Rankin DNA Project: “flange it up!”

If you ever worked in the natural gas pipeline business, you might be familiar with the notion that something needed to be “flanged up.” That originally meant the need to get pieces bolted together to complete a job. Over time, it acquired a more general meaning for those who did not deal with actual steel: the need to improve something in some fashion.

The Rankin DNA project needs to be “flanged up” a bit. The project began in 2006 with just two YDNA test participants. It has come a long way, and has 176 members as of July 2019. About seventy members are YDNA test participants who are either men named Rankin or whose YDNA establishes them as genetic Rankins.[1] YDNA testing has been helpful to many project members when traditional “paper trails” were inadequate or disputed.

Progress notwithstanding, there are still ancestry and relationship issues to be addressed. There are also a number of test participants who don’t yet have a Rankin match in the project. Obviously, a key need is to get more Rankin YDNA test participants. Please note, this is not a criticism of Rankin project administrators … I AM one. We just need to have more YDNA participants. Easier said than done.

In the meantime, here is a summary of Rankin YDNA results to date. The project has three lineages having four or more YDNA participants in each one. They are (no surprise here) designated Lineages 1, 2, and 3. All three lineages also have sub-lineages – distinct Rankin families that are genetically related, even though a Rankin common ancestor has not been identified. The families in these lineages include some that I have written about on this website. If you have read some Rankin articles, many of these names will be familiar.

On that note, let’s jump in …

Rankin Lineage 1

Lineage 1 (“L1”) has two sub-lineages: Robert and Rebecca Rankin of Guilford Co., North Carolina (L1A) and Joseph Rankin of New Castle County, Delaware (L1B). Robert is definitely the original immigrant in his line; Joseph probably is. No common ancestor for the two lines has been found. YDNA results establish a low probability that there is one on this side of the Atlantic. He probably exists around 1400, plus or minus a century, and almost certainly in Scotland.

Robert and Rebecca Rankin came to the colonies in 1750 from County Donegal, Ireland, according to an autobiography of one of their grandsons.[2] See some articles about their family here, here, and here.  There is no known evidence of the origin of Joseph of Delaware.[3] Both Robert and Joseph first appeared in county records in the area around the Philadelphia ports, where most Scots-Irish immigrants landed during the “Great Migration” from Ulster.

Joseph of Delaware arrived in the colonies first, roughly two decades earlier than Robert and Rebecca. He may be the Joseph Rankin who appeared as a “freeman” (unmarried and not a landowner) on a 1729 tax list in London Britain Township in Chester County, Pennsylvania. By 1731, he had acquired a tract on White Clay Creek in New Castle County, Delaware. Joseph had four sons proved by deeds (Joseph Jr., Thomas, William and John), two sons proved by circumstantial evidence (Robert and James), and a daughter Ann reportedly proved by a will. Joseph is buried at Head of Christiana Presbyterian Church in Newark, New Castle County. His 1764 tombstone still exists.

Based on known birth dates, Joseph’s children were born in Delaware. Two of his proved sons – John and William – moved to Guilford County, North Carolina. A descendant of each has YDNA tested and they are a good match.[4] Joseph’s wife was named Rebecca, although there is no known evidence of her maiden name. Nor is there any evidence of Joseph’s family of origin.

Robert and Rebecca’s family first appeared in the records in Chester County, Pennsylvania. Robert and George Rankin (either father/son or brothers) were on the 1753 tax list for West Nottingham Township in Chester. Robert and George received so-called “Nottingham Company” land grants in Guilford (then Rowan) County, North Carolina, near Greensboro. According to a grandson’s autobiography, they migrated to North Carolina in July 1755.

Robert and Rebecca’s children were almost certainly all adults when they arrived in Pennsylvania in 1750. Two sons, Robert and George, are proved. There is good circumstantial evidence in the Rowan and Guilford records for other children, including a son John and daughters Ann Rankin Denny (wife of William Sr.), Margaret Rankin Braly or Brawley (Thomas), and Rebecca Rankin Boyd (John).

David Rankin of Iredell County, North Carolina (died there in 1789) may also be a son of Robert and Rebecca. YDNA results establish that David and Robert were close genetic relatives, although there is apparently no conclusive paper proof of the family connection. David was probably either a son or nephew of Robert and Rebecca. Here is an article about David and Margaret’s son Robert.

Rankin Lineage 2

L2 is the largest group in the project. As of July 2019, there were 22 project participants whose YDNA places them in L2. The family lines represented in the lineage are diverse, although the YDNA results are not. The group members are fairly close matches, suggesting a common ancestor no earlier than 400-500 years ago, probably in Scotland. The immigrant ancestor of many of the L2 members first appeared in Pennsylvania or Virginia during the “Great Migration” of Scots-Irish from Ulster. From there, the L2 Rankins spread west into the Ohio Valley or south and southwest into Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee.

There are three Rankin lines in L2 which have at least four participants each. There are also a number of L2 participants who are “one of a kind,” meaning that each man’s last known Rankin ancestor is not (so far as is known) shared with another L2 member. Some members of L2 are “one of a kind” simply because they have provided no information about their Rankin family trees to project administrators, although they may well belong in one of the three known L2 families.

The L2 family lines are (1) John Rankin who died in 1749 in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania (Lineage 2A), (2) Samuel and Eleanor (“Ellen”) Alexander Rankin of Lincoln County, North Carolina (Lineage 2B), and (3)  two families – both David and Jenette McCormick Rankin of Frederick County, Virginia and William Rankin of Fayette County, Pennsylvania (Lineage 2C). Here is a little bit about each one …

Lineage 2A, John Rankin of Lancaster Co., PA (see articles here and  here).

This is the Rankin family memorialized on the famous tablet in the Mt. Horeb Cemetery in Jefferson County, Tennessee – descendants of John Rankin who died in 1749 in Lancaster Co., PA. His wife is traditionally identified as Mary McElwee, although John’s widow was named Margaret. John’s will named Margaret, two sons (Thomas and Richard), six daughters, and two sons-in-law.[5] All of the L2A members are descended from John’s son Thomas. He briefly appeared in the records of Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, moved to Augusta County, Virginia for a time, then migrated to east Tennessee. No member of the Rankin project self-identifies as a descendant of John’s son Richard, who moved from Pennsylvania to Augusta County and died there.

According to family tradition, the John who died in Lancaster in 1749 was a son of William Rankin and grandson of Alexander Rankin of the Scotland “Killing Times” and the 1689 Siege of Londonderry. Apparently, no one has found (or has publicly shared) any proof that John was a son of William, or that William was a son of Alexander. Records in Ireland are limited, however.

There are two project participants who are probable descendants of Adam Rankin of Lancaster County, whose wife was Mary Steele. Family oral traditions for both Adam and John (the common ancestor of the L2A participants) say that Adam and John were brothers. However, Adam’s probable descendants are not a YDNA match with John’s descendants, indicating that John and Adam were not genetically related through the male Rankin line. There are four or five articles about Adam’s line on this website, see, e.g., two articles here and here.

Lineage 2B: Samuel Rankin of Lincoln Co., NC

L2B is the line of Samuel and Eleanor (“Ellen”) Alexander Rankin of Rowan, Tryon, Mecklenburg, and Lincoln Counties, North Carolina. Several misconceptions  about Samuel and Eleanor persist online. One myth is that Samuel was a son of Robert and Rebecca Rankin of Guilford County (Lineage 1A). Another is that Samuel was a son of Joseph Rankin of Delaware (Lineage 1B). Both possibilities are disproved by YDNA. Some researchers also claim that Samuel and his wife were married in Pennsylvania, although Eleanor’s parents James and Ann Alexander  were in Anson/Rowan County by 1753 at the latest. Samuel and Eleanor were married about 1759, almost certainly in Rowan. There is no evidence of Samuel’s birthplace.

Samuel’s tombstone in the Goshen Presbyterian Cemetery in Belmont, NC no longer exists. A WPA cemetery survey taken in the 1930s transcribed his tombstone inscription to say that he was born in 1734 and died in 1816. His will was dated 1814, but wasn’t probated until 1826. His last appearance  in the Lincoln Co., NC records while he was still alive was in July 1816. He left most of his nine surviving children (his son Richard predeceased him) a token bequest, and devised the bulk of his estate to his son James.[6] Samuel and Eleanor’s children either remained in the Lincoln/Mecklenburg/Iredell area or moved to Arkansas, Tennessee, or Illinois. Here are articles about Samuel and Eleanor’s son Richard and their daughter Jean Rankin Hartgrove.

Lineage 2C

Based on descendant charts provided by participants, L2C has two family lines: (1) David Sr. and Jennett McCormick Rankin of Frederick County, Virginia and (2) William Rankin of Fayette County, Pennsylvania. There is no known common Rankin ancestor for the two lines.

David Sr.’s line is represented by three project participants. He left a Frederick County will naming his wife Jennett and children Hugh, William, David Jr. and Barbara.[7] Many online trees identify David Sr.’s wife as “Jennett Mildred,” although all of the Frederick County records identify Jennett without a middle name. Researchers asserting that Jennett had a middle name may have conflated David Sr.’s wife Jennett with an entirely different woman, a Mildred Rankin who was married to one of David Sr.’s grandsons — also named David.

David Jr. married Hannah Province or Provence, probably in Frederick County. They moved from Frederick to Washington County, Pennsylvania and then to Harrison County, Kentucky, where David Jr. died. His brother William and his wife Abigail also moved to Washington County. William died there in 1799. Both David Jr. and William left large families. Some of Hugh’s line probably moved to Kentucky and then to Ohio. Project administrators are looking for descendants of William and/or Hugh who might be willing to YDNA test.

The second family in L2C is the line of William Rankin of Fayette County, Pennsylvania. Many of his grandchildren moved “west,” some to Ohio. Many stayed in Fayette County for several generations. There is no evidence of his origin prior to the time that he began appearing in Fayette.

Rankin Lineage 3

The common ancestor of the four L3 participants is David Rankin Sr. who died in Greene County, Tennessee in 1802. His will identified seven children but not his wife, who evidently predeceased him. David Sr. was reportedly among the “Overmountain Men” who left what was then Washington County, Tennessee to fight in the Battle of King’s Mountain in South Carolina. That battle was a major defeat for the British in the Southern Campaign.

There is some disagreement among researchers about the identity of David Sr.’s wife or wives. His wife is usually identified as Margart Kerr, Anne Campbell, both, or neither, without a citation to any evidence. Another question is where David Sr. lived before coming to Greene County in 1783. It is possible that David Sr. of Greene is the same man as the David Rankin who received a 1771 land patent in Bedford County, Virginia, although that man was a Quaker. Other researchers believe that David Sr. was a son of the William Rankin who died in 1792 in Franklin County, Pennsylvania (wife Mary Huston). That possibility has been disproved by YDNA results.

Rankin researchers can take comfort in the fact that Flossie Cloyd, the premier Rankin researcher of the 20thcentury, was baffled by David Sr.’s ancestry. He may well be the immigrant ancestor in his line.

Whew! That’s more than enough for right now …

See you on down the road.

Robin

[1] For example, the Rankin project includes men whose surname at birth was Rankin but were adopted by a stepfather after the Rankin parents divorced.

[2] Jonathan Jeffrey at  the Department of Library Special Collections at the University of Western Kentucky sent to me a 22-page transcription  of the autobiography of Rev. John Rankin, a grandson of Robert and Rebecca. For the most part, it is a recount of his faith history. It has very little helpful genealogy.

[3] One history says that Joseph came from “Clyde Scotland,” presumably somewhere near the River Clyde. It also claims that Joseph’s children were born in Scotland, which is demonstrably incorrect. See Bill and Martha Reamy, Genealogical Abstracts from Biographical and Genealogical History of the State of Delaware(Westminster, MD: Willow Bend Books, 2001). The Findagrave website claims that he was born in “Ulster Ireland,” which is undoubtedly a good guess but is unsubstantiated.

[4] Only one of Joseph’s proved descendants is a member of the Rankin DNA Project. He has provided information to project administrators about his YDNA match to another proved descendant of Joseph.

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

[6] Lincoln Co., NC Will Book 1: 37. Given the nature of Samuel’s will, there would have been no rush to submit it to probate.

[7] Frederick Co., VA Will Book 3: 443.

Some Colonial Rankin Lines: a Primer

© Robin Rankin Willis

I recently spent some time in the Tennessee Archives researching Rankins who lived in Gibson County, Tennessee beginning about 1830. It was a good reminder about how easy it is to conflate various families having the same surname when they live in the same geographic area at roughly the same time. It occurred to me that I should have prefaced any Rankin posts on our website with some basic information about certain colonial Rankin lines, hoping to help distinguish among those families when you run across them or read the Rankin articles I post. I apologize for my lack of foresight. This article is my belated remedy.

First, a caveat. If you have read my article about Scots-Irish migration, you know that the earliest colonial immigrants from the Ulster plantation of Ireland (around 1700) settled mostly in New England. Among those were evidently some Rankins. I know absolutely nothing about New England Rankins. I am still getting up the learning curve about Rankins who settled initially in Pennsylvania or Virginia. Those Delaware River arrivals will be the subject of a second “primer.”

What I do know with a modicum of confidence is something about colonial Rankin families of North Carolina. That is my Rankin wheelhouse, and those families are the subject of this arcticle. When I started this hobby, I soon learned that my last conclusively proved Rankin ancestor was born in North Carolina around 1800. That was my only clue to his origin. Searching for his parents consequently involved mucking about in numerous North Carolina Rankin families. I acquired a ton of records in the process, because there weren’t any quick answers.

These are the Rankin families with which I became acquainted: (1) Joseph Rankin of Delaware (1704-1764), two of whose sons went to Guilford County, North Carolina; (2) Samuel and Eleanor (“Ellen”) Alexander Rankin of Lincoln County; (3) Robert and Rebecca Rankin of Guilford County; (4) David and Margaret Rankin of Iredell County; and (5) Robert Rankin (wives Mary Withrow, Leah LNU) of Rutherford County. Here are brief descriptions of each family.

Joseph Rankin of Delaware (1704-1764) (“Joseph of Delaware”), wife unknown, two of whose sons moved to Rowan/Guilford County.

Joseph of Delaware had definitely arrived in the colonies by 1731, when he acquired a tract in New Castle County, Delaware. He is buried at Head of Christiana Presbyterian Church Cemetery in Newark, New Castle County, where his tombstone survives. Joseph’s wife Rebecca (MNU) and his son William were administrators of his estate. His place of birth is unproved, although a serious gambler would put a lot of money on Ulster. One local history claims he was born in Clyde, Scotland, which is also possible. He had at least seven children. Four sons are proved (Joseph Jr., Thomas, John, and William), two sons are established by circumstantial evidence (Robert and James), and a daughter Ann, d.s.n.p., is reportedly proved by a will I haven’t been able to find.

Joseph’s proved sons Joseph Jr. and Thomas remained in New Castle, where both died. Thomas, a Lieutenant in the Delaware militia, is buried in the same grave as his father. The DAR placed a “patriot” marker on the grave, probably giving rise to a claim by one researcher that Joseph (who died in 1764) was a Revolutionary War soldier. If so, he was a ghostly presence.

I have been unable to track Robert or James beyond brief appearances in the New Castle records.

Joseph’s other two sons, John and William Rankin, migrated to that part of Rowan Co., NC which later became Guilford County. John (born 1736, New Castle County, died 1814, Guilford) went to North Carolina first, about 1765-68. His wife was Hannah Carson. William Rankin (born 1744, New Castle, died 1804, Guilford) went to NC about 1768-70, where he married Jennet/Jean Chambers.

John and William are buried at the old Buffalo Presbyterian Church in Greensboro. They both had many children and grandchildren, and their lines were meticulously researched by Reverend Samuel Meek Rankin. His research is documented in his book, The Rankin and Wharton Families and Their Genealogy, originally published in 1931 and now available online in its entirety at at the UNC library website. For the record, Rev. Rankin’s book is dead wrong about the Joseph of Delaware being the father of Samuel Rankin, see below.

Two of Joseph of Delaware’s proved descendants have YDNA tested and are a 37-marker match with a genetic distance (“GD”) of 1, a close match. One of the men is a participant in the Rankin DNA Project. Joseph’s line is part of Lineage 1B of the Rankin project, see the chart  here. Joseph’s descendants also match the line of Robert and Rebecca Rankin of Guilford County and David Rankin of Iredell County. More about them  below. Together, those two families and Joseph of Delaware’s line comprise Rankin DNA Project Lineage 1.

Samuel Rankin (1734 – 1816) of Lincoln Co., NC and wife Eleanor (“Ellen”) Alexander (1740 – 1802)

Thanks to a family legend and YDNA testing, I am reasonably confident that Samuel and Eleanor are my ancestors. I therefore tend to be a bit prissy with respect to misinformation about them. Some researchers claim Samuel and Eleanor were married in Pennsylvania, which is demonstrably incorrect. Eleanor appeared in North Carolina deed and court records with her Alexander family of origin as a child in 1753 and 1755. She married Samuel about 1759-60, almost certainly in North Carolina. Their eldest son, William, was born in North Carolina in January 1761.

Some researchers assert that Samuel was born in Paxtang, Pennsylvania, although there seems to be no evidence for that claim. I think it’s highly improbable. Samuel may be the same man as the Samuel Rankin who appeared on the 1753 tax list for Sadsbury Township in Chester County, Pennsylvania There were no other Rankins on that list.

Samuel and Eleanor lived on Dutchman’s Creek in the part of Lincoln County that later became Gaston County. His nickname, I was charmed to learn, was “Old One-Eyed Sam.” I don’t know how he lost an eye. He and Eleanor had seven sons (William, Samuel, Robert, David, Richard, Alexander, and James) and three daughters (Jane/Jean, Anne, and Eleanor). William, Alexander, James, Jane, and Anne stayed in Lincoln County, or nearby. Richard Rankin died in Mecklenburg County, just east of the Catawba River. You can see Richard’s headstone on Beatty’s Ford Road north of Charlotte in the left foreground in the banner photo on this website. Three of Samuel and Eleanor’s sons (Samuel Jr., Robert, and David) and a daughter (Eleanor Rankin Dickson) went to Rutherford County, Tennessee. David stayed in Murfreesboro, but his three siblings moved on to Shelby County, Illinois.

Two theories about the father/parents of Samuel Rankin (Sr.) still have proponents on the internet. Both of them have been conclusively disproved by Y-DNA testing, see the article at this link. I have found no evidence in colonial records regarding the identity of Samuel’s parents. He is probably the original Rankin immigrant in his line.

Robert and Rebecca Rankin of Guilford Co., NC (“R&R”)

This family arrived in the colonies in 1750 from Letterkenny Parish, Donegal County, Ireland, where their children were probably born. [1] They were in Pennsylvania for only a short while. Robert Sr. and his son George Rankin (or perhaps Robert Jr. and his brother George) were included on the 1753 tax list for West Nottingham Township in Chester County. R&R then came to Guilford County in 1755 as part of the Nottingham Colony, a group of Scots-Irish members of Nottingham Presbyterian Church, now located in Maryland (it was then in Pennsylvania). Here is a map of Chester County in 1712 showing the Nottingham lots, located in disputed territory that wound up in Maryland.

R&R had at least two proved sons who died in Guilford County: George (died in 1760), whose wife was Lydia Steele, and Robert (died in 1795), whose wife’s identity is a matter of controversy among Rankin researchers. Some Rankin family trees and at least one compiled Rankin history conflate the Robert who died in 1795 with his father Robert (husband of Rebecca), who died about 1770-73. The article at this link addresses that issue.

According to Rev. S. M. Rankin, R&R also had a son John who proved to be a research dead end for me, although the Guilford records suggest that is possible. R&R also had a daughter Ann, whose husband was the William Denny who died in Guilford in 1770. R&R probably had other children as well, including two daughters who might be deemed only likely: Margaret (Rankin) Braly or Brawley, widow of Thomas Braly/Brawley,  and Rebecca (Rankin) Boyd, widow of John Boyd. Evidence concerning those daughters is discussed in this article.

All of the above is conventional wisdom so far as I know, except for (1) the identity of the wife of R&R’s son Robert Rankin who died in 1795 (see discussion under David Rankin of Iredell, below), (2) Ann as a daughter of R&R, (3) the two likely daughters Margaret and Rebecca, and (4) the death date of George Rankin, son of R&R. Rev. Rankin said George died in 1761, but that was probably a typo. George actually died in 1760, when his will was both written and probated.

David Rankin of Iredell Co., NC (d. 1789), wife Margaret LNU (“Iredell David”)

David Rankin’s 1789 Iredell will and other records establish a wife Margaret and three children: Robert, James (not explicitly named in the will), and Elizabeth (ditto). Both James and Elizabeth are established by the will, even though it doesn’t provide their given names, and other records.

Iredell David’s son Robert may be and probably is the same man as the “Mystery Robert” who applied for a Revolutionary War Pension from Gibson County, Tennessee in 1832. I made that argument in this article, although my opinion should be deemed somewhat speculative. The identity of Robert’s wife is also a matter of controversy. Some researchers believe his wife was a Jean Denny (1755-1779) from Guilford County. Some Jean Denny definitely married some Robert Rankin in Guilford County in 1775. Other researchers believe that Jean Denny of Guilford married Robert, the son of R&R who died in Guilford in 1795. I disagree, because I believe that Robert (son of R&R) of Guilford was Jean Denny’s uncle. This question requires a fairly lengthy argument which I will save for another day.

In any event, Robert and his wife Jean had two sons: (1) Denny, who married Sarah McMinn, and (2) James, who married Elizabeth McMinn, Sarah’s sister. Both families remained in Iredell. Two of Denny’s sons moved to Gibson County, TN (home of “Mystery Robert”) and then to Shelby Co., TN, where they both died. Many of James and Elizabeth’s descendants remained in Iredell; some are still there today. They are nice folks.

Iredell David’s son James died in the Battle of Ramsour’s Mill in Lincoln Co. in June 1780. His wife was a Miss Alexander (probably Susannah), and they had four children who are proved by Lincoln County guardian records: (1) David Rankin, born by 1781, Lincoln; (2) Margaret (“Peggy”) Rankin who married Thomas Witherspoon in Lincoln, 6 Jul 1801; (3) William Rankin who married. Mary Lourance/Lawrence, 17 Jan 1810; and (4) Jane/Jean Rankin m. William Crays.

Iredell deed records suggest that Iredell David’s daughter was probably  Elizabeth, wife of Samuel McCrary (or McCreary).

For a lengthy chart (including supporting records) on the line of David of Iredell, see the article at this link.

Robert Rankin of Rutherford County, NC (b. 1748-49, d. 1816, Caldwell County, KY), m#1 Mary Withrow, m#2 Leah LNU (“Rutherford Robert”)

Francis Gill did the definitive research on Rutherford Robert and published a book about him and others. I cannot find a copy of his book available for either purchase or loan, or I would buy it.

Rutherford Robert married Mary Withrow in Tryon County, North Carolina in 1769. He owned land on Second Broad River in what ultimately became Rutherford County. He and his future Withrow in-laws may have been listed on the tax list for Aston Township, Chester Co., PA in 1768, before going to NC. Rutherford Robert and Mary Withrow divorced, and he married as his second wife Leah LNU. They wound up in Caldwell County, Kentucky, where Robert applied for tax relief in a document establishing his birth year as 1748-49. He left a will naming his children Margaret, James, John, Rachel and David (children of Mary Withrow) and Elizabeth, Jennet, Jesse and Elias (children of his second wife Leah).  The children evidently scattered to the four winds. At least one of them, Jesse, wound up in Gibson County, Tennessee, see this article about him.

Whew! This article became longer than I expected. Hope this helps a bit in keeping these families straight. One final note: a couple of people who have read my articles say they never look at the footnotes, which just make them too long. I have started omitting them, for the most part. However, if anyone wants a citation to a source for anything in this or any other article, please let me know and I will be happy to provide it.

See you on down the road.

Robin

[1] John Rankin, a Shaker preacher and grandson of R&R, hand-wrote his autobiography at age 88. These details about the migration of R&R are from that autobiography. The only reference to a full transcription of the autobiography which I can find 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). The above citation can be found at this link.