It’s all about the Benjamins …

… but we aren’t talking $100 bills. Our subjects are four eighteenth-century Virginians named Benjamin who hail from the Northern Neck Rankin Cluster. Two of these men will qualify a descendant for DAR or SAR membership. If that is your thing and you may have a Rankin ancestor in the right area, they might be worth a closer look.

But this Virginia Rankin family is a tough nut to crack. Only one of the Benjamins has proved parents. Precise birth years are nonexistent; we mostly have to settle for a likely decade. I’m hoping for a reader who has a Bible or other evidence to help us with these men …

  • Benjamin Rankin of King George County, Virginia, a proved son of the Robert Rankin who died there in 1747/48. Benjamin was probably born in the 1720s.
  • Benjamin Rankin of Frederick and Berkeley Counties, Virginia (later part of West Virginia). DAR information is that Capt. Benjamin was born circa 1740.
  • Benjamin Rankin of King George/Fauquier/Loudoun Counties, Virginia and Fayette County, Kentucky. He was a Revolutionary War soldier, suggesting he was born in the 1750s or early 1760s.
  • Benjamin Rankin of Loudoun and Frederick Counties, Virginia and Mason County, Kentucky. He was probably born in the 1760s. His probable or possible brothers were Lt. Robert, William, John, Moses, Reuben, and George Rankin.[1]

Here’s what county records reveal about them.

Benjamin Rankin of King George County, Virginia, son of Robert Rankin who died 1747/48

Benjamin first appeared in the Virginia records in 1747/48 when he was named a beneficiary of his father Robert’s will.[2]Benjamin and his siblings Mary Rankin Green, Moses, George, and Hipkins each inherited only one shilling. Sons William, John, and James, probably the three eldest, inherited Robert’s land.[3] Robert’s estate was appraised at less than one hundred pounds sterling, so he didn’t have much wealth to spread among his children.[4] As a general rule, that means his sons weren’t likely to be wealthy, either.

After his father’s will was proved, Benjamin didn’t appear again in the King George records until 1753.[5] He must have been of legal age by then, born by 1732. After 1753, he appeared regularly in the court order books through 1767. In at least two records, Benjamin was involved with one of his brothers. In 1753, Benjamin and Hipkins sued the same man for trespass, assault and battery.[6] In 1763, Benjamin was security for Moses Rankin, a defendant in a suit for debt.[7]Benjamin was a carpenter, as was his brother John.[8]

The King George court slapped Benjamin hard on the wrist once — on the record — for presenting what the justices called a “very extravagant” charge for building several structures at Gibson’s tobacco warehouse.[9] The justices instructed that Benjamin be paid a lesser amount than he charged. Benjamin, bless his heart, didn’t take it lying down. He sued, was awarded a judgment, and obtained a writ of execution against the warehouse. The court instructed that the judgment be paid from the county levy.[10] Score: Little Guy 1 – City Hall 0.

Benjamin was moderately respectable by the norms of the day, something one can’t say with confidence about his brothers. They appeared in grand jury presentments for “failing to attend divine services,”[11] swearing,[12] “vagrancy” (failing to appear for militia drills),[13] or in court records as defendants in lawsuits for debts.[14] Benjamin did not belong to the top tier of the social order, though. He was never identified with the honorific “gent.,” nor did he serve in a county leadership position — justice, vestryman, tobacco warehouse inspector, someone who took tithes, or the like. He was, after all, a carpenter.

Benjamin did appraise at least one estate, a court-ordered position of moderate respect and trust.[15] He served on a couple of juries.[16] He was appointed overseer of a road, an indicator of both probable land ownership and public trust.[17] However, I found no record of any land acquisition in the deed books or Northern Neck grants. I also found no evidence of Benjamin’s family, if any.

After 1767, Benjamin disappeared from King George records. Because I found no probate records for him, I assumed he had moved. Then I started digging into the online images of King George order books. It turns out that there are very few surviving court records from the 1770s, or at least I had limited luck in the FamilySearch.org microfilms. Court records for King George are disorganized after the 1760s. Benjamin may have remained there and died intestate in the 1770s. Or he may have moved away. I don’t know. !!%&@!**&%!!

Capt. Benjamin Rankin of Frederick/Berkeley County, Virginia

Benjamin of Frederick/Berkeley first appeared in the records witnessing a 1765 Frederick County lease.[18] He lived in the Bullskin Creek/Bloomery area in the northern part of Frederick that became Berkeley County.[19] He was a Captain in the Berkeley County militia. The DAR deems him a Revolutionary Patriot, apparently for furnishing supplies.[20] The DAR estimates he was born circa 1740, probably based on information provided by a descendant.

He resigned his Berkeley militia commission in 1779.[21] That same year, he purchased more than 700 acres and thirty-seven enslaved persons.[22] He was clearly a wealthy man. In 1786, he was a trustee of the city of Charlestown, indicating he was also well-respected.[23] He died in 1787, leaving a will naming his wife Judith MNU and daughters Molly (Mary) Rankin and Margaret Helm, wife of William Helm.[24] George Rankin, who was surely a relative, witnessed Benjamin’s 1787 will.[25]

I had a notion that Capt. Benjamin of Frederick/Berkeley might be the same man as Benjamin, son of the Robert Rankin who died in King George County in 1747/48.[26] However, a birthdate circa 1740 for Capt. Benjamin, if close to accurate, precludes that possibility. Robert’s son Benjamin was of legal age by at least 1753, and thus born well before 1740.[27] Also, I have since learned from microfilm of court records in King George that Benjamin, son of Robert, was still appearing in records there in 1767, while Capt. Benjamin of  Frederick/Berkeley was in a Frederick County record two years earlier.

I also wondered whether Capt. Benjamin of Frederick/Berkeley might be the father of Lt. Robert, William, John, Benjamin, Moses, George, and Reuben Rankin.[28] Those seven men were almost certainly brothers.[29] Capt. Benjamin was in the right place at the right time to have been their father. However, his only proved children are the two daughters named in his will. Further, a birth date circa 1740 makes him highly unlikely as a father of at least Lt. Robert, born in 1753.

If you are looking for an entrée to the DAR or SAR, Benjamin’s son-in-law William Helm is a sure bet. The Helms children were identified in the SAR application of a descendant.[30]

Revolutionary War Soldier Benjamin Rankin of King George/Fauquier/Loudoun Counties, Virginia and Fayette, Kentucky

This Benjamin lived as a young man in King George County and died in Fayette County, Kentucky. In between, he spent at least some time in Loudoun and Fauquier Counties, because he signed a letter from each county assigning his benefits as a Revolutionary War soldier to a Francis Peyton.[31] One of the letters states that Benjamin served for three years as a dragoon — a cavalry soldier — in Lt. Col. William Washington’s Regiment.

Col. Washington signed Benjamin’s discharge papers as follows: “Benjamin Rankins soldier in the 3d Regiment of Light Dragoons having served faithfully three years is hereby discharged.”[32] The discharge was dated May 17, 1781, suggesting that Benjamin entered the service about May 1778. He was definitely with the unit by July 1778, when he was on furlough. On that date, the regiment was located in Fredericksburg, less than thirty miles west of the King George county seat.[33] I have no idea why he was on furlough so soon after enlisting, which seems unusual.

In September 1778, the regiment was billeted in barns and houses around Old Tappan, New Jersey.[34] The soldiers’ presence was betrayed by loyalist townspeople to British troops in the area. They were attacked during the night in an event known as “Baylor’s Massacre,” named after Col. George Baylor, who was then the regiment’s commander. More than sixty of the Third Regiment men were bayoneted and died.

Benjamin obviously survived the Massacre, unless he was still absent on a pretty long furlough. He was definitely serving in the cavalry regiment when it made mounted charges at the Battles of Cowpens and Guilford Court House, both of which were major patriot victories in the Carolinas.[35]

According to depositions given in the pension application of Benjamin’s widow Jane Hickey, he was a resident King George County when he enlisted.[36] He may have appeared in King George records in the 1770s, although that is the period when court records are apparently lost. Given his military service during 1778-1781, he was probably born in the 1750s or early 1760s.

The first records I have for him are the two 1783 letters from Loudoun and Fauquier Counties assigning his Revolutionary War benefits to a third party. He moved from that area to Fayette County, Kentucky along with another Rankin, relationship unknown. John Rankin of Clark County, Kentucky gave a deposition in connection with the pension application of Benjamin’s widow. John did not (!!) define his relationship to Benjamin, although they were surely related in some fashion. John merely said that his father, not named, and Benjamin moved to Kentucky in 1784 from Fauquier County.[37]

Jane Hickey testified that she and Benjamin married in 1785. They had more than six children, some of whom were named in the depositions supporting her pension application. Children included Sarah (the eldest, born about 1786, married Charles Hall), William, Frances, John, James, and Thomas. Jane gave her deposition from Jefferson County, Indiana. She and her children probably all moved there. Jane, her daughter Sarah Rankin Hall, and two probable sons of Jane and Benjamin can be found in the 1850 census for Indiana in Clark County (Sarah Rankin Hall and Jane) and Jefferson County (William and James).[38]

It is a reasonable bet that Revolutionary War Benjamin was a grandson of the Robert Rankin who died in King George in 1747/48.[39] As to which of Robert’s sons might have been Benjamin’s father, I haven’t found a scrap of evidence. That is par for the course with the Northern Neck Rankin Cluster.

Benjamin Rankin of Loudoun/Frederick, Virginia and Mason, Kentucky

Lt. Robert, William, and John Rankin — three proved brothers who lived in Mason County at one time — definitely had a brother Benjamin. There is evidence for that in two records, which appear conclusive:

  • In July 1783, William Rankin executed a power of attorney authorizing delivery of William’s Certificate of Service to Robert Rankin in order for the latter to obtain William’s land warrant. William’s military service was certified by Capt. William Brady. Both Lt. Robert and William had enlisted in Brady’s company of Stephenson’s Independent Rifle Regiment in 1776, so it is clear we are dealing with those two brothers. Benjamin Rankin witnessed the power of attorney, good circumstantial evidence of a family relationship.[40]
  • In August 1792, the Northern Neck Proprietor executed a lease to Benjamin Rankin of Loudoun County for the life of Benjamin and his brothers Moses and Robert Rankin. George Rankin, relationship unknown, witnessed the lease. William Rankin, Lt. Robert’s proved brother, had a nearby lease for his life and the lives of his wife Mary Ann and son Harrison.

Benjamin and his brothers Moses, Robert, and William were not sons of the Robert Rankin who died in 1747/48 in King George. That Robert did not name a son Robert in his will. More importantly, Lt. Robert was born in 1753; William was born in 1758. If the Robert who died in 1747/48 was their direct ancestor, he was their grandfather.

Benjamin of Loudoun/Frederick did not leave probate records in Frederick, so he evidently moved on. I believe he is the same man as the Benjamin Rankin who appeared in Mason County along with Lt. Robert, William, John, Moses, and George. Benjamin owned a number of town lots in Williamsburg, name later changed to Orangeburg.[41] My notes also indicate he appeared on a tax list with 100 acres on Cabin Creek and an enslaved person.[42] He married Catherine Stubblefield in 1796.[43] His bondsman was George Rankin, who plays a variety of supporting roles in records concerning the Northern Neck Rankin Cluster.[44]

The last appearance in the Mason County records that I found for Benjamin was in 1803. He was not in the 1810 census there. In 1817, a Catherine Rankin — possibly his widow? — married. I found no probate records for Benjamin.

Need I say that Benjamin and Catherine’s children, if any, are a total mystery? We cannot even be positive that the Benjamin Rankin of Williamsburg/Orangeburg, Mason County is the same man as the Benjamin who leased a tract in Frederick County in 1792. They probably were the same man, since families often migrated together, several other Rankin siblings lived in Mason County, and, of course, the appearance of George Rankin in both Benjamin’s Mason County marriage bond and the Frederick County lease for life.

And that’s all the news that is fit to print about the Benjamins of the Northern Neck Rankin Cluster.

See you on down the road.

Robin

                  [1] There are a number of articles on this website about Lt. Robert, his brothers, and their possible parents. They include Part 1, an introduction to Lt. Robert Rankin’s family, Part 2, relevant military information for Lt. Robert and his brother William, Part 3, William’s war story, Part 4, Lt. Robert’s war story, and Part 5A and Part 5B, two articles seeking to identify their parents.

                  [2] Abstract of King George Co. VA Will Book 1-A: 201, George Harrison Sanford King, King George County Virginia Will Book A-I 1721-1752 and Miscellaneous Notes (Fredericksburg, VA: 1978), undated will of Robert Rankin proved 4 Mar 1747/48. Wife Elizabeth. Sons William, John, and James, all of Robert’s land to be equally divided. Daughter Mary Green and sons Moses, George, Benjamin, and Hipkins, one shilling each.

                  [3] William was definitely the eldest because he was summoned to court to object, if he desired, to the noncupative will of Robert’s widow Elizabeth Rankin. King George Co., VA Order Book 1754-56: 470, order dated 3 Apr 1755. The right to object was accorded only to the eldest son under the rules of primogeniture. The fact that William was the first-named child in the will suggests Robert named his children in birth order. Hipkins, the last-named, was almost certainly the youngest. Order Book entry dated 6 Apr 1753 regarding the lawsuit Hipkins Rankins by Richard Green his next friend v. Thomas Burnett. That is the only court record in which one of Robert’s children was proved to be under legal age.

                  [4] King George Co., VA Order Book 1746 – 1751: 577, inventory and appraisement of the estate of Robert Rankins, dec’d, presented and recorded. His inventory is recorded in Deed Book 6: 28. The estate included one enslaved person, who probably accounted for most of the estate’s value.

                  [5] King George Co., VA Order Book 1751-54: 212, May 1753, Benjamin Rankins was a plaintiff in a lawsuit.

                  [6] Id. Benjamin and Hipkins both sued Thomas Burnett for trespass, assault and battery. The suits almost certainly arose out of the same events.

                  [7] King George Co., VA Order Book 1751-1765: 1065, entry for April 1763, Benjamin Rankins was security for Moses Rankins in a suit for debt.

                  [8] Id. at 781, entry of March 1758 binding Henry Jones as an apprentice to Benjamin Rankins to learn the trade of house carpenter. As for John, see King George Co., VA Deed Book 4: 36, 9 May 1753, a mortgage by John Rankins, carpenter of Hanover Parish, to William Bruce, an enslaved person named Sall or Sarah, witnessed by Richard Green, Mary Green, and Joana Pool. Mary Green was John’s sister, see Note 2.

                  [9] Id. at 903, Jun or July 1760 order concerning Benjamin Rankin’s “very extravagant” account for building several structures at Gibson’s tobacco warehouse.

                  [10] Id. at 1078, court order to pay from county funds to discharge Benjamin Rankin’s execution against Gibson’s warehouse.

                  [11] Moses, George, John, and Hipkins were all summoned by a grand jury at least one time for missing church. King George Co., VA Order Book 1754-56: 594 (Moses and John); Order Book 1751-65: 823 (George); Id. at 924 (John and Hipkins).

                  [12] King George Co., VA Order Book 1746-51: 610, grand jury presentment against James and Moses Rankins for “swearing an oath”.

                  [13] King George Co., VA Deed Book 4: 283, Moses Rankin “vagrant,” not appearing for militia drills. I don’t know whether that was one offense or two.

                  [14] E.g., King George Co., VA Order Book 1754-56: 583 (money judgment granted against James Rankins and George Rankins), 580 (judgment against William Rankins for suit on an account), 582 (default judgment against John Rankins). All of those records were in November 1755. There are more.

                  [15] King George Co., VA Order Book 1751-1765: 971, Benjamin Rankins et al. to appraise the estate of Richard Strother.

                  [16] E.g., King George Co., VA Order Book 1751-1765: 903, Benjamin Rankins on a jury. I have always thought that only freeholders could serve on colonial juries, although both Benjamin and Moses did so. Order Book 1751-54: 143, Moses on a jury. Neither inherited any land from their father Robert, and I found no deed or grant in which either one acquired land.

                  [17] Id. at 694, Benjamin Rankins appointed overseer of a road in place of Samuel Kendall.

                  [18] Amelia C. Gilreath, Frederick County, Virginia Deed Books 9, 10, 11, 1763-1767 (Nokesville, VA: 1989), abstract of Frederick Co., VA Deed Book 11: 12, Benjamin Rankins witnessed a lease dated 5 May 1765.

                  [19] Virginia Genealogical Society, Frederick County [Virginia] Road Orders 1743-1772 (Westminster, MD: Heritage Books, 2007), abstract of Frederick Co., VA Order Book 13: 383, entry of 7 May 1767 appointing Benjamin Rankin overseer of the road “from Bullskin to the Bloomery.”

                  [20] You can search for Benjamin Rankin on the DAR website here. See also William & Mary Quarterly, Series 1, Vol. 13, No. 1 (July 1904), “Soldiers of Berkeley County, W. Va.” 29-36.

                  [21] Berkeley Co., WV Order Book 3: 401, 20 Apr 1779, Benjamin Rankin personally appeared in court and resigned his commission as a captain in the Berkeley Militia.

                  [22] Berkeley Co., WV Deed Book 5: 744, deed of 8 Dec 1779 from Richard and Francis Willis to Benjamin Rankin.

                  [23] William Thomas Doherty, Berkeley County, U.S.A.: A Bicentennial History of a Virginia and West Virginia County, 1772 – 1972 (Parsons, WV: McClain Printing Co., 1972) 36 note 9.

                  [24] Larry G. Shuck, Berkeley County, Virginia Deeds and Wills, Abstracts Deed Books 1-5 (1772-1781), Will Books 1-3 (1772-1805), abstract of Berkeley Co., VA Will Book 1: 441, will of Benjamin Rankin of Berkeley proved 16 Jan 1787. Mentioned land on Bullskin. Witnessed by George Rankin.

                  [25] Benjamin, son of Robert d. 1747/48, had a brother named George. See Note 2. That is one reason I had speculated that Benjamin of Frederick/Berkeley was the same man as Robert’s son Benjamin, although I no longer believe that to be the case. I don’t know for sure who George Rankin might be.

                  [26] See Note 2.

                  [27] See Note 5.

                  [28] See Part B of an article about the possible parents of Lt. Robert here  and one identifying Lt. Robert’s siblings here. The only evidence for Benjamin Rankin as a possible father, so far as I found, is that Lt. Robert Rankin and his brother William enlisted in Col. Hugh Stephenson’s Maryland and Virginia Rifle Regiment from Berkeley County, which typically means they resided there. Benjamin lived near the Stephensons. In other words, he was in the right place at the right time.

                  [29] The first four men (Lt. Robert, William, John, and Benjamin) can be deemed proved. Moses, Reuben, and George are possible.

                  [30] See the SAR application of Standiford Helm, a descendant of William Helm, 1755-1806. His first wife was Margaret Rankin, daughter of Capt. Benjamin of Berkeley. William served in the 3rd VA Regiment of the Continental Line. He lived at “Helms Hill” in Berkeley Co. Standiford’s SAR application identifies the children of William and Margaret Rankin Helm as (1) Benjamin Helm, (2) Thomas Helm m. Eliz. Mort 8 Jan 1806, (3) Elizabeth Helm m. John Mort, (4) John Helm, (5) William Helm, (6) Lucy Helm m. Mr. Jennings, (7) George Helm, (8) Ann Helm m. Mr. Williams, and (9) Erasmus Helm m. Lavinia Oliver. Some of the Helms went to Mason Co., KY, as did Lt. Robert Rankin and his brothers.

                  [31] The originals of Benjamin Rankin’s two letters are in the records of the Library of Virginia, although my links to the online images no longer work. Instead, see Annie Walker Burns, Revolutionary War Pensions of Soldiers Who Settled in Fayette County Kentucky (Washington, D.C.: 1936), available online here. The two letters are at p. 52, and are included in the pension applications of “Hickey, Daniel and Jane.” Jane was Benjamin’s widow; Daniel Hickey was her third husband.

                  [32] Christine L. Langner, Baylor’s Regiment: The Third Continental Light Dragoons (Berwyn Heights, MD: Heritage Books, Inc., 2015) 149.

                  [33] Id.

                  [34] Id. at ix.

                  [35] See a brief history of the 3rd Continental Regiment of Light Dragoons here.

                  [36] Burns, Revolutionary War Pensions 49-52, applications for Daniel and Jane Hickey at this link. One deposition identifies a Benjamin Rankin as the deponent, but that was clearly an error. Ms. Burns transcription indicates that a John Rankin signed the deposition.  The only way the testimony makes sense is if the deponent was a John Rankin who came to Kentucky with his father in 1784.

                  [37] Id.

                  [38] Benjamin’s widow Jane Hickey gave her deposition in Jefferson Co., IN in 1847. Their eldest daughter, Sarah Rankin, married Charles Hall and lived in Bourbon Co., KY briefly before also moving to Indiana. Sarah Hall and her mother Jane Hickey are listed in the 1850 census in Clark Co., IN: Sarah Hall, 64, b. KY, with Jane Hicky, sic, 82, b. NC. William Rankin, age 65, and James Rankin, age 51, were enumerated in Jefferson Co., IN in the 1850 census. They may well be and probably are sons of Benjamin and Jane. Both were born in Kentucky and were the right age.

                  [39] I don’t believe Benjamin, the Revolutionary War Soldier, was a son of John and Sarah Woffendale Rankin, although that is possible. John and Sarah’s son Reuben was born between 1736 and 1741. Benjamin was probably born circa 1760. With this crowd, of course, it is anyone’s guess.

                  [40] See a transcription of the power of attorney letter here. It is not clear from the letter where William was living when he wrote it. Knowing that might help determine which of the several Benjamins was the witness. I believe Benjamin the witness was William’s brother, the grantee in the 1792 lease for life, although he might well have been Capt. Benjamin of Berkeley.

                  [41] Mason Co., KY Deed Book C: 73, 75, deed dated March 1796, Benjamin Rankins of Mason Co. bought three lots in Williamsburg; deed dated March 1794, Benjamin purchased Lot #10 in Williamsburg. My notes also have Benjamin on a tax list showing him taxed on 100 acres on Cabin Cr. and one enslaved person. I failed to note the FamilySearch Film number and now cannot find such an entry.

                  [42] My notes say that FamilySearch films of Mason County tax lists were the source of that information. I cannot find it again. Doing so will require going through the films page by page, a commitment I am not ready to make after my adventures in the King George court order book films.

                  [43] Mason County, Kentucky Marriage Records 1789 – 1833 (Kokomo, IN: Selby Publishing, 1999), marriage bond for Benjamin Rankin and Catherine Stubblefield, 20 Apr 1796, bondsman George Rankin.

                  [44] George, the supporting actor (or some other man named George Rankin), also witnessed the 1787 will of Capt. Benjamin Rankin of Berkeley and Benjamin Rankin’s 1792 lease for life in Frederick.

Rankin families in the darn book

I hope this is the last time I blather about The Compleat Rankin Book, which continues to nip at my heels. I’m ready to move on to Volume 2.

I’ve received two emails asking me which Rankin families are included in the book. Also, one blog commenter speculated that her line is not in it. In response, here are some short blurbs for the lines in the book to let you know which Rankins are included and generally who they are …

Robert and Margaret (“Peggy”) Berry Rankin of Virginia, Kentucky, Alabama, Texas, and Louisiana. Lt. Robert and his brother William were both Revolutionary soldiers. Their fabulous individual war stories are covered in some detail. Lt. Robert died in Louisiana, but is buried in the Texas State Cemetery in Austin … or so the Cemetery believes, despite some hilarious evidence to the contrary. Lt. Robert’s brother William died in Mason County, Kentucky, as did his brother John. The three brothers (there may be others) left large families — twenty-eight children among them. Their descendants should be legion. Their parents are not proved. The next article I post will share my opinion about their family of origin, assuming I am able to formulate one that isn’t just rank speculation.

Joseph and Rebecca Rankin (“J&R”) of New Castle County, Delaware. Their sons John and William went to Guilford County, North Carolina. Their descendants are well-documented in a book by Rev. Samuel Meek Rankin.[1] J&R’s son James went to Washington County, Pennsylvania. Only J&R’s sons Joseph (Jr.) and Lt. Thomas Rankin stayed in New Castle. J&R’s probable son Robert is a mystery. Their daughter Ann lived with her brother Joseph (Jr.) and apparently never married. No, Samuel Rankin who married Eleanor (“Ellen”) Alexander was not J&R’s son, despite Rev. Rankin’s speculation on that issue.

Four of J&R’s sons fought in the Revolution, assuming Rev. Rankin is correct about John and William fighting at Guilford Court House. His family tradition that they fought in that battle accords with the fact that every able-bodied patriot for miles around reportedly participated. Ostensibly a British victory, it was nevertheless a major blow to Cornwallis in the Southern Campaign. If you haven’t been to the Guilford Courthouse National Park in Greensboro, it is worth a trip.

Robert and Rebecca Rankin (“R&R”) of Guilford County, North Carolina. Their son Robert died there in 1795, leaving one son named George and four daughters. R&R’s son George married Lydia Steele and died in Rowan County (from which Guilford was created) in 1760. George left two young sons, John and Robert, who left Guilford for Kentucky and Tennessee, respectively. R&R also had at least three daughters: Ann Rankin Denny (proved), Rebecca Rankin Boyd (probable) and Margaret Rankin Braly/Brawley (also probable).

R&R’s line includes at least one Revolutionary War soldier and the famous Rev. John Rankin of the Shaker colony in Logan County, Kentucky. Shaker Rev. John was kind enough to pen an autobiography identifying where the family lived before they came to the colonies. That is a rare case of certainty about a Rankin family’s specific Ulster location. Otherwise, Rev. John’s autobiography is a piece of work. I challenge you to get through it.[2]

David and Margaret Rankin of Iredell County, North Carolina. David may have been a son of Robert and Rebecca Rankin of Guilford. Y-DNA tests allow that possibility, although there seems to be no evidence in the paper records. David and Margaret’s son James died at the Battle of Ramsour’s Mill in 1780, leaving four underage children in Lincoln County. Their son Robert survived Ramsour’s and moved to Gibson County, Tennessee, where he filed a Revolutionary War pension application.

Robert had proved sons David and Denny Rankin, both of whom remained in Iredell and married McGin sisters. Robert also had a daughter Margaret Rankin Finley, who appeared with him in Gibson County in a deed of gift. Descendants of Robert and his wife, probably Jean Denny of Guilford County, still live in Iredell County.

John Rankin of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. He died there in 1749, leaving a will naming a wife Margaret, two sons, and eight daughters.[3] His son Richard went to Augusta County, Virginia. Son Thomas also went to Augusta, then moved on to East Tennessee. Thomas was the patriarch of the line of Rankins celebrated in the famous Mt. Horeb Presbyterian Church Cemetery tablet in Jefferson County, Tennessee. This family has also been thoroughly documented, especially by a 19th- century descendant named Richard Duffield Rankin. One descendant is Rev. John Rankin, the famous abolitionist whose home in Ripley, Ohio was a waystation on the underground railroad. He deserves an article of his own. Another fairly well-known descendant is John Knox Rankin, who was among those who faced Quantrill’s Raiders in Lawrence, Kansas in 1863. Both Rev. John and John Knox Rankin are high on my to-do list.

Adam and Mary Steele Alexander Rankin of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Adam died there in 1747, leaving a daughter and three sons. This is perhaps the best known of all Rankin families. Adam and Mary’s children, possibly not in birth order, were James, Esther Rankin Dunwoody, William, and Jeremiah. James married Jean/Jane Campbell and lived in a famous location in Montgomery Township, Franklin County called “the Corner.” Tales of “mint julip” (moonshine?), evil groundhogs, and a haunted house in the Corner abound. Story to follow. James and Jean had four sons and two daughters. David, William, and Jeremiah remained in Franklin. The fourth son, James Jr., is elusive.

Adam and Mary’s son William married Mary Huston and had seven sons and a daughter, Betsy Rankin Robison. Four of their sons — William Jr., James, Jeremiah, and John — went to Centre County, Pennsylvania, where they owned land devised by their father. William and Mary’s son Adam, their eldest, became a doctor and moved to Kentucky. Son Archibald married Agnes Long and remained in Franklin County. Son David married Frances Campbell and wound up in Des Moines County, Iowa.

Adam and Mary’s son Jeremiah (wife Rhoda Craig) died in a mill accident in Franklin County, Pennsylvania in 1760. Jeremiah seems to be totally absent from Pennsylvania records other than his father’s will. His four sons went to Kentucky.

Famous descendants of Adam and Mary include Confederate Brigadier General Adam Rankin “Stovepipe” Johnson, who was the father and grandfather of two major league baseball players. Stovepipe is also buried in the Texas State Cemetery in Austin. He is from the line of William and Mary Huston Rankin through their Kentucky son Dr. Adam. Another famous descendant of Adam and Mary is Rev. Adam Rankin of Lexington, Kentucky, a son of Jeremiah and Rhoda. Rev. Adam was well-known among Presbyterians for his obsession with the so-called “Psalmody controversy.”

Samuel and Eleanor (“Ellen”) Alexander Rankin of Lincoln/Gaston Co., NC. His nickname was “Old One-Eyed Sam,” according to a descendant who grew up across the Catawba River from Sam’s home in Lincoln. I haven’t found many good stories about this family, other than their grandson Samuel who was indentured as a thirteen-year-old. Indentured servitude was fairly uncommon in a family as prominent and wealthy as the Lincoln County Rankins. Sam’s two brothers escaped that fate, making me suspect that young Sam was a handful. He married Mary Frances Estes in Tishomingo County, Mississippi and wound up in Jefferson County, Arkansas.

Sam and Mary had eight sons and two daughters. Four of their sons were Civil War soldiers. Two joined the Confederate army and two fought for the Union, probably after having been first captured as Confederate soldiers.[4] One of Sam and Mary’s sons, my ancestor John Allen Rankin, deserted the Army of the Confederacy after a terrible loss at the Battle of Champion Hill east of Vicksburg. Private John Allen’s war story intersects with a good love story about meeting his future wife, Amanda Lindsey. One of John Allen and Amanda’s great-grandchildren still flies a Confederate battle flag on his front porch, citing his “proud southern heritage” as justification. He might not know about his ancestor’s desertion. My cousin and I fly different flags.

Robert Rankin of Rutherford County, North Carolina and Caldwell County, Kentucky. Robert married Mary Witherow in North Carolina. The couple apparently divorced, which was evidently rare at that time. Alternatively, Robert may have just walked away. He left North Carolina while Mary W. Rankin was still alive. He eventually remarried. I haven’t found any fun stories about his family, although I haven’t looked very hard. Their descendant Francis Gill is the expert on Rutherford Robert’s line. The Compleat Book contains entries from several family Bibles that Francis kindly shared. If this is your crowd, the Bibles provide good information. The book also has an article about Robert’s son Jesse, who married Cynthia Sellers and went to Gibson County, Tennessee. He has been confused with another Jesse Rankin, a son of Shaker Rev. John Rankin.

William and Abigail Rankin of Washington County, Pennsylvania. William was a son of David and Jeanette McCormick Rankin of Frederick County, Virginia. William and his brother David were easy to track; their brother Hugh, not so much. That translates to the fact that I have unfinished business with this line. William and his wife Abigail left a passel of children, many of whom remained in Washington County. Their son David left Washington County for Kentucky. One son, Zachariah, died of hydrophobia after being bitten by a rabid wolf. The most charming stories about this family concern the detailed list of Zachariah’s clothing in his inventory and the amount of whiskey purchased for his Washington County estate sale. Who says probate records are dry and boring? You can bet that estate sale was neither.

William Jr. and Jane Rankin of Fayette County, Pennsylvania. This is an interesting line in early Pennsylvania which also deserves more research. Some of their line remained in Fayette County, where the cemeteries are awash with their descendants. Some went “west,” which often meant “the Ohio Country.” That referred to land roughly west of the Appalachian Mountains and north of the Ohio River.[5] One of their sons who went “west” had accumulated an overwhelming amount of debt from lenders in at least two states, leaving mind-boggling deeds about it. What, I wonder, did he spend all that money on? If I could suss it out, it would surely be a good story.

Jeanette Pickering Rankin and her sister Edna Rankin McKinnon. It isn’t easy finding famous women in family history research. Jeanette is known for her terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, where she was the first female. She is famous (or infamous) for her votes against entering both World Wars. She was a woman of integrity and courage, no matter what one thinks about those votes. She also did considerable work obtaining the vote for women in her home state of Montana. In her eighties, Jeanette led an anti-Vietnam war march in D.C. The marchers dubbed themselves the “Jeanette Rankin Brigade.” Her little sister Edna is famous for her work in Planned Parenthood. If those two Rankin women had been around at the right time, there would undoubtedly have been some rousing good speeches in favor of the Equal Rights Amendment.

Now … I need to see if I have sufficient evidence to formulate a semi-cogent opinion about the parents of Lt. Robert Rankin and his brothers William and John. If not, there are plenty of other genealogical mysteries and interesting Rankins waiting in the wings.

See you on down the road.

Robin

                  [1] Rev. S. M. Rankin, The Rankin and Wharton Families and Their Genealogy (Greensboro, NC: J. J. Stone & Co., printers and binders, 1931, reprint by Higginson Book Co., Salem, MA).

                  [2] John Rankin, “Auto-biography of John Rankin, Sen.” (South Union, Ky., 1845), transcribed in Harvey L. Eads, ed., History of the South Union Shaker Colony from 1804 to 1836 (South Union, Ky., 1870). You can obtain a copy of Ead’s transcript from the Special Collections Library, Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green, Kentucky (WKU), where it is designated “Shaker Record A.”

                  [3] More accurately, John Rankins’s 1749 will named six daughters and two sons-in-law.

                  [4] Captured Confederates were sometimes allowed to play a “get out of jail free” card by renouncing the Confederacy and joining the Union Army. Usually, the ex-prisoner served in the west, where he was unlikely to be shooting at members of his family.

                  [5] The “Ohio Country” consisted roughly of modern-day Ohio, eastern Indiana, western Pennsylvania, and northwestern West Virginia.

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, which is also inscribed on the Mt. Horeb tablet. Y-DNA testing conclusively disproves the possibility that Adam and John were brothers.

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.”

Lost and found: James, son of Joseph and Rebecca Rankin of Delaware

An old adage says that one must kiss a lot of frogs to find a charming prince. That is true in spades for genealogy. A family history researcher may review dozens of deeds before finding one proving, say, a parent-child relationship. On the other hand, it is also true that one occasionally trips over a missing ancestor in an unexpected location.

This article concerns just such a fortuitous appearance. I ran into James, a probable son of Joseph Rankin of New Castle County, Delaware (1704 – 1764), decades after he last appeared in Delaware. James is not conclusively proved as Joseph’s son, although the circumstantial evidence is sufficient to deem him proved, IMO. I last spotted James in the New Castle records in a 1783 tax list for White Clay Creek Hundred. Then he vanished for more than a half-century before popping up unexpectedly in Washington County, Pennsylvania.

I have written about Joseph and his son James before. Here is a quick summary.

  • Joseph probably came to the colonies from Ireland, although he may have been born in Scotland.[1] His likely arrival during the heyday of the “Great Migration” of Scots-Irish from Ulster (1717 – early 1770s), and his residence near the Philadelphia ports where most of the Scots-Irish arrived, combine to make a good circumstantial case for migration from Ulster.[2]
  • He may have appeared as a freeman – e., over 21 and not married – in the Chester County, Pennsylvania tax lists of 1728 and 1729.[3] He had definitely arrived in the colonies by 1731, when he acquired a tract in New Castle County, Delaware.[4] He is buried at Head of Christiana Presbyterian Church Cemetery in Newark, New Castle County. His tombstone says he died in 1764 at age 60.
  • Joseph and his wife Rebecca, maiden name unproved, probably married in Pennsylvania, Maryland, or Delaware. Their six sons (four conclusively proved and two indicated by circumstantial evidence) and one daughter Ann (proved) were born in the colonies, two of them were definitely born in Delaware.
  • Their proved sons Joseph Jr. and Thomas, a Lieutenant in the Revolution, remained in New Castle and died there. John and William, also proved, migrated to the area that became Guilford County, North Carolina. The whereabouts of possible son Robert is a question mark; I have been unable to trace him. Probable son James last appeared in New Castle County in 1783 living near, or with, his likely brothers Joseph Jr. and Thomas. He is the subject of this article.

Here’s why I suspect that James Rankin left New Castle County after 1783 and eventually wound up in Washington County, Pennsylvania. I don’t know where he was in the interim. But some James Rankin applied for a Revolutionary War pension from Washington County in May 1835. He was a private on the muster role of Captain Walter Carson’s company of New Castle militia. So were Lt. Thomas Rankin and Private Robert Rankin. James lived in New Castle County, Delaware when he enlisted.[5] He served in the Delaware line.

James signed a loyalty oath on 29 June 1778 in New Castle along with Robert Rankin and Thomas Rankin; Joseph Rankin signed on June 30.[6] James was on the 1782 tax list for White Clay Creek, New Castle, along with Thomas and Joseph.[7] The three men are numbered 146, 147, and 148 on the list. It was not alphabetized, so the three were enumerated at about the same time. That suggests they lived or at least farmed together. James owned no land, while Joseph Jr. and Thomas Rankin owned a tract in common which they inherited from their father.

James was born in 1749, which makes him the right age to have been a younger son of Joseph and Rebecca of New Castle.[8] He died in 1837, leaving a will and an estate account in Washington County, Pennsylvania. The will and account prove sons William, John, and Joseph, and daughters Martha (“Patty,” wife of Alexander Osborne), Mary (“Polly,” wife of Benjamin Boice), and Rebecca.[9]

Some researchers identify this James Rankin as a son of John Rankin and his wife Rebecca of Washington County. That John died and left a will in 1788 naming a son James. John was a son of William Rankin and his wife Abigail of Raccoon Creek, Washington County, and a grandson of David and Jennet McCormick Rankin of Frederick County, Virginia.

James, the son of the John who died in 1788 in Washington County, cannot have been the same man as James, the Revolutionary War veteran who died there in 1837. John’s 1788 will proves that his son James was born after 1767.[10] He was thus too young to have been the Revolutionary War veteran born in 1749.

The fact that James lived in New Castle County at enlistment strongly suggests a family of origin there. Joseph Sr. and Rebecca’s family is one of two identifiable Rankin families in New Castle in the mid-1700s. The second Rankin family is the line of a William Rankin who died in New Castle in 1745, leaving sons John and William. New Castle County and other records did not reveal a James Rankin in that family.

All of that points to the notion that James Rankin, Revolutionary War veteran of Washington County, was the same man as James, son of Joseph and Rebecca Rankin of New Castle. I would place a decent bet on that possibility if anyone cares to wager. Finding a living male descendant of James’s line to Y-DNA test might resolve the issue, assuming there is no NPE in the line.

I have not traced James’s family, however. His sons Joseph and John were in Belmont County, Ohio when James’s estate was probated in 1838.[11] By 1854, William Rankin, executor of his father’s will, was in Delaware County, Ohio. I haven’t done any research in either Ohio County. That’s on the “to-do” list, along with finding a descendant to Y-DNA test.

See you on down the road.

Robin

[1] See Bill and Martha Reamy, Genealogical Abstracts from Biographical and Genealogical History of the State of Delaware (Westminster, MD: Willow Bend Books, 2001), saying that “Joseph Rankin was b. near the Clyde in Scotland; to DE with his wife and children long before the Revolutionary War” at 119, citing Genealogical History at 445-446. While the birthplace in Scotland might be correct, it is highly unlikely that Joseph had a wife and children before he migrated to the colonies. He probably married Rebecca in Pennsylvania or Delaware, and their children were born in Delaware. Rev. Samuel Meek Rankin says that their son John Rankin was born in 1736 and his brother William in 1744, both in Delaware. Rev. S. M. Rankin, The Rankin and Wharton Families and Their Genealogy (Salem, MA: Higginson Book reprint, originally published in Greensboro, NC, 1931) 55. Joseph acquired his tract on White Clay Creek, New Castle County, in 1731.

[2] See an article about the Scots-Irish at this link. .

[3] 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).

[4] There is no 1731 deed to Joseph Rankin listed in the New Castle grantee index. If the deed was recorded, I cannot find it. The only proof of Joseph’s land acquisition is recitations of the provenance of the tract in later deeds.

[5] The entire pension file is available on Fold3 at Ancestry.com. If you don’t have a subscription, there is a brief abstract of the file by Virgil White, Genealogical Abstracts of Revolutionary War Pension Files (Waynesboro, TN: The National Historical Publishing County, 1991), Vol. III 2811.

[6] Delaware Archives Revolutionary War in Three Volumes, Volume III (Wilmington: Chas. H. Story Company Press 1919), Volume II 998, Delaware signers of the Oath of Allegiance.

[7] 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).

[8] Joseph and Rebecca’s proved sons John and William were born in 1736 and 1744, respectively. Rev. S. M. Rankin, The Rankin and Wharton Families and Their Genealogy, at 55.

[9] Will of James Rankin of Smith Township, Washington Co., dated 1834 and proved 1837. Named sons William (who was executor, along with Ezekiel Boice) and Joseph, and daughters Patty, Rebeccah, and Mary (Polly). Washington Co., PA Will Book 5: 370. Probate file # R48 notes payments to Joseph, John, Martha (Patty’s) husband Alexander Osborn, Mary (Polly’s) husband Benjamin Boice, and William Rankin. Rebecca had previously died, so her legacy was distributed to her siblings per capita. Acknowledgements by Joseph and John were executed in Belmont Co., OH in October 1838. In 1854, William, executor of James’ will, resided in Delaware Co., OH.

[10] Washington Co. Will Book 1: 81, will of John Rankin dated and proved in 1788 naming his wife Rebecca, son James, and daughter Polly. James was less than 21. He was thus born after 1767.

[11] Joseph and John executed acknowledgments that they had received their share of their father’s estate from Belton County in October 1838. Washington County, PA Wills and Probate Records, File R, Number 48, for James Rankin, 1838. James’ pension file mentions a William Rankin in Delaware Co., OH in 1854. William appeared in the 1850 census in Belmont County, Ohio, and in Delaware County in 1860 and 1880, at age 92.

Joseph Rankin of New Castle County, Delaware and the Bastard Stable Boy

Joseph Rankin of New Castle County (1704 – 1764) once generated some lively controversy among members of the Rankin DNA Project.

Back in the day, the conventional wisdom was that Joseph was the father of Samuel Rankin of Lincoln County, NC, husband of Eleanor (“Ellen”) Alexander. One member of the Rankin Project (call him “Joe” Rankin) has an unimpeachable paper trail back to Joseph. However, Joe is not even a remote Y-DNA match to descendants of Samuel and Eleanor. Some concluded that Joe couldn’t be a descendant of Joseph of Delaware. Someone told Joe he must have an NPE (“non-paternal event”) in his Rankin ancestry. Perhaps a Mrs. Rankin had an extramarital fling, producing a son named Rankin who wasn’t a biological Rankin.

That couldn’t be the case, because Joe is clearly a biological Rankin. He has Rankin Y-DNA matches who aren’t descended from Joseph. Nevertheless, the naysayers held firm: Joe could not be descended from Joseph of Delaware because he didn’t match descendants of Samuel and Eleanor.

Joe’s frustration simmered until he identified another Rankin having a solid gold paper trail back to Joseph of Delaware. Joe persuaded him to Y-DNA test. Bingo! They are a 37-marker match with a genetic distance of one. Said Joe: “I feel like I’ve gone from being the bastard stable boy to laird of the manor.”

Joe and his recruit descend from different sons of Joseph, so their close Y-DNA match is not a result of a recent shared ancestor. Joseph of Delaware is their common Rankin ancestor. Their Y-DNA match also established that Samuel of Lincoln County was not a son of Joseph of Delaware, blowing up the longstanding conventional wisdom.

There are other questions about Joseph’s family. His wife is frequently identified as Rebecca Armstrong, although there seems to be no evidence for her surname; Rebecca is correct for her given name.[1] Some say he was born in Scotland,[2] although he almost certainly arrived in one of the Philadelphia ports in the late 1720s during the Great Migration of Scots-Irish from Ulster. Some sources say his children were born on the other side of the Atlantic, although the evidence proves that is error. Some say Joseph served in the Revolution. If so, he was a ghostly presence, because he died in 1764.[3]

Joseph was most likely the original Rankin immigrant in his family. His descendants belong to the same Rankin Y-DNA lineage as (1) Robert and Rebecca Rankin of Guilford County, NC and (2) David and Margaret Rankin of Iredell County, NC. Joseph was neither the father nor the son of Robert or David. No common ancestor for these three Rankin families has been identified, although David of Iredell may have been a son of Robert and Rebecca of Guilford. Y-DNA results establish a low probability that there is a common Rankin ancestor for these families on this side of the Atlantic. The common ancestor probably exists around 1400, plus or minus a century, almost certainly in Scotland. On the Rankin DNA Project website, Joseph’s line is “Lineage 1B.”[4]

Joseph of Delaware may be the same man as the Joseph Rankin who appeared as a “freeman” (i.e., unmarried and not a landowner) on the 1729 and 1730 tax lists in London-Britain Township in Chester County, Pennsylvania.[5] That township is in the very southeastern corner of Pennsylvania bordering the Maryland and Delaware state lines. Strickersville, the largest town in the township, is less than four miles from Head of Christiana Presbyterian Church in Newark, Delaware. Joseph is buried there.

By 1731, Joseph (hereafter, “Joseph Sr.”) had acquired a tract on White Clay Creek in New Castle County, White Clay Creek Township.[6] If Joseph of New Castle was the same man as Joseph of London-Britain Township, then Joseph and Rebecca must have married after the 1730 tax list was prepared.

Joseph Sr. had four sons conclusively proved by deeds: Joseph Jr., Lt. Thomas (a Revolutionary soldier), John, and William.[7] A daughter Ann is proved by the will of Joseph Jr.[8] I have transcribed one such deed at the end of this article following the footnotes.

Joseph Sr. also had two probable sons established by circumstantial evidence: James and Robert. Based on birth dates that are known and Joseph Sr.’s likely marriage after 1730, Joseph’s children were born in Delaware.

Here are Joseph’s proved and probable children, in no particular order.

  • John Rankin (1736 – 1814). Rev. S. M. Rankin’s 1931 book said this about him: “John Rankin, the son of Joseph, was born near Newark, [New Castle Co.,] Delaware, 1736, came to Guilford County, North Carolina, in 1764 … he was married to Hannah Carson just before or within a year after coming to North Carolina. He died in 1814.”[9] He was “tall and slender,” he and Hannah had twelve children, and they are both buried in the Buffalo Presbyterian Church cemetery in Greensboro.[10] A deed conclusively proves Joseph Sr. was John’s father.[11] Hannah Carson was also from New Castle, which suggests she and John may have married there. Three of John Rankin’s proved or probable brothers served in Hannah’s brother Walter Carson’s Company of militia in New Castle. Although John didn’t serve in Delaware, his family’s oral tradition was that he fought at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse in 1781. Rev. Rankin’s book meticulously traces the lines of both John Rankin and his brother William.
  • Thomas Rankin died in 1795, birth year uncertain. Some sources say without providing evidence that he was born in 1735. Lt. Thomas may be buried in the same grave as his father because a DAR marker with Thomas’s name, rank and unit (“2 Delaware Militia”) is installed at the base of Joseph Sr.’s tombstone.[12]The stone’s inscription says that Joseph died in 1764 at age 60. Some sources apparently assume that Lt. Thomas died at age 60. His estate was administered in 1795, the year he died. This may have led some conclude that Lt. Thomas was born in 1735. I found no evidence for that date of birth (or any other).

Like three of his brothers, Lt. Thomas is proved as a son of Joseph Sr. by a deed.[13] Also, Lt. Thomas signed a 1778 loyalty oath in New Castle at the same time and place as three other Rankin men (James, Joseph Jr. and Robert).[14] Of the three, only Joseph Jr. is Lt. Thomas’s conclusively proved brother. Lt. Thomas served with the other two, his probable brothers James and Robert Rankin, in Capt. Walter Carson’s company.

Lt. Thomas’s wife was Elizabeth Montgomery (about 1760 – 1830).[15] Their five children, all born during 1786 – 1795, are proved by Orphans’ Court records.[16] They were also beneficiaries or devisees in the will of Joseph Jr., who named his nieces and nephews Montgomery, Hannah, Margaret, Joseph (III) and Thomas Rankin (Jr.).[17] At least two of them – Joseph III, born about 1786, and Thomas Jr., born in 1795 – went to live with their uncle Joseph Jr. after Lt. Thomas died.[18] There was no better way in the colonies to become destitute than to be the mother of young children whose father dies. Orphans’ Court records confirm that Lt. Thomas’s personal estate was insufficient to pay debts.[19]

  • William Rankin (1744 – 1804)[20] was administrator of his father’s estate along with his mother Rebecca Rankin.[21] William married Jane Chambers in 1772 in Guilford County;[22] the couple had nine children.[23] William was still in Delaware in 1768, when two deeds recited that he was “of New Castle Co.”[24] The deeds appointed someone to acknowledge them in court for the grantors, suggesting that William probably left soon after executing them. Rev. Rankin says William arrived in Guilford in the latter part of 1768 and lived with his brother John for about three years.[25] I first found William in the Guilford records in 1772 when he bought a tract from John.[26] S. M. Rankin argues persuasively that William fought at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse along with his brother John.
  • Joseph Rankin Jr. died in 1820, birth year uncertain. He may have married Margaret Carson, sister of Hannah Carson Rankin and Capt. Walter Carson, in Philadelphia. That marriage was in a Lutheran church, though, and these Rankins were serious Presbyterians. The marriage issue is moot, because Joseph Jr. had no children of his own. Instead, he became the family caretaker, caring for his single sister Ann and at least two of the children of Lt. Thomas.[27] He was also an administrator of Lt. Thomas’s estate.[28]

Naturally, a deed conclusively proves Joseph Jr. was Joseph Sr.’s son.[29] Joseph Jr. also signed the 1778 loyalty oath along with the other Rankin men, but did not serve in Capt. Carson’s company. His 1819 will is a nice display of both affection and determination. He provides that his sister will live with his two nephews, and states how they should treat her in uncompromising terms: “in the same manner as she has lived with me and that my said nephews shall and will take care of her and use her as well in every respect as I have ever done during her natural lifetime.”

  • Ann Rankin apparently never married. Joseph Jr.’s will is the only source of information I found on her.[30]
  • James Rankin is a probable son of Joseph Sr. He signed the 1778 loyalty oath and also served in Capt. Carson’s company along with his brothers. Most importantly, James was listed in the 1783 tax list for White Clay Creek Hundred along with Lt. Thomas and Joseph Jr.[31] That was his only appearance on a tax list that I have found, although viewing those lists online is a nightmare. James owned no land, so he was likely farming with his brothers, who owned a tract in common inherited from their father.[32] One fact weighing against James as a son of Joseph and Rebecca is that Joseph Sr. apparently did not devise any land to them.

The 1783 list was James’s last appearance in the New Castle records. There are neither probate nor cemetery records for him, indicating that he probably moved away. I believe he migrated to Washington County, Pennsylvania.[33]

  • Robert Rankin is a possible son of Joseph Sr. and Rebecca. Like James, he apparently did not inherit any land from Joseph Sr. He signed the 1778 New Castle County loyalty oath with the other Rankins and also served in Capt. Carson’s company. Robert was listed on the 1777 and either the 1778 or 1779 tax lists for White Clay Creek Hundred, as were Lt. Thomas and Joseph. He isn’t listed in New Castle cemetery or probate records. I have no idea where Robert went. He was not the same man as either (1) Robert Rankin of Rutherford Co., NC who married Mary Withrow as his first wife or (2) Robert with wife Rebecca of Guilford Co., NC. He is a mystery.

And that’s a start on Joseph of Delaware.

See you on down the road.

Robin

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[1] See estate account of William Rankin and Rebecca Rankin, administrators of the estate of Joseph Rankin, dated 16 April 1765, in Delaware Wills and Probate Records, 1676-1971, Register of Wills, Anna Racine – Lydia Rash, file of “Rankin, Joseph 1765.”

[2] See, e.g., Bill and Martha Reamy, Genealogical Abstracts from Biographical and Genealogical History of the State of Delaware (Westminster, MD: Willow Bend Books, 2001), citing p. 445-446 of History: “Joseph Rankin was b. near the Clyde in Scotland; to DE with his wife and children long before the Revolutionary War.” At least part of that is demonstrably incorrect. Joseph and Rebecca’s children were born in Delaware and the evidence suggests the couple married in the colonies.

[3] Find-a-Grave has a photograph of Joseph’s tombstone at Head of Christiana Presbyterian Church Cemetery at this link.. Gary and I visited the cemetery in 2008. The only information on the tombstone is that Joseph Rankin died 29 Jul 1764 at age 60. It does not say Joseph was born in Ireland; a Find-a-Grave contributor added that commentary.

[4] See a brief discussion and charts for Lineage 1 on the Rankin DNA Project website here.

[5] www.familysearch.org, Chester County (Pennsylvania) Tax Records, 1715 – 1820, Film No. 7857857, images #162 (1729 tax list for London-Britain Township) and #179 (1730 tax list for London-Britain Township). Joseph doesn’t appear on the 1732 list. I couldn’t find a list for 1731.

[6] I couldn’t find the 1731 deed to Joseph Rankin in the grantee index. The only evidence I can find for the land purchase is recitation of the provenance of the tract in later deeds. E.g., New Castle Co., DE Deed Book Y1: 499, deed dated 9 Apr 1768 from John Rankin and wife Hannah of Orange Co., NC and William Rankin of New Castle County, grantors, to Thomas Rankin and Joseph Rankin of New Castle, grantees. The deed describes a grant from William Penn, proprietor of PA, to Robert French on the “south south (sic, southwest) side of White Clay Cr. in White Clay Cr. Hundred.” French conveyed to David Miller, who sold 150 acres to James Miller in 1730. James Miller conveyed the tract to Joseph Rankin in 1731. Joseph Rankin by will dated 13 Jul 1764 conveyed part of the tract to John and William Rankin.

[7] New Castle Co., DE Deed Book G3:249-255 expressly names Joseph, Thomas, John, and William as sons of Joseph Rankin of New Castle. The deed also identifies tracts devised by Joseph Sr. to those four sons, subject to “their mother’s dower interest,” by will dated 13 Jul 1764. I couldn’t find a listing for Joseph Sr.’s will in the probate index. So far as I know, deeds are the only evidence that Joseph Sr. died testate. The probate account refers to William and Rebecca as administrators rather than executors, suggesting Joseph died intestate or his will was not admitted to probate.

[8] New Castle Co., DE Will Book S: 116, will of Joseph Rankin dated 28 Oct 1819, proved 7 Jun 1820, naming sister Ann ($100 cash, and to live with nephews Joseph and Thomas Rankin). He also bequeathed cash to his nephew and nieces Montgomery Rankin, Hannah Rankin and Margaret Rankin, and devised his Mill Creek Hundred tract of 256 acres to Joseph III and Thomas Rankin Jr.

[9] Rev. S. M. Rankin, The Rankin and Wharton Families and Their Genealogy (Salem, MA: Higginson Book reprint, originally published Greensboro, NC, 1931) 55.

[10] Id. at 21 and 55.

[11] See Note 7.

[12] Find-a-Grave has an image of the DAR plaque for Lt. Thomas placed at the foot of his father’s tombstone  at this link.

[13] See Note 7.

[14] Eleanor B. Cooch, Delaware Signers of the Oath of Allegiance (National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, 1937). This book is out of print. Ms. Cooch may have abstracted the oath of allegiance information from the History of Delaware. See J. Thomas Scharf, Index to History of Delaware, 1609-1888 (Historical Society of Delaware, 1976).

[15] Elizabeth Montgomery Rankin is also buried in Head of Christiana Presbyterian Church Cemetery. Her tombstone reads, “In Memory of Elizabeth Rankin, wife of Thomas Rankin.” The Find-a-Grave transcription incorrectly gives her date of death as 1886. I read her date of death from the original stone as 18 Apr 1830, age 70 years. That would make her birth year about 1760.

[16] Sarah Deakyne Burke, Orphans’ Court Proceedings of New Castle County, Delaware, Book No. 5 April 1793 – April 1802 (Lewes, DE: Colonial Roots, 2008). A record dated 15 Dec 1801 describes the petition of Joseph Rankin and David Nivin of White Clay Creek Hundred, administrators of Lt. Thomas’s estate. The petition recites that the administrators settled the estate on 15 Jul 1798, paying £134.2.3 over the amount they received. Petitioners asked for sale of part of Lt. Thomas’s land. The petition also states that Lt. Thomas was survived by his widow Elizabeth and five children: Joseph, Hannah, Montgomery, Margaret, and Thomas. It also recited that the eldest, Joseph III, was only 15 (born about 1786).

[17] New Castle Co., DE Will Book S: 116, will of Joseph Rankin (Jr.).

[18] The federal census records for New Castle are spotty. The 1810 census for Mill Creek Hundred (incorrectly designated on Ancestry as Brandywine Hundred) lists Joseph’s household as 01101-00020. The male over 45 is Joseph Sr. and the two young males are the right ages to be Lt. Thomas’s sons Joseph III (b. 1786) and Thomas Jr. (b. 1795). The females age 26 < 45 are a mystery, although one of them is probably Joseph Jr.’s sister Ann. See also the 1820 census (the last before Joseph Jr. died that same year), Mill Creek Hundred, Joseph Rankin, 45 and over, with a female his own age (presumably Ann), a male and female age 26 < 44 (his nephew Joseph III and wife Sarah), a male age 16 < 25 (his nephew Thomas, b. 1795), 4 children under the age of 15, and a free black woman.

[19] See Note 16.

[20] Rev. S. M. Rankin, The Rankin and Wharton Families, 149.

[21] See Note 1.

[22] Frances T. Ingmire, Guilford County North Carolina Marriage Records 1771-1868 Volume III Names O-Z (Athens, GA: Iberian Publishing Co., 1984), marriage bond dated 13 Nov 1772 for William Rankin and Jean Chambers. Rev. Rankin gives her name as Jane. Guilford County records also spell it as Jean or Jine. E.g., Guilford Co., NC Deed Book 9: 429.

[23] Rev. S. M. Rankin, The Rankin and Wharton Families, 149.

[24] New Castle Co., DE Deed Book Y1: 499 and 565, Familysearch.org film #6564. E.g., DB Y1: 499, deed dated 9 Apr 1768 from John Rankin and wife Hannah of Orange Co., NC (a predecessor to Guilford) and William Rankin of New Castle County, grantors, to Thomas Rankin and Joseph Rankin of New Castle, grantees.

[25] Rev. S. M. Rankin, The Rankin and Wharton Families, 21, 149.

[26] Guilford Co., NC Deed Book 1: 179, John Rankin of Guilford to William Rankin of same, 218 acres on the North Side of Buffalo Creek that John purchased from Alexander McNight (or McKnight) in 1765.

[27] See Note 18 and New Castle Co., DE Will Book S: 116, will of Joseph Rankin dated 28 Oct 1819 proved 7 Jun 1820 . The will provided that his sister Ann was to live with Joseph Jr.’s nephews Joseph and Thomas Rankin (sons of Lt. Thomas and Elizabeth Montgomery) “in the same manner as she has lived with me and that my said nephews shall and will take care of her and use her as well in every respect as I have ever done during her natural lifetime.” Joseph Jr. also left her $100.

[28] See Note 16.

[29] See Note 7.

[30] See Note 8.

[31] Familysearch.org catalog, New Castle Co., DE, Taxation, “Tax Lists (New Castle County, Delaware) 1738-1853,” Film No. 7834264, “Tax Lists v. 1=17, 1738 – 1790.” Unfortunately, I failed to record image numbers.

[32] There is no listing for either James or Robert Rankin in the New Castle County grantor and grantee indices.

[33] See the article titled  Lost and found: James Rankin, son of Joseph and Rebecca of Delaware

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Transcription of New Castle Deed Book G3: 249-255. Proves 4 of the sons of Joseph Rankin. Transcription is verbatim, except that I have started new paragraphs between topics. The original deed is all one paragraph. My comments are in italics.

To all People to whom these presents shall come We Joseph Rankin and David Nivin of Whiteclay Creek hundred in the County of Newcastle and State of Delaware administrators of all and singular the goods and chattels rights and credits which were of Thomas Rankin late of the county afsd decd at the time of his death who died Intestate and the said Joseph Rankin as Copartner and Tenant in Common with the said Thomas Rankin in the lands and premises herein after about to be granted and conveyed. The grantors in this deed are (1) Joseph Rankin and David Nivin in their capacities as administrators of Thomas Rankin’s estate and (2) Joseph Rankin in his capacity as tenant in common in the tracts being conveyed in the deed.

Send greeting whereas William Penn Esquire proprietor of the State [then the province] od Pennsylvnia and territories in and by a certain Instrument or Patent under the hands of Edward Shipper Thomas Story and James Logan his then Commissioners of property and the Seal of the Province annexed did grant and confirm unto Robert French a certain tract of land containing three hundred acres situate on the South West side of Whiteclay Creek in Whiteclay Creek Hundred and County of Newcastle afsd as in and by the the said Patent bearing date the fifteenth day of December in the year one thousand seven hundred and two and recorded in the Rolls (?) Office at Philadelphia in Patent Book A Vol 2d page 422 as (?) relation being thereunto had may more fully and at large appear

and whereas the said Robert French so thus being seized by his deed bearing date the twentieth day of April in the year one thousand seven hundred and three did grant and convey the said tract of land unto a certain David Miller as in and by the said deed Recorded in the Rolls Office at Newcastle in Lib B folio 266 relation being thereunto as will more and at large appear

and whereas the said David Miller made over and conveyed one hundred and fifty acres of the said Land unto James Miller as by deed dated the thirtieth day of January in the year one thousand seven hundred and thirty and the said James Miller made over and conveyed the same unto Joseph Rankin [Father of the aforesaid Thomas Rankin and Joseph Rankin] in the year one thousand seven hundred and thirty one

and whereas the said Joseph Rankin so thereof being seized made and published his last Will and Testament in writing bearing date the thirteenth day of July in the year one thousand seven hundred and sixty four wherein among other things he devised twenty one acres and three quarters of the said land unto his two Sons John Rankin and William Rankin their heirs and assigns for ever and the residue of the said land he devised unto his two Sons to wit the afsd Thomas Rankin the afsd decd and the afsd Joseph Rankin party to these present to be held by them their Heirs Executors Administrators and assigns in common Tenancy for ever subject nevertheless to their Mother’s thirds thereof (?) of during her natural Life. [RRW note: Joseph Sr.’s will isn’t indexed in the New Castle probate records. Extant records identify William and Rebecca as administrators rather than executors of Joseph Sr.’s estate. I’m puzzled by all that and have no explanation.]

and whereas the said Joseph Rankin in his last Will and Testament afsd did also convey unto his two sons John Rankin and William Rankin another piece or parcel of land with the appurtenances lying in Whiteclay Creek Hundred afsd and adjoining the above mentioned tract and containing forty seven acres and the customary allowance of six acres patent for roads and highways being a part of the land belonging to the Pennsylvania land Company in London and was made over and conveyed unto John Rankin the younger by Jacob Cooper Samuel Shoemaker and Joshua Howell, Attornies for John Fothergill, Daniel Zachary, Thomas How, Devereaux Bowley, Luke Hind, Richard How, Jacob Hagan, Sylvanus Grove and William Heron of the City of London Trustees of the Pensylvania land Company in London as afsd to the sd John Rankin and William Rankin their Heirs and assigns in common Tenancy for ever, as in and by the said will proven according to law and filed in the registers Office at Newcastle relation being thereunto had may more fully and at large appear

and whereas the said John Rankin Rankin and Hannah his wife and the said William Rankin of the above mentioned twenty one acres and three quarters of land so being seized by an Indenture of Sale under their Hands & Seals bearing date the ninth day of April in the year one thousand seven hundred & sixty eight for the consideration mentioned did grant bargain and sell the said twenty one acres and three quarters of land with the appurtenances unto the afsd Thomas Rankin and Joseph Rankin their heirs and assigns for ever as in and by the said Indentures acknowledged in open Court of Common Please held at Newcastle for the County of Newcastle in August term the same year & recorded in the Rolls Office at Newcastle in Book Y page 499 et. Relation being thereunto had will at large appear

and whereas the afsd John Rankin and Hannah his wife & the afsd William Rankin & of the aforesaid forty seven Acres and allowance being seized by an Indenture of Sale under their Hands and Seals bearing date April the ninth in the year one thousand seven hundred and sixty eight for the consideration therein mentioned did grant bargain and sell the said forty seven acres with the appurtenances unto the said Thomas Rankin and Joseph Rankin their Heirs and assigns for ever as in & by the said Indenture acknowledged in open Court of Common Pleas held at Newcastle for the County of Newcastle in August Term the same year and recorded in the Rolls Office at Newcastle in Book Y folio 565 & relation being thereunto had may more fully and at large appear

and whereas a certain Charles Jacobs (?) and Grizzle his wife by an Indenture of Sale under their Hands and Seals dated the twenty eight of January in the year one thousand seven hundred and seventy two for the consideration therein mentioned did grant bargain and sell unto the afsd Thomas Rankin and Joseph Rankin a certain piece or parcel of land situate lying and being in White Clay Creek Hundred afsd adjoining the first above mentioned tract and containing fifty two acres with the appurtenances thereunto belonging to hold the said land and Premises with the appurtenances unto the said Thomas Rankin and Joseph Rankin their Heirs & assigns for ever as in and by the said Indenture acknowledged in open Court of Common Pleas held at Newcastle for the County of Newcastle in February term the same year and recorded in the Rolls Office of Newcastle in Book B Vol 2d folio 223 relation being theirunto had may more at large appear

and whereas the said Thomas Rankin and Joseph Rankin so of the four above mentioned tracts or parcels of land with the appurtenances being seized and having erected a Merchant Mill thereon the said Thomas died intestate without any division or partition having been previously made or done between the two parties

and whereas the administration of all and singular the goods and Chattels rights and Credit which were of the said Thomas Rankin dec’d to wit upon the third day of November in the year one thousand seven hundred and ninety five By James Booth Esqr at that time Register for probate of Wills and granting Letters of Administration for the County of New Castle afsd were to us the said Joseph Rankin and David Nivin committed (RRW note: Lt. Thomas died in October or November 1795 — his youngest son, Thomas Jr., was born in April 1796).

And whereas upon arranging settling and adjusting the accounts of the said deceased it was to us made known that there were sundry debts to ______ persons due by the said deceased which we had it not out the goods and chattels of the said dec’d then in our hands in any wise then in our power to discharge and pay without selling the Real Estate of the said deceased as abovementioned or at least a part therof

Therefore we took upon ourselves to present a petition to the Honorable the Orphans Court held at Newcastle for the County of Newcastle the fifteenth day of december in the year one thousand eight hundred and one setting forth that the said Thomas Rankin died Seized in his ____ of fee and in the one moiety or half part of the aforesaid tracts of land with the buildings improvements and appurtenances which was holden by him and the afsd Joseph Rankin one of the Petitioners in moieties and that we had not any means then in our hands out of the goods and Chattels of the sd decd to pay the out standing debts then due but by a sale of the whole or a part of the afsd Real Estate and praying the Court for an order to sell the moiety or half part of the said Real Estate which was of the said deceased or as much thereof as might be deemed necessary to pay and satisfy the said debts pursuant to the directions of the act of Assembly in such cases made and provided

Whereupon it was ordered by the Court that We the administrators as of should make sale of one moiety of the above mentioned tracts of land with the buildings improvements and appurtenances or so much thereof as may be deemed sufficient to satisfy and disharge the Just debts of the said in testate and that we should make return thereof to the next Orphans court

and whereas afterwards to wit upon the fourth day of November in the year one thousand eight hundred and two We the said Joseph Rankin and David Nivin administrators of the said Thomas Rankin ________ pursuance of the said Order and I the said Joseph Rankin Copartner and Tenant in Common with the said Thomas Rankin after we had given due notice of the time and place of such date to be given according to the directions of the act of Assemby in such case made an provided the whole of the before mentioned tracts and parcels of land with all singular the Improvements and appurtenances did set to public auction or _______ and the same was purchased by James Crawford of Mill Creek hundred in the County of Newcastle and State of Delaware aforesaid for the sum of three thousand seven hundred and ten dollars lawful money of the State of Delaware afsd he being the highest and best bidder

Now know ye that we the said Joseph Rankin and David Nivin administrators of the sd Thomas Rankin as afsd and I the said Joseph Rankin as Copartner and tenant in Common in the afsd lands & premises with the said deceased by force and virtue of the afsd Order and the Act of Assembly in such case made and provided and for an in Consideration of the afsd sun of three thousand seven hundred and ten dollars money as afsd to us in hand well and truly pay at and before the ensealing and delivery or these presents the receipt whereof we do hereby acknowledge and from every part and parcel thereof do acquit release and discharge the said James Crawford his heirs Executors and administrators for ever by these presents

Have granted bargained sold aliened released enfeoffed conveyed and confirmed and by force and Virtue of the afsd Order and the act of Assembly in such case made and provided do grant bargain sell alien release enfeoff convey and confirm unto the same James Crawford heir Heirs and assigns all the above mentioned tracts and parcels of land lying and being situated as afsd and bounded and described [as to the out lines thereof] as followith to wit

Beginning at an old Spanish oak stump on the west side of Whiteclay Creek which is also a corner of Obadiah Sergeants? land and running thence by the lines of the said Sergeants land south seventy two degrees west two hundred and forty eight perches to a forked poplar and South three degrees East forty six perches to a marked corner hickory standing by the great Road leaning from Newark to new London Cross Roads thence by said road North forty two and a half degrees West eighty nine perches and a half Northfourteen and a half degrees West sixty three perches and a half and north thirty three and a half degrees West twenty one perches and a half to a corner Blackoak standing on the east side of the great road afsd which is a corner of land late of Samuel Armitage thence therewith North seventy eight and a half degrees East eighty perches and a half to a corner blackoak in the line of Joseph Rankins first purchase then with the same North three degrees west thirty nine perches and two tenths of a perch to a stake about three perches west of a large Chestnut tree and thence north eighty five degrees East one hundred and twenty perches and eight tenths of a Perch to a stone set in line of a corner whiteoak on the East bank of a small run at the beginning corner of that piece or land bought of Charles Graham _____ thence by the lines of the same North twenty eight degrees West sixty eight perches to a Stone and north eighty one degrees East one hundred and twenty five Perches to a whiteoak standing by Whiteclay Creek and thence down the said Creek by the several courses thereof and binding thereon to the place of Beginning containing in the whole two hundred and eighty acres [RRW note: I get only 249A or 255A. ???] be the same more or less within the said described boundaries

Together with all and singular the Houses out Houses Mills Mill Houses Mill ponds Mill dams Millraces gardens orchards Meadows Woods Ways waters water courses rights liberties Privileges hereditaments and appurtenances whatsoever to all and every th hereby granted premises belonging or in any wise appertaining and the reversion and reversions remainder and remainders rents Issues and profits thereof and all the estate right title Interest trust property claim and demands which was of the afsd Thomas Rankin decd and now is of the aforesaid Joseph Rankin , of, in, to, or out of the same or any part of parcel thereof

To have and to hold the said plantation and tract of land with all and singular the improvements and appurtenances hereby granted or mentioned and intended so to be unto the said James Crawford his Heirs and assigns to the only proper use benefit and behoof of the sd James Chawford his Heirs and assigns for ever as fully and absolutely as we the said Joseph Rankin and David Nivin might could or ought to sell and convey the same by force and virtue of of the aforesaid Order and the Act of Assembly afsd in such case made and provided under and subject to the yearly quit Rents payable thereout of to the chief Lord or Lords of the fee thereof

And I the said Joseph Rankin as Copartner and Tenant in common with the afsd Thomas Rankin and rightful owner of the one moiety or undivided half of the before mentioned and described lands and premises with the improvements and appurtenances hereby bargained and sold or mentioned or intended so to be for myself and my heirs do hereby covenant grant and agree to and with the said James Crawford his Heirs and assigns that I the said Joseph Rankin and my heirs the above mentioned moiety or undivided half part to me belonging out of the before mentioned and described land and premises with the improvements and appurtenances hereby bargained and sold or mentioned or intended so to be for myself and my heirs do hereby covenant grant and agree to and with the said James Crawford his Heirs and assigns that I the said Joseph Rankin and my heirs the above mentioned moiety or undivided half part to be belonging out of the before mentioned and described land and premises with the appurtenance unto the said James Crawford his Heirs and assigns from and against myself the said Joseph Rankin and my Heirs and against all & every other person and persons whatsoever _____ claiming or to claim the same by from or under me them or any of them shall and will warrant and for ever defend by these presents

In witness whereof the said Joseph Rankin and David Nivin as administrators of Thomas Rankin decd and the said Joseph Rankin as Copartner and tenant in common with the sd Thomas Rankin have hereunto set their hands and seals this               day of              in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and three.

Signed sealed and delivered                                                            Joseph Rankin (seal)

In the presence of us                                                                         David Nivin (seal)

Saml Williamson

Joseph Rankin Junr [son of Lt. Thomas, dec’d]

$3710             We do hereby acknowledge to have received of the before named James Crawford the sum of three thousand seven hundred and ten dollars money as afsd in full of the consideration moned mentioned in the foregoing Instruments of writing as witness our hands the day and year last before written.

Same witnesses, same signatures.

Acknowledged in open court May Term 1808 and recorded June 23 1809.

Rankin DNA Project: “flange it up!”

Please note: I updated this post in August 2021, so this is outdated. Please see the new post at this link.

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.

How many Jeremiah Rankins WERE there near Greencastle, PA in the late 1700s?

THIS POST IS CLEAR AS MUD. I am going to rewrite it. The conclusions are still (I think) correct, but my approach to the bottom line was confusing. Sorry about that. The revised version will be better, I promise.

*   *   *   *   *   *

In the late 1700s, Greencastle sported several Rankin men named Jeremiah. The precise number depends on whom you ask. American Revolutionary Soldiers of Franklin County, Pennsylvania has one opinion.[1] The Biographical Annals of Franklin County, Pennsylvania[2] and the History of Franklin County, Pennsylvania[3] share a second opinion. The latter two sources place an extra Jeremiah in the family tree of the Rankins of Lancaster, Cumberland, and Franklin Counties, Pennsylvania.

Let’s start with an inventory of the early proved Jeremiahs in that line, then assemble them into a family chart for the big picture.

    • Jeremiah #1: the eldest. He was a son of Adam Rankin who died in Lancaster in 1747 (“Adam d. 1747”) and his wife Mary Steele Alexander.[4] Jeremiah #1 died in 1760 in a mill accident near Greencastle.[5] Jeremiah #1’s only appearance in county records is apparently his father Adam’s will. One would expect a probate of his estate because he inherited land, as well as guardian records for his minor children. I have found neither.
    • Jeremiah #2: a son of Jeremiah #1 and his wife Rhoda Craig, and thus a grandson of Adam d. 1747. He was born during 1756-1761.[6] He moved to Fayette County, Kentucky, where he died about 1804.[7] 
    • Jeremiah #3: a proved son of James Sr. who died in 1795 and Jean Rankin. James Sr. was a son of Adam d. 1747, so Jeremiah #3 was also a grandson of Adam d. 1747.[8] Jeremiah #3 was probably born in the early 1750s, but definitely no later than 1755.[9] The identity of his children is the main issue in this article.
    • Jeremiah #4: a proved son of William who died in 1792 and Mary Huston Rankin. Since William was a son of Adam d. 1747, Jeremiah #4 was yet another grandson of Adam and Mary. Jeremiah #4 was born in 1783. He moved to Centre Co., PA, where he died in 1874 at age 90.[10]
    • Wildcard Jeremiah: Annals and History add another Jeremiah to this list and place him as a son of Jeremiah #3. That would make him a great-grandson of Adam d. 1747. Annals and History also name three brothers of Wildcard Jeremiah, although they disagree on one name.

Here is an abbreviated outline family chart for these Rankins, including the above list of Jeremiahs.[11]

1 Adam Rankin, d. 1747, Lancaster Co., PA, wife Mary Steele Alexander.[12] Their four children (birth order unknown):[13]

2 Esther Rankin m. Mr. Dunwoody.

2 Jeremiah #1 Rankin, d. near Greencastle, Cumberland Co., PA about 1760.[14]

3 Jeremiah #2 Rankin, b. 1756-1761, Cumberland Co., PA, d. about 1804, Fayette Co., KY. His three brothers were Rev. Adam, Thomas, and William Rankin, all of whom also went to Fayette or Woodford Co., KY.

2 James Rankin Sr,, d. 1795, Franklin Co., PA, wife Jean/Jane. Identified as a son in the will of Adam d. 1747.

3 Jeremiah #3 Rankin. He and his five siblings are proved by their father’s will.[15]

4 Wildcard Jeremiah, added here by Annals and History. Annals identifies his brothers as James, David and William; History identifies them as James, David and Archie.

2 William Rankin d. 1792, Franklin Co., PA, wife Mary Huston. Identified as a son in the will of Adam d. 1747.

3 Jeremiah #4 Rankin, b. 1783, Franklin Co., PA, d. 1874, Centre Co., PA. He and his seven siblings are proved by William’s 1792 will.[16]

Let’s see what Revolutionary Soldiers has to say about Jeremiah #3, son of James and Jean Rankin:

 “Jeremiah Rankin, Ranger on the Frontier, served in 1778, under Capt. John McConnell and as Ensign, 1780-81, with Captain Wm Huston; a son of pioneer James Rankin of Montgomery Township. He mar. Mary, dau. of James Clark. His will was dated June 1803 and prob. August 1803, only son James Clark Rankin and three daus: Nancy; Mariah; Esther. The widow Mary later married Charles Kilgore. James, Jeremiah, David and William Rankin were pewholders in the “Lower Conococheague” or Welsh Run Church.[17]  Nancy Rankin mar. John Imbrie, Beaver Co., Penna., 10 children. Maria Rankin mar. Samuel Johnston, son of Thos. and Anne Houston Johnston. Esther Rankin mar. Alex. M. Johnston, son of Thos. and Anne Houston Johnston.”

The will of some Jeremiah Rankin was, in fact, dated and proved in 1803. It did name his wife Mary and the four children listed above.[18] Both the Annals and History believe the 1803 will was Wildcard Jeremiah’s. Revolutionary Soldiers assigns that will to Jeremiah #3. Putting it another way, Revolutionary Soldiers concludes that the Jeremiah who died in 1803 was a son of James d. 1795 and Jean Rankin. Annals and History claim that the Jeremiah who died in 1803 was Wildcard Jeremiah, a grandson of James and Jean.

Besides adding a new Jeremiah to the line, Annals throws in three other new Rankins, brothers of Wildcard Jeremiah: David, James, and William. History does the same thing, but identifies the brothers of Wildcard Jeremiah as David, James and Archie.[19] History also adds this information: Jeremiah #3, son of James and Jean, “patented 800 acres … he divided his acreage into four farms, inherited by his four sons Jeremiah, David, James and Archie” (emphasis added).

The evidence relevant to this puzzle is not compelling on either side. I’m just going to throw it all out there and hope that someone will offer an opinion in a comment. Or, better yet, tell us about other evidence.

    • I cannot find an 800-acre patent by a Jeremiah Rankin in the Pennsylvania patent records. Perhaps it was in a part of Pennsylvania that is now in another state? I am clearly missing something. Surely, History did not imagine that patent. The will of Jeremiah who died in 1803 mentioned land in Ohio, but where? Perhaps somebody can point us to a source …
  • History says the four sons of Jeremiah #3 inherited that 800-acre tract. I have found only one will and estate record for a Jeremiah Rankin in Franklin: the Jeremiah who died in 1803 and had only one son, James Clark Rankin. I can’t find any relevant estate records for a second Jeremiah, who would (according to Annals and History) be Jeremiah #3. If anyone knows anything about the estate of a second Jeremiah who died in Franklin, I’d love to hear about it.
  • I cannot find the four alleged sons of Jeremiah #3 in the Franklin records. I found only one Archibald (“Archie”) Rankin. He was easy to track. He was Archibald (1762 – 1845), a son of William and Mary Huston Rankin. If three brothers of Wildcard Jeremiah actually existed, they clearly got the heck out of Dodge early without bothering to leave significant tracks in the records. All of the David, William, James, and Archibald Rankins who appear in the Franklin Co. records can reasonably be accounted for without any “extras” left over.
  • The family of James Sr. and Jean Rankin lived in the area that became Montgomery Township, Franklin County. James Sr.’s sons William, James Jr. and Jeremiah started appearing on tax lists there in 1778. A wrinkle appeared in 1782, when a second Jeremiah showed up on the same tax list as James Sr. and family. The second Jeremiah is identified as a “freeman,” meaning he was 21 or over, not married, and owned no land. That freeman is obviously not Jeremiah #1 (who died about 1760), Jeremiah #3 (on the 1782 tax list as a landowner), or Jeremiah #4 (who wasn’t born until 1783). Perhaps Annals and History identified Jeremiah the freeman on the 1782 tax list as Wildcard Jeremiah, a son of Jeremiah #3?

That theory doesn’t work. Jeremiah the freeman was too old to have been a son of Jeremiah #3, who was likely born in the early 1750s. Jeremiah, the freeman who first appeared on the 1782 tax list, was born by 1761, perhaps 1760.

It is possible that Jeremiah the freeman was Jeremiah #2, son of Jeremiah #1 and Rhoda Craig Rankin. The last appearance I can find in the Franklin records for Jeremiah the freeman is on the 1787 tax list. The first appearance I found for Jeremiah #2 in Fayette County, Kentucky was on the 1789 tax list. Further, freeman Jeremiah and Jeremiah #2 were about the same age. The records thus suggest that freeman Jeremiah may be the same man as Jeremiah #2. My intuition says that was the case, but my gut hunches aren’t credible evidence.

  • The 1790 federal census for Franklin lists a Jeremy Rankin having three males who were 16 and over in his household, Jeremy being one of them. The 1800 census makes it clear that the head of household in the 1790 census must have been Jeremiah #3. He was listed in the “over 45” age bracket in 1800, and must be Jeremiah #3 who was born during the early 1750s. The 1800 household also includes a male in the age 26 to 45 category, who might be a (highly speculative) Wildcard Jeremiah, born 1755 – 1774. The oldest female in the household was also 26 to 45, and there were two females less than 10. Those three females fit the profile for Nancy Rankin (widow of Jeremiah d. 1803) and her two eldest daughters, Nancy C. and Mariah, twins born in 1796. The household also includes a male less than ten who could be James Clark Rankin, whose hazy birth year was 1800 or 1801.

It just isn’t clear whether Wildcard Jeremiah actually existed. I find myself agreeing with Revolutionary Soldiers for two reasons. First, it’s a pretty tight squeeze to add an extra generation of four sons between Jeremiah #3, who was born in the early 1750s and a ranger on the frontier in the early 1780s, and the death of another Jeremiah with four children in 1803. It’s possible, but has a whiff of improbability.

Second, Revolutionary Soldiers, written by a woman in conjunction with the Chambersburg D.A.R., has more credibility chops than either Annals or History, books churned out for profit for many counties in Pennsylvania, generally by the same publishers.

When all else fails, go with the trustworthy source. I would delete Wildcard Jeremiah and his three alleged brothers from this Rankin family tree. That would make Jeremiah #3 the man who died in 1803, leaving a widow Nancy, daughters Nancy, Mariah and Esther, and a son, James Clark Rankin.

I hope someone who reads this will uncover some evidence about those 800 acres Jeremiah #3 allegedly devised to his four sons. It would also be nice to see evidence about Wildcard Jeremiah’s three alleged brothers.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *

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

[2] Biographical Annals of Franklin County, Pennsylvania, Volume I (Chicago: The Genealogical Publishing Co., 1905) 126-28.

[3] S. P. Bates, History of Franklin County, Pennsylvania (Chicago: Warner, Beers & Company, 1887) 68.

[4] Lancaster Co., PA Will Book J: 208, will of Adam Rankin of Lancaster dated and proved in 1747. The will names children James, William, Jeremiah, and Esther Rankin Dunwoody. For proof that Adam Rankin’s wife was Mary Steele Alexander, see the article here.

[5] Rev. Robert Davidson, History of the Presbyterian Church in the State of Kentucky (New York: R. Carter, 1847) has information about Rev. Adam Rankin, son of Jeremiah #1 and Rhoda Craig Rankin. It says Jeremiah #1 died in 1760, when Rev. Adam was five. The book is available online here.

[6] Jeremiah #2 of Fayette Co., KY had an older brother, Rev. Adam Rankin, whose birth year of 1755 is proved. The father of Jeremiah #2 and Rev. Adam — Jeremiah #1 — died in 1760. Jeremiah #2 must therefore have been born during 1756 through 1761, inclusive. See the article about Jeremiah #1 and Rhoda Rankin’s son Adam titled, “Rev. Adam Rankin of Lexington, KY: Psalmody and Other Controversies,” here.

[7] Jeremiah #2’s last appearance on the Fayette Co., KY tax lists was in 1803. He definitely died by 1808, when his son Samuel was identified as a ward in a guardian’s bond.

[8] Franklin Co., PA Will Book A: 345, will of James Rankin dated 1788 and proved 1795. The will names his wife Jean, sons William, Jeremiah, James (Jr.), and David, and daughters Ruth Rankin Tool and Esther Rankin Smith.

[9] Jeremiah #3 was listed in the 1800 federal census for Cumberland Co., PA in the “45 and over” age category, so he was born no later than 1755. Jeremiah #3’s elder brother William was probably born 1746-1750. On balance, 1750-1755 seems a good estimate for Jeremiah #3’s birth.

[10] Mary Belle Lontz, Tombstone Inscriptions of Centre County, Pennsylvania (1984).

[11] This Rankin family all lived near Conococheague (or Conogocheague) Cr. in what is now Franklin Co. in southern Pennsylvania near Greencastle. As nearly as I can tell from the land and tax records, many members of this Rankin family stayed in that area for several generations.

[12] Some researchers believe that Mary Steele Alexander was Adam’s second wife. I have no idea whether that is correct because I have seen no evidence. All I know for certain is that Adam married Mary Steele, widow of James Alexander, sometime between 1718 and 1724.

[13] Adam’s 1747 will named three sons James, William, and Jeremiah Rankin, and a daughter, Esther Rankin Dunwoody. That is probably the correct birth order for the sons.  I don’t know where Esther belongs in the list. Lancaster Co., PA Will Book J: 208.

[14] So far as I know, the best evidence regarding Jeremiah’s #1’s family is oral tradition contained in an 1854 letter and a book about Kentucky Presbyterians, see Note 5. The letter identifies the children of Jeremiah #1 and Rhoda Craig Rankin as: (1) Rev. Adam Rankin of Lexington, Fayette Co., KY, 1755 – 1827 (the Psalmody fanatic), wife Martha McPheeters; (2) William Rankin, b. 1757, d. 1797 or 1798, Woodford Co., KY; (3) Thomas Rankin, d. Woodford, Co., 1808, wife Mary “Polly” Young; and (4) Jeremiah #2 Rankin, d. abt. 1804, Fayette Co., KY.

[15] See note 8.

[16] Franklin Co., PA Will Book A: 256, will of William Rankin, dated and proved in 1792. Wife Mary Huston Rankin. Here are their children. (1) Dr. Adam Rankin, b. 1762, Cumberland, PA, d. 1820-30. Went to Henderson Co., KY and married three times. (2) Archibald Rankin, b. 1764, d. 1845, Franklin Co., wife Agnes Long. (3) James Rankin, b. 1766, d. after 1820. Went to Centre Co., PA. (4) William Rankin, 1770 – 1847. Went to Centre Co., PA. Married #1 Abigail McGinley and #2 Susannah Huston. (5) Betsy Rankin, b. 1774. (6) David Rankin, b. 1777, d. 1853, Des Moines Co., IA. Wife Frances Campbell. (7) John Rankin, b. 1779, d. 1848. Went to Centre Co., PA, married Isabell Dundass. (8) Jeremiah Rankin, 1783 – 1874, to Centre Co. Wife Sarah Whitehill.

[17] The Welsh Run (Lower Conococheague) Church is about 4.2 miles southwest of Mercersburg in Montgomery Township, where the family of James and Jean Rankin lived and owned land. Conococheague Cr. crosses PA Highway 995 about a mile NE of Welsh Run. The pewholders named in Revolutionary Soldiers should all be from the line of James d. 1795 and his wife Jean, and are almost certainly their four proved sons. The Presbyterian Church of the Upper West Conococheague, attended by some of the family of William and Mary Huston Rankin, is located in Mercersburg. Seehttps://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/009040742.

[18] Franklin Co., PA Will Book B: 167, will of Jeremiah Rankin of Montgomery Twp. dated 13 Jun 1803 proved 1 Aug 1803. Wife Mary, four minor children, all less than 18: James Clark Rankin, only son; daughters Nancy Rankin, Mariah Rankin and Esther Rankin. Mentions land in Ohio. Executors wife, brother James Rankin, brother-in-law James Clark, brother-in-law David Humphreys. Witnesses John McFarland, David Rankin, John Rankin. Nancy and Mariah were twins, born in 1796. James Clark Rankin was b. 1800-01. Esther was b. 1802.

[19] S. P. Bates, History of Franklin County, Pennsylvania (Chicago: Warner, Beers & Company, 1887) 68.

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.

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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.”