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

I told my husband at breakfast several days ago that I was working on an article to correct bad information about some Rankins in the Pennsylvania Archives 5thSeries.

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?”

At that point, 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) an Epilogue about where one of the men migrated.

(1) A brief Rankin family chart

Let’s start with an outline descendant chart to put the two men in their Rankin family context.

1 Adam Rankin, an immigrant,was the common ancestor in this Rankin line. Adam was the grandfather of the two David Rankins in question. His wife (possibly his second) 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] We’re only concerned with James and William in this article.

2 James Rankin, son of Adam and Mary Steele Rankin, 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 sons William, Jeremiah, James and David #1,and two daughters, Esther Rankin Smith and Ruth Rankin Tool.[3]

2 William Rankin, son of Adam and Mary Steele Rankin, died in 1792 in Antrim Township, Franklin County.[4] His wife was Mary Huston, daughter of Archibald and Agnes Houston.[5] He named seven sons and one daughter in his will: Adam, Archibald, James, William, Betsy, David #2, John, and Jeremiah.[6] (A quick aside on a case of “same name confusion:” William Rankin, son of Adam and Mary Steele Rankin, was most emphatically notthe same man as the William Rankin who married Victoria Alcorn or Alcoran. That William migrated to Orange County, North Carolina by 1765.[7] Many online trees incorrectly identify Victoria as the wife of William who died in 1792.)

I will continue to distinguish these two David Rankins by number simply because it helps me to keep them straight.

(2) What the Pennsylvania Archives got wrong

Here’s what the Archives says about one of the two David Rankins:

 “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. McFarlandof Mercersburg stated the above David was the son of William Rankin of Antrim Township who died 1792.”[8]

(3) The bottom line

With all due respect to Miss Molly L. McFarland of Mercersberg, the man the Archives describes was David #1, son of James and Jean Rankin of Montgomery Township. He was not David #2, son of William and Mary Huston Rankin of Antrim Township, as she asserted.

Here are the key factors for telling the two men apart: age, wife’s identity, and– the pièce de résistance – location. As epilogue, we’ll see where William and Mary’s son David #2 went after he left Franklin County.

(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 (although sometimes boys served as early as 13).[9] Thus, the David Rankin who was a private in 1780 must have been born by 1764, and certainly no later than 1767. According to county tax lists, David #1, son of James and Jean Rankin, was born no later than 1767-68.[10] We can reasonably assume that David #1 was born in the 1760s. On the other hand, David #2 was born in the 1770s, most likely about 1776-1777. Estimating his birth year required doing the same for all of his siblings, shown in this footnote.[11] In short, David #2 was much too young to have been a member of a militia in 1780. Strike 1, Archives.

Wife’s identity. We know the wife of the David Rankin who died in 1833 was named Molly, maiden name unproved. We don’t know how long they were married, although it was apparently long enough to have three children and a granddaughter. I have found no deeds or other records identifying the wife of David #1. We have better luck with David #2, because deeds conclusively establish that he was married to Frances (“Fanny”) Campbell, daughter of Dongal (Dougal/Dugald) Campbell.[12] Frances and David #2 were both grantors in a deed dated August 1827, not long before the David who died in 1833 wrote his June 1829 will.[13] In short, the evidence strongly suggests that Molly’s husband was David #1.Strike 2, Archives.

Location. Here is the pièce de résistance, although it requires some explaining: a deed dated 27 May 1818 from James Rankin (brother of David #1) to Jacob Kline conveying a tract in Montgomery Township. The deed recites that part of the tract was surveyed per a 1742 warrant to Adam Rankin and subsequently devised by James Rankin, dec’d, to grantor in 1788.[14] The tract clearly passed from Adam Rankin to his son James Rankin Sr. (whose will was admitted to probate 25 March 1788), then to James Sr.’s son James Jr., the grantor in this 1818 deed. The conveyed tract was adjacent to David Rankin ,inter alia. That would be David #1, who inherited the Montgomery Township tract where his father James Sr. lived.

The deed proves that David #1 owned a tract adjacent to Jacob Kline (the grantee in the above deed) in Montgomery Township at some point in time. There are two other relevant facts:

    • In the 1830 federal census for Montgomery Township (three years before David #1 died), David Rankin was listed adjacent to Jacob Kline, grantee in the above deed.[15] He was the only David Rankin listed in Franklin in 1830 and 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) Epilogue

This is a long article, so I will cut to the chase. Some genealogists (the ones who didn’t believe the Archives about which David died in 1833) think that David #2 went to Greene County, Tennessee.[16] He didn’t. He went to Des Moines County, Iowa with at least three of his children.

The evidence about this is fun. While he lived in Franklin, David #2 almost certainly attended the Presbyterian Church of the Upper West Conococheague,”[17] as did his brother Archibald.[18] 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.[19]

The Upper West church kept baptism records, although they are clearly not complete.[20] Four children of a David Rankin – almost certainly 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.[21] 

The family left Franklin between 1827 and 1830.[22] I didn’t found David again until the 1840 census in Iowa Territory.[23] The 1850 census in Des Moines County lists him as age 73, born in Pennsylvania about 1777.[24] Here is a link    to an image of his tombstone in the Round Prairie Cemetery in Des Moines County. It says he died 14 Mar 1853, age 77, making him born about 1776.

Also buried in the Round Prairie cemetery:Adam J. Rankin, born 29 Dec. 1821. His full name was undoubtedly Adam John Rankin, a child of David Rankin baptized in the Upper West church on 13 Feb 1822 at age six weeks or so. See his tombstone image at this link..

Here is another tombstone in Round Prairie cemetery: D. C. Rankin, 1812 – 1885. Iowa death and burial records identify him as Dugal Campbell Rankin, a male, born 1812 in Franklin Co., PA.[25] Is there any reasonable doubt that he was a son of David #2 and Frances Campbell Rankin, daughter of Dugal (Dongal/Dougal) Campbell?

Finally, the Kossuth Cemetery in Des Moines County has a tombstone  for Archibald Rankin, born 1 Aug. 1819. He was almost certainly baptized in the Upper West church on 10 Oct 1819 at about two months of age.

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 text accompanying the footnotes and the source citations in notes 5, 6, and 7 of  this article.

[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] See Note 4.

[7] The William Rankin who married Victoria Alcorn/Alcoran lived in Hamilton Township, Franklin Co. and is fairly easy to distinguish from William, son of Adam, who lived in Antrim Township. See Pennsylvania land grant to William Rankin dated 8 May 1751, 100 acres in Hamilton Township, Cumberland Co., adjacent Thomas Armstrong; Cumberland Co., PA Will Book A: 79, will of Joseph Armstrong of Hamilton Township dated 1760 proved 1761 devising “land between Robert Elliot’s and Willm Rankins;” Cumberland Co., PA Will Book A: 88, will of James Alcoran naming daughter Victoria and her husband William Rankin; and Franklin Co., PA Deed Book 6: 124, deed dated 30 Oct 1765 from William Rankin of Orange Co, NC, farmer, to James McFarlan of Cumberland, 2 warrants by Rankin for a total of 250A in Hamilton Twp., Cumberland Co., adj Thomas Armstrong et al.

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

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

[10] 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. He was not listed on the 1788 tax list, suggesting that he had just turned 21 in the past year and was born about 1767-68. However, young men frequently shed a year or two at tax time. A reasonable estimate, given his militia service, is that David #1 was born about 1765.

[11] Ages of the children of William and Mary Huston Rankin. I’ve listed the children in the order he named them in his 1792 will, which is almost certainly their birth order.

  • Adam – born 1760-63. Adam first appeared on the 1785 Franklin Co. tax list as Doctor Adam Rankin.  At minimum, he was of age by 1785 and born by 1764. He was definitely born before 1763-64, when his younger brother Archibald was born. Dr. Adam went to Henderson Co., KY and married three times. His descendants include Confederate Brigadier Adam Rankin “Stovepipe” Johnson.
  • Archibald– born 1763 – 1764.Records from the Upper West Conococheague Presbyterian Church establish that Archibald died 24 Jun 1845 at age 81.
  • James– born about 1767-68 based on his place between Archibald and William, whose birth years are known.
  • William– born 5 Nov 1770. Commemorative Biographical Record of Central Pennsylvania: Including the Counties of Centre, Clearfield, Jefferson and Clarion (Chicago: J. H. Beers, 1898) at 100-101.
  • Betsy– about 1773. Betsy was less than 21 when her father William executed his will on 20 Oct 1792, so she was born after Oct 1771. I’ve estimated Betsy’s and David’s birth years by spacing them out more or less evenly between their siblings William and John, whose birth dates are established by credible evidence.
  • David– about 1776-77. It is certain that David was born sometime between 1775 (see the 1790 Franklin Co. census, when he was included in his father’s household and was less than 16) and early 1778, a year prior to the birth of his younger brother John.
  • John– 8 May 1778 or 1779. See his tombstone in the Bellefonte Cemetery: John Rankin, 8 May 1778 – 22 Apr 1848, 69Y11M4D. John Blair Linn, History of Centre and Clinton Counties, Pennsylvania(Louis H. Everts, 1883, reprinted Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott & Co., 1975), 222-223, says that John Rankin was born 1 May 1779.
  • Jeremiah – November 1783 according to his tombstone in Centre County, PA. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/21518757/jeremiah-rankin

[12] 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.

[13] 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.  

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

[15] 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.

[16] 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.

[17] The archaic spelling was Conogogheaue and several variants.

[18] 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 #3. You would expect the brothers would both attend the nearest Presbyterian church.

[19] 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.

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

[21] 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).

[22] David #2 and his wife Frances executed a deed in Franklin Co. in Oct 1827, see note 13. He did not appear in the 1830 census for Franklin.

[23] 1840 federal census for Iowa Territory, Des Moines Co., David Rankin, age 60 < 70 (born 1770 – 1780).

[24] 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, he was probably Dugal (or Dougal) Campbell. Frances Campbell Rankin’s father was “Dongal” Campbell in a Franklin deed, see Deed Book 14: 245.

[25]Ancestry.com. Iowa, Deaths and Burials, 1850-1990 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014.