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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Rankins of Henderson County, KY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See you on down the road.

Robin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[14] See Note 10.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.