MALE RANKIN DESCENDANTS WANTED, AND WHY
A number of issues have conspired to make me doggedly pursue Adam’s line like Deputy U. S. Marshall Samuel Gerard on the trail of Dr. Richard Kimble. I have searched every residence, warehouse, farmhouse, henhouse, outhouse, and doghouse in Pennsylvania for evidence of Adam’s family.
Here is the context. I am writing a book about Rankins. More accurately, I am assembling Rankin material for a self-published book – this one, in fact. Among other things, it includes articles from this website. It turns out that I have written more blog articles on the line of Adam Rankin than on my own Rankin ancestors. Why have I been on Adam’s trail?
First, I have tracked Adam because more people erroneously claim descent from him than any other colonial Rankin I’ve run across. Even my Rankin first cousin’s closest Y-DNA match believes he descends from Adam, despite conclusive documentary evidence to the contrary. I have been contacted by Rankin researchers or DNA Project members whose claimed descent from Adam has been disproved by paper records and/or Y-DNA. One must have one’s ducks in a row for those kinds of discussions, because people don’t like hearing that their ancestry is incorrect.
It isn’t clear why Adam is such a popular ancestor. Perhaps it is because his line claims descent from the Rankins of the Mt. Horeb legend. According to oral family history, this Rankin family had two martyred Presbyterian brothers in the Scottish “Killing Times” in the 1680s. Surviving family members escaped to Ulster just in time for the Siege of Londonderry in 1689. It’s a great story, and who wouldn’t like to have that exciting heritage? On the other hand, the line of John Rankin who died in Lancaster in 1749 also claims descent from the Mt. Horeb legend Rankins – but I haven’t run into any Rankin DNA Project members who erroneously claim descent from John.
It is also possible that Adam’s line is prone to error because it produced a plethora of William Rankins born in the mid to late 1700s. Of course, every other line of Pennsylvania Rankins also produced countless Williams. Perhaps researchers hitting a colonial Pennsylvania brick wall ancestor named William Rankin found a host of seemingly reasonable possibilities to place him in Adam’s family. John’s line, on the other hand, is so well-researched and documented that there aren’t many opportunities to insert someone incorrectly.
In any event, Adam is frequently a fictitious ancestor.
Second, I tracked Adam’s line because I have a dog in that hunt. Due to my Rankin cousin’s close Y-DNA match (37 markers, GD = 0) to a claimed descendant of Adam, I had to figure out whether my own Rankin family is connected to Adam’s line. Both the paper trail and Y-DNA say we are not.
Finally, I pursued Adam’s family in an effort to determine whether some conventional Rankin wisdom about his line is correct. The Mt. Horeb legend asserts that Adam (died 1747 in Lancaster) and John (died 1749 in Lancaster) were brothers. For several reasons, I think that is wrong. Having apparently exhausted the documentary evidence, Y-DNA is the only way to attack the puzzle.
Fortunately, a half-dozen descendants of the John who died in 1749 have Y-DNA tested and belong to the Rankin DNA Project. All that is needed is to find descendants of Adam to test, right? And compare the Y-DNA results to John’s line? Ha! That’s much easier said than done. Another Rankin researcher and I recruited four different Rankin men from Adam’s line to YNDA test. These were not people we found on trees at Ancestry. These were Adam’s descendants identified by my research in county and other records.
The first recruit had no Y-DNA matches to anyone in the FTDNA database. The second and third had no Rankin matches. None of those three were genetic Rankins, much less Adam’s descendants. NPEs abounded, evidently.
The fourth recruit is a genetic Rankin. He does not match John’s line, which supports a conclusion that Adam and John were not brothers. Further, he is a Y-DNA match to one of the several men in the Rankin DNA Project who is also descended from Adam. It is a distant match, though: a genetic distance of five on 67 markers. The Rankin DNA Project really needs to test other Adam descendants to have confidence in a Y-DNA profile for that important line and to confirm whether Adam and John were brothers.
I am therefore pleading for help and continuing to research Adam’s line. From time to time, someone or something informative or interesting turns up. E.g., Confederate Brigadier General Adam Rankin “Stovepipe” Johnson was a legend in the Civil War whose descendants include two professional baseball players. Stovepipe was Adam’s great-great grandson. There is also the Rankin Presbyterian minister whose life was consumed by an obscure theological issue. Have you ever heard of the “Psalmody” controversy? Neither had I. He was Adam’s grandson. Adam also had a grandson whose migration west in three states, and eight of his nine children, were proved by three deeds. When I run across fun something like that, I am compelled to pause researching to write an article for the blog.
There are also a number of tangled branches on Adam’s family tree. As noted, the family had a plethora of Williams who led people astray, causing me to write two articles. One William in Adam’s line, a great-grandson, has been conflated with other William Rankins several times to my knowledge. That is a fine example of the “same name confusion” error, which is easy to do. There were also a passel of Jeremiah Rankins in Franklin County, Pennsylvania who made Adam’s line difficult to track. Conventional Rankin wisdom conflates a David Rankin descended from Adam with an unrelated David Rankin of Greene County, Tennessee. Some of the James Rankins are also confusing. Sorting out those men required a research that I wanted to share online.
Not surprisingly, the most frequently read Rankin articles on our blog are about Adam’s line. If the genealogical gods have even a shred of kindness, one of Adam’s descendants will read this article online, decide to Y-DNA test, and join the Rankin DNA Project. I can only hope.
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 The version of the legend inscribed on a tablet at Mt. Horeb Presbyterian Church cemetery in Jefferson Co., TN can be seen here. Unfortunately, there seems to be little evidence for the Scottish part of the story other than “family tradition.” I don’t know when or where the legend originated, although it may have been in the early twentieth century.
 Adam’s will named a son William. Lancaster Co., PA Will Book J-1, will of Adam Rankin dated 4 May 1747 and proved 21 Sep 1747, naming children James, William, Jeremiah, and Esther Rankin Dunwoody. Adam’s sons William, James, and Jeremiah each had a son named William. E.g., will of William Rankin dated 20 Oct 1792, proved 28 Nov 1792, Cumberland Co., PA will book A: 256, naming inter alia sons Adam, Archibald, James, William, David, John, and Jeremiah. Also, e.g., the will of James Rankin (Sr.) dated 25 Mar 1788, proved 20 Oct 1795, Cumberland Co., PA Will Book A: 345, naming inter alia sons William, Jeremiah, James, and David.
 There are at least three members of the Rankin DNA Project who wrongly claim descent from Adam’s great-grandson son Dr. William Rankin, probably due to the same-name confusion error. Traditional evidence proves where Dr. William went, who he married, and the identity of his children, and the claims are clearly erroneous. Y-DNA evidence also disproves the descent.
 The great-grandson of Adam who has been conflated with other men named William Rankin fits in Adam’s line thusly: Gen 1, Adam d. 1747 in Lancaster (wife Mary Steele); Gen 2, William d. 1792 in Franklin (wife Mary Huston); Gen 3, William who moved to Centre County and died there (wife #1 Abigail McGinley, #2 Susanna Huston). The third William left a will dated 11 Jun 1845 and proved 2 Feb 1848, Centre Co., PA WB B: 254, will naming inter alia sons William, James, Archibald, Alexander, John and Adam. Son William Rankin, great-grandson of Adam, was a doctor, lived in Shippensburg, and married Caroline Nevin. See 1850 census, Shippensburg, household of Dr. William Rankin, 52, Caroline Rankin, 37, Rev. William Rankin, 20, Mary A. Rankin, 18, David Rankin, 16, Abigail Rankin, 13, Alfred Rankin, 11, James Rankin, 9, Elizabeth Rankin, 7, Joseph Rankin, 5, and Caroline Rankin, 4.