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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JOHN 1754 – 1825 MARRIED MARTHA WAUGH

RICHARD 1756 – 1827 MARRIED JENNETT STEELE

SAMUEL 1758 – 1828 MARRIED – PETTY

WILLIAM 1760 – 1834 MARRIED SARAH MOORE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Robin Rankin Willis

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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.

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[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

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

[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

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

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!”

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?

In the late 1700s, Greencastle sported several Rankin men named Jeremiah. The precise number depends on who 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, 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 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 naming 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 1726.

[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. 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.

* * * * * * * * *

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.”

Pennsylvania Rankins: William and Abigail of Washington County

First, a warning: roughly a gazillion Rankins lived in southern Pennsylvania beginning in  the mid-eighteenth century. At least it feels that way. Rankins litter the deed books from Chester County in the east to Washington in the west. You may think you are researching only one Rankin line in only one county. Ha! Before you know it, you have worked your way through every county on the Maryland border.

The bottom line is that undertaking Rankin family research in southern Pennsylvania is a slippery slope … a course of action that leads inevitably from one action or result to another with unintended consequences. This may result in a  scorched-earth march through deed records in multiple counties. Washington County alone had, as nearly as I can tell, seven distinct Rankin families.

Let’s start with one of them: William and Abigail Rankin. He was a son of David Rankin Sr. and Jennett McCormick Rankin of Frederick County, Virginia.[1] For the record, David’s wife Jennett did not have the middle name “Mildred.” And William did not have the middle name McCormick.

Two deeds in Frederick prove that William’s wife was named Abigail and that he owned a tract of land in Frederick called “Turkey Spring.”[2] William’s will proves that he and Abigail moved to Washington County from Frederick because his will in Washington names his wife Abigail and devises Turkey Spring to his son William (Jr.). Boyd Crumrine’s 1882 History of Washington County, Pennsylvania says that William and most of his family came to the area in 1774.[3]

William died in Washington County in 1793. He named ten children in his will – eight sons and two daughters – as well as some of his grandchildren.[4] Charles A. Hanna’s book on Ohio Valley genealogies identifies a ninth son James, who was killed by Native Americans while returning to Pennsylvania from a trip to Kentucky.[5]William identified himself in his will as a resident of Smith Township on the middle fork of Raccoon Creek. That location distinguishes this family from other Rankins in the county for the better part of a century. The Raccoon Creek area was incorporated in Mt. Pleasant Township, and many of William’s descendants are buried in Mt. Prospect Cemetery in that township.

Four of William’s sons – John, Thomas, Jesse and Zachariah – served in the Washington County militia.[6]Thomas was a D.A.R.-recognized Revolutionary War veteran.[7] The brothers served in the 4th Company, 4thBattalion, in Washington County. John Rankin was a Lieutenant.[8] An official list of Revolutionary War soldiers buried in Ohio names Thomas Rankin, who is buried in Harrison County, and identifies his three brothers and their parents.[9] A Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission website says the Rankins’ company was from the area of Raccoon and Millers Run, so we know that we are looking at the right family.

Here is some information about William and Abigail’s sons. I have omitted their daughters Mary Rankin (married Thomas Cherry) and Abigail Rankin (married Charles Campbell), whom I did not research.

David Rankin, born by 1755, died unknown. David, probably the eldest son, inherited the tract where he lived from his father. If you followed the link to Boyd Crumrine’s 1882 History in footnote 3 of this article, you saw Crumrine’s assertion that David remained in Virginia. That wasn’t the case. Charles Hanna made the same mistake. Two deeds involving his inherited tract make it clear that David and his wife Grace (maiden name unknown) lived on Raccoon Creek in the middle of their Rankin family.[10]

David arrived in Washington County no later than 1781, when he appeared on a Smith Township tax list with his father William and brothers John, Matthew and Zachariah.[11] David sold parts of his inherited land in 1799 and 1805.[12] He was listed in Washington County in the 1800 and 1810 censuses. Taken together, the censuses suggest he had at least three daughters and a son born between 1784 and 1810.[13] I haven’t found where David went after 1810, and don’t know the names of his children.

There is at least one online tree that has confused David, son of William and Abigail, with William’s brother David. The latter moved to Cynthiana, Harrison County, Kentucky. This creative tree has David born when both of his parents were less than ten years old.[14] Never a dull moment with online trees!

John Rankin, born by 1760, died in 1788 in Washington County. John left a will naming his wife Rebecca and minor children James and Mary.[15] Their grandfather William Rankin left the two children 253 acres.[16] In 1808, James and Polly sold that tract, located “on the waters of Raccoon Cr.” The deed recited that John’s widow Rebecca Rankin had married Jonathan Jacques, which helped track the family.[17] James accepted notes for part of the purchase price, and the record of the 1808 mortgage identifies him as a resident of Harrison County, Kentucky.[18]There is a listing in the 1810 Harrison County census for a John Jaquess and an Isaac Jaquess. The latter is listed three households down from a James Rankin, who is a good bet to be the son of John Rankin and Rebecca Rankin Jacques.[19] Other members of the Frederick-Washington Rankin family also moved from Washington to Harrison County, but I will save them for another day.

William Rankin (Jr.). William Sr.’s will devised to William Jr. the tract where William (Sr.) formerly lived called “Turkey Spring.”[20] I haven’t attempted to track William Jr. in Virginia. Some online trees identify him as a Revolutionary War soldier (1748-1830) buried in the Mahnes Cemetery in Morgan County, West Virginia. That William may belong to another Rankin family from the Northern Neck of Virginia. It may be that the only way to resolve that question is Y-DNA testing.

Matthew Rankin, born by 1755, died in 1822, Washington County. Matthew’s wife was Charity, maiden name unknown. The couple apparently had no surviving children because Matthew willed all his property to his wife, his brother Jesse, and some nieces and nephews.[21] Matthew was clearly the family caretaker, ensuring enforcement of a family agreement to distribute the family land equally, and acting as executor of his brother Zachariah’s will.[22]

Zachariah Rankin, born by 1760, died 1785, Washington County. Zachariah clearly knew he had a fatal illness before he died, because he executed his will on Oct. 17, 1785 and it was proved exactly one week later.[23]Crumrine tells us that Zachariah died of hydrophobia from the bite of a rabid wolf. What an awful death. His probate file might make you smile, though: his brother Matthew’s spelling (or misspelling) throughout is charming. Zachariah’s wardrobe is described in some detail, suggesting a well-outfitted frontiersman. Here is a list:

    • 2 Shirts
    • 1 coat 1 Jacket ____ & wool
    • one coat & one Jacket of thick cloath
    • one Pair of Buckskin Briches
    • one pair of Cordoroy Ditto & Jacket Nee Buckle
    • one Pair of Leggins one Letout Coat
    • one Jacket
    • one Beaver Hat & one Wool hat
    • three Pair of stockings
    • one Silk Handkerchief & one linnen Ditto

Reading between the lines, there are a couple of other interesting details in Zachariah’s estate files. The only people who bought anything at Zachariah’s estate sale were named Rankin, except for Thomas Cherry, Zachariah’s brother-in-law. That suggests that either (1) the estate sale was attended only by family, which is highly improbable, or (2) the Rankins and Cherry outbid everyone on every item. Also, Zachariah’s brother Thomas bought five gallons of whiskey for Zachariah’s funeral. Either attendance at the funeral was considerably larger than attendance at the estate sale, or the Rankin family had an enormous capacity for alcohol.[24]

Thomas Rankin, born 16 Sep. 1760, died 1832, Cadiz Township, Harrison Co., Ohio.  Thomas’s wife was named Ann (nickname Nancy). Her maiden name was Foreman, according to Charles Hanna. Like his brothers, Thomas inherited land on Raccoon Cr. from his father. He is listed in the 1790 Washington County census adjacent William Sr. That census suggests two sons and one daughter born by 1790.[25] Hanna identifies five children named James, William, David, Jane and Nancy.

Thomas sold his land in two deeds in 1798, which may be when he left Washington County.[26] Thomas appeared on the 1810 tax list and 1820 census in Cadiz Township in Harrison County. In the 1820 census, he is listed adjacent a David Rankin, possibly his son. Thomas is buried in the Rankin Methodist Episcopal Cemetery in Cadiz Township.[27]

Jesse Rankin, born 1763, died 21 Sep. 1837, Mt. Pleasant Township, Washington County. Jesse’s probate files conclusively establish the identities of his eight surviving children: sons Matthew, William, Isaac and Jesse, and daughters Margaret (married James Futen or Tuten or Teten), Abigail (married Robert Tenan or Tinan), Jane (never married), and Maria or Mariah (married George Kelso). The probate files are full of information. Some of it suggests that members of this branch of the Rankin family had each other’s backs.[28]

First, there was a quitclaim deed from Jesse’s widow Jane (maiden name unknown) and their four sons to their four daughters, giving each one personal property essential for an early 19th-century female: a bed and bedclothes, saddle and bridle, some flax yarn and flannel, and a cow and calf. Also, a set of silver teaspoons, a luxurious gift in the early 1800s.

Second, the family agreed to give Isaac a share of the estate over and above what he would have been entitled to under the law of intestate descent and distribution. The family did that because Isaac had continued to live with and work for his family as an adult. The family’s agreement recites that “for and in consideration of the labours and services of … Isaac Rankin for and during the time of 6 years 9 months which he … continued with his father and family after he arrived at 21 years of age … $100 per year for the said time … to be paid by the Administrators of Jesse … over and above the legal share of the estate.” Nice.

Samuel Rankin, born about 1767, died October, 1820, Washington County.[29] Samuel died intestate and left little trace in the records. Charles Hanna says his wife was Jane McConahey.[30] Samuel’s brother Matthew named Samuel and Jane’s children in his will:[31] John, David, Samuel, James, Stephen, Matthew, Matilda, Abigail, and Jane. Charles Hanna adds a son William. Matthew’s will in Washington County Will Book 3 is now typewritten, presumably copied from the original handwritten will book. Perhaps either the clerk who first entered the will in the records, or the typist who later transcribed it, omitted William. It’s a solid bet that Hanna was correct, and Samuel had a son William. Further, the 1850 census for Washington County has two William Rankins living in Mt. Pleasant Township, where Matthew’s land had been divided among his brother Jesse and the children of his brother Samuel. One William was likely Samuel’s son, and the other William was Jesse’s son.

And that’s enough for me on the Rankins of Raccoon Creek, Washington County. I have a feeling I will be returning to that county soon enough, because there are a slew of Rankins there just begging for attention.

See you on down the road.

Robin

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

[1] Will of David Rankin dated 5 Nov 1757, proved 2 Aug 1768, naming wife Jennett, sons David, William, and Hugh, and daughter Barbara. Frederick Co., VA Will Book 3: 443.

[2] Amelia C. Gilreath, Frederick County, Virginia Deed Books 5, 6, 7, 8, 1757-1763 (Nokesville, VA: 1990), abstract of Deed Book 5: 343-345, lease and release dated Sept. 3 and 4, 1759, from William Rankin of Frederick to John Smith, a tract on Opeckon Cr. called “Turkey Spring,” part of a 778-acre grant from Lord Fairfax to William and David Rankin (William’s father, David Sr.) on 30 October 1756. William and Abigel (sic) Rankin signed the release. See id., abstract of Deed Book 5: 398-400, lease and release dated Mar. 2 and 3, 1760, from David Rankin Sr. and William Rankin, all of Frederick Co., to David Rankin Jr., 463 acres on a branch of Opeckon Cr., part of a 778-acre grant to David and William dated 30 Oct. 1756 from Lord Fairfax. David Rankin, Jannet (sic) Rankin, William Rankin, and Abigill (sic) Rankin all signed.

[3] Boyd Crumrine, History of Washington County, Pennsylvania (Philadelphia: L. H. Everts & Co., 1882). The book is online  here.

[4] Bob and Mary Closson, Abstracts of Washington County Pennsylvania Willbooks 1-5 (1776-1841) (Apollo, PA: Closson Press, 1995), will of William Rankin of Smith Twp. and the “middle fork of Raccoon Creek,” dated 10 Apr 1793 and proved 21 Oct 1793.

[5] Charles A. Hanna, Ohio Valley Genealogies Relating Chiefly to Families in Harrison, Belmont and Jefferson Counties, Ohio, and Washington, Westmoreland, and Fayette Counties, Pennsylvania (New York: Press of J. J. Little & Co., 1900) 104-105. It is online  here.

[6] Jane Dowd Dailey, DAR, under the direction of the Ohio Adjutant General’s Department, The Official Roster of the Soldiers of the American Revolution Buried in the State of Ohio, Vol. 1, p. 300 (Columbus, OH: The F. J. Heer Printing Co., 1929). Here is a  link.

[7] Here is a link to an image of Thomas’s tombstone. Notice the DAR Rev War marker to the left. Crumrine (see note 3) says Thomas moved to Cadiz, Ohio. The Rankin cemetery where Thomas is buried is located there, and there is a tombstone image here.

[8] Pennsylvania Archives Series, Series 6, Volume II 133, 144.

[9] See note 6, Dailey, Official Roster, Vol. 1 300.

[10] Washington Co., PA Deed Book 1P: 232, deed dated 8 May 1799 from David and Grace Rankin of Smith Township to James Denny, a tract on Raccoon Cr. adjacent James Leach, willed by William Rankin to his son David; Washington Co. Deed Book 1T: 12, deed of 11 Jan 1805 from David Rankin of Smith Township to William Rankin, son of Samuel Rankin, for love and affection and $100, the tract where David now resides adjacent James Leach.

[11] 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).

[12] See note 10.

[13] 1800 federal census, Washington Co., Smith Twp., David Rankin, 10001-01001; 1810 federal census, Washington Co., Mt. Pleasant Twp., David Rankin, 01001-20101. The census suggests that David was born by 1755, as was his wife Grace. If the children in his household were his, he had a daughter b. 1784-1790, son b. 1794-1800, and two daughters b. 1800-1810

[14] See this tree on  Ancestry. If you visit that tree, please be advised that it is replete with errors.

[15] Family History Library DGS Film No. 5,537,968, Washington Co., PA Will Book 1: 81, will of John Rankin of Smith Township dated 16 Feb 1788 and proved 22 Apr 1788 naming wife Rebecca, father William, and children James and Mary.

[16] Closson, Abstracts of Washington County Pennsylvania Willbooks, 1793 will of William Rankin.

[17] Washington Co., PA Deed Book 1U: 130, deed dated 22 Feb 1808 from James Rankin for himself and as attorney for Polly Rankin. The deed recites that James and Polly inherited the tract from their father John Rankin, who left a wife Rebecca, “now married to Jonathan Jacques.”

[18] Id., Washington Co., PA Deed Book 1U: 132, mortgage dated 22 Feb 1808 reciting the sale of land by James and Polly Rankin and stating that James Rankin was “of Harrison Co., KY.”

[19] 1810 federal census, Harrison Co., KY, listings for John Jaquess (32001-03100, 2 slaves), Isaac Jaquess (00100-001), and James Rankins (11000-11001). James is listed in the 10<16 age category, which is too young to be James, son of John and Rebecca. I imagine this is an example of census error, particularly since there is a female in the 26 < 45 age category in the household.

[20] See note 2.

[21] Washington Co., PA Will Book 3: 484, will of Matthew Rankin Sr. of Mt. Pleasant Twp. dated 20 Dec 1821, proved 25 Apr 1822. Matthew named (1) his nephew Matthew Rankin (Jr.), the 4th son of Matthew’s deceased brother Samuel Rankin (60 acres), (2) his brother Jesse (100 acres), (3) his brother Samuel’s other children John, David, Samuel, James, Stephen, Matilda, Abigail, and Jane Rankin (the rest of Matthew’s land), and (4) nephews James Rankin (cash and clothes), son of Matthew’s brother Thomas, and nephew John Cherry, son of Thomas and Mary Rankin Cherry (cash).

[22] Washington Co., PA Deed Book 1B: 374, agreement dated 13 Aug 1785 among William Rankin of Smith Township and his sons Matthew Rankin, Zachariah Rankin, and Jesse Rankin, all of Smith Township. The three brothers gave to William Rankin all rights to lands adjacent to the settlement where William Rankin lived that “come to our hands from the office of Philadelphia.” In return, William promised to make “equal division according to quantity and quality” among William’s sons. William’s will failed to honor that agreement by devising to his sons Samuel and Jesse the share of William’s land to which Zachariah (who predeceased William) was entitled. Zachariah’s only heir, his daughter Abigail, was entitled to that land. Matthew remedied that situation with several deeds in order “to do justice and equity” according to the contract and William’s will, ensuring that Zachariah’s daughter received that land. Washington Co., PA Deed Book 1R: 186, Deed Book 1R: 189, and DB 1R: 295. The last deed contains a conveyance from Jesse and Samuel Rankin to Abby Rankin (Zachariah’s only child and heir), “it being the share of William Rankin’s estate to which Zachariah was entitled,” all in order “to do justice and equity” according to the contract among William and his sons.

[23] Washington Co., PA Will Book 1: 52, will of Zachariah Rankin naming wife Nancy, father William Rankin, and his unborn child (an afterborn daughter named Abigail). Zachariah named his brother Matthew to be his executor.

[24] Family History Library DGS Film 5,558,493, Probate File # R9.

[25] 1790 federal census for Washington Co., PA, Thomas Rankin, 12201 (1 male 16+, 2 males < 16 [ b. 1774-1790], and 2 females, suggesting 2 sons and 1 daughter).

[26] Washington Co., PA Deed Book 1N, 665 and 754, conveyances by Rankin and wife Ann in two deeds, 100 acres and 150 acres.

[27] See note 7.

[28] Family History Library Films 5,558,495 and 5,558,496, Probate Files R32, R51 and R52.

[29] Samuel and his wife Jane McConahey Rankin are buried in the Mt. Prospect Cemetery in Mt. Pleasant. Images of their tombstones are available  here.

[30] Samuel’s wife may be the Jane Rankin buried in the Mt. Prospect Cemetery in Mt. Pleasant Township. She died in 1869 at age 95, so was born about 1774. The cemetery was established by the Mount Pleasant United Presbyterian Church sometime between 1790 and 1800 as a graveyard beside the church. There are also McConaheys buried in that cemetery.

[31] Washington Co., PA Will Book 3: 484, will of Matthew Rankin.