Revised: Joseph Rankin of New Castle County, Delaware and the Bastard Stableboy

This post has corrections and additions to an article having this title originally posted Saturday, Nov. 9, 2019. A couple of thoughtful readers commented privately on the original article. One gentle friend suggested (“if you ever revise it”) including information from Rev. S. M. Rankin’s book on two of Joseph’s sons. That is a good idea. Another noted with mild chagrin that I had provided minimal source citations. Guilty. Since I often kvetch about unsourced family histories, that constitutes serious hypocrisy on my part. This revision therefore adds citations. The process of checking my sources uncovered several errors, always a good thing. Here is the revised article.

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Joseph Rankin of New Castle County (1704 – 1764) once generated some lively controversy among members of the Rankin DNA Project.

Back in the day, the conventional wisdom was that Joseph was the father of Samuel Rankin of Lincoln County, NC, husband of Eleanor (“Ellen”) Alexander. One member of the Rankin Project (call him “Joe” Rankin) has an unimpeachable paper trail back to Joseph. However, Joe is not a YDNA match to descendants of Samuel and Eleanor. Not even remotely. Almost everyone concluded that Joe couldn’t be a descendant of Joseph of Delaware. Someone told Joe he must have an NPE (“non-paternal event”) in his Rankin ancestry. Perhaps a Mrs. Rankin had an extramarital fling, producing a son named Rankin but who wasn’t a genealogical Rankin.

That couldn’t be the case, because Joe is clearly a genealogical Rankin. He has Rankin YDNA matches who aren’t descended from Joseph. Nevertheless, the naysayers held firm.

Joe’s frustration simmered until he identified another Rankin having a solid gold paper trail back to Joseph of Delaware. Joe persuaded him to YDNA test. Bingo! They are a 37-marker match with a genetic distance of one. Said Joe: “I feel like I’ve gone from being the bastard stable boy to laird of the manor.”

Joe and his recruit descend from different sons of Joseph, so their close YDNA match is not a result of a recent shared ancestor. Joseph of Delaware is their common Rankin ancestor, and he was born more than three centuries ago. Joe’s YDNA match to his recruit established that Samuel of Lincoln County was not a son of Joseph of Delaware.

There are other issues with Joseph’s family. His wife is frequently identified as Rebecca Armstrong, although there seems to be no evidence for her surname (Rebecca is correct for her given name).[1] Some say he was born in Scotland,[2] although he almost certainly arrived in one of the Philadelphia ports in the late 1720s, during the Great Migration of Scots-Irish from Ulster. Some sources say his children were born on the other side of the Atlantic, although the evidence suggests they were born in the colonies.[3] Some say Joseph served in the Revolution. If so, he was a ghostly presence, because he died in 1764.[4]

Joseph was most likely the original Rankin immigrant in his line. His descendants belong to the same Rankin YDNA lineage as (1) Robert and Rebecca Rankin of Guilford County, NC and (2) David and Margaret Rankin of Iredell County, NC. Joseph was neither the father nor the son of Robert or David. No common ancestor for these three Rankin family lines has been identified, although David of Iredell may have been a son of Robert and Rebecca of Guilford. YDNA results establish a low probability that there is a common Rankin ancestor for these families on this side of the Atlantic. The common ancestor probably exists around 1400, plus or minus a century, almost certainly in Scotland. On the Rankin DNA Project website, Joseph’s line is “Lineage 1B.”[5]

Joseph of Delaware may be the same man as the Joseph Rankin who appeared as a “freeman” (i.e., unmarried and not a landowner) on the 1729 and 1730 tax lists in London-Britain Township in Chester County, Pennsylvania.[6] That township is in the southeastern corner of Pennsylvania bordering the Maryland and Delaware state lines. Strickersville, the largest town in the township, is less than four miles from Head of Christiana Presbyterian Church in Newark, Delaware, where Joseph is buried.

By 1731, Joseph (hereafter, “Joseph Sr.”) had acquired a tract on White Clay Creek in New Castle County, White Clay Creek Hundred.[7] If Joseph of New Castle was the same man as Joseph of London-Britain Township, then Joseph must have married sometime after the 1730 tax list.

Joseph Sr. had four sons conclusively proved by deeds: Joseph Jr., Lt. Thomas, John, and William.[8] A daughter Ann is proved by the will of Joseph Jr.[9] Joseph Sr. also had two probable sons established by circumstantial evidence: James and Robert. Based on birth dates that are known and Joseph Sr.’s likely marriage after 1730, Joseph’s children were born in Delaware.

Here are Joseph’s proved and probable children, in no particular order except that the proved children are listed first.

John Rankin (1736 – 1814). Rev. S. M. Rankin’s 1931 book said this about him: “John Rankin, the son of Joseph, was born near Newark, [New Castle Co.,] Delaware, 1736, came to Guilford County, North Carolina, in 1764 … he was married to Hannah Carson just before or within a year after coming to North Carolina. He died in 1814.”[10] He was “tall and slender,” he and Hannah had twelve children, and they are both buried in the Buffalo Presbyterian Church cemetery in Greensboro.[11] A deed conclusively proves Joseph Sr. was John’s father.[12] Hannah Carson Rankin was also from New Castle, which makes me suspect she and John probably married there. Three of John Rankin’s proved or probable brothers served in Hannah’s brother Walter Carson’s Company in the Revolutionary War. Although John didn’t serve in Delaware, his family’s oral tradition was that he fought at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse in 1781. Rev. Rankin’s book extensively traces the lines of both John Rankin and his brother William.

Thomas Rankin died in 1795, birth year uncertain. Some sources say he was born in 1735, which is possible. Lt. Thomas may be buried in the same grave as his father because a DAR marker with Thomas’s name, rank and unit (“2 Delaware Militia”) is installed at the base of Joseph Sr.’s tombstone.[13] The stone’s inscription says that Joseph died in 1764 at age 60. Some sources apparently assume that Lt. Thomas died at age 60. His estate was administered in 1795, the year he died. Thus, some conclude Lt. Thomas was born in 1735. I found no evidence of a date of birth.

Like three of his brothers, Lt. Thomas is proved as a son of Joseph Sr. by a deed.[14] Also, Lt. Thomas signed a 1778 loyalty oath in New Castle at the same time and place as three other Rankin men (James, Joseph Jr. and Robert).[15] Of the three, only Joseph Jr. is a proved brother. Lt. Thomas served with the other two, probable brothers James and Robert Rankin, in Capt. Walter Carson’s company in the Revolutionary War.

Lt. Thomas’s wife was Elizabeth Montgomery (1760 – 1830).[16] Their five children, all born 1786 – 1795, are proved by Orphans’ Court records.[17] They were also beneficiaries or devisees in the will of Joseph Jr., who named his nieces and nephews Montgomery, Hannah, Margaret, Joseph (III) and Thomas Rankin (Jr.).[18] At least two of them – Joseph III, born about 1786, and Thomas Jr., born in 1795 – went to live with their uncle Joseph Jr. after Lt. Thomas died.[19] There was no better way in the colonies to become destitute than to be the mother of young children whose father dies. Orphans’ Court records confirm that Lt. Thomas’s personal estate was insufficient to pay debts.[20]

William Rankin (1744 – 1804)[21] was administrator of his father’s estate along with his mother Rebecca Rankin.[22] William married Jane Chambers in 1772 in Guilford County;[23] the couple had nine children.[24] William was still in Delaware in 1768, when two deeds recited that he was “of New Castle Co.”[25] The deeds appointed someone to acknowledge them in court for the grantors, suggesting that William probably left soon after executing them. Rev. Rankin says William arrived in Guilford in the latter part of 1768 and lived with his brother John for about three years.[26] I first found William in the Guilford records in 1772 when he bought a tract from John.[27] S. M. Rankin believes that William also fought at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse.

Joseph Rankin Jr. died in 1820, birth year uncertain. He may have married Margaret Carson, sister of Hannah Carson Rankin and Capt. Walter Carson, in Philadelphia. That marriage was in a Lutheran church, though, and the Rankins were serious Presbyterians. Online trees (yes, I know, they aren’t worth the paper it would take to print them) say Walter Carson’s sister Margaret married a Mr. Byers, not Joseph Rankin. Other trees say Joseph Jr. never married. The marriage issue is essentially moot, because Joseph Jr. had no children of his own. Instead, he became the family caretaker, taking in his single sister Ann and at least two of the orphaned children of Lt. Thomas.[28] He was also an administrator of Lt. Thomas’s estate.[29]

Naturally, a deed conclusively proves Joseph Jr. was Joseph Sr.’s son.[30] Joseph Jr. also signed the 1778 loyalty oath along with the other Rankin men, but did not serve in Capt. Carson’s company. His 1819 will is a nice display of both affection and determination. He provides that his sister will live with his two nephews, and states how they should treat her in uncompromising terms: “in the same manner as she has lived with me and that my said nephews shall and will take care of her and use her as well in every respect as I have ever done during her natural lifetime.” (Emphasis added.)

Ann Rankin apparently never married. Joseph Jr.’s will was the only source of information I found on her.[31]

James Rankin is a probable son of Joseph Sr., based on circumstantial evidence. He also signed the 1778 loyalty oath and served in Capt. Carson’s company. Most importantly, James was listed in the 1783 tax list for White Clay Creek Hundred along with Lt. Thomas and Joseph Jr.[32] That was his only appearance on a tax list that I found, but viewing those lists online is a nightmare. James owned no land, so he was likely farming with his brothers, who owned a tract in common.[33] 1783 was James’s last appearance in the New Castle records. There are neither probate nor cemetery records for him, suggesting he moved away. I suspect that is the case. An article on him will follow if my theory pans out.

Robert Rankin is also a probable son of Joseph Sr. Robert signed the 1778 New Castle County loyalty oath and served in Capt. Carson’s company. Robert was listed on the 1777 and either the 1778 or 1779 tax list for White Clay Creek Hundred, as were Thomas and Joseph. He isn’t listed in New Castle cemetery or probate records, and doesn’t appear in the grantor or grantee indexes of New Castle County. Some Robert Rankin married Martha Latimer in 1765, although the marriage license was a record of the Emmanuel Protestant Episcopal Church of New Castle. I have no idea where Robert might have gone. He was not the same man as Robert Rankin of Rutherford Co., NC who married Mary Withrow as his first wife. Nor was he the same man as the Robert with wife Rebecca of Guilford Co., NC.

And that’s a start on Joseph of Delaware. I promise to work on an outline descendant chart for this line. I was also reminded when checking my sources that there was a second Rankin family in New Castle. I should probably write an article on them as well. If you are sucker for detail, check out my transcription below, of the extraordinary New Castle deed proving four of Joseph Sr.’s sons following the footnotes.

See you on down the road.

Robin

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[1] See estate account of William Rankin and Rebecca Rankin, administrators of the estate of Joseph Rankin, dated 16 April 1765, in Delaware Wills and Probate Records, 1676-1971, Register of Wills, Anna Racine – Lydia Rash, file of “Rankin, Joseph 1765.”

[2] See, e.g., Bill and Martha Reamy, Genealogical Abstracts from Biographical and Genealogical History of the State of Delaware (Westminster, MD: Willow Bend Books, 2001), citing p. 445-446 of History:

“Joseph Rankin was b. near the Clyde in Scotland; to DE with his wife and children long before the Revolutionary War.”

[3] Id.

[4] Find-a-Grave has a photograph of Joseph’s tombstone at Head of Christiana Presbyterian Church Cemetery  here. Gary and I visited the cemetery in 2008. The only information on the tombstone is that Joseph Rankin died 29 Jul 1764 at age 60. It does not say Joseph was born in Ireland; a Find-a-Grave contributor added that commentary.

[5] See a brief discussion and charts for Rankin Lineage 1 on the Rankin DNA Project website at this link.

[6] www.familysearch.org, Chester County (Pennsylvania) Tax Records, 1715 – 1820, Film No. 7857857, images #162 (1729 tax list for London-Britain Township) and #179 (1730 tax list for London-Britain Township). Joseph doesn’t appear on the 1732 list. I couldn’t find a list for 1731.

[7] I couldn’t find a listing for a 1731 deed to Joseph Rankin in the grantee index. The only proof I can find for the land purchase is recitations of the provenance of the tract in later deeds. E.g., New Castle Co., DE Deed Book Y1: 499, deed dated 9 Apr 1768 from John Rankin and wife Hannah of Orange Co., NC and William Rankin of New Castle County, grantors, to Thomas Rankin and Joseph Rankin of New Castle, grantees. The deed describes a grant from William Penn, proprietor of PA, to Robert French on the “south south (sic, southwest) side of White Clay Cr. in White Clay Cr. Hundred.” French conveyed to David Miller, who sold 150 acres to James Miller in 1730. James Miller conveyed the tract to Joseph Rankin in 1731. Joseph Rankin by will dated 13 Jul 1764 conveyed part of the tract to John and William Rankin.

[8] New Castle Co., DE Deed Book G3:249-255 expressly names Joseph, Thomas, John, and William as sons of Joseph Rankin of New Castle. The deed also identifies tracts devised by Joseph Sr. to those four sons, subject to “their mother’s dower interest,” by will dated 13 Jul 1764. I couldn’t find a listing for Joseph Sr.’s will in the probate index. So far as I know, deeds are the only evidence that Joseph Sr. died testate. The probate account refers to William and Rebecca as administrators rather than executors.

[9] New Castle Co., DE Will Book S: 116, will of Joseph Rankin dated 28 Oct 1819, proved 7 Jun 1820, naming sister Ann ($100 cash, and to live with nephews Joseph and Thomas Rankin). He also bequeathed cash to his nephew and nieces Montgomery Rankin, Hannah Rankin and Margaret Rankin, and devised his Mill Creek Hundred tract of 256 acres to Joseph III and Thomas Rankin Jr.

[10] Rev. S. M. Rankin, The Rankin and Wharton Families and Their Genealogy (Salem, MA: Higginson Book reprint, originally published Greensboro, NC, 1931), 55.

[11] Id. at 21 and 55.

[12] See Note 8.

[13] Find-a-Grave has an image of the DAR plaque for Lt. Thomas placed at the foot of his father’s tombstone at this link.

[14] See Note 8.

[15] Eleanor B. Cooch, Delaware Signers of the Oath of Allegiance (National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, 1937). This book is out of print. Ms. Cooch may have abstracted the oath of allegiance information from the History of Delaware. See J. Thomas Scharf, Index to History of Delaware, 1609-1888 (Historical Society of Delaware, 1976).

[16] Elizabeth Montgomery Rankin is also buried in Head of Christiana Presbyterian Church Cemetery. Her tombstone reads, “In Memory of Elizabeth Rankin, wife of Thomas Rankin.” The Find-a-Grave transcription incorrectly gives her date of death as 1886. I read her date of death from the original stone as 18 Apr 1830, age 70 years. That would make her birth year about 1760.

[17] Sarah Deakyne Burke, Orphans’ Court Proceedings of New Castle County, Delaware, Book No. 5 April 1793 – April 1802(Lewes, DE: Colonial Roots, 2008). A record dated 15 Dec 1801 describes the petition of Joseph Rankin and David Nivin of White Clay Creek Hundred, administrators of Lt. Thomas’s estate. The petition recites that the administrators settled the estate on 15 Jul 1798, paying £134.2.3 over the amount they received. Petitioners asked for sale of part of Lt. Thomas’s land. The petition also states that Lt. Thomas was survived by his widow Elizabeth and five children: Joseph, Hannah, Montgomery, Margaret, and Thomas. It also recited that the eldest, Joseph III, was only 15 (born about 1786).

[18] See Note 9.

[19] The federal census records for New Castle are spotty. The 1810 census for Mill Creek Hundred (incorrectly designated on Ancestry as Brandywine Hundred) lists Joseph’s household as 01101-00020. The male over 45 is Joseph Sr. and the two young males are the right ages to be Lt. Thomas’s sons Joseph III (b. 1786) and Thomas Jr. (b. 1795). The females age 26 < 45 are a mystery to me, but one should be Joseph Jr.’s sister Ann. If so, she is in the wrong age bracket. See also the 1820 census (the last before Joseph Jr. died that same year), Mill Creek Hundred, Joseph Rankin, 45 and over, with a female his own age (presumably his sister Ann), a male and female age 26 < 44 (his nephew Joseph III and wife Sarah), a male age 16 < 25 (his nephew Thomas, b. 1795), 4 children under the age of 15, and a free black woman.

[20] See Note 17.

[21] Rev. S. M. Rankin, The Rankin and Wharton Families, 149.

[22] See Note 1.

[23] Frances T. Ingmire, Guilford County North Carolina Marriage Records 1771-1868 Volume III Names O-Z (Athens, GA: Iberian Publishing Co., 1984), marriage bond dated 13 Nov 1772 for William Rankin and Jean Chambers. Rev. Rankin gives her name as Jane. Guilford County records also spell it as Jean or Jine. E.g., Guilford Co., NC Deed Book 9: 429.

[24] Rev. S. M. Rankin, The Rankin and Wharton Families, 149.

[25] New Castle Co., DE Deed Book Y1: 499 and 565, Familysearch.org film #6564. E.g., DB Y1: 499, deed dated 9 Apr 1768 from John Rankin and wife Hannah of Orange Co., NC (a predecessor to Guilford) and William Rankin of New Castle County, grantors, to Thomas Rankin and Joseph Rankin of New Castle, grantees.

[26] Rev. S. M. Rankin, The Rankin and Wharton Families, 21, 149.

[27] Guilford Co., NC Deed Book 1: 179, John Rankin of Guilford to William Rankin of same, 218 acres on the North Side of Buffalo Creek that John purchased from Alexander McNight (or McKnight) in 1765.

[28] New Castle Co., DE Will Book S: 116, will of Joseph Rankin dated 28 Oct 1819 proved 7 Jun 1820 provided that his sister Ann was to live with my two nephews Joseph and Thomas Rankin (sons of Lt. Thomas and Elizabeth Montgomery) “in the same manner as she has lived with me and that my said nephews shall and will take care of her and use her as well in every respect as I have ever done during her natural lifetime.” Joseph Jr. also left her $100.

[29] See Note 17.

[30] See Note 8.

[31] See Note 28.

[32] Familysearch.org catalog, New Castle Co., DE, Taxation, “Tax Lists (New Castle County, Delaware) 1738-1853,” Film No. 7834264, “Tax Lists v. 1=17, 1738 – 1790.” Unfortunately, I failed to record image numbers.

[33] There is no listing for either James or Robert Rankin in the New Castle County grantor and grantee indices.

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Transcription of New Castle Deed Book G3: 249-255. Proves 4 of the sons of Joseph Rankin. Transcription is verbatim, except that I have started new paragraphs between topics. The original deed is all one paragraph. My comments are in italics.

To all People to whom these presents shall come We Joseph Rankin and David Nivin of Whiteclay Creek hundred in the County of Newcastle and State of Delaware administrators of all and singular the goods and chattels rights and credits which were of Thomas Rankin late of the county afsd decd at the time of his death who died Intestate and the said Joseph Rankin as Copartner and Tenant in Common with the said Thomas Rankin in the lands and premises herein after about to be granted and conveyed. The grantors in this deed are (1) Joseph Rankin and David Nivin in their capacities as administrators of Thomas Rankin’s estate and (2) Joseph Rankin in his capacity as tenant in common in the tracts being conveyed in the deed.

Send greeting whereas William Penn Esquire proprietor of the State [then the province] od Pennsylvnia and territories in and by a certain Instrument or Patent under the hands of Edward Shipper Thomas Story and James Logan his then Commissioners of property and the Seal of the Province annexed did grant and confirm unto Robert French a certain tract of land containing three hundred acres situate on the South West side of Whiteclay Creek in Whiteclay Creek Hundred and County of Newcastle afsd as in and by the the said Patent bearing date the fifteenth day of December in the year one thousand seven hundred and two and recorded in the Rolls (?) Office at Philadelphia in Patent Book A Vol 2d page 422 as (?) relation being thereunto had may more fully and at large appear

and whereas the said Robert French so thus being seized by his deed bearing date the twentieth day of April in the year one thousand seven hundred and three did grant and convey the said tract of land unto a certain David Miller as in and by the said deed Recorded in the Rolls Office at Newcastle in Lib B folio 266 relation being thereunto as will more and at large appear

and whereas the said David Miller made over and conveyed one hundred and fifty acres of the said Land unto James Miller as by deed dated the thirtieth day of January in the year one thousand seven hundred and thirty and the said James Miller made over and conveyed the same unto Joseph Rankin [Father of the aforesaid Thomas Rankin and Joseph Rankin] in the year one thousand seven hundred and thirty one

and whereas the said Joseph Rankin so thereof being seized made and published his last Will and Testament in writing bearing date the thirteenth day of July in the year one thousand seven hundred and sixty four wherein among other things he devised twenty one acres and three quarters of the said land unto his two Sons John Rankin and William Rankin their heirs and assigns for ever and the residue of the said land he devised unto his two Sons to wit the afsd Thomas Rankin the afsd decd and the afsd Joseph Rankin party to these present to be held by them their Heirs Executors Administrators and assigns in common Tenancy for ever subject nevertheless to their Mother’s thirds thereof (?) of during her natural Life. [RRW note: Joseph Sr.’s will isn’t indexed in the New Castle probate records. Extant records identify William and Rebecca as administrators rather than executors of Joseph Sr.’s estate. I’m puzzled by all that and have no explanation.]

and whereas the said Joseph Rankin in his last Will and Testament afsd did also convey unto his two sons John Rankin and William Rankin another piece or parcel of land with the appurtenances lying in Whiteclay Creek Hundred afsd and adjoining the above mentioned tract and containing forty seven acres and the customary allowance of six acres patent for roads and highways being a part of the land belonging to the Pennsylvania land Company in London and was made over and conveyed unto John Rankin the younger by Jacob Cooper Samuel Shoemaker and Joshua Howell, Attornies for John Fothergill, Daniel Zachary, Thomas How, Devereaux Bowley, Luke Hind, Richard How, Jacob Hagan, Sylvanus Grove and William Heron of the City of London Trustees of the Pensylvania land Company in London as afsd to the sd John Rankin and William Rankin their Heirs and assigns in common Tenancy for ever, as in and by the said will proven according to law and filed in the registers Office at Newcastle relation being thereunto had may more fully and at large appear

and whereas the said John Rankin Rankin and Hannah his wife and the said William Rankin of the above mentioned twenty one acres and three quarters of land so being seized by an Indenture of Sale under their Hands & Seals bearing date the ninth day of April in the year one thousand seven hundred & sixty eight for the consideration mentioned did grant bargain and sell the said twenty one acres and three quarters of land with the appurtenances unto the afsd Thomas Rankin and Joseph Rankin their heirs and assigns for ever as in and by the said Indentures acknowledged in open Court of Common Please held at Newcastle for the County of Newcastle in August term the same year & recorded in the Rolls Office at Newcastle in Book Y page 499 et. Relation being thereunto had will at large appear

and whereas the afsd John Rankin and Hannah his wife & the afsd William Rankin & of the aforesaid forty seven Acres and allowance being seized by an Indenture of Sale under their Hands and Seals bearing date April the ninth in the year one thousand seven hundred and sixty eight for the consideration therein mentioned did grant bargain and sell the said forty seven acres with the appurtenances unto the said Thomas Rankin and Joseph Rankin their Heirs and assigns for ever as in & by the said Indenture acknowledged in open Court of Common Pleas held at Newcastle for the County of Newcastle in August Term the same year and recorded in the Rolls Office at Newcastle in Book Y folio 565 & relation being thereunto had may more fully and at large appear

and whereas a certain Charles Jacobs (?) and Grizzle his wife by an Indenture of Sale under their Hands and Seals dated the twenty eight of January in the year one thousand seven hundred and seventy two for the consideration therein mentioned did grant bargain and sell unto the afsd Thomas Rankin and Joseph Rankin a certain piece or parcel of land situate lying and being in White Clay Creek Hundred afsd adjoining the first above mentioned tract and containing fifty two acres with the appurtenances thereunto belonging to hold the said land and Premises with the appurtenances unto the said Thomas Rankin and Joseph Rankin their Heirs & assigns for ever as in and by the said Indenture acknowledged in open Court of Common Pleas held at Newcastle for the County of Newcastle in February term the same year and recorded in the Rolls Office of Newcastle in Book B Vol 2d folio 223 relation being theirunto had may more at large appear

and whereas the said Thomas Rankin and Joseph Rankin so of the four above mentioned tracts or parcels of land with the appurtenances being seized and having erected a Merchant Mill thereon the said Thomas died intestate without any division or partition having been previously made or done between the two parties

and whereas the administration of all and singular the goods and Chattels rights and Credit which were of the said Thomas Rankin dec’d to wit upon the third day of November in the year one thousand seven hundred and ninety five By James Booth Esqr at that time Register for probate of Wills and granting Letters of Administration for the County of New Castle afsd were to us the said Joseph Rankin and David Nivin committed (RRW note: Lt. Thomas died in October or November 1795 — his youngest son, Thomas Jr., was born in April 1796).

And whereas upon arranging settling and adjusting the accounts of the said deceased it was to us made known that there were sundry debts to ______ persons due by the said deceased which we had it not out the goods and chattels of the said dec’d then in our hands in any wise then in our power to discharge and pay without selling the Real Estate of the said deceased as abovementioned or at least a part therof

Therefore we took upon ourselves to present a petition to the Honorable the Orphans Court held at Newcastle for the County of Newcastle the fifteenth day of december in the year one thousand eight hundred and one setting forth that the said Thomas Rankin died Seized in his ____ of fee and in the one moiety or half part of the aforesaid tracts of land with the buildings improvements and appurtenances which was holden by him and the afsd Joseph Rankin one of the Petitioners in moieties and that we had not any means then in our hands out of the goods and Chattels of the sd decd to pay the out standing debts then due but by a sale of the whole or a part of the afsd Real Estate and praying the Court for an order to sell the moiety or half part of the said Real Estate which was of the said deceased or as much thereof as might be deemed necessary to pay and satisfy the said debts pursuant to the directions of the act of Assembly in such cases made and provided

Whereupon it was ordered by the Court that We the administrators as of should make sale of one moiety of the above mentioned tracts of land with the buildings improvements and appurtenances or so much thereof as may be deemed sufficient to satisfy and disharge the Just debts of the said in testate and that we should make return thereof to the next Orphans court

and whereas afterwards to wit upon the fourth day of November in the year one thousand eight hundred and two We the said Joseph Rankin and David Nivin administrators of the said Thomas Rankin ________ pursuance of the said Order and I the said Joseph Rankin Copartner and Tenant in Common with the said Thomas Rankin after we had given due notice of the time and place of such date to be given according to the directions of the act of Assemby in such case made an provided the whole of the before mentioned tracts and parcels of land with all singular the Improvements and appurtenances did set to public auction or _______ and the same was purchased by James Crawford of Mill Creek hundred in the County of Newcastle and State of Delaware aforesaid for the sum of three thousand seven hundred and ten dollars lawful money of the State of Delaware afsd he being the highest and best bidder

Now know ye that we the said Joseph Rankin and David Nivin administrators of the sd Thomas Rankin as afsd and I the said Joseph Rankin as Copartner and tenant in Common in the afsd lands & premises with the said deceased by force and virtue of the afsd Order and the Act of Assembly in such case made and provided and for an in Consideration of the afsd sun of three thousand seven hundred and ten dollars money as afsd to us in hand well and truly pay at and before the ensealing and delivery or these presents the receipt whereof we do hereby acknowledge and from every part and parcel thereof do acquit release and discharge the said James Crawford his heirs Executors and administrators for ever by these presents

Have granted bargained sold aliened released enfeoffed conveyed and confirmed and by force and Virtue of the afsd Order and the act of Assembly in such case made and provided do grant bargain sell alien release enfeoff convey and confirm unto the same James Crawford heir Heirs and assigns all the above mentioned tracts and parcels of land lying and being situated as afsd and bounded and described [as to the out lines thereof] as followith to wit

Beginning at an old Spanish oak stump on the west side of Whiteclay Creek which is also a corner of Obadiah Sergeants? land and running thence by the lines of the said Sergeants land south seventy two degrees west two hundred and forty eight perches to a forked poplar and South three degrees East forty six perches to a marked corner hickory standing by the great Road leaning from Newark to new London Cross Roads thence by said road North forty two and a half degrees West eighty nine perches and a half Northfourteen and a half degrees West sixty three perches and a half and north thirty three and a half degrees West twenty one perches and a half to a corner Blackoak standing on the east side of the great road afsd which is a corner of land late of Samuel Armitage thence therewith North seventy eight and a half degrees East eighty perches and a half to a corner blackoak in the line of Joseph Rankins first purchase then with the same North three degrees west thirty nine perches and two tenths of a perch to a stake about three perches west of a large Chestnut tree and thence north eighty five degrees East one hundred and twenty perches and eight tenths of a Perch to a stone set in line of a corner whiteoak on the East bank of a small run at the beginning corner of that piece or land bought of Charles Graham _____ thence by the lines of the same North twenty eight degrees West sixty eight perches to a Stone and north eighty one degrees East one hundred and twenty five Perches to a whiteoak standing by Whiteclay Creek and thence down the said Creek by the several courses thereof and binding thereon to the place of Beginning containing in the whole two hundred and eighty acres [RRW note: I get only 249A or 255A. ???] be the same more or less within the said described boundaries

Together with all and singular the Houses out Houses Mills Mill Houses Mill ponds Mill dams Millraces gardens orchards Meadows Woods Ways waters water courses rights liberties Privileges hereditaments and appurtenances whatsoever to all and every th hereby granted premises belonging or in any wise appertaining and the reversion and reversions remainder and remainders rents Issues and profits thereof and all the estate right title Interest trust property claim and demands which was of the afsd Thomas Rankin decd and now is of the aforesaid Joseph Rankin , of, in, to, or out of the same or any part of parcel thereof

To have and to hold the said plantation and tract of land with all and singular the improvements and appurtenances hereby granted or mentioned and intended so to be unto the said James Crawford his Heirs and assigns to the only proper use benefit and behoof of the sd James Chawford his Heirs and assigns for ever as fully and absolutely as we the said Joseph Rankin and David Nivin might could or ought to sell and convey the same by force and virtue of of the aforesaid Order and the Act of Assembly afsd in such case made and provided under and subject to the yearly quit Rents payable thereout of to the chief Lord or Lords of the fee thereof

And I the said Joseph Rankin as Copartner and Tenant in common with the afsd Thomas Rankin and rightful owner of the one moiety or undivided half of the before mentioned and described lands and premises with the improvements and appurtenances hereby bargained and sold or mentioned or intended so to be for myself and my heirs do hereby covenant grant and agree to and with the said James Crawford his Heirs and assigns that I the said Joseph Rankin and my heirs the above mentioned moiety or undivided half part to me belonging out of the before mentioned and described land and premises with the improvements and appurtenances hereby bargained and sold or mentioned or intended so to be for myself and my heirs do hereby covenant grant and agree to and with the said James Crawford his Heirs and assigns that I the said Joseph Rankin and my heirs the above mentioned moiety or undivided half part to be belonging out of the before mentioned and described land and premises with the appurtenance unto the said James Crawford his Heirs and assigns from and against myself the said Joseph Rankin and my Heirs and against all & every other person and persons whatsoever _____ claiming or to claim the same by from or under me them or any of them shall and will warrant and for ever defend by these presents

In witness whereof the said Joseph Rankin and David Nivin as administrators of Thomas Rankin decd and the said Joseph Rankin as Copartner and tenant in common with the sd Thomas Rankin have hereunto set their hands and seals this               day of              in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and three.

Signed sealed and delivered                                                            Joseph Rankin (seal)

In the presence of us                                                                         David Nivin (seal)

Saml Williamson

Joseph Rankin Junr [son of Lt. Thomas, dec’d]

$3710             We do hereby acknowledge to have received of the before named James Crawford the sum of three thousand seven hundred and ten dollars money as afsd in full of the consideration moned mentioned in the foregoing Instruments of writing as witness our hands the day and year last before written.

Same witnesses, same signatures.

Acknowledged in open court May Term 1808 and recorded June 23 1809.

The Rankins of Guilford County, NC: the mistaken identity of Robert Rankin d. 1795

A professional genealogist once told me that many trees on the internet aren’t worth the paper it would take to print them. She said the most serious mistake a rookie can make is to use information from someone else’s tree without confirming it. Her advice was too late for me: I had already learned that lesson the hard way.

When I was a still a beginning family history researcher, I sent a chart for one of my lines to the administrator of the Graves Family Association website at his request.[1] The chart included information I had obtained from other researchers on the identity of my early Graves ancestors. Unfortunately, I had not confirmed the information with my own research.

I wish I had remembered that before I forwarded the chart. Ken Graves, the website administrator, replied with a blistering email excoriating me for perpetuating a fiction that serious researchers had long ago discarded. My screen and my red face were both too hot to touch when I read that email.[2]

We all make mistakes, even if we don’t naïvely adopt someone else’s data. Original records are incomplete or the courthouse burned down entirely. The handwriting in films of original records is faded, blurred, or indecipherable. Our ancestors recycled the same given names ad nauseam, producing an error called “same name confusion.” Other mistakes are probably caused by the occasionally unwarranted aura of accuracy enjoyed by books and journals. Some mistakes are just plain ol’ carelessness.

Here’s an example: Robert Rankin who died in 1795 in Guilford Co., NC

An error about one of the early Rankins in Guilford County, North Carolina illustrates several kinds of mistakes.[3] The error combines same name confusion with carelessness. It probably originated in a Rankin compiled history which wrongly interpreted the 1795 will of Robert Rankin as being the will of the “patriarch” – the eldest immigrant – of his Guilford family line.[4] The ease of importing data from online trees probably guarantees the error’s immortality.

Robert Rankin the patriarch (let’s call him “Old Robert” for short) had a wife named Rebecca, maiden name unknown.[5] Old Robert and Rebecca had a son named George.[6] The 1795 will identified the testator as “Robert Rankin Senior”of Guilford County.[7] The will devised land to a son named George. It did not name a wife, who evidently predeceased him. In short, identifying the testator in the 1795 will as Old Robert seems reasonable at first glance. On second glance, not so much.

The problem is that Old Robert and Rebecca’s son George died in 1760 – thirty-five years before some Robert Rankin wrote his 1795 will.[8]

Guilford County is admittedly tough on Rankin researchers. There are a dizzying number of country records referencing, e.g., Robert Rankin, Robert Rankin Sr., and/or Robert Rankin Jr. One state grant mentions all three![9] As was common, the line of Old Robert and Rebecca recycled the same names, and every subsequent generation had at least one Robert.

Guilford is also rough sledding because there were three Rankin “patriarchs” in Guilford: (1) John Rankin (1736-1814) who married Hannah Carson and who is a proved son of Joseph Rankin of Delaware;[10] (2) John’s brother William Rankin (1744-1804), who married Jane Chambers; and (3) Old Robert Rankin and his wife Rebecca, who came to Pennsylvania from Letterkenny Parish, County Donegal, Ireland about 1750 and moved a few years later to the part of Rowan County that became Guilford.[11]

The facts in brief

Two facts prove that the Robert Rankin who wrote a will and died in 1795 in Guilford County – call him “Robert d. 1795” – was not Old Robert. First, a book about the Buffalo Presbyterian Church of Guilford establishes that Old Robert died well before 1795.[12] Second, the George Rankin issue: Old Robert’s son George, who died in 1760, was obviously not the same man as George, a devisee in the 1795 will. In fact, Guilford records establish that George the devisee was alive and well after 1795.

When did Old Robert with wife Rebecca die? Answer: circa 1770, definitely by 1773

Rev. Samuel Meek Rankin provides information about Old Robert Rankin in his book History of Buffalo Presbyterian Church and Her People. Rev. Rankin identified Old Robert as having belonged to Nottingham Presbyterian Church in Pennsylvania.[13] Old Robert and his family (or some of them) migrated to North Carolina in the early 1750s.[14] The family acquired land in that part of Rowan County that later became Guilford.[15] Rev. Rankin identified Old Robert’s wife as Rebecca, whose name is confirmed in a 1755 gift deed of land by the couple to their son George.[16] According to Rev. Rankin, Old Robert and Rebecca had children “George, Robert, Rebecca, John and others.”[17]

For purposes of this article, however, we are only concerned with Old Robert and Rebecca, their sons George and Robert, and a grandson named – I’m sure you can guess this one – Robert. A few facts about them are in order. Rev. Rankin says that George died in 1761, although his will was actually written and proved in 1760.[18] George’s will named his widow Lydia (Steele) and two minor sons, John and Robert. The latter is the grandson we have in mind.

George and Lydia’s son John inherited the 480-acre tract on Brushy Fork that Old Robert and Rebecca had given to George. John sold it and left Guilford before 1800.[19] George and Lydia’s other son Robert, grandson of Old Robert, fought in the Revolutionary War and applied for a pension in 1833.[20] Bless his heart, because the application provides information we need here. Let’s call him “Rev. War Robert,” with “Rev.” short for “Revolution,” not “Reverend.” His application establishes that Rev. War Robert was born in Guilford County in May 1759 and that he moved to McNairy County, Tennessee in 1830. It is important for this narrative that Rev. War Robert lived into the nineteenth century: hold that thought.

Meanwhile, Reverend Samuel Meek Rankin had this to say about Old Robert, who was (according to oral tradition) one of the first elders in Buffalo Church:

Robert Rankin is another whom Rev. J. C. Alexander said tradition listed as one of the first elders. He settled here in 1753 … he died before the first date in the minute book.”[21]

Reverend Rankin said there were no records for Buffalo Church “from the organization in 1756 to 1773.” Consequently, Old Robert Rankin, husband of Rebecca, must have died by 1773. Rev. Rankin states that Old Robert died about 1770, although there is no extant tombstone for him in the Buffalo Church cemetery.[22]

What about the George named in the will of Robert Rankin d. 1795?

Let’s look closely at Robert Rankin’s 1795 will, which names the following devisees and beneficiaries:[23]

    • his son George;
    • his three grandsons William Rankin Wilson, Andrew Wilson and Maxwell Wilson, sons of his deceased daughter Mary Rankin and her husband Andrew Wilson. Robert devised land on Buffalo Creek to George and the three Wilson grandsons.
    • his daughter Isobel.
    • and two unnamed living daughters, each of whom was to receive one-fifth of Robert’s personal estate.

Subsequent Guilford County records establish that George Rankin was still alive after 1795, when his father wrote his will. About three years after Robert died, George surveyed the land he and his Wilson nephews inherited. Robert’s will prescribed a detailed metes and bounds description for how his land on Buffalo Creek was to “be divided.” The document filed in the real property records expressly recites that the survey of the tract was required by the will of Robert Rankin, deceased, and by his executor.[24] Some two decades later, George Rankin made a gift of a portion of that tract to his own son – named Robert, of course.[25]

So … who the heck was the Robert who died in 1795?

Naturally, there were several Robert Rankins living in Guilford County in the late 18th century. We can eliminate anyone from the lines of John Rankin and Hannah Carson or William Rankin and Jean Chambers. Their sons named Robert (each couple had one) lived well past 1795.[26] The testator in 1795 was not Rev. War Robert, son of George and Lydia Steele Rankin, because his pension file proves that he died in 1833. The only Robert Rankin in Guilford in 1795 who was old enough to have three grandsons, and who did not live into the nineteenth century, was Robert Rankin, son of Old Robert and Rebecca.

And there you have it. See you on down the road.

Robin

 

* * * * * * * * * *

[1]  See Graves Family Association website..

[2] Ken Graves later sent me and my cousin Barbara Parker (who is also descended from John Graves of Halifax, VA) an email telling us YDNA research had proved that we are not descended from the famous Capt. John Graves of early 1600s Virginia, and are therefore not related to Ken. His email was positively gleeful. So was I.

[3]  See Rankin trees for the line of Robert and Rebecca Rankin of Guilford on the LDS website and at Ancestry. The former is free. The latter is not.

[4] A. Gregg Moore and Forney A. Rankin, The Rankins of North Carolina(Marietta, GA: A. G. Moore, 1997).

[5]  Rev. S. M. Rankin, History of Buffalo Presbyterian Church and Her People (Greensboro, NC: J. J. Stone & Co., Printers, 1934) at 27. See also the gift deed in Note 6from Robert and Rebecca to their son George Rankin.

[6] Jo White Linn, Rowan County North Carolina Deed Abstracts Vol. 1, 1753 – 1762, Abstracts of Books 1 – 4(Salisbury, NC), abstract of Deed Book 2: 70, a gift deed dated 13 Apr 1755 from Robert and Rebecca Rankin to their son George for 5 shillings (the usual gift deed “price”), 480 acres on the south side of Brushy Fork. Robert paid 10 shillings for that tract, a Granville grant. Id., abstract of Deed Book 2: 102.

[7] Clayton Genealogical Library microfilm, “NC Guilford County Wills Books A-B 1771-1838,” File #312, will of Robert Rankin Sr. dated 30 May 1795 proved Nov 1795, devising land on the south side of Buffalo Creek to his son George Rankin and grandsons William Rankin Willson, Andrew Willson and Maxwell Willson. Robert also named his daughter Isobel and two other living daughters who weren’t identified by either a given name or a married surname.

[8] Id., “NC Rowan County Will Books A-B 1767-1793,” will of George Rankin of Rowan County dated 23 May 1760, proved Oct 1760. Witnesses to the will included Robert Rankin (either George’s father or his brother), William Denny (George’s brother-in-law, whose wife was George’s sister Ann Rankin Denny), and John Braley (another possible brother-in-law, see discussion of the daughters in  this article.

[9] William D. Bennett, Guilford County Deed Book One (Raleigh, NC: Oaky Grove Press, 1990), abstract of Deed Book 1: 504, 16 Dec 1778 state grant to Moses McClain, 200 acres adjacent Jonas Touchstone, Robert McKnight, David Allison, Robert Rankin Jr.’sline, along Robert Rankin Sr.’sline, NC Grant Book No. 33: 83. There is one deed in my Lunenburg Co., VA Winn line in which the grantee and two witnesses to a deed were identified as John Winn, John Winn, and John Winn. No “Sr.” or “Jr.,” or “John Winn, carpenter,” or “John Winn of Amelia County.” Those three men obviously had a sense of whimsy. Lunenburg Deed Book 7: 231.

[10] FHL Film No. 6564, New Castle Co., DE Deed Book Y1: 499, deed dated Apr 1768 from grantors John Rankin of Orange Co., NC (a predecessor to Guilford County) and his wife Hannah, and William Rankin of New Castle Co., DE, to grantees Thomas Rankin and Joseph Rankin, both of New Castle, land devised to John and William by their father Joseph Rankin.

[11] Autobiography of George and Lydia Rankin’s son John Rankin, “Auto-biography of John Rankin, Sen.” (South Union, Ky., 1845), transcribed inHarvey L. Eads, ed., History of the SouthUnion Shaker Colony from 1804 to 1836 (South Union, Ky., 1870), Shaker Museum at South Union, Auburn, Kentucky. A copy of the transcript can be obtained from the University of Western Kentucky. The autobiography establishes Robert and Rebecca’s migration dates and origin.

[12] Rev. S. M. Rankin, History of Buffalo Presbyterian Church at 22.

[13] Id. See also Futhey and Cope, History of Chester Co., PA(Philadelphia: Louis H. Everts, 1881), reproduction facsimile by Chester County Historical Society (Mt. Vernon, IN: Windmill Publications, Inc. ,1996). The 1753 tax list for West Nottingham Township, Chester Co., PA included George Rankin and Robert Rankin.

[14] Rankin, History of Buffalo Presbyterian Church, p. 22. See also Note 11, autobiography of Shaker Rev. John Rankin, elder son of George and Lydia Steele Rankin, and grandson of Old Robert and Rebecca.

[15]  E.g., Jo White Linn, Rowan County North Carolina Deed Abstracts Vol. 1, 1753 – 1762, Abstracts of Books 1 – 4(Salisbury, NC), Deed Book 4: 100, Granville grant dated 24 Jun 1758 to Robert Rankin, 640 acres on both sides of North Buffalo Creek. That creek flows roughly southwest to northeast into Buffalo Creek. The creek, and the grant, are located just south of Buffalo Presbyterian Church.

[16]  See Note 6.

[17]  Rankin, History of Buffalo Presbyterian Church at27. George and Robert are also proved as sons by deed records. There is only circumstantial evidence for a son John. Deed records also prove a daughter Ann Rankin who married William Denny. Rowan County probate records also suggest daughters Rebecca Braley/Brawley and Margaret Boyd, see article here.

[18]  Clayton Genealogical Library microfilm, “NC Rowan County Will Books A-B 1767-1793,” p. 141, will of George Rankin of Rowan County dated 23 May 1760, proved Oct 1760. The 1761 date for George’s death appears in every family tree I have seen for Robert and Rebecca. Someone read Rev. Rankin’s book and accepted the 1761 date without question.

[19]  Id. George devised to John the 480-acre tract on Brushy Fork or Brush Creek. John sold 200 acres in August 1784, Guilford Deed Book 3: 101, and the remaining 297 acres in Sep 1796, Deed Book 6: 182. John was listed in the 1790 census for Guilford County but not in 1800. He was a Revolutionary War Soldier and an ordained Presbyterian minister. He struggled with what he saw as the abstract and impersonal nature of Presbyterian doctrine and became a Shaker minister. He went to Tennessee in the late 1790s and wound up in Logan County, KY in a place called “Shakertown.” In a Guilford County marriage that makes researchers rip their hair out, Shaker Rev. John married Miss Rebecca Rankin. She was a daughter of John Rankin and Hannah Carson.

[20] Virgil D. White, Abstracts of Revolutionary War Pension Files, Vol. III: N-Z(Waynesboro, TN: National Historical Publishing Co., 1992), abstract of the pension application of Robert Rankin, W5664. Robert was born 29 May 1759. Wife Mary. NC line. Soldier was born in Guilford and enlisted there. In 1830, he moved to McNairy Co., TN where he applied 20 May 1833. He died there 21 Dec 1840. Soldier had married Mary Moody 22 Nov 1803 in Guilford. Widow applied 12 Jun 1853 from McNairy, age 75. Widow died 11 Jul 1854.

[21]  Rankin, History of Buffalo Presbyterian Churchat 122.  

[22] Raymond Dufau Donnell, Buffalo Presbyterian Church and Cemetery Greensboro, North Carolina (Greensboro, NC: The Guilford County Genealogical Society (1994), second printing March 1996, p. ii, saying that the “earliest written records of the church date from 1773,” and stating that Robert Rankin Sr., “Pioneer … Ruling Elder” died circa 1770.

[23]  Clayton Genealogical Library microfilm, “NC Guilford County Wills Books A-B 1771-1838,” File #312, will of Robert Rankin Sr. dated 30 May 1795 proved Nov 1795.

[24]  Guilford Co. Deed Book 6: 346, 16 Feb 1798.

[25]  Guilford Co., Deed Book 14: 11, 23 Mar 1819.

[26] Rev. S. M. Rankin, The Rankin and Wharton Families and Their Genealogy(Salem, MS: Higginson Book Company facsimile reprint of the 1931 original), p. 55 (John Rankin and Hannah Carson’s son Robert lived from 1780-1866) and p. 149 (William Rankin and Jane Chambers’ son Robert C. Rankin lived 1791-1853).