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If you follow this blog, you know that Gary and I do not cite compiled family histories as sources.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

The Mysterious Robert Rankin of Gibson County, TN

© Robin Rankin Willis

Gary and I recently returned from a week in the Tennessee Archives in Nashville, where I wound up mucking about in Gibson County for some reason I cannot recall. I stumbled over a passel of Rankins there. They are my favorite line for several reasons, not least of which is the fact that I was nèe Rankin.

What got me enmeshed in the Gibson County Rankins was the Revolutionary War pension application of one Robert Rankin among the court records. Let’s call him Mystery Robert because his family of origin is a puzzle. He applied for a pension in Gibson in September 1832. His sworn statement is replete with military details. Unfortunately, he did not say where he enlisted, which would likely have led us to his family of origin without much difficulty

I cannot find anyone who claims descent from Mystery Robert among online family trees. This is unusual, because the general rule is that whenever one finds a Revolutionary War soldier, one finds many descendants. I have found no one claiming a revolutionary war soldier ancestor who applied from Gibson County in 1832.

If you know who this man’s family is, please let me know. I’ll send you a box of chocolates, provided that you have proof other than some online tree which cites as sources other online family trees.

Here is what the Gibson records reveal about Mystery Robert, which is precious little.

  • Mystery Robert was 84 when he applied for a pension under the Act of 1832. That was the first Congressional act in which the applicant did not have to prove that he was destitute in order to be eligible for a pension. Since Robert had not applied earlier, we know that he wasn’t destitute. He was born about 1748. He was in the North Carolina militia, which means he almost certainly lived in NC when he enlisted. His pension allowance was $50/year, and the 1835 roll of Tennessee pensioners says that he had received $150 through June 1834. Here is a transcription of his pension application.
  • Robert appeared in the 1830 census for Gibson County in the 80 < 90 age bracket (born 1740 – 1750), consistent with the stated age in his pension application. There is a female 40 < 50 (born 1780 – 1790) listed with him and a male 10 < 15 (born 1815 – 1820). This could be a young wife and son, or a widowed daughter or daughter-in-law who was his caretaker (and her son). I don’t know. The 1830 census only gives names for the head of household. I haven’t been able to identify those two other members of Robert’s 1830 household.
  • The 1830s tax records in Gibson County occasionally list a Robert Rankin, although not consistently every year. It is fairly clear that he owned no land. His only taxable item was “one white poll,” which was undoubtedly himself. However, he was charged no tax, which probably means he was exempt from taxes on account of his advanced age. I don’t know when he died, although he did not appear as a head of household in the 1840 census. I found no probate records for him in Gibson Co.

The thing about Mystery Robert that caused me to sit up and take notice was this: his pension application says that his brother was killed by Tories at the Battle of Ramsour’s Mill. I ran into that battle a long time ago when I was first doing genealogical research. Because it has been a while (pre-Google, in fact), I did some online research about Ramsour’s Mill (also spelled Ramseur or Ramsaur). It took place in June 1780. About 40 patriots (Whigs) died there, although it was not easy to ascertain which bodies fought for which side. The combatants wore no uniforms. The loyalists (Tories) stuck a spring of greenery in their hats; the patriots had a piece of white paper in theirs. These identifiers were sometimes missing from the bodies.

Here is the piece about Ramsour’s Mill where I found this information.

The largest portion of the patriot troops were from Iredell County, NC. About thirteen of the dead patriots were from Capt. Sharpe’s 4th Creek Company, Statesville, Iredell County. (“Company” in this context may refer to a militia company and/or to a tax district).

Family history research, of course, rarely involves dead solid certainties, especially when one is dealing with facts from more than two centuries ago. Sometimes one must play the odds. The obvious odds were that Mystery Robert and his dead brother were from Iredell County, so I went digging among the Iredell records for Rankin families. This was simply a matter of looking up the Iredell research I had done almost two decades ago, when I was a rookie researcher and fixated on finding the family of origin of my last proved Rankin ancestor.

What I found in Iredell was the will of a David Rankin who died in 1789. I looked at the original will in the Raleigh Archives (found in File Box No. C.R.054.801.11 and recorded in Iredell Will Book A: 200). The will names his wife Margaret and son Robert. David also named three grandchildren: (1) David McCreary (obviously the son of David’s daughter Mrs. _______ Rankin McCreary), (2) James Rankin (expressly identified as the son of Robert Rankin) and (3) David Rankin. Grandson David Rankin’s father was not identified, so he wasn’t another son of Robert. He was a minor, under age 21 in 1781, when David’s will was written.

The express language of David’s will – with a Rankin grandson whose father wasn’t Robert – raises the inference that David and Margaret had another son who may have predeceased David.

The next step, of course, was to cast about in nearby records to find a candidate for grandson David Rankin whose father may have died before 1781. This wasn’t difficult, and was also buried among my old research. David was in Lincoln County and was the son of a James Rankin. Here are some relevant Lincoln County records:

  • July 1783, a lawsuit styled the Executors of James Rankin vs. Reuben Simpson. Plaintiff won. So there was a James Rankin who had died before July 1783. The description of plaintiffs as “executors” suggests that James Rankin died testate, but I have found no will.
  • The lawsuit resulted in the public sale of defendant’s land to satisfy the plaintiff’s judgment. Lincoln Co. Deed Book 2: 756, deed dated 21 Sep 1784 from Joseph Henry, Sheriff of Lincoln Co., to Francis Cunningham of same, levy on Reuben Simpson in suit of James Rankin, land on Beaver Dam Branch on the west side of the Catawba River adjacent Francis Cunningham, part of 640 acres granted to Reuben Simpson. A witness to the deed was Robert Rankin, who was almost certainly kin to the dead James Rankin. Perhaps the witness was Robert, son of David and Margaret Rankin.
  • A Lincoln county promissory note (or was this simply security on a guardian’s bond? My rookie notes aren’t clear) from Francis Cunninghan and Daniel McKissick to John Alexander, guardian of minors David Rankin, Jane Rankin, Margaret Rankin and William Rankin, orphans (meaning their father was dead, not necessarily their mother as well) of James Rankin. Generally, children were named in order of age, so David was probably the eldest. Source: Anne William McAllister & Kathy Gunter Sullivan, Civil Action Papers 1771-1806 of the Court of Ps & Qs, Lincoln County, North Carolina (1989).

David Rankin was still in the area on 14 Oct 1800, when he witnessed a deed from James Alexander to Horatio Gates Alexander adjacent the land of David’s guardian John Alexander. Lincoln Co. DB 22:65. John Alexander was almost certainly David Rankin’s uncle, so John was probably either (1) married to a Rankin or (2) the brother of David’s mother, Miss ___?___ Alexander who married a Rankin.

The final piece of evidence here: the Iredell County Genealogical Society has a collection called the “Philip Langenhour papers,” which were Mr. Langenhour’s collections of stories about local families. His papers mention a Miss Alexander (no given name stated) who married a Mr. Rankin (ditto) who died at the Battle of Ramsour’s Mill. Given the fact that the guardian of James Rankin’s children was John Alexander, it is as good a bet as you can find in genealogy that it was James Rankin who died at Ramsour’s Mill. This is the only piece of evidence I have found that a Rankin died in that battle … other than the pension application of Robert Rankin, whose patriot brother was killed there.

The pieces of this puzzle fall together quite nicely. It is reasonable to conclude that David and Margaret Rankin of Iredell had two sons named Robert and James. James married a Miss Alexander and died at the Battle of Ramsour’s Mill in 1780. James and Miss Alexander had children named David and Margaret (for their Rankin grandparents?), as well as Jane and William. Their uncle John Alexander became their guardian.

And here is where we take a plunge off the high diving board without, we hope (as my friend Jody McKenney Thomson, a descendant of these Lincoln County Alexanders, puts it) “forcing Cinderella’s shoe to fit” – and please forgive the mixed metaphors. Robert Rankin, Revolutionary War pensioner from Gibson County, TN, had a brother who died at the Battle of Ramsour’s Mill. There were only 40 dead patriots in that battle, for pete’s sake, including 13 from the Statesville area. What are the odds that there is ANOTHER dead Rankin in that crew besides James?

I think Mystery Robert is Robert, son of David and Margaret Rankin of Iredell, and a brother of the James Rankin who died at Ramsour’s Mill. Too much speculation? I confess to feeling a bit out on a limb. Jody, does the shoe pinch?

Please note also that Robert Rankin, son of David and Margaret, disappeared from the Iredell and Lincoln county records after 1826 without leaving any probate records. Jody and I have long wondered where the heck he went.

There is a bit more to this story. Robert had two sons who remained in the Iredell/Lincoln area: Denny, born in 1775, and James, born about 1778. Denny and James married sisters, Sarah and Elizabeth McMinn. Two of Denny and Sarah’s proved children were named Robert A. Rankin and Samuel Rankin.

Robert A. Rankin appeared in the Gibson County records starting in 1838. Samuel Rankin began appearing in Gibson in 1837, acting as security on the bond of the administrator of one John McMinn. Keep in mind that these 19th century folks typically migrated in groups of extended family members. In 1838, the Gibson County tax list included Samuel Rankin, Robert Rankin, and Robert Rankin Jr. (and no other Rankins). (“Junior,” of course, didn’t necessarily imply a father-son relationship; it was frequently used to distinguish an elder man from a younger man having the same given name). The fact that known members of the Iredell Rankin family (and a McMinn) appeared in Gibson along with Mystery Robert provides additional circumstantial evidence regarding Mystery Robert’s identity.

I think the shoe fits quite nicely.

Finally, please note that there were other distinct Rankin lines in Gibson County beginning in roughly the mid-1800s. However, I found no evidence to connect any other Rankin line to Mystery Robert. In the 1840 census for Gibson, there was no listing for either of the two Roberts or for Samuel. Robert A. Rankin and his brother Samuel moved on to Shelby County, where both died; Samuel was Robert’s administrator.

Briefly, here are some other Rankins who lived in Gibson County:

  • David F. C. Rankin (1823 – 1885) and his wife Susan Young. David was a son of David Rankin and Anne Moore Campbell of Rutherford County, TN. The senior David Rankin was a son of Samuel and Eleanor (“Ellen”) Alexander Rankin of Lincoln Co., NC.
  • Jesse Rankin, who was born in Kentucky about 1795, and his wife Cynthia Sellers. Some researchers think Jesse was a son of Robert Rankin of Rutherford Co., NC and Caldwell Co., KY and his second wife Leah. Other researchers think that Jesse was a son of “Shaker Reverend” John Rankin of Guilford, NC and Logan Co., KY and his wife Rebecca. Both Robert of Rutherford and Shaker Reverend John had sons named Jesse. I don’t have an opinion yet.

Some Rankin researchers think that Robert Rankin and his wife Isabel (maiden name Rankin) of Guilford Co., NC, McNairy Co., TN and Pope Co., AR may have also lived in Gibson County. I don’t think that is the case, and one of their descendants tells me she has no evidence for that, either.

I’ve clearly got some more digging to do trying to sort out the Gibson County Rankins. Meanwhile, as my cousin Roger Alexander likes to say, “Nobody has more fun than we do!”

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.