Overhauled post: will the “correct” David Rankin of Franklin Co., PA please stand up?

It might seem strange to say there is “new” evidence about people who died two centuries ago. However, “new” in genealogical research is found in the eye of the beholder. For example: two friends sent information I hadn’t seen when I originally wrote about the two David Rankins of Franklin County. That’s new evidence, from my perspective.

First, Jessica Guyer of Pennsylvania sent abstracts of deeds she found in Westmoreland County. They establish the migration pattern of one of the David Rankins from Franklin County, the identity of all but one of his children, and the surnames of married daughters. I wrote an article about Jessica’s deeds to illustrate the immense value of land records in family history research.

Second, Ron Rankin of Tennessee emailed several pages of Flossie Cloyd’s material archived in the Tennessee State Library and Archives. Ms. Cloyd, a staff librarian, worked for many years on an ambitious Rankin book that was never published. Ron provided copies of some of Ms. Cloyd’s 1954 correspondence with a Rev. Rankin, who owned his family’s Bible. Rev. Rankin was a descendant of William and Mary Huston Rankin of Franklin County. William was a son of Adam Rankin (died 1747 in Lancaster Co.) and his wife Mary Steele Alexander. Among other things, the Bible proves the birth dates of William and Mary’s eight children and their son David’s children.

Jessica’s and Ron’s evidence doesn’t change the original article’s conclusion about which David Rankin died in Franklin County and which moved west. Fortunately, it confirms it. The evidence does, however, mandate an overhaul of the original. Here it is, revised to incorporate the “new” information.

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I told my husband at breakfast several days ago that I was working on an article to correct bad information about some Rankins in the Pennsylvania Archives 5th Series.

He put down his fork, arching his eyebrows. “Are you kidding me? You’re taking on the Archives? That’s practically sacred scripture among Pennsylvania family history researchers.”

“Well,” I said (yeah, I realize this sounds prissy), “the Archives has confused two men named David Rankin who were contemporaries in the late 1700s – early 1800s.”

“So,” said Gary, “who would care, anyway?”

“Hmmmm,” I temporized, “perhaps descendants of either of the two men? Or someone who is trying to track early Rankin families around, as I am doing? Perhaps people with D.A.R. or S.A.R. aspirations? One of these two men was a soldier in 1780, but the other was too young.”

“You realize you will receive a dozen comments from people saying there are ‘many online trees’ showing you are wrong?”

I dug in. I’m not a Scots-Irish Rankin for nothing. “You’re undoubtedly right,” I responded, “but I’m writing the article anyway.”

Here ‘tis. It includes (1) a very brief chart, (2) the misinformation in the Archives, (3) the bottom line, (4) the argument supporting the bottom line, and (5) some additional information about this family just for fun — including the only photo I could find of a descendant. Who can resist a man in a baseball uniform?

(1) A brief Rankin family chart

Let’s start with a short outline descendant chart to put the two David Rankins in family context.

1 Adam Rankin was the immigrant ancestor in this Rankin line. The two David Rankins who are the subject of this article were Adam’s grandsons. Adam’s wife (his second, according to family oral history) was Mary Steele Alexander, widow of James Alexander.[1] Adam’s 1747 Lancaster County, Pennsylvania will named his sons James, William, and Jeremiah, and a daughter, Esther Rankin Dunwoody.[2] We’re only concerned with James and William – fathers of the two Davids – in this article.

2 James Rankin, son of Adam and (probably) Mary Steele Rankin, died in 1795 in Montgomery Township, Franklin County, Pennsylvania. James’ wife was Jean, whose maiden name is unproved so far as I know. His will named their children William, Jeremiah, James, David #1, Esther, and Ruth.[3]

2 William Rankin,[4] son of Adam and Mary Steele Rankin, died October 25, 1792 in Antrim Township, Franklin County.[5] His wife was Mary Huston, daughter of Archibald and Agnes Houston.[6] William named eight children in his will: Adam, Archibald, James, William, Betsy, David #2, John, and Jeremiah.

I will distinguish these two David Rankins by number because it helps me keep them straight. David #1 was a son of James d. 1795, Montgomery Township; David #2 was a son of William d. 1792, Antrim Township.

(2) What the Pennsylvania Archives got wrong

Here’s the bad information the Archives provides about one of the two David Rankins. Only the boldface phrase is wrong; the rest is correct.

“David Rankin is shown in 1780, as a private under Captain William Smith. The will of David Rankin of Montgomery Twp., was dated 1829 and prob. 1833. He names wife Molly and two children, James and Betsy. To Mary Elizabeth Sellers, only child of daughter Molly, who had married Alexander Sellars, Oct, 7th 1824.  Miss Molly L. McFarland of Mercersburg stated the above David was the son of William Rankin of Antrim Township who died 1792.”[7]

(3) The bottom line

No, he wasn’t. With all due respect to Miss Molly L. McFarland, the man the above paragraph describes was David #1, son of James and Jean Rankin of Montgomery Township rather than David #2, son of William and Mary Huston Rankin of Antrim Township.

Here are the key factors for telling the two Davids apart: age, wife’s identity, and — the pièce de résistance – location.

(4) The argument

Age. Although the law or custom varied from time to time, men were typically required to serve in the militia beginning at age sixteen. However, sometimes boys served as early as 13).[8] Thus, the David Rankin who was a private in 1780 was probably born by 1764 and definitely no later than 1767. According to county tax lists, David #1, son of James and Jean Rankin, was born no later than 1767-68.[9]

On the other hand, the family Bible in Flossie Cloyd’s material establishes that David #2 was born in 1777. He was obviously too young to have been a militia private in 1780. Strike 1, Archives.

When I initially published this article, I laboriously estimated David #2’s birth year by looking at his siblings, some of whom have birthdates established on a tombstone or by a church record. I assembled them in the order they were listed in their father’s will, looked at tax and deed records, and thoroughly overanalyzed the issue. Had he known what I was doing, my friend Ron Rankin could have prevented all that wasted effort. The information he provided from the Rankin family Bible lists the eight children of William and Mary Houston Rankin and their dates of birth. Here they are, along with some minimal information – just in case you wish to track any of them.

    1. Adam Rankin, born March? 10, 1762. Adam first appeared on the Franklin Co. tax list in 1782, identified as a doctor. He inherited land in Westmoreland County; his brother Archibald sold it for him. Dr. Adam went to Henderson County, KY, married three times, and had a large family. He was the grandfather of Confederate Brigadier General Adam “Stovepipe” Johnson, discussed in this article, and a Rankin who is (or was) the chairman of the board of Churchill Downs. Here is more information about Dr. Adam.
    2. Archibald Rankin, born April 10, 1764, married Agnes (“Nancy”) Long. He remained in Franklin County his entire life. Records from the Upper West Conococheague Presbyterian Church record his date of death on June 24, 1845 age 81.
    3. James Rankin was born April 20, 1766. He moved to Centre County along with his brothers William, John, and Jeremiah. He may have died between 1820 and 1830. I’ve found no evidence establishing his children or his wife’s identity.
    4. William Rankin (Jr.) was born Nov. 5, 1770. He moved to Centre County, married Abigail McGinley and then Susannah, possibly Huston. He died in Centre County.[10]
    5. Betsy Rankin was born Oct. 13, 1774.
    6. David #2 Rankin, a subject of this article, was born Feb. 5, 1777.
    7. John Rankin was born May 1, 1779 and died Apr. 22, 1848.[11] He moved to Centre County with his three brothers, married Isabella Dundas in 1804, and died in Centre County.[12]
    8. Jeremiah Rankin was born Nov. 26, 1783. That is confirmed on his tombstone in Centre County, PA, see it at this link.

Wife’s identity. Based on his will, the wife of the David Rankin who died in 1833 was named Molly, maiden name unproved. I have found no deeds or other records identifying the wife of David #1. We have better luck with David #2. Deeds conclusively establish that he was married to Frances (“Fanny”) Campbell, daughter of Dougal (Dongal/Dugald/Dugal) Campbell.[13] In case there is any lingering doubt, the Rankin family Bible transcript Ron Rankin provided says that Frances Campbell and David #2 were married on June 13, 1799.  In short, Molly’s husband was David #1. Strike 2, Archives.

Location is a great tool for establishing family connections. An 1818 Franklin deed from James Rankin (brother of David #1) to Jacob Kline conveyed a tract in Montgomery Township. Part of the tract was devised in 1788 by James Rankin Sr. to his son James Rankin (Jr.), the grantor in the 1818 deed, so we know we are dealing with sons of James d. 1795.[14] The conveyed tract was adjacent to David #1. The deed thus proves that David #1 owned a tract adjacent to Jacob Kline in Montgomery Township at some point. And …

    • In the 1830 federal census for Montgomery Township (three years before David #1 died), David Rankin was listed adjacent Jacob Kline, grantee in the above deed.[15] David was the only David Rankin listed in Montgomery in 1830 and his census profile “fit” the family of the David Rankin who died in 1833.
    • David Rankin’s 1829 will, proved in 1833, referred to his Montgomery Township tract adjacent Jacob Kline.

Bottom line: the David Rankin who died in 1833 was David #1, son of James Sr. and Jean Rankin, and not David #2, son of William and Mary Huston Rankin.

(5) A few more facts

Some genealogists believe that David #2 went to Greene County, Tennessee.[16] Not so. Instead, he and his family went from Franklin to Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, then to Allen County, Indiana, and finally to Des Moines County, Iowa. David died there. His wife Frances apparently died before they reached Iowa.[17]

While he lived in Franklin, David #2 almost certainly attended the Presbyterian Church of the Upper West Conococheague,”[18] as did his brother Archibald.[19] On the other hand, David #1 and his brothers were pew holders in the Welsh Run Presbyterian Church, also known as the “Lower Conococheague” Church.[20]

The Upper West church kept baptism records, although they are evidently incomplete.[21] Four children of David #2 are listed: Frances Rankin (baptized 9 May 1814), David Huston Rankin (28 Apr 1817), Archibald Rankin (10 Oct 1819), and Adam John Rankin (13 Feb 1822). In light of David #2’s entry in the 1820 census (seven children in the household), you would expect other children. [22]  Indeed, the family Bible, Westmoreland County deeds, and other records prove nine children:

    • Elizabeth (Betsy) Rankin, b. 3 Feb 1803, never married.
    • Martha C. Rankin, b. 22 Nov 1805, married Mr. Sweeney.
    • William Rankin, b. 6 Jan 1807, married Martha Jane Gray.
    • Mary C. or H. Rankin, b. 6 Feb 1809, married James Bruce.
    • Dougal C. Rankin, b. 10 Apr 1811, married Mary Johnson.
    • Francis Rankin, b. 1 Jan 1814, married James Waddle.
    • David Huston Rankin, b. 14 Mar 1817, married Mary A. Oliver.
    • Archibald Rankin b. 1 Aug 1810, married Lydia Blair.
    • Adam John Rankin, b. 29 Dec 1821, apparently never married.

David and his family left Franklin between 1827 and 1830.[23] They were listed in Westmoreland County in the 1830 census and in Iowa Territory in 1840.[24] The 1850 census in Des Moines County records David as age 73, born in Pennsylvania.[25] Here is a link to an image of his tombstone in the Round Prairie Cemetery in Des Moines County.

Adam John Rankin and Dougal/Dugal Campbell Rankin are also buried in the Round Prairie Cemetery. Archibald Rankin is buried in the Kossuth Cemetery, which is also in Des Moines County.

The family Bible also names the children of Archibald Rankin and Lydia Blair: (1) Elizabeth Jane Rankin m. William B. Reed, (2) Margaret F. Rankin, and (3) Martha C. Rankin.

Finally, the image of the baseball player: Dougal Wylie Rankin …

And that’s it from me on the two David Rankins, grandsons of Adam and Mary Steele Rankin. I will appreciate more “new” information about this family if you have any!

See you on down the road.

Robin

[1] For evidence establishing that Adam Rankin’s wife was Mary Steele Alexander, see the text accompanying the footnotes and the source citations in notes 5, 6, and 7 of this article.

[2] Lancaster Co., PA Will Book J, Vol. 1: 208, will of Adam Rankin dated 4 May 1747, proved 21 Sep 1747.

[3] Franklin Co., PA Will Book A: 345, will of James Rankin of Montgomery Township dated 25 Mar 1788, proved 20 Oct 1795.

[4] A quick aside on a case of “same name confusion:” William Rankin, son of Adam and Mary Steele Rankin, was most emphatically not the same man as the William Rankin who married Victoria Alcorn or Alcoran who had migrated to Orange County, North Carolina by 1765. The William Rankin who married Victoria lived in Hamilton Township, Franklin Co., and is fairly easy to distinguish from William, son of Adam, who lived in Antrim Township. See Pennsylvania land grant to William Rankin dated 8 May 1751, 100 acres in Hamilton Township, Cumberland Co., adjacent Thomas Armstrong; Cumberland Co., PA Will Book A: 79, will of Joseph Armstrong of Hamilton Township dated 1760 proved 1761 devising “land between Robert Elliot’s and Willm Rankins;” Cumberland Co., PA Will Book A: 88, will of James Alcoran naming daughter Victoria and her husband William Rankin; and Franklin Co., PA Deed Book 6: 124, deed dated 30 Oct 1765 from William Rankin of Orange Co, NC, farmer, to James McFarlan of Cumberland, 2 warrants by Rankin for a total of 250A in Hamilton Twp., Cumberland Co., adjacent Thomas Armstrong, et al. Many online trees incorrectly identify Victoria as the wife of William who died in 1792.

[5] Franklin Co., PA Will Book A: 256, will of William Rankin of Antrim Township dated 20 Oct 1792, proved 28 Nov 1792.

[6] Franklin Co., PA Will Book A: 110, will of Agnes Huston, widow of Archibald Huston, dated 15 Nov 1776, proved 14 Mar 1787. Her will names William Rankin, husband of daughter Mary, as an executor.

[7] Thomas Lynch Montgomery, ed., Pennsylvania Archives, 5th Series, Volume VI (Harrisburg, PA: Harrisburg Publishing Co., 1906), 275.

[8] See https://allthingsliberty.com/2014/06/explaining-pennsylvanias-militia/ and/orhttps://www.battlefields.org/learn/articles/fighting-man-continental-army and/or https://www.constitution.org/jw/acm_3-m.htm

[9] David #1 was listed on the Montgomery Township tax list for 1789 along with his father James (Sr.) and brothers William, Jeremiah, and James Rankin. David was a “freeman,” meaning that he was age 21 or older and not married. He was not listed on the 1788 tax list, suggesting that he had just turned 21 in1789 and was born about 1767-68. However, men frequently shed a year or two at tax time. A reasonable estimate, given his militia service, is that David #1 was born about 1765.

[10] Commemorative Biographical Record of Central Pennsylvania: Including the Counties of Centre, Clearfield, Jefferson and Clarion (Chicago: J. H. Beers, 1898) at 100-101.

[11] John Blair Linn, History of Centre and Clinton Counties, Pennsylvania (Louis H. Everts, 1883, reprinted Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott & Co., 1975), 222-223.

[12] Id.

[13] Franklin Co., PA Deed Book 9: 288, deed dated 8 May 1807 from David Rankin of Franklin and wife Fanny conveying land devised to David by the will of William Rankin dated 20 Oct 1792. Frances/Fanny’s father is also conclusively proved by a deed, see Franklin Deed Book 14: 245. See also Franklin Co., PA Deed Book 14: 266, deed dated 28 Aug 1827 from David Rankin and wife Frances of Montgomery Township, 54 acres in Peters Township, deed witnessed by Archibald Bald.

[14] Franklin Co., PA Deed Book 12: 28.

[15] 1830 federal census, Montgomery Township, Franklin Co., household of David Rankin, 0000101-000010001 adjacent Jacob Kline. There are two people age 20 < 30 in David’s household, as we would expect: his daughter Molly was already married when David #1 wrote his will in 1829. The age category for the eldest male is clearly erroneous. He should be in the same age category as the eldest female, age 60 < 70 (born in the 1760s), if he was a militia private in 1780.

[16] See, e.g., https://npgallery.nps.gov/GetAsset/29dbc658-cdcc-4f12-8c30-8dc877e7fdb4. Please be advised that this application for historic site designation contains several Rankin history errors and unproved assertions.

[17] http://digupdeadrelatives.com/2020/04/21/follow-the-land-theory-believe-it-or-not/

[18] The archaic spelling was Conogogheaue, which had several variants.

[19] The Upper West church records show Archibald’s marriage to Agnes Long, as well as his death date. Recall that David and Archibald each inherited a part of their father William’s “Mansion Place,” so they originally lived next to each other. See Franklin Co., PA Will Book A: 256, will of William Rankin of Antrim Township devising 200 acres “off my Mansion Place” to son Archibald, and “the old Mansion place,” 300 acres, to his son David #3. You would expect both brothers would attend the nearest Presbyterian church.

[20] Virginia Shannon Fendrick, American Revolutionary Soldiers of Franklin County, Pennsylvania (Chambersburg, PA: Historical Works Committee of the Franklin County Chapter of the D.A.R., 1969) (copyright 1944), 180.

[21] Some records of the Upper West Conococheague church are available online at Ancestry.com.

[22] David #2 was then living in Peters Township and is listed as age 26 < 45 (born 1775 – 1794). There were seven children in his household, including 1 male and 2 females age 10 < 16 (born 1804 – 1810), plus 3 males and one female under age 10 (born 1810 – 1820).

[23] David #2 and his wife Frances executed a deed in Franklin Co. in Oct 1827, see note 13. He did not appear in the 1830 census for Franklin.

[24] 1840 federal census for Iowa Territory, Des Moines Co., David Rankin, age 60 < 70 (born 1770 – 1780).

[25] The 1850 federal census listing in DesMoines Co. for David Rankin’s household includes Dugald Camel, 30, b. PA, and Frances Camel, 14, b. Indiana. Given the spelling perversions one finds in the census, they were probably Dugal (or Dougal) Campbell and Frances Campbell.