Senator Lamar Alexander’s Rankin Ancestry

Sissy Wynne, a friend who remembers every piece of genealogical information she has ever seen or heard, tells me that Senator Lamar Alexander’s mother was née Rankin. You will recall that I took issue in yesterday’s post with the Senator’s claim that he is related to two Rankin men who had distinguished careers at Tusculum College. My argument was that the two Tusculum Rankins – Rev. William Bradshaw Rankin and Professor Samuel Thomas Rankin – are descended from two genetically different Rankin family lines. Senator Alexander could reasonably claim a family relationship with one of them. Being related to both might be a little tricky.

For fun, I started tracking the Senator’s Rankin line. It turned out to be a “how to primer” in family history research when the answers simply fall into your lap. The bottom line is that Sen. Alexander shares a common Rankin ancestor with Rev. William Bradshaw Rankin, the first President of Tusculum College. Both the Senator and Rev. William are descended from the John Rankin who died in 1749 in Lancaster Co., PA. I have not found any evidence, however, that the Senator is related to Prof. Samuel Thomas.

Let’s start at the beginning, with the Wikipedia biography for Sen. Alexander. It identifies his mother as Genevra Floreine Rankin Alexander. Thanks to that lovely and ususual name, information on Mrs. Alexander was easy to find. To begin with, Mrs. Alexander’s obituary is posted at a findagrave website. Although the obit does not name her parents, it identifies her maiden name as Rankin and says this:

“Mrs. Alexander was born in Barry County, Mo., on Aug. 14, 1914. Her father, however, was a fifth generation native of Dumplin Valley in East Tennessee’s Jefferson County.”

That’s a lot of good information, leading to the next stop on the research tour: Barry Co., MO. There is a marriage record there for Florence Edens and Reu Raymond Rankin, married on Oct. 22, 1913. Reu Raymond (no, his first name is not a typo) and his young family appeared in the 1920 census in Lee Co., Iowa, and in Harvey Co., Kansas in the 1930 census. The latter census identifies his occupation as “locomotive engineer,” which may be why the family moved around.

In the 1920 census, their first child is listed as “Floreine,” age five, born in Missouri about 1915. In 1930, she is listed as “Florine G.,” age 15. Reu Raymond’s state of birth, and his parents,’ are given in both censuses as Tennessee. Seems a safe bet that we have the right Genevra Floreine Rankin Alexander in these records.

In a stroke of really good research luck, the state of Tennessee issued Reu Raymond Rankin a “delayed certificate of birth.” It says that Reu Raymond Rankin was born Dec. 18, 1886 in Jefferson Co., TN, and that he was a son of James Thomas Rankin and Nancy Jane Webb. Dumplin Valley, of course, is in Jefferson County.

Fortunately, the Jefferson County records are darn good. There is a marriage record there for “J. T. Rankin” and “N. J. Webb” dated Nov. 26, 1877. James Thomas Rankin (1834 – 1901) and Nancy Jane Webb Rankin (1851 – 1918) are both buried in the Hebron Cemetery in Jefferson County. The cemetery is located less than 3,000’ from Dumplin Creek.

Now  … where to go for evidence of James Thomas’s parents? The first time he would appear by name in a census would be 1850, when he was about 16. He was born in September 1834, so he is probably listed as 15 in the census, usually taken earlier in the year. Bingo: there is only one James T. Rankin in the 1850 census for Jefferson County. He is listed in the household of Christopher Rankin, age 40, and Frances Rankin, age 32. James T. is listed as age 15.

It wasn’t until 1880 that the federal census started identifying the relationship between the head of household and individual household members. Consequently, there is no statement in the 1850 census that James T. Rankin was a son of Christopher and Frances Rankin. Most researchers, including me, presume that the head of household is the parent of the children listed therein who have the same surname – until proven otherwise. If you are an attorney, you would call that a rebuttable presumption.

Works for me. Given the family tradition that Floreine Rankin Alexander’s father was a fifth generation native of Dumplin Valley, we are clearly in the midst of the right Rankin line, even if James T. Rankin was Christopher’s nephew rather than his son.

Identifying Christopher’s parents required a bit more luck. Probate records were the place to look, because the census prior to 1850 isn’t much help. There we are: Jefferson County Will Book 2 at page 306 contains the will of Thomas Rankin of Jefferson County. It names his wife Jennett, four daughters, and eight sons, including one Christopher Rankin. He was the only Christopher Rankin of that generation whom I found in Jefferson County, so he is surely the same man as Christopher, father of James Thomas. Christopher inherited part of the home plantation. It wouldn’t be surprising to learn that it is only a short distance from his land to the Mt. Horeb Cemetery’s bronze tablet.

That is precisely where we will go for the next bit of evidence. The tablet contains errors, some of which have been corrected in a second bronze tablet installed by Roy Marshall Rankin, another descendant of the Dumplin Valley Rankins. Here, in part, is what the tablet says, with Roy’s corrections added by me in italics:

“Thomas Rankin, 1724-1826 (1812), married Isabel Clendenon of Pennsylvania and settled in that state. Their children were:

  • John 1754-1825 m. Martha Waugh
  • Richard 1756-1827 m. Jennett Steele
  • Samuel 1758-1828 (1834) m. Jane Isabelle Petty
  • William 1760-1834 (1759–1833)m. Sarah Moore.
  • Thomas 1762-1832 m. Jennett Bradshaw 
  • James 1770-1839 m. Massey
  • Jane m. William Gillespie
  • Margaret M. m. Samuel Harris
  • Ann m. Lemuel Lacy
  • Isabel m. Robt. McQuiston
  • Mary m. James Bradshaw (Andrew McQuiston)
  • Nancy m. Samuel White”

Thomas Rankin, the father of all those children, was a son of the John Rankin who died in 1749 in Lancaster Co., PA. As noted above, John Rankin d. 1749 is the ancestor of both Rev. William Bradshaw Rankin, the first President of Tusculum College, and Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee. The Senator’s outline descendant chart for his Rankin line looks like this:

1 John Rankin d. 1749, Lancaster Co., PA, whose wife is traditionally identified as Mary McElwee.

2 Thomas Rankin (1724-1812) m. Isabel Clendenon.

3 Thomas Rankin (1762-1832) m. Jennett Bradshaw.

4 Christopher Rankin (1809-1881) m. Frances.

5 James Thomas Rankin (1834-1901) m. Nancy Jane Webb

6 Reu Raymond Rankin (1886-1977) m. Florence Edens

7 Genevra Floreine Rankin (1914-2000) m. Andrew Lamar Alexander Sr.

8 Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN).

As for Sen. Alexander’s claim that he is also related to Tusculum College’s Professor Samuel Thomas Rankin, who was a professor of Latin for 47 years? I have no idea whether that is correct.

See you on down the road …

 

 

 

 

MORE Accomplished Rankins … and a Possibly Confused TN Senator

We’re on a run of accomplished Rankins here, although I promise not to find any royalty in the line! A friend forwarded the October 2018 newsletter he received from Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee. The Senator claims some distinguished Rankin relatives. Here is what he had to say in his newsletter:

“Joined Tusculum University to inaugurate their new president, and celebrate their 225th homecoming celebration

I enjoyed my time at Tusculum University yesterday (about Oct. 13, 2018), where I got to participate in the inauguration of their new president, Dr. James Hurley. Dr. Hurley has a lot to offer this university — he knows the territory, has a passion for education and basketball, was the first in his family to graduate from college and became president of that college, and we already know he thinks big. Big dreams include new programs to help the region deal with the opioid epidemic, transitioning from a college to a university and announcing a new College of Optometry. I also got to celebrate Tusculum’s 225th homecoming. Let’s look at Tusculum’s roots. Tusculum was founded two years before Tennessee became a state. There were a lot of Presbyterian pioneers and fighters who came to the area, including Rankin relatives of mine —William B. Rankin, who became president of Tusculum College in 1854, and Thomas Samuel Rankin, who was a professor at Tusculum from 1885 when he graduated until 1931. These pioneers created the first higher education institution in Tennessee. This homecoming was a good reminder that Tusculum has plenty that is unique to celebrate, and it now has the arrival of an experienced, big thinking, new president who dreams of building on the success Tusculum has already had.”

Senator Alexander needs someone to examine his Rankin roots! It is unlikely that he is related to both Rev. William B. Rankin (call him “Rev. William,” since he had a Doctorate of Divinity) and Professor Thomas Samuel Rankin (“Prof. Thomas,” who taught Latin, bless his heart, for 47 years). Here is a link to information about Rev. William published online by Tusculum College.

Rev. William, the first president of Tusculum College, descends from John Rankin who died in Lancaster Co., PA in 1749. The family of John’s son Thomas (whose wife was Isabell Clendenon/Clendennin) wound up in Jefferson Co., TN, where they are memorialized on the famous bronze tablet in Mt. Horeb Cemetery. I’ve written about the tablet, and John d. 1749, here and here. Six descendants of Thomas have done YDNA tests and have joined the Rankin Family DNA Project. They belong to what Rankin Project administrators have designated “Rankin Lineage 2A.” 

Prof. Thomas descends from David Rankin Sr. of Greene Co., TN, who died there in 1802. At least four proved descendants of David Rankin Sr. have done YDNA tests and have joined the Rankin Family DNA Project. They belong to “Lineage 3.”

Rankin Lineage 2A members are not a YDNA match with members of  Lineage 3, of course –or they would all belong to the same lineage. Thus, the only way Sen. Alexander could have been related to both Rev. William and Prof. Thomas would be if someone from Rev. William’s family married someone from Prof. Thomas’s family, and the combined L2A/L3 family is related to the Senator. A good researcher could puzzle it all out in a trice. I didn’t go to the trouble. Sen. Alexander is, after all, a politician, and the cynic in me suspects he was just burnishing his Tusculum resume for the attendees. <grin>

Here are outline descendant charts for both of the Rankin men Sen. Alexander claims as relatives. Part of Rev. William Bradshaw Rankin’s chart is taken from his own S.A.R. application. His ancestry was easy to verify, because this is an extremely well-documented Rankin line. The application says that Rev. William remembered his grandfather talking about the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown. And Rev. William said he owned a piece of grapeshot from Yorktown that his grandfather gave to him. I was charmed. I’m tickled to claim him as a distant cousin.

Here is the line of Rev. William, Rankin Lineage 2A:

1 John Rankin, birth date unproved, died 1749 in Lancaster Co., PA. Wife traditionally identified as Mary McElwee; will names his wife as Margaret.

2 Thomas Rankin, abt. 1724 – 1812. Wife Isabella Clendenon (various spellings).

3 William Rankin, 27 Jan 1759 – 13 Dec 1833. Wife Sarah Moore, 21 Jul 1764 – 9 Oct 1850. William was the Revolutionary War soldier whose service was the basis for Rev. William’s S.A.R. application. See Virgil White’s abstract of William’s pension application in the footnote at the end of this sentence.[1] William and Sarah are both buried in the Timber Ridge Cemetery in Greene Co., TN.

4 Anthony Rankin, 1794 – 1872. He married Margaret Gray (1796 – 1863) on 25 Dec 1821 in Washington Co., TN. Both are also buried in the Timber Ridge Cemetery. 25 Dec 1821.

5 Rev. William Bradshaw Rankin, MA, DD, 1825 – 1903. He is buried in the Salem Churchyard at Washington College, Limestone, TN.

And here is the line of Prof. Thomas, Rankin Lineage 3:

1 David Rankin Sr., birth date unproved, d. 1802, Greene Co., TN. Wife’s identity unproved.

2 Robert Rankin, wife Elizabeth Dinwiddie of Greene Co., TN. Possibly married in Campbell Co., VA in 1798.[2] Robert’s Greene Co. will named his son Thomas C. Rankin as an executor.

3 Thomas C. Rankin(30 Mar 1806 – 12 Nov 1851) and Elvira Blackburn (1810-1901). His 1851 will named his son Robert. Thomas and Elvira are both buried in the Mt. Bethel Presbyterian Cemetery in Greene Co.

4 Robert Rankin, b. 25 Mar 1832 – d. 15 Apr 1866, Greene Co., TN. Wife Margaret McGaughey. Married in Greene Co. in 1854.

5 Professor Thomas Samuel Rankin, b. 15 Jun 1858 d. 30 Oct 1938 or 1939, buried Oak Grove Cemetery, Greenville, Greene Co., TN. Tombstone says he was “47 years professor of Latin” and a college trustee, as well as a ruling elder of Mt. Bethel Presbyterian. His first wife was Margaret Folk (1849 – 1887); second wife was Mary Coile (1866 – 1941).

As always, please let me know if you spot any errors or have any questions. Senator Alexander, I welcome your comments!

See you on down the road, friends.

[1]William Rankin, wife Sarah, served in the PA and VA line. Born 27 Jan 1759 “some 5 miles below Carlisle in Cumberland Co., PA.” He lived at Juniata in that county at enlistment. In Jun 1780 he moved with his father to Augusta County, VA and also enlisted there. Soldier married Sarah Moore29 Aug 1787 in Greene Co., TNand she was b. Jul 1763. Soldier d. 13 Dec 1833, widow applied 25 Mar 1844 in Green Co., TN. Children were (1) Thomas b. 13 Jul 1788, (2) Peggy b. 1 Jan 1790, (3) John Moore Rankin b. 10 Apr 1792, (4) Anthony b. 23 Aug 1794 (see Greene Co. TN records for Anthony) (5), Isabel Clindinon Rankin b. 30 Aug 1796, (6) William b. 23 Mar 1799, (7) Ginny b. 17 Nov 1801 and (8) David b. 10 Feb 1804.

[2]The Encyclopedia of Quaker Genealogy, 1750-1930, Vol. VI(MyFamily.com, Inc., 2006), 849.

Rev. Adam Rankin of Lexington, KY: YDNA Controversy, Ancestry Issues, and Theological Fanaticism

A distant Rankin cousin recently introduced me to Confederate Brigadier General Adam Rankin “Stovepipe” Johnson. His mother was a Rankin, so I wrote about him here. Today’s subject is Presbyterian Rev. Adam Rankin of Lexington, Fayette County, Kentucky. Rev. Adam is the source of Rankin YDNA and family history issues, although he didn’t just become controversial after he died: he caused considerable turmoil in his denomination during his lifetime.

Here is a summary of the issues …

  • The YDNA question. YDNA tests of Rev. Adam’s descendants cast doubt on one part of famous Rankin family legend preserved on a tablet in Mt. Horeb Cemetery  in Jefferson Co., TN. The story concerns an Alexander Rankin and his son William (two other sons having been martyred) who fled to Ulster in 1688 to escape the “Killing Times” in Scotland.[1] The family then survived the Siege of Londonderry in 1689. Three sons of William reportedly immigrated from Ulster to Pennsylvania in the 1720s, where one died without children. One of the two surviving brothers was probably Rev. Adam’s grandfather. Descendants of Rev. Adam and the other surviving brother have YDNA tested, and they do not match each other. Absent another explanation, this means the two men traditionally considered sons of William Rankin weren’t brothers.
  • The family history question. One explanation for the YDNA mismatch might be an error in the family trees of descendants who have tested. Alternatively, there might be an NPE (a so-called “non-paternal event,” such as an adoption) in a line. To sort that out, we need to look at the other YDNA matches and ancestor charts of the Rankins who have tested.
  • Theological turmoil. During his lifetime, Rev. Adam caused an uproar in the Presbyterian church about an obscure theological issue. Rev. Adam was a fanatic on the question. If anyone reading this post has ever even heard of it, you must be a serious theologian. Read on …

The YDNA Question

The Mt. Horeb Rankin legend described above identifies three brothers who came to Pennsylvania in the 1720s:

(1) Adam Rankin, who died in 1747 in Lancaster Co., PA. His wife (reportedly his second) was Mary Steele Alexander. Let’s call him Adam d. 1747. His will named three sons and one daughter.[2] I’ve written about Adam here  and here.

(2) John Rankin, who died in 1749, also in Lancaster Co., PA. His first wife was reportedly Jane McElwee, and his widow was named Margaret. His will named two sons, six daughters, and two sons-in-law.[3] Let’s call him John d. 1749. You can find John’s will at this link.

(3) According to the legend, Hugh Rankin, the third brother, died without children.

Conventional wisdom says that Rev. Adam was a grandson of Adam d. 1747. Two of Rev. Adam’s descendants have YDNA tested and fall into “Lineage 3” at the Rankin Family DNA Project. At least five descendants of John d. 1749 have also YDNA tested. They fall into Rankin “Lineage 2.”

The Lineage 3 descendants of Adam d. 1747 do not match the Lineage 2 descendants of John d. 1749. However, descendants of Adam d. 1747 and John d. 1749 are all genetic Rankins. We know that because each of them matches men descended from other Rankin lines. For example, the descendants of John d. 1749 are also YDNA matches to descendants of Samuel and Eleanor Alexander Rankin of Lincoln Co., NC. That is also true of the descendants of Adam d. 1747, who match yet another Rankin line. Because all of the tested descendants of John d. 1749 and Adam d. 1747 are genetic Rankins, a non-Rankin adoption in one line, or an illegitimate birth, probably cannot explain the Lineage 2/Lineage 3 mismatch.[4]

The question becomes whether there is an error somewhere in these men’s family trees. That brings us to …

The Family History Question

Let’s start with the descendants of John d. 1749, because we can dispatch them quickly. There is no doubt about their ancestry. All five of them descend from Thomas, one of John d. 1749’s two sons, and there are no weak links in their descendant charts.

Rev. Adam as a descendant of Adam d. 1747 is a tougher case. Rev. Adam is traditionally deemed a son of Jeremiah Rankin and Rachel Craig. Jeremiah, in turn, was a proved son of Adam d. 1747.[5] Family tradition also says that Jeremiah died young in a mill accident.

The problem is a lack of primary sources of evidence identifying Jeremiah’s children. Consequently, we have to rely on secondary sources of evidence. That means information that has no reasonable guarantee of accuracy. Primary sources of evidence include county deeds and probate records, for example. Secondary sources of evidence include books. (Online family trees are not evidence of any sort.)

The best secondary evidence about Rev. Adam’s family of origin may be an 1847 book by Rev. Robert Davidson titled History of the Presbyterian Church in the State of Kentucky.

Here is what Rev. Davidson wrote about Rev. Adam. The emphasis and italics are mine.

“The Rev. Adam Rankin was born March 24, 1755, near Greencastle, Western Pennsylvania [sic, Greencastle is in south-central Pennsylvania]. He was descended from pious Presbyterian ancestors, who had emigrated from Scotland, making a short sojourn in Ireland by the way. His mother, who was a godly woman, was a Craig, and one of her ancestors suffered martyrdom, in Scotland, for the truth. That ancestor, of the name of Alexander, and a number of others, were thrown into prison, where they were slaughtered, without trial, by a mob of ferocious assassins, till the blood ran ancle [sic] deep. This account Mr. Rankin received from his mother’s lips. His father was an uncommon instance of early piety, and because the minister scrupled to admit one so young, being only in the tenth year of his age, he was examined before a presbytery. From the moment of his son Adam’s birth, he dedicated him to the ministry. He was killed in his own mill, when Adam, his eldest son, was in his fifth year. [Rev. Adam] graduated at Liberty Hall [now Washington & Lee University], about 1780. Two years after, Oct. 25, 1782, at the age of twenty-seven, he was licensed by Hanover Presbytery, and, about the same time, married Martha, daughter of Alexander McPheeters, of Augusta county,” Virginia.[6]

The most important thing Rev. Davidson said about Rev. Adam was in a footnote: “This sketch of Mr. Rankin’s early history so far is derived from his autobiography, prepared, shortly before his decease, for his friend, Gen. Robert B. McAfee, then Lieut. Governor of the State.” That qualifies as information straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak.[7] Several facts stand out in Rev. Davidson’s sketch:

  • The death of Rev. Adam’s father in a mill accident is consistent with the conventional wisdom. The date is established by the autobiography at about 1760, when Rev. Adam was five.[8]
  • Adam’s mother was, as the conventional wisdom says, a Craig.[9]
  • There was a Presbyterian martyr among Rev. Adam’s ancestors, although the murdered man was his mother’s kin, not his father’s.
  • Adam was born in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, which had been created in 1750 from Lancaster County (where Adam d. 1747 lived when he died). Adam d. 1747’s sons William and James began appearing in Cumberland in the 1750s. The location of Rev. Adam’s birth in Greencastle is good circumstantial evidence that Rev. Adam is from the line of Adam d. 1747.

Rev. Davidson didn’t mention the legend preserved on the Mt. Horeb tablet, although he does recount Rev. Adam’s father’s examination before a Presbytery at age ten. Surely Rev. Adam would have been aware of the Mt. Horeb legend if it had concerned his family, and would have included that story in his autobiography. Had he done so, then surely Rev. Davidson would have mentioned it, because the Rankin martyrs were as important as both the murdered Craig and the Presbytery examination at age ten. The omission raises the inference that the Mt. Horeb legend was not part of Rev. Adam’s family history.

On balance, Rev. Davidson’s biographical sketch supports the conventional wisdom – that Rev. Adam Rankin, born in Cumberland Co., PA, was a son of Jeremiah and Rachel Craig Rankin and a grandson of Adam d. 1747. However, the best way to resolve the issue would be with a YDNA test by a proved descendant of Adam d. 1747. I need some help on that, because I’m terrible at convincing men to take a YDNA test. Let’s all pause here while you phone or email a prospective YDNA test participant … then let’s move on to Rev. Adam’s theological controversy and remarkable character.

Theological Turmoil

There is plenty of evidence regarding Rev. Adam’s personality. An 1872 History of Lexington describes him as a “talented, intolerant, eccentric, and pious man, [who] was greatly beloved by his congregation, which clung to him with devoted attachment through all his fortunes.”[10]

Rev. Davidson wrote that Rev. Adam “appears to have been of a contentious, self-willed turn from his youth … and his wranglings at last ended in a schism. Obstinate and opinionated, his nature was a stranger to concession, and peace was to be bought only by coming over to his positions … his pugnacious propensities brought on at last a judicial investigation.”

Another source describes Rev. Adam as “a strange, eccentric man, a dreamer of dreams, a Kentucky Luther, and, perhaps, a bit crazed with the bitter opposition his views received.”[11]

What on earth do you suppose all the fuss was about?

The theological issue about which Rev. Adam was fanatical is the “Psalmody controversy.” Psalmody, said Rev. Davidson, was “his monomania.”

The what controversy?

An article entitled “How Adam Rankin tried to stop Presbyterians from singing ‘Joy to the World’ ” describes the origin of the issue:

“In 1770 [sic, 1670], when Isaac Watts was 18 years of age, he criticized the hymns of the church in his English hometown of Southampton. In  response to his son’s complaints, Watts’ father is reputed to have said, ‘If you don’t like the hymns we sing, then write a better one!’ To that Isaac replied, ‘I have.’ One of his hymns was shared with the church they attended and they asked the young man to write more.

For 222 Sundays, Isaac Watts prepared a new hymn for each Sunday, and single-handedly revolutionized the congregational singing habits of the English Churches of the time. In 1705, Watts published his first volume of original hymns and sacred poems. More followed. In 1719, he published his monumental work, ‘The Psalms of David, Imitated.’ Among those many familiar hymns is the Christmas favorite ‘Joy to the World,’ based on Psalm 98.

For many years, only Psalms were sung throughout the Presbyterian Churches and the old ‘Rouse’ versons were the standard. The first General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States convened at the Second Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia in 1789. One of the Prebyterian ministers of the time, a man by the name of Rev. Adam Rankin, rode horseback from his Kentucky parish to Philadelphia to plead with his fellow Presbyterians to reject the use of Watts’ hymms.[12]

You had to be a fanatic on the issue to ride more than 600 miles from Lexington to Philadelphia, right? Worse yet, Rev. Adam had no “commission” to attend the Assembly: he was not even an official attendee![13] He simply requested to be heard by the Assembly on the subject of Psalmody. Specifically, he sought a repeal of a 1787 resolution allowing Watts’ Psalms to be used in churches. He presented this query to the General Assembly:

 “Whether the churches under the care of the General Assembly, have not, by the countenance and allowance of the late Synod of New York and Philadelphia, fallen into a great and pernicious error in the public worship of God, by disusing Rouse’s versification of David’s Psalms, and adopting in the room of it, Watts’ imitation?”[14]

According to Rev. Davidson, the Assembly listened to him patiently and recommended “that exercise of Christian charity, towards those who differ from him in their views of this matter, which is exercised toward himself: and that he be carefully guarded against disturbing the peace of the church on this head.”[15]

You can probably guess how well Rev. Adam followed that advice:

No sooner had he returned home than he began to denounce the Presbyterian clergy as Deists, blasphemers, and rejecters of revelation, and debarred from the Lord’s Table all admirers of Watts’ Psalms, which he castigated as rivals of the Word of God.[16]

“Debarred from the Lord’s Table” means that Rev. Adam refused to administer communion to his parishioners who disagreed with him about Watts’ hymns. It is hard to imagine a more radical punishment in a Presbyterian church short of, I don’t know, burning dissenters at the stake.[17]

Rev. Adam didn’t mince words. He verbally abused his Psalmody opponents in ways that would make even current partisan politicians cringe. He called them weak, ignorant, envious, and profane, compared them to swine, said they bore the mark of the beast and that they were sacrilegious robbers, hypocrites, and blasphemers. It makes Newt Gingritch instructing his House colleagues circa 1986 to refer to Democrats as “traitors” and the “enemy” seem mild-mannered, doesn’t it?

In 1789, several formal charges were brought against Rev. Rankin before the Presbytery to which his church belonged. One charge was that he had refused communion to persons who approved Watts’ psalmody. Apparently attempting to dodge a trial, he made a two-year trip to London. When he returned, his views unchanged, his case was tried in April 1792. At that point, Rev. Adam just withdrew from the Presbytery, taking with him a majority of his congregation.[18]

He then affiliated with the Associate Reformed Church, although that also ended badly. Rev. Davidson wrote that Rev. Adam “was on no better terms with the Associate Reformed than he had been with the Presbyterians; and his pugnacious propensities brought on at last a judicial investigation.” In 1818, he was suspended from the office of the ministry. He and his congregation simply declared themselves independent.

Rev. Adam wasn’t merely stubborn and pugnacious. He claimed early on that he was guided by dreams and visions, convinced that “God had raised him up as a special instrument to reinstate ‘the Lord’s song.’” Eventually, he was led by a dream to believe that “Jerusalem was about to be rebuilt and that he must hurry there in order to assist in the rebuilding. He bade his Lexington flock farewell, and started to the Holy City, but, on November 25, 1827, death overtook him at Philadelphia.”[19]

That is a sad ending: I find myself wishing he had made it to Jerusalem. Although there is no telling what additional trouble we might now have in the Middle East if he had done so.

Rev. Adam’s widow moved to Maury County, Tennessee along with her sons Samuel and Adam Rankin Jr.  She died there, and her tombstone in the Greenwood Cemetery in Columbia reads simply “Martha Rankin, consort of A. Rankin of Lexington, KY.” It was probably no picnic, being a planet in Rev. Adam’s solar system.

One final note: I keep promising to post outline descendant reports on the Rankin lines I write about. I keep failing to do it, so I am not going to make that promise about Rev. Adam’s family. Faced with facts, I must admit that I just don’t like compiling descendant reports. If you have a question about Rev. Adam’s line, you know where to find me.

See you on down the road.

[1] Many sources recite the history of this Rankin family during Scotland’s “Killing Times” and the Siege of Londonderry in Ireland. The memorial tablet in the Mt. Horeb cemetery in Jefferson County, TN may be the most well-known example: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/10727017/family-memorial-rankin.  Another source for an abbreviated version of the legend is Rev. Samuel Meek Rankin, The Rankin and Wharton Families and Their Genealogy (Salem, MA, reprint by Higginson Book Company, origianally published in 1931), pp. 13, 16. The legend is even posted on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=1441329275900632&id=157190774314495

[2] Lancaster Co., PA Will Book J: 208.

[3] Lancaster Co., PA Will Book J: 211.

[4] An Alexander cousin of mine suggested that perhaps Mary Steele Alexander, widow of James Alexander and wife of Adam Rankin d. 1747, may have had Alexander children who adopted the name Rankin when she married Adam d. 1747. Unfortunately, the theory doesn’t work. Descendants of Adam d. 1747 don’t even remotely match descendants of James Alexander’s family, the so-called Alexander line of “Seven Brothers and Two Sisters.”

[5] Adam’s 1747 will named sons Jeremiah, James and William. Lancaster Co., PA Will Book J: 208. Adam d. 1747 left land to each of them in what was then Lancaster Co., PA. Cumberland County was created from Lancaster in 1750, and Franklin was created from Cumberland in 1784. Adam d. 1747’s sons James and William left numerous records in both counties, including their Franklin Co. wills. Franklin Co., PA Will Book A: 256, 345.

[6] Rev. Robert Davidson, History of the Presbyterian Church in the State of Kentucky (three publishers, including C. Marshall, Lexington, 1847), p. 95. Chapter III of the book is titled “The Rankin Schism,” see p. 88 et seq. The book is available online as a pdf at https://ia802302.us.archive.org/24/items/historyofpresbyt00davi/historyofpresbyt00davi.pdf, accessed 30 Aug 2018.

[7] I’m looking for that autobiography. No luck so far.

[8] I said Rev. Adam’s father died “about” 1760 simply because of the difficulty a 70-year-old man would naturally have pinpointing the exact time something happened when he was a child.

[9] Rev. Davidson may have been more impressed by the Craig connection than the Rankin name on account of Rev. John Craig, a famous Presbyterian minister from Ireland who lived in Augusta Co., VA. See, e.g., Katharine L. Brown, “John Craig (1709–1774),” Dictionary of Virginia Biography, Library of Virginia, published 2006 (http://www.lva.virginia.gov/public/dvb/bio.asp?b=Craig_John_1709-1774, accessed Aug. 29, 2018).

[10] George W. Rankin, History of Lexington, Kentucky (Cincinnati: Robert Clarke & Co., 1872), pp. 108-110.

[11] John Wilson Townsend and Dorothy Edwards Townsend, Kentucky in American Letters (Cedar Rapids, IA: The Torch Press, 1913), p. 17.

[12] Staff of the Ebenezer Presbyterian Church, March 20, 2015, “How Adam Rankin Tried to Stop Presbyterians From Singing ‘Joy to the World,’ published by The Aquila Report at this URL: https://www.theaquilareport.com/how-adam-rankin-tried-to-stop-presbyterians-from-singing-joy-to-the-world/

[13] Davidson at 82.

[14] Ernest Trice Thompson, Presbyterians in the South, Volume One: 1607-1861(Richmond: John Knox Press, 1963), pp. 115-116

[15]Thompson, Presbyterians in the South, Volume One, pp. 218-219.

[16] Id.

[17] I was baptized and confirmed in, and currently belong to, a Presbyterian church. I am, after all, a Scots-Irish Rankin. My church’s motto is “ALL ARE WELCOME.” That has several meanings in this era of immigrant-hatred, but one of them is that everyone is welcome to take communion.

[18] Rankin, History of Lexington, Kentucky,  pp. 108-110.

[19] Townsends, Kentucky in American Letters at 17.

Adam Rankin d. 1747, Lancaster PA & Family: Serendipity + Civil War History + Major League Baseball

Any genealogy researcher whose family has been in the U.S. for a while probably has ancestors who were Civil War soldiers. Likewise, many genealogists have experienced what seems to be family history research serendipity — finding something good even though you weren’t looking for it. Having a little major league baseball (complete with pictures) thrown in along with the research serendipity and Civil War history is a new one for me, but this post has it all. What’s next? Hot dogs? Apple pie?

Here is the background

This post starts from the line of Adam Rankin who died in 1747 in Lancaster Co., PA, and his wife Mary Steele Alexander. My July 27th post on this family was about what Gary and I call the “follow the land” (“FTL”) theory of genealogical research. In that post, FTL made it possible to track four of Adam and Mary’s grandsons, sons of their son William Rankin.

William and Mary Huston Rankin (daughter of Archibald Huston) had eight children, all named in William’s will:[1]

  1. Dr. Adam Rankin, b. early 1760s – d. ?
  2. Archibald Rankin, b. 10 Apr 1768, d. 24 Jun 1849, Mercersburg, Franklin Co., PA
  3. James Rankin, b. ca. 1770, probably d. 1820-1830, Centre Co., PA
  4. William Rankin (Jr.), b. 5 Nov 1770, d. 29 Nov 1847, Centre Co., PA
  5. Betsy Rankin (dang, I wish it were easier to follow women!)
  6. David Rankin (still haven’t gotten around to researching David)
  7. John Rankin, b. 8 May 1778 or 1779, d. 22 Apr 1848, Centre Co., PA
  8. Jeremiah Rankin, b. 26 Nov 1783, d. 18 Feb 1874, Centre Co., PA

The “FTL” post tracked James, William Jr., John and Jeremiah from Franklin to Centre County, PA. Their father William Sr. had devised land to each of them in his 1792 will. He described the devised tracts with sufficient particularity to make finding those four sons easy as (apple) pie.

I gave rather short shrift to one son, Dr. Adam Rankin, who had me stumped at the time I wrote that post. Here is what the FTL post originally said about Dr. Adam (the post is now updated to include more current information):

Adam Rankin (b. ca 1760 – ?) was a doctor, probably born in the early 1760s. In 1792, he granted his brother Archibald a power of attorney for “as long as I am absent” to “transact all my business.” I don’t know where Dr. Adam went when he was “absent.” In 1796, Archibald sold Adam’s inherited Westmoreland tract pursuant to the power of attorney[2]… in 1798, Dr. Adam Rankin was listed on a Franklin County tax list … I can find no Pennsylvania record for him after that.”

Truth in lending compels me to admit that I didn’t look very hard for Dr. Adam, because at that time I was hot on the heels of his four brothers in Centre County. Spoiler alert: Dr. Adam is (hang in there) a part of this narrative.

Here are the Civil War and baseball parts

Three weeks after the above FTL post, I was exchanging emails with a nice Rankin family history researcher and distant Rankin cousin. He is a Civil War history expert, having taught several short courses on the subject at a well-known university. We have been talking about his Rankin family specifically, and Rankins in general. He mentioned a Confederate Brigadier General named Adam Rankin “Stovepipe” Johnson and enclosed an article about him. Here is Stovepipe’s picture:

Stovepipe acquired his nickname in July of (probably) 1862, thusly:

“With a mere thirty-five men at his command, he crossed the Ohio [River] – he believed it to be the first Rebel “invasion” of the North – and attacked the town of Newburgh, Indiana, on July 18. There were two hundred or more Federals in the town, though mostly convalescent soldiers in hospitals. To bluff them into surrendering, Johnson mounted two stovepipes on an old wagon and paraded it around to look like artillery. The ruse worked, the town gave up, and he became ever after Stovepipe Johnson.”

Stovepipe was born in Henderson, KY in 1834, but moved to Burnet, Texas when he was twenty. (That’s pronounced BURN’-it, with emphasis on the first syllable, for you non-Texans). He went back to Kentucky when the war broke out, made a name for himself as a scout for Nathan Bedford Forrest and as a recruiter, and evenually organized and equipped the 10th Kentucky Calvary. He was accidentally shot in the face by one of his own men in August 1864, lost his eyesight, and was captured and imprisoned at Fort Warren until the end of the war. He returned to Texas, where he founded the town of Marble Falls (nicknamed “the blind man’s town”), worked to harness the water power of the Colorado River, served as a contractor for the Overland Mail, and founded the Texas Mining Improvement Company. Oh, yeah, he also wrote an autobiography that is considered a “must read” regarding certain aspects of the Civil War. Whew!

He died in Burnet  in 1922, and was reportedly a happy, cheerful man, blind or not. It sure didn’t slow him down much, did it? I’m just sorry he wasn’t fighting against slavery. He is buried in the Texas State Cemetery in Austin. There is a ton of information about him on the internet – Googling “Adam Rankin Stovepipe Johnson” will produce a wealth of hits for you. Here is a  short article posted by the Texas State Historical Association, so it has some credibility (and has a citation to Stovepipe’s autobiography).

Among other things, the TSHA article tells you that Stovepipe had six children. Keep Googling, and you will find that one of them was named Adam Rankin “Tex” Johnson (1888 – 1972). He was a pitcher for the Boston Red Sox and the St. Louis Cardinals during 1914-1918. His ERA in the majors was a very respectable 2.96. Dallas Keuchal should have done as well for the Astros today (August 18, 2018). Here is a picture of Tex:

AND Tex had a son, Rankin Johnson Jr., who was also a major league pitcher — for the Philadelphia Athletics in 1941. He’s a nice-looking man, and his tombstone is inscribed “TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALLGAME,” so you’ve got to love him! Here’s his picture:

… the next time the announcers for the Houston Astros have a trivia question about father-son major league players, I’ll be ready with “Tex” Johnson and Rankin Johnson. I imagine they will be stumped.

The serendipity part

What, you may well be asking, do Brigadier General Adam Rankin “Stovepipe” Johnson, “Tex” Johnson, and Rankin Johnson have to do with the family of Adam and Mary Steele Rankin of Lancaster Co., PA? Or their grandson Dr. Adam Rankin?

The serendipity was having my Rankin cousin and friend just drop Gen. Adam Rankin Johnson in my lap. From there, it doesn’t take too much imagination to deduce that Stovepipe Johnson’s mother was née Rankin. Yes, indeed, says the Texas State Historical Association summary about Stovepipe. Her name was Julia Rankin, and she was the daughter of … Doctor Adam Rankin of Henderson Co., KY, who was originally from Pennsylvania.

Apparently, Dr. Adam Rankin (son of William and Mary Huston Rankin and brother of Archibald) was “absent” from Pennsylvania in 1792 because he was busy marrying Elizabeth Speed of Danville, KY that year. She was the first of his three wives, by whom Dr. Adam fathered thirteen children — including a daughter Mary Huston Rankin (his eldest child) and a son Archibald Rankin.

Here is a link to a biographical article about Dr. Adam’s family in an 1887 history of Henderson County, KY.

I haven’t been into the deed and probate records of Henderson Co., KY, yet. With any kind of luck, they will provide evidence tying Dr. Adam Rankin, grandfather of Adam Rankin “Stovepipe” Johnson, back to Franklin Co., PA. As for me, I consider the names of those two children to be  extremely persuasive circumstantial evidence.

See you on down the road. There are more Pennsylvania Rankins on the horizon.

RRW

[1]Will of William Rankin of Antrim Township, Franklin Co., PA dated 20 Oct 1792 proved 28 Nov 1792. “Advanced in age.” Franklin Co., PA Will book B A-B: 256.

[2]Westmoreland Deed Book 7: 392. The deed recites that Archibald Rankin was of Antrim Township, Franklin Co., that the 274-acre tract in Westmoreland was originally granted to William Rankin of Antrim on 27 July 1773 and William devised it to his son Dr. Adam Rankin by will dated 20 October 1792. The deed also recites that Dr. Adam Rankin granted his brother Archibald Rankin power of attorney dated 29 Jun 1792. The POA is also recorded at DB 7: 392.

Adam Rankin d. 1747, Lancaster PA, & Mary Steele Rankin’s son William: “Follow the Land”

Every genealogist has used the “Follow The Land” approach to family history research, even if she/he doesn’t call it by that name. The idea is that an identifiable tract of land can prove family connections via deed, probate, and other records.[1] This post is a good example. FTL establishes the identity of a colonial Rankin’s wife and helps track a son’s family with evidence that qualifies as conclusive.

This post deals with some of the “Londonderry Siege” Rankins, rather than the North Carolina Rankin families often discussed in this blog.[2] You can read the Londonderry Siege Rankins’ interesting oral history here. It mentions two immigrants identified as brothers who came to Pennsylvania in the 1720s. Both men died in Lancaster Co., PA in the 1740s:

  • John Rankin died in 1749. His will named his wife Margaret, sons Richard and Thomas, six daughters, and 2 sons-in-law.[3] Here is a post about him, including a not-quite-successful attempt to reproduce images of the original.
  • Adam Rankin died in 1747. This post is about Adam’s line, particularly his son William.

Adam’s earliest appearance in the colonies was about 1722, when an Adam Rankin signed a petition to Lord Baltimore from landowners in the so-called “New Munster” tract. The petition said the signatories believed that they resided in Maryland rather than Pennsylvania.[4] One particular New Munster tract conclusively proves the identity of Adam’s wife. Here is the evidentiary trail …

  • The 1717 will of James Alexander of New Munster, Cecil Co., MD devised a 316-acre tract.[5] His will says he had bargained for the land, but hadn’t paid for it or obtained a deed. He instructed his executors to sell as much of his moveable estate as necessary to pay for the tract. James also instructed that three “honest men … of the neighborhood” divide the land into three equal parts for his family. James named as executors his wife Mary Alexander and his father-in-law John Steele, establishing that his wife was née Mary Steele.
  • Next, a Cecil County deed dated August 1718 completed the purchase of the tract as James had instructed. Thomas Stevenson conveyed 316 acres to Mary Alexander, “widow and relict of James Alexander of New Munster” and sons Joseph, John and Francis Alexander. Echoing James Alexander’s will, the deed recites that James had bargained with grantor for the land but didn’t pay for it before he died, but had left money to pay it, and instructed that it should be divided into three equal parts.[6]
  • Finally, the tract was divided into three parts by survey of September 29, 1724. The survey identifies the tract as 316 acres in New Munster and states that James Alexander’s widow Mary married Adam Rankin.[7]

Thank you, 316-acre tract … the will, deed and survey leave no reasonable doubt that Mary Steele, daughter of John Steele of New Castle Co., DE, married James Alexander first, and then Adam Rankin. Also, her marriage to Adam must have taken place between August 1718 (the conveyance from Thomas Stevenson) and September 1724 (the survey).

Adam’s will, dated 4 May 1747, was proved 21 Sep 1747 in Lancaster County, PA.[8] Here is an abstract:

To son James Rankin, £ 5 “pencelvaney currancy,” plus the “place he is now in possession of being fully given over to him.” Daughter Esther Rankin Dunwoody, £ 5. Wife (name omitted), two-thirds “of all my worldly substance.” To sons William and Jeremiah, the residue of my estate, including the plantation to be equally divided between them. Witnesses James Pettigrew, John McMath?

So far as I know, there is only one record concerning Adam’s land aside from the New Munster tract petition. Adam obtained a 1742 warrant (thank you, Floyd Owsley) to survey 100 acres “at Conegocheague.”[9 ] Conococheague Creek is near Greencastle, PA, less than 5 miles north of the current PA/MD line. I don’t know whether the warrant ripened into a grant. I haven’t seen anything in the PA Patent Book records for Adam. However, it seems to be the best evidence available about his location.

Three years after Adam died, that Conococheague acreage would fall in Cumberland County, created in 1750 from Lancaster. Beginning in 1784, it would be located in Antrim Township, Franklin County, created from Cumberland in 1784.[10]

Adam’s land warrant thus tells us exactly where to begin looking for his family after he died.

Adam and Mary’s sons James and William fairly leap out of the records of Antrim Township in Franklin County. Both men were listed on the Antrim tax lists (along with some of their sons) in 1785, 1786 and 1787. Beginning in 1789, Wiliam was taxed in Antrim Township; James was taxed in Montgomery Township.

So far as I have found, their brother Jeremiah never appeared in any county records other than his father’s will. There is no primary source (deeds, wills, or other county records) for the identity of his children. The best evidence I have found about Jeremiah’s family is contained in an old book by Rev. Robert Davidson titled The History of the Presbyterian Church in the State of Kentucky. Rev. Davidson wrote about a Presbyterian minister named Adam Rankin of Lexington, KY. Adam was probably a son of Jeremiah and his wife Miss Craig, probably Rachel Craig. Here is an article about Rev. Adam and his mother’s identity. 

William and James were more cooperative than Jeremiah. Not only did they appear in the exact geographic location Adam’s 1742 grant led us to expect, they both left wills. The will of James Rankin Sr. of Montgomery Township, Franklin County, was dated 25 March 1788 and proved 20 October 1795. It names his wife Jean; sons William, Jeremiah, James (Jr.) and David; daughter Ruth Rankin Tool; son-in-law Samuel Smith; and granddaughter Mary Smith. James named his son Jeremiah Rankin and friend David Huston/Houston as executors.[11]

We will leave James Sr. for another day. We’re now on the track of Adam and Mary Steele Rankin’s son William because there are more contradictory views of that line than one can count. Some claims are relevant to “Lineage 2” of the Rankin DNA Project, which is near and dear to my heart — because that’s where my Rankin cousin’s YDNA places my Rankin family.

William’s wife was Mary Huston, daughter of Archibald Huston.[12] William’s will, dated 20 Oct 1792 and proved 28 Nov 1792, suggests he amassed a good bit of land.[13] William described himself as “of Antrim Township” in Franklin County and “advanced in age” in 1792.

Here are his devises and bequests:

  • Wife Mary received one-third of profits from “the mansion place.”
  • Son Adam Rankin inherited 200 acres on the waters of the Kiskimetatas River in Westmoreland Countyand an enslaved person.
  • Son Archibald Rankin received 200 acres off “the mansion place.”
  • Sons James and William inherited 990 acres in Penns Valley, Mifflin County, “150 acres of which is sold for taxes if it can be purchased nearly at what it was sold for,” purchase money to be equally “taken off” sons Archibald, James, William, David, John and Jeremiah. I take that to mean that a portion of the Penn’s Valley tract had been sold for taxes, but William wanted his estate to buy it back. There is a Mifflin County deed which may prove that repurchase, although I don’t have access to either film or an abstract of it.[14] Dang it. Need.To.Go.To.PA.
  • Daughter Betsy, £ 400 and an enslaved person. She was less than 21.
  • Son David, old mansion place, 300 acres.
  • Sons John and Jeremiah, 408 acres on Spring Creek in Penns Valley in Mifflin County, plus £ 400 from son David starting when they reach 21.
  • Sons Archibald Rankin, James Rankin, and William Rankin, executors. Witnesses William Beaty, John Woods, John McLanahan.

“Follow the land” is pretty straightforward for some of William and Mary’s children, thanks to that will. Here is a little bit about his sons. I don’t know who his daughter Betsy married, if she married at all.

Adam Rankin (b. ca 1760 – ?) was a doctor, probably born in the early 1760s. In 1792, he granted his brother Archibald a power of attorney for “as long as I am absent” to “transact all my business.” In 1796, Archibald sold Adam’s inherited Westmoreland tract pursuant to the power of attorney. The deed recites the date the tract was originally granted to William Rankin of Antrim Township and that it was devised to Doctor Adam Rankin by his father’s 1792 will.[15] In 1798, Dr. Adam Rankin was listed on a Franklin County tax list in the “6thDivision, 4thAssessment Dist.” He was most likely the first physician in his family, which is positively awash with doctors in the next two generations. He turned up in Henderson, KY. Here is an article about his grandson, Confederate Brigadier Adam Rankin “Stovepipe” Johnson.

Archibald Rankin (1764 – 1845) inherited part of the “old mansion place” in Antrim Township, and he apparently stayed right there until he died. His first appearance in the records was on the 1785 Antrim tax list as a “freeman.”[16] He was a head of household in the federal census of Franklin County from 1790 through 1840 (I could not find him in 1830, although he was still alive).[17] I haven’t tried to trace his line, although he had a number of children. He belonged to the Presbyterian Church of the Upper West Conococheague. Church records show that he married Agnes Long on 9 Mar 1790 and that their daughter Fanny died in 1827. Church records also say Archibald died 24 Jun 1845 at age 81, indicating he was born about 1764. He and Agnes are reportedly buried in the Church Hill Graveyard AKA White Church Cemetery in Mercersburg, Franklin County. Findagrave is losing its credibility with lots of unsourced stuff being posted on its sites, making it hard to know what to trust absent a tombstone photo.

David Rankin inherited the rest of the “old mansion place.” I must put off talking about David pending additional research. Both James d. 1795 and his brother William d. 1792 had sons named David. I cannot confidently distinguish between the two without further digging. At some point, you just stop and write what you know. This post is an example.

The remaining four sons are FTL exemplars. That is because William d. 1792 left land in Penn’s Valley, Mifflin County, some of it on Spring Creek, to his sons James, William, John and Jeremiah. The will suggests that John and Jeremiah would be located close to each other, since they shared a tract; likewise, James and William shared a tract, and should be located near each other.

An old book titled History of Centre and Clinton Counties by John Blair Linn (Philadelphia: Louis H. Everts, 1883) has a section titled “Discovery of Penns Valley.” It also has a map of the original survey of Bellefonte, the county seat of Centre County, with “Spring Creek” running right through the middle of it. I have tried to post an image of that lovely map here, with no luck. Techno-idiocy. Sorry.

Centre County, by the way, was created in 1803 from Mifflin County, so the two tracts devised by William were located in Mifflin County when he wrote his will in 1792, and in Centre County after 1803.

Jackpot. There they are, all four of them in Centre County, paired off geographically just as one would expect. The 1810 census for Potter Township in Centre County has on one page James Rankin enumerated two households down from William Rankin. Another page has listings for Jeremiah Rankin and John Rankin. All four men are in the age 26 < 45 category, born during 1765 – 1784. We know that Jeremiah and John were underage in 1792 when their father wrote his will, so they would have been born after 1771. We know that Archibald, an elder brother, was born in 1764. Those birth ranges fit like a glove, with further confirmation in later census records.

These men are undoubtedly sons of William Rankin (Sr.) d. 1792, Franklin, and Mary Huston Rankin, and grandsons of Adam d. 1747 and Mary Steele Alexander Rankin. A conventional descendant chart for the Centre County Rankins is under construction. It grows every time I search the census records. The number of physicians on this family’s tree is incredible. If you are descended from a Dr. Rankin who lived in Pennsylvania in the mid 1800’s, you might want to look at this line. If you are interested in joining the D.A.R., this is an admission ticket, because the D.A.R. has admitted at least two women based on the service of William Rankin d. 1792, Franklin Co. I will post the descendant chart soon, God willing and the creek don’t rise. It would help if the heat index here would drop below three digits (Houston, July 2018).

Meanwhile, here is a skeletal ancestor chart for William’s line:

1 Adam Rankin d. 1747 Lancaster Co., PA. Wife Mary Steele Alexander, widow of James.

2 Jeremiah Rankin, whose only known appearance in primary records was Adam’s 1747 will. Died in a mill accident about 1760 according to a son’s autobiography as excerpted in History of the Presbyterian Church in the State of Kentucky. Wife was a Miss Craig, traditionally identified as Rachel. Jeremiah’s four sons went to Fayette and Woodford counties, KY.

2 James Rankin Sr., d. 1795, Franklin Co., PA, see will abstracted above. More on his line later.

2 William Rankin (Sr.), d. 1792, Franklin Co., PA, wife Mary Huston. See above will devising land in Penns Valley, Mifflin County, including a tract on Spring Creek.

3 William Rankin (Jr.), b. 1770 Cumberland Co, PA, d. 1847, Centre Co., PA. Two wives, Abigail McGinley and Susanna (reportedly Huston). See Centre County Will Book B: 254, naming eight children, including Adam, Archibald, James, John, and …

4 Dr. William McGinley Rankin (III) (1795-1872), who moved to Shippensburg in Cumberland Co.[18] He had 11 children, at least one of whom was a physician, and a Presbyterian minister …

5 Rev. William Alexander Rankin.[19]

On that note, I will close. If you want to get into a good knock-down, drag-out fight, go do some searches for family trees that include William Jackson Rankin and William Johnson Rankin. You will find S.A.R. charts in support. You will find a totally different line than that outlined above, except that both the S.A.R. version and my outline above have at least four William Rankins in a row. I hereby proffer my version.

*   *  *   *   *  *   *  

[1]For example, a series of deeds concerning land in Tishomingo Co, MS conclusively proved almost all of the children of Lyddal Bacon Estes and “Nancy” Ann Allen Winn,  see article here. Only two deeds in colonial Halifax Co., NC identified the common ancestor of several different family lines belonging to Lindsey/Lindsay DNA Group 3.

[2]For a brief primer on some of the NC Rankins, see this article.

[3]Lancaster Co. Will Book J: 208, image available at this post or online at Familysearch.org.

[4]Henry C. Peden, “Inhabitants of Cecil County, Maryland 1649-1774 (Westminster, MD: Family Line Publications, 1993) at 33. Actual hostilities (called “Cresap’s War”) broke out between Maryland and Pennsylvania during the 1730s over competing land claims by the two states; check out this link, which has a great map. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cresap%27s_War.

[5]Will of James Alexander of New Munster, Cecil Co., MD dated 12 Jul 1717, probate date unknown but before August 1718 when a deed recites some provisions of the will. It is recorded in New Castle Co., DE (where John Steele, an executor, resided), but no copy apparently remains in the Cecil County records. I don’t know whether the will is preserved in the PA Archives. Floyd Owsley, an administrator of the Alexander Family DNA Project, provided a transcription of the will to me.

[6]Cecil Co., MD Deed Book 3: 212.

[7]Cecil County Circuit Court Certificates, No. 514, survey of 316 acres for the heirs of James Alexander dated 28 Sep 1724. Floyd Owsley provided a copy of the original and a transcription. The copy is too poor to post online, although I will be happy to share it with anyone who wants to see it.

[8]Lancaster Co. Will Book J: 208. Image available online at FamilySearch.org.

[9]Floyd Owsley, a descendant of the New Munster tract Alexanders, emailed an image of the original document to me. It is labeled “No. 111” and is dated 11 Nov. 1742. It appears to be a warrant to survey 100 acres “situate at Conegocheage between the lands of Samuel Owen, James Swaffer, Samuel Brown, and the Blue Mountains.”

[10]Here is a link to an interactive county formation map for PA: https://www.mapofus.org/pennsylvania/

[11]Franklin Co., PA Will Book A: 345 (estate #354).

[12]Virginia Shannon Fendrick, American Revolutionary Soldiers of Franklin County, Pennsylvania(Chambersburg, PA: Historical Works Committee of the Franklin County Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, 1944), citing Pennsylvania Archives 5thSeries, Vol. 6, at 576 and 583. “WILLIAM RANKIN of Antrim Twp., appears as a private under Capt. James Poe, 1782, and [on] an undated roll. He married Mary Huston, daughter of Archibald, as shown by the will of Agnes Huston, widow of Archibald.”

[13]Franklin Co. Will Book A-B: 256.

[14]William Rankin’s execs from James Potters’ execs, 1797, Mifflin Co., PA Deed Book D: 15.

[15]Westmoreland Deed Book 7: 392. The deed recites that Archibald Rankin was of Antrim Township, Franklin Co., that the 274-acre tract in Westmoreland was originally granted to William Rankin of Antrim on 27 July 1773; it was devised to Dr. Adam Rankin by his father’s will dated 20 October 1792. The deed also recites that Dr. Adam Rankin granted his brother Archibald Rankin power of attorney dated 29 Jun 1792. The POA is also recorded at DB 7: 392.

[16]That means Archibald was age 21 or over, not married, and not a landowner.

[17]1790 census, Franklin Co., Archybald Rankin, 1-0-2-1-0; 1800 census, Burough of Greencastle (Antrim Twp.), Archd Rankin, 20110-20010; 1810 census, Montgomery Twp., Franklin Co., Archibald Rankin, 01101-12110; 1820 census, Montgomery Twp., Franklin Co., Archibald Rankin, 000101-02300; 1840 census, Peters Township, Franklin Co,. Archibald Rankin, age 70 < 80, the sole member of the household.

[18]John Blair Linn, History of Centre and Clinton Counties (Philadelphia: Louis H. Everts, 1883), at 222. Identifies some of the children of William Jr., including a Dr. William Rankin who moved to Shippensburg in Cumberland Co. and died before the book was published.

[19] Even I will trust Findagrave when it cites to the Minutes of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/146523201/william-alexander-rankin

PA/TN Rankins: the most famous Rankin legend of all

My last post was about evidence and proof, a sidetrack from a series of Rankin family articles. Fortunately, there is a convenient segue to return us to a Rankin family history legend: I ended that post with the comment that all family histories contain important truths, and also – inevitably – some errors.

My irreverent husband adds that traditional family histories are usually also sacred cows. This may be true.

The fact is that oral family traditions are conclusive evidence of only one thing: what the family believes its history to be. As evidentiary sources, they don’t have as much weight or credibility as, say, county records, and they certainly don’t trump YDNA. However, family histories are nevertheless at least secondary evidence. I have learned a great deal from my own family history “legends,” as I’ve written a couple of times on this blog. But please don’t make the mistake of thinking that an oral family history actually proves anything in the absence of confirming evidence in actual records.

We are about to take on the most famous Rankin family legend of all. I call the family identified in this legend the “Londonderry Siege” Rankins. Many of them spread across Pennsylvania from Chester County to the west. Many of them wound up in Jefferson, Greene, and Blount counties, Tennessee. Some wound up in Augusta County, VA. This family history tradition exists in at least three different sources I have found, and probably many more: (1) a metal tablet in the Mt. Horeb Cemetery, Jefferson County, TN; (2) the “Republican History of Ohio,” published in 1898; and (3) an alleged 1854 letter written by John Mason Rankin of San Augustine, County, Texas, to a relative. The Londonderry Siege Rankin family history can probably be found in many other county books with titles such as “Heritage of ____ County, Tennessee,” not to mention a zillion cut-and-paste histories at Ancestry.com. Keep in mind, of course, that repetition isn’t proof.

The Londerry Siege story is a staple, a cast-in-concrete given, of Rankin family history. YDNA results, however, create a couple of interesting question marks.

Let’s go with the Mt. Horeb tablet, the only one of these family histories that is actually cast in a permanent metal. Just for the record, I am not presenting this as a correct factual statement of Rankin family history. I am presenting it as a correct statement of this particular Rankin family’s oral history. Here it is, verbatim:

THIS TABLET IS TO COMMEMORATE
THE MEMORY OF

RICHARD RANKIN 1756 – 1827         SAMUEL RANKIN 1758 – 1828

THOMAS RANKIN 1762 – 1827        JOHN BRADSHAW 1743 – 1818

FOUR PIONEER SETTLERS OF DUMPLIN VALLEY

GENEALOGY OF THE RANKIN FAMILY

GENERATION 1

ALEXANDER RANKIN, BORN IN SCOTLAND, HAD THREE SONS, TWO WERE MARTYRS TO THEIR RELIGION. OF THESE ONE WAS KILLED ON THE HIGHWAY, THE OTHER SUFFOCATED IN A SMOKEHOUSE WHERE HE HAD TAKEN REFUGE TO ESCAPE HIS PURSUERS. THE THIRD BROTHER, WILLIAM, TOGETHER WITH HIS FATHER AND FAMILY ESCAPED TO DERRY COUNTY, IRELAND IN 1688. WILLIAM AND HIS FATHER, ALEXANDER RANKIN, WERE PARTICIPANTS IN THE SIEGE OF LONDONDERRY, WHICH TOOK PLACE IN 1689.
 ALEXANDER RANKINS NAME IS SIGNED TO THE PETITION OF THANKS TO ALMIGHTY GOD, AND WILLIAM, KING OF ORANGE, FOR HIS TIMELY ASSISTANCE IN RAISING THE SIEGE IN AUGUST, 1689.

GENERATION 2

WILLIAM RANKIN HAD THREE SONS, ADAM, BORN IN SCOTLAND, 1699. JOHN AND HUGH BORN IN IRELAND.
 ADAM AND HUGH CAME TO AMERICA IN 1721, LANDING IN PHILADELPHIA. PA., AND SETTLED IN CHESTER COUNTY, HUGH WAS KILLED IN A MILL ACCIDENT. ADAM MARRIED MARY STEELE.

GENERATION 3

JOHN RANKIN MARRIED JANE McELWEE, IN IRELAND, CAME TO AMERICA IN 1727. HE HAD TWO SONS, THOMAS AND RICHARD, AND EIGHT DAUGHTERS. RICHARD MARRIED A MISS DOUGLASS AND SETTLED IN AUGUSTA COUNTY, VA.

GENERATION 4

THOMAS RANKIN, 1724 – 1828, MARRIED ISABEL CLENDENON OF PA. AND SETTLED IN THAT STATE. THEIR CHILDREN WERE:

JOHN 1754 – 1825 MARRIED MARTHA WAUGH

RICHARD 1756 – 1827 MARRIED JENNETT STEELE

SAMUEL 1758 – 1828 MARRIED – PETTY

WILLIAM 1760 – 1834 MARRIED SARAH MOORE

THOMAS 1762 – 1821 MARRIED JENNETT BRADSHAW

JAMES 1770 – 1839 MARRIED MARGARET MASSEY

JANE MARRIED WILLIAM GILLESPIE

MARGARET MARRIED SAMUEL HARRIS

ANN MARRIED LEMUEL LACY

ISABEL MARRIED ROBT. McQUISTON

NANCY MARRIED SAMUEL WHITE

MARY MARRIED JAMES BRADSHAW

THOMAS RANKIN OF GENERATION 4, WAS A CAPTAIN IN THE REVOLUTIONARY WAR. HIS FOUR ELDEST SONS WERE PRIVATES IN SAID WAR.

THIS TABLET WAS ERECTED IN 1930 BY
 CHRISTOPHER HOUSTON RANKIN
 COURTLAND THALES RANKIN, ATTY
 REV. JOHN GRANT NEWMAN, D.D.
 MRS. ALMYRA-RANKIN-McMURRAY
 MRS. ROZEE- RANKIN TAYLOR 
FRANK WALTER RANKIN
 HARRY JAY RANKIN 
SAM HULL RANKIN

End of transcription.

There is only one obvious error on the Mt. Horeb tablet: Adam Rankin, if born in 1699, couldn’t have been born in Scotland if, in fact, his family had escaped from the Killing Times in Scotland to be present for the Siege of Londonderry in 1689. Otherwise, the dates are credible. The “Killing Times” did include the year 1688, and many Presbyterian Scots were martyred in those times (they probably included some Rankins). Also, history confirms that many Presbyterian Scots did escape to the relatively safe haven of the Ulster Plantations of northern Ireland during the Killing Times (and this probably also included some Rankins). Finally, the Siege of Londonderry did occur in 1689, and there were undoubtedly Rankins there, at least one of whom was definitely named Alexander Rankin. I haven’t done any research overseas, so … if anyone out there has some actual evidence … please let me know!

The specific proof of the Alexander/William/ Adam.Hugh.John history is problematical, and I’m just not going to take on that issue. My friend Hazel Townsend, probably the premier Rankin researcher since Flossie Cloyd died, says this: she has not been able to prove to her own satisfaction that William was a son of Alexander or that William had sons Adam, John and Hugh.

Never mind all that – it’s a lovely legend, and I’m sure there is some truth to it. I just don’t know what. I would rather address what we can prove on this side of the ocean.

First, start with Adam and John Rankin, reportedly immigrants to Pennsylvania. For the record, these two men (assuming they were brothers, which may be an issue) both died in Lancaster County, PA:

– Adam Rankin died in 1747  and left a will naming three sons and one daughter. His proved wife was Mary Steele (widow of James Alexander). Let’s call him Adam d. 1747, wife Mary Steele.

– John Rankin died in 1749 in Lancaster Co., PA, also leaving a will naming two sons, six daughters and two sons-in-law. Call him John d. 1749, wife Margaret McElwee. John’s will identifies his wife as Margaret; family tradition gives her name as Jane McElwee.

Here’s the rub: YDNA presents something of a problem with the Mt. Horeb history. Different men who claim descent from Adam d. 1747, wife Mary Steele, are not a YDNA match. Somebody’s family history is in error, although both are perfectly credible (in the opinion of this researcher). Both rely heavily on family history, and who is to say which is wrong? This is a classic problem that YDNA is perfectly suited to resolve. Clearly, the Rankin DNA project needs to find more proved descendants of Adam to participate in a YDNA test.

Secondly, depending on which of the non-YDNA-matching descendants of Adam d. 1747, wife Mary Steele, actually descends from Adam, then the descendants of Adam d. 1747 may not be a YDNA match with descendants of John d. 1749.

This is GREAT STUFF FOR YDNA TESTING! If there are any Rankin researchers reading this, for gosh sake’s get out there, find a man named Rankin, throw him down, and swab his cheek! Seriously … Rankin history research needs some more descendants of Adam d. 1747 and John d. 1749 in Lancaster to test. If you FIND a likely candidate, please let me know!!!!! I will find someone to convince him to test, hopefully without wrestling him to the ground. <grin>

*   *   *   *  *   *   

Sources: (1) Joseph Patterson Smith, History of the Republican Party in Ohio Volume 1 (Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1898). (2) online transcription of 1854 letter written by John Mason Rankin of San Augustine, TX, see complete letter here. I have seen only this transcription — not a copy of the original — and have no proof that it is genuine. It does contain many objectively verifiable facts. (3) Will of John Rankin dated 1 Jan 1749, proved 25 Feb 1749/1750, recorded in Lancaster Co., PA Will Book J: 211. Online image available at FamilyHistorySearch.org.

Two Rankin Revolutionary War Pension Applications

Robert Rankin of McNairy Co., TN and Robert Rankin of Gibson Co. TN

A comment from a reader on an earlier post illustrated how easy it is to confuse some of the Rankins who lived in North Carolina and Tennessee in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. That includes two men named Robert Rankin who fought in the Revolutionary War. They were both originally from North Carolina and then moved to Tennessee about 1825 – 1830.

I wrote about these men in two different articles on this website, which undoubtedly made it more difficult to distinguish between them. Who can remember which Robert is which? To clear up the confusion, let’s revisit each man briefly to contrast their histories and pension applications. We will look first at the man I call “Rev. War Robert Rankin” and then his fellow soldier “Mystery Robert Rankin.” There is no proved family relationship between these two men, although their descendants are a very close Y-DNA match (assuming that I am correct about Mystery Robert’s identity).

Rev. War Robert Rankin of Rowan/Guilford, NC and McNairy, TN (1759 – 1840)[1]

Rev. War Robert was a son of George and Lydia Steele Rankin of Rowan/Guilford County, North Carolina.[2] He married twice: first, to Mary (“Polly”) Cusick, probably in the early 1780s, and then to Mary Moody in 1803.[3]

He applied for a Revolutionary War pension in McNairy Co., TN on May 20, 1833.[4] Among other things, he testified as follows:

  • He was born in Guilford Co., NC on May 29, 1759 (at the time, it was Rowan County; Guilford wasn’t created until 1770).
  • He was in the battle of Guilford Courthouse on March 15, 1781.
  • He lived in Guilford until 1830 and then moved to McNairy County, Tennessee, where he was residing when he applied for a pension.

Here is an online transcription of his full pension application (and additional information from his widow’s application) prepared by Will Graves. Rev. War Robert died in McNairy County and  is buried in Bethel Springs Cemetery, see military tombstone here.[5] For more information on Rev. War Robert and his children, see the article at this link discussing him and three other men named Robert Rankin from the Guilford County line of Robert and Rebecca Rankin.

“Mystery Robert Rankin” of Gibson County, TN (1748 – after 1835)[6]

I refer to the second Robert Rankin as “Mystery Robert” because his family of origin is not proved. In fact, the records of Gibson County, Tennessee, where he filed for a Revolutionary War pension, reveal very little about him. I found no probate records naming Robert, one gift deed in which he may or may not have been the grantor, and no court records other than his pension application. He only appeared in the 1830 census and a few tax records in Gibson County.

One thing, however, is certain: the Robert Rankin who applied for a Revolutionary War pension from McNairy County, Tennessee (“Rev. War Robert”) was not the same man as Robert Rankin of Gibson County, Tennessee (“Mystery Robert”). Their pension applications leave no doubt about that.

Mystery Robert testified in open court on September 7, 1832 in support of his application. He said this, inter alia:

  • He was 84 years old, and thus born about 1748.
  • He served in the North Carolina militia. This almost certainly means that he lived in North Carolina when he enlisted.
  • He was in the battle of Ramsour’s Mill, where, he testified, “I lost a brother, killed by the Tories.” That battle took place in June 1780 in Lincoln County, NC.

You can find his pension application testimony online here, also transcribed by Will Graves.

Most of the patriot troops who fought at Ramsour’s Mill were from Iredell County, NC. About forty patriots died in that battle. The Philip Langenhour (I am uncertain of the spelling of that surname) papers owned by the Iredell Genealogical Society in Statesville establish that one of the dead patriots was named Rankin. Other Iredell and Lincoln County records lead to the conclusion that a James Rankin died at Ramsour’s, and that he was a son of David and Margaret Rankin of Iredell.[7] David and Margaret also had a son named Robert, who appeared frequently in the Iredell County records through the 1820s and then disappeared without leaving any probate records. Given the real and personal property ownership of the Iredell Rankin family, it is unlikely that Robert died there. Instead, he probably moved on.

The evidence strongly suggests that Robert, son of David and Margaret Rankin, moved to Gibson County, Tennessee, where he stated in his pension application that he had a brother who died in the battle of Ramsour’s Mill. I marshaled the evidence for that conclusion in this article.

I hope you will take the time to read the pension applications of these two men. The amount of detail these old vets recalled is amazing – in 1832 or 1833, a full half-century after their service. I shouldn’t be surprised, though. My husband is a Vietnam vet, and it is abundantly clear that a war experience leaves one with very strong memories.

See you on down the road! The Rankins and I are not yet finished with each other … <grin>

[1] National Genealogical Society Quarterly, Vol. 25, No. 4, December 1937, Revolutionary War Pension Applications. The pension application of Robert Rankin of McNairy Co., TN gave his date of birth as May 29, 1759. His widow, in her pension application, said he died on Dec. 21, 1840.

[2] Rowan County, NC Will Book A: 141, will of George Rankin dated May 1760, proved Oct 1760, naming minor sons John and Robert and wife Lydia; autobiography of Rev. War Robert’s brother John Rankin, “Auto-biography of John Rankin, Sen.” (South Union, Ky., 1845), transcribed in Harvey L. Eads, ed., History of the South Union Shaker Colony from 1804 to 1836 (South Union, Ky., 1870), Shaker Museum at South Union, Auburn, Kentucky. The autobiography identifies Lydia Steele as George Rankin’s wife and the mother of John and Robert Rankin.

[3] See Guilford, NC Will Book B: 435, will of William Cusick naming three daughters of Robert Rankin (Lydia, Isbel and Thankful) and testator’s deceased daughter Polly Cusick Rankin; National Genealogical Society Quarterly, Vol. 25, No. 4, December 1937, Revolutionary War Pension Applications, identifying Rev. War Robert’s second wife as Mary Moody, married in Guilford County Nov. 22, 1803.

[4] Id., National Genealogical Society Quarterly.

[5] The Findagrave site claims that Rev. War Robert married Mary (“Polly”) Cusick in 1781, although there seems to be no evidence in the records for a specific year. A compiled Rankin family history by Gregg Moore and Forney Rankin makes that claim without citing any records, so far as I know.

[6] Gibson County Robert’s pension application states his age, establishing his date of birth as about 1748. He was on the Tennessee pension roll in 1835, and may have been the grantor in an 1837 deed and a poll on the 1838 Gibson tax list.

[7] See the evidence concerning the family of David Rankin and his sons Robert and James Rankin in this article.

 

The Robert Rankins of Guilford Co., NC

If you have ever searched for a Robert Rankin in Rowan/Guilford counties, North Carolina during the century or so beginning in the 1750s, you really hit the jackpot. There were at least six men named Robert Rankin who lived there during that time. This article is about only four of them. It includes relevant Y-DNA information. I have obsessively, perhaps maniacally, provided citations (see endnotes), because some of what I propose is not mainstream Rankin thought. Here’s what may be controversial:

I have identified three “new” daughters of Robert and Rebecca Rankin of Guilford. One of them may be deemed proved (she does show up in one or two Rankin trees online), one is a likely daughter, and one is speculative. None have been identified in any compiled family history or other published sources, so far as I know. Ditto most online Rankin family trees.

the identity of the wife of the Robert Rankin who died in Guilford in 1795 is controversial, at least in the sense that I disagree with darn near every other person who has ever said anything about the Guilford County Rankins.

This article ignores two of the six Robert Rankins who lived in Rowan/Guilford during that time.[1] Both were grandsons of Joseph Rankin of Delaware (1704-1764), whose sons John and William migrated to Guilford.

Here are the nicknames that I will use to distinguish among the four Robert Rankins covered in this article.

  1. R&R – Robert Rankin and wife Rebecca.
  2. Robert d. 1795 – a son of R&R.
  3. Rev War Robert – a grandson of R&R.
  4. Arkansas Robert – a great-grandson of R&R. 

And here we go, off to the world of Guilford County Robert Rankins, from the top …

R&R – Robert Rankin and wife Rebecca

I have written briefly about R&R before. Some of this article will be repetitive if you already subscribe to this blog, see article here. To atone for the redundancy, I’ll introduce the controversial R&R daughters mentioned above.

R&R were the original immigrant ancestors in their Rowan/Guilford line. According to a grandson’s autobiography, R&R came to Pennsylvania from Ireland in 1750 along with some of their children, although the autobiography expressly mentions only their son George.[2] The family resided briefly in Chester County, Pennsylvania,[3] then settled in what was then Rowan County (the part that became Guilford) by 1755.[4] According to Rev. Samuel M. Rankin, R&R are both buried at Buffalo Church in Greensboro, although no markers for them survive.[5]

Robert died about 1770, but in any event by no later than 1773.[6] He left no will. The Rowan and Guilford records establish that R&R had at least children (1) George, (2) Robert, (2) Ann who married William Denny (William Denny Senior, for purposes of this article) and (4) a probable son John.[7] Rev. Rankin also names a daughter Rebecca who married James Denny, although that is almost certainly wrong.[8] Rev. Rankin also erroneously omitted Ann Rankin Denny (see information on her at the discussion of her brother Robert d. 1795, below). Rev. Rankin thought that R&R had other children. That seems likely.

Tantalizing probate records in Rowan County suggest two other possible daughters of R&R besides Ann Rankin Denny. These two women – Margaret (Rankin?) Braly/Brawley and Rebecca (Rankin?) Boyd – should be deemed * SPECULATIVE *. My friend Jody Thompson would probably wag her finger at me for even introducing these possible daughters. I weighed the genealogical ethics and concluded that the upside that a Braly or Boyd descendant might identify a maternal ancestor outweighed the negatives of people adding these women to their family trees as though they are proved. They are not, but keep reading and judge for yourself …

First, Robert Rankin was a security on the Rowan County bond of Margaret Braly/Brawley and John Braly, administrators of the estate of Thomas Braly. A man who acted as security on such a bond was frequently a family member. Even better, John Braly witnessed the 1760 will of George Rankin, along with Robert Rankin. Both George and Robert were proved sons of R&R. Witnessing a will is compelling evidence of a family relationship. Two such strong Rankin/Braly connections make me think Margaret should be deemed a “likely” daughter of R&R rather than merely “speculative.”

The Braly administrator’s bond was dated 8 Jan 1765. Thomas’s noncupative will established that his wife was pregnant, and was thus of childbearing age. She therefore belonged to the same generation as R&R’s proved children.[9]

Second, Robert Rankin was also security on the Rowan County administrators’ bond of Rebecca Boyd, widow of John Boyd, in January 1767.[10] His signature on the Boyd bond is identical to Robert Rankin’s signature on the Braly bond, so it was the same Robert Rankin – this was not the clerk’s handwriting in either case. There is also circumstantial evidence of Boyd/Rankin connections in the Guilford deed records.[11] However, Rebecca’s name, plus Robert Rankin providing security on her administrator’s bond, is probably the strongest circumstantial evidence suggesting she may have been a daughter of R&R. I still consider her speculative. However, if I were descended from either Thomas Braly or John Boyd, I would take a close look at their Rankin connections.

With that, here is a brief chart of R&R’s line including the four Robert Rankins covered in this post and adding Margaret Braly, Rebecca Boyd and Ann Denny as daughters. R&R’s children are not necessarily in birth order; only George’s 1729 birth date is proved.[12] The men who are the subjects of this post are shown in boldface type.

Outline Chart #1

1 “R&R,” Robert Rankin, b. ca 1700, probably Ireland, d. Guilford, NC abt 1770, wife Rebecca LNU.

2 George Rankin, b. 1729, Letterkenney Parish, County Donegal, Ireland, d. 1760, Rowan, NC. Wife Lydia Steele Rankin (m. Arthur Forbis after George died).[13]

3 “Shaker” Reverend John Rankin, b. 1757, Rowan, NC, d. 1850, Logan, KY.[14] Married Rebecca Rankin, a granddaughter of Joseph of Delaware, in Guilford in 1786.[15] None of his children married: Shakers practiced celibacy.[16]

3 Robert Rankin, Rev. War Robert, more on him below.

2 Robert Rankin d. 1795, more on him below.

3 George Rankin (1767 – 1851), m. Nancy Gillespie, Guilford, NC, in Jan. 1791.[17]

4 Arkansas Robert Rankin, 1792 – 1845, more on him below. George and Nancy had other children as well.

2 John Rankin, lived in Guilford Co. No proved children of whom I am aware.

2 Ann Rankin m. William Denny Sr., lived in Guilford Co., more on them below.

2 Rebecca Rankin (speculative) m. John Boyd who d. Rowan, NC in 1767.

2 Margaret Rankin (possible) m. Thomas Braly/Brawley who d. Rowan, NC, Dec. 1764.

Next up: R&R’s son Robert.

Robert Rankin d. 1795

Robert Rankin died in Guilford in 1795 and left a will.[18] I have written about him before, see the article here. For some new material, I’ve added the controversy about his wife’s identity.

Robert’s 1795 will did not name a wife, indicating that she predeceased him. He identified only one son by name (George). Based on the express language of the will, Robert had four daughters. He identified only two of them by their given names, i.e., Mary Rankin Wilson, who died before Robert wrote his will, and Isabel Rankin, clearly unmarried in 1795. The other two daughters, whose given names Robert did not provide, were apparently already married. One daughter was Rebecca Rankin who married William Denny Jr.; I have not identified the other daughter. Robert also named his three Wilson grandsons (William Rankin Wilson, Andrew Wilson, and Maxfield Wilson).

With the information from his will, we can expand Robert d. 1795’s section of Chart #1 as follows:

2 Robert Rankin d. 1795

3 George Rankin (1767 – 1851), m. Nancy Gillespie, Guilford Co., Jan. 1791.

4 Arkansas Robert Rankin, 1792 – 1845, more on him below. George and Nancy had other children as well.

3 Mary Rankin, d. before 1795, married Andrew Wilson as his second wife.[19]

4 William Rankin Wilson, b. abt. 1788, moved to McNairy Co., TN.[20] Wife’s name was Lydia, reportedly Rev. War Robert’s daughter.[21] Ancestry.com claims that W.R. married Lydia in 1807 in Guilford, although I didn’t find a marriage record for that couple there.

4 Andrew Wilson, b. abt. 1790, m. Permelia/Pamela Denny in 1812, daughter of William Denny Jr. and Rebecca Rankin.[22] Moved to McNairy Co., TN, then Perry Co., AR to live with his son after his wife died.[23]

4 Maxfield Wilson, b. by 1795, m. Sarah Baily in Guilford, 1829. Went to Orange Co., IN.[24]

3 Isabel Rankin, b. before 1795. Probably died single.[25]

3 Rebecca Rankin, b. before 1795, m. William Denny Jr.[26]

3 Daughter Rankin, given name unknown, probably married by 1795 (husband unknown).

A number of online trees and at least one compiled Rankin history wrongly conflate Robert d. 1795 with his father, who died about 1770. But there’s a tougher controversy about Robert d. 1795: the identity of his wife. Many Rankin researchers identify her as Jean (or Jane — the names were usually interchangeable) Denny. They have good reason to do so. The Guilford County marriage records indicate that some Robert Rankin married some Jean/Jane Denny in February 1775. William Denny Sr. (wife Ann Rankin) definitely had an unmarried daughter named Jean/Jane when he wrote his will in August 1766.[27]

A serious problem with the theory that the Robert who died in 1795 married Jean/Jane, daughter of William Denny, is this: Robert was almost certainly Jean’s uncle. We are all accustomed to seeing marriages between cousins, but … an uncle and a niece? Has anyone seen that before?

The evidence about Jean/Jane Denny’s parents, William Denny (Sr.) and Ann Rankin Denny, is in the Rowan County deed records. Here it is. On back-to-back days in April 1755, Robert Rankin Sr. (i.e., R&R) executed deeds to his son George (480 acres) and William Denny (640 acres).[28] The consideration recited in both deeds was 5 shillings, clearly marking them as deeds of gift. Consider this: Robert Sr. paid 10 shillings for the 640A tract he “sold” to William Denny Sr. for 5 shillings.[29]

That gift deed is extremely persuasive proof that William Denny Sr. was part of R&R’s family. There is more, of course. William Denny also witnessed the will of George Rankin (along with Robert Rankin and John Braly).[30] Further, John Rankin, probably a son of R&R, witnessed William Denny’s 1766 will.[31] If you don’t believe Ann Denny was born a Rankin, well, geez … it’s hard to do any better with late 1700s records.

William & Ann Denny’s daughter Jean/Jane, unmarried in 1766, is the only Jean/Jane Denny I can find in Guilford who might have been the right age to marry some Robert Rankin in 1775. I just don’t believe that the Robert Rankin she married was her Uncle Robert d. 1795. She must have married a different Robert Rankin. Her husband might have been a Robert Rankin from Iredell County.[32] Iredell Robert was definitely a genetic relative of the Guilford County line of R&R Rankin.

Let’s divert for a moment into the wonderful world of Y-DNA testing, which is a gift from the family history gods to genealogists.

Iredell Robert was a son of David Rankin who died in Iredell in 1789.[33] Two men who are proved descendants of David Rankin are members of the Rankin DNA project: Steven Ross Rankin and Bill Rankin. Steve has a mutation in his line that occurred after the ancestor he shares with Bill, so that Bill’s Y-DNA profile is a better genetic gauge of any earlier Rankin relationship. Two other men in the Rankin DNA project (Rollie and Michael G.), both of whom are descended from R&R, are a 37-marker match with Bill. Rollie and Bill have a genetic distance of one (one of 37 markers doesn’t match); Michael and Bill have a genetic distance of three.

One cannot conclude from those results that David of Iredell was a son of R&R – although the results don’t preclude a father-son relationship, either. In any event, Y-DNA proves that the Iredell Rankins and the line of R&R of Guilford were closely related, genetically. If David Rankin of Iredell was a son or cousin of R&R, and if Jean Denny of Guilford married David’s son Iredell Robert in 1775 (which I believe to be the case), then Iredell Robert and Jean Denny were cousins of some degree.

That’s a lot more palatable than a man marrying his niece. Perhaps not coincidentally, Robert Rankin of Iredell and his wife Jean (1755 – 1779, per her tombstone in Centre Presbyterian Church in Statesville) had a son named Denny Rankin.[34] I would be happy to wager that his mother’s surname was Denny. I’ll also bet I won’t have any takers.

Whatever the identity of his wife, Robert d. 1795 has only one proved son. That was George, who married Nancy Gillespie (a daughter of Daniel Gillespie and Margaret Hall) in Guilford in 1791. Note also that George was born in 1767, so he was clearly not the child of some Jean Denny who allegedly married his father in 1775. George and Nancy went to McNairy Co., TN, where George died in 1851. The important thing here is that George and Nancy had a proved son (among other children) named … you can no doubt guess this … Robert. George and Nancy’s son was the man I call Robert of Arkansas, but we haven’t gotten to him quite yet.

Rev War Robert Rankin (1759 – 1840).

Rev War Robert, a grandson of R&R, was one of two sons of R&R’s son George and his wife Lydia Steele.[35] Robert was a Revolutionary War veteran who applied for a pension, which told us when and where he was born and when he moved to McNairy County.[36] Rev War Robert married first Mary (“Polly”) Cusick in Guilford in the early 1780s.[37] He married his second wife Mary Moody in Guilford County in 1803.[38]

Rev War Robert’s children by Polly Cusick – there were apparently seven – are fairly easy to identify by tracking census records. His children by Mary Moody are a tougher nut to crack, and I have identified only two. Here’s how I would expand Rev War Robert’s part of Chart #1:

3 Robert Rankin, Rev. War Robert, b. Rowan, NC, 29 May 1759, d. McNairy, TN on 21 Dec 1840. Buried in Bethel Springs Cemetery in McNairy. Married #1 Mary (nickname “Polly”) Cusick in Guilford, probably in the early 1780s. Married #2 Mary Moody in Guilford in 1803.

Rev War Robert’s children by Mary (“Polly”) Cusick:

4 George Rankin, b. Guilford abt. 1783, d. bet. 1828-1830 in Arkansas Territory. Married Ann McMurray in Guilford, 1803. They were in Arkansas Territory by 1816 and eventually lived in Pulaski Co. May have had as many as six children, but I can only identify three possible sons: Robert, William D., and John J. Rankin.

4 Jedediah Rankin, b. 1785-86, m. Rebecca Rankin in Guilford, 1811. Rebecca was a daughter of George and Nancy Gillespie Rankin. Jed and Becky were both great-grandchildren of R&R and were therefore second cousins. They were in Arkansas by at least 1830, when he was listed in the 1830 Arkansas Territory census.

4 Lydia Rankin, b. Guilford abt. 1789, assuming that she was the Lydia who was listed in the census in the family of William Rankin Wilson, b. abt 1788. They went to McNairy Co., TN. For some unaccountable reason, online trees ID her as “Lydia Lea Isabella.” I would love to see proof for that name, especially since Lydia had a proved sister named Isabel.

4 Isabel Rankin, b. 1791, Guilford, NC, d. 1861, Pope, AR. Married Arkansas Robert Rankin, her second cousin (he was a son of George and Nancy Gillespie Rankin) in Guilford in 1812. They went to McNairy Co., TN and then to Arkansas Territory, Conway and Pope Counties. See more below.

4 John Rankin, b. 1797, Guilford, d. 1846, McNairy Co., TN. Wife Mary Kirby/Kerby.

4 William Rankin, b. 1799, Guilford, m. Isabel Woodburn in Guilford in 1823. They went to McNairy, TN and DeSoto Co., MS. Both are buried in Bethesda Cemetery, Tate Co., MS.

4 Thankful Rankin, b. bet. 1790-1800, Guilford, m. Hance McCain in Guilford, 1818. May have lived in McNairy Co., TN, where Hance appeared in some records. I haven’t found them enumerated there in a census, however.

Rev War Robert’s children by Mary Moody:

4 Thomas M. Rankin, b. 1813-16, Guilford, NC, died without issue, 1885, McNairy.[39]

4 Letha Rankin, b. abt 1820, m. Robert D. Wilson, undoubtedly a relative. Lived in McNairy, TN.[40]

On that note, let’s move on to the last Robert in the line of R&R.

Arkansas Robert Rankin

Here is another case in which Y-DNA provides compelling evidence. Back up for a moment to Isabel Rankin, a proved daughter of Rev War Robert.[41] She married a Robert Rankin in Guilford in 1812.[42] Rollie Rankin, a descendant of Robert’s and Isabel’s son Reuben Burr Rankin, has taken a Y-DNA test and is a member of the Rankin DNA project. A problem is that Rollie can prove that Isabel Rankin is descended from R&R. Of course, Isabel didn’t have a Y-chromosome to pass on: Rollie inherited that from Isabel’s husband Robert Rankin. The thing is, Rollie’s family hasn’t been able to prove Robert’s parents via traditional paper genealogy.

Considering all the Robert Rankins floating around Guilford, it’s  understandable that Robert’s parentage is difficult to prove. Don’t forget that there were also two sons of Joseph of Delaware in Guilford … so that Isabel’s husband Robert Rankin may have been from EITHER R&R’s line or Joseph’s line. Or he may have parachuted into Guilford from Mars. He is almost certainly not from Joseph’s line, which is well-documented by Rev. Rankin. We can heavily discount the Mars theory. That leaves the line of R&R.

Y-DNA testing and land records to the rescue. George Rankin (son of Robert d. 1795) and his wife Nancy Gillespie Rankin had a son named Robert who is conclusively proved, although he is unaccountably missing from many lists of George and Nancy’s children.[43] He was the right age to be the Robert Rankin who married Isabel. Unfortunately, there is no evidence in the marriage bonds or elsewhere to prove that Isabel’s husband was Robert, son of George and Nancy – although that Robert, as far as I can find, was the only Robert Rankin in Guilford available to marry Isabel.

More Y-DNA: Michael G. Rankin, a proved descendant of R&R’s grandson George Rankin and his wife Nancy Gillespie, recently took the Y-DNA test. Lo and behold, he is a 67-marker match with a GD (genetic distance) of 2 from Rollie Rankin, meaning only 2 markers out of 67 are different.

That is a darn good match. I think it establishes (although I would defer to people who know more about DNA than I do, which is darn near everyone) that Isabel and Robert’s line and George and Nancy’s line share a common Rankin ancestor not very long ago. The common ancestors, based on the paper evidence, are almost certainly R&R. That’s sufficient DNA evidence (in my opinion) to establish that Isabel’s husband Arkansas Robert Rankin was the same man as Robert, proved son of George and Nancy Gillespie Rankin.

And that’s it for now. I will (soon, I hope) combine the several charts in this table, add a bunch of names, and post a loooonnnnnggggg chart for the descendants of Robert and Rebecca under “Rankin Charts” – see the menu at this website.

[1] Robert C. Rankin, d. Guilford 1853, and Robert Rankin, d. Guilford 1866, were both grandsons of Joseph of Delaware through his sons William Rankin and John Rankin, respectively.

[2] The grandson was “Shaker John” Rankin (1757-1850), a Shaker preacher who wrote his autobiography at age 88. He died in Shakertown, Logan Co., KY. The only reference to a full transcription of his autobiography (cited hereafter as “Shaker John’s Autobiography”) that I found is as follows: John Rankin, “Auto-biography of John Rankin, Sen.” (South Union, Ky., 1845), transcribed in Harvey L. Eads, ed., History of the South Union Shaker Colony from 1804 to 1836 (South Union, Ky., 1870), Shaker Museum at South Union, Auburn, Kentucky (SMSU), 29-30. For a typescript of Eads’s history, see Shaker Record A at the Special Collections Library, Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green, Kentucky (WKU).

[3] George Rankin and Robert Rankin appeared on the 1753 tax list for West Nottingham Township in Chester Co., PA. Rev. Samuel M. Rankin (see note 5) claims the family lived in Lancaster Co., but I didn’t find any records for them there. See J. Smith Futhey and Gilbert Cope, History of Chester County, Pennsylvania (Philadelphia: Louis H. Everts, 1881), reproduction facsimile by Chester County Historical Society (Mt. Vernon, IN: Windmill Publications, Inc. 1996).

[4] Shaker John’s Autobiography (see note 2); see also deeds dated April 1755 in which Robert Rankin Sr. gifted land to his son George Rankin and son-in-law William Denny Sr. in Rowan Co. Deed Book 2: 67, 70.

[5] Rev. S. M. Rankin, History of Buffalo Presbyterian Church and Her People (Greensboro, NC: Jos. J. Stone & Co., 1931), cited hereafter as “Buffalo Church History.”

[6] Rev. Rankin says in one place in Buffalo Church History that Robert with wife Rebecca died before the church started keeping minutes, which was in 1773. In another place, he says Robert died about 1770.

[7] Rev. Rankin names George, Robert and John as sons of R&R in his Buffalo Church History. George is proved by a gift deed and Robert is proved by circumstantial evidence in numerous Guilford records. The evidence for a son John is thin.

[8] James and Rebecca Denny (née Rankin, according to Rev. Rankin) are buried in the Buffalo Church cemetery. Rebecca was born in 1760 and died in 1816. She was born too late to be a daughter of Robert and Rebecca, unless Rebecca was Robert’s second wife. Buffalo Church cemetery records are available online at this link.

[9] George Rankin, a proved son of R&R, had two sons born in 1757 and 1759. See Shaker John’s Autobiography and Rev. War Robert’s pension application, abstracted in Virgil D. White, Abstracts of Revolutionary War Pension Files, Vol. 3 (Waynesboro, TN: National Historical Publishing Co., 1992). Robert Rankin d. 1795, another proved son of R&R, had a son George born in 1767. See will of Robert Rankin dated and proved 1795, Guilford Will Books A-B, File #312 (naming a son George).

[10] Rowan County Court Order Book 2: 667.

[11] E.g., deed of 1 Feb 1780 from James Boyd to William Boyd, both of Guilford, 20 shillings (a deed of gift), 630A on Little Troublesome Cr., Granville grant to John Boyd Sr. 15 Jul 1760. This land winds up in Rockingham County. John Boyd Sr., the original grantee, is probably the deceased in the 1767 administrator’s bond. Witnesses Robt. Bell, John Rankin, John Bell. Guilford Co. DB 2: 437. See also deed of 18 Oct 1803, James Boyd of Guilford to Henry Fryar, same, £100, 150A waters North Buffalo. Witnesses William Denney and Rebekah Denney. The witness Rebekah was a daughter of Robert Rankin d. 1795 and a granddaughter of R&R. Guilford Deed Book 8: 230.

[12] Shaker John’s Autobiography.

[13] See will of Arthur Forbis dated 10 Apr 1789, proved 1794, naming as executors his “stepsons John Rankin and Robert Rankin” (Shaker John and Rev War Robert). Guilford Co., NC Will Book A: 119.

[14] Shaker John’s Autobiography.

[15] Frances T. Ingmire, Guilford County North Carolina Marriage Records 1771-1868 Volume III Names O-Z (Athens, GA: Iberian Publishing Co., 1984). Another source for Guilford marriage records is Ruth F. Thompson and Louise J. Hartgrove, Volume I Abstracts of Marriage Bonds and Additional Data, Guilford County, North Carolina 1771 – 1840 (Greensboro, NC: The Guilford County Genealogical Society, 1989).

[16] At least one Rankin researcher at Ancestry.com believes that one of Shaker John Rankin’s children did not convert to Shakerism and that he married and had children. The Logan County census and burial records, however, suggest that all ten children died single in Logan County. There is some information about Shaker John in this article.

[17] Ingmire, Guilford County North Carolina Marriage Records.

[18] Guilford County, NC Wills Books A-B 1771-1838,” File #312 (will of Robert Rankin d. 1795).

[19] See id., will of Robert Rankin d. 1795, naming as guardian of his Wilson grandsons Andrew Wilson, Robert’s “former son-in-law;” Buffalo Church History, listing the three wives of Andrew Wilson (Jr.).

[20] See 1850 federal census, McNairy Co., TN, William R. Wilson, 62, farmer, b. NC, Lydia Rankin, 61, b NC, Washington Wilson, 33, NC, Lucinda Wilson, 26, TN, Lydia Wilson, 8, TN, Adaline Wilson, 5, TN, Jesse Wilson, 3, TN, and Louisa Wilson, 1, TN.

[21] Rev. War Robert did have a daughter Lydia, who would have been William Rankin Wilson’s second cousin. See Guilford, NC Will Book B: 435, will of William Cusick naming 3 daughters of Robert Rankin (Lydia, Isbel and Thankful) and his deceased daughter Polly Cusick Rankin. Both Lydia and William Rankin Wilson were great-grandchildren of R&R. I’ve found no evidence in the Guilford records that WRW married Lydia, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t marry. This crowd definitely had a penchant for marrying cousins.

[22] Will of William Denny dated 12 Dec 1824 proved Feb 1825 naming daughter Pamela Wilson; see also Ingmire, Guilford County North Carolina Marriage Records.

[23] See 1850 federal census, McNairy Co., TN, Andrew Wilson, farmer, 60, b. NC, dwelling #90, with Parmelia Wilson, 59, NC, Jane Wilson, 30, NC, Maxfield Wilson, 28, NC, Nancy Wilson, 25, NC, Parmelia Wilson, 21, NC, James Wilson, 19, NC, Eli Wilson, 16, NC, and Mary J. Black, 7, MO; 1860 federal census, Perry Co., AR, household of William Wilson, 45, farmer b. NC, with Andrew Wilson, 70, b. NC, also listed in his household.

[24] Thanks to my new cousin-by-marriage Peggy Derryberry Gould for that information. See 1860 federal census, French Lick, Orange Co., IN, dwl #1131, Maxfield Wilson, 70, b. NC; Ingmire, Guilford County North Carolina Marriage Records.

[25] Isabel Rankin, daughter of Robert d. 1795, probably died single and without children. She was still single in 1795, when her father wrote his will, and she was probably about 30 at that time. Her father specifically bequeathed a slave to provide for her, which probably means he considered her unmarriageable. I found no marriage record for her in Guilford.

[26] Guilford County will of William Denny dated 12 Dec 1824 proved Feb 1825 naming as executor his “brother-in-law George Rankin” and children Rebecca Black, Pamela Wilson, William, Nancy, Isabel and Allen. 1803 deed from James Boyd to Henry Fryar witnessed by William Denny and Rebeckah Denny, Guilford Co. Deed Book 8: 230.

[27] Will of William Denny (Sr.), Rowan Co. Order Book 3: 200; Rowan Co. Will Book A: 31. An abstractor of this will, Jo White Linn, made (for her) a rare error about 3 of William Denny’s daughters. Ms. Linn read the will to say that all of William and Ann’s daughters were married, but three of them – Hannah, Agnes, and Jane/Jean Denny – were clearly identified as single in the 1766 will.

[28] Rowan Co. Deed Book 2: 67 and 70.

[29] Rowan Co., NC Deed Book 2: 86, Granville grant to Robert Rankin dated 3 Dec 1753, ten shillings, 640 acres adjacent “Irish Tracts” #14 and #15 (part of the Nottingham Colony grants).

[30] Rowan Co., NC Will Book A: 141.

[31] Rowan Co., NC Order Book 3: 200; Will Book A: 31.

[32] Jean Denny may have married Robert Rankin of Iredell Co., son of David Rankin d. 1789.

[33] Will of David Rankin of Iredell proved Dec. 1789, original will viewed at the NC Archives in Raleigh, C.R.054.801.11, recorded at WB A: 200

[34] Lois M. P. Schneider, Church and Family Cemeteries of Iredell County, N.C. (1992); Iredell County, NC Deed Book D: 650, deed dated 17 May 1802 from Robert Rankin to his son Denny Rankin.

[35] Rowan County, NC Will Book A: 141, will of George Rankin dated May 1760, proved Oct 1760, naming minor sons John and Robert.

[36] National Genealogical Society Quarterly, Vol. 25, No. 4, December 1937, Revolutionary War Pension Applications.

[37] See Guilford, NC Will Book B: 435, will of William Cusick naming 3 daughters of Robert Rankin (Lydia, Isbel and Thankful) and William’s desceased daughter Polly Cusick Rankin.

[38] Ingmire, Guilford County North Carolina Marriage Records; National Genealogical Society Quarterly, Vol. 25, No. 4, December 1937, Revolutionary War Pension Applications.

[39] See McNairy Co., TN Will Book 1: 53, will of T. M. Rankin of Bethel Springs dated 18 Jun 1885 naming two nieces and a nephew. One niece, M. E. Wilson, was the daughter of Letha Rankin and Robert D.Wilson, according to Melinda’s TN death certificate.

[40] Letha’s Daughter Malinda Wilson Lee was named as a niece in the McNairy will of Thomas M. Rankin.

[41] Guilford, NC Will Book B: 435, will of William Cusick naming 3 daughters of Robert Rankin and his deceased daughter Polly Cusick Rankin (Lydia, Isbel and Thankful).

[42] Ingmire, Guilford County North Carolina Marriage Records.

[43] Guilford Co., NC Deed Book 14: 11, deed of 23 Mar 1819 from George Rankin Sr. to his son Robert Rankin Jr., both of Guilford, 110.5 acres on the south side of North Buffalo. George Sr. at that point is George, son of Robert d. 1795 (who devised that tract to George). George Jr. is probably the eldest son of Rev War Robert. Also, Robert Rankin Sr. was Rev War Robert.

The Rankins of Guilford County, NC: the mistaken identity of the Robert Rankin who died there in 1795

© Robin Rankin Willis

The problem in general

Every genealogist knows that many family trees on the internet aren’t worth the paper it would take to print them. Perhaps the most serious rookie mistake a family history researcher can make is to import data from someone else’s family tree without confirming it with independent research.

Some of us learned that lesson the hard way. When I was just getting started in this hobby in the 1990s, I sent a chart for one of my lines (as requested) to the administrator of the Graves Family Association website.[1] The chart included information I had obtained from other researchers purporting to identify the forbears of my last proved Graves ancestor. Unfortunately, I had not confirmed those alleged ancestors with my own research.

I wish I had remembered that and deleted those names before I forwarded the chart. The website administrator replied with a blistering email excoriating me for perpetuating a fiction which all serious researchers had long since discarded. My screen and my red face were both too hot to touch when I read that email.

The fact is that all family history researchers make mistakes, even without naïvely adopting someone else’s data. It is the nature of the hobby. Original records are incomplete or the courthouse burned down entirely, handwriting is faded, blurry or just lousy, and our ancestors tended to recycle the same given names ad nauseam, producing an error called “same name confusion.” Other mistakes are perpetrated and then perpetuated by the aura of accuracy that accompanies information that makes it into print. If a printed history states, e.g., that Joseph Rankin of New Castle County, Delaware (1704-1764) had a son named Samuel Rankin who married Eleanor (“Ellen”) Alexander, that particular “fact” is thenceforth cast in concrete. That is so despite the lack of any supporting evidence whatsoever in actual records and y-DNA tests that disprove a genetic relationship. That is precisely the case with Joseph and Samuel.[2]

Some mistakes are just simple errors exacerbated by a dose of carelessness. Who can believe an ancestry chart asserting that a woman who was born between 1740 and 1743 was the mother of a man born in 1749? Or a chart saying that a man married Miss Smith months after he was already dead and his will probated? Happens all the time.

One Rankin problem in particular: the Robert Rankin who died in 1795 in Guilford Co., NC

There is just such an error in research concerning one of the Rankin families of Guilford County, North Carolina. The error appears in a number of Rankin family trees on the Family Search and Ancestry websites.[3] It is probably attributable to one published Rankin history which wrongly interpreted the 1795 will of Robert Rankin as being the will of the “patriarch” – the eldest immigrant – of his family line in Guilford.[4] 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, a designation occasionally used for Old Robert in the early days of the county.[7] Robert also devised land to a son named George. He did not name a wife, which proves nothing except that his wife most likely died before he wrote his will. In short, identifying the testator in the 1795 will as Old Robert seems reasonable at first glance.

The problem is that Old Robert and Rebecca’s son George died in 1760 – thirty-five years before Robert’s 1795 will.[8] I have heard of people being tardy about updating their wills, but … several decades? C’mon, y’all!

Admittedly, Guilford County is tough on Rankin researchers for several reasons. First, 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 of those names![9] Second, the line of Old Robert and Rebecca, as was common, used the same names every generation. They favored John, William, Robert, and George, sometimes distinguishing between them with “Jr.” or “Sr.” That didn’t always help, because a man identified as “Jr.” isn’t necessarily the son of “Sr.” Sometimes those designations were used to differentiate between an elder and a younger man who were from different nuclear families – for example, a man and his nephew. Worse, the designations changed: a man called “Robert Jr.” in 1760 became “Robert Sr.” after the elder Robert died. Keeping track of who was “Sr.” and who was “Jr.” isn’t always easy.

Finally, Guilford is 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 to Guilford County (then Rowan) a few years later. Fortunately, the lines of John Rankin and his brother William Rankin are well-documented, so it is relatively easy to distinguish them from the line of Old Robert and Rebecca.

The facts in brief

Two simple facts establish 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, the dates for the records of Buffalo Presbyterian Church show that Old Robert died long before 1795. Second, records concerning the George Rankin who was named as a son in the will of Robert d. 1795 establish that George the devisee was alive and well after 1795. He was not the George who had died thirty-five years earlier.

When did 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.[11] Old Robert and his family (or some of them) migrated to North Carolina in the 1750s.[12] The family acquired land in that part of Rowan County that became Guilford County.[13] Rev. Rankin identified Old Robert’s wife as Rebecca, which is confirmed in a gift deed of land by the couple to their son George.[14] According to Rev. Rankin, Old Robert and Rebecca had children “George, Robert, Rebecca, John and others.”[15]

For purposes of this article, however, we are only concerned with Old Robert and Rebecca, their sons George and Robert (who was sometimes called “Robert Jr.” in early Guilford records), and a grandson named – I’m sure you can guess this one – Robert. A few facts about that crew is in order. Rev. Rankin says that George died in 1761, although his will was actually written and proved in 1760.[16] George’s will named his widow Lydia and two minor sons, John and Robert – 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.[17] George and Lydia’s other son Robert, grandson of Old Robert, fought in the Revolutionary War and applied for a pension in 1833.[18] Bless his heart, because the application provides useful information. Let’s call him “Rev. War Robert.” 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.

That is sufficient predicate, I hope. The bottom line is that Rev. Rankin also has 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.”[19]

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 before 1773. Rev. Rankin states that Old Robert died about 1770, although there is no extant tombstone for him in the Buffalo Church cemetery.[20]

Old Robert cannot be the same man as the Robert Rankin who died in Guilford in 1795 because Old Robert had been dead for more than two decades by 1795.

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:[21]

… his son George and 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 his land on Buffalo Creek to George and the three Wilson grandsons.

… his daughter Isobel.

… two unnamed living daughters, each of whom was to receive one-fifth of Robert’s personal estate.

Robert’s will plainly demonstrates that he was capable of distinguishing between his children who had died and those who had not. He described his three Wilson grandsons as “sons of my deceased daughter Mary Willson alias Rankin.” Robert describes his son George as … simply George, without stating that George was deceased or that the devise of land was for George’s heirs. The straightforward language of the will makes clear that Robert the testator (even if Old Robert had still been alive in ’95, which he wasn’t) was not referring to a son who died in 1760.

Subsequent Guilford County records indicate that Robert the testator was correct: his son George Rankin was still alive in ‘95. About three years after Robert died, George surveyed the land he inherited from his father. Robert’s will included a detailed metes and bounds description of how his land on Buffalo Creek was to “be divided by my estate.” 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. [22] Some two decades later, George Rankin made a gift of a portion of that tract to his own son – named Robert, of course.[23]

Here’s the best advice I could ever give to a rookie genealogist: follow the land.

So … who the heck was the Robert who died in 1795? Answer: Robert, son of Old Robert and Rebecca

Naturally, there was more than one Robert Rankin 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, because their sons named Robert (John and William both had a son named Robert) lived well past 1795.[24] The testator in 1795 was not Rev. War Robert, son of George and Lydia, 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 (Jr.), son of Old Robert and Rebecca.

And there you have it. In a perfect world, Old Robert would also have left an extant will. I suspect that he had already given away everything he owned, particularly his land, before he died.

* * * * * * * * * *

[1] See http://www.gravesfa.org.

[2] Rev. S. M. Rankin, The Rankin and Wharton Families and Their Genealogy (Salem, Massachusetts: Higginson Book Company, facsimile reprint of the original, copyrighted 1931), p. 52. Rev. Rankin is reliably accurate, so far as I can tell from my own research, with few exceptions. However, y-DNA testing conclusively establishes that the Samuel Rankin who married Eleanor Alexander was not a son of Joseph Rankin of Delaware.

[3] https://familysearch.org/search/ and http://home.ancestry.com. The former is free. The latter requires a paid membership.

[4] E.g., 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 the next footnote.

[6] Id. See also 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 George Rankin, for 5 shillings (the usual gift deed “price”), 480 acres on the south side of Brushy Fork. Robert had 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, giving metes and bounds instructions on how to divide the land he owned on the south side of Buffalo Creek and devising that land to his son George Rankin and grandsons William Rankin Willson, Andrew Willson and Maxwell Willson. Robert also made bequests to his daughter Isobel and two other living daughters who weren’t identified by given name.

[8] 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. Witnesses to the will included Robert Rankin (either George’s father or his brother) and William Denny (George’s brother-in-law, married to George’s sister Ann Rankin Denny).

[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.’s line, along Robert Rankin Sr.’s line, 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. Witnesses to the deed were neighbors of William and John Rankin in Guilford: Robert Breden, James Donnell and James Simpson. Robert and Rebecca’s immigration date and origin are established by the autobiography of their son, Rev. John Rankin, a Presbyterian minister who became a Shaker.

[11] Rankin, History of Buffalo Presbyterian Church, p. 22. 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 taxables George Rankin and Robert Rankin.

[12] Rankin, History of Buffalo Presbyterian Church, p. 22.

[13] E.g., Jo White Linn, Rowan County North Carolina Deed Abstracts Vol. 1, 1753 – 1762, Abstracts of Books 1 – 4 (Salisbury, NC), abstract of 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 from southwest to northeast into Buffalo Creek. The creek, and the grant, are located just south of Buffalo Presbyterian Church.

[14] See note 6.

[15] Rankin, History of Buffalo Presbyterian Church, p. 27. George and Robert are also proved as sons by deed records. There is only circumstantial evidence for a son John and no evidence that I can find for a daughter Rebecca. The deed and will records also prove a daughter Ann Rankin who married William Denny.

[16] Clayton Genealogical Library microfiln, “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 many people imported the information without checking it.

[17] 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 one of many Guilford County marriages that makes researchers rip their hair out, he married Rebecca Rankin, a daughter of John Rankin and Hannah Carson.

[18] 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.

[19] Rankin, History of Buffalo Presbyterian Church, p. 122.

[20] 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 ca. 1770.

[21] 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.

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

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

[24] 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).