Adam Rankin who died 1747 in Lancaster Co., PA – AGAIN!

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.[1] It’s a great story, and who wouldn’t like to have that exciting heritage?[2] 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.[3] 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.[4] 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.[5] Stovepipe was Adam’s great-great grandson. There is also the Rankin Presbyterian minister whose life was consumed by an obscure theological issue.[6] 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.[7] 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.[8]  One William in Adam’s line, a great-grandson, has been conflated with other William Rankins several times to my knowledge.[9] 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.[10] 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.[11] 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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[1] See an article about Scots-Irish history here.

[2] 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.

[3] 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.

[4] 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.

[5] You can find the article about Stovepipe Johnson here.

[6] Rev. Adam Rankin was a fascinating man. Read about him at this link.

[7] See the article here.

[8] There are two articles about William, son of Adam, on this blog. Here is one.

[9] 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.

[10] You can find the article about the Jeremiah Rankins here.

[11] James, father of the controversial Dr. John M. Rankin, is discussed in this article.

Do we exhume ancestors? A Y-DNA primer of sorts

My friend Tony Givens asked me how the heck I obtained the Y-DNA of my great-great-great-great grandfather Samuel Rankin, who I had identified as my ancestor via Y-DNA testing. Did we exhume his corpse, or what?

I was at a loss how to respond. The short and almost correct answer is that I obtained Samuel’s Y-DNA by persuading my cousin Butch Rankin to take a Y-DNA test. However, I knew that wouldn’t suffice. Instead, I fell back on standard cross-examination technique, asking leading questions to which I already knew the answer … hoping to answer Tony’s question without delivering an impenetrable lecture.

“So … Tony, you know who your Givens grandfather is, don’t you?”

“Sure,” he said, “his name was David Givens.”

“OK,” said I, “you know the name of David’s father, right?”

“Yep! Harland Givens was my great-grandfather.”

“Well, Tony, if you swab your cheek today for a Y-DNA test, what would you have?”

Tony looked nonplussed. “A sample of my Y-DNA?”

“Yes, indeed. You would also have the Y-DNA of Harland Givens, give or take a few markers.”

“Can’t be,” said Tony, “he’s been dead for a century.”

At that point, there was no alternative but to deliver a pseudo-scientific lecture about Y-DNA theory. A condensed form of the lecture follows. I am qualifying it as “pseudo”-scientific because I’m not a scientist and it is easy to oversimplify these matters …

I am female and therefore don’t have a Y chromosome. Instead, I have two X chromosomes. Tony, a male, has one X chromosome and one Y chromosome. The X and Y are called the “sex chromosomes” because they determine gender.[1] Tony can only have inherited his Y chromosome from his biological father, since his mother didn’t have one to pass on. Likewise, Tony’s father can only have inherited his Y chromosome from his father David, who can only have inherited his Y chromosome from his father Harland Givens, and so on, theoretically ad infinitum up the male Givens line. This ignores the possibility of a so-called “non-paternal event,” more on that shortly.

Those inherited Givens Y chromosomes are all identical, in theory. Putting it another way, a male’s Y chromosome is passed down from father to son for generation after generation — except for occasional random mutations. If there were no mutations, Tony’s Y chromosome would be an exact copy of the Y chromosome of all of his male Givens ancestors.

Thus, the almost correct answer to Tony’s original question was that I obtained my ancestor Samuel Rankin’s Y-DNA by getting my cousin Butch Rankin to Y-DNA test. That isn’t quite accurate because mutations have occurred in the intervening generations between Samuel and Butch. If there had been no mutations, then Butch’s Y chromosome would have exactly matched his five-great-grandfather Samuel’s Y chromosome.

There is an occasional “oops” in this process, when a man’s Y chromosome doesn’t match his apparent father’s. Genealogists call this a “non-paternal event,” and please don’t get me started on the weirdness of that label. For example, if a male child is adopted, the adopted son inherited his Y chromosome from his biological father. The adopted son would not be a Y-DNA match with his adopted father. Likewise, if Mrs. Givens were raped and bore a son as a result, the child’s Y chromosome would be a copy of the rapist’s, not a copy of Mr. Givens’. The same would be true if Mrs. Givens had a son as a result of an extramarital affair.

Except for so-called non-paternal events, the Y chromosome repeats in the line of the male surname without changes other than occasional random mutations. This has given rise to surname DNA projects, in which participants compare their Y-DNA to other men having the same surname. Women cannot Y-DNA test, since we have two X chromosomes but no Y chromosome. Instead, we cajole our fathers, brothers, sons, uncles and male cousins into swabbing their cheeks for a Y-DNA test.

There is a potload more science about this, but I’m already in over my head. If you want to learn about STRs (“short tandem repeats”) or SNPs (“single nucleotide polymorphisms”), check out FAQs at the FTDNA website.  Better yet, go search Roberta Estes’s website, “DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy.” She does an excellent job making the science comprehensible.

Let’s leave the science and turn to how Y-DNA testing can be helpful in family history research.

As one example, it can help an adopted son identify his birth father when all other avenues have failed. I have one friend with a remarkable story who has done exactly that.

For another example, let’s assume that six men having the surname Willis have done 67-marker Y-DNA tests and joined the Willis DNA project. It turns out they are all a very good genetic match, having only one mismatching marker out of 67 between any two of them.[2] FYI, the number of mismatched markers is referred to as “Genetic Distance,” so any two of these men would be considered a “67-marker match, GD =1.”

Five of these men can trace their Willis ancestry with a high degree of confidence back to a John Willis who came to Maryland from the U.K. circa 1700. The sixth man cannot identify a Willis ancestor earlier than 1800. Fortunately, his extremely close genetic match to the other five men makes it a virtual certainty that they share a common ancestor fairly recently, three centuries being “fairly recent” in genetic time. He would be justified in concluding that he is probably also descended from John Willis of Maryland.

Y-DNA testing can also disprove relationships. That leads us to the famous Rankin legend inscribed on a bronze tablet in the Mt. Horeb Presbyterian Cemetery in Jefferson County, Tennessee. You can read the entire inscription concerning this piece of family lore in this article. The tablet says this in part, elided to focus on information relevant to this article:

“William Rankin had … sons, Adam [and] John … Adam married Mary Steele … [and] John … had two sons, Thomas and Richard, and eight daughters.”

If you are a Rankin researcher, you probably know that an Adam Rankin who died in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania in 1747 definitely married Mary Steele Alexander, widow of James Alexander. You also know that a John Rankin who died in Lancaster in 1749 left a will naming two sons, Thomas and Richard, and eight daughters.

In short, the Mt. Horeb tablet legend includes the belief that Adam Rankin (wife Mary Steele Alexander) and John Rankin (who had sons Richard and Thomas) of Lancaster were brothers. However, DNA is a fly in that ointment.

Six descendants of the John Rankin who died in Lancaster in 1749 have Y-DNA tested and belong to the Rankin Family DNA Project. They are a close genetic match. Their ancestry “paper trails” are solid. All six are descended from John’s son Thomas.[3]

The Rankin Project also has two participants who descend from Adam Rankin and Mary Steele. They are a 67-marker match with a GD = 5, which is not a very close match. The odds are only slightly better than even that they share a common ancestor within the last eight generations, about 200 years. One man’s “paper trail” back to Adam and Mary Steele Rankin is good as gold. The other man’s chart has one weak link in primary evidence, although it is established by convincing secondary and circumstantial evidence. It could be that these two men do not both descend from Adam and Mary, and, instead, their common ancestor is on the other side of the Atlantic. Having researched Adam’s line ad nauseam, I believe that is unlikely. Rather, those two men are almost certainly both descended from Adam and Mary Steele Rankin. Their five mismatched markers are evidently the result of random mutations in the male line after Adam.

In any event, the two men who (IMO) descend from Adam and Mary Steele Rankin are not a Y-DNA match with the six men who descend from John. A reasonable (perhaps inescapable) conclusion, based solely on DNA evidence, is that John and Adam Rankin of Lancaster were not brothers. Perhaps, you may say, they had different mothers? That theory won’t fly, because it doesn’t matter from whom John and Adam inherited their X chromosomes. We are dealing with Y chromosomes, and the Y-DNA of their descendants who have tested says that John d. 1749 and Adam d. 1747 did not have the same father.

This has implications further up the ancestral line. Both sets of descendants believe that their ancestor Adam or John was a son of a William Rankin, and that William was a son of an Alexander Rankin. Both claim the legend memorialized on the Mt. Horeb tablet.

Based on the limited genetic evidence available, they cannot both be correct. A puckish question: which line gets to claim the Mt. Horeb legend?

Evidence in actual records about Adam or John’s parents would be wonderful, but I don’t know anyone who has found any. Lacking “paper” evidence, we need to find another descendant of Adam and Mary Steele Rankin to Y-DNA test and confirm these tentative conclusions. We also need a descendant of John’s son Richard to test to help establish a Y-DNA profile for that important Rankin line.

Is there anyone reading this who has a male Rankin relative who hasn’t tested? For heaven’s sake, woman, throw him down on the floor and swab his cheek! Even if he isn’t descended from Adam and Mary Steele Rankin, or from John’s son Richard, the results of his test will almost certainly help him (and possibly others as well) learn more about his or her Rankin family history.

Seriously. Whatever your surname may be, if you are interested in your family history, consider  purchasing a Y-DNA test (if you are a male) from FTDNA. For the record, I’m not on the FTDNA payroll, and it is the only testing firm that offers Y chromosome tests. Start with a 37-marker test. You can always upgrade to additional markers later without having to test again. If you have reservations, please contact me and let’s talk!

Meanwhile, I’ll be out there looking for another descendant of Adam and Mary … and a descendant of John’s son Richard …

See you on down the road.

Robin

[1] There is a spectrum of gender identity from male to female that involves questions beyond both the scope of this article and my expertise. I’m using “male” and “female” as though those are the only options, which is an oversimplification.

[2] A “marker” is a Short Tandem Repeat. I think. They get counted in a Y-DNA test.

[3] The Rankin DNA Project needs a descendant of John’s son Richard to Y-DNA test.

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.

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[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.