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

— Corrected 31 Dec 2020 for information on graves of Andrew and Mary Rankin —

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 genealogy blog, you probably also saw it coming.

Another friend just did that to me by sending a link to a Find-a-Grave site for a cemetery in Elizabeth Township, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. One of the graves there claims 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.”

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

These claims raise hard questions. Why would a man who died in Franklin County be buried in a town 150 miles away?[1] 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). Please ignore the text on this entry for the time being because it is rife with errors … 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.” His date of death looks like 18xx. It appears to be 1812 or 1813 in a sharpened and printed image. This is surely not the tombstone of a man who died in 1792, unless the trip from Franklin County to Elizabeth, Allegheny County, took waaaaay longer than expected.

There is also 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.[2] Because the I&A is customarily done soon after an estate is submitted to probate, that date establishes that William 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 man whose inventory was taken in 1813. The DAR also lists “Rankin, Mary wife of William d. July 22, 1808 in 62nd year.”

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 more tombstones in Round Hill cemetery with the same 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, age 2, and that Mary died in 1795, age 14. Find-a-Grave claims that both were children of “William and Mary Rankin.” Given the remarkably similar tombstones for William, Andrew, and Mary, the three were clearly family.

That brings us to the family Bible of William and Mary Huston Rankin of Franklin County.[3] 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  this link and this one for more on Adam.
  • Archibald Rankin, b. 10 Apr 1764. Archibald stayed in Franklin County until he died. His wife was Agnes Long.[4]
  • 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 some information about them, see the article at this link.
  • William Rankin, b. 5 Nov? 1770. He also went to Centre County with 3 of his brothers. Married #1 Abigail McGinley, #2 Susannah Huston.
  • Betsy Rankin, b. 13 Oct 1774.
  • David Rankin, b. 5 Feb 1777. His wife was Frances Campbell, daughter of Dougal Campbell. Migrated to Des Moines, Iowa.
  • 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 with his brothers.

William’s family Bible records the birth of neither a son Andrew nor a daughter Mary. William named all of the above children, and his wife Mary, in his will.[5]

Unfortunately, all of the information about William at the Find-a-Grave link is unsourced. Much of it is clearly erroneous. You’ve got to laugh, and then try to guess how that post strayed so far from the facts. The best 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, 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. William’s first appearance in the records seems to have been a 1749 warrant for a tract in Antrim Township.[6]

 County Antrim, Northern Ireland. There is no evidence for William’s exact place of birth. If Mary Steele Rankin was his mother, though, he must have been born in the colonies, where Adam and Mary married. [7]  

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 William died on Oct. 25, 1792.

 Franklin County, PA. That is surely correct. William, son of Adam, 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.

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 thing 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.[8] 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 called Ulster or the Ulster Plantations in the northernmost part of Ireland.

… there seems to be no evidence for Adam Rankin’s birth date or place. If family oral history is 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 this link.

… 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 proved until September. The only thing the probate records prove is that Adam died sometime between 4 May 1747 and 21 Sep 1747.

… Adam’s wife was definitely Mary Steele Alexander, widow of James Alexander.[9] 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.[10] A follow-up article will follow shortly.

See you on down the road.

Robin

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

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

[3] Disk 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 was the owner of the Bible and drew the chart.

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

[5] Franklin Co., PA Will Book A: 256, will dated 20 Oct 1792 and proved 28 Nov 1792.

[6] Land Warrants for Lancaster County, PA,  http://www.phmc.state.pa.us/bah/dam/rg/di/r17-88WarrantRegisters/LancasterPages/r17-88LancasterPageInterface.htm. See page 183.

[7] The country of Northern Ireland wasn’t established until 1920. The Find-a-Grave poster probably meant what was then called the Ulster Plantations in the northernmost part of Ireland. See an article about Scots-Irish history at this link. For evidence re: the marriage of Adam and Mary Steele, widow of James Alexander, see the next footnote.

[8] For conclusive proof, see the citations in Notes 4 through 7 and the accompanying main text in http://digupdeadrelatives.com/2018/07/27/adam-d-1747-lancaster-mary-steele-rankins-son-william-follow-land/ . My gratitude again to Floyd Owsley.

[9] Id.

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

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.

Line of Adam Rankin d. 1747, Lancaster, PA: Serendipity + Civil War History + Baseball

Many of us have ancestors who served in the Civil War and may have some interest in its history. Likewise, many of us have experienced serendipity while doing family history research – namely, finding something good even though you weren’t looking for it. Having a little major league baseball thrown in with research serendipity and Civil War history is a new one for me, but this article has them all. What next? Hot dogs? Apple pie?

Here is the background

The family in this article belongs to the line of Adam Rankin who died in 1747 in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and his wife Mary Steele Alexander. An earlier article  about the same line dealt with the family of William Rankin, one of Adam and Mary’s three sons. William and his wife Mary Huston Rankin (daughter of Archibald and Agnes Huston) had eight children, all named in William’s 1792 will:[1]

  1. Dr. Adam Rankin, b. early 1760s – d. ?
  2. Archibald Rankin, b. 10 Apr 1768, d. 24 Jun 1849, Mercersburg, Franklin Co., PA
  3. James Rankin, b. ca. 1770, probably d. 1820-1830, Centre Co., PA
  4. William Rankin (Jr.), b. 5 Nov 1770, d. 29 Nov 1847, Centre Co., PA
  5. Betsy Rankin (dang, I wish it were easier to follow women!)
  6. David Rankin (still haven’t gotten around to researching David)
  7. John Rankin, b. 8 May 1778 or 1779, d. 22 Apr 1848, Centre Co., PA
  8. Jeremiah Rankin, b. 26 Nov 1783, d. 18 Feb 1874, Centre Co., PA

The earlier article on William and Mary’s family gave short shrift to their eldest son, Dr. Adam Rankin, because I had not been able to track him after 1798. Here is what that article originally said about Dr. Adam (I have now updated it to include more current research):

Adam Rankin (b. ca 1760 – ?) was a doctor, probably born in the early 1760s. In 1792, he granted his brother Archibald a power of attorney for “as long as I am absent” to “transact all my business.”I don’t know where Dr. Adam went when he was “absent.” In 1796, Archibald sold on Dr. Adam’s behalf the land his brother had inherited from their father.[2]… in 1798, Dr. Adam Rankin was listed on a Franklin County tax list … I can find no record for him after that.”

Truth in lending compels me to admit that I didn’t look very hard for Dr. Adam, because at that time I was hot on the heels of four of his brothers in Centre County. Spoiler alert: Dr. Adam is (hang in there) a part of this narrative.

Here are the Civil War and baseball parts

Not long after publishing that article, I was exchanging emails with a Rankin family history researcher and distant Rankin cousin. He is a Civil War history expert, having taught several short college courses on the subject. We were talking about “historical” Rankins. He mentioned a Confederate Brigadier General named Adam Rankin “Stovepipe” Johnson and enclosed an article about him.

Here is Stovepipe’s photograph.

Stovepipe acquired his nickname in July of (probably) 1862, like so …

“With a mere thirty-five men at his command, he crossed the Ohio [River] – he believed it to be the first Rebel “invasion” of the North – and attacked the town of Newburgh, Indiana, on July 18. There were two hundred or more Federals in the town, though mostly convalescent soldiers in hospitals. To bluff them into surrendering, Johnson mounted two stovepipes on an old wagon and paraded it around to look like artillery. The ruse worked, the town gave up, and he became ever after Stovepipe Johnson.”

Stovepipe was born in Henderson, KY in 1834, but moved to Burnet, Texas when he was twenty. (That’s pronounced BURN’-it, with emphasis on the first syllable, for you non-Texans). He went back to Kentucky when the war broke out, made a name for himself as a scout for Nathan Bedford Forrest and as a recruiter, and evenually organized and equipped the 10th Kentucky Calvary. He was accidentally shot in the face by one of his own men in August 1864, lost his eyesight, and was captured and imprisoned at Fort Warren until the end of the war. He returned to Texas, where he founded the town of Marble Falls (nicknamed “the blind man’s town”), worked to harness the water power of the Colorado River, served as a contractor for the Overland Mail, and founded the Texas Mining Improvement Company. Oh, yeah, he also wrote an autobiography that is considered a “must read” regarding certain aspects of the Civil War. Whew!

He died in Burnet  in 1922, and was reportedly a happy, cheerful man, blind or not. It sure didn’t slow him down much, did it? I’m just sorry he wasn’t fighting against slavery. He is buried in the Texas State Cemetery in Austin. There is a ton of information about him on the internet – Googling “Adam Rankin Stovepipe Johnson” will produce a wealth of hits for you. Here is a  short article posted by the Texas State Historical Association, so it has some credibility (and has a citation to Stovepipe’s autobiography).

Among other things, the TSHA article tells you that Stovepipe had six children. Keep Googling, and you will find that one of them was named Adam Rankin “Tex” Johnson (1888 – 1972). He was a pitcher for the Boston Red Sox and the St. Louis Cardinals during 1914-1918. His ERA in the majors was a very respectable 2.96. Dallas Keuchal should have done as well for the Astros today (August 18, 2018). Here is a picture of Tex:

AND Tex had a son, Rankin Johnson Jr., who was also a major league pitcher — for the Philadelphia Athletics in 1941. He’s a nice-looking man, and his tombstone is inscribed “TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALLGAME,” so you’ve got to love him! Here’s his picture:

… the next time the announcers for the Houston Astros have a trivia question about father-son major league players, I’ll be ready with “Tex” Johnson and Rankin Johnson. I imagine they will be stumped.

The serendipity part

What, you may well be asking, do Brigadier General Adam Rankin “Stovepipe” Johnson, “Tex” Johnson, and Rankin Johnson have to do with the family of Adam and Mary Steele Rankin of Lancaster Co., PA? Or their grandson Dr. Adam Rankin?

The serendipity was having my Rankin cousin and friend just drop Gen. Adam Rankin Johnson in my lap. From there, it doesn’t take too much imagination to deduce that Stovepipe Johnson’s mother was née Rankin. Yes, indeed, says the Texas State Historical Association summary about Stovepipe. Her name was Julia Rankin, and she was the daughter of … Doctor Adam Rankin of Henderson Co., KY, who was originally from Pennsylvania.

Apparently, Dr. Adam Rankin (son of William and Mary Huston Rankin and brother of Archibald) was “absent” from Pennsylvania in 1792 because he was busy marrying Elizabeth Speed of Danville, KY that year. She was the first of his three wives, by whom Dr. Adam fathered thirteen children — including a daughter Mary Huston Rankin (his eldest child) and a son Archibald Rankin.

Here is a link to a biographical article about Dr. Adam’s family in an 1887 history of Henderson County, KY.

I haven’t been into the deed and probate records of Henderson Co., KY, yet. With any kind of luck, they will provide evidence tying Dr. Adam Rankin, grandfather of Adam Rankin “Stovepipe” Johnson, back to Franklin Co., PA. As for me, I consider the names of those two children to be  extremely persuasive circumstantial evidence.

See you on down the road. There are more Pennsylvania Rankins on the horizon.

Robin

[1] Will of William Rankin of Antrim Township, Franklin Co., PA dated 20 Oct 1792 proved 28 Nov 1792. “Advanced in age.” Franklin Co., PA Will book B A-B: 256.

[2] Westmoreland Deed Book 7: 392. The deed recites that Archibald Rankin was of Antrim Township, Franklin Co., that the 274-acre tract in Westmoreland was originally granted to William Rankin of Antrim on 27 July 1773 and William devised it to his son Dr. Adam Rankin by will dated 20 October 1792. The deed also recites that Dr. Adam Rankin granted his brother Archibald Rankin power of attorney dated 29 Jun 1792. The POA is also recorded at DB 7: 392.

Adam Rankin d. 1747, Lancaster PA, & Mary Steele Rankin’s son William: “follow the land”

Every genealogist has used the “follow the land” (“FTL”) approach to family history research, even if she didn’t call it by that name. The idea is that an identifiable tract of land can prove family connections via deed, probate, and other records.[1] This post is an example: FTL establishes the identity of a colonial Rankin’s wife and allows tracking a son’s family with confidence.

This post concerns some of the “Londonderry Siege” Rankins of Pennsylvania, rather than the North Carolina Rankin families often discussed on this blog.[2] You can read the Londonderry Siege Rankins’ interesting oral family history in this article. The legend includes two immigrants identified as brothers who came to Pennsylvania in the 1720s. Both men died in Lancaster Co., PA in the 1740s:

    • John Rankin died in 1749. His will named his wife Margaret, sons Richard and Thomas, six daughters, and 2 sons-in-law.[3] See an article about his family at this link, which includes some images of his will from the original court records.
    • Adam Rankin died in 1747. This article is about Adam’s line, particularly his son William.

Adam’s earliest appearance in the colonies was about 1722, when an Adam Rankin signed a petition to Lord Baltimore from landowners in the so-called “New Munster” tract of Cecil County, Maryland. The petition said the signatories believed that they resided in Maryland rather than Pennsylvania.[4] One particular New Munster tract conclusively proves the identity of Adam’s wife. Here is the evidentiary trail …

    • The 1717 will of James Alexander of New Munster devised a 316-acre tract.[5] The will says he had bargained for the land, but hadn’t paid for it or obtained a deed. He instructed his executors to sell as much of his moveable estate as necessary to pay for the tract. James also instructed that three “honest men … of the neighborhood” divide the land into three equal parts for his family. James named as executors his wife Mary Alexander and his father-in-law John Steele, establishing that his wife was née Mary Steele.
    • Next, a Cecil County deed dated August 1718 completed the purchase of the tract as James had instructed. Thomas Stevenson conveyed 316 acres to Mary Alexander, “widow and relict of James Alexander of New Munster,” and sons Joseph, John and Francis Alexander. Echoing James Alexander’s will, the deed recites that James had bargained with grantor for the land but didn’t pay for it before he died, had left money to pay, and instructed that it should be divided into three equal parts.[6]
    • Finally, the tract was divided into three parts by survey of September 29, 1724. The survey identifies the tract as 316 acres in New Munster and states that James Alexander’s widow Mary married Adam Rankin.[7]

Thank you, 316-acre tract … the will, deed and survey leave no reasonable doubt that Mary Steele, daughter of John Steele of New Castle County, Delaware, married James Alexander and then Adam Rankin. Also, Mary’s marriage to Adam must have taken place between August 1718 (the conveyance from Thomas Stevenson to Mary Alexander) and September 1724 (the survey).

Adam left a will dated and proved in 1747 in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.[8] Here is a brief abstract:

To son James Rankin, £ 5 “pencelvaney currancy,” plus the “place he is now in possession of being fully given over to him.” Daughter Esther Rankin Dunwoody, £ 5. Wife (name not stated), two-thirds “of all my worldly substance.” To sons William and Jeremiah, the residue of my estate, including the plantation to be equally divided between them. Witnesses James Pettigrew, John McMath.

Unfortunately, Adam didn’t identify where his land was located, the names of adjacent landowners, or any other identifying features that would help track it. Fortunately, we know that Adam obtained a warrant dated November 11, 1742 to survey 100 acres “at Conegocheague.”[9] Conococheague Creek is near Greencastle, Pennsylvania, less than 5 miles north of the current PA/MD line, in Franklin County.

A Franklin County deed provides confirmation. An 1818 deed conveying land in Montgomery Township recites that 107 acres of the land sold was part of 188 acres surveyed per a “warrant to Adam Rankin dated 11 November 1742.” The deed establishes that the 107-acre tract descended from Adam to his son James and then to his son James Jr. by James Sr.’s 1788 will.[10]

 Adam’s sons James and William fairly leap out of the records of Montgomery and Antrim Townships in Franklin County.[11]Both men were listed on the Antrim tax lists along with some of their sons in 1785, 1786 and 1787. Beginning in 1789, William was taxed in Antrim Township; James (Senior, father of the grantor in the 1818 deed) was taxed in Montgomery Township. So far as I have found, James’ and William’s brother Jeremiah never appeared in any county records other than his father’s will.[12]

 William and James were more cooperative than Jeremiah. Not only did they appear where Adam’s 1742 grant led us to expect, they both left wills. The will of James Rankin Sr. of Montgomery Township, Franklin County,  was dated 25 March 1788 and proved 20 October 1795. It names his wife Jean; sons William, Jeremiah, James (Jr.) and David; daughter Ruth Rankin Tool; son-in-law Samuel Smith; and granddaughter Mary Smith. James named his son Jeremiah Rankin and friend David Huston/Houston as executors.[13]

We will leave James Sr. for another day. We’re now on the track of Adam and Mary Steele Rankin’s son William.[14] William’s wife was Mary Huston, daughter of Archibald Huston.[15] William’s will, dated 20 Oct 1792 and proved 28 Nov 1792, suggests he amassed a good bit of land.[16] William described himself as “of Antrim Township” in Franklin County and “advanced in age” in 1792.

Here are his devises and bequests:

    • Wife Mary received one-third of profits from “the mansion place.”
    • Son Adam Rankin inherited 200 acres on the waters of the Kiskimetatas River in Westmoreland County and an enslaved person.
    • Son Archibald Rankin received 200 acres off “the mansion place.”
    • Sons James and William inherited 990 acres in Penns Valley, Mifflin County.
    • Daughter Betsy, £ 400 and an enslaved person. She was less than 21.
    • Son David, “old mansion place,” 300 acres.
    • Sons John and Jeremiah, 408 acres on Spring Creek in Penns Valley in Mifflin County, plus £ 400 from son David starting when they reach 21.
    • Sons Archibald Rankin, James Rankin, and William Rankin, executors. Witnesses William Beaty, John Woods, John McLanahan.

“Follow the land” is pretty straightforward for at least some of William and Mary’s children, thanks to that will. Here is a little bit about his sons. I don’t know who his daughter Betsy married, if she married at all.

Adam Rankin (b. 1760-64, d. 1810-20) was a doctor, probably the first in his family. He moved to Henderson County, Kentucky, where he married three times and produced a large family. One of his descendants is Confederate Brigadier General Adam “Stovepipe” Rankin Johnson, a grandson. Some descendants still live in Kentucky.

Archibald Rankin (1764 – 1845) inherited part of the “old mansion place” in Antrim Township, and he apparently stayed in Franklin County until he died. His first appearance in the records was on the 1785 Antrim tax list as a “freeman.”[17] He was a head of household in the federal census of Franklin County from 1790 through 1840 (I could not find him in 1830, although he was still alive).[18] I haven’t tried to trace his line, although he had a number of children. He belonged to the Presbyterian Church of the Upper West Conococheague. Church records show that he married Agnes Long on 9 Mar 1790 and that a daughter Fanny died in 1827. Church records also say Archibald died 24 Jun 1845 at age 81, indicating he was born about 1764.

David Rankin (b. 1776-1777, d. 1853) inherited part of the “old mansion place” along with his brother Archibald. His wife was Frances (“Fanny”) Campbell, daughter of Dugald (Dugal/Dougal) Campbell. David left Franklin County between 1820 and 1830 and wound up in Des Moines County, Iowa, where he died. Here is a link  to an article about David, son of William and Mary Huston Rankin, and his cousin David, son of James and Jean Rankin.

The remaining four sons are FTL exemplars. That is because William’s 1792 will devised land in Penn’s Valley, Mifflin County, some of it on Spring Creek, to his sons James, William, John and Jeremiah. The will establishes that John and Jeremiah should be located close to each other, since they shared a tract; likewise, James and William should be located near each other for the same reason. Centre County was created in 1803 from Mifflin County, so the two Mifflin County tracts devised by William 1792 are subsequently located in Centre County. Spring Creek runs through the middle of Bellefonte, the Centre County seat.

Jackpot. There they are, all four of them in Centre County, paired off geographically just as one would expect. One page of the 1810 census for Potter Township in Centre County has James Rankin listed two households down from William Rankin. Another page has listings for Jeremiah Rankin and John Rankin. All four men are in the age 26 < 45 category, born during 1765 – 1784. We know that Jeremiah and John were underage in 1792 when their father wrote his will, so they would have been born after 1771. We know that Archibald, an elder brother, was born in 1764. So those birth ranges fit like a glove, with further confirmation in later census records.

There is no reasonable doubt that these four men were sons of William (died 1792 in Franklin) and Mary Huston Rankin, and grandsons of Adam and Mary Steele Alexander Rankin. A conventional descendant chart for the Centre County Rankins is under construction. It grows every time I search the census records, and the number of physicians on this family’s tree is incredible. If you are descended from a Dr. Rankin who lived in Pennsylvania in the mid 1800’s, you might want to look at this line. If you are interested in joining the D.A.R., this is an admission ticket, because the D.A.R. has admitted at least two women based on the service of the William Rankin who died in Franklin County in 1792. I will post the descendant chart eventually, God willing and the bayou don’t rise.

Meanwhile, here is a skeletal ancestor chart for some of the Centre County Rankins. It is relevant to an argument among some Rankin friends of mine.

1 Adam Rankind. 1747, Lancaster Co., PA. Wife Mary Steele Alexander, widow of James.

2 Jeremiah Rankin, whose only known appearance in primary records was Adam’s 1747 will. Died 1760 in Cumberland Co., PA. Wife Rhoda Craig. Four sons went to Fayette/Woodford Counties, Kentucky.

2 James Rankin Sr., d. 1795, Franklin Co., PA, see will abstracted above.

2 William Rankin (Sr.), d. 1792, Franklin Co., PA, wife Mary Huston. See will devising land in Penns Valley, Mifflin County, including a tract on Spring Creek.

3 William Rankin (Jr.), b. 1770 Cumberland Co, PA, d. 1847, Centre Co., PA. Two wives, Abigail McGinley and Susanna (reportedly Huston). Proof that he was a son of William and Mary Huston Rankin per the FTL theory. Children are established, see Centre County Will Book B: 254, naming eight children, including Adam, Archibald, James, John, and …

4 Dr. William McGinley Rankin (III) (1795-1872) moved to Shippensburg in Cumberland Co.[19] He had 11 children, at least one of whom was a physician, and a Presbyterian minister …

5 Rev. William Alexander Rankin.[20]

If you want to get into a good knock-down, drag-out fight, go search for family trees that include William Jackson Rankin and William Johnson Rankin. You will find S.A.R. applications in support. You will find a totally different line than that outlined above, although it will also go back to Adam and Mary Steele Rankin through a bunch of Rankins named William. I hereby proffer my version, above.

See you on down the road.

Robin

*   *   *  *   *   *   *  

[1] For example, a series of deeds concerning land in Tishomingo Co, MS conclusively proved almost all of the children of Lyddal Bacon Estes and “Nancy” Ann Allen Winn. See an article about that  at this link..

[2] For a brief primer on some of the NC Rankins, see  this article.

[3] Lancaster Co. Will Book J: 208, will of John Rankin proved 1749, image available online here.

[4] Henry C. Peden, “Inhabitants of Cecil County, Maryland 1649-1774 (Westminster, MD: Family Line Publications, 1993), 33. Actual hostilities (called “Cresap’s War”) broke out between Maryland and Pennsylvania during the 1730s over competing land claims by the two states. Check out this link, which has a great map. this link, which has a great map..

[5] Will of James Alexander of New Munster, Cecil Co., MD dated 12 Jul 1717, probate date unknown, but before August 1718 when a deed recited some provisions of the will. The will is recorded in New Castle Co., DE, where John Steele, an executor, resided. There is evidently no copy in the Cecil Co. records. I don’t know whether the will is preserved in the PA Archives. Floyd Owsley, an administrator of the Alexander Family DNA Project, provided a transcription of the will to me.

[6] Cecil Co., MD Deed Book 3: 212.

[7] Cecil County Circuit Court Certificates, No. 514, survey of 316 acres for the heirs of James Alexander dated 28 Sep 1724. Floyd Owsley provided a copy of the original and a transcription.

[8] Lancaster Co. Will Book J: 208, will of Adam Rankin dated and proved in 1747.

[9] Floyd Owsley, a descendant of the New Munster tract Alexanders, emailed an image of the original document to me. It is labeled “No. 111” and appears to be a warrant to survey 100 acres “situate at Conegocheage between the lands of Samuel Owen, James Swaffer, Samuel Brown, and the Blue Mountains.”

[10] Franklin Deed Book 12: 28.

[11] Some speculate that James was the son of Adam’s wife prior to Mary Steele Alexander. Family oral history says that Adam was married first to an Elizabeth May, although I am not aware of any evidence in either colonial or Irish records. Adam and Mary Steele were married after 1718 but before 1724; Adam was in the colonies by no later than 1722.  There is no indication in Adam’s 1747 will that any of his sons were minors, so the three of them were probably all born by 1726. One can infer from the will that James was already living on the tract he inherited and that William and Jeremiah were still at home. Perhaps the fact that James appears to be the oldest is the rationale for thinking he was the product of an earlier marriage. That should be classified as speculation.

[12] Secondary evidence (i.e., evidence other than official records) establishes that Jeremiah Rankin, son of Adam and Mary Steele Rankin, died in 1760 in a mill accident. See the article about one of Jeremiah’s sons, Rev. Adam Rankin of Lexington, Co., here.

[13] Franklin Co., PA Will Book A: 345 (estate #354).

[14] Online trees sometimes give William’s name as William SteeleRankin. That would be logical, since his mother’s maiden name was Steele. However, men born in the early 1700s very rarely had middle names, e.g., George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson. Further, there is not one damn shred of evidence in actual records that William ever used a middle name. If anyone can produce any convincing evidence of any middle name, I will eat both my hat and my laptop.

[15] Virginia Shannon Fendrick, American Revolutionary Soldiers of Franklin County, Pennsylvania(Chambersburg, PA: Historical Works Committee of the Franklin County Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, 1944), citing Pennsylvania Archives 5thSeries, Vol. 6, at 576 and 583. “WILLIAM RANKIN of Antrim Twp., appears as a private under Capt. James Poe, 1782, and [on] an undated roll. He married Mary Huston, daughter of Archibald, as shown by the will of Agnes Huston, widow of Archibald.”

[16] Franklin Co. Will Book A-B: 256.

[17] That means Archibald was age 21 or over, not married, and not a landowner.

[18] 1790 census, Franklin Co., Archybald Rankin, 1-0-2-1-0; 1800 census, Burough of Greencastle (Antrim Twp.), Archd Rankin, 20110-20010; 1810 census, Montgomery Twp., Franklin Co., Archibald Rankin, 01101-12110; 1820 census, Montgomery Twp., Franklin Co., Archibald Rankin, 000101-02300; 1840 census, Peters Township, Franklin Co., Archibald Rankin, age 70 < 80, the sole member of the household.

[19] John Blair Linn, History of Centre and Clinton Counties (Philadelphia: Louis H. Everts, 1883), at 222. Identifies some of the children of William Jr., including a Dr. William Rankin who moved to Shippensburg in Cumberland Co. and died before the book was published.

[20] Even I will trust Findagrave when it cites to the Minutes of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America, see it at this link.