Find-a-Grave struck again, although I was minding my own business

One of my favorite Rankin researchers sent a Christmas Eve email that began, “I was minding my own business, when …”

I was grinning by then because I knew in my bones that what followed would be some variation of “genealogy intervened.” Indeed, it was. Since you are reading this family history blog, you probably also saw it coming.

Another friend zapped me when I was otherwise occupied by sending a link to a Find-a-Grave site for a cemetery in Elizabeth Township, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. One of the graves purports to be that of a man who almost certainly never set foot — much less an entire corpse — in Allegheny County.

I will proceed gingerly. The last time I did anything concerning Find-a-Grave, I received an email from an angry man in a western state awash with militia. His last email said he would keep me apprised of his “confirmed kills” in the “impending civil war.”[1]

The recently received Find-a-Grave entry is allegedly the grave of the William Rankin who died in Franklin County, Pennsylvania in 1792, son of Adam and Mary Steele Alexander Rankin. William’s wife was Mary Huston Rankin, named as a beneficiary in William’s 1792 will. According to the Find-a-Grave poster, Mary died in 1790, two years earlier.

These claims raise questions. Why would a man who died in Franklin County be buried in a town 150 miles away?[2] And why would he have made his wife a beneficiary of his 1792 will if she had already died in 1790?

Someone out there must have answers to these questions, because the Find-a-Grave site for Round Hill Cemetery in Allegheny County says this unusual couple is buried there.  William’s tombstone is difficult to read.[3]  Other than the boilerplate “DIED” and “in the ____ year of his age,” the clearest information is the name “William Rankin.” There is no middle name. His date of death looks like 18___. It appears to be 1812 or 1813 in a sharpened and printed image. If that is correct, this is surely not the tombstone of a man who died near Greencastle in 1792, unless the trip to Elizabeth, Allegheny County, took waaaaay longer than one would expect.

There is an intestate estate for a William Rankin in Elizabeth Township, Allegheny County about that time. The Allegheny Probate Proceedings Index gives the date of his Inventory and Appraisement as 1813.[4] Because the I&A is customarily done soon after an estate is submitted to probate, a William Rankin of Allegheny County most likely died in 1812 or 1813.

More evidence lies in the cemetery (no pun intended). The DAR did a survey of tombstones at Round Hill Presbyterian Church near Elizabeth in the summer of 1940. The DAR listed a tombstone for “Rankin, William, d. Feb. 11, 1813, aged 69 years.” We can reasonably conclude that was the same William Rankin whose inventory was taken in 1813. The DAR also lists “Rankin, Mary wife of William d. July 22, 1808 in 62nd year.” Mary definitely died before her husband. The couple in the Round Hill cemetery cannot have been William and Mary Huston Rankin of Franklin County.

William’s tombstone provides additional evidence. The marker is an unadorned rectangular solid with an inscription in this format:

NAME

DIED

Month, day, year

in the ___ year of his age

There are two more Rankin tombstones in Round Hill cemetery with the identical unadorned shape, format, and “typeface.” One is for Andrew Rankin and another is for Mary Rankin. It appears from the hard-to-read inscriptions that both died in the 1790s. The 1940 DAR survey says that Andrew died in 1794 at age two, and that Mary died in 1795 at age 14. Find-a-Grave claims that both were children of “William and Mary Rankin.” Given the remarkably similar tombstones for William, Andrew, and young Mary, the three were clearly family.

That brings us to the family Bible of William and Mary Huston Rankin of Franklin County.[5] It identifies their children and their dates of birth as follows. Information other than names and dates is from my research, not the Bible.

    • Adam Rankin, b. 10 Nov 1762. He was a physician. He went to Henderson Co., KY, married three times, and had many children.
    • Archibald Rankin, b. 10 Apr 1764. Archibald stayed in Franklin County until he died. His wife was Agnes Long.[6]
    • James Rankin, b. 20 Apr 1766. He went to Centre County, PA with his brothers William, John, and Jeremiah. All four of them inherited land there.
    • William Rankin, b. 5 Nov? 1770. He also went to Centre County with three of his brothers. He married #1 Abigail McGinley, #2 Susannah (probably Huston).
    • Betsy Rankin, b. 13 Oct 1774. No further record.
    • David Rankin, b. 5 Feb 1777. His wife was Frances Campbell, daughter of Dougal Campbell. David and his family migrated to Des Moines, Iowa.
    • John Rankin, b. 1 May 1779. He went to Centre County with James, William, and Jeremiah.
    • Jeremiah Rankin, b. 26 Nov 1783. He also went to Centre County.

William’s family Bible doesn’t name either a son Andrew or a daughter Mary. William named each of the above children, and his wife Mary, in his 1792 will.[7] The Andrew who died in 1794 and young Mary who died in 1795, both buried in Round Hill Cemetery in Allegheny County, were not the children of the William who wrote his will in 1792. According to the family Bible, William died on October 25, 1792.

Unfortunately, all of the information about William at the Find-a-Grave link is unsourced. That is typical. Most of it is clearly erroneous. You’ve got to laugh, then wonder how the Find-a-Grave poster strayed so far from the facts.

Here is what Find-a-Grave says about William, shown in italics. My comments are in normal typeface. If anyone has evidence supporting the Find-a-Grave claims, please share it.

Birth 1713.” There is no evidence for an exact birth year for William Rankin, son of Adam, husband of Mary Huston. William’s first appearance in the records seems to have been a 1749 warrant for a tract in Antrim Township, Franklin Co.[8] That doesn’t provide much of a clue.

“County Antrim, Northern Ireland.”  There is no evidence for William’s exact place of birth. If Mary Steele Alexander Rankin was his mother, he was definitely born in the colonies, because Adam and Mary married there.[9]  

“Death 30 Nov 1792 (age 78 -79).” That is the date William’s will was proved in Franklin County court. The odds that someone’s will was presented in court the exact day he or she died are virtually nil. The family Bible says that the William whose wife was Mary Huston died on Oct. 25, 1792. Submitting a will to probate about four weeks after the testator died falls within a normal range.

“Franklin County, PA.” That is surely correct. William, son of Adam and husband of Mary Huston, lived and owned land in Franklin, and his will was necessarily probated there.

“Burial Round Hill Cemetery, Elizabeth, Allegheny Co.” Well. Some William Rankin who died in 1812-13 is buried in Round Hill Cemetery. I will bet real money that he is not William Rankin, son of Adam and husband of Mary Houston Rankin.

Continuing with Find-a-Grave information:

“William Steele Rankin was born in 1713 in County Antrium (sic) in the Northeast part of Northern Ireland. He was the son of Adam Rankin, born 16 Jul 1688 in Stenhousemuir, Stirlingshire, Scotland and died 4 May 1747 in Lancaster Co., PA and his wife Mary Steele, born about 1692 in Lancaster, Lancaster Co., PA and died 21 Sep 1747 in Somerset Co., PA.”

Let’s take this one alleged fact at a time.

… there is no evidence in a county or Bible record, or county history books, that William Rankin, son of Adam, ever used a middle initial — much less a middle name. It would have been highly unusual for a man born in the early 18th century to have a middle name. They didn’t come into common usage until the 19th century. Even George Washington and Thomas Jefferson had no middle name, for pete’s sake.

… William Rankin, a son of Adam and Mary Steele Alexander Rankin, was definitely born in what is now Pennsylvania or Maryland. Adam and Mary married in the colonies sometime between August 1718 and Sept 1724.[10]

… there is no evidence in colonial records for Adam Rankin’s birth date or place. There is no recorded birth of an Adam Rankin (including variant spellings) in the Church of Scotland records in the county of Stirlingshire between 1680 and 1690.[11]

… Adam’s will was dated 4 May 1747 and proved 21 Sep 1747 in Lancaster County. The odds that he wrote his will the day he died are virtually zero. The probate records prove only that Adam died sometime between 4 May 1747, when he wrote his will, and 21 Sep 1747, when it was submitted to the court.

… Adam’s wife was definitely Mary Steele Alexander, widow of James Alexander. If anyone has any evidence for her dates or places of birth and death, please share.

Here’s hoping you agree that the Find-a-Grave poster erred when he or she identified the William Rankin buried in Round Hill Presbyterian Cemetery as William (wife Mary Huston Rankin), a son of Adam and Mary Steele Alexander.

But that raises the obvious question: who the heck are the William and Mary Rankin buried in Round Hill Cemetery? They are probably William and Mary Stewart Rankin, who were married in Franklin Co., PA on 28 Feb 1774.[12] A follow-up article on that family will follow. Eventually.

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[1] See the article titled “Family History Stories: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” at this link.

[2] The Franklin County Rankins lived on Conococheague Creek near Greencastle, Franklin Co., PA. The distance from Greencastle to Elizabeth, Allegheny Co. by the fastest current route is about 150 miles.

[3] See an image of his tombstone  here. The middle name is pure fiction.

[4] Allegheny County, PA Probate Records, 1683-1994, Proceedings Index 1778-1971, Vol. 30, page 305, Block 5. It notes an Inventory and Appraisement, estate of William Rankin, dec’d, in 1813. FamilySearch.org Film No. 877053, Image No. 775, Block 5.

[5] Disc 4, Cloyd tapes. Unfortunately, I have lost my reference to the Cloyd disk page numbers, for which I apologize. Wading through those disks is a challenge. The information in the Bible appears in the form of chart accompanying a letter dated May 6, 1954, from Rev. J. O. Reed, pastor of a Presbyterian Church in Opelousas, LA, to Flossie Cloyd. Rev. Reed, a descendant of William and Mary Huston Rankin, was the owner of the Bible and drew the chart.

[6] Records of the Upper West Conocochegue Presbyterian Church show Archibald Rankin’s marriage to Agnes Long on 9 March 1790 and his death on 24 Jun 1845 at age 81.

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

[8] See p. 183, Land Warrants for Lancaster County, PA here.

[9] The country of Northern Ireland wasn’t established until May 1921. See an article titled “Who Are the Scots-Irish, Anyway?” here. The Find-a-Grave poster probably meant what was then called the Province of Ulster in the northernmost part of Ireland.

[10] See the citations in Notes 4 through 7 and the accompanying main text in this article.

[11] You can open a free account and search Scottish birth and baptism records on a website called  “ScotlandsPeople.” .The only Adam Rankin whose birth/baptism is recorded in Church of Scotland records in 1688 was born in Dunfermline Parish, County of Fife, a son of Robert Rankin and Agnes Smith.

[12] Records of the Upper West Conococheague Presbyterian Church, Franklin Co., PA.

Line of Adam Rankin d. 1747, Lancaster, PA: Serendipity + Civil War History + Baseball

Many of us have ancestors who served in the Civil War and have some interest in its history. Likewise, many of us have experienced serendipity while conducting family history research – finding something good even though we weren’t looking for it. Having a little major league baseball thrown in is a new one for me, but this article has them all. What next? Hot dogs? Apple pie?

Background

The family in this article belongs to the line of the Adam Rankin who died in 1747 in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, whose wife was Mary Steele Alexander. An earlier article about the same line dealt with the family of William Rankin,[1] one of Adam and Mary’s three sons. William and his wife Mary Huston Rankin had eight children, all named in William’s 1792 will:[2]

    1. Dr. Adam Rankin, b. 1762 – d. 1820 – 1830, Henderson Co., KY
    2. Archibald Rankin, b. 1764, d. 24 Jun 1849, Mercersburg, Franklin Co., PA.
    3. James Rankin, b. 1776, 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, b. 1774.
    6. David Rankin, b. 1777, d. 1853, Des Moines Co., IA
    7. John Rankin, b. 1779, d. 22 Apr 1848, Centre Co., PA
    8. Jeremiah Rankin, b. 26 Nov 1783, d. 18 Feb 1874, Centre Co., PA

My article on William and Mary’s family initially gave short shrift to their eldest son, Dr. Adam Rankin. That is because I had not been able to track him after 1798. Here is what an early version of that article originally said about Dr. Adam:

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 per the power of attorney the land Dr. Adam had inherited from their father.[3] In 1798, Dr. Adam Rankin was listed on a Franklin County tax list. I can find no record for him after that.

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

The Civil War and baseball parts

Not long after publishing the original article, I was exchanging emails with a Rankin family history researcher and distant Rankin cousin. We were talking about “historical” Rankins. He mentioned a Confederate Brigadier General named Adam Rankin “Stovepipe” Johnson and enclosed an article about him.

Here is Stovepipe’s photograph, probably in his Kentucky calvary uniform.

“Stovepipe” acquired his nickname in July of (probably) 1862 in this fashion:

“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 County, Kentucky 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 eventually 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.

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” produces a wealth of hits.[4]

An article posted by the Texas State History Association says that Stovepipe had six children.[5] 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. Here is a picture of Tex. Look at that tiny glove!

There’s more. Tex had a son named Rankin Johnson Jr. who was a major league pitcher for the Philadelphia Athletics in 1941. He’s a nice-looking fellow, and his tombstone is inscribed “TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALLGAME,” a sentiment I share.[6] Here’s his picture, which makes me smile:

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

The serendipity was having my Rankin friend drop Brigadier General Adam Rankin “Stovepipe” Johnson’s name in my lap. It doesn’t take too much imagination to deduce that his 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. There cannot have been too many Pennsylvania Dr. Adam Rankins at that time.

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

There is a biographical article about Dr. Adam’s family from an 1887 history of Henderson County, Kentucky. It has a nice, long exposition of his descendants, and you can see it here..

A proved descendant of Dr. Adam Rankin has Y-DNA tested and joined the Rankin DNA Project. He matches another descendant of Adam and Mary Steele Alexander Rankin. It is not a close match, so the Rankin DNA Project needs another descendant to firm up the line’s Y-DNA profile.

See you on down the road. There are more Pennsylvania Rankins on the horizon than you can shake a stick at.

Robin

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[1] See the “Follow the Land” article about Adam and Mary’s son William here.

[2] 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: 256.

[3] Westmoreland Deed Book 7: 392. The deed recites that Archibald Rankin was of Antrim Township, Franklin Co., 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 further recites that Dr. Adam Rankin granted his brother Archibald a power of attorney dated 29 Jun 1792. The POA is also recorded at DB 7: 392.

[4] There is a short article posted by the Texas State Historical Association which includes a citation to Stovepipe’s autobiography here..

[5] Id.

[6] Here is a link to Rankin Johnson’s tombstone.

 

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

Every genealogist has used the “follow the land” (“FTL”) approach to family history research, even if she didn’t call it by that name. An identifiable tract of land can prove family connections via deed, probate, tax, and other records.[1] It can make one grateful to be descended from a bunch of landowning farmers.[2]

In this article, FTL proves the identity of a colonial Rankin’s wife and allows tracking a son’s family with confidence. This Lancaster County, Pennsylvania family claims the “Mt. Horeb legend” for its Irish and Scots ancestors.[3] Descendants of two different Lancaster Rankin immigrants claim the Mt. Horeb legend. The legend says the two were brothers who came to Pennsylvania in the 1720s, although Y-DNA indicates that is probably not correct. Both men died in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania in the 1740s:

    • John Rankin died in 1749. His will named his wife Margaret, sons Richard and Thomas, six daughters, and two sons-in-law; he had eight daughters altogether.[4] Richard and Thomas went to Augusta Co., VA. Thomas’s family continued to east Tennessee.
    • Adam Rankin died in 1747. This article is about the family of his son William.[5]

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 of Cecil County, Maryland. The petition said the signatories believed that they resided in Maryland rather than Pennsylvania.[6] 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 devised a 316-acre tract.[7] The 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 personal property 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 her sons Joseph, John and Francis Alexander. Echoing James Alexander’s will, the deed recites that James had bargained with the grantor for the land but didn’t pay for it before he died, had left money to pay, and instructed that it should be divided into three equal parts.[8]
    • Finally, the tract was divided into three parts by a survey dated 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.[9]

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

Adam’s 1747 will provided as follows:[10]

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 not stated), 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.

Adam didn’t identify where his land was located, the names of adjacent landowners, or any other identifying features that would help track it. Fortunately, Adam had obtained a warrant dated November 11, 1742 to survey 100 acres “at Conegocheague.”[11] Conogocheague Creek (various spellings) is near Greencastle, Pennsylvania, less than 5 miles north of the current PA/MD line, in Franklin County.

A Franklin County deed provides confirmation. An 1818 deed conveying land in Montgomery Township, Franklin County, recites that 107 acres of the land sold was part of 188 acres surveyed per a “warrant to Adam Rankin dated 11 November 1742.” The deed establishes that the 107-acre tract descended from Adam to his son James, and then to his son James Jr. by the terms of James Sr.’s 1788 will.[12]

 Adam’s sons James and William fairly leap out of the records of Montgomery and Antrim Townships in Franklin County, a successor county to Lancaster.[13] Both men were listed on the Antrim tax lists along with some of their sons in 1785, 1786 and 1787. Beginning in 1789, William was taxed in Antrim Township; James (Senior, father of the grantor in the 1818 deed) was taxed in Montgomery Township. So far as I have found, James’ and William’s brother Jeremiah never appeared in any county records other than his father’s will.[14]

William and James were more helpful than Jeremiah. Not only did they appear where 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.[15]

We will leave James Sr.’s family for another day. We’re now on the track of Adam and Mary Steele Alexander Rankin’s son William.[16] William’s wife was Mary Huston, daughter of Archibald and Agnes Huston.[17] William’s will, dated 20 Oct 1792 and proved 28 Nov 1792, suggests he amassed considerable land.[18] 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 County and 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.
    • 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.

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

Adam Rankin (b. 1760-64, d. 1810-20) was a doctor. He moved to Henderson County, Kentucky, where he married three times and produced a large family. One of his grandsons was Confederate Brigadier General Adam “Stovepipe” Rankin Johnson. Some of Dr. Adam’s descendants still live in Kentucky.

Archibald Rankin (1764 – 1845) inherited part of the “old mansion place” in Antrim Township. He apparently stayed in Franklin County until he died. His first appearance in the records was on the 1785 Antrim tax list as a “freeman.”[19] 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).[20] I have not 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 a daughter Fanny died in 1827. Church records also say Archibald died 24 Jun 1845 at age 81, indicating he was born about 1764.

David Rankin (b. 1776 – 1777, d. 1853) inherited part of the “old mansion place” along with his brother Archibald. His wife was Frances (“Fanny”) Campbell, daughter of Dugald (Dugal/Dougal/Dongal) Campbell. David left Franklin County between 1820 and 1830 and wound up in Des Moines County, Iowa, where he died.[21]

The remaining four sons are FTL exemplars. That is because William’s 1792 will devised land in Penn’s Valley, Mifflin County, some of it on Spring Creek, to his sons James, William, John and Jeremiah. The will proves that John and Jeremiah should be located close to each other, since they shared an inherited tract. James and William should be located near each other for the same reason. Centre County was created in 1803 from Mifflin County, and the two Mifflin County tracts devised by William in 1792 were subsequently located in Centre County. Spring Creek runs through the middle of Bellefonte, the Centre County seat.

Jackpot! There they are, all four of them in Centre County, paired off geographically just as one would expect. One page of the 1810 census for Potter Township in Centre County has James Rankin listed 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.

There is no reasonable doubt that these four men were sons of William and Mary Huston Rankin and grandsons of Adam 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, and 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 the William Rankin who died in Franklin County in 1792. I will post the descendant chart eventually, God willing and the bayou don’t rise. Meanwhile, here is a skeletal chart for this 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 1760 in Cumberland Co., PA in a mill accident. Wife Rhoda Craig. Four sons went to Fayette/Woodford Counties, Kentucky.

2 James Rankin Sr., d. 1795, Franklin Co., PA.

2 William Rankin (Sr.), d. 1792, Franklin Co., PA, wife Mary Huston. See 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). The tract of land he inherited is proof that he was a son of William and Mary Huston Rankin. Children are also established, see Centre County Will Book B: 254, naming eight children, including Adam, Archibald, James, John, and …

4 Dr. William Rankin (III) (1795-1872) moved to Shippensburg in Cumberland Co.[22] Had 11 children, at least one of whom was a physician, and a Presbyterian minister:

5 Rev. William Alexander Rankin.[23]

If you want to get into a good knock-down, drag-out fight, go search for family trees that include “William Jackson Rankin” and “William Johnson Rankin.” You will find S.A.R. applications in support. You will find a totally different line than that outlined above, although it will also go back to Adam and Mary Steele Rankin. I hereby proffer my version, above, which should incite the argument.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *

[1] For example, a series of deeds concerning a tract in Tishomingo Co, MS conclusively proved almost all of the children of Lyddal Bacon Estes and “Nancy” Ann Allen Winn. See an article about them at this link..

[2] The ones whose enslaved people did the actual work frequently called themselves “planters.”

[3] The Mt. Horeb legend is transcribed in the article at this link.

[4] Lancaster Co., PA Will Book J: 211, will of John Rankin dated 1 Jan 1749, proved 25 Feb 1749/1750. Wife Margaret, sons Thomas and Richard, daughters Elizabeth, Ann, Margaret, Catrin, Rebecca, and Agness Rankin, and sons-in-law William White and John Waugh. See image of original at FamilySearch.org, Pennsylvania Probate Records, 1683 – 1994, Lancaster, Wills 1747-1830 Vol. I-K, image #352. Family oral history identifies John’s wife as Jane McElwee. His will names his wife Margaret. That might mean that either (1) the oral history was incorrect or (2) Jane McElwee died and John remarried to Margaret MNU. Either one is possible and plausible. Instead, many family trees identify John’s wife as Margaret Jane McElwee. The odds that is correct are de minimis, considering how rare middle names were at that time, even for men.

[5] Lancaster Co., PA Will Book J: 208, will of Adam Rankin dated 4 May 1747, proved 21 Sep 1747. He named his son James (to receive “the place he is now in possession of”), wife (name not given), and sons William and Jeremiah (“the plantation to be equally divided”). See image of original will at FamilySearch.org, Pennsylvania Probate Records, 1683 – 1994, Lancaster, Wills 1747-1830 Vol. I-K, image #351.

[6] Henry C. Peden, “Inhabitants of Cecil County, Maryland 1649-1774 (Westminster, MD: Family Line Publications, 1993) 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 the great map at this link..

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

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

[9] 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.

[10] Lancaster Co. Will Book J: 208, will of Adam Rankin dated and proved in 1747. Note 5.

[11] 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 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.”

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

[13] Some speculate that James was the son of Adam’s wife prior to Mary Steele Alexander. Family oral history says that Adam was married first to an Elizabeth May, although I am not aware of any evidence in either colonial or Irish records. Adam and Mary Steele were married after 1718 but before 1724; Adam was in the colonies by no later than 1722.  There is no indication in Adam’s 1747 will that any of his sons were minors, so the three were most likely all born by 1726. One can infer from the will that James was already living on the tract he inherited and that William and Jeremiah were still living on the home plantation. Perhaps the fact that James appears to be the oldest is the rationale for thinking he was the product of an earlier marriage.

[14] Secondary evidence (i.e., evidence other than official records) establishes that Jeremiah Rankin, son of Adam and Mary Steele Rankin, died in 1760 in a mill accident. See an article about one of Jeremiah’s sons, Rev. Adam Rankin of Lexington, Co., here.

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

[16] Online trees sometimes give William’s name as William Steele Rankin. That would be logical, since his mother’s maiden name was Steele. However, men born in the early 1700s very rarely had middle names, e.g., George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson. Not a middle name among them. Further, there is not a shred of evidence in actual records that William ever used even a middle initial, much less a middle name. If anyone can produce any convincing evidence of any middle name for William, son of Adam, I will eat both my hat and my laptop.

[17] 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 5th Series, 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.” See will of Agness Huston, Franklin Co., PA Will Book A: 110, will dated 15 Nov 1776, proved 14 Mar 1787, naming William Rankin, husband of daughter Mary, an executor.

[18] Franklin Co. Will Book A-B: 256, will of William Rankin of Antrim Township.

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

[20] 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, was the sole member of the household.

[21] See the article about David, son of William and Mary Huston Rankin, and his cousin David, son of James and Jean Rankin, here.

[22] 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.

[23] Even I will trust Findagrave when it cites to the Minutes of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America. See memorial on find-a-grave.