UPDATE: Rankin DNA Project Families, August 2021

This article is about Rankin families whose descendants participate in the Rankin DNA Project. It is a long read with numerous sources in footnotes, but that is the nature of the beast. It will be easy to find families of interest to you.

Two things stand out among the details. First, colonial Rankin families produced a considerable number of Revolutionary War soldiers. This is no surprise, because the Scots-Irish had little love for the British. Second, Rankin immigrants’ Presbyterianism frequently persisted for several generations. That was so often the case I concluded that non-Presbyterian Rankin immigrants may have come to the colonies from England rather than Ulster or Scotland.

Here are some Project basics. It began in 2006 with two Y-DNA test participants descended from the same immigrant ancestor. Fifteen years later, 75 of the 212 Project members are Y-DNA test participants[1] whose surname is Rankin or whose Y-DNA proves they are genetic Rankins.[2] The results identify nine genetic lineages comprised of at least eighteen different Rankin family ancestors.

Growth notwithstanding, the Project needs work. Some Y-DNA participants don’t yet have a match in the Project. That’s a concern because DNA is now an important tool for identifying ancestors. Little is known about some Y-DNA participants’ families. And the Project website isn’t always timely updated to add new information. Addressing these issues requires more Y-DNA testing, research, and administrative time. This is not criticism of Project administrators – I am one. It’s just a fact.[3]

This article treats the nine lineages and their component families unevenly. It contains considerable information and a wealth of supporting documentation for some families. Others receive cursory treatment, or none at all, pending further research. I must also apologize to Rankin daughters: my research is focused almost exclusively on the male line.

So that you may quickly identify lineages of interest to you, here are the earliest known families in each:

Lineage 1 – Robert and Rebecca Rankin of Guilford, NC, David and Margaret Rankin of Iredell, NC, and Joseph and Rebecca Rankin of New Castle, DE.

Lineage 2 – John Rankin of Lancaster, PA, Samuel and Eleanor (“Ellen”) Alexander Rankin of Lincoln, NC, David and Jennet McCormick Rankin of Frederick, VA, and William Rankin Sr. of Fayette, PA.

Lineage 3 – David Rankin Sr. of Greene, TN.

Lineage 4 – Three members. No writeup is included in this report pending further research.

Lineage 5 – Chambers Rankin of Bedford, PA, James Rankin of Ayrshire, Scotland and County Tyrone, Ireland, and Michael Rankin of County Tyrone.

Lineage 6 – Lt. Robert and Margaret (“Peggy”) Berry Rankin of VA, KY, AL, TX, and LA, John and Elizabeth Clay Rankin of Henderson, KY, Moses and Mary (“Polly”) Gill Rankin of Mason, KY, and John Rankin of Stafford, VA.

Lineage 7 – Two members. One identifies his earliest Rankin ancestor as John Rankin of Lochaber, Inverness, Scotland. Reporting awaits further research and testing.

Lineage 8 – Two members. William O. Rankin Sr. of SC is the earliest Rankin ancestor of one of them. No report pending further research and testing.

Lineage 9 – Adam and Mary Steele Alexander Rankin of Lancaster, PA.

Let’s jump in …

Lineage 1

Lineage 1 (“L1”) has two sub-lineages: L1A, Robert and Rebecca Rankin of Guilford County, North Carolina, and L1B, Joseph and Rebecca Rankin of New Castle County, Delaware. Robert was definitely the original Rankin immigrant in his line. Joseph was probably the original immigrant in his. The common Rankin ancestor for Robert and Joseph is unknown. Both Y-DNA results and traditional paper research indicate virtually no chance of a common ancestor in the colonies. He probably exists around 1400, plus or minus a century, almost certainly in Scotland.

Lineage 1A

Robert and Rebecca Rankin of Guilford came to the colonies about 1750 from the Irish province of Ulster, County Donegal, Letterkenny Parish. That information is from an impeccable source: the autobiography of Rev. John Rankin,  a grandson.[4] Rev. John was an ordained Presbyterian minister who converted to Shakerism and founded a famous Shaker colony in Kentucky. Robert and Rebecca’s family also produced at least three Revolutionary War soldiers. Two survived the war. A third died at the Battle of Ramsour’s Mill in Lincoln County, North Carolina. Like most Scots-Irish immigrants, this was a family of farmers and (except for Shaker Rev. John) staunch Presbyterians.

The Guilford Rankins belonged to the Buffalo Presbyterian Church in what is now Greensboro, North Carolina. Many Rankins are buried in the church graveyard;[5] Reverend Samuel Meek Rankin wrote a history of the church.[6] There is no extant marker for either Robert, who died about 1770-73, or Rebecca.[7]

Robert’s first appearance in colonial records was probably on the 1753 Chester County, Pennsylvania tax list.[8] That same year, he and his son George also began turning up in North Carolina deed records.[9] Robert and Rebecca’s children were undoubtedly adults by the time they arrived in Pennsylvania. Two sons, Robert (died in 1795) and George (died in 1760) are proved. There is good circumstantial evidence in the Rowan and Guilford records for other children. They include a son John Rankin and daughters Ann Rankin Denny (husband William Sr.), Margaret Rankin Braly or Brawley (husband John), and Rebecca Rankin Boyd (husband John).

Robert and Rebecca’s son Robert  died in Guilford in 1795, leaving a son George and five daughters.[10] The identity of his wife is controversial.[11] Robert’s brother George died in 1760, leaving two young sons, including the future Shaker Rev. John Rankin and his younger brother Robert. George’s wife was Lydia Steele, who married Arthur Forbis/Forbes after George died.[12]

Lineage 1A also includes the line of David Rankin (wife Margaret MNU) who died in Iredell County, North Carolina in 1789.[13] David may have been a son of Robert and Rebecca of Guilford. Two descendants of David and Margaret have Y-DNA tested, and the results show a close match to Robert and Rebecca’s line. Y-DNA doesn’t reveal the nature of the family relationship.

Iredell David and Margaret had two sons, Robert and James, and a daughter, Elizabeth Rankin McCrary (husband Samuel). James died at the Battle of Ramsour’s Mill.[14] He left four children whose guardian in Lincoln County was John Alexander, a brother of James’ widow.[15]

Robert Rankin’s wife was named Jean, possibly Jean Denny of Guilford County.[16]  In the late 1820s, Robert moved from Iredell to Gibson County, Tennessee.[17] He filed a Revolutionary War pension application there. His relative Robert Rankin, a grandson of Robert and Rebecca of Guilford, was also a Revolutionary War veteran.

Robert and Jean Rankin’s sons James (wife Elizabeth McMin) and Denny (wife Sarah McMin) remained in North Carolina. Both sons and their wives are buried in the Centre Presbyterian Church cemetery near Mooresville, as is their mother Jean.[18]

Lineage 1B

Joseph and Rebecca Rankin of Delaware had six sons, four of whom served in the Revolution. According to family tradition, two sons were in the 1781  Battle of Guilford Courthouse.  Shortly before the battle, British soldiers took “all the grain, cattle, sheep, hogs, and fowls (except one old setting hen) from both [Rankin] plantations.”[19] Two other sons of Joseph and Rebecca, a Lieutenant and a private, served in Capt. Walter Carson’s company in the Delaware line. In civilian life, Joseph and Rebecca’s family were farmers and, of course, Presbyterians.[20]

Joseph (1704 – 1764) arrived in the colonies about 1730, roughly two decades earlier than his kinsman Robert Rankin of Guilford. The approximate time Joseph arrived suggests he migrated from Ulster, although he may well have been born in Scotland.[21] He is probably the Joseph Rankin taxed as a “freeman” (unmarried and not a landowner) on the 1729[22] and 1730[23] tax lists for London Britain Township in Chester County, Pennsylvania. In 1731, Joseph acquired a tract on White Clay Creek in New Castle County, Delaware, just a stone’s throw from London Britain.[24]

Joseph and Rebecca had at least one daughter in addition to their six sons. Four sons –  Joseph Jr., Thomas, William and John – are proved by deeds.[25] Two sons, Robert and James, are established by circumstantial evidence.[26] A daughter Ann Rankin is proved by the will of her brother Joseph (Jr.).[27]

Based on the birth dates of three sons,[28] Joseph and Rebecca’s children were born in Delaware. Two of their sons – John and William, the ones whose farms were plundered by British soldiers  – moved to Guilford County, North Carolina.[29] Descendants of both John and William  have tested and are an excellent Y-DNA match.[30]

Joseph Jr.[31] and Thomas[32] remained in New Castle County. Joseph Jr. apparently had no surviving children; he left his estate to two nephews and his sister.[33] Son Thomas left five children.[34]  Probable son James was likely the Revolutionary War soldier who filed a pension application and left a will in Washington County, Pennsylvania.[35] I was not able to trace probable son Robert.

Joseph (Sr.) is buried at Head of Christiana Presbyterian Church in Newark, New Castle County. His 1764 tombstone still exists.[36] His wife Rebecca’s maiden name is unproved. She and William Rankin, a son, were administrators of Joseph’s estate.[37]

Lineage 2

Rankin Lineage 2 (“L2”) is the largest group in the Rankin DNA Project. As of August 2021, there are twenty-five participants whose Y-DNA places them in L2. The families in L2 are diverse, although Y-DNA results are not. The L2 members are fairly close matches, suggesting a common ancestor about 400-500 years ago, almost certainly in Scotland or Ulster. The Y-DNA results for L2 members are so similar that paper research is the only reliable way to assign members to sub-lineages.

L2 has three sub-lineages designated L2A, B, and C. There are also eight “one of a kind” L2 members (“L2U”) who are not assigned to one of the sub-lineages. None of the L2U members (so far as is known) share an ancestor with any other L2 member. Some members of L2U are “one of a kind” because they have not provided information about their Rankin line, although they may well belong in one of the L2 sub-lineages or share a common ancestor with another L2U member.

The three L2 sub-lineages are (1) L2A, John Rankin who died in 1749 in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, (2) L2B, Samuel and Eleanor (“Ellen”) Alexander Rankin of Lincoln County, North Carolina, and (3) L2C, two families, David and Jenette McCormick Rankin of Frederick, Virginia, and William and Mary Rankin of Fayette, Pennsylvania.

Lineage 2A

This is the Rankin family memorialized on the famous tablet in the Mt. Horeb Presbyterian Church cemetery in Jefferson County, Tennessee. The Mt. Horeb church was organized in 1841 with four ordained elders, two of whom were Rankins. The land on which the original church was built was donated by another Rankin.

L2A includes Hazel Townsend, the Project Administrator who single-handedly started the Project fifteen years ago with two of her relatives as the first Y-DNA participants. She and her Rankin relatives hold a reunion at the Mt. Horeb church every year during the second weekend in July.

The original immigrant in this line was John Rankin, who died in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania in 1749. Family oral history on the Mt. Horeb tablet identifies John’s wife as Jane McElwee, although John’s will named his wife Margaret. John’s will also named his sons Thomas and Richard, six daughters, and two sons-in-law.[38]

All of the L2A members are descended from John’s son Thomas. The Mt. Horeb tablet says that Thomas  was a Revolutionary War Captain, although that is likely a case of “same name confusion.” Thomas lived in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania,[39] moved to Augusta County, Virginia,[40] then to east Tennessee.[41] John’s other son, Richard, moved from Cumberland[42] to Augusta and died there.[43]

According to family oral tradition, John was a son of William Rankin and grandson of Alexander Rankin of the Scotland Killing Times and the 1689 Siege of Londonderry – the legend inscribed on a tablet in the Mt. Horeb Presbyterian Church cemetery in Jefferson County, Tennessee. [44] I have not found anyone having evidence that John was a son of William and that William was a son of Alexander.

An interesting question about John’s lineage concerns the Adam Rankin who died in 1747 in Lancaster County.[45] Two Project participants are Adam’s descendants. Based on Y-DNA results, they are assigned to Lineage 9. Neither man matches a descendant of John. However, family oral tradition for both Adam’s line (L9) and John’s line (L2A) say that Adam and John were brothers. However, Y-DNA proves that John and Adam did not have the same father. Here is the ticklish part: if John and Adam were not brothers, which line – John’s or Adam’s – can claim the Mt. Horeb legend and its Rankin ancestors?

Lineage 2B

Lineage 2B is the line of Samuel and Eleanor (“Ellen”) Alexander Rankin of south-central North Carolina. A descendant told me he was called “Old One-Eyed Sam.” She heard the story as a child from an older Rankin relative who inherited Sam’s home. Unfortunately, the homeowner had no idea how Sam lost an eye.

Sam’s name is on a D.A.R. plaque honoring “Revolutionary soldiers” that was once on the wall at Goshen Grove Presbyterian Cemetery in Belmont, North Carolina. Sam was buried there.[46] Some Rankin researchers believe the D.A.R. honored him for providing supplies to the army, a contemporary practice. A blue-haired D.A.R. lady in Houston turned up her nose at that, condescendingly comparing those who merely provided supplies to “real” soldiers. She may have had a point, although soldiers did have to eat, and one-eyed soldiers probably weren’t famous for marksmanship.

The pension application of Sam and Eleanor’s son William doesn’t exactly burnish the family’s military reputation.[47] William was in the  Battle of Camden, a humiliating defeat in which many patriot soldiers cut and ran. His unit arrived a day late for the Battle of Ramsour’s Mill. He was also in the  Battle of Eutaw Springs,  another British victory. On the other hand, William was in the small-ish  Battle of Colson’s Mill,  a patriot victory.

The best I can do for Old One-Eyed Sam and Eleanor is clear up online misinformation about them.[48] For example, some researchers believe Sam was a son of Robert and Rebecca Rankin of Guilford County (Lineage 1A) or, alternatively, a son of Joseph Rankin of Delaware (Lineage 1B). Both possibilities are foreclosed by Y-DNA results..  There is no known evidence of Samuel’s parents.

Some researchers believe that Sam and Eleanor were married in Pennsylvania. That doesn’t work. Eleanor’s parents James and Ann Alexander were in Anson County by 1753. James made deeds of gift to five of his six children, including “Elener,” before he died in 1753.[49] Sam and Eleanor were probably married about 1760, almost certainly in Rowan County. Their eldest child, the Revolutionary War soldier William, was born there in January 1761.[50]

Sam’s will gave eight of his nine surviving children a token bequest and left the bulk of his estate to his son James.[51] His son  Richard Rankin  predeceased him.[52] Sam’s tombstone in the Goshen Grove Presbyterian Cemetery in Belmont is missing, as is the D.A.R. plaque. A WPA cemetery survey taken in the 1930s recorded the dates on his tombstone as 1734 – 1816.[53]

Sam and Eleanor’s children who did not remain in North Carolina moved to Tennessee or Illinois; grandchildren scattered to the four winds.[54] One descendant had a town in Upton County, Texas, named for him. Rankin, Upton County, Texas has an old corrugated tin building painted with images of Augustus “Gus” McCrae and Woodrow F. Call from “Lonesome Dove.” Call is taking a selfie of the duo. Two other descendants of Sam and Eleanor are currently members of the same Presbyterian church in Houston, Texas. They discovered their kinship after they had known each other for almost a decade.

Lineage 2C

Lineage 2C members are descended from either David Sr. and Jennett McCormick Rankin of Frederick County, Virginia or William Rankin Sr. of Fayette County, Pennsylvania. The common Rankin ancestor of David Sr. and William Sr. is not known.

There isn’t much information about David Sr. and Jennett in the Frederick County records. A book containing the genealogy of one of their sons says that David Sr. “emigrated from the north of Ireland … about 1738-50.”[55] His 1757 will named his wife Jennett and children Hugh, William, David Jr. and Barbara.[56]

Two sons, David Jr. and William, left Frederick and were easy to trace. I have not been able to track Hugh’s line with confidence. David Jr. married Hannah Province or Provence, daughter of Thomas Province, in Frederick County.[57] The couple moved from Frederick to Washington County, Pennsylvania and then to Harrison County, Kentucky, where David Jr. died.[58] David Jr.’s brother William and his wife Abigail also moved from Frederick to Washington County. William died there in 1799, leaving eight surviving children.[59]

The second family in L2C is the line of William Rankin Sr. of Fayette County, Pennsylvania. William Sr.’s will was dated 1794 and named his children James, Hugh, William Jr., and Elizabeth Rankin Gillespie (husband William Sr.).[60]

One writer said that James had serious “financial troubles” and “removed to the west,” although I don’t know where.[61] James executed an agreement with several creditors that contained so many conditions it made Enron look like a more secure credit risk.[62]  Creditors named in a second deed were all members of his family.[63]

James’ brothers Hugh (wife Esther) and William Jr. (wife Jane) remained in Fayette and apparently stayed out of financial trouble.[64] There is no doubt this was a Scots-Irish Presbyterian family. Many of their descendants are buried in the Associate Reformed Cemetery and the Laurel Hill Presbyterian Cemeteries.

Three of Hugh and Esther’s children moved “west;” their fourth child, Thomas, remained in Fayette.[65]William Jr. and Jane Rankin’s family Bible has names and birth death dates for eleven children, many of whom also remained in Fayette County.[66] Descendants of the Thomas Rankin who is buried in the McCoy Cemetery in Londonderry Township, Guernsey County, Ohio believe he is the same man as Thomas, son of William Jr. and Jane Rankin.[67] Two descendants have tested and are Y-DNA matches with descendants of David Sr. and Jennett McCormick Rankin of Frederick County, Virginia.

Lineage 3

This lineage has a known common ancestor for its four participants: David Rankin Sr. who died in Greene County, Tennessee in 1802. His will identified seven children but not his wife, who evidently predeceased him.[68] David Sr. was reportedly among the “Overmountain Men” who fought in the Revolutionary War Battle of King’s Mountain, a decisive victory for the patriot forces.

David Rankin Sr.’s home in Greene County is listed in the National Registry of Historic Places.[69] Some researchers (including whomever filed the National Registry application) believe that David Sr. was a son of the William Rankin who died in 1792 in Franklin County, Pennsylvania and his wife Mary Huston. That possibility is negated by both Y-DNA and paper evidence, including William and Mary Huston Rankin’s family Bible. David, son of William and Mary, moved to Des Moines County, Iowa rather than Greene, Tennessee. A descendant of William and Mary Huston Rankin who has Y-DNA tested does not match the L3 participants.

An interesting question is where David Sr. lived before coming to Greene County in 1783. A friend and excellent researcher who is a descendant is certain that David Sr. of Greene was the same man as the David Rankin who received a 1771 land patent in Bedford County, Virginia. He is probably right. I still have doubts. Bedford County David Rankin was a Quaker,[70] conflicting with the Presbyterianism of David Sr.’s children.[71] It is also hard to reconcile Quaker pacificism with David Sr.’s participation in the battle of King’s Mountain.

David Rankin Sr. of  Greene County, Tennessee may have been the immigrant ancestor in his line.

Lineage 5

Rankin Lineage 5 has four members who come from three families. Their common ancestor is not known. L5 is archetypal Rankin, tracing ancestors back to the province of Ulster in Ireland and Ayrshire in Scotland.

Chambers Rankin is the earliest ancestor in the only L5 family without proved roots in Ulster, although he was undoubtedly Scots-Irish. The family tradition is that his wife was Native American. Their only child was Franklin R. Rankin (1834 – 1878), a Civil War soldier. Portions of his diary are used in a book about two communities in the war, including Franklin County, Pennsylvania.[72]

Chambers died at age 30 in 1835 in Bedford County, Pennsylvania and is buried in the Old Log Cabin Union Church Cemetery near Schellsburg, Pennsylvania.[73] He had three known siblings: (1) Martha Rankin Bisel, born in 1818, buried in Harrison City Presbyterian Cemetery in Westmoreland County; (2) John C. Rankin, 1805-1897, buried in the same cemetery; and (3) Culbertson Rankin, born about 1793. Their parents may have been David Rankin and his wife Martha Culbertson of Westmoreland County. The Rankin Project needs a descendant of David and Martha to Y-DNA test in order to prove the ancestry of this line.

Another L5 participant still resides in County Down, Northern Ireland, in the traditional province of Ulster. The earliest known Rankin ancestor for this line is Michael Rankin, who died in County Down in 1722.

James and Rosana Rankin, the earliest ancestors in the third L5 family, are buried in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland. Descendants have located the family acreage and home, a charming farmhouse with a traditional thatched roof. James and Rosana are buried in the Old Donagheady Burial Ground in County Tyrone along with a son. The tombstone is inscribed “Sacred to the memory of James Rankin of Carrickatain who died Nov. 1835, aged 80 years. Also Rosana, his wife, Oct 1834 and his son William, died 29 Jan 1866 age 66.”[74]

William’s widow Matilda and children migrated to Perry County, Alabama. Several are buried in the Marion Cemetery there. The tombstones for Matilda Rankin and her son Anthony state that he or she was born in County Tyrone.[75]

Lineage 6

Lineage 6 has two men who men with fascinating Revolutionary War stories. L6 may have a common Rankin ancestor in the Northern Neck of Virginia, where Rankins began appearing in the late 1600s.[76] They migrated westward, primarily in counties on the south side of the Potomac River.[77] By the 1770s, Rankins had appeared in many of Virginia’s Northern Neck counties and into the area that became Berkeley and Morgan Counties, West Virginia. Given their early arrival in the colonies, they may have come from England rather than Scotland or Ulster. Further, the Northern Neck Rankins apparently lack the multigenerational Presbyterianism characteristic of  Scots-Irish  immigrants.

The  earliest known Rankin ancestor for each of the six L6 participants was born in Virginia. Four of the L6 lines lived in Frederick County; one lived in Stafford County. The Virginia county origin of the sixth L6 ancestor is unknown, although his birth in Virginia is established.

Robert Rankin (1753-1837) and his wife Margaret (“Peggy”) Berry are the ancestors of three people in Lineage 6. Robert was a Lieutenant in the Revolutionary War and is buried in the Texas State Cemetery in Austin. His brother William was also a Revolutionary War soldier.. The two Rankins originally enlisted in Hugh Stephenson’s Maryland and Virginia Rifle Company, an elite unit of sharpshooters. William was captured at the Battle of Ft. Washington and endured a lengthy imprisonment in brutal conditions. Upon release, an officer and family friend sent him home to Virginia in a wagon. Lt. Robert  also has a remarkable military history. He survived the famous winter at Valley Forge and was captured at the Siege of Charleston.

Lt. Robert, William, and John Rankin, another brother, all lived in Mason County, Kentucky. They may have had other siblings, but the Northern Neck Rankins are hard to pin down. The brothers’ parents are unproved, although speculative theories abound. William[78] and John[79] died in Mason County. Lt. Robert left Mason and lived in Logan County, Kentucky, Washington County, Alabama (then part of the Mississippi Territory), Texas while it was still part of Mexico, and St. Landry Parish, Louisiana. His wife Peggy’s pension application and her will prove she and Lt. Robert had 10 children.[80]

Lt. Robert and Peggy’s line is unusual in several respects. First, one descendant is established by a combination of autosomal and Y-DNA testing. Second, two of their descendants have an unusual unknown in their line. They know they are descended from a son of Robert and Peggy, but which of two sons is unknown. Third, those two members’ descent from Lt. Robert and Peggy is convincingly established by Texas land records written in Spanish.

Here are the details. Two of Robert Rankin’s sons, Thomas Berry Rankin and Joseph Rankin, died at the Battle of Ft. Mims, Alabama in 1813.[81] There seems to be no evidence of childrens’ names in Alabama records. Fortunately, Texas land grants help fill the evidentiary gap. Lt. Robert’s 1834 land grant in Joseph Vehlein’s colony[82] in Texas (then part of Mexico) states that he came to Texas with “mi mujer y tres huerfanos” – his wife and three orphans.[83]

Texas land grant records also include character certificates[84] for two men named William Rankin and James Rankin. Each identified himself in his character certificate as an orphan from Alabama. They were the right age to be sons of the Ft. Mims casualties. Because of the lack of Alabama evidence, it is uncertain which Ft. Mims soldier was either orphan’s father. Both orphans have a proved descendant in the project. One, a descendant of Orphan William, has Y-DNA tested and is a match to Lineage 6. He is an autosomal match to a proved female descendant of Orphan James. And that’s a really fine example of the value of DNA testing.

John Rankin (died in 1841) of Henderson County, Kentucky is the only L6 ancestor who cannot be placed in a specific Virginia County. There were two Rankin lines in Henderson County in the 1800s. Dr. Adam Rankin, a grandson of Adam and Mary Steele Alexander Rankin of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, was the patriarch of one Henderson County family. A descendant of his has tested and belongs in Lineage 9. Dr. Adam’s line can be distinguished from the L6 Rankin family based on Henderson tax lists.

John and his wife Elizabeth Clay Rankin were the second Henderson County Rankin family. A census says that John was born in Virginia,[85] but I have found no evidence of the county. John and Elizabeth’s children are established by a convincing web of connections in county records.[86] Among their children was an interesting character named Abia Benjamin, who traded a flatboat for land and subsequently amassed substantial acreage by bidding on adjoining tracts. He also planted a huge orchard which bore apples useless for anything except making cider. He gave the fruit to all comers. There is a picture of Abia at this link. at this link.

Moses Rankin (died in 1845) is the earliest known Rankin ancestor of a third L6 family. He lived in Frederick County and perhaps other Virginia counties, including Loudoun.[87] He migrated to Mason County, Kentucky, possibly from Frederick. His Mason County will named his wife Mary and a son William. He mentioned “my children” without providing their given names and a farm in Nicholas County.[88] His wife was Mary (“Polly”) Gill. They married in Mason County in 1795.[89]

A second John Rankin (born by 1766) who lived in Stafford County is the remaining L6 ancestor. His whereabouts prior to Stafford are unknown. Some of Stafford John’s family apparently moved to Licking County, Ohio. A descendant of the Licking County family who identifies Stafford John as an ancestor is a Y-DNA match with the Northern Neck Rankin descendants.

Lineage 9

Only two members of the Project who have tested have solid paper trails proving their descent from Adam Rankin and Mary Steele Alexander of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. The two men are a Y-DNA match, although not a close one. One man is descended from Dr. Adam Rankin of Franklin County, Pennsylvania and Henderson County, Kentucky. Dr. Adam was a son of William and Mary Huston Rankin of Franklin and grandson of Adam and Mary. The other L9 member is descended from Reverend Adam Rankin of Lexington, Kentucky. Rev. Adam was a son of Adam and Mary Steele Rankin’s son Jeremiah Rankin.

Adam and Mary have some interesting descendants. They include Rev. Adam of Lexington, who established a Presbyterian congregation there and is known for his obsession with a theological issue known as “Psalmody.” Adam and Mary’s line also includes Confederate Brigadier General Adam Rankin “Stovepipe” Johnson, famous for capturing an Ohio town during the Civil War without firing a shot. He used a clever ruse involving, of course, a stovepipe. Descendants also include Revolutionary War veterans, many doctors, two professional baseball players, the Chairman of the Board of Churchill Downs, and the editor of a Texas newspaper. With such an abundance of interesting characters, I have written about this line often. If you are a descendant, you might be interested in some of the articles about Adam’s line identified in this link.  

Adam and Mary’s three proved sons – James, William, and Jeremiah – lived in the part of Lancaster County that became Cumberland and then Franklin County. James died in 1795, leaving six children and a wife Jean, maiden name unproved.[90] William married Mary Huston and died in Franklin in 1792.[91]

Jeremiah married Rhoda Craig and died in 1760 in a mill accident. He left four sons, including Rev. Adam Rankin of future Psalmody fame. All four sons (Rev. Adam, Jeremiah, William, and Thomas) went to Fayette and Woodford Counties, Kentucky. So far as I have found, the only county record in which Jeremiah Rankin appeared was the Lancaster County 1747 will of his father Adam.

If you are a male Rankin descendant of Adam and Mary Steele Alexander, I hope that you will do a Y-DNA test and join the Rankin DNA Project. Please contact me for information and anything I can do to help! This important line warrants further testing.

And that’s all the news that is currently fit to print. Your comments, questions, and corrections are most welcome.

See you on down the road with, I hope, exciting news in 2022.

Robin Rankin Willis

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[1] The Project website doesn’t show a total of 75 Y-DNA test results. That is because some participants do not permit FTDNA to display Y-DNA results, despite anonymity. If you are considering testing, please be assured that Y-DNA information is identified on the website only by FTDNA kit number to safeguard privacy.

[2] Y-DNA participants include men who were adopted and have a surname other than Rankin, although their biological fathers were Rankins.

[3] The Rankin DNA Project needs additional administrative help. Please contact me if you are interested in grouping members into lineages, doing occasional research, maintaining and creating material for the Project website, identifying lines which need testing, or recruiting men to test. None of those things are difficult. They just need to be shared.

[4] Rev. John Rankin (1757-1850) found his Presbyterian faith emotionally unsatisfying and became a Shaker. A transcription of his autobiography is available from the Library Special Collections department of Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green.

[5] Raymond Dufau Donnelly, Buffalo Presbyterian Church and Cemetery (Greensboro: The Guilford County Genealogical Society, 1994). Mr. Donnell’s book contains tombstone inscriptions and many relationship identifications. It is meticulously sourced.

[6] Rev. S. M. Rankin, History of Buffalo Presbyterian Church and Her People: Greensboro, N.C. (J. J. Stone & Co., Printers, 1934).

[7] Find-a-Grave has a number of Rankin tombstone images at Buffalo Church, as well as several fanciful claims. https://www.findagrave.com/cemetery/1987536/memorial-search?firstname=&middlename=&lastname=Rankin&cemeteryName=Buffalo+Presbyterian+Church+Cemetery&birthyear=&birthyearfilter=&deathyear=&deathyearfilter=&memorialid=&mcid=&linkedToName=&datefilter=&orderby=r&page=2#sr-161801342. In the latter category, the website has the patriarch Robert Rankin’s name (no tombstone image) listed as Robert Estes Rankin. My opinion of that claim is unprintable.

[8] Robert and George Rankin were on the 1753 Chester Co. tax list for West Nottingham Township. J. Smith Futhey and Gilbert Cope, History of Chester County, Pennsylvania (Philadelphia: Louis H. Everts, 1881), reproduction facsimile by Chester County Historical Society (Mt. Vernon, IN: Windmill Publications, Inc., 1996).

[9] Shaker Rev. John Rankin’s autobiography says the family came to NC in 1755. The first deeds I found to which Robert was a party were executed in 1753. E.g., Rowan Co., NC Deed Book 2: 102, Granville grant to Robert Rankin dated 1 Dec 1753, 480 acres on the south side of Brushy Fork in a part of Rowan that later became Guilford. Robert and Rebecca gave that tract to their son George, see Rowan Co. Deed Book 2: 70, Robert Rankin and wife Rebecca to George Rankin, 480 acres on the south side of Brushy Fork for five shillings. The token consideration of five shillings flags the conveyance as a gift.

[10] Guilford Co., NC Will Book A: 318, will of Robert Rankin dated and proved in 1795. It named his son George, three sons of his deceased daughter Mary Rankin Wilson, and a daughter Isabel Rankin. Two other daughters are proved by the terms of the will but are not identified by name. Robert’s 1795 will identifies the testator as Robert Sr., perhaps causing some researchers to wrongly conclude the will was that of Robert, the original immigrant. See discussion of that issue at this link. http://digupdeadrelatives.com/2016/05/28/the-rankins-of-guilford-county-nc-the-mistake-identity-of-the-robert-rankin-who-died-there-in-1795/

[11] I believe the wife of the Robert Rankin who died in 1795 is unproved. Some researchers identify her as Jean Denny, see Note 16. I disagree because I believe the Robert who d. 1795 was Jean Denny’s uncle. Jean’s parents were William Denny Sr. and Ann Rankin Denny. Ann was a daughter of Robert and Rebecca, proved by a gift deed of land from her father Robert to her husband. William Denny’s will named his wife Ann and a daughter Jean Denny. Their daughter Jean was the only Jean Denny I found in Guilford who was of marriageable age in 1775, when she married a Robert Rankin.

[12] Guilford Co., NC Will Book A: 119, will of Arthur Forbis dated 1789, proved 1794. Executors were John and Robert Rankin, identified by the testator as his stepsons.

[13] Iredell Co., NC Will Book A: 200, will of David Rankin of Rowan Co. dated March 1787, proved 1789. Iredell was created from Rowan Co. in 1788.

[14] The evidence that James Rankin, son of Iredell David, died at Ramsour’s Mill is lengthy and difficult. See a discussion in this article. http://digupdeadrelatives.com/2017/01/18/the-mysterious-robert-rankin-of-gibson-county-tn/

[15] Anne Williams McAllister & Kathy Gunter Sullivan, Civil Action Papers, 1771-1806, of the Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions, Lincoln County, North Carolina (Lenoir, NC: 1989), April 1791, guardian bond of John Alexander as guardian of David, Jane, Margaret, and William Rankin, orphans of James Rankin, deceased.

[16] Some Robert Rankin married Jean Denny in Guilford in February 1775. Frances T. Ingmire, Guilford County North Carolina Marriage Records 1771-1868 Volume III Names O-Z (Athens, GA: Iberian Publishing Co., 1984). Many Rankin researchers believe the 1775 groom was the son of Robert and Rebecca of Guilford. However, that Robert was probably Jean Denny’s uncle. I believe the man who married Jean Denny was Iredell David and Margaret’s son Robert. See http://digupdeadrelatives.com/2019/08/06/robert-rankins-guilford-county-nc/  Robert and Jean Rankin of Iredell named a son Denny.

[17] See the article about Robert Rankin of Gibson Co., TN at http://digupdeadrelatives.com/2017/01/18/the-mysterious-robert-rankin-of-gibson-county-tn/.

[18] See Lois M. P. Schneider, Church and Family Cemeteries of Iredell County, N.C. (1992). There are five Rankin graves in the Centre Presbyterian Church cemetery: Jean, James, Elizabeth (wife of James), “Dennie” [sic, Denny] and Sarah (wife of Denny). Elizabeth and Sarah were sisters, maiden name McMin. See Lincoln Co., NC Will Book 1: 124, will of Rachel McMin of Lincoln dated 1828, proved 1829, naming daughters Elizabeth Rankin and Sarah Rankin.

[19] Rev. S. M. Rankin, The Rankin and Wharton Families and Their Genealogy (Greensboro, N.C., J. J. Stone & Co., printers and binders, 1931) 22. Rev. Rankin argued convincingly that John and William Rankin fought at Guilford Courthouse. Id. at 255-257.

[20] The members of Joseph and Rebecca’s family who remained in Delaware belonged to and are buried at Head of Christiana Presbyterian Church https://www.findagrave.com/cemetery/191343/memorial-search?firstname=&middlename=&lastname=Rankin&cemeteryName=Head+of+Christiana+Church+Cemetery&birthyear=&birthyearfilter=&deathyear=&deathyearfilter=&memorialid=&mcid=&linkedToName=&datefilter=&orderby=rand White Clay Creek Presbyterian Church in https://www.findagrave.com/cemetery/977816/memorial-search?firstname=&middlename=&lastname=Rankin&cemeteryName=White+Clay+Creek+Church+Cemetery&birthyear=&birthyearfilter=&deathyear=&deathyearfilter=&memorialid=&mcid=&linkedToName=&datefilter=&orderby=rNew Castle County.

[21] One unsourced history says that Joseph came from “Clyde Scotland.” It also claims that Joseph’s children were born in Scotland, which is not correct. Bill and Martha Reamy, Genealogical Abstracts from Biographical and Genealogical History of the State of Delaware (Westminster, MD: Willow Bend Books, 2001). The Find-a-Grave image of Joseph’s tombstone https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/14416262/joseph-rankin says he was born in Ulster. It is also unsourced.

[22] USGenWeb Archives, Chester Co., London Britain Township, 1729 tax list, http://files.usgwarchives.net/pa/chester/taxlists/london1729.txt identifying “Joseph Ranken” as a “freeman.” London Britain Township is in the southeastern corner of Pennsylvania, bordering the MD and DE lines. Strickersville, the largest town in London Britain, is less than four miles from Head of Christiana Presbyterian Church in Newark, where Joseph is buried.

[23] Id., 1730 tax list, http://files.usgwarchives.net/pa/chester/taxlists/london1730.txt.   “Joseph Rinken” was taxed as a freeman in London Britain Township.

[24] I cannot locate the 1731 deed in which Joseph acquired the White Clay Creek tract. The conveyance is proved by recitals in another deed. See New Castle Co., DE Deed Book Y1: 499, deed dated 9 Apr 1768 from John Rankin and wife Hannah of Orange Co., NC (a predecessor county to Guilford) and William Rankin of New Castle Co., DE, grantors, to Thomas Rankin and Joseph Rankin, both of New Castle, grantees, 21.75 acres on the south side of White Clay Creek. The deed recites that James Miller conveyed to Joseph Rankin 150 acres on the south side of White Clay Cr. in 1731. It also recites that Joseph Rankin’s will devised 21.75 acres of that tract to John and William Rankin, who conveyed it to Thomas and Joseph Rankin. I have been unable to find Joseph’s will in the New Castle probate records.

[25] Id.

[26] Both Robert and James Rankin served in Capt. Walter Carson’s militia company in the Delaware 1st Battalion, as did Joseph’s proved son Lt. Thomas Rankin. Henry C. Peden, Jr., Revolutionary Patriots of Delaware 1775-1783(Westminster, MD: Family Line Publications, 1996). Additionally, Joseph Jr., Robert, James, and Lt. Thomas all signed an “Oath of Allegiance” in New Castle. Delaware Archives Revolutionary War in Three Volumes, Volume II (Wilmington: Chas. H. Story Company Press, 1919) 998. Finally, the 1782 tax list for White Clay Creek Hundred lists James immediately adjacent Thomas and Joseph Jr., suggesting the three were living together. Ralph D. Nelson, Jr., Catherine B. Nelson, Thomas P. Doherty, Mary Fallon Richards, John C. Richards, Delaware – 1782 Tax Assessment and Census Lists (Wilmington: Delaware Genealogical Society, 1994).

[27] New Castle Co., DE Will Book S: 116, will of Joseph Rankin (Jr.) dated Oct 1819 proved Jun 1820. Joseph left $100 to his sister Ann and provided that she was to live with “my two nephews Joseph and Thomas Rankin” (sons of Lt. Thomas and Elizabeth Montgomery Rankin).

[28] Rankin, The Rankin and Wharton Families 55, 149. Rev. Rankin gives John’s birth year as 1736 and William’s as 1744. He said both men were born in Delaware. Joseph Sr.’s probable son James Rankin was born in 1749 and lived in Delaware when he enlisted.

[29] Id. Rev. Rankin’s book is the definitive source for descendants of Joseph and Rebecca’s sons John and William Rankin.

[30] Only one of Joseph’s two descendants who have tested participates in the Rankin DNA Project. The non-participant is a Y-DNA match with a member of the Project. I confirmed the non-participant’s descent from Joseph via traditional paper research.

[31] See Note 27, will of Joseph Rankin (Jr.) was probated in New Castle.

[32] New Castle Co., DE Orphans’ Court Book 5, an 1801 petition for sale of part of Thomas Rankin’s land to pay debts. Joseph Rankin Jr. was an administrator of the estate. The petition said Thomas was survived by his widow Elizabeth and five children: Joseph, Hannah, Montgomery, Margaret and Thomas. The eldest was fifteen in 1801.

[33] New Castle Co., Deed Book N5: 7, deed reciting that Joseph Rankin Jr. devised his land to Joseph and Thomas Rankin, sons of Joseph’s brother Thomas. See also Note 27.

[34] See Note 32, petition for sale of land.

[35] Washington Co., PA Will Book 5: 370, will of James Rankin of Smith Township, Washington Co., PA dated 1834, proved 1837. James named his children William, Joseph, John, Martha (“Patty”), Rebeccah, and Mary Rankin. John went to Belmont Co., OH and William went to Delaware Co., OH. James Rankin’s entire pension file is available with a subscription on Fold3 at Ancestry.

[36] Joseph and Rebecca’s son Lt. Thomas is evidently buried in the same grave as Joseph because there is a marker for Thomas at the foot of Joseph’s tombstone. See images at  https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/15494084/thomas-rankin and https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/14416262/joseph-rankin

[37] New Castle Co., DE Orphans’ Court Record for 16 Apr 1765, online at Ancestry.com in Delaware Wills & Probate Records, 1676-1971, Register of Wills, Anna Racine – Lydia Rash, file of “Rankin, Joseph 1765.” The record refers to William and Rebecca Rankin as administrators of Joseph Rankin’s estate rather than as executors of his will. That suggests the will may not have been admitted to probate, which might explain why it doesn’t seem to be recorded in the New Castle will books.

[38] Lancaster Co., PA Will Book J: 211, will of John Rankin dated 1 Jan 1749 and proved 25 Feb 1749/50. Some researchers seek to reconcile the conflict between the family oral history (John’s wife was Jane McElwee) and John’s will (his wife’s name was Margaret) by giving John’s wife a middle name: Jane Margaret McElwee or Margaret Jane McElwee. The overwhelming odds are that a person born circa 1700 did not have a middle name. Another possibility is that John married more than once. A third possibility is that a different John Rankin’s wife was Jane McElwee.

[39] Thomas Rankin was a grand juror in Cumberland, PA in 1752. Diane E. Greene, Cumberland County, Pennsylvania Quarter Session Dockets 1750-1785 (Baltimore: Clearfield Company, Inc. 2000), citing Quarter Sessions Docket 1: 16. Thomas and his wife sold a  Cumberland County tract in 1779. Cumberland Co., PA Deed Book 1E: 511, Thomas and Isabel Rankin of Cumberland to John Rankin of same, 100 acres in  Fermanagh Township on the north side of the Juniata River.

[40] See the pension application of Thomas and Isabel Rankin’s son William transcribed at the end of this article. http://digupdeadrelatives.com/2021/07/10/same-name-confusion-thomas-rankin-of-east-tennessee-and-what-the-heck-is-depreciation-pay/ The pension application relates the family’s migration within Pennsylvania and then to Augusta Co., VA.

[41] See, e.g., Timber Ridge Church: A Two Hundred Year Heritage of Presbyterian Faith 1786-1986 (Greeneville, TN: 1986), identifying Thomas Rankin of Pennsylvania as a church elder. According to the Mt. Horeb tablet, the twelve children of Thomas and Isabel Clendennon Rankin were (1) John 1754-1825 m. Martha Waugh, (2) Richard 1756-1827 m. Jennett Steele, (3) Samuel 1758-1828 m. Miss Petty, (4) William 1760-1834 m. Sarah Moore, (5) Thomas 1762-1832 m. Jennett Bradshaw, (6) James 1770-1839 m. Miss Massey, (7) Jane m. William Gillespie, (8) Margaret M. m. Samuel Harris, (9) Ann m. Lemuel Lacy, (10) Isabel m. Robt. McQuiston, (11) Mary m. James Bradshaw, and (12) Nancy m. Samuel White.

[42] See, e.g., Cumberland Co., PA Will Book B: 138, will of Robert Reed dated 18 Feb 1772 witnessed by Richard Rankin et al.

[43] Ruth and Sam Sparacio, Virginia County Court Records Land Tax Book Augusta County, Virginia 1788 – 1790 (The Antient Press, 1997), 1788 tax list included Richard Rankin Sr.; Lyman Chalkley, Chronicles of the Scotch-Irish Settlement in Virginia (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1965), Volume III 199, will of Richard Rankin dated 1 Mar 1788, proved Dec. 1792. Richard Sr.’s will named sons Richard, Isaac, Joseph, George, John, James, Samuel, and Armstrong Rankin and daughters Rachel Gilston and Mary Johnson.

[44] There is a transcription of the legend at this link. http://digupdeadrelatives.com/2018/07/17/pa-tn-rankins-famous-rankin-legend/

[45] Lancaster Co., PA Will Book J, Vol. 1: 208, will of Adam Rankin dated and proved in 1747 naming his sons James, William, and Jeremiah and his daughter Esther Dunwoody.

[46] The marker has vanished, but it was inscribed, “In memory of the following Revolutionary soldiers” with the names Robert Alexander (brother of Eleanor Alexander Rankin), William Rankin (Sam and Eleanor’s son), Samuel Rankin, et al. FamilySearch.org Film # 0,882,938, item 2, “Pre-1914 Cemetery Inscription Survey, Gaston Co., prepared by the Historical Records Survey Service Division, Works Progress Administration.” Samuel Sr.’s tombstone has  disappeared, but Eleanor’s tombstone http://digupdeadrelatives.com/2020/10/19/eleanor-ellen-alexander-rankins-tombstone/ still exists.

[47] William Rankin’s pension application is transcribed at this link. http://revwarapps.org/s7342.pdf

[48] There is a discussion of these issues in this article. http://digupdeadrelatives.com/2017/07/05/samuel-and-eleanor-ellen-alexander-rankin-a-few-corrections-to-the-record/

[49] Anson Co., NC Deed Book B: 314 et seq., gift deeds dated 12 Jan 1753 from James Alexander of Anson to his children James Jr., John, David, Eleanor, and Robert. James and Ann Alexander also had a son William, their eldest. Rowan Co., NC Deed Book 3: 495. Prior to NC, the Alexanders lived in Amelia Co., VA. I don’t know where they lived before that, but Cecil Co., MD, New Castle, DE, and Lancaster or Chester Co., PA are all reasonable bets. That area is swamped with Alexanders.

[50] See note 47.

[51] Lincoln Co., NC Will Book 1: 37, will of Samuel Rankin of Lincoln Co. dated Dec 1814 and proved April 1826. The will names sons William, Samuel, David, Robert, Alexander, and James and daughters Jean Heartgrove, Anna Rutledge, and Nelly Dickson.

[52] Richard Rankin died in 1804. Charles William Sommerville, The History of Hopewell Presbyterian Church(Charlotte, NC: 1939). Circumstantial evidence proves Richard was Samuel and Eleanor’s son. Samuel’s sons William and Alexander were administrators of Richard’s estate. Samuel Rankin Jr. was guardian of Richard’s children. See NC State Library and Archives, C.R.065.508.210, Mecklenburg County Estates Records, 1762 – 1957, Queen – Rankin, file folder labeled “Rankin, Richard 1804” (administrators’ bond); Herman W. Ferguson, Mecklenberg County, North Carolina Minutes of the Court of Pleas Volume 2, 1801-1820 (Rocky Mount, NC: 1995), abstract of Minute Book 4: 663, an 1807 order appointing Samuel Rankin guardian for the children of Richard Rankin.

[53] WPA cemetery survey, see note 46. The survey recorded tombstones for both Samuel (1734 – 1816) and Ellen Rankin (Eleanor, 16 April 1740 – 26 Jan 1802). Samuel’s last appearance in the Lincoln records was in July 1816, supporting the death date in the survey. Lincoln Co., NC Deed Book 27: 561, deed dated 25 Jul 1816 from Samuel Rankin to James Rankin for land on Stanley’s Cr.

[54] Sam and Eleanor’s children David, Samuel Jr., Robert, and Nelly Rankin Dickson went to Rutherford Co., TN. David stayed in Rutherford, but his three siblings moved to Shelby Co., Illinois. William, Alexander, James, and Anna Rankin Rutledge stayed in Lincoln. Jean Rankin Heartgrove http://digupdeadrelatives.com/2017/08/06/line-samuel-one-eyed-sam-eleanor-ellen-alexander-rankin-jean-rankin-heartgrove/  and family lived across the Catawba River in Mecklenburg Co., NC.

[55] Charles A. Hanna, Ohio Valley Genealogies Relating Chiefly to Families in Harrison, Belmont and Jefferson Counties, Ohio, and Washington, Westmoreland, and Fayette Counties, Pennsylvania (New York: Press of J. J. Little & Co., 1900) 103 et seq.

[56] Frederick Co., VA Will Book 3: 443, will of David Rankin Sr. dated 1757 and proved 1768. Some researchers identify David Sr.’s wife as “Jennett Mildred,” although no Frederick County records identify her with a middle name or initial. Researchers who call her Jennett Mildred may have  conflated her with an entirely different woman, a Mildred Rankin who was married to a David Rankin who was a grandson of David Rankin Sr. See Frederick Co. Deed Book 13: 8, lease dated 22 Mar 1769 for the life of David Rankin and his wife Mildred and Smith Rankin, his brother. The deed was dated after David Sr. died.

[57] Abstracts of Wills, Inventories, and Administration Accounts of Frederick County, Virginia, 1743-1800 (Baltimore: Genealogical Pub. Co., 1980) 31, will of Thomas Province dated 5 May 1767 naming among other children his daughter Hannah Rankin.

[58] Harrison Co., KY Will Book A:3, will of David Rankin of Harrison Co., KY naming his wife Hannah, sons William, Thomas, and David, and daughters Jenny Blackburn, Sarah Roberts, Hannah Morrison, Mary Rawlings, and Lettey Hays or Hals.

[59] Washington Co., PA Will Book 1: 206, will of William Rankin of Raccoon Cr., Smith Twp., Washington Co., PA. William named his wife Abigail and sons David, Matthew, Thomas, William, Jesse, and Samuel, his daughter Abigail Rankin Campbell (wife of Charles Campbell), a daughter of his deceased son Zachariah, two children of his deceased son John, and two children of his daughter Mary Rankin Cherry (wife of Thomas).

[60] Fayette Co., PA Deed Book D: 192, conveyance by William Jr. and his wife Jane recited provisions of the will of his father, William Sr., whose will was dated 5 Aug 1794. I have not found the will, although the deed recitals prove one existed.

[61] Franklin Ellis, History of Fayette County, Pennsylvania, Vol. 1 (Philadelphia: L. H. Everts & Co., 1882) 672: “Financial troubles overtaking Mr. Rankin, he disposed of his property about the year 1800 and removed to the West.” See also Fayette Co., PA Deed Book C3: 1241, agreement dated Sept 1798 to secure notes owed by James Rankin to his relatives James Rankin, Samuel Rankin, and Elizabeth Rankin Gillespie’s family.

[62] Fayette Co., PA Deed Book C3: 1387. The lengthy agreement specified when to sell tracts, when to move out, where to live, access to pasture, how to pay, and numerous other detailed conditions. It listed debts to four men who lived in Ohio Co., VA, Uniontown, Fayette Co., PA, Charlestown, VA, and Washington Co., PA, plus a woman who lived in Uniontown.

[63] See deed in prior footnote.

[64] Find-a-Grave has images of the identical tombstones of Hugh (1750 – 1826) and Esther (1760 – 1831) in the Associate Reformed Cemetery in Laurel Hill. See also Fayette Co., Will Book 1: 275 (Hugh Rankin’s will proved in 1826) and Will Book 1: 330 (Esther Rankin’s will proved in 1831).

[65] Franklin Ellis, History of Fayette County, Pennsylvania, identifying Hugh and Esther’s children William, Esther, Ann, and Thomas; only Thomas remained in Fayette.

[66] The family Bible says William Rankin (Jr.) d. Dec 1807; wife Jane d. 1837. Both are buried in the Associate Reformed (Presbyterian) Cemetery in Laurel Hill, Fayette Co. The Bible entries for the birth dates of their children are: Thomas Rankin 1786, Esther Rankin 1788, James Rankin 1789, Ann Rankin 1791, Hugh Rankin 1793, Samuel Rankin 1795, Mary Rankin 1797, James Rankin 1799, William Rankin 1800, John Rankin 1802, and Joseph Rankin 1804.

[67] Find-a-grave has images for the tombstones of both Thomas https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/47828906/thomas-rankin  and his wife Elizabeth Stevens. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/47828808/elizabeth-rankin

[68] Will of David Rankin dated 7 Feb 1802 abstracted by Goldene Fillers Burgner, Greene County, Tennessee Wills, 1783-1890 (Easley, SC: Southern Historical Press, 1981). David Sr.’s will named his children James Rankin, Mary Williams, Robert Rankin, David Rankin Jr., Ann Rankin, Elizabeth Rankin, and Jane Rankin.

[69] See https://npgallery.nps.gov/GetAsset/29dbc658-cdcc-4f12-8c30-8dc877e7fdb4. The application for historic site designation contains several errors.

[70] Will of James McMurtree dated 30 Dec 1771, Bedford Co., VA, witnessed by David Rankin and proved 24 Mar 1772 by his “solemn affirmation,” David “being one of the People called Quakers.” Joida Whitten, Abstracts of Bedford County, Virginia Wills, Inventories and Accounts 1754-1787 (Dallas: Taylor Publishing Co., 1968). I found only one David Rankin in Bedford County in the late 1700s.

[71] See, e.g., Mt. Bethel Presbyterian Cemetery in Greene County, tombstones of David Rankin Jr., 1775 – 1836 (son of David Sr.) and his wife Jane B. Dinwiddie, plus a number of their descendants. Buford Reynolds, Greene County Cemeteries from Earliest Dates to 1970-1971 (1971).

[72] Edward L. Ayers and Anne S. Rubin, The Valley of the Shadow: Two Communities in the American Civil War (New York: W. W. Norton & Co. Inc., 2000).

[73] https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/121616688/chambers-rankin. The Old Log Church is Lutheran, although Chambers’ siblings are buried in Presbyterian cemeteries.

[74] See the tombstone transcription at this link.

https://cotyroneireland.com/graveyard/donagheady/pg044.html.

[75] E.g., https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/100035922/matilda-rankin

[76] E.g., Dec. 1693, power of attorney granted to John Rankin. Richmond Co., VA DB 1: 102, abstracted by Beverley Fleet, Virginia Colonial Abstracts Vol. XVI Richmond County Records 1692 – 1704 (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1961) 33. See also the 1706 deed witnessed by Robert Rankin, Richmond Co. Deed Book 4: 86a, abstracted by Ruth and Sam Sparacio, Virginia County Court Records, Deed Abstracts of King George County, Virginia (1753-1773) (McLean, VA: 1987).

[77] For example, there are a wealth of Rankin records in King George Co., VA in the 1700s. Rankins lived there along with Berry, Kendall, Marshall, Woffendall/Woffendale, and Harrison families. Those families are all connected to Northern Neck Rankins.

[78] William Rankin left no will, but a Mason Co. court record has information about his family. William d. 12 Apr 1836 and his widow Mary Ann Rankin d. 29 Jul 1836. Their children were Harrison, Blackstone H., James M., John L., Robert P., Thomas, Elizabeth Hall (husband John), Sarah Rankin (who married a John Rankin), and Harriet Stockson (husband George D.). Lula Reed Boss, Mason County, Kentucky: families, court records, Bible records, declarations of soldiers (Limestone, KY chapter of the DAR, 1944-45) 403; original court record at FamilySearch.org Film #7647144, images 1042-43.

[79] Mason Co., KY Will Book E: 53, will of John Rankin (Sr.) dated and proved in 1819. The will named his wife Winnifred, “affectionate brother William Rankin,” and children Nancy Rankin (wife of John Rankin (Jr.), a son of Moses Rankin), Huldah Rankin, Marshall Rankin, Frances Rankin, Polly Rankin, Margaret Rankin, and Elizabeth Rankin. There were apparently two men named Moses Rankin in Mason Co.

[80] Lt. Robert and Peggy Kendall Rankin’s children were (1) Thomas Berry Rankin (1783 – 1813, Ft. Mims), (2) Elizabeth Rankin (b. 1785, no further record), (3) William Marshall Rankin (b. 1786), (4) Joseph Rankin (1788 – 1813, Ft. Mims), (5) John K. Rankin (b. 1791), (6) James Rankin (b. 1792), (7) Frederick Harrison Rankin (1794 – 1874), (8) Henry Rankin (b. 1796, no further record), (9) Massena Rankin McCombs, and (1) Francis Rankin Hubert.

[81] See, e.g., Gregory A. Waselkov, A Conquering Spirit: Fort Mims and the Redstick War of 1813-1814 (Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press, 2006), Appendix #1 250-51. The book identifies Joseph Rankin as a “Tombigbee resident, born in Kentucky, brother of Thomas Berry Rankin.” The book lists both Joseph and Thomas B. Rankin as casualties at Ft. Mims. It has two errors about the Rankin family: it assigns both Lt. Robert and his wife Margaret (“Peggy”) three names. Specifically,  it identifies Joseph and Thomas B.’s father as “Richard Robert Rankin” and his wife as “Margaret Kendall Rankin.” There seems to be no evidence in voluminous records about this couple to support three names, or even middle initials. It is 99% certain that neither “Richard” nor “Kendall” is correct.

[82] Vehlein’s Colony included the area where Robert Rankin’s family settled, now in San Jacinto Co., TX. See the map at this link. https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/vehlein-joseph

[83] If anyone has a yen to translate Lt. Robert’s grant, here is the online image  https://s3.glo.texas.gov/ncu/SCANDOCS/archives_webfiles/arcmaps/webfiles/landgrants/PDFs/1/0/3/0/1030662.pdf   at the GLO website.

[84] Gifford White, Character Certificates in the General Land Office of Texas. (Austin: 1985).  Character certificates were required by Mexico in order to obtain land. See also the “Spanish Collection of the General Land Office,” which contains land titles issued by Mexico during 1821-1836, along with associated documents such as character certificates.

[85] See 1880 federal census, Fords Ferry, Crittenden Co., KY, listing for A. B. Rankin (Abia Benjamin), born in Illinois, parents born in Virginia. Abia was a son of John and Elizabeth Clay Rankin. A descendant of Abia’s has tested and falls in Lineage 6.

[86] John and Elizabeth Clay’s children were Marston T., James W. (administrator of John’s estate), John B., William W., Barnett C., Abia Benjamin, George R., and Mary Rankin Berry.

[87] The given name Moses appeared often in the Northern Neck Rankin line. The Moses Rankin of L6 might be the same man as the Moses who appeared in an Aug 1792 Frederick Co., VA lease to Benjamin Rankin of Loudoun Co., VA for the life of Benjamin and his brothers Moses and Robert, lease witnessed by George Rankin. Frederick Co., VA Deed Book 22: 303. The Moses of L6 is not the same man as the Moses named in the will of Robert Rankin of King George Co. proved Mar 1747/48. That Robert’s will named his children William, John, James, Moses, George, Benjamin, Hipkins or Hopkins, and Mary Rankin Green. King George Co., VA Will Book 1-A: 201. Moses of Lineage 6 was born between about 1770, see the 1830 census for Nicholas Co., KY (Moses b. 1760 – 1770) and the 1840 census for Fleming Co. (Moses b. 1770 – 1780). He was not yet born when Robert wrote his King George Co. will.

[88] Mason Co., KY Will Book D: 357, will of Moses Rankin dated 14 Mar 1845, proved April 1845. There is also a  Kentucky death record identifying Moses and Mary Rankin as the parents of William Rankin, 1808-1877, of Robertson Co., KY. Ancestry.com, Kentucky, U.S., Death Records, 1852-1965 [database online]. Lehi, UT, USA. Ancestry.com Operations Inc., 2007.

[89] Selby Publishing, Mason County, Kentucky Marriage Records 1789 – 1833 (Kokomo, IN: 1999), marriage bond dated 14 Nov 1795 for Moses Rankin and Molly Gill, bondsman Edward Gill. Another Moses Rankin married Ann (“Nancy”) Berry the same year.

[90] Franklin Co., PA Will Book Volume A: 345, will of James Rankin of Montgomery Township dated 1788 proved 1795. His children were David, William, Jeremiah, James, Ruth Rankin Tool, and son-in-law Samuel Smith (wife Esther Rankin).

[91] Franklin Co., PA WB A-B: 256, Will of William Rankin dated and proved in 1792. The will names his wife Mary and children Adam, Archibald, James, William, Betsy, David, John, and Jeremiah. Dr. Adam, the eldest, went to Henderson County, Kentucky, married three times, and had a bunch of children. Archibald married Agnes Long and stayed in Franklin County. James, William, John, and Jeremiah went to Centre Co., PA where they had inherited land. David married Frances Campbell and went to Westmoreland Co., PA, Allen Co., IN, and Des Moines Co., IA.

Same Name Confusion: Thomas Rankin of East Tennessee … and What the Heck IS “Depreciation Pay?”

My Aunt Bettye’s name came up in a whining session with a friend about family tree errors. That’s because Bettye’s bogus ancestral claims are the stuff of legend. E.g., she once  floated the notion that we are descended from Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings. That claim didn’t gain any traction, even among our family’s wannabe believers.

She also maintained that our German immigrant ancestor, a tailor whose mother was a milliner, was minor royalty in the old country. However, Von Huenefeld – Bettye added the “Von” – is not a name you will find among known baronets. You get the drift. Bettye, bless her heart, was heavily invested in having a fabulous family history.

Most family tree errors are honest mistakes, or perhaps the result of copying someone else’s tree without verifying it. Others, like some of Bettye’s claims, are wishful thinking, embellishment, or just plain fiction. Whatever. All one can do is analyze the evidence concerning each fact, claim, or piece of conventional wisdom. I often conclude that I just don’t know. That’s where I am with some of the oral family history of the John Rankin who died in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania in 1749.[1]

A big “just don’t know” about that Rankin line is the “Mt. Horeb legend.”[2] It is inscribed on a bronze tablet in the Mt. Horeb Presbyterian Church cemetery in Jefferson County, Tennessee. I reproduced the inscription in a previous article. Is the legend factual? There seems to be no evidence for some of its claims. That doesn’t mean they aren’t true. It just means they aren’t proved. A second “just don’t know” factoid about John Rankin who died in 1749 is that he had a brother Adam Rankin who died in 1747, also in Lancaster County. So far, Y-DNA testing suggests that is probably not correct.

The questions for this article are whether John’s son Thomas Rankin was a Captain in the Revolutionary War, and whether Thomas’s four eldest sons also served in the war. I concluded that three of Thomas’s four eldest sons were Revolutionary soldiers. I just don’t know about the other son, but seriously doubt he was a soldier. I also believe that Thomas, son of the John who died in 1749, was not a Revolutionary War Captain, or even an enlisted soldier. Thomas has probably been conflated with another Thomas Rankin who was a Captain in a Pennsylvania militia in the Revolutionary War. That is the error called “same name confusion,” an easy mistake to make.

One source for these claims is the Mt. Horeb tablet. It says this about Thomas and his four eldest sons (I have omitted his other children, who aren’t relevant to this article):

“THOMAS RANKIN, 1724 – 1812,[3] MARRIED ISABEL CLENDENON OF PA. AND SETTLED IN THAT STATE. THEIR CHILDREN WERE:

JOHN 1754 – 1825 MARRIED MARTHA WAUGH

RICHARD 1756 – 1827 MARRIED JENNETT STEELE

SAMUEL 1758 – 1828 MARRIED – PETTY

WILLIAM 1760 – 1834 MARRIED SARAH MOORE

…THOMAS RANKIN … WAS A CAPTAIN IN THE REVOLUTIONARY WAR. HIS FOUR ELDEST SONS WERE PRIVATES IN SAID WAR

The question of the four sons’ service is comparatively easy, so let’s begin with them, starting with the youngest.

Son number four in that list, William, filed a Revolutionary War pension application.[4] It detailed the family’s migration from Carlisle to Juniata in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania when he was twelve years old. He testified that his father and their family moved from Pennsylvania to Augusta County, Virginia in June 1780. His wife Sarah Moore filed a claim for a widow’s pension, so there is no doubt William’s pension application was by the William Rankin named on the Mt. Horeb tablet. His service as a private is conclusively proved. I’ve transcribed his application at the end of this article.

The Revolutionary War service of Richard and Samuel, sons number two and three, is established by excellent secondary evidence: a detailed family history written by Richard D. Rankin, who apparently went by his middle name, Duffield.[5] He was a grandson of Thomas and Isabel Clendenon Rankin and great-grandson of the John who died in 1749. Duffield said that Samuel was in the battle of Cowpens and that William and Richard both served in the war. He noted that William was at the Siege of York, which is confirmed by William’s pension application.[6] The Pennsylvania Archives also lists Richard as a Cumberland County militiaman.[7]

 As for John, son number one, the Pennsylvania Archives proves that some John Rankin was in a Cumberland County militia company.[8] However, Duffield’s meticulous history does not say that his Uncle John was a revolutionary soldier. It is likely that the John Rankin who was in a Cumberland County militia moved to Butler County, Pennsylvania. John’s pension application from Butler County stated that he lived in Cumberland County when he enlisted.[9] He was not a son of Thomas, whose son John moved to Blount County, Tennessee.[10] The Mt. Horeb tablet assertion that Thomas’s eldest son John was a private may be another “same name confusion” error.

That addresses the four sons. What about their father Thomas? Here are some reasons that Thomas, son of John d. 1747, was not a revolutionary soldier.

  1. Duffield did not say that his grandfather Thomas had served in the war or held the rank of Captain.[11] The omission is significant because Duffield clearly knew a great deal about his ancestors, including the fact that his great-grandfather John had two sons and eight daughters. Duffield also expressly mentioned the service of three of Thomas’s four eldest sons.
  2. The Mt. Horeb tablet says Thomas was born in 1724. Thomas’s father John’s will, dated January 1, 1749, named Thomas executor.[12] That means Thomas was almost certainly born by at least 1728, confirming the general accuracy of the birth date on the tablet. By the time the war started, Thomas would have been 52 if the tablet is correct, or in any event no less than 48. Thomas was thus a bit long of tooth to have been a revolutionary soldier.
  3. A man whose father was a Captain and company commander typically served in his father’s unit. Thomas’s son Richard served in companies commanded by Captains McClelland, Hamilton, or Gibson.[13] Likewise, Thomas’s son William couldn’t remember the names of his commanders other than an Ensign George Dickey. It is clear that neither Richard nor William served in a company commanded by their father Thomas.
  4. The Pennsylvania Archives lists of militia soldiers do not include a Captain or a Private Thomas Rankin in Cumberland County. Neither does History of Cumberland County, Pennsylvania.
  5. Ironically, the most compelling argument that Thomas was not an officer is a source cited in an application for the D.A.R. by Miss Mary Rankin, a descendant of Thomas Rankin and his son Richard. She cited only the Pennsylvania Archives, 5th Series, Volume IV, as proof of Thomas’s service.[14] The relevant section in Volume IV is titled “Soldiers Who Received Depreciation Pay.” Miss Rankin cited page 494 of that section, which is part of a list of “Miscellaneous Officers” who received depreciation pay. It includes the name Thomas Rankin.[15]

As usual, the devil is in the details. “Depreciation Pay” was deferred pay to compensate Pennsylvania soldiers who served during 1777-1780. Those soldiers were originally paid in “Continental bills of credit,” which quickly lost value.[16] The Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission website says this:

“To make amends for such depreciation, each of these men who in 1781 yet remained in line service was awarded a substantial sum in Depreciation Pay Certificates, which were both interest bearing and negotiable.”

Emphasis added. Thomas Rankin, husband of Isabel Clendenon and father of three Revolutionary War soldiers, was in Augusta County, Virginia by mid-1780. He no longer remained in service in a Pennsylvania unit in 1781, and was not eligible to receive Pittsylvania Depreciation Pay Certificates awarded that year. He was thus not the same man as the Thomas Rankin listed among “Miscellaneous Officers” who received Depreciation Pay Certificates.

That leaves us with a big loose end: who was the Thomas Rankin who was an officer in a Pennsylvania militia and remained in service in 1781, long enough to receive a Depreciation Pay Certificate?

Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission Website to the rescue. In 1781, a Thomas Rankin was Captain of the 5th Company in the 2nd Battalion (later the 4th  Battalion) of Washington County Revolutionary War Militia, Cecil Township.[17] The 1781 tax list for Cecil Township confirms his residence and rank, naming a “Capt. Thomas Rankin.”[18] There are also several 1782 returns of classes in “Capt’r Thos. Renkon’s Compy.” of the 4th  Battalion of Washington County Militia. Each is signed “Thomas Rankin, Cpt. 4 B.M.”[19]

In short, there is no doubt there was a militia Captain named Thomas Rankin in Cecil  Township, Washington County, who was still in service in 1781. He is surely the Thomas Rankin listed in the Pennsylvania Archives as having received Depreciation Pay.

To which Rankin family did Captain Thomas of Cecil Township belong? That’s a tough question that I haven’t sorted out yet. Washington County was awash with Rankins in the latter part of the eighteenth century. There were four (I think) different men named Thomas Rankin in records from 1769 through 1781: one in Strabane Township, one in Nottingham Township, and two in Cecil Township, including Captain Thomas. I will leave that question for another article. This one is already overlong.

In sum, Thomas, son of the John Rankin who died in 1749 in Lancaster, was almost certainly not a Captain in the Revolutionary War. The pension application of Thomas’s son William establishes that the family left Pennsylvania in June 1780. Thomas (son of John) was therefore not eligible to receive a Pennsylvania Depreciation Pay Certificate. “Same name confusion” probably explains the erroneous information about Thomas and his son John on the Mt. Horeb tablet.

See you on down the road. But first, here is William Rankin’s pension application.

Robin Rankin Willis

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Source: Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, NARA M804. Images of application for Pension Number W.1,081, pages 11-15. I have transcribed the application verbatim except for correcting obvious misspellings, ignoring some capitalization, and adding occasional punctuation for clarity.

“State of Tennessee               §

Greene County                       §                      October Session 1832

On this 23rd day of October 1832 personally appeared in open court before the Justices of the Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions for the county aforesaid William Rankin a resident citizen of Greene County aforesaid aged seventy four years the 27th of January  arriving who being first duly sworn according to law doth on his oath make the following declaration in order to obtain the benefit of the Act of Congress passed 7th June 1832.

That he was born in Cumberland County Pennsylvania five miles below Carlisle and raised there til twelve years of age and then moved to Juniata in the same county where he continued until the war of the revolution had progressed some time.

He entered the service of the United States under the following named officers and served as herein after stated. To wit, in the year 1779 in the month of August he volunteered and served a campaign against the Indians and British who had taken Freelands Fort and committed much depredation in that quarter of the country and pursued the enemy some fifty and more miles and after considerable scouting and fateague (fatigue?) returned to the place from whence he started and was out two weeks and perhaps three weeks or more.

Shortly after that campaign perhaps in one month or less he was drafted to serve two months in the same section of the state against the same enemy and was stationed at or near Freelands Fort and was continued in that campaign his full time ranging the country and guarding the frontier settlements. His officers names on the campaigns he cannot state except he believes Ensign George Dickey was in command who was from the neighborhood of Carlisle.

In the summer of 1780 in the month of June his father Thomas Rankin and family and this applicant moved to Augusta County Virginia near Staunton and soon after perhaps in the fall he was drafted to serve three months and after they rendezvoused he was selected to drive and take charge of a baggage wagon and team and was then marched to Richmond with the troops the officers and men all being strangers to him and for which reason he cannot now name the officers under whom he entered the service at that time. When the troops marched to Richmond Virginia this applicant was present and continued in the baggage wagon department and performed a trip with warlike stores to Staunton River on the border of North Carolina and after unloading at Staunton River they returned to Richmond and then were discharged and returned home having been out seven weeks or more. He remembers he arrived home on Christmas day.

In the summer of 1781 he was again drafted for twenty days and during that time was the battles of Hot Water and Jamestown in June and July. He was one of the detached party who made the assault on the British picket at Jamestown and brought on the battle under Major Ruckard a continental officer tho his name may have been Rickard and after the battle was brought on he was during the battle on the right wing and he was one of the last men who left the ground. Genls Lafayette and Wayne commanded in that battle.

About the first of September 1781 he was appointed by Quarter Master Hunter at Staunton a quarter master to take charge of the baggage wagons to take provisions to Richmond and after conducting the wagons with provisions to Richmond he was then reappointed to the same command by Major Claiborne Quarter Master at Richmond to continue on with the provisions to the Army having had eight wagons under his command. From Richmond he went with his wagons to Williamsburg where he received fresh orders from Colo. Carrington.

He then loaded his wagons with military stores and marched to Yorktown and was then in the main army at the siege of Yorktown with his wagons and was then under the command of Capt. Stuart wagon Master General and remained there in that service until eight days after the surrender of Ld Cornwallis after the surrender he assisted to haul the munitions _____ to the Wharf from there he was sent in charge of a wagon loaded by Major Claiborne to Richmond and then returned to Staunton which ended his military career having served in that service two months or more.

Near Yorktown Genl Washington halted say about five miles from the town and the wagons under the command of this applicant and ammunition lay within about ten rods of his tent until the Army droves in the British outposts. He served nine and a half months altogether to the best of his knowledge.

He has no witness to prove his service except the affidavits of Francis A. McCorkle & James McGill hereto annexed and he has not any documentary evidence to prove his service as he never recd any written discharges and he hereby relinquishes every claim to a pension whatever except the present and declares that his name is not on the pension roll of any state or its agency.

Sworn to and subscribed in open court this 23rd day of October 1832.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

[1] John Rankin d. 1749 in Lancaster is the earliest proved Rankin ancestor for Lineage 2A of the Rankin DNA Project. https://www.familytreedna.com/groups/rankin/about/results

[2] The Mt. Horeb legend begins with Rankin Presbyterian martyrs in Scotland’s “Killing Times” during the 1680s. Surviving family members supposedly escaped to Ireland in time for the 1689 Siege of Londonderry. Three sons of a survivor, allegedly including John d. 1749, reportedly migrated to Pennsylvania in the early 1700s.

[3] The Mt. Horeb tablet actually says that Thomas died in 1828, which would have made him 104. His death date was corrected to 1812 in a second bronze marker.

[4] Image available at Fold3.com. See transcription at the end of this article.

[5] Richard D. Rankin, “History of the Rankins” in Chapter IX, “Ancestors of Jane Rankin Magill,” in Robert M. Magill, Magill Family Record (Richmond, VA: Whittet & Shepperson, printers, R. E. Magill, publisher) 129. Available online at this link.

[6] See the transcription of William Rankin’s pension application at the end of this article.

[7] Thomas Lynch Montgomery, Pennsylvania Archives, 5th Series, Vol. VI (Harrisburg, PA: Harrisburg Publishing Co., 1906) 27, 243, 250, 260, 472, and 619.

[8] See id., Vol. IV  242-43, 260.

[9] Virgil D. White, Genealogical Abstracts of Revolutionary War Pension Files, Volume III: N-Z (Waynesboro, TN: The National Historical Publishing Co., 1992); Paul W. Myers, Revolutionary War Veterans Who Settled in Butler County, Pennsylvania (Apollo, PA: Closson Press, 1985) 11. For his information about John Rankin, Myers cites the History of Butler County, the Pennsylvania Archives, and NARA Federal Pension Application, Soldier S5965. See History of Butler County, Pennsylvania, Volume II (R. C. Brown & Co., Publishers, 1895) (Apollo, PA: reprint published by Closson Press, 2001),  “John Rankin, a native of Ireland, settled here in 1804 or 1805. He came from Maryland, raised a large family, and lived to a ripe old age.” A descendant of Butler County John is a participant in the Rankin DNA Project and belongs to Lineage 2U. The line of John d. 1749 and Butler County John are genetically related, although their most recent common Rankin ancestor is almost certainly in Scotland or Ulster.

[10] Richard D. Rankin, “History of the Rankins,” see Note 5.

[11] Duffield Rankin did not mention the Mt. Horeb tablet legend, either. He described what he wrote as “a history of our family.” It contains considerable verifiable detail. It is hard to believe he would have omitted the Mt. Horeb legend’s story of Rankin martyrs and the Siege of Londonderry if those had been a part of his oral family tradition. That suggests the oral family “tradition” was added at a later date.

[12] Lancaster Co., PA Will Book J: 211, will of John Rankin dated 1 Jan 1749.

[13] Montgomery, Pennsylvania Archives 5th Series, Vol. VI, 27, 243, 250, 260, 472, and 619.

[14] Daughters of the American Revolution (Indiana), Roster of Revolutionary Ancestors of the Indiana Daughters of the American Revolution, Vol. II (Evansville, IN: Unigraphic, Inc., 1976) 263. Mary Rankin’s D.A.R. application cites as her only proof of Thomas’s service a page in the Pennsylvania Archives. See Montgomery, Pennsylvania Archives, 5th Series, Vol. IV  494.

[15] Montgomery, Pennsylvania Archives, 5th Series, Vol. IV. The list on p. 494 states neither the county militia in which the named officer served nor his rank.

[16] You may have heard the expression “not worth a Continental.” It refers to the Continental Bills of Credit. The Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission Website discusses “depreciation pay” under the Archives tab at this at this link.

[17] See http://www.phmc.pa.gov/Archives/Research-Online/Pages/Revolutionary-War-Militia-Washington.aspx. Thomas was the Captain of 5th Co., originally 2nd Battalion, then 4th Battalion, Washington Co. Militia. Cecil Township. See also Pennsylvania Archives, 6th Series, Volume II 129.

[18] Raymond Martin Bell and Katherine K. Zinsser, Washington County, Pennsylvania Tax Lists for 1781, 1783, 1784, 1793 and Census for 1790 (Bowie, MD: Heritage Books, Inc., 1988).

[19] Montgomery, Pennsylvania Archives, 6th Series, Volume II at 130, 136, 143, 145. “Cpt. 4 B.M.” likely stands for “Captain 4th Battalion Militia.”

Rankin DNA Project: “flange it up!”

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

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

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

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

On that note, let’s jump in …

Rankin Lineage 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rankin Lineage 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lineage 2C

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

David Sr.’s line is represented by three project participants. He left a Frederick County will dated 1757 naming his wife Jennett and children Hugh, William, David Jr. and Barbara.[7] Many online trees identify David Sr.’s wife as “Jennett Mildred,” although all of the Frederick County records identify Jennett without a middle name. Researchers asserting that Jennett had a middle name may have conflated David Sr.’s wife Jennett with an entirely different woman, a Mildred Rankin who was married to one of David Sr.’s grandsons — also named David.

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

The second family in L2C is the line of William Rankin of Fayette County, Pennsylvania, who died in 1797. His son, William Jr., died in Fayette in 1807. Many from this line stayed in Fayette County for several generations. Some moved “west,” including to Ohio. There is no evidence of William Sr.’s  origin prior to the time that he began appearing in Westmoreland and Fayette.

Rankin Lineage 3

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

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

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

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

See you on down the road.

Robin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *

[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.

Revised: the most famous Rankin legend of all

A friend who reads this blog suggested bluntly that I belly up to the bar and say in no uncertain terms whether a certain famous Rankin legend is accurate. Here is what I think. I hope it will encourage a commenter to share some evidence.

* * * * * * * * *

Specifically, this is about a widely claimed Rankin family history oral tradition. The legend calls to mind an old expression, possibly of Native American origin: “this story might not have happened exactly the way I have told it … but it is nevertheless true.”[1] Let’s call this Rankin story the “Mt. Horeb legend” because it is inscribed on a bronze tablet in the Mt. Horeb Presbyterian Church cemetery in Jefferson County, Tennessee. I have transcribed it below.

The storyteller’s caveat is tailor-made for the Mt. Horeb legend. Specific facts in the legend about some family relationships and martyred Rankins  are suspect, although the essence of the story is true for many Scots-Irish. Some Rankins were Covenanters, i.e., Presbyterian Scots who were brutally persecuted during the Killing Times.[2] Many Scots migrated to Ulster, some during the worst of the Killing Times in the 1680s.[3] Some Rankins survived the Siege of Londonderry in 1689.[4] Many Presbyterian Rankins migrated from Ireland to the Delaware River ports during the Great Migration from 1717 until about 1770. A good many Scots-Irish Rankins fought in the Revolutionary War.

The Mt. Horeb legend features every bit of that. It is a staple of many Rankin family trees. It has problems. Y-DNA results create a question mark. Traditional paper research adds others. Lack of evidence abounds. The legend is not part of the oral family history of two early Rankins descended from the Mt. Horeb immigrants. That suggests the legend was added to their family histories after their lifetimes, diminishing the credibility of what is characterized as an oral family tradition.

Having dealt with a bunch of genealogical horse hockey, I have become cynical. I occasionally suspect that some Rankin became familiar with Scots-Irish history, did some research overseas and in Pennsylvania, conflated several people having the same names, and wove a darn good story from fragments. I will probably be burned in effigy for saying that out loud.

The Mt. Horeb legend is the only family tradition I know that is actually cast in metal, so let’s look at the entire story.  To be clear, I am not presenting this as a correct factual statement. I am presenting it as a statement of what some believe their Rankin history to be. Following the transcription, I have discussed some of its claims.

Here is the tablet’s inscription, verbatim:

THIS TABLET IS TO COMMEMORATE
THE MEMORY OF

RICHARD RANKIN 1756 – 1827         SAMUEL RANKIN 1758 – 1828

THOMAS RANKIN 1762 – 1827        JOHN BRADSHAW 1743 – 1818

FOUR PIONEER SETTLERS OF DUMPLIN VALLEY

GENEALOGY OF THE RANKIN FAMILY

GENERATION 1

ALEXANDER RANKIN, BORN IN SCOTLAND, HAD THREE SONS, TWO WERE MARTYRS TO THEIR RELIGION. OF THESE ONE WAS KILLED ON THE HIGHWAY, THE OTHER SUFFOCATED IN A SMOKEHOUSE[5] WHERE HE HAD TAKEN REFUGE TO ESCAPE HIS PURSUERS. THE THIRD BROTHER, WILLIAM, TOGETHER WITH HIS FATHER AND FAMILY ESCAPED TO DERRY COUNTY, IRELAND IN 1688. WILLIAM AND HIS FATHER, ALEXANDER RANKIN, WERE PARTICIPANTS IN THE SIEGE OF LONDONDERRY, WHICH TOOK PLACE IN 1689.
ALEXANDER RANKINS NAME IS SIGNED TO THE PETITION OF THANKS TO ALMIGHTY GOD, AND WILLIAM, KING OF ORANGE, FOR HIS TIMELY ASSISTANCE IN RAISING THE SIEGE IN AUGUST, 1689.

GENERATION 2

WILLIAM RANKIN HAD THREE SONS, ADAM, BORN IN SCOTLAND, 1699. JOHN AND HUGH BORN IN IRELAND.
ADAM AND HUGH CAME TO AMERICA IN 1721, LANDING IN PHILADELPHIA. PA., AND SETTLED IN CHESTER COUNTY, HUGH WAS KILLED IN A MILL ACCIDENT. ADAM MARRIED MARY STEELE.

GENERATION 3

JOHN RANKIN MARRIED JANE McELWEE, IN IRELAND, CAME TO AMERICA IN 1727. HE HAD TWO SONS, THOMAS AND RICHARD, AND EIGHT DAUGHTERS. RICHARD MARRIED A MISS DOUGLASS AND SETTLED IN AUGUSTA COUNTY, VA.

GENERATION 4

THOMAS RANKIN, 1724 – 1828, MARRIED ISABEL CLENDENON OF PA. AND SETTLED IN THAT STATE. THEIR CHILDREN WERE:

JOHN 1754 – 1825 MARRIED MARTHA WAUGH

RICHARD 1756 – 1827 MARRIED JENNETT STEELE

SAMUEL 1758 – 1828 MARRIED – PETTY

WILLIAM 1760 – 1834 MARRIED SARAH MOORE

THOMAS 1762 – 1821 MARRIED JENNETT BRADSHAW

JAMES 1770 – 1839 MARRIED MARGARET MASSEY

JANE MARRIED WILLIAM GILLESPIE

MARGARET MARRIED SAMUEL HARRIS

ANN MARRIED LEMUEL LACY

ISABEL MARRIED ROBT. McQUISTON

NANCY MARRIED SAMUEL WHITE

MARY MARRIED JAMES BRADSHAW

THOMAS RANKIN OF GENERATION 4, WAS A CAPTAIN IN THE REVOLUTIONARY WAR. HIS FOUR ELDEST SONS WERE PRIVATES IN SAID WAR.
 THIS TABLET WAS ERECTED IN 1930 BY
CHRISTOPHER HOUSTON RANKIN 
COURTLAND THALES RANKIN, ATTY 
REV. JOHN GRANT NEWMAN, D.D.
 MRS. ALMYRA – RANKIN – McMURRAY 
MRS. ROZEE – RANKIN TAYLOR 
FRANK WALTER RANKIN 
HARRY JAY RANKIN
 SAM HULL RANKIN

End of transcription.

I hope someone will share evidence proving that the legend is accurate in every respect. While we are waiting, here is a summary of statements in the legend that (in my opinion) are either (1) true or probably true, (2) incorrect, or (3) may be correct but lack supporting evidence.

First, here are the facts that are either supported by evidence or are so consistent with historical events that they are almost certainly true:

    • There was an Alexander Rankin whose name was on a petition of thanks to God and William of Orange for lifting the Siege of Londonderry.
    • Many Scottish Presbyterians were victims in the Killing Times in the 1680s.
    • Many Rankins migrated from Scotland to the Province of Ulster. Some may have fled to escape the Killing Times.
    • Two Rankins named John and Adam lived in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania in the second quarter of the eighteenth century.
    • Many Scots-Irish, including Rankins, entered the colonies in a Delaware River port such as Philadelphia.
    • Adam Rankin of Lancaster County married Mary Steele Alexander, widow of James Alexander.
    • John Rankin had two sons, Thomas and Richard, and eight daughters.
    • Richard, son of John, migrated to Augusta County.
    • Thomas, son of John, did “settle” in Pennsylvania for a time. His wife was Isabel Clendenon/Clendenin (various spellings).

Second, here are some statements that are either obvious error or are cast in serious doubt by county and other records:

    • If Adam Rankin was born in Scotland in 1699, then his family was not in Ireland for the 1689 Siege of Londonderry.
    • Thomas Rankin, son of John, was not a Revolutionary War Captain.
    • Three of Thomas Rankin’s four eldest sons (Richard, Samuel, and William) were revolutionary soldiers. John, the eldest son, was not.
    • John Rankin (died in 1749 in Lancaster County) and Adam Rankin (died there in 1747) were not brothers, although additional Y-DNA testing is needed to help confirm or disprove that.
    • It is unclear what it means to say that Thomas and Isobel Clendenin Rankin “settled” in Pennsylvania. It seems to imply they stayed there. Their son William’s Revolutionary War Pension Application establishes that the family moved to Augusta County, Virginia in 1780.

Third, here are some of the evidentiary issues. There is no evidence that …

      • … any Rankins were executed during the Killing Times or are on lists of known martyrs. However, a John Rankin from Biggar Parish, Lanarkshire, is known to have drowned off Orkney in a ship loaded with Covenanter prisoners.
      • … Alexander Rankin, grateful survivor of the Siege of Londonderry, had a son William and grandsons John, Adam, and Hugh.
      • … a William Rankin was present at the Siege.
      • … a Hugh Rankin migrated to the colonies and died in a mill accident. There is evidence that Jeremiah, a son of Adam and Mary Steele Rankin, died in a mill accident.
      • … William Rankin’s wife was Dorothy Black and their sons were John, Adam, and Hugh.
      • … the Adam Rankin who died in Lancaster in 1747 had a wife prior to Mary Steele Alexander.
      • … John Rankin, whose widow was named Margaret, was married to a Jane McElwee.

I would not be surprised to learn, for example, that some John Rankin married a woman named Jane McElwee in Ireland. What we need is evidence that the John Rankin who married Jane McElwee (for example) was the same man as the John Rankin who died in 1749 in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, leaving a widow named Margaret, eight daughters, and two sons.

Surely, there is someone out there who has proved some of the facts in the Mt. Horeb legend. Halllloooooo?????? If you will marshal the evidence, I invite you to write a guest column for this blog. Or provide the evidence to me and I will write the article.

See you on down the road.

Robin

[1] That saying is a charming way to distinguish narrative from bare facts.

[2] “Covenanters” were originally signers of the “National Covenant” at Greyfriars Church in 1638, although the term expanded to include all Presbyterians  who objected to the requirement that they conform to the liturgical practices and governance of the Church of England. Sources disagree about the precise time period called the  “Killing Times,” when Covenanters were brutally persecuted. I am doing research for an article about Covenanters, a difficult period in Scottish history.

[3] Migration from Scotland to Ireland in substantial numbers began around 1610, when James I encouraged settlement of appropriated land in the province of Ulster. A second large wave of migration occurred during the 1680s, when persecution of Covenanters was intense. See an article about Scots-Irish migration here.

[4] William R. Young’s book The Fighters of Derry (originally published 1932) allegedly lists Alexander Rankin, his sons John and Alexander, and his granddaughter Martha (daughter of the younger Alexander). I have never seen a copy of the book, which isn’t available locally.

[5] A smokehouse is a building where meat or fish is cured with smoke. In Britain it is called a “smokery.”

More on the Line of Samuel (“One-Eyed Sam”) and Eleanor (“Ellen”) Alexander Rankin: Jean Rankin Heartgrove

Here is a fun fact I learned from a distant North Carolina cousin. She is a Rankin researcher whose family lived in Mecklenburg County, on the east side of the Catawba River across from our common ancestors Samuel and Eleanor Rankin. When she was a child, her parents took her to visit the then-current resident of the “ancestral” Rankin home in Lincoln/Gaston County. He was Rev. Frank Bisaner Rankin, a grandson of Samuel and Eleanor.

Rev. Frank said that Samuel Rankin was called “One-Eyed Sam.” Rev. Frank didn’t know how Sam lost an eye. Whatever the story is, Sam’s nickname makes him seem fractionally more real.

Let’s take a look at my cousin’s Rankin ancestor, Jean (sometimes Jane) Rankin Hartgrove or Heartgrove. She was Samuel and Eleanor’s eldest daughter. I’m going to call her Jean because her name is spelled that way in some original records.

Like most eighteenth and nineteenth century women, Jean was largely absent from county records. Exceptions are her father’s will, her marriage bond, a census when she was listed as a head of household, and her husband’s estate records. Also – in a departure from the female norm – she left a will. Here are some basic facts about Jean.

  • She is proved as One-Eyed Sam and Eleanor Rankin’s daughter by Sam’s will.[1]
  • Her birth date is usually given in unsourced family trees as 1765. Federal censuses – the only evidence I could find of her age in the records – confirm that she was born during 1760 through 1765.[2] Her elder brother William Rankin gave his birth date as January 1761 in his Revolutionary War pension application, which suggests Jean was born during 1762 to 1765.[3]
  • Jean Rankin’s Lincoln County marriage bond to Benjamin Heartgrove was dated Sept. 21, 1792.[4] At minimum, she was 27. Old One-Eyed Sam’s daughters seemed to marry late. Perhaps his visage frightened off potential suitors.
  • Benjamin was listed as a head of household in the federal censuses in Mecklenburg in 1800, 1810 and 1820.[5] He died intestate in 1826. Administration papers for his estate show at least legatees Robert Wilson, William Walker, Richard Rankin, and Stephen Taylor, Benjamin’s four sons-in-law (see discussion of Jean and Benjamin’s children, below).[6]
  • Jean’s allotted dower was 68 acres in Mecklenburg adjacent Thompson Hartgrove, who was listed near Benjamin in some of the censuses.[7] She appeared as a head of household in the 1830 census and died in 1836, when her will was probated.[8]

Jean’s two-page will proves the identities of her four daughters, two sons, and two of her granddaughters. Here is a full transcription, including original spelling and capitalization (with some bracketed inserts for clarity; underlining added):

“In the name of God Amen I Jean Heartgrove of the County of Mecklinburg and State of North Carolina being Sound in mind and memory but of a weekle Situation Calling to mind the unserty of Life Doe make this my Last will and testament my [body] I commit to the Dust from whence it Came and my Soul I freely Surrender to God who gave it me and as Such worly property as it has please God to Bless me with in this Life and will and Bequeth in manor and form here after mentioned I will to my Daughter Sarah Walker one Doller I will to my Daughter Ann Rankin one Doller I will to my Daughter Polly Taylor one Doller I will to my Daughter Nelly Willson thirty Dollars I will to my Son Ephrim Hartgrove two Hundred and fifty Dollars fifty Dollars to be paid to him yearly by my Exetor I will to my Son Bengemin Hartgrove three Hundred Dollars fifty dollars to be paid to him Every Year By my Exetor I will to my Daughter Sarah Walker[‘s] Daughter Jean twenty Dollars I allow the Balance of my monne and my Land and Houshold and kitchen furnity and all my estate of Every kind to be Sold and the money to go to the use of my Son Bengemin Hartgrove[‘s] Children all but twenty Dollars and that to go to Polly Taylor[‘s] Daughter Jean. I appoint Robert Willson my Exeutor of this my Last will and testement in witness hereof I have hereunto Set my hand and Seal this twenty Seven Day of August Eighteen Hundr and thirty five.” Witnesses James C.? Rudicell and Stephen Wilson.

            Here is a very little bit of information about the Heartgrove children and their families. I have not tried to track this line beyond what appears below. It is highly unlikely that I have identified all of this couple’s grandchildren.

If I were from this Rankin-Heartgrove line, I would deep dive into the original Mecklenburg records at the county courthouse and/or the Charlotte-Mecklenburg main library at 310 N. Tryon Street. The library has a lot of Mecklenburg microfilm. It is located a very short walk from The Dunhill, a charming boutique hotel also on Tryon Street.

OK, a digression to share a pleasant memory. When we stayed at The Dunhill in 2001, we brought a bottle of Dalwhinnie with us. The first night we were there, we returned to our room about 5:15 p.m. after the library closed, ordered ice from room service, and had a scotch-and-water before going to dinner.

When we returned to our room about the same time the second night, the ice bucket was filled. There were two cut-glass crystal highball glasses and bottled water set out on the desk with the Dalwhinnie. This routine was repeated every night we were there. There was no charge. And that, my friends, is southern hospitality.

Back to the children of Benjamin and Jean Rankin Heartgrove …

    • Eleanor (“Nellie”) Heartgrove Wilson, the eldest child, was born about 1793. She married Robert Wilson 29 April 1813 in Mecklenburg.[9] She appeared as a widow and head of household in the 1850 census for Mecklenburg, age 58, along with her probable children Jane (born about 1814), Isaac (about 1825), Amanda (about 1830), and Leroy (about 1836). By the 1860 census, only Jane, who was described as “insane” in both the 1850 and 1860 censuses, and Leroy were still living at home. I found no entry for Eleanor in the 1870 census. The 1850 census shows Eleanor living in the Steele Creek area of Mecklenburg. She may be the Eleanor Wilson reportedly buried at the Steele Creek Presbyterian Church, born 20 December 1792 and died 6 July 1867.[10] There is also a small child named Benjamin H. Wilson (1820-1822) buried in that cemetery who was almost certainly Eleanor’s son.
    •  Sarah Heartgrove Walker, 20 Nov 1794 – 7 Nov 1854. I found no marriage record for Sarah and William Walker, although the probate records prove that William was Sarah’s husband.[11] The couple appeared in the 1850 federal census in Mecklenburg with their probable children Robert (born about 1816), Benjamin (1823), Ephraim (about 1827), James (about 1831), Ann (about 1834), and John (about 1836). They also had a daughter Jean, born before 1835, who was a legatee in her grandmother’s will.

William and Sarah Heartgrove Walker are both buried in the Sharon Presbyterian Church Cemetery in Charlotte, along with at least two of their sons:

….. Benjamin H. Walker (11 Jan 1823 – 17 Dec 1862), died at the battle of White Hall in Wayne County, NC.[12]

….. Their eldest son Robert, characterized as “idiotic” in the 1850 census, also died relatively young. His tombstone is identical to Benjamin’s, which is good evidence that they were members of the same family.[13]

….. There is a John B. Walker (1836 – 30 June 1862) buried in the same cemetery who was also a Civil War casualty, although his tombstone is different than Benjamin’s and Robert’s.[14] He was probably Sarah and William’s son, although I don’t have proof.

Their son Ephraim may be the same man as the Ephraim Walker enumerated in the 1880 federal census in Williamson County, Texas. He was born in NC about 1827 and was listed with sons named William, Robert, John B., James A., and Samuel.

I know nothing about William and Sarah Walker’s daughters Ann and Jean.

    • Ann Heartgrove Rankin, 7 Nov 1796 – 30 Jan 1866. Ann married her first cousin Richard Rankin of Lincoln on 18 May 1825 in Mecklenburg.[15] Richard was a son of Jean Rankin Heartgrove’s brother William and his wife Mary Moore Campbell Rankin of Lincoln County.[16] Ann Heartgrove Rankin stayed out of the county records entirely after she married. The 1840 census suggests she and Richard may have had 5 sons and 2 daughters, assuming all the children under age 15 were theirs.[17] The 1850 census, however, shows only three sons: (1) John D. M. Rankin, born 1830-31, (2) James C. Rankin, born 1832-33, and (3) Ed L. Rankin, born about 1843.

Ann Heartgrove Rankin is buried in Goshen Presbyterian Cemetery in Belmont along with a host of Rankin relatives.[18] Richard (24 Sep 1804 – 14 Sep 1899) married twice more after Ann died.[19] He is buried in the Mount Holly City Cemetery[20] along with his third wife Delia Bisaner[21] and their son, Rev. Frank Bisaner Rankin, who gave us that charming gift: Old One-Eyed Sam’s nickname.[22] Richard and Delia Bisaner Rankin also had a daughter Kathleen A. Rankin.[23]

    • Polly Heartgrove Taylor was probably born during 1790-1800, based on the census records for Benjamin Heartgrove’s family from 1800 through 1820. She married Stephen Taylor in Mecklenburg, marriage bond dated 23 March 1826.[24] The Taylors reportedly moved to Tennessee. I have not tried to track them.
    • Benjamin Heartgrove (Jr.) was born about 1803-04, according to the 1850 census. He had died by 1860, although I found neither probate records nor a tombstone for him. Richard Rankin, his first cousin, was guardian of Benjamin Rankin Jr.’s minor children. The guardianship records are misfiled in the estate folder of Benjamin Sr. at the NC Archives. Benjamin Jr.’s wife was Mary Catherine Anthony, Mecklenburg marriage bond dated March 3, 1830.[25] His children were (1) William (born about 1831), (2) James (1833), (3) Jane (1836), (4) Robert (1839), (5) Richard (1844), (6) Mary (Oct. 1847 – 26 Jan 1914), and John A. (1850).[26]
    • Ephraim Hargrove is a mystery. The conventional wisdom is that he was born about 1808. There is an estate file for an Ephraim Hargrove of Mecklenburg in the NC Archives. It is dated 1840 but contains virtually no information. The Mecklenburg records establish that James Rankin of Lincoln County (brother of Jean Rankin Heartgrove) was Ephraim’s guardian after Benjamin Sr. died in 1826. Ephraim was thus born after 1805. Benjamin Sr.’s estate file also establishes that James Rankin settled Ephraim’s guardianship account in 1830, which suggests that Ephraim was born about 1809.

And that is all I know about the Heartgrove family. There is probably a wealth of additional information in the Mecklenburg records.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

[1] North Carolina State Archives, C.R.060.801.21. The box contains inter alia the will of Samuel Rankin, dated 16 Dec 1814 and proved April 1826. Sam bequeathed $1 to his daughter Jean Heartgrove. Recorded in Lincoln County Will Book 1: 37.

[2] 1810 census, Mecklenburg Co., NC, household of Ben Heartgroves, 01001-11201, eldest female (Jean) born by 1765; 1830 census, Mecklenburg Co., NC, household of Jean Heartgrove, 00002-000020001, eldest female born 1760-1770. Taken together, the 1810 and 1830 censuses suggest a birth between 1760 and 1765.

[3] Virgil D. White, Genealogical Abstracts of Revolutionary War Pension Files, Volume III: N-Z (Waynesboro, TN: The National Historical Publishing Co., 1992), abstract of pension application of William Rankin of Lincoln Co., NC.

[4] Frances T. Ingmire, Lincoln County North Carolina Marriage Records 1783-1866, Volume II, Females (Athens, GA: Iberian Publishing Co., 1993).

[5] 1800 federal census, Mecklenburg Co., NC, Ben Heartgroves, 00010-40011; 1810 federal  census, Mecklenburg, Ben Heartgrove, 01001-11201; 1820 census, Mecklenburg, Ben Hargrove, 011201-00201.

[6] Ancestry.com, North Carolina, Wills and Probate Records, 1665-1998 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: images from Wills and Estate Papers (Mecklenburg County), 1663-1978, Division of Archives and History (Raleigh, North Carolina). Some of the papers in Benjamin (Sr.’s) estate file are misfiled, e.g., records concerning Richard Rankin’s guardianship of the children of Benjamin Hartgrove (Jr.).

[7] 1800 federal census, Mecklenburg Co., NC Benjamin Heartgrove listed adjacent Thompson Heartgrove; 1820 federal census, Mecklenburg, sequential listings for Thompson, William, John, and Benjamin Hargrove. I cannot find my source for Jean’s dower allotment.

[8] 1830 federal census, Mecklenburg Co., NC, Jane Hartgrove, 00002-000020001, 3 slaves, eldest female age 60 < 70, born 1760-1770, with two females and two males ages 20 < 30; Brent Holcomb, Mecklenburg Co., NC, Abstracts of Early Wills, 1763-1790 (1980), abstract of Will Book E: 141, will of Jean Hartgrove dated 27 Aug 1835 and proved Oct 1836.

[9] Brent H. Holcomb, Marriages of Mecklenburg Co., NC, 1783-1868 (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., 1981).

[10] Here is a link to Eleanor Wilson’s Find-A-Grave  entry.

[11] See Notes 6 and 8, wills of Benjamin Heartgrove and Jane Heartgrove.

[12] Here is a link to Benjamin H. Walker’s Find-a-Grave entry.

[13] Here is a link to Robert Walker’s Find-a-Grave entry.

[14] Here is a link to John B. Walker’s Find-a-Grave entry.

[15] Holcomb, Marriages of Mecklenburg Co., NC.

[16] 1850 federal census, Lincoln Co., NC, Richard Rankin, 45, Ann Rankin, 51 (Ann Heartgrove Rankin, William Rankin, 89 (son of Old One-Eyed Sam and Eleanor), John D. M. Rankin, 19, James C. Rankin, 17, and Ed L. Rankin, 7. William Rankin, One-Eyed Sam’s eldest, was born in 1761 in Rowan County, NC. Virgil D. White, abstract of the pension application of William Rankin, NC Line.

[17] 1840 federal census, Lincoln Co., NC, Richard Rankin, 113001-110001, 5 enslaved persons. One male and 1 female born 1800-1810 (Richard and Ann), 3 males born 1825-1830, 1 male and 1 female born 1830-1835, and 1 male and 1 female born 1835-1840.

[18] See image of Ann Heartgrove Rankin’s tombstone  here.

[19] Richard’s second wife was Caroline MNU, see her tombstone in Goshen Cemetery  here. See also NC Archives C.R.040.508.42, file folder labeled “Rankin, Caroline 1874,”  containing an oath of Richard Rankin affirming that Caroline Rankin died intestate and he was administrator. Richard married a third time in 1875 to Delia Bisaner, who was less than half his age. See Paul L. Dellinger, Lincoln County, North Carolina Marriage Records 1868—1886 (Lincolnton, NC: 1986).

[20] See an image of Richard Rankin’s tombstone  here.

[21] See an image of Delia Bisaner Rankin’s tombstone here.

[22] Here is a link to the Find-a-Grave image of Rev. Frank Bisaner Rankin’s  tombstone.

[23] 1900 federal census, Gaston Co., River Bend Twp., Stanley Precinct, dwelling 204, listing for Delia Rankin, widowed, b. Aug 1844, with her son Frank B. Rankin, b. Nov. 1878, and daughter Cathlene A. Rankin, b. Feb 1880. See alsoNC death certificate for Mrs. Kathleen Rankin Moore, wife of Walter P. Moore, her parents identified as Richard and Delia Rankin.

[24] Brent H. Holcomb, Marriages of Mecklenburg Co., NC, 1783-1868 (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., 1981).

[25] Id.

[26] 1850 federal census, Hopewell, Mecklenburg Co., Benj Hargrove (Jr.), 47, Catherine, 40, William, 19, James, 17, Robert, 11, Richard, 6, Mary, 4, and John, infant; 1860 census, Mecklenburg, Mary C. Hartgrove, 51, Robert, 21, Richard, 16, Mary, 14, and John, 11; 1880 census, Gaston, dwelling 673, John A. Hartgrove, 29, wife Elizar J., 29, son John W., 3, daughter Zoe E., 1, mother Mary C., 72, and sister Mary O., 33. See also death certificate for Miss Mary Hartgrove, Cleveland Co., NC.

More on the Line of Samuel and Eleanor (“Ellen”) Alexander Rankin: Richard Rankin’s son Samuel

This article is about the Samuel Rankin whom I have described elsewhere as an “incorrigible character.”

Sam earned that characterization fair and square. First, his birth year varied so wildly in the census that he must have fibbed about his age just for fun. Second, he named a son Napoleon Bonaparte Rankin. What kind of merry prankster lays that on a newborn? Third, I had such a hard time identifying his parents that he seemed deliberately elusive. Fourth, there is evidence that Sam may have been an unmanageable child, but that’s getting ahead of the story.

There isn’t much information in the records about Sam’s adult life. He was a farmer in Tishomingo County, Mississippi and Jefferson County, Arkansas. He and Mary Frances Estes (daughter of Lyddal Bacon Estes and “Nancy” Ann Allen Winn)[1] married about 1836 in Tishomingo. They moved to Arkansas about 1849 and had ten children who reached adulthood. Sam died in 1861 or early 1862, when his youngest child was on the way. One branch of the family thinks he died in the War, but that is unlikely. He was too old to be conscript fodder, four of his sons enlisted, his wife was pregnant, and the National Archives has no record of him.

A researcher typically begins with two questions in a search for an ancestor’s parents: where and when was he/she born? Sam makes the first question easy, since the census proves that he was born in North Carolina.[2]Using the census to pin down his birth year is a problem, though. Viewed together, the 1837 Mississippi state census and the 1840 federal census suggest Sam was born between 1810 and 1819.[3] The 1850 census gives his age as sixty-two, born about 1788.[4] In the 1860 census, Sam was sixty-one, born about 1799.[5] During the decade of the 1850s, Sam somehow got a year younger, a skill I wish I could master. I threw up my hands and guessed Sam was born circa 1800.

Mississippi records reveal one other thing. Sam almost certainly had a brother William. A William Rankin was listed near Sam in the 1837 state census in Tishomingo.[6] William did not own any land, but Sam had ten acres under cultivation.[7] They were the only two Rankins enumerated in Tishomingo in 1837 and 1840. William was born between 1800 and 1810, so he and Sam were from the same generation.[8]  Finally, William married Rachel Swain, and the JP who performed the ceremony was Sam’s father-in-law Lyddal Bacon Estes.[9] Sam’s wife Mary Estes Rankin had a sister who also married a Swain.[10]

On those facts, Sam and William Rankin were probably brothers farming Sam’s tract together. If that is correct, then I was looking for a Rankin family having sons named Samuel and William who were born aboutthe turn of the century in North Carolina.

Big whoop. If you have spent any time among the many North Carolina Rankin families, you know that is an absurdly slender clue about Sam’s family of origin. Discouraged, I left the records and turned to oral family history. That led me to conclude that Sam’s parents were Richard Rankin and Susanna (“Susy”) Doherty, who married in 1793 in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina.[11] There is no doubt about the identity of their parents. Richard was a son of Samuel Rankin (“Samuel Sr.”) and his wife Eleanor (“Ellen”) Alexander Rankin.[12] Susy Doherty Rankin was a daughter of John Doherty and his wife Agnes, maiden name unknown.[13]

             The key oral family history is in an Arkansas biography of Claude Allen Rankin, a grandson of Sam and Mary Estes Rankin. Claude reported that his grandfather Sam Rankin “reached manhood in Lincoln County, North Carolina,” and then “removed to Murfreesboro, Tennessee,” which is in Rutherford County.[14]

Those specific locations convey a bulletproof certainty. It is highly unlikely that Claude invented them out of thin air. Consider the odds. Lincoln is one county out of one hundred in North Carolina. Rutherford is one county out of ninety-five in Tennessee. The odds are 9,500 to one that Claude would have identified both counties as places his grandfather Sam had lived in just those two states.

If Lincoln County, North Carolina and Rutherford County, Tennessee are places where Sam lived, it is a virtual certainty that he was a grandson of Samuel Sr. and Eleanor Alexander Rankin, who lived in Lincoln County, North  Carolina. Three of their sons and one daughter moved to Rutherford County.[15] I have found no other Rankin family who moved from Lincoln to Rutherford during the relevant time period.

This boiled the search down to identifying which of Samuel Sr. and Eleanor’s sons could have been the father of Sam. Four of the couple’s sons – William,[16] David,[17] Alexander,[18] and James[19] – are eliminated by their locations and/or children. The three remaining sons – Robert, Sam Jr. and Richard – were possibilities to be Sam’s father.

I started with Richard Rankin and his wife Susy Doherty because Sam and Mary named their eldest son Richard, and the Anglo naming tradition dictates naming the first son for his paternal grandfather.[20] Richard and Susy lived on Long Creek in Mecklenburg County, just across the Catawba River from the home of Samuel Sr. and Eleanor in Lincoln (now Gaston) County.[21] Richard’s brother Sam Jr. also lived in Mecklenburg with his first wife, Susy’s sister Mary (“Polly”) Doherty.[22] Richard Rankin and his sister-in-law Polly Doherty Rankin are buried at Hopewell Presbyterian Church on Beatties Ford Road, just northwest of Charlotte, alongside John Doherty, father of Susy Doherty Rankin and Polly Doherty Rankin.[23] Richard’s headstone is in the left foreground of this picture. Headstones of his sister-in-law and father-in-law are to the right of Richard’s stone.

Richard and Susy appeared in the 1800 census for Mecklenburg with three sons and a daughter, all born between 1794 and 1800.[24] The “family tree” of Samuel Sr. and Eleanor indicates that Richard and Susy had five children, one of whom must have been born between 1800 and 1804.[25] Only four children survived until 1807. In April of that year, the Court of Common Pleas & Quarter Sessions for Mecklenburg County appointed Richard’s brother Sam Jr. to be guardian of Richard’s four children: Joseph, Samuel, Mary and William Rankin.[26]

There we are, brothers Samuel and William Rankin, born around the turn of the century. When I found that record in a Clayton Library abstract, I sprang from my chair and did a little victory jig, earning disapproving glares from some blue-haired ladies at the next table. It was my first real break in the search for Sam’s family of origin.

I don’t know how Richard Rankin died. The fact that he was only thirty-five and left no will indiates his death was unexpected. He was a sheriff, patroller, justice of the peace and tax collector, all public positions of trust and responsibility; he ran unsuccessfully for county coroner and high sheriff.[27] He had a hard time managing money in his official duties, because the court had to haul him up short more than once.[28] That was a harbinger of things to come.

Richard died up to his eyeballs in debt, although that wasn’t immediately apparent. Right after he died, before the judgments against his estate started rolling in, Richard seemed to have been reasonably well-to-do. The administrator’s bond on his estate was either £ 1,000 or £ 2,000, neither of which was inconsequential.[29] The sale of his personal property brought £ 935.[30] The 1806 and 1807 Mecklenburg tax lists indicate that Richard’s estate owned 800 acres.[31] The honorific “Esquire” with which he appeared in court records conveys the image of a well-to-do and respected man.

Reality soon reared its ugly head in the form of judgments against Richard’s estate. I quit taking notes on these suits, although there were many more, after the trend became painfully obvious. A sampling:

October 1804, Andrew Alexander’s Administrator v. Richard Rankin’s Admr., verdict for plaintiffs, damages of £ 103.50.[32]

April 1805, William Blackwood’s Administrators v. Richard Rankin’s Admr., verdict for plaintiffs, damages of £ 38.18.1.[33]

April 1805, Robert Lowther v. Richard Rankin’s Admrs., verdict for Plaintiff, damages of £ 34.18.9.[34]

January 1806, Trustee Etc. v. Richard Rankin’s Admrs., verdict for Plaintiffs, damages of £ 18.9.0.[35]

October 1807, Richard Kerr v. Richard Rankin’s Admrs., judgment for Plaintiff for £ 7.15.9.[36]

            Creditors finally attached Richard’s land because the estate ran out of liquid assets with which to discharge judgments:

Oct 1807, John Little v. Richard Rankin’s Admrs, judgment and execution levied on land for £ 16, administrator pleads no assets. Ordered that the clerk issue scire facias against Samuel Rankin, guardian of the heirs, to show cause.[37]

            The minute book abstract is silent regarding the purpose of the show cause hearing. In context, it is clear that Sam Jr. was to show cause, if any, why part of Richard’s land should not be sold to pay the judgment creditor(s). Sam Jr. made no such showing, because the Mecklenburg real property records include a sheriff’s deed dated October 1807 reciting as follows:

“[B]y execution against the lands of Richard Rankin, dec’d … being divided by the administrator and Samuel Rankin off a tract of 500 acres held by Richard Rankin … [the tract sold] containing 200 acres including the old house, spring, meadow and bottom on both sides Long Creek.”[38]

            Wherever Susy and her children were living, it was clearly not in the “old house.” Some of Richard’s land remained after this sale, but I did not track its disposition.

It eventually dawned on me that I was mucking about exclusively in the records of Mecklenburg County looking for evidence of Susy’s family. Claude Allen Rankin’s biography said that Sam “reached manhood” in Lincoln County, not Mecklenburg. I went back to the Lincoln records looking for evidence regarding Susy’s whereabouts after Richard died.

Lo and behold: Susy was living in Lincoln County by at least 1808, when she was a defendant there in a lawsuit.[39] I did not find her listed as a head of household in the 1810 census, although she was alive until at least 1812.[40] The family was undoubtedly still residing in Lincoln County in October 1812, when the Lincoln court ordered that “Samuel Rankin, about thirteen years old, an orphan son of Richard Rankin, dec’d be bound to John Rhine until he arrive to the age of 21 years to learn the art and mistery [sic] of a tanner.”[41]

If the indentured Sam Rankin was the same man as my ancestor Sam Rankin, which is 99% certain on the available evidence, there is no doubt that Sam “reached manhood” in Lincoln County, as Claude said. That is where John Rhyne lived, and the indenture lasted until Sam reached legal age.[42]

Sam’s indentured servitude was not an unusual fate for a destitute child whose father had died. Five years before the indenture, it was painfully clear that Richard Rankin’s estate was rapidly vanishing. None of Richard’s other three children were indentured, however. Why just Sam? And why wasn’t he indentured earlier?

In my imagination, the teenage Sam was incorrigible – the child who “acted out” the Rankin children’s collective anger and grief at the loss of their father, money, and social status. It would certainly go a long way toward explaining a man who didn’t marry until his late thirties and who named a son Napoleon Bonaparte. Perhaps it would also explain why the prominent and wealthy Rankin family of Lincoln County did not prevent the indenture of a 13-year-old family member whose father died when he was five.

Whatever Sam’s temperament, or the reason his rich Rankin relatives consented sub silentio to his indenture, his mother Susy had been having an abjectly miserable time of it. In 1803, she lost her sister Mary Doherty Rankin, the wife of Richard’s brother Sam Jr.[43] In 1804, her husband Richard died.[44] One of her children died between 1804 and 1807.[45] Susy’s mother Agnes Doherty died in 1808.[46] Part of Richard’s land was sold to pay a judgment debt because his estate had insufficient personal assets.[47] In 1809, Susy sold via a quitclaim deed her dower right to a life estate in one-third of Richard’s land.[48]

Do you think she may have needed cash?

In the midst of those excruciating losses, Susy’s brother-in-law William Rankin (and former co-administrator of Richard’s estate) sued her.[49] In 1808, William obtained a judgment against Susy for £ 106.7.6, about half of which he collected by garnishing the funds of a man who owed Susy money.[50] William was enumerated in the 1810 census (immediately followed in the list by Thomas Rhyne, John Rhyne, and Samuel Rankin (Sr.)) with eleven enslaved people, so the suit was obviously not a matter of economic need. I hope that his orphaned nephews and niece were not going hungry. He was obviously a vengeful and greedy sonuvabitch, and I don’t like him. Whatever Susy’s sins may have been, her children deserved better from their uncle.

As for Susy, I haven’t found a worse record of persistent and pernicious emotional and financial calamity among any of my other ancestors. If she retained even a modicum of sanity through all that, she had some true grit. However, she apparently couldn’t cope with her teenage son Sam.

Sam’s master John Rhyne was connected to the family of Samuel Sr. and Eleanor Rankin. William Rankin (the vengeful SOB) and his son Richard Rankin both witnessed the will of John Rhyne’s father Thomas.[51] The Rhynes lived on land adjacent to Samuel Sr. and Eleanor’s plantation on Kuykendall Creek.[52] Susy’s son Sam Rankin therefore served his indenture within spitting distance of his wealthy grandfather.[53] No wonder Sam declined to pass on his given name to any of his eight sons. Sam did, however, have children who shared the name of each of his three surviving siblings: Joseph, William and Mary, and his father Richard.

Sam remained with his master John Rhyne through the 1820 census.[54] There was a male age 16 – 26 listed with Rhyne that year who was not his child and who would most likely have been Sam, the indentured tanner, born about 1799.[55] The 1820 census for John Rhyne also indicates that one person in the household was engaged in manufacturing, and tanning was deemed a manufacturing business.

Meanwhile, some of the Lincoln/Mecklenburg Rankins began moving to Rutherford County, Tennessee. Richard’s brother David and his wife Anne Moore Campbell were in Rutherford by August 1806, when David acquired a tract there.[56] In 1810, both David and his brother Robert Rankin appeared on the Rutherford County tax rolls.[57] By the 1820 census, David, Robert and their brother Sam Jr. were all listed as heads of households in Rutherford County.[58] Sam undoubtedly made a beeline for Tennessee the day he turned twenty-one. Recall that his uncle Sam Jr. had been Sam’s guardian, and Sam’s siblings may have migrated with Sam Jr.

I vacillated for years whether my great-great grandfather Sam Rankin was a son of Richard and Susy Doherty Rankin and a grandson of Samuel Sr. and Eleanor Alexander Rankin. DNA testing resolved my uncertainly. A Rankin first cousin is a Y-DNA match to other proved descendants of Samuel Sr. and Eleanor, and I am an autosomal match with another one of their descendants.

MORAL: if you have not done DNA testing, do it now! If you are a man named Rankin, please go to the Family Tree DNA website ASAP, sign up for a Y-DNA test, and join the Rankin DNA Project. Autosomal tests are available for both men and women at FTDNA, Ancestry, and several other vendors. I would be happy to provide whatever information I have about your Rankins.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

[1] See an article about the Lyddal and Nancy’s children here.

[2] 1850 federal census, Jefferson Co., AR, dwelling 426, Samuel Rankin, 62, born NC; 1860 federal census, Jefferson Co., AR, dwelling 549, Samuel Rankin, 61, born NC. Several of Sam’s children lived to be counted in the 1880 census, which asked where each person’s parents were born. Sam’s children identified their father’s state of birth as North Carolina fairly consistently. E.g., 1880 census, Dorsey (Cleveland) Co., AR, dwelling 99, Richard Rankin, 43, b. MS, father b. NC, mother b. AL.

[3] Laverne Stanford, Tishomingo County Mississippi 1837 State Census, 1845 State Census (Ripley, MS: Old Timer Press, 1981). In 1837, Samuel Rankin was age 21 < 45, born 1792-1819; 1840 federal census, Tishomingo Co., MS, Samuel Rankin, age 20 < 30, born 1810-1820.

[4] See Note 2, 1850 federal census, Samuel Rankin, 62.

[5] Id., 1860 federal census, Samuel Rankin, 61.

[6] Stanford, Tishomingo County Mississippi 1837 State Census, listing # 54 for William Rankins, age 21 < 45, a female > 16, no enslaved people, and no acreage under cultivation.

[7] Id., listing # 64 for Samuel Rankins, age 21 < 45, no enslaved people, 10 acres under cultivation.

[8] 1840 census, Tishomingo Co., MS, listing for William Rankin, 1 male 30 < 40 (born 1800-1810) and 1 female 60 < 70 (born 1770-1780). The woman with William in the 1837 and 1840 census, taken before William married in 1843, may have been his mother.

[9] Irene Barnes, Marriages of Old Tishomingo County, Mississippi,Volume I 1837 – 1859 (Iuka, MS: 1978), marriage bond for William Rankin and Rachel Swain dated 7 Sep 1843, married by L. B. Estes, J.P., on 14 Sep 1843. Lyddal Bacon Estes was Sam Rankin’s father-in-law.

[10] Id. Martha Ann Estes, Mary Estes Rankin’s sister, married Wilson Swain.

[11] Brent H. Holcomb, Marriages of Mecklenburg Co., NC, 1783-1868 (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., 1981).

[12] Richard was not named in his father Samuel Sr.’s will because Richard predeceased Samuel Sr. Other evidence is conclusive. First, William and Alexander Rankin, proved sons of Samuel Sr. and Eleanor, were administrators of Richard’s estate along with Richard’s wife Susy. NC State Archives, C.R.065.508.210, Mecklenburg County Estates Records, 1762 – 1957, Queen – Rankin, file folder labeled “Rankin, Richard 1804,” original bond of Susy, William, and Alexander Rankin, administrators of the estate of Richard Rankin. Second, Samuel Rankin Jr. (another proved son of Samuel Sr. and Eleanor) became the guardian for Richard’s children after Richard died. Herman W. Ferguson, Mecklenberg County, North Carolina Minutes of the Court of Pleas Volume 2, 1801-1820 (Rocky Mount, NC: 1995), abstract of Minute Book 4: 663, court order of April 1807 appointing Samuel Rankin guardian for the children of Richard Rankin.

[13] Herman W. Ferguson and Ralph B. Ferguson, Mecklenburg County, North Carolina Will Abstracts, 1791-1868, Books A-J, and Tax Lists, 1797, 1798, 1799, 1806, & 1807 (Rocky Mount, NC: 1993), abstract of Will Book C: 21, will of John Doherty of Mecklenburg dated 20 May 1786 naming wife Agnes, son James, and daughters Susanna and Mary; id., Will Book C: 34, will of Agnes Doherty of Mecklenburg dated June 19, 1807, proved Jan. 1808, naming daughter Susanna Rankin and granddaughters Violet and Nelly Rankin. The granddaughters were children of Sam Rankin Jr. and his first wife Polly Doherty, who predeceased her mother Agnes.

[14] D. Y. Thomas, Arkansas and Its People, A History, 1541 – 1930, Volume IV (New York: The American Historical Society, Inc., 1930) 574, biography of Claude Allen Rankin.

[15] Samuel Sr. and Eleanor’s children who moved to Rutherford County were David, Robert, Samuel Jr., and Eleanor Rankin Dixon/Dickson. Eleanor Rankin married Joseph Dixon; David Rankin married Jane Moore Campbell, a widow. Jean or Jane Rankin, another daughter of Samuel Sr. and Eleanor, married James Rutledge. The Rutherford County records are full of entries in which the Rankins were associated with Dixons, Rutledges and Moores. E.g., WPA Tennessee Records Project, Records of Rutherford County, Tennessee Vol. C, Minutes 1808 – 1810 (Murfreesboro: 1936), abstract of Minute Book C: 197, entry of 1 Jan 1810 regarding a lawsuit styled William Dickson v. Robert Rankin, George Moore, Robert Rutledge and Joseph Dickson, Jr.

[16] William Rankin, the eldest son of Samuel Sr. and Eleanor Rankin, remained in Lincoln County and did not have a son named Samuel. See A. Gregg Moore & Forney A. Rankin, The Rankins of North Carolina (Marietta, GA: A. G. Moore, 1997).

[17] Id. David Rankin and his family moved to Rutherford County. Their son Samuel King Rankin, born 1818, is not the same man as the Sam who married Mary F. Estes.

[18] Id. Alexander Rankin remained in Lincoln and had no son named Samuel.

[19] James Rankin had a son named Samuel, but he was born in 1819 and married Nancy Beattie. See also NC State Archives, CR.060.508.105, Lincoln County Estate Records, 1779 – 1925, Ramsour, George – Rankin, John, file folders for James Rankin labeled 1832 and 1842, naming the heirs of James Rankin as Robert, Rufus, Caroline, James, Louisa, Samuel, Richard, and Mary Rankin.

[20] Sam and Mary F. Estes Rankin’s children were, in order, Richard Bacon Rankin, William Henderson Rankin, Joseph Rankin, John Allen Rankin, Elisha (“Lish”) Thompson Rankin, James Darby Rankin, Mary Jane Rankin, Washington (“Wash”) Marion Rankin, Napoleon (“Pole”) Bonaparte Rankin, and Frances Elizabeth (“Lizzie”) Rankin.

[21] Microfilm of Mecklenburg County Deed Book 18: 365, Sheriff’s deed dated Oct. 1807, execution against the lands of Richard Rankin, dec’d, 200 acres off a tract of 500 acres owned by Rankin crossing Long Creek, widow’s right of dower excepted.

                  [22] Holcomb, Marriages of Mecklenburg, Nov. 16, 1791 marriage bond of Samuel Rankin and Mary Doherty, bondsman Richard Rankin (Sam Jr.’s brother); 1800 federal census, Mecklenburg Co., NC, household of Samuel Rankin, 1 male age 26 < 45, female same age, 3 males < 10, and 2 females < 10.

[23] Charles William Sommerville, The History of Hopewell Presbyterian Church (Charlotte, NC: 1939, 1981). Sommerville incorrectly states that Richard Rankin was married to Mary (nicknamed “Polly”) Doherty Rankin, probably because their graves are side-by-side. The records, however, are clear that Richard married Susy Doherty, Sam Jr. married Polly Doherty, and Richard’s surviving widow Susy was still alive after Polly died.

[24] 1800 federal census, Mecklenburg Co., NC, Richard Rankin, age 26 < 45, with four children under the age of ten, a female 26 < 45, and a female > 45, most likely Richard’s widowed mother-in-law Agnes Doherty.

[25] The somewhat mysterious Rankin “family tree” (I have never seen it) is referred to several times as a source in The Rankins of North Carolina.

[26] Ferguson, Mecklenberg Court Minutes, abstract of Minute Book 4: 663, April 1807 order appointing Samuel Rankin guardian of Joseph, Mary, Samuel and William Rankin, orphans of Richard Rankin, dec’d. “Orphan” just meant fatherless. Susy, the children’s mother, was still alive in 1807.

[27] Id., Minute Book 4: 314, entry in Oct 1801 recording votes for the election of two coroners (John Patterson 11 votes, Robert Robison 8 votes, Richard Rankin 2 votes); Minute Book 4: 375, Oct 1802, Richard Rankin was appointed “Patroller” by the court, having authority to search for and recover runaway enslaved persons; Minute Book 4:387, Jan 25 1803, Richard Rankin et al. “being commissioned by his excellency the Governor to act as Justice of the Peace in this county, appeared in open court and was duly qualified as by law accordingly;” Minute Book 4: 397, Jan 1803, records of the County Trustee indicated that Richard Rankin was sheriff, 1797-1798; Minute Book 4: 409, Apr 1803, Magistrates appointed to take tax returns included Richard Rankin; Minute Book 4: 421, Jul 1803 election for high sheriff (7 votes for Wm Beaty, 5 for Richard Rankin).

[28] Id., Mecklenburg Minute Book 4: 281, entry for Apr 1801, notice issued to Richard Rankin, former sheriff, to appear and show cause why he hasn’t satisfied a judgment; id., Minute Book 4: 300, entry of Jul 1801, motion of County Trustee, Richard Rankin ordered to appear and render to the trustee all money due him for county tax & stray money collected by Richard for 1797 and 1798. Richard confessed judgment for £ 104.12.2.

[29] Ferguson, Mecklenburg Court Minutes, abstract of Minute Book 4: 458, April 1804, ordered that Susannah Rankin, William Rankin and Alexander Rankin administer on the estate of Richard Rankin, Esquire, dec’d, bond of £ 2,000. Another record shows the bond as £ 1,000. See North Carolina Archives, C.R.060.801.21, copy of original bond.

[30] Ferguson, Mecklenburg Court Minutes, abstract of Minute Book 4: 478, Jul 1804 inventory and account of the sale of the estate of Richard Rankin returned by William Rankin, Alexander Rankin and Susy Rankin, £ 935.1.11.

[31] Ferguson and Ferguson, Mecklenburg County, North Carolina Will Abstracts, abstract of the 1806 and 1807 tax lists, entry for Richard Rankin’s estate, adm. by Wm. B. Alexander, 800 acres.

[32] Ferguson, Mecklenburg Court Minutes, abstract of Minute Book 4: 501.

[33] Id. at 530.

[34] Id. at 531.

[35] Id. at 592.

[36] Id. at 704.

[37] Id. at 706.

[38] FHL Film No. 484,186, Mecklenburg Deed Book 18: 365.

[39] Anne Williams McAllister & Kathy Gunter Sullilvan, Courts of Pleas & Quarter Sessions, Lincoln County, North Carolina, Apr 1805 – Oct 1808 (Lenoir, NC: 1988), William Rankin v. Susy Rankin, court record for Jan 1808. The county court had no jurisdiction over a defendant who was not a resident of the county, so the fact that Susy was sued in Lincoln and the case was not dismissed for lack of jurisdiction proves that she lived there.

[40] Ferguson, Mecklenburg Court Minutes, abstract of Minute Book 5: 277, entry of Aug 1812, on petition of Susannah Rankin, widow of Richard Rankin, regarding her right of dower in the land of her deceased husband. Although a court did not have jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant, anyone could petition a county court for relief, whether a resident or not. The land in which Susy had a dower right was located in Mecklenburg. She had to file in that county and nowhere else in order to assert her dower right.

[41] North Carolina State Archives CR.060.301.4, “Lincoln County, County Court Minutes Jan 1806 – Jan 1813,” 589.

[42] 1820 federal census, Lincoln Co., p. 224, listing for John Rhyne.

[43] Sommerville, History of Hopewell Presbyterian Church, tombstone of Mary (“Polly”) Doherty inscribed, “Here lies Polly Rankin, died Jan. 30, 1803 in her 33rd year. She left 5 motherless children and a discomfortable husband.”

[44] Id., tombstone inscribed “Sacred to the memory of Richard Rankin who died March 23, 1804, aged 35 years.” See also note 29.

[45] See note 26, appointment of guardian for four children of Richard Rankin; Gregg & Forney, Rankins of North Carolina, citing the Rankin “family tree.” None of Richard and Susy’s children were of age in 1807 because the couple married in 1793. All of their living children would have been minors requiring a guardian in 1807.

[46] Ferguson & Ferguson, Mecklenburg Will Abstracts, Will Book C: 34, will of Agnes Doherty dated June 19, 1807, proved Jan 1808, naming daughter Susanna Rankin.

[47] See note 38, sheriff’s deed for part of Richard Rankin’s land.

[48] FHL Film No. 484,186, Mecklenburg Deed Book 19: 606, quitclaim deed dated 15 Apr 1809 from Susy Rankin, widow and relict of Richard Rankin of Mecklenburg, $200, to David Smith, her right of dower in all land which her late husband died owning.

[49] See note 39.

 [50] Anne Williams McAllister and Kathy Gunter Sullivan, Court of Pleas & Quarter Sessions Lincoln County, North Carolina April 1805 – October 1808 (1988), abstract of court minutes for January 1808, William Rankin v. Susy Rankin, jury awarded plaintiff damages of £ 106.7.6, of which judgment was rendered against Samuel Lowrie Esq. for £ 48.16.

[51] Miles S. Philbeck & Grace Turner, Lincoln County, North Carolina, Will Abstracts, 1779-1910 (Chapel Hill, NC: 1986), abstract of Lincoln Will Book 1: 405, will of Thomas Rhyne naming inter alia son John Rhyne, witnessed by William Rankin and Richard Rankin, 2 Jun 1834.

[52] E.g., Lincoln Co. Deed Book 2: 543, deed of 19 Apr 1780 from James Coburn of Lincoln to Samuel Rankin, same, 180A on Kuykendall’s Cr. adjacent Thomas Rhine’s corner.

[53] NC State Archives, C.R.060.801.21, Lincoln County Wills, 1769 – 1926 Quickle – Reep, file folder labeled “Rankin, Samuel 1826,” original will of Samuel Rankin of Lincoln County dated 16 Dec 1814, proved April 1826, recorded in Will Book 1: 37. According to a 1930s W.P.A. transcription of Samuel Sr.’s tombstone, now lost, he died in 1816.

[54] 1820 federal census, Lincoln Co., NC, listing for John Rhyne, 26 < 45, 1 female 26 < 45, 1 male 16 < 26 (presumably the indentured Sam), 4 males < 10 and 2 females < 10; one person engaged in manufacturing.

[55] John Rhyne didn’t marry until 1808, so the male in the 16 < 26 age bracket listed with him in the 1820 was not John’s son. Frances T. Ingmire, Lincoln County North Carolina Marriage Records 1783-1866, Volume I, Males (Athens, GA: Iberian Publishing Co., 1993).

[56] Helen C. & Timothy R. Marsh, Land Deed Genealogy of Rutherford County, Tennessee, Vol. 1 (1804 – 1813)(Greenville, SC:  Southern Historical Press, 2001), abstract of Deed Book A: 194.

[57] FHL Film No. 24,806, Item 3, Tax List, 1809-1849, Rutherford County, Tennessee.

[58] 1820 federal census, Rutherford Co., TN, listings for Robert Rankin, David Rankins, and two listings for Samuel Rankin.

Some Colonial North Carolina Rankin Lines: an Overview

It is extremely easy to conflate families having the same surname when they lived in the same area at roughly the same time. In North Carolina, all of the Rankin lines first appeared in the area that was originally Anson County. At its formation, Anson included an enormous territory. Its northern border was the Virginia, line until the formation of Rowan County in 1753. It had no western boundary until the formation of Mecklenburg in 1762. Its southern boundary was indeterminate until the survey of the SC line in 1764.

In short, the Rankin families of Rowan, Lincoln, Rutherford, Mecklenburg, Iredell, and Guilford Counties all lived in areas that were originally part of Anson. As if that weren’t bad enough, they all recycled the same male given names ad infinitum: Robert, David, John, Samuel, and William. With that in mind, here is some basic information about several of these colonial Rankin lines. The objective is to help you distinguish among those families when you run across them.

First, a caveat. If you have read my article about the Scots-Irish,[1]  you know that the earliest migrants into the colonies from Ulster arrived around 1700 and settled mostly in New England. Among those were evidently some Rankins. I know absolutely nothing about New England Rankins. What I do know with a modicum of confidence is something about colonial Rankin families of North Carolina. I mucked about the North Carolina records for more than a year, trying to identify the parents of my last conclusively proved Rankin ancestor.

Here are the North Carolina Rankin families briefly sketched in this article: (1) Joseph Rankin of Delaware (1704-1764), two of whose sons went to Guilford County; (2) Samuel and Eleanor (“Ellen”) Alexander Rankin of Lincoln (then Gaston) County; (3) Robert and Rebecca Rankin of Guilford County; (4) David and Margaret Rankin of Iredell County; and (5) Robert Rankin (wives Mary Withrow and Leah MNU)of Rutherford County. Here are brief descriptions of each family.

Joseph Rankin of Delaware (1704-1764) (“Joseph of Delaware”), wife Rebecca MNU. Their sons John and William moved to Rowan/Guilford County.

Joseph of Delaware had definitely arrived in the colonies by 1731, when he acquired a tract in New Castle County, Delaware. He is buried at Head of Christiana Presbyterian Church Cemetery in Newark, New Castle County, where his tombstone survives. Joseph’s wife Rebecca (MNU) and his son William were administrators of his estate. His place of birth is unproved, although a serious gambler would put a lot of money on Ulster. One local history claims he was born in Clyde, Scotland, which is also possible. He had at least seven children. Four sons are conclusively proved (Joseph Jr., Thomas, John, and William), two sons are suggested by circumstantial evidence (Robert and James), and a daughter Ann, d.s.n.p., is proved by the will of her brother, Joseph Jr.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See you on down the road.

Robin

[1] See the article at http://digupdeadrelatives.com/2018/12/28/reprise-scots-irish-anyway/

[1] John Rankin, a Shaker preacher and grandson of R&R, hand-wrote his autobiography at age 88. These details about the migration of R&R are from that autobiography. See “Auto-biography of John Rankin, Sen.” (South Union, Ky., 1845), transcribed in Harvey L. Eads, ed., History of the South Union Shaker Colony from 1804 to 1836 (South Union, Ky., 1870), Shaker Museum at South Union, Auburn, Kentucky (SMSU), 29-30. For a typescript of Eads’s history, see Shaker Record A at the Special Collections Library, Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green, Kentucky (WKU). The above citation can be found at this link.