More on the Line of Samuel (“One-Eyed Sam”) and Eleanor (“Ellen”) Alexander Rankin: Jean Rankin Heartgrove

Let’s start with this fun fact. In mid-2017, I met a new Rankin cousin – a 4th cousin, once removed, to be exact. She is also descended from Samuel and Eleanor Alexander Rankin. Her family lived in Mecklenburg County, NC, across the Catawba River to the east from the Lincoln/Gaston County Rankins. As a child, her parents took her to visit the then-current resident of the “ancestral” Rankin home in Gaston County – Rev. Frank Bisaner Rankin.

Rev. Frank said that Samuel Rankin was referred to as “One-Eyed Sam.” Rev. Frank didn’t know whether or how Sam lost an eye. Whatever the story behind it, Sam just became fractionally more real as a result. It’s the only personal aspect of him that has come to light.

Moving on: let’s do a little more exploring among One-Eyed Sam and Eleanor’s children. In particular, let’s look at Jean (sometimes called Jane) Rankin Hartgrove, Samuel and Eleanor’s eldest daughter. I’m going to call her Jean because that name appears four times in her will.

This article has little that is new except citations to sources, an idea whose time may have come — considering the ease and speed with which erroneous information multiplies on the web. Tilting at windmills may also become popular soon. <grin>

Like most eighteenth and nineteenth century women, Jean was largely absent from county records. Exceptions include her father’s will, her marriage bond, a census when she was listed as a head of household, and her husband’s estate records. Also – in a departure from the female norm – she left a will. Before we get to that, here are some basic facts.

  • Jean Rankin Heartgrove is a proved daughter of One-Eyed Sam and Eleanor Alexander Rankin. Her father identified her as a daughter in his will.[1]
  • Her birth date is usually given in online family trees as 1765. The federal censuses – the only evidence I could find of her age in the records – confirm that she was born during 1760 through 1765.[2] Her elder brother William Rankin gave his birth year as 1761 in his Revolutionary War pension application, which suggests she was born during 1762 to 1765.[3]
  • Jean Rankin’s Lincoln County marriage bond to Benjamin Heartgrove was dated Sept. 21, 1792.[4] At minimum, she was 27 years old. One-Eyed Sam’s daughters seemed to marry late. Perhaps his visage frightened off potential suitors.
  • Benjamin was listed as a head of household in the federal census in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina in 1800, 1810 and 1820.[5] He died intestate in 1826 in Mecklenburg. Administration papers for his estate apparently show at least legatees Robert Wilson, William Walker, Richard Rankin, and Stephen Taylor, who were Benjamin’s four sons-in-law (see discussion of Jean and Benjamin’s children, below).[6]
  • Jean’s allotted dower was 68 acres in Mecklenburg adjacent Thompson Hartgrove, who was listed near Benjamin in some of the censuses.[7] She appeared as a head of household in the 1830 census and died in 1836, when her will was proved.[8]

Jean’s two-page will proves the identities of her four daughters, two sons, and two of her granddaughters. Here is a full transcription, including original spelling (with some bracketed inserts for clarity; underlining added):

“In the name of God Amen I Jean Heartgrove of the County of Mecklinburg and State of North Carolina being Sound in mind and memory but of a weekle Situation Calling to mind the unserty of Life Doe make this my Last will and testament my [body] I commit to the Dust from whence it Came and my Soul I freely Surrender to God who gave it me and as Such worly property as it has please God to Bless me with in this Life and will and Bequeth in manor and form here after mentioned I will to my Daughter Sarah Walker one Doller I will to my Daughter Ann Rankin one Doller I will to my Daughter Polly Taylor one Doller I will to my Daughter Nelly Willson thirty Dollars I will to my Son Ephrim Hartgrove two Hundred and fifty Dollars fifty Dollars to be paid to him yearly by my Exetor I will to my Son Bengemin Hartgrove three Hundred Dollars fifty dollars to be paid to him Every Year By my Exetor I will to my Daughter Sarah Walker[‘s] Daughter Jean twenty Dollars I allow the Balance of my monne and my Land and Houshold and kitchen furnity and all my estate of Every kind to be Sold and the money to go to the use of my Son Bengemin Hartgrove[‘s] Children all but twenty Dollars and that to go to Polly Taylor[‘s] Daughter Jean. I appoint Robert Willson my Exeutor of this my Last will and testement in witness hereof I have hereunto Set my hand and Seal this twenty Seven Day of August Eighteen Hundr and thirty five.” Witnesses James C.? Rudicell and Stephen Wilson. Jean signed with a mark (“x”).

Here is a very little bit of information about the Hartgrove children and their families. I have not tried to track this line beyond what appears below, in part because my library’s Mecklenburg County resources are scant, and in part because this branch of the Rankinfamily never made it to the top of the “to-do” list. I also found Jean and Benjamin Heartgrove’s grandchildren very difficult to locate with confidence. It is therefore highly unlikely that I have identified all of this couple’s grandchildren.

If I were descended from the Rankin-Heartgrove line, I would do some serious deep diving into the original Mecklenburg records at the county courthouse and/or the Charlotte-Mecklenburg main library at 310 N. Tryon Street. The library, a really good one with a lot of Mecklenburg microfilm, is located a very short walk from The Dunhill, a charming boutique hotel at 237 N. Tryon Street. When we stayed there in 2001, we were scotch drinkers and had a bottle of Dalwhinnie with us. The first night we stayed there, we returned to our room at 5 p.m. when the library closed, ordered some ice from room service, and had a scotch-and-water before going to dinner.

When we returned to our room at the same time the second night, the ice bucket (which clearly hadn’t been there long because the ice hadn’t begun to melt) was full, and it was set out with two crystal highball glasses and some bottled water next to the bottle of scotch. The routine was repeated every night we were there. There was no extra charge. And that, my friends, is southern hospitality. I don’t want to know what their room rates are now. Or what a bottle of Dalwhinnie costs.

Dragging myself back from that memory to the children of Benjamin and Jean Rankin Heartgrove …

Eleanor (“Nellie”) Heartgrove Wilson, the eldest child, was born about 1793. She married Robert Wilson 29 April 1813 in Mecklenburg.[9] She appeared as a widow and head of household in the 1850 census for Mecklenburg, age 58, along with her probable children Jane (born about 1814), Isaac (about 1825), Amanda (about 1830), and Leroy (about 1836). By the 1860 census, only Jane (described as “insane” in both the 1850 and 1860 censuses) and Leroy were still living at home

The 1850 census shows that Eleanor was living in the Steele Creek area of Mecklenburg, so she may be the Eleanor Wilson who was reportedly buried at the Steele Creek Presbyterian Church, born 20 Dec 1792 (perhaps the wrong year in light of her parents’ marriage date) and died 6 July 1867.[10] There is also a small child named Benjamin H. Wilson (1820-1822) buried in that cemetery who is obviously a pretty good bet to have been her son.

Sarah Heartgrove Walker, 20 Nov 1794 – 7 Nov 1854. I found no marriage record for Sarah and William Walker, although the probate records prove that William was Sarah’s husband.[11] The couple appeared in the 1850 federal census in Mecklenburg with their probable children Robert (born about 1816), Benjamin (1823), Ephraim (about 1827), James (about 1831), Ann (about 1834), and John (about 1836). They also obviously had a daughter Jean, born before 1835, who was named as a legatee in her grandmother’s will.

William and Sarah are both buried in the Sharon Presbyterian Church Cemetery in Charlotte, along with at least two of their sons:

  • Benjamin H. Walker (11 Jan 1823 – 17 Dec 1862), who died at the battle of White Hall in Wayne County, NC.[12]
  • Their eldest son Robert, characterized as “idiotic” in the 1850 census, who also died relatively young. His tombstone is identical to Benjamin’s, which is some evidence that they were members of the same family.[13]
  • There is also a John B. Walker (1836 – 30 June 1862) buried in the Sharon Presbyterian Church Cemetery who was a Civil War casualty, although the tombstone is different than Benjamin’s and Robert’s.[14] He may also be Sarah and William’s son.

Their son Ephraim may be the same man as the Ephraim Walker enumerated in the 1880 federal census in Williamson County, TX. He was born in NC about 1827 and was listed with sons named William, Robert, John B., James A., and Samuel. I know nothing about William and Sarah’s daughters Ann and Jean.

Ann Heartgrove Rankin, 7 Nov 1796 – 30 Jan 1866. Ann married her first cousin Richard Rankin of Lincoln County in Mecklenburg on 18 May 1825.[15] Richard was a son of Jean Rankin Heartgrove’s brother William and his wife Mary Moore Campbell Rankin of Lincoln County.[16] Ann Heartgrove Rankin, unlike her mother Jean Rankin Heartgrove, managed to stay out of the county records entirely after she married. The 1840 census suggests Ann and Richard may have had 5 sons and 2 daughters, assuming all the children under age 15 were theirs.[17] The 1850 census, however, shows only three sons: (1) John D. M. Rankin, born 1830-31, (2) James C. Rankin, born 1832-33, and (3) Ed L. Rankin, born about 1843.

Ann Heartgrove Rankin is buried in Goshen Presbyterian Cemetery in Belmont along with a host of Rankin relatives.[18] Richard (24 Sep 1804 – 14 Sep 1899) married twice more after Ann died[19] and is buried in the Mount Holly City Cemetery[20] along with his third wife Delia Bisaner[21] and their son, Rev. Frank Bisaner Rankin, who left behind a gift to us: One-Eyed Sam’s nickname.[22] Richard and Delia Bisaner Rankin also had a daughter Kathleen A. Rankin.[23]

Polly Heartgrove Taylor was probably born during 1790-1800, based on the census records for Benjamin Heartgrove’s family from 1800 through 1820. She married Stephen Taylor in Mecklenburg County, marriage bond dated 23 March 1826.[24] The Taylors reportedly moved to Tennessee according to online family trees. I haven’t tried to track them, having already learned the frustrations of tracking Taylors, Wilsons and Smiths.

Benjamin Heartgrove was born about 1803-04 according to the 1850 census. He had obviously died by 1860, although I found neither probate records nor a cemetery tombstone for him. Richard Rankin, his first cousin, was guardian of Benjamin’s minor children; the guardianship records are misfiled in the estate folder of Benjamin Sr. at the NC Archives. Benjamin’s wife was Mary Catherine Anthony, Mecklenburg marriage bond dated March 3, 1830.[25] His children were (1) William (born about 1831), (2) James (1833), (3) Jane (1836), (4) Robert (1839), (5) Richard (1844), (6) Mary (Oct. 1847 – 26 Jan 1914), and John A. (1850). All birth years are approximate except the last two. [26]

Ephraim Hargrove is a mystery. The conventional wisdom is that he was born about 1808. There is an estate file for an Ephraim Hargrove in Mecklenburg dated 1840, although it contains virtually no information. The Mecklenburg records do have a record establishing that James Rankin of Lincoln County (brother of Jean Rankin Heartgrove) was Ephraim’s guardian after his father died, so he was underage in 1826. Benjamin Sr.’s estate file also establishes that James Rankin settled Ephraim’s guardianship account in 1830, which suggests that Ephraim was born in roughly 1809.

That is all I know about the Heartgrove family, although I suspect there is a wealth of additional information in the Mecklenburg records. I hope someone will correct my errors or supplement this scanty information in a comment!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

[1] North Carolina State Archives, Fibreboard Box Labeled C.R.060.801.21, will of Samuel Rankin dated 16 Dec 1814, proved April 1826, bequeathing daughter Jean Heartgrove $1. Recorded in Lincoln County Will Book 1: 37.

[2] 1810 federal census, Mecklenburg Co., NC, household of Ben Heartgroves, 01001-11201, eldest female (Jean) born by 1765; 1830 federal census, Mecklenburg Co., NC, household of Jean Heartgrove, 00002-000020001, eldest female born 1760-1770. Taken together, the 1810 and 1830 census suggest a birth between 1760 and 1765.

[3] Virgil D. White, Genealogical Abstracts of Revolutionary War Pension Files, Volume III: N-Z (Waynesboro, TN: The National Historical Publishing Co., 1992).

[4] Frances T. Ingmire, Lincoln County North Carolina Marriage Records 1783-1866, Volume II, Females (Athens, GA: Iberian Publishing Co., 1993).

[5] 1800 federal census, Mecklenburg, household of Ben Heartgroves, 00010-40011; 1810 federal census, Mecklenburg, household of Ben Heartgrove, 01001-11201; 1820 federal census, Mecklenburg, household of Ben Hargrove, 011201-00201; 1830 federal census, Mecklenburg, household of Jean Heartgrove, 00002-00002001.

[6] Ancestry.com, North Carolina, Wills and Probate Records, 1665-1998 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: images from Wills and Estate Papers (Mecklenburg County), 1663-1978, Division of Archives and History (Raleigh, North Carolina). Note that some of the papers in this estate file are misfiled, e.g., records concerning Richard Rankin’s guardianship of the children of their son Benjamin Hartgrove (Jr.).

[7] E.g., 1800 federal census, Mecklenburg, Benjamin Heartgrove listed adjacent Thompson Heartgrove; 1820 federal census, Mecklenburg, sequential listings for Thompson, William, John and Benjamin Hargrove.

[8] 1830 federal census, Mecklenburg Co., NC, household of Jane Hartgrove, 00002-000020001, 3 slaves (eldest female age 60 < 70, born 1760-1770, with two females and two males ages 20 < 30; Brent Holcomb, Mecklenburg Co., NC, Abstracts of Early Wills, 1763-1790 (1980), abstract of Will Book E: 141, will of Jean Hartgrove dated 27 Aug 1835, proved Oct 1836.

[9] Brent H. Holcomb, Marriages of Mecklenburg Co., NC, 1783-1868 (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., 1981).

[10] https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GSln=Wilson&GSiman=1&GScid=257584&GRid=95564117&

[11] See Notes 6 and 8.

[12] https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GSln=walker&GSiman=1&GScid=1986909&GRid=8998400&

[13] https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GSln=walker&GSiman=1&GScid=1986909&GRid=23997545&

[14] https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GSln=walker&GSiman=1&GScid=1986909&GRid=23997966&

[15] Holcomb, Marriages of Mecklenburg Co., NC.

[16] See 1850 federal census, Lincoln Co., NC, household of Richard Rankin, 45, Ann Rankin, 51 (Ann Heartgrove Rankin, William Rankin, 89, John D. M. Rankin, 19, James C. Rankin, 17, and Ed L. Rankin, 7. William Rankin, One-Eyed Sam’s eldest, was born in 1761. See Virgil D. White, Genealogical Abstracts of Revolutionary War Pension Files, Volume III: N-Z (Waynesboro, TN: The National Historical Publishing Co., 1992), abstract of the pension application of Rankin, William, NC Line, S7342, states that he was born Jan 1761 in Rowan County, North Carolina.

[17] 1840 federal census, Lincoln Co., NC, Richard Rankin, 113001-110001, 5 slaves: 1 male and 1 female born 1800-1810 (Richard and Ann), 3 males born 1825-1830, 1 male and 1 female born 1830-1835, and 1 male and 1 female born 1835-1840

[18] https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=69710926

[19] Richard’s second wife was Caroline LNU, see her tombstone in Goshen Cemetery at https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GSln=Rankin&GSiman=1&GScnty=1686&GSsr=201&GRid=69711053&. See also C.R.040.508.42, file folder “Rankin, Caroline 1874,” containing an oath of Richard Rankin affirming that Caroline Rankin died intestate and he was administrator. Richard married a third time in 1875 to Delia Bisaner, who was less than half his age. See Paul L. Dellinger, Lincoln County, North Carolina Marriage Records 1868—1886 (Lincolnton, NC: 1986).

[20] https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=38892699&ref=acom

[21] https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GSln=Rankin&GSiman=1&GScid=2166251&GRid=38892811&

[22] https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=31082103

[23] 1900 federal census, Gaston Co., River Bend Twp., Stanley Precinct, dwelling 204, listing for Delia Rankin, widowed, b. Aug 1844, with her son Frank B. Rankin b. Nov. 1878 and daughter Cathlene A. Rankin, b. Feb 1880. See also NC death certificate for Mrs. Kathleen Rankin Moore, parents identified as Richard and Delia Rankin, wife of Walter P. Moore.

[24] Brent H. Holcomb, Marriages of Mecklenburg Co., NC, 1783-1868 (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., 1981).

[25] Id.

[26] 1850 federal census, Hopewell, Mecklenburg, Benj Hargrove, 47, Catherine, 40, William, 19, James, 17, Robert, 11, Richard, 6, Mary, 4, and John, infant; 1860 federal census, Mecklenburg, Mary C. Hartgrove, 51, Robert, 21, Richard, 16, Mary, 14, and John, 11; 1880 federal census, Gaston, dwelling 673, John A. Hartgrove, 29, wife Elizar J., 29, son John W., 3, daughter Zoe E., 1, mother Mary C., 72, and sister Mary O., 33. See also death certificate for Miss Mary Hartgrove, Cleveland Co., NC.

Alexander Family History: a “Must-Read”

If you follow this blog, you know that Gary and I do not cite compiled family histories as sources. Alexander Family History by John Alexander  will be an exception. It has many things to commend it, beginning with excellent, easy-to-read writing and meticulous research. It is an absolute “must-read” if you are from the line of James and Ann Alexander of Amelia County, Virginia and Anson/Rowan, North Carolina.

Before we get into the book itself, you can order it by contacting John Alexander at this email address:

jfalex37@comcast.net

The book is also available as an html version at this link. Make a note of that link, because John will continue to add to and correct the html version. John strongly encourages other Alexanders to add to the accumulated knowledge of this family via your own research. He is also happy to hear differences of opinion, provided they are backed up with citations to records.

Alternatively, John says he will send you a copy of the pdf file of the current book, and you can print away to your heart’s content. For those of us who are addicted to highlighting, this is clearly a good option.

Despite these nice alternatives, I strongly recommend that you order a bound copy of the book from John – even if you aren’t connected to this Alexander line – and donate it to your local library. Such donations are deductible. John says about $20 will cover the cost of the book plus postage.

For some information about the book, let’s just have it tell you about itself. The cover page, a good place to start, says this:

“James and Ann [Alexander], born around 1700 or shortly after, may be original American colonists or may have been born in the colonies. The story follows four of their sons, James, John, David, and Robert, and their only daughter, Eleanor, from the earliest-discovered records several generations toward the present.”

Here is some very brief information about these children that might help you determine whether any of these lines are of special interest to you …

  • James Alexander, son of James and Ann, was probably born about 1730 in the colonies. He appeared in the Anson, Rowan and Tryon records, and ultimately lived in Spartanburg County, SC. His wife was named Mary, MNU. He had four children of whom John is fairly certain, perhaps more. John identifies the four as James Jr., Matthew, William and Thomas. Matthew and William went to Logan County, KY, while most of the family remained in Spartanburg.
  • John Alexander, son of James and Ann, also born circa 1730, married Rachel Davidson and moved to the area that became Buncombe County, NC. Their four proved children were James, Ann, Mary and Thomas.
  • David Alexander, son of James and Ann, was born about 1736-37. He married Margaret Davidson (also spelled Davison) in Rowan County in 1762. They lived in Pendleton District, SC. David’s 1795 will (proved 1795, Anderson Co., SC, filed in Will Book c: 77) named his children Anne Gotcher, Jane Moore, David Alexander, Margaret Davis, Catherine Brown, Ellenor Read, James Alexander, Elizabeth Woods, John Alexander, William Morrison Alexander, and Ruth Alexander. 
  • Eleanor Alexander, the only daughter of James and Ann, married Samuel Rankin in Rowan County about 1760. The Rankins and their children lived in Lincoln (later Gaston) and Mecklenburg counties, North Carolina. Four of their ten children migrated to Rutherford County, TN and Shelby County, IL.
  • Robert Alexander, the youngest child of James and Ann, appeared in Rowan, Tryon, and Lincoln county records. He served in the Revolutionary War and was a Justice of the Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions in Lincoln County, where he died. His first wife was Mary Jack; his will names his wife Margaret, MNU. His children (not necessarily in birth order) were Lilly, Ann, Robert J., Polly, Margaret, Elisa, Evalina and Charity Amanda

For the record, James and Ann had a fifth son, their eldest, William Alexander. Unfortunately, there are apparently no records that can be attributed to him with any degree of confidence after the 1750s.

The book also includes copies of many original records, photographs, and a discussion of Y-DNA analysis. Again, the best thing to do is to let the book tell you about itself. Here is the table of contents:

Preface and Dedication

Chapter 1: What They Knew

Chapter 2: The Genealogical Digging

Chapter 3: James (died 1753) Alexander and Ann

Chapter 4: James Alexander of Spartanburg County, SC

Chapter 5: The Alexander Family in Western Kentucky

Chapter 6: Henry County and Beyond

Chapter 7: James C.’s Fayette County Branch

Chapter 8: James Alexander Jr. and the East Tennessee Branch

Chapter 9: Thomas Alexander and Mary

Chapter 10: Other Alexander Kin, Parentage Not Certain

Chapter 11: Family of John and Rachel Davidson

Chapter 12: Family of David and Margaret Davidson

Chapter 13: Family of Eleanor and Samuel Rankin

Chapter 14: Family of Robert and Mary Jack

Appendix A: Pension Applications Of Matthew And Eleanor

Appendix B: Documents from Amy Riggs, Born Amy Gore

Appendix C: South Carolina Deeds, James of Spartanburg

Appendix D: Records Relating to James (died 1753) and Ann

Appendix E: Legal Documents Relating to the Death of William McMillin

Appendix F: Siddle Documents and the Alexanders in Robertson County

Appendix G: Descendants of James (d. 1753) and Ann

Appendix H: 19th Century Marriages in Western KY and Western TN

Appendix I: Deeds of Trust, William and James C. Alexander, 1847

Appendix J: SC Documents Relating to Thomas Alexander

Appendix K: Documents from James Alexander and Rhoda Cunningham

Appendix L: Documents Relating to Ann (Alexander) Craig

Appendix M: Wills of Samuel, Alexander and James Rankin

Appendix N: Published Histories that May Be Difficult fo Find

Appendix Y: YDNA and YDNA Testing

I plan to sit down with this book, one chapter at a time, and make sure that my own family history software reflects John’s information. If it doesn’t, then I have some work to do.

Enjoy!
Robin

James and Ann Alexander of Anson – Rowan County, NC: someone please knock down this brick wall!

© Robin Rankin Willis June 2016

One of the things that surprised me about family history research is that I started liking some of my ancestors. Amazingly, one can learn a great deal about people who lived a couple of centuries ago, including their fundamental character and even specific personality traits. A fertile imagination helps, but is not essential. Even ostensibly dry county records are often revealing, and the occasional personal record can be a fabulous find. I love my great-great uncles Napoleon Bonaparte Rankin (“Pole,” a house painter) and Washington Marion Rankin (“Wash,” a “clever engineer”), who wrote each other letters in the 1880s. Their correspondence revealed a shared wicked sense of humor and considerable affection. Letters from one of their aunts, Martha Estes Swain, to their mother, Mary Estes Rankin, are full of family gossip – one can almost hear them tut-tutting. Concern for “the connection,” as they called their extended family, also comes through clear as a bell.

Other ancestors are patently obnoxious. I will save examples for another post.

Fortunately, likeable ancestors abound. My ancestors James and Ann Alexander of Rowan County are among them for two main reasons. First, they executed sweet gift deeds to five of their six children. Second, Ann Alexander bested William, their eldest son, on at least one legal issue. Eighteenth century women rarely appeared in county records, making it difficult to learn much about them. Courtroom victories by females were even less common. Ann, who appeared in several records, clearly had some mettle. I admire her determination, and imagine that having an adverse relationship with her son was not easy.

Moving on, this article contains: (1) links to some websites that provide a great deal of information about Alexanders; (2) a brief description of some major unknowns about James and Ann Alexander’s family; and (3) what the records do reveal about them.

Let’s start with the links, including two for the Alexander DNA project.

The first link summarizes Alexander family lineages for all y-DNA project participants. The line of James and Ann Alexander is designated the “Spartanburg Confused Family,” or “SpartCons” for short.[i] Find the SpartCons here:

https://www.familytreedna.com/groups/alexander-y-dna/about/results

The next link tabulates the Alexander y-DNA project results. It also refers to the line of James and Ann as “Spartanburg Confused.”

https://www.familytreedna.com/public/ALEXANDER-Y-DNA?iframe=ycolorized

Finally, here is the website of my distant cousin and fellow SpartCon John F. Alexander. It has a wealth of information about the line of James and Ann. John asks me to add that it is a work in progress and that readers are welcome to send him comments, corrections and additions that are supported by evidence.

http://www.johnandval.org/genealogy/AlexFamHist.html

As for the major unknowns about James and Ann, I really hope that someone can fill in some of these blanks. The Alexanders qualify for me as what genealogists call a “brick wall,” meaning that my efforts to identify their parents have been unsuccesful. In fact, I don’t even know where or when James Alexander was born, much less who his parents were. Ditto for his wife Ann. They are both undoubtedly Scots-Irish, but … were they the original immigrants, or were they born here, and their parents were immigrants? I don’t know the answers to any of those questions, although it’s not for lack of trying.

I do think I know where James and Ann came from before they arrived in Anson/Rowan County. They most likely lived in Amelia County, Virginia in the 1740s. Admittedly, the only clue regarding their origin in the North Carolina records was that James had some Virginia currency among the assets of his estate.[ii] That’s pretty thin circumstantial evidence, but better than none. In any event, some James and Ann Alexander lived in Amelia County from about 1742 through 1749.[iii] The timing is perfect, since that is just before James and Ann appeared in Anson County, NC some time before 1752. James and Ann were the only Alexanders who appeared in the Amelia records during that time period, except for a William Alexander who witnessed one deed and who may have been their eldest son.[iv] The absence of other Alexanders raises the inference that James and Ann may have migrated with Ann’s family of origin rather than James’s.

James and Ann lived near several other Scots-Irish families in Amelia, including Ewings, Wallaces, Gillespies, and Cunninghams, and appeared in records with several of them.[v] James Ewing, one of their Scots-Irish neighbors, came from Cecil County, MD, where he owned land.[vi] James and Ann undoubtedly also came to Amelia from the area around Philadelphia/Wilmington, where many Scots-Irish arrived from the Ulster Plantation of northernmost Ireland during the eighteenth century. Their families most likely first lived in Chester or Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, Cecil County, Maryland, or New Castle County, Delaware. I have no proof, although there are many Alexanders, Gillespies, Ewings and other Scots-Irish in the records of those counties in the 1700s.

The last entry for James and Ann in the Amelia County records was in September 1749, when they sold their tract on Fort Creek adjacent the Gillespies and Ewings.[vii] In 1750, James first appeared in the records of Anson County, North Carolina, in a land grant and a survey there.[viii] The family was clearly living in Anson County by 1752, when James received a Granville grant for the 640 acres on Kerr Creek (also known as James Cathey’s Mill Creek) that had been surveyed for him in 1750.[ix] The deed referred to him as “James Alexander, Gent., of Anson County.”

In early 1753, James and Ann executed deeds giving land and livestock to five of their six children (all except William).[x] James may have been getting his affairs in order, since he died later that year. All five deeds are dated January 7, 1753, and all of them recite love, goodwill and affection for each child as the consideration. Although there are similar recitations of consideration in many other colonial gift deeds from parent to child, it continues to strike me as a lovely thing to put in the permanent records. Also, Ann Alexander, although not named as a grantor in any of the deeds, signed at least four of them with her mark.[xi] As a married woman, she had no legal existence of her own and consequently no legal right to convey that land. Adding her signature simply put her stamp of approval on both the conveyance itself and the love and affection recited as consideration.

Each of the four deeds to their sons – gifts to James Jr., John, David and Robert – refers to the grantee as “planter.” This was a designation of one’s profession: e.g., planter, blacksmith, trader, or just “gentleman.” In January 1753, David was probably just teetering on the brink of adulthood. He was definitely not more than eighteen, and probably a year or two younger than that. Robert was about age ten. Their parents may have been taking pains to treat their younger sons as adults, and perhaps there was a twinkle in the parental eyes when they executed those deeds.

Eleanor, the only Alexander daughter, did not receive land, which isn’t unusual. A colonial female rarely owned a fee simple interest in land. If a woman owned any interest at all in real property, it was usually just a life estate in some or all of her deceased husband’s land. Instead of land, James and Ann gave Eleanor a “gray mair” [sic] and three “cow yearlings.” Her appearance in that deed is important for more than proof of her parents and siblings, because her name is a source of minor controversy among family history researchers. Most call her “Ellen,” which is the name on her tombstone and what she was probably called.[xii] They may be right, but I will just say this: a court record identified her given name as Eleanor;[xiii] at least three deeds (one with her signature as “Elender”) do the same;[xiv] and she had a daughter and at least five granddaughters, all named Eleanor rather than Ellen.[xv] Those facts surely establish that her given name was actually Eleanor. Her nickname was Ellen. For the record, Eleanor, daughter of James and Ann Alexander, married Samuel Rankin about 1759 – early 1760.[xvi] Eleanor’s brother David (not her father, as the author of one Rankin family history incorrectly speculated) sold Samuel his 320-acre tract on James Cathey’s Mill Creek in 1760.[xvii]

Back to James and Ann. A deed from William Alexander to his brother Robert states that James died on June 15, 1753.[xviii] Ann was appointed guardian for David, Eleanor and Robert on October 22, 1755, proving they were underage on that date.[xix] David and Eleanor were allowed to choose their own guardian, establishing that they were at least fourteen but not yet twenty-one. The court appointed Ann guardian for Robert, stating that he was then about age twelve.

The Rowan county deed and court records prove one more son, William. He wasn’t a grantee among the 1753 gift deeds, which may just mean that James and Ann had already provided for him in some fashion. In 1756, William executed confirmation deeds to his two minor brothers, David and Robert, for the land they had received as gifts.[xx] As the eldest, William was James’s heir under the North Carolina law of intestate descent and distribution, and would have been entitled to inherit James’s land had James owned any when he died (assuming, of course, that James had left no will: the rule of primogeniture only applied if a deceased did NOT leave a will). James, however, had given it all to his other four sons. Ann paid William something more than the standard gift deed price of five shillings (although still substantially less than the land was worth) to obtain those confirmation deeds. The “conveyances” insured that her sons had good title and that William would not dispute it.[xxi] I have seen a number of similar confirmation deeds, and the consideration recited was always “love, goodwill and affection.” William apparently preferred cash.

The records leave no doubt about the state of Ann’s relationship with William. In 1755, she had hauled him into court, asserting that he was withholding assets belonging to his father’s estate.[xxii] Ann’s attorney also charged (undoubtedly on her authority and behalf) that William was abusing an indentured servant. I don’t know how the claim regarding the estate assets turned out, but the court sided with Ann on the abuse issue and discharged the indentured servant.[xxiii]

The records suggest that the six Alexander children were born on approximately the dates shown below. The birth dates are estimates, except with respect to David, Eleanor and Robert, whose birth years are reasonably supported by various records: [xxiv]

– William, born by 1728

– James Jr., born about 1730

– John, born about 1732

– David, born about 1736

– Eleanor, born 1740

– Robert, born about 1743

I haven’t found any record of William Alexander’s family (if any) or his whereabouts after Rowan County. James Jr. lived in Spartanburg, SC; John Alexander married Rachel Davidson and went to Burke/Buncombe County, NC; David married Margaret Davidson in Rowan in 1762 and went to Pendleton District (now Anderson Co.), SC; and Robert married Mary Jack and remained in Lincoln County, where he was a justice of the county court.[xxv] Perhaps I can persuade some of the SpartCons to collaborate with me on an outline descendant chart for James and Ann which I can post on this site. I confess that I have not tracked any of James’s and Ann’s children except for Eleanor Alexander, wife of Samuel Rankin. Samuel and Eleanor are probably my ancestors, although an additional y-DNA test of one of Sam and Eleanor’s descendants is needed. Without DNA evidence, I can prove Samuel and Eleanor as ancestors only through a family legend and very strong circumstantial evidence. I will save that story for another day!

* * * * * * * * * * 

[i] The name ‘Spartanburg Confused’, or SpartCon, was assigned long ago, before discovering that James Jr., John, David and Robert were all sons of James and Ann. There are now so many references to SpartCons that changing the designation would be difficult, even though the family is not exclusively from Spartanburg (and the confusion has abated!).

[ii] Jo White Linn, Abstracts of the Minutes of the Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions, Rowan County, North Carolina, 1753-1762 (Salisbury, NC: 1977), Order Book 2: 92, entry of 25 Oct 1755, inventory of the estate of James Alexander, dec’d, included £52.11.2 Virginia money.

[iii] Gibson J. McConnaughey, Court Order Book 1, Amelia County, Virginia, 1735-1746 (Amelia, VA: Mid-South Publishing Co., 1985), abstract of Order Book 1: 281A, entry of 19 Aug 1742, James Alexander paid for attending court to testify in a lawsuit; Gibson J. McConnaughey, Deed Book 3 and Deed Book 4, Amelia County, Virginia Deeds 1747-1753 (Amelia, VA: Mid-South Publishing Co., 1988), abstract of Deed Book 3: 531, 30 Sep 1749 deed from James Alexander and wife Ann conveying a tract on Fort Creek.

[iv] McConnaughey, abstract of Deed Book 3: 278, 19 Jul 1749 deed witnessed by William Alexander. The grantor was a resident of Augusta County, and the witnesses may have lived there. If the witness was William, the eldest son of James and Ann, then he had probably arrived at legal age and was born by 1728.

[v] FHL Film #1,902,616, tax lists for 1744 through 1749 for the upper part of Amelia from Namozine Cr. to Cellar Cr. included James Alexander, several Cunninghams, Samuel Wallace, Samuel Ewing and Gillespies; 1744 deed to Robert Gillespie for land on Fort Creek adjacent to James Alexander (I have lost the deed book citation for that deed); McConnaughey, abstract of Amelia Deed Book 2: 315, 1746 deed from James Alexander to James Ewing, land on Fort Creek. Grantor’s wife Ann relinquished dower.

[vi] McConnaughey, abstract of Deed Book 3: 371, power of attorney from James Ewing of Amelia County to Joshua Ewing to sell a tract of land in Cecil Co., MD.

[vii] Id., abstract of Deed Book 3: 351, deed of 30 Sep 1749 from James Alexander to John Reed, 300 acres on the north side Fort Creek adjacent Robert Galaspye [sic, Gillespie], James Ewing, Samuel Ewing and James Parks, with all houses, etc., witnessed by John Cunningham et al.

[viii] NC Land Grants Vol. 4: 1040, grant dated 7 Apr 1750 to James Alexander, two tracts on both sides Rocky River; Patent Book 11: 1, survey dated 12 Nov 1750, 640 acres in Anson adjacent Andrew Kerr.

[ix] Jo White Linn, Rowan County North Carolina Deed Abstracts Vol. I 1753 – 1762, Abstracts of Books 1 – 4 (Salisbury, NC), Deed Book 3: 547, Granville grant dated 25 Mar 1752 to James Alexander of Anson Co., Gent., 640 acres adjacent Andrew Kerr. Witnesses included William Alexander. Notation in the margin: “to his widow.” This tract was on Kerr/James Cathey’s Mill Creek.

[x] Copies of Anson County, NC Deed Book B: 314, deed from James Alexander (also signed by Ann) to James Jr., 320 acres on Cadle (sic, Coddle) Cr. and 250 acres on the Catawba River; id. at pp. 314-315, deed from James (also signed Ann) to son John, the other half of the two tracts given to James Jr.; id. at 315, James Sr. to son David, half of the tract where I live (the tract on James Cathey’s Mill Cr.) and livestock; id., deeds from James to daughter Elener and son Robert (the other half of the tract on James Cathey’s Mill Cr.). An abstract of Anson County deeds omits the second deed, a gift of land and livestock to John Alexander. See Brent Holcomb, Anson County, N. C. Deed Abstracts Volume 1: 1749-1757 (Clinton, SC: 1974). I have copies from the deed books, however, so am confident that John is a proved son of James and Ann Alexander.

[xi] The deed from James Alexander to their daughter “Elener” doesn’t mention Ann’s mark, although these deeds have been transcribed from the original deed books and are now typed.

[xii] Microfilm at Clayton Genealogical library titled “North Carolina Tombstone Records, Vols. 1, 2 and 3,” compiled by the Alexander Martin and J. S. Wellborn chapters of the DAR; transcribed lists filmed 1935 by the Genealogical Society of Utah. Tombstone of Ellen Rankin, b. 16 April 1740, d. 26 Jan 1802. Other researchers give the birth date on her tombstone as 1743, although that is not consistent with the court allowing her to cloose her own guardian in 1755. That required her to be at least fourteen.

[xiii] Linn, Abstracts of the Minutes, Order Book 2: 90, entry of 22 Oct 1755, David and Elinor Alexander (spelling per abstractor) came into court and chose their mother Ann Alexander as their guardian.

[xiv] Copy of Rowan County DB B: 315, gift deed from James Alexander to his daughter Elener; Linn, Rowan County Abstracts, Deed Book 6: 225, deed dated 31 Aug 1765 from Samuel Rankin and wife Eleanor (spelling per the abstractor) to John McNeeley, 320 acres on James Cathey’s Mill Creek; original of Lincoln Co. Deed Book 1: 703 (viewed by me at the courthouse, although my notes do not say whether it was Gaston or Lincoln County), deed of 26 Jan 1773 from Samuel Rankin of Tryon to Philip Alston, 150 acres on Kuykendall Creek signed by Samuel Rankin and Elender Rankin (two other deeds the same day, see DB 1: 702 et seq. were not signed by “Elender,” although she is identified in both as “Elen,” a grantor).

[xv] At least five of Samuel and Eleanor Rankin’s children named a daughter “Eleanor” (not “Ellen”), including Samuel Rankin Jr., Jean Rankin Hartgrove, Robert Rankin, David G. Rankin, and Eleanor Rankin Dickson. See, e.g., the tombstone of Eleanor, wife of Joseph Dickson, Ellis Cemetery, Shelby Co., Ill., died 4 Apr 1848, age 62, at www.findagrave.com.

[xvi] Virgil D. White, Genealogical Abstracts of Revolutionary War Pension Files, Volume III: N-Z (Waynesboro, TN: The National Historical Publishing Co., 1992). Abstract of the pension application of William Rankin, the eldest son of Samuel and Eleanor Alexander Rankin, states that he was born January 1761 in Rowan County.

[xvii] Jo White Linn, Rowan County North Carolina Deed Abstracts Vol. II. 1762 – 1772 Abstracts of Books 5, 6, 7 (Salisbury, NC: 1972), Deed Book 5: 272, 14 July 1760 deed from David Alexander to Samuel Rankin, for £29 NC currency, 320 acres on both sides James Cathey’s Mill Creek.

[xviii] Jo White Linn, Rowan County North Carolina Deed Abstracts Vol. I 1753 – 1762, Abstracts of Books 1 – 4 (Salisbury, NC), abstract of Deed Book 3: 495, deed of 10 Jun 1756 from William Alexander, described as the eldest son and heir of James Alexander, to his brother Robert Alexander, reciting that James died intestate on 15 June 1753.

[xix] Linn, abstract of Rowan Order Book 2: 90, David and Elener Alexander chose their mother Ann as guardian and the court appointed Ann the guardian of Robert, about age 12.

[xx] Linn, abstract of Rowan Deed Book 3: 495, deed dated 10 Jun 1756 from Wiliam Alexander, eldest son and heir of James Alexander, to Robert Alexander, orphan of James, under 21 and brother of James (who died intestate 15 Jun 1753), for 75 shillings paid by the widow Anne Alexander, mother of Robert and William, 320 acres on both sides James Cathey’s Mill Cr.; Deed Book 3: 498, William Alexander to David Alexander, orphan of James Alexander, under 21 and brother of William, by Anne Alexander, for 7 shillings sterling, 320 acres both sides James Cathey’s Mill Cr.

[xxi] I don’t know why similar confirmation deeds were apparently not needed for the gifts to James Jr. and John, who were of legal age at the time of the gift in 1753. North Carolina law at that time apparently treated conveyances of realty to minors differently than conveyances to a grantee of legal age. Other Rowan County records establish that Ann Alexander had an attorney, see note 22, and it seems likely that she would have obtained advice about the ability of an heir to challenge a conveyance of land via deeds of gift.

[xxii] Id., abstract of Rowan Order Book 2: 77, entry of 16 Jul 1755, ordered on motion of Edward Underhill, Esq. (Ann Alexander’s attorney) that citation issue against William Alexander returnable immediately to give an account on oath what estate he has in his hands or had which were of James Alexander, dec’d, and account with Ann Alexander, administratrix for same.

[xxiii] Id., abstract of Order Book 2: 78, ordered on motion of Edward Underhill, Esq., that James Nicholas be discharged of his indenture to William Alexander due to ill usage. Discharged. The next day, the court ordered William to produce James Nicholas in court or else to “stand committed.” Order Book 2: 81. I don’t know what “stand committed” means, but suspect that it means held in contempt of court and committed to jail.

[xxiv] See note 12 (tombstone showing Eleanor’s birth year as 1740), note 19 (in 1755, Ann Alexander chosen as guardian by Eleanor and David and appointed as guardian of Robert, about age 12) and note 20 (1756 deed reciting that David Alexander was still a minor).

[xxv] https://www.familytreedna.com/groups/alexander-y-dna/about/results, see lineages for those members of the “Spartanburg Confused Family” who trace their line back to James and Ann.

Ancestor Charts for John Allen Rankin & Siblings

Here are two ancestor charts for John Allen Rankin. They have the same information, although in two different formats. I’m trying them on for size. Both show three generations of ancestors for John Allen Rankin; one chart also identifies his siblings. There isn’t much information on any individual. This is just a “big picture” of John Allen’s family tree.

The first tree is an unsophisticated chart that I drew using Word, at considerable cost to my sanity. I tried several times simply to paste the chart in this post, but could not make that work. Instead, I accidentally created a link to the chart. A potential problem here is that I am not sure I can duplicate the process … <grin>

Here is the link for that ancestor chart: Rankin chart 1

The second chart is one that Family Tree Maker drew for me with the click of a mouse. Much easier on the blood pressure, but not nearly as colorful. Ultimately, not very satisfying, either. Here is the link to the FTM tree chart:

JARankin Tree Chart

Here’s hoping that some of the innumerable people clinging to the mistaken belief that Mary F. Estes Rankin was the daughter of Lyddal Bacon Estes and Sally Alston Hunter see these charts and reconsider the error of their ways. Mary Estes Rankin’s mother was Ann Allen Winn, nickname “Nancy.” Sally Hunter was married to a different Lyddal Bacon Estes, a doctor who lived in Maury County, Tennessee. Next, I will publish an article describing the “same name confusion” error that surrounds Dr. Estes and his namesake, a nephew, who was actually Mary Estes Rankin’s father. Cheers!

Robin