Where are you from? Here’s a great source for Anglo names …

A couple of decades ago, my first cousin Butch Rankin[1] posed this question to me: “where are we from, anyway?” He didn’t specify which of our many shared ancestral lines he meant, but he was clearly asking about Rankins.

Hmmmm… there were some Rankins who came to the colonies from England, often Quakers. For example, there was a James Rankin in York Co., Pennsylvania in the 1770s, a Tory, whose estate was confiscated and who fled back to England.[2] But the vast majority of Rankin immigrants to the colonies during the 18th century came from Ireland. They were overwhelmingly Scots-Irish, Presbyterian, and Patriots.

Sometimes, names, locations and religion can reveal a great deal, and this is a good example. Butch’s and my earliest known Rankin ancestor first appeared in colonial records in Rowan County, North Carolina, smack dab in the middle of the Scots-Irish settlements of the Piedmont Plateau. Moreover, our ancestor Samuel Rankin – known as  Old One-Eyed Sam  – married  Eleanor (“Ellen”) Alexander. As nearly as I can tell, “Alexander” is the Scots-Irish equivalent of “Smith.” Samuel and Eleanor are buried in the Old Goshen Grove Presbyterian Church Cemetery in Belmont, NC. There was once a marker on the wall of Goshen Cemetery “in memory of the following Revolutionary soldiers,” including Robert Alexander (Eleanor Alexander Rankin’s brother), William Rankin (eldest son of Samuel and Eleanor), and Samuel Rankin  – Old One-Eyed Sam himself, who was too old to fight, but who was deemed a “patriot” by the DAR because he contributed supplies.[3]

OK, Scots-Irish, Presbyterian, and patriot: check, check, check. The correct answer to Butch’s question is that we came to the colonies from the province of Ulster in northernmost Ireland. And before our Rankin ancestors migrated to Ulster, they lived in Scotland.

But where in Scotland? I’ve done no research there because I hadn’t a clue where to start. Many Rankin researchers claim the highlands of northwest Scotland, reciting a frequently reported connection between the Rankins and the Maclean Clan of Duart Castle on the Isle of Mull. It is a popular story, although I’ve never seen a reference to evidence in any records. However, I never found a credible alternative opinion on the issue.

Until this week. There is a book at Clayton Genealogical Library that is new to me: The Oxford Dictionary of Family Names in Britain and Ireland, published by the Oxford University Press.[4] If you have Anglo ancestors, you might want to check this source, because it has some interesting information. Also, Oxford University has a certain aura of credibility.

This is what the Dictionary says about Rankin, in part (emphasis added):

“Rankin. Variants: Rankine, Ranken, Ranking

Current frequencies: GB 6341, Ireland 1281. GB frequency 1881: 4297

Main GB location 1881: widespread in Scotland and England, chiefly SW Scotland; Lancs; Northumb

Main Irish location 1847-64: Ulster: esp.Derry, Donegal, and Antrim    

Scottish, English: relationship name from Middle English Ran(d)kin, a diminutive of Ran(d), a pet form of the personal name Ran(d)ulf. See Rand, Randolph, Randall.

Further information: this name was brought to Northern Ireland (Derry) from Scotland in the 17thcentury.

Early bearers: given names: Rankin de Fowlartoun, 1429 in Ayr Charters (Ayr, Ayrs).”

I’m a bit foggy about what “Ayr Charters” are, although this article is helpful.  But I am quite clear about the counties Derry, Donegal and Antrim in the province of Ulster, Ireland, to which many Scots migrated during the 1610-1690 period. (See a map of Irish provinces and counties comprising them  here). Google Maps is also unambiguous about Ayr, a city on the Firth of Clyde in the province of Ayrshire in southwest Scotland. As the crow flies, Ayr to Londonderry (or Derry, depending on your politics)  in Northern Ireland is about 120 miles. Just for fun, there is a Rankintown about 12 miles southeast of Ayr.

Based on just the numbers, there is a decent chance that your Scots-Irish Rankin ancestor lived in Ayrshire, Scotland before migrating to Derry, Donegal or Antrim county in the province of Ulster  – and then arriving in the Colonies during the “Great Migration” of the 18th century. I like the odds.

To check the Dictionary’s source for identifying “Rankin de Fowlartoun” as a resident of Ayr in 1429, just Google “Ayr Charters.” You will find a mind-boggling text in both Latin and English. The document says it is the full text of “Charters of the royal burgh of Ayr.”

The relevant text in Latin is described in the heading as a “Notarial Instrument concerning the Rendering of Accounts by the Bailies of Ayr,” dated 17 November 1429. It’s been more than half a century since I wrestled with Virgil’s Aeneid, so the only things I recognize are dates and names. The latter includes “Johannes de Bathcate” and “Thomas de Carrie,” who were the “bailies” (Bailiffs? Sheriffs? Tax collectors?) of the Burgh of Ayr.

The other Latinized names in the text include Henrico Forrestar (Henry Forrest or Forrester, the Chamberlain’s deputy), Rankino de Fowlartoun, Alexandro de Cragy, Thoma[s] Crotteche, David Glassynwricht, Macolmo de Qulchone, Johanne Litster, Johanne Gray, Johanne Bannezour, Gilberto Askirk, and Thomas Hakete, the notary.

Fortunately, there is an abstract of the Latin text at the same link, although it omits all names except for the two bailies and the Chamberlain’s deputy. Here is what it says, in part:[5]

“Notarial Instrument narrating that John of Bathgate and Thomas of Carrick, bailies of Ayr, being charged to render their account for the past year by Henry Forestar, depute of the chamberlain, in the manner and form contained in a certain instrument accepted by the said depute;

They having advised with the best men of the burgh of Ayr declared that they were never before the past year charged or required to make such account … Done in the Tolbooth of Ayr, about eleven o’clock on 17th November 1429.”

Taking into account both the Latin text and the abstract, it appears that “Rankine of Fowlartoun” was among the “best men of the Burgh of Ayr” with whom the bailies consulted about how and when to render accounts in 1429. Nice – perhaps an offsetting balance to my Rankin ancestor who was a Civil War deserter.

Now I will run, because I must call Butch and tell him that our Rankins most likely came originally from Ayrshire Province in Southwest Scotland before they wound up in Ulster. Then I will head back to the library to look up Brodnax, Lindsey, Winn, Estes, Bacon, Lyddal, Harkins, Hubbard, Stubbs, Odom, Rivers, Whittaker, et. al.…

Hope you also find interesting information in the Dictionary.

See you on down the road.

Robin

[1] “Butch” is not his actual given name, of course – it was his nickname as a kid. Now he is stuck with it, so far as the Rankin cousins are concerned. I still wonder briefly who the hell his wife is talking about when I hear her call him by his “real” name. I am quite fond of Butch, with whom I talk on the phone often.

[2] Franklin Ellis and Samuel Evans, History of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania (Philadelphia: Evets & Peck, 1883), 752-53: “Rankin’s Ferry was established a few years prior to the Revolution by James Rankin, who resided in York County. The Rankins were Tories. James Rankin was a Quaker, and was appointed a justice of the peace for York County prior to the Revolution. He was one of the most prominent men in the country.  … Being suspected of secret machinations against the patriots he suddenly went over to the British when Howe had possession of Philadelphia, and thence to England … several farms were confiscated … in 1790, James Rankin and Dr. Robert Harris owned the ferry and the land at the eastern end. It became the subject of litigation, which very likely grew out of the confiscation of Rankin’s estate.”

[3] Family History Library Film # 0,882,938, item 2, “Pre-1914 Cemetery Inscription Survey, Gaston Co., prepared by the Historical Records Survey Service Division, Works Progress Administration.”

[4] Patrick Hanks, Richard Coates, and Peter McClure, The Oxford Dictionary of Family Names in Britain and Ireland (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2017), 2214.

[5] For the record, the bailies were arguing about the form of and timing to submit the accounts, and not the need to render them.

Samuel Rankin (abt. 1734 – abt. 1816) m. Eleanor Alexander: YDNA Evidence

In August and September 2016, I posted a two-part article about the possible family of origin of Samuel Rankin (nicknamed “Old One-Eyed Sam”) of Rowan, Mecklenburg and Lincoln counties, North Carolina. His wife was Eleanor (“Ellen”) Alexander. I just reread the posts. They were tedious, prolix, and packed with trivial information of no possible interest. I apparently have an unattractive propensity to beat dead horses. Moreover, Y-DNA information on the issue has come to light which moots most of one post.

Here is their replacement. It just cuts to the chase re: discredited theories about One One-Eyed Sam’s possible parents.

Rankin researchers have had two main theories about the identity of Old One-Eyed Sam’s parents:

Theory #1 – Joseph and Rebecca Rankin of White Clay Creek Hundred, New Castle County, Delaware (1704-1764) . Two of their sons who belonged to the same generation as Old One-Eyed Sam moved to Guilford County, NC. The primary source for this theory is Rev. S. M. Rankin’s 1931 book, The Rankin and Wharton Families and Their Genealogy.[1]

Theory #2 – Robert and Rebecca Rankin of Guilford County, North Carolina ( “R&R”). Before migrating to North Carolina in the mid-1750s, Robert appeared on the 1753 tax list for West Nottingham Township, Chester County, PA.

Y-DNA testing conclusively prove that both theories are dead wrong.

Here’s a bit about the DNA evidence.

The Y-DNA evidence re: Theory #1

There is a Rankin DNA Project which provides (anonymously)  members’ Y-DNA results online.[2] One member – call him Joe – has a solid paper genealogical trail proving he is descended from Joseph of Delaware. I located another proved descendant of Joseph of Delaware via conventional paper research – let’s call him “Mr. X.” Joe convinced Mr. X to Y-DNA test. Mr. X and Joe are 37-marker matches with one mismatching marker. Genetic genealogists call that a “37-marker match with a genetic distance of one” (or “GD=1”).” That is a darn good match. Furthermore, the two men descend from different sons of Joseph of Delaware so their close match isn’t a function of having a recent common ancestor, such as a great-grandparent. Joseph of Delaware is their common Rankin ancestor.

With two closely matching Y-DNA samples and two solid paper trails, there is a high degree of confidence that Joe and Mr. X provide a good picture of the Y-DNA of descendants of Joseph of Delaware – as well as those who aren’t his descendants.

The Rankin DNA project has four members[3] whose paper trails prove them to be descendants of Old One-Eyed Sam and Eleanor Alexander Rankin. None are a match – not even remotely close – to Joe. Y-DNA evidence thus proves conclusively that Old One-Eyed Sam cannot be a son of Joseph of Delaware.

The Y-DNA Evidence re: Theory #2

 The Rankin DNA Project has four participants whose genealogical paper trail shows they are descended from R&R, Robert and Rebecca Rankin of Guilford. None of them are a Y-DNA match with descendants of Old One-Eyed Sam. Again, the Y-DNA results are not even close. Old One-Eyed Sam therefore cannot be a son of Robert and Rebecca of Guilford, either.

Case closed. We must apparently find a matching Rankin on the other side of the Atlantic to learn more about Sam Sr.’s family of origin.

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[1] Rev. S. M. Rankin, The Rankin and Wharton Families and Their Genealogy (Greensboro, NC: J. J. Stone & Co., printers and binders, 1931, reprint by Higginson Book Co., Salem, MA).

[2] http://www.worldfamilies.net/surnames/rankin/ was formerly the host website for the Rankin DNA Project. World Families deleted all of their websites in May 2018 when the European Union Privacy Act (the GDPR) took effect.

[3] The Rankin DNA Project had four members descended from Sam and Eleanor as of April 2019.

Samuel and Eleanor (“Ellen”) Alexander Rankin: Some Corrections to the Record

I’m tilting at windmills again. The idea is to correct some frequent errors about Samuel and Eleanor Alexander Rankin, who appeared in the records of Rowan, Tryon, Mecklenburg, and Lincoln Counties. A cousin asked why I write “correction” articles. That’s easy. Thanks to the ease of importing other peoples’ family trees, online genealogy errors have multiplied exponentially, like the Tribbles in the original Star Trek. Also, anything that has ever appeared in print is taken as gospel. While it is a truism that every family history contains errors, most people presumably prefer to eliminate them when possible. Thus, cousin, I’m providing a Tribble extermination service, even though some of these errors are minor. <grin>

So let’s turn again to Samuel and his wife Eleanor.  Another article of mine deals with two theories about the identity of Samuel’s parents: (1) Joseph and Rebecca Rankin of New Castle County, Delaware or (2) Robert and Rebecca Rankin of Guilford County, North Carolina. Y-DNA testing has conclusively disproved both possibilities. So far as I have found, there is no evidence on this side of the Atlantic about the identity of Samuel’s parents.

On to new territory. Here are my positions regarding some of the conventional wisdom on Samuel and Eleanor:

  • Samuel was probably born in 1734 (not 1732); he probably died in 1816 (not 1814).
  • There is no reason to believe Samuel was born in New Castle County, Delaware. There is no evidence where he was born. I would place a bet on the traditional province of Ulster.
  • He and Eleanor married in Rowan County, North Carolina, not Pennsylvania.
  • Samuel arrived in North Carolina by no later than April 1760, and probably by 1759.
  • His wife’s given name was Eleanor. “Ellen,” the name on her tombstone, was her nickname.
  • Eleanor was born in 1740, not 1743.
  • Eleanor’s father was not the David Alexander who sold Samuel a 320-acre tract on James Cathey’s Mill Creek (aka Kerr Creek). David was her brother. Her parents were James and Ann Alexander.

Let’s start at the top.

What were Samuel’s dates of birth and death?

Date of birth: many Rankin researchers, including a “Find-a-grave” website for the Goshen Presbyterian Cemetery in Belmont where Samuel was buried, say that he was born in 1732.[1] His tombstone has disappeared, or at least my husband and I couldn’t find it when we visited the cemetery in August 2001. For the record, the writeup on Samuel on the Find-a-grave website has substantive errors.

Those include his birth year. I haven’t seen any evidence that he was born in 1732, although that doesn’t mean there isn’t any. So far as I have found, the only evidence of his birth date is on a film titled “Pre-1914 Cemetery Inscription Survey, Gaston Co., prepared by the Historical Records Survey Service Division, Works Progress Administration.”[2]  That survey, taken when the tombstone was obviously still extant, says that Samuel Rankin was born in 1734. Of course, the stone was more than a century old by then and could easily have been worn or misread. Further, Samuel’s children might not have known his actual date of birth – and Samuel wasn’t around to correct them. In any event, the WPA survey is apparently the only available credible evidence.

Date of death: findagrave.com and many online family trees give Samuel’s date of death as December 16, 1814. That is the date that Samuel signed his will, and the probability that he died that day is slim to none.[3] In fact, the actual probability that he died that day is zero, because he appeared in the Lincoln County records in 1816. On July 26 of that year, he conveyed to his son James a tract on Stanleys Creek adjacent James’ brothers William and Alexander (and Thomas Rhyne, see my article about Samuel’s grandson Sam, son of Richard).[4] That is the last entry I found for Samuel in the Lincoln records until his will was proved in 1826.[5] The WPA cemetery survey says Samuel died in 1816.

Where was Samuel born?

Many Rankin researchers claim Samuel was born in New Castle County, Delaware. That is probably because many believed he was a son of Joseph Rankin of New Castle. Since that has been disproved by Y-DNA evidence, there is no logic for placing Samuel’s birth where Joseph lived. In fact, I found no evidence of a Rankin named Samuel in New Castle County in the relevant time frame, although there are many Rankin records that county. There seems to be no evidence for any place of birth for Samuel, or even any evidence that he was born in the colonies rather than on the other side of the Atlantic. The answer to the question posed is “I don’t know for sure, but I would bet on Ulster.”

Where did Samuel and Eleanor marry, and who were her parents?

The couple undoubtedly married in North Carolina, not Pennsylvania. That is contrary to the view of Minnie Puett, who wrote a history of Gaston County. Eleanor’s family – her parents James (not David) and Ann and her brothers William, James, John, David and Robert – were in that part of Anson County that became Rowan by at least March 1752, when there was a Granville grant to James Alexander “of Anson Co., Gent.”[6] Eleanor Alexander was the grantee in an Anson County gift deed of livestock from her father James on January 12, 1753, when she was not quite thirteen. Before they came to North Carolina, the Alexander family was in Amelia County, Virginia.

When did Samuel come to North Carolina, and from where?

It is possible that Samuel came to North Carolina from Pennsylvania, as many Rankin researchers think. So did many other Scots-Irish settlers of the Piedmont Plateau. If you had to guess, you would probably say that Samuel came to NC from either Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, or Virginia. The only evidence I have found for a man who might be the same man as Samuel Rankin prior to his arrival in NC is in Chester County, Pennsylvania. Some Samuel Rankin was listed as a freeman (i.e., age 21 or over and single) on the 1753 tax list for Sadsbury Township of Chester County.[7] There are no other Rankins on that list, although there are a number of other Scots-Irish whose names will be familiar to Lincoln/Rowan County researchers. There were several Moores, Beatys and Campbells, as well as a McCleary, Erwin and Kerr. The Samuel Rankin taxed as a freeman in 1753 was born by at least 1732, which might be why some researchers claim that date for the birth year of Eleanor’s husband Samuel.

Wherever he came from, the evidence establishes that Samuel was in North Carolina earlier than some researchers believe, including Minnie Puett. His first land acquisition was a purchase from David Alexander in a deed dated July 14, 1760.[8] The tract was on James Cathey’s Mill Creek (also known as Kerr Creek), and not on Kuykendahl/Dutchman’s Creek, where the family eventually settled. The Revolutionary War Pension application of Samuel’s son William says that William was born in January 1761 in Rowan County, which puts Samuel in NC no later than April 1760.[9] Assuming he took more than a few months to court Eleanor and that William was their eldest child, one would conclude Samuel was in NC by no later than 1759.

Samuel’s wife was named Eleanor and she was born in 1740, not 1743

Her Goshen Presbyterian Cemetery tombstone, which was still intact (although barely legible) when we visited in 2001, calls her “Ellen.” So did the Rev. Samuel Meek Rankin in his book about the Rankin and Wharton families, probably based on her tombstone.[10] Her family and friends undoubtedly called her Ellen. Almost all Rankin researchers do the same, and I have been corrected more than once for calling her Eleanor. Nevertheless, I persist. <grin> The records establish that her given name was Eleanor. Period. Her father called her “Elener” [sic] in a gift deed.[11] A Rowan County court called her “Elinor.”[12]  At least two deeds (one with her signature as “Elender”) do the same.[13] She and Samuel had a daughter and at least five granddaughters, all named Eleanor rather than Ellen.[14] Those facts surely establish that her given name was Eleanor, or I will eat my hat. Her nickname was Ellen.

Eleanor was almost certainly born in 1740, not 1743. The Rowan County court allowed her to choose her own guardian in 1755.[15] Doing so required her to be fourteen or older, so she must have been born by at least 1741. Two tombstone surveys say the date of birth on her tombstone was 16 April 1740.[16] The date is now so faded, however, that it could reasonably be read as 1743 – although that date is foreclosed by the court record.

… and that’s it for now. I’m not done with this family, though. More to come.

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[1] The Find-a-grave website contains quite a few errors about Samuel and Eleanor, mostly minor, some not so minor. See it here.

[2] Family History Library Microfilm No. 0,882,938, item 2.

[3] North Carolina State Library and Archives, Search Room, File Box C.R.060.801.21, will of Samuel Rankin of Lincoln County dated 16 Dec 1814, proved April 1826. Recorded in Lincoln County Will Book 1: 37.

[4] Lincoln County Deed Book 27: 561, conveyance from Samuel Rankin to James Rankin witnessed by William Rankin and Benjamin Hartgrove. The grantor is not Sam Jr., who owned land in Mecklenburg, not Lincoln, and had already sold his Mecklenburg tracts before 1816. An article about Samuel and Eleanor’s grandson Samuel, son of Richard, can be found here.

[5] There was presumably no hurry to probate Samuel’s will because he left each of his surviving children $1, except for James, to whom he left the rest of his estate. With nobody anxious for a big payout, there was no reason to rush to the courthouse.

[6] Rowan Co., NC Deed Book 3: 547, Granville grant of 25 Mar 1752 to James Alexander, 640 acres in Anson adjacent Andrew Kerr. James gifted half of that tract to his son David Alexander, and David sold it to Samuel Rankin in 1760. See Anson County Deed Book B: 314 et seq. for charming gift deeds of land and livestock from James Alexander and his wife Ann to five of their six children, including Eleanor.

[7] J. Smith Futhey and Gilbert Cope, History of Chester County, Pennsylvania (Philadelphia: Louis H. Everts, 1881), reproduction facsimile by Chester County Historical Society (Mt. Vernon, IN: Windmill Publications, Inc. 1996).

[8] Rowan Co., NC Deed Book 5: 272, deed dated 14 Jul 1760 from David Alexander to Samuel Rankin, 320 acres both sides of James Cathey’s Mill Cr. (AKA Kerr’s Cr.).

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

[10] Rev. S. M. Rankin, The Rankin and Wharton Families and Their Genealogy (Greensboro, NC: J. J. Stone & Co, 1931).

[11] Copy of Rowan Co., NC Deed Book B: 315 (obtained by mail from the clerk of court back when that was the only way to view one), gift deed from James Alexander to his daughter Elener.

[12] Jo White Linn, Abstracts of the Minutes of the Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions, Rowan County, North Carolina, 1753-1762 (Salisbury, NC: 1977), abstract of 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.

[13] Jo White Linn, Rowan County North Carolina Deed Abstracts Vol. II. 1762 – 1772 Abstracts of Books 5, 6, 7(Salisbury, NC: 1972), Deed Book 6: 225, deed dated 31 Aug 1765 from Samuel Rankin and wife Eleanor (spelling per the abstractor) to John McNeeley; Lincoln Co. Deed Book 1: 703, 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.

[14] 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 Rankin, and Eleanor (“Nellie”) Rankin Dickson. Samuel and Eleanor named one of their daughters Eleanor. See, e.g., an image of the tombstone of Eleanor Rankin Dickson, Ellis Cemetery, Shelby Co., Ill., died 4 Apr 1848, age 62, here..

[15] Linn, Abstracts of Minutes, abstract of Order Book 2: 90, 22 Oct 1755, David and Elinor Alexander came into court and chose their mother Ann Alexander as their guardian; the court appointed Ann guardian for Robert, about age 12, son of James Alexander, dec’d.

[16] Family History Library Microfilm No. 0,882,938, item 2. See also 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 were filmed in 1935 by the Genealogical Society of Utah. Tombstone of Ellen Rankin, b. 16 April 1740, d. 26 Jan 1802.