bottom line: the David Rankin who died in 1833 was David #1, son of James Sr. and Jean Rankin, and not David #2, son of William and Mary Huston Rankin.

(5) A few more facts

Some genealogists believe that David #2 went to Greene County, Tennessee.[19] Not so. Instead, he and his family went from Franklin to Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, then to Allen County, Indiana, and finally to Des Moines County, Iowa. David died there. His wife Frances apparently died before they reached Iowa.[20]

While he lived in Franklin, David #2 attended the Presbyterian Church of the Upper West Conococheague,”[21] as did his brother Archibald.[22] On the other hand, David #1 and his brothers were pew holders in the Welsh Run Presbyterian Church, also known as the “Lower Conococheague” Church.[23]

The Upper West church kept baptism records, although they are evidently incomplete.[24] The four youngest children of David #2 are listed: Frances Rankin (baptized 9 May 1814), David Huston Rankin (28 Apr 1817), Archibald Rankin (10 Oct 1819), and Adam John Rankin (13 Feb 1822). In light of David #2’s entry in the 1820 census (seven children in the household), you would expect other children. [25]  Indeed, the family Bible, Westmoreland County deeds, and other records prove nine children:

  • Elizabeth (Betsy) Rankin, b. 3 Feb 1803, never married.
  • Martha C. Rankin, b. 22 Nov 1805, married Mr. Sweeney.
  • William Rankin, b. 6 Jan 1807, married Martha Jane Gray.
  • Mary C. or H. or E. Rankin, b. 6 Feb 1809, married James Bruce.
  • Dougal C. Rankin, b. 10 Apr 1811, married Mary Johnson.
  • Francis Rankin, b. 1 Jan 1814, married James Waddle.
  • David Huston Rankin, b. 14 Mar 1817, married Mary A. Oliver.
  • Archibald Rankin b. 1 Aug 1819, married Lydia Blair.
  • Adam John Rankin, b. 29 Dec 1821, apparently never married.

David #2 and his family left Franklin between 1827 and 1830.[26] They are listed in Westmoreland County in the 1830 census and in Iowa Territory in 1840.[27] The 1850 census in Des Moines County shows David as age 73, born in Pennsylvania.[28] He is buried in the Round Prairie Cemetery in Des Moines County.[29] Adam John Rankin and Dougal/Dugal Campbell Rankin are also buried in the Round Prairie Cemetery. Archibald Rankin is buried in the Kossuth Cemetery, also located in Des Moines County.

The family Bible also names the children of Archibald Rankin and Lydia Blair: (1) Elizabeth Jane Rankin m. William B. Reed, (2) Margaret F. Rankin, and (3) Martha C. Rankin.

Finally, here is the image of the baseball player: Dougal Wylie Rankin. He was a son of John William Rankin and Jennie S. Wylie. John William was a son of Dougal Campbell Rankin – a son of David and Frances Campbell Rankin.[30] That is some fabulous shirt …

And that’s it from me on the two David Rankins, grandsons of Adam and Mary Steele Rankin.

See you on down the road.

Robin

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

[1] For evidence establishing that Adam Rankin’s wife was Mary Steele Alexander, see the article at http://digupdeadrelatives.com/2018/07/27/adam-d-1747-lancaster-mary-steele-rankins-son-william-follow-land/

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

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

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

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

[6] Thomas Lynch Montgomery, ed., Pennsylvania Archives, 5th Series, Volume VI (Harrisburg, PA: Harrisburg Publishing Co., 1906) 275.

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

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

[9] Westmoreland Co., PA Deed Book 7: 392, deed from Archibald Rankin of Antrim Twp., Franklin Co. to David Carson of Greencastle Twp., tract on waters of Pine Run, Westmoreland,  originally granted to William Rankin of Antrim Twp., 27 Jul 1773, surveyed 4 or 11 1776. Tract left to Dr. Adam Rankin by his father’s LW&T dated 20 Oct 1792. Doctor Adam Rankin granted his brother Archibald Rankin power of attorney dated 29 June 1792.

[10] See article about Stovepipe Johnson at this link: http://digupdeadrelatives.com/2018/08/18/adam-rankin-d-1747-lancaster-pa-family-serendipity-civil-war-history-major-league-baseball-pictures/

[11] There is some more information about Dr. Adam Rankin at p. _____ in this book and online at

http://digupdeadrelatives.com/2019/08/03/identifying-family-using-tax-lists-digression-surname-spelling-two-rankin-families-henderson-county-kentucky/.

[12] Commemorative Biographical Record of Central Pennsylvania: Including the Counties of Centre, Clearfield, Jefferson and Clarion (Chicago: J. H. Beers, 1898) at 100-101.

[13] John Blair Linn, History of Centre and Clinton Counties, Pennsylvania (Louis H. Everts, 1883, reprinted Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott & Co., 1975), 222-223.

[14] Id.

[15] Mary Belle Lontz, Tombstone Inscriptions of Centre County, Pennsylvania (1984). Image of tombstones at https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/21518757/jeremiah-rankin.

[16] Franklin Co., PA Deed Book 9: 288, deed dated 8 May 1807 from David Rankin of Franklin and wife Fanny conveying land devised to David by the will of William Rankin dated 20 Oct 1792. Frances/Fanny’s father is also conclusively proved by a deed, see Franklin Deed Book 14: 245. See also Franklin Co., PA Deed Book 14: 266, deed dated 28 Aug 1827 from David Rankin and wife Frances of Montgomery Township, 54 acres in Peters Township, deed witnessed by Archibald Bald.

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

[18] 1830 federal census, Montgomery Township, Franklin Co., household of David Rankin, 0000101-000010001 adjacent Jacob Kline. There are two people age 20 < 30 in David’s household, as we would expect: his daughter Molly was already married when David #1 wrote his will in 1829. The age category for the eldest male is clearly erroneous. He should be in the same age category as the eldest female, age 60 < 70 (born in the 1760s), if he was a militia private in 1780.

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

[20] See the article about proof for this family at http://digupdeadrelatives.com/2020/04/21/follow-the-land-theory-believe-it-or-not/

[21] The creek and church name were spelled Conococheague or Conogogheaue, among other variants.

[22] The Upper West church records show Archibald’s marriage to Agnes Long, as well as his death date. Recall that David and Archibald each inherited a part of their father William’s “Mansion Place,” so they originally lived next to each other. See Franklin Co., PA Will Book A: 256, will of William Rankin of Antrim Township devising 200 acres “off my Mansion Place” to son Archibald, and “the old Mansion place,” 300 acres, to his son David #2. You would expect both brothers to attend the nearest Presbyterian church.

[23] 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.

[24] Some records of the Upper West Conococheague church are available online at Ancestry.com.

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

[26] David #2 and his wife Frances executed a deed in Franklin Co. in Oct 1827, see note 17. He did not appear in the 1830 census for Franklin.

[27] 1840 federal census for Iowa Territory, Des Moines Co., David Rankin, age 60 < 70 (born 1770 – 1780).

[28] The 1850 federal census listing in DesMoines Co. for David Rankin’s household includes Dugald Camel, 30, b. PA, and Frances Camel, 14, b. Indiana. Given the spelling perversions one finds in the census, they were probably Dugal (or Dougal) Campbell and Frances Campbell.

[29] Here is a link to him findagrave info: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/53261457/david-rankin

[30] Dougal Wylie Rankin, b. 7 Jan 1889, d. 12 Oct 1850, Eugene, Lane Co., OR. Buried in West Lawn Memorial Park . See 1910 census, Lane Co., Oregon, J. William Rankin, wife Jennie W., sons Dougal, Byron L. and Boyd, and daughter Frances E. Rankin; 1870 census, Des Moines Co., IA, D.n C. Rankin, 58, with David, Hezekiah, Sarah and John W. Rankin

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

In the late 1700s, Greencastle sported several Rankin families which produced Jeremiahs. The precise number 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 cram an extra Jeremiah into the family tree of the Rankins of Lancaster, Cumberland, and Franklin Counties, Pennsylvania.

I have revised and reorganized this article several times, hoping that inspiration would strike. It has not. I’m still not sure which answer is correct. The article hasn’t gotten any better organized or more comprehensible, either. At this point, I just have to throw up my hands and go with it.

Let’s start with an inventory of the early proved Jeremiahs in that line, then assemble them into a family chart for the big picture.

  • Jeremiah #1: the eldest. He was a son of Adam Rankin who died in Lancaster in 1747 (“Adam d. 1747”) and his wife Mary Steele Alexander.[4] Jeremiah #1 died in 1760 in a mill accident near Greencastle.[5] Jeremiah #1’s only appearance in county records is apparently his father Adam’s will. One would expect a probate of his estate because he inherited land, as well as guardian records for his minor children. I found neither.
  • Jeremiah #2: a son of Jeremiah #1 and his wife Rhoda Craig, and thus a grandson of Adam d. 1747. He was born during 1756-1761.[6] He moved to Fayette County, Kentucky, where he died about 1804.[7]
  • Jeremiah #3: a son of James Sr. who died in 1795 and Jean Rankin. James Sr. was a son of Adam d. 1747, so Jeremiah #3 was also a grandson of Adam d. 1747.[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 who died in 1792 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 to this list and place him as a son of Jeremiah #3. That would make him a great-grandson of Adam d. 1747. Annals and History also name three brothers of Wildcard Jeremiah, although they disagree on one name.

Here is an abbreviated outline family chart for these Rankins, including the above Jeremiahs.[11]

1 Adam Rankin, d. 1747, Lancaster Co., PA, wife Mary Steele Alexander.[12] Their four children (birth order unknown):[13]

2 Esther Rankin m. Mr. Dunwoody.

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

3 Jeremiah #2 Rankin, b. 1756-1761, Cumberland Co., PA, d. about 1804, Fayette Co., KY. His three brothers were Rev. Adam, Thomas, and William Rankin, all of whom also 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.

3 Jeremiah #3 Rankin. He and his five siblings are proved by their father’s will.[15]

4 Wildcard Jeremiah, added here by Annals and History. Annals identifies his brothers as James, David and William; History identifies them as James, David and Archie.

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

3 Jeremiah #4 Rankin, b. 1783, Franklin Co., PA, d. 1874, Centre Co., PA. He and his seven siblings are 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:

 “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.[17]  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. It did name his wife Mary and the four children listed above.[18] Both the Annals and History believe the 1803 will was Wildcard Jeremiah’s. Revolutionary Soldiers assigns that will to Jeremiah #3. Putting it another way, Revolutionary Soldiers concludes that the Jeremiah who died in 1803 was a son of James d. 1795 and Jean Rankin. 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: David, James, and William. History does the same thing, but identifies the brothers of Wildcard Jeremiah as David, James and Archie.[19] 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 that is no longer 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 imagine that patent. The will of Jeremiah who died in 1803 mentioned land in Ohio, but where? Perhaps somebody can point us to a 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. 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 second Jeremiah who died in Franklin, I’d love to hear about it.
  • I cannot find the four alleged sons of Jeremiah #3 in the Franklin records. I found only one Archibald (“Archie”) Rankin. He was easy to track. He 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 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 likely born in the early 1750s. Jeremiah, the freeman who first appeared on the 1782 tax list, was born by 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. Further, freeman Jeremiah and Jeremiah #2 were about the same age. The records thus suggest that freeman Jeremiah was the same man as Jeremiah #2. My intuition says that was the case, but my gut hunches don’t constitute credible evidence.

The 1790 federal census for Franklin lists a Jeremy Rankin having three males who were 16 and over in his household, Jeremy being one of them. The 1800 census makes it clear that the head of household in the 1790 census must have been Jeremiah #3. He was listed in the “over 45” age bracket in 1800, and must be Jeremiah #3 who was 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, born 1755 – 1774. 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.

It just isn’t clear whether Wildcard Jeremiah actually existed. I find myself agreeing with Revolutionary Soldiers for two reasons. First, it’s a pretty tight squeeze to add an extra generation between Jeremiah #3, who was born in the early 1750s and a ranger on the frontier in the early1780s, and the death of another Jeremiah with four children in 1803. It’s possible, but has a whiff of improbability.

Second, Revolutionary Soldiers, written by a woman in conjunction with the Chambersburg D.A.R., has more credibility chops than either Annals or History, books churned out for profit for many counties in Pennsylvania, generally by the same publishers.

When all else fails, go with the trustworthy source. 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, daughters Nancy, Mariah and Esther, and a son, James Clark Rankin.

I hope one of you will uncover some evidence about those 800 acres and its division into four farms. It would also be nice to see evidence about Wildcard Jeremiah’s three alleged brothers.

See you on down the road.

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 naming sons James, William, and Jeremiah and daughter Esther Rankin Dunwoody. For proof that Adam Rankin’s wife was Mary Steele Alexander, see the article here.

[5] Rev. Robert Davidson, History of the Presbyterian Church in the State of Kentucky (New York: R. Carter, 1847) has good information about Rev. Adam Rankin, a son of Jeremiah #1 and Rhoda Craig. It states that Jeremiah #1 died when Rev. Adam was five, which would be 1760.  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, whose birth year of 1755 is proved. The father of Jeremiah #2 and Rev. Adam — Jeremiah #1 — died in 1760. Jeremiah #2 must therefore have been born during 1756 through 1761, inclusive. See article about Rev. Adam Rankin, a son of Jeremiah #1 and Rhoda,  here.

[7] Jeremiah #2’s last appearance on the Fayette Co., KY tax lists was in 1803. He 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 Cumberland Co., PA in the “45 and over” age category, so he was born no later than 1755. Jeremiah #3’s elder brother William was probably born 1746-1750. On balance, 1750-1755 seems a good estimate for Jeremiah #3’s birth.

[10] See Mary Belle Lontz, Tombstone Inscriptions of Centre County, Pennsylvania (1984).

[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.

[12] Some researchers believe that Mary Steele Alexander was Adam’s second wife. I have no idea whether that is correct. I have seen no evidence. All I know for certain is that Adam married Mary Steele, widow of James Alexander, sometime between 1718 and 1726.

[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 where Esther belongs. 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 6), 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.

[15] See note 8.

[16] Franklin Co., PA Will Book A: 256, will of William Rankin, dated and proved in 1792. See a post about William and Mary Huston Rankin’s family   at this link. Here are their eight children. (1) Dr. Adam Rankin, b. 1760-63, Cumberland, PA, 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., IA. Wife Frances Campbell. (7) John Rankin, b. 1778-79, d. 1848. Went to Centre Co., PA, married Isabell Dundass. (8) Jeremiah Rankin, 1783 – 1874, to Centre Co. Wife Sarah Whitehill.

[17] The Welsh Run (Lower Conococheague) 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. See https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/009040742.,

[18] 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.

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