It’s all about the Benjamins …

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

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

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

Here’s what county records reveal about them.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Capt. Benjamin Rankin of Frederick/Berkeley County, Virginia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See you on down the road.

Robin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                  [26] See Note 2.

                  [27] See Note 5.

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

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

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

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

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

                  [33] Id.

                  [34] Id. at ix.

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

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

                  [37] Id.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Willis-Rankin connection … with a foray into history

No, I am not talking about the Willis-Rankin connection in our immediate household. Instead, this is about a man named James Lee Rankin. However, the story begins with Gary’s father, Noble Sensor Willis.

Noble was a native of Wilmington, Delaware, but wound up in the deep south during World War II. On June 13, 1942, he graduated from the Navigation School, Gulf Coast Air Corps Training Center, at Kelly Field in San Antonio, Texas. His “Certificate of Proficiency” was signed by “D. H. Rankin, Captain, A.A.F., Secretary.”[1] “A.A.F.” stands for Army Air Force.

I saw that record for the first time this week. I wondered which (if any) lineage in the Rankin DNA Project could lay claim to Captain Rankin. I started searching for him the easy way – at Ancestry. How to begin with only the information on Noble’s certificate? Well, to have been a Captain in 1942, he was probably about 25 to 30 years old.[2] He was certainly born by 1920, probably in the 1910s. My search criteria were:

     D. H. Rankin, born 1915, plus or minus 5 years, and lived in San Antonio at one time

A “David H. Rankin” was #42 on the list of hits resulting from that search. Hit #42 showed that David was enumerated in the 1950 census in Ft. Worth, Texas. That made him an attractive choice, so I clicked on his name. The sidebar links suggested for him included a marriage record in May 1945 in Ft. Worth for Major David Henry Rankin, Adjutant, Army Air Force Training Command.

Bingo.

Records for him also included census entries for his family of origin,[3] a World War II draft registration card, the information that he graduated from the University of Nebraska, and a Find-a-Grave memorial.[4] The census entries reveal a brother James Lee Rankin (1907-1996), an attorney who also graduated from the University of Nebraska. He went by Lee.

Bells started ringing in my memory. I ran across Lee several years ago and had intended to write an article about his remarkable career. Something intervened. Here we are, better late than never.[5]

Lee Rankin’s career started with a private law firm in Lincoln, Nebraska. He quickly became involved in politics. A moderate Republican, he helped organize the 1948 campaign for Thomas E. Dewey in Nebraska. In 1952, he managed Dwight D. Eisenhower’s presidential campaign in Nebraska. He became assistant attorney general the following year.

In 1956, he became solicitor general, the third-ranking job at the Justice Department. In that capacity, he was instrumental in resolving claims among Western states to Colorado River water, as well as establishing a balance of Federal and state jurisdictions in offshore oil drilling. He developed the Justice Department’s position in lawsuits concerning legislative reapportionment fights that ultimately led to the principle of “one person, one vote.” If you have never had the pleasure of listening to former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, don’t miss this video  in which she and former Justice Stephen G. Breyer discuss Baker v. Carr and Reynolds v. Sims, two cases dealing with the issue.

After his career in the Justice Department, Lee was chief counsel for the Warren Commission, which investigated the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. He represented the ACLU as amicus curiae in the 1962 landmark case Gideon v. Wainwright, which established the right of an indigent person accused of a non-capital crime to legal counsel at public expense.[6] He was former New York City Mayor John Lindsay’s Corporation Counsel from 1966 to 1972, heading a staff of 378 attorneys. Their duties included defending New York City in a wide range of litigation and developing opinions on various municipal issues. Later, Lee taught constitutional law at New York University Law School.

Perhaps the most outstanding part of his career is that he argued dozens of cases before the U. S. Supreme Court in his capacity as solicitor general. The pièce de résistance in that job was his participation in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, a consolidation of five separate cases challenging the constitutionality of school segregation. The Supreme Court issued its unanimous decision in 1954.[7] Brown reversed the 1896 decision in Plessy v. Ferguson, which had held that the constitution permitted separate facilities for Blacks and Whites so long as the facilities were equal.[8] For more than a half-century, Plessy had provided the legal underpinning for de jure segregation — i.e., segregation according to law. Brown eliminated that underpinning. The case is probably best known for the principle that “separate facilities are inherently unequal.” Thurgood Marshall, then the head of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, was the lead attorney for the Plaintiffs.[9]

But Lee Rankin also participated in the argument, which took place over several days. As Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Justice Department’s office of legal counsel in 1953, he supported the argument that Plessy’s “separate but equal” doctrine violated the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment.[10]

His New York Times obituary says this about Lee’s further role:

“In an effort to avoid violence that might arise from the decision, Mr. Rankin argued in a presentation requested by the High Court that the effort to desegregate schools — overturning decades of entrenched practices — should take place gradually. Accordingly, he suggested the plan by which local school districts submitted desegregation plans to Federal judges in their states.”

This was a radical departure from normal practice. Usually, the Court’s decision that a law was unconstitutional required an immediate end to enforcing that law, period. After the decision in Loving v. Virginia, for example, all laws forbidding interracial marriage became unenforceable immediately. In Brown, on the other hand, the Court ordered integration “with all deliberate speed.”[11]

Lee lived until 1996, so he was around to see how “all deliberate speed” played out. I would give my right arm to ask him whether he thought the principle gave rise to unconscionable delay, and whether it successfully avoided violence. What, I wonder, did he think of the need to send the U. S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division to Little Rock to allow the “Little Rock Nine” Black students to enter Central High School? Or the fact that all of Little Rock’s public schools were not fully integrated until 1972?[12]

On to the genealogy question: does James Lee and David Henry Rankin’s ancestry place them into one of the identified lineages of the Rankin DNA Project? The answer is YES. Their line belongs to Lineage 2, so I can happily claim the brothers as my genetic cousins. Their Rankin line is that part of Lineage 2C which descends from David and Jennett McCormick Rankin of Frederick County, Virginia. David, who died in Frederick in 1768, was most likely the immigrant Rankin ancestor in that line.

Here is a brief outline chart for Lee’s and David’s Rankin ancestors. When (!!!) I finally do a full-fledged descendant chart for the family of David and Jennett McCormick Rankin, I will include citations to evidence. Meanwhile, here are the bare names and places:

1 David and Jennett McCormick Rankin of (probably) Ulster, Ireland and Frederick Co., VA.

   2 William and Abigail Rankin of Frederick, VA and Washington Co., PA, see an article about them here. William was one of four proved children of David and Jennett. He and Abigail had ten known children.[13]

      3 John and Rebecca Rankin of Washington Co., PA. John predeceased his father William, who devised some Washington County land to John’s two children, James and Mary Rankin.[14] James moved to Harrison Co., KY.

         4 James Rankin Sr., b. Washington Co., PA, d. Harrison Co., KY. His wife was a Miss Montgomery. Two different men in this extended Rankin family married Montgomery women; Gen. Richard Montgomery was a near neighbor of the Rankins in Washington County. James Sr. and his wife had a son named Richard Montgomery Rankin.

            5 James Rankin Jr. m. Anna Dills of Harrison Co., KY and Menard County, IL.[15]

               6 William L. Rankin of Harrison Co., KY – Springfield, IL and his second wife Susan Jane Primm. [16]

                  7 Herman Primm Rankin of Menard Co., IL – Lincoln, Lancaster, NE and his wife Lois Cornelia Gable.[17]

                     8 James Lee Rankin and David Henry Rankin. [18]

And that is all the news that is fit to print about James Lee Rankin. If I could choose my relatives, Lee would be high on my preferred list. I am tickled pink that he actually IS a distant cousin, and that his brother David certified the passing grades in navigation school for Gary’s father Noble Willis.

In a strange coincidence, today is the anniversary of the date the so-called “Little Rock Nine” Black students first attempted to attend classes at Central High School.[19] Gov. Faubus had the Arkansas National Guard surround the school to prevent their entry.

See you on down the road.

Robin

[1] Noble’s certificate was signed on Captain Rankin’s behalf by E. W. Earnest.

                  [2] When Gary was in the Air Force, it normally took three years from an officer’s initial commission as a Second Lieutenant until a promotion to Captain. In the Army, it took two years. Gary doesn’t know what the standard was during WW II. He says there were some Lieutenant Colonels in their twenties, although he suspects they were typically fighter or bomber pilots. David Rankin was not a combat soldier, so his promotion progress would have been considerably less spectacular.

                  [3] 1920 federal census, Lincoln, Lancaster Co., NE, household of Herman P. Rankin, 42, printer, b. IL, father b. KY, mother b. VA, with wife Lois C., 39, daughters Marta M., 15, Lois C., 14, and Mary J., 10, and sons James Lee, 12 and David H., 5. All children were born in NE. See also the 1930 federal census, Lincoln, Lancaster Co., NE, Herman P. Rankin, 52, wife Lois C. Rankin, 50, sons Lee, 23 and David, 16, daughter Mary Jo, 20, and mother-in-law Josephine Gable, 70. James Lee’s S.A.R. application identifies his father as Herman Primm Rankin, b. 31 Jul 1877, and his mother as Lois Cornelia Gable, b. 20 Mar 1880. It also identifies his paternal grandparents, William L. Rankin, b. 15 Sep 1816, d. 1902, and Susan Jane Primm, b. 20 Mar 1809, d. 1885.

                  [4] David Henry Rankin’s find-a-grave memorial is at this link.

                  [5] For information about Lee Rankin’s career, see obituaries by Robert D. McFadden, “J. Lee Rankin, Solicitor General Who Was a Voice for Desegregation, Dies at 88” (New York Times, June 30, 1996, Section 1, p. 33) and Santa Cruz Sentinel, 29 June 1996, at 1, 12. Lee died in Santa Cruz, CA.

                  [6] Before Gideon v. Wainwright, a criminal defendant was only entitled to legal counsel at public expense if he were accused of a capital offense. For a description of the case, see this link.

                  [7] There is a good discussion of Brown at  at this link; see also the second link in Note 11 concerning “all deliberate speed.”

                  [8] For an example of a case dealing with allegedly equal facilities, see Sweatt v. Painter.

                  [9] A number of important SCOTUS cases concerning segregation and involving Thurgood Marshall are described in Gilbert King, Devil in the Grove (New York: HarperCollins, 2012). The central story in the book is a criminal case in Florida in which some Black men were wrongly accused of rape. The book is a clear-eyed and graphic account of Jim Crow-era treatment of Blacks. It won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction.

                  [10] The fourteenth amendment has two clauses, known as the “equal protection” and “due process” clauses. Section 1 of the amendment reads in part, “[No State … shall] deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” (Emphasis added).

                  [11] See a brief discussion of the “deliberate speed” notion at this link. A more detailed explanation can be found here.

                  [12] Here are a few facts from post-Brown history. One of our acquaintances would refuse to read any of this, saying he will not participate in what he deems “white shaming.” He does not grasp the fundamental difference between recounting the history of an admittedly shameful event and seeking to make someone feel personally shamed about the event. I certainly don’t want anyone to feel ashamed. If you feel as our acquaintance does, please skip this footnote.

Lee Rankin would probably agree that, as a practical matter, “all deliberate speed” facilitated obstruction and delay. In Shreveport, my high school was still all-white when I graduated in 1964, ten years after Brown. It finally integrated several years later. Many churches in the city promptly opened all-white schools. De jure segregation — segregation as a matter of law under Plessy — became de facto segregation, i.e., separation of Blacks and Whites as a result of segregated neighborhoods, economic status, and alternatives to public schools. Shreveport’s experience was undoubtedly typical of many cities.

Further, gradual desegregation did not prevent violence, as the experience of the “Little Rock Nine” illustrates.  This History Channel article has their story. When nine Black students attempted to enter Little Rock’s Central High School on Sept. 4, 1957, they were met by a mob of 400 people shouting racial epithets and threatening violence. One Black female student was surrounded by the mob, which threatened to lynch her. Her stoic visage  and the women screaming at her became an iconic image of desegregation. Although the mob had grown to 1,000 by Sept. 24, the Black students were ultimately admitted after the 101st Airborne was called in. Throughout the school year, they continued to suffer verbal and physical assaults. One student had acid thrown in her eyes; one was pushed down a flight of stairs.

The ultimate iconic image of desegregation is probably the famous Norman Rockwell painting of four U. S. Marshalls escorting a six-year-old pigtailed and beribboned little girl into a classroom. The painting pictures stains left by tomatoes thrown at her, as well as a racial epithet scrawled on the wall. Ruby Bridges was probably Rockwell’s inspiration for the painting. As an adult, she recalled people throwing things and screaming by the hostile New Orleans crowd. Her father lost his job; her grandparents were forced off their land in Mississippi. Information on Ruby’s story can be found at this link. And see Rockwell’s painting here.

                  [13] Washington Co., PA Will Book 1: 206, will of William Rankin of Raccoon Creek identifying ten children, two of whom predeceased him.

                  [14] Will of John Rankin written and proved in 1788 naming his wife Rebecca and children James and Mary. Washington Co., PA Will Book 1 : 81.

[15] Here is a link to James Rankin Jr.’s Find-a-Grave memorial.

                  [16] See Note 3 and William’s Find-a-Grave memorial at this link.

                  [17] See Note 3. Here is Herman’s Find-a-Grave memorial.

                  [18] The Find-a-Grave memorial  for James Lee Rankin has a picture of him from an obituary. See a link to David’s memorial in Note 4.

                  [19] See Note 12.

Who were parents of Lt. Robert Rankin (1753 – 1837)? Part 5B of 5  

Repeating the bottom line from Part 5A: I don’t know. These two articles just present possibilities, hoping someone will comment saying, “Theory #____ is the answer, and here is conclusive evidence!” That hasn’t happened, so we will slog on. So far, we have covered Theories 1 (parts A and B) and 2. To refresh our memories, here are the options.

Old business:

… Theories #1A and #1B identify Lt. Robert’s parents as Robert William Rankin (or William Robert Rankin) and Margaret Massena Marshall (or Massena Margaret Marshall). This is the conventional wisdom. However, there seems to be no evidence that people by those names ever existed. Further, the people identified as Massena Marshall’s parents are improbable. HOWEVER, I received an email saying there is a family Bible in the DAR Library and Museum proving that Lt. Robert’s mother was “Margaret Massena Marshall, daughter of John of the Forest.” If anyone has seen it, please yell!!!! I searched the DAR Library database for Bibles and had no luck.

… Theory #2 proposes a William Rankin, wife’s name unknown, as Lt. Robert’s father. He reportedly died after 1761 in Frederick County, Virginia. The only William Rankins I can find at that time and place are from the wrong lines. However, research on men named William Rankin in Frederick County is daunting, and I may have overlooked someone. Meantime, this theory remains possible although speculative.

New business:

… Theory #3  says Lt. Robert’s father could have been Benjamin Rankin of Frederick County, Virginia and Berkeley County, Virginia/West Virginia.

… Theory #4 identifies Lt. Robert’s parents as John and Sarah Woffendale (various spellings) Rankin of King George County.

… Theory #5 proposes that John Rankin and Elizabeth Marshall (daughter of William Marshall) of King George County, Virginia were Lt. Robert’s parents.

Theory #3: Lt. Robert’s father could have been Benjamin Rankin of Frederick County, Virginia and Berkeley County, Virginia/West Virginia.

 So far as I know, no researcher has endorsed this theory. I don’t endorse it either, notwithstanding that I may have invented it. However, we are definitely getting warmer. Benjamin can not only be identified as a real person, he appeared in a number of records in Frederick and Berkeley Counties. That’s a pretty low threshold for credibility, but I’m afraid that’s where we are with this puzzle. Benjamin lived at the right time in the right place, in the northern part of Frederick County that became Berkeley County, Virginia (later West Virginia) in 1772.

Berkeley County is what made me sit up and take notice. That is because Lt. Robert’s brother William enlisted from there in 1776.[1] Lt. Robert probably also enlisted in Berkeley, because he and his brother enlisted in the same company in the same regiment in the same month. William was only about seventeen when the brothers enlisted.[2] At that age, one would expect he was still living with family. This provides good geographic plausibility for Benjamin being a relative of some sort. The only other Rankin I can find in Berkeley about that time is a William who was almost certainly a son of Abigail and William Rankin and grandson of David and Jeanette McCormick Rankin of Frederick.[3] That line is not related to Lt. Robert’s family.

Frederick and Berkeley County deeds reveal some interesting connections.[4] Benjamin Rankin lived near Hugh Stephenson and John Berry on Evett’s Run in the part of Frederick that became Berkeley County. You will recall that Lt. Robert and William enlisted in Hugh Stephenson’s Maryland and Virginia Rifle Regiment. Yes, that is the same Hugh Stephenson. Also, Lt. Robert’s wife was Margaret Berry, daughter of Thomas Berry. He and John Berry were brothers.[5]

This theory has problems. The most daunting is that Benjamin Rankin’s 1787 will didn’t name either Lt. Robert or his proved brothers William and John.[6] Of course, wills sometimes omitted children, especially if they were children of a first wife and had previously been “provided for.” The absence of those names does not eliminate a possible father/son relationship between Lt. Robert and Benjamin. It does throw serious cold water on the possibility.

Benjamin’s will is not the only cold water on Theory #3. Lt. Robert and his wife Peggy consistently named their children for family and friends. Lt. Robert and his proved brothers William and John had twenty-eight children among them. None are named Benjamin. When the evidence in records is scarce, you look anywhere you can … including family names.

Finally, there is the matter of Benjamin’s age. He is a recognized D.A.R. patriot. The D.A.R. indicates his birth year was circa 1740. If so, that is obviously too young to have been the father of Lt. Robert and his siblings. I don’t have any reasonable basis for estimating his age.

If he were actually born in the 1720s, Benjamin could have been another son of Robert and Elizabeth Rozier Rankin of King George. Robert’s will named sons James, William, John, Benjamin, Moses, George, and Hipkins or Hopkins.[7] Theory #2 suggests Lt. Robert’s father was William, the second of those seven sons. Theory #3 suggests Benjamin, possibly the fourth son. Taking the hint from those theories, I turned to King George records.

Theory #4: John Rankin and Sarah Woffendale of King George County, Virginia were Lt. Robert’s parents

It didn’t take long to identify other Rankins in King George County who could have been Lt. Robert’s father. There were two men named John Rankin in King George who might fill the bill. One John was married to Sarah Woffendale. I don’t know who his father was. The second John was a son of Robert and Elizabeth Rozier Rankin, the third name in the above list of seven sons. For that couple, see Theory #5. The two John Rankins were definitely not the same man.[8]

The key to Theory #4 is a man named Reuben Rankin. King George records concerning him prove (1) John and Sarah Woffendale Rankin were his parents,[9] (2) he was born between 1734 and 1741,[10] and (3) the Woffendale and Berry families were closely related.[11]

I haven’t identified any other children of John and Sarah Woffendale Rankin. I don’t know whether the couple stayed in King George or moved and, if the latter, where. The last record I can find in King George that is definitely John, husband of Sarah, was in 1765. In light of those unknowns, I pursued their son Reuben looking for Rankin connections.

Fast forward to 1770 in Frederick County, Virginia. That year, a Reuben Rankin and a Robert Rankin witnessed two deeds in which Benjamin and Joseph Berry were grantors.[12] Thomas Berry, the father of Margaret “Peggy” Berry Rankin who married Lt. Robert Rankin in 1781, was their brother. The Berrys were related to Sarah Woffendale Rankin and thus to her son Reuben. Lt. Robert would have been seventeen in 1770.

Were those witnesses Reuben, son of John and Sarah Woffendale Rankin, and Lt. Robert? Certainty is an elusive creature in this puzzle. It is a solid bet, though, that (1) the Rankin witnesses were connected to the Berry grantors and (2) the two Rankins were related to each other. These deeds are surely the records convincing some researchers that Lt. Robert and Reuben were brothers. Others are also convinced that they were sons of John and Sarah Woffendale Rankin of King George.

Naturally, the loyal opposition is poised to identify problems. I mentioned in Part 5A that I had some inchoate resistance to Theory #4. That feeling led me to wade through my voluminous King George data yet again, looking for the source of my unease. Here’s what I found.

Problem #1: George H. S. King, an extremely well-respected genealogist and historian cited the Draper Manuscripts, also an authoritative source, for the proposition that John and Sarah Woffendale Rankin were married in 1720 – 1722.[13] In fact, Mr. King abstracted the first volume of King George County wills, see Note 9. The 1720-22 marriage works just fine for Reuben, who was born between 1734 and 1741. But it might be a stretch for Sarah’s childbearing years to throw in Lt. Robert, born in 1753, William, born about 1759, and John, birth year unknown, but before 1765.[14] Sarah was still alive in 1762, so a possible second wife for John doesn’t circumvent that problem. In fact, Sarah was still alive in 1790, when her sister Ann Rankin Thornley wrote her will. If she had been married in 1720-22, she certainly reached a ripe old age.

Problem #2: there is another record that unambiguously concerns John, husband of Sarah Woffendale Rankin. In 1765, John Rankin sold the enslaved woman Peg, the subject of the earlier lawsuit.[15] According to the terms of the lawsuit settlement, John would not have had the right to convey Peg unless Reuben died before age 18 or died and left no heirs.[16] That suggests Reuben, son of John and Sarah Woffendall Rankin, died by 1765 without heirs. There seem to be no records in King George for Reuben after 1762, so he either died or migrated, either abandoning Peg or conveying her to his father. I found no such conveyance. Abandoning Peg is highly unlikely in light of the enormous value of enslaved people.

Given the paucity of evidence in actual records for any other theory, the two Berry deeds witnessed by Reuben and Robert Rankin should probably be displayed in neon lights. The glaring issue is the 1765 sale of Peg by John Rankin.

The only reasonable conclusion is that the Reuben who witnessed the Berry deeds is NOT the same man as Reuben, son of John and Sarah Rankin. It does seem possible that Reuben and Robert were brothers. But not sons of John and Sarah Woffendale Rankin.

 Theory #5: John and Elizabeth Marshall Rankin (daughter of William Marshall) of King George County were Lt. Robert’s parents

 Attorneys say that an equitable claim or defense in a lawsuit is “the last refuge of the desperate.” This is similar to using family names as evidence of a parent-child relationship. Since family names constitute the only rationale I have found supporting John and Elizabeth Marshall Rankin as Lt. Robert’s parents, this patently qualifies as a last-ditch, desperate theory.

It does seem likely there was a Marshall on Lt. Robert’s tree, given the recurrence of the name in the Rankin line,[17] the (perhaps) family oral tradition about a maternal Marshall, and deposition testimony of Judge Lippincott in Lt. Robert’s pension application that Robert and Justice Marshall were “near kin.” Massena Marshall, who may never have existed, appears to be a dead end, no pun intended. Further, neither of Lt. Robert’s proved brothers (William and John) gave a daughter that unusual name.[18]

On the other hand, Lt. Robert, William, and John all named a daughter Elizabeth. In fact, Elizabeth was Lt. Robert and Peggy’s eldest daughter — and Peggy’s mother was named Frances, not Elizabeth. The three Rankin brothers also all had sons named John. Further, the name William Marshall Rankin, another son of Lt. Robert and Peggy, points a laser beam directly at one particular Rankin couple in King George. Theory #5 may be the best option for placing the Marshall family in Lt. Robert’s maternal line, if that is your thing. If you are looking for evidence in county records, not so much.

Theory #5 definitely involves people whose existence can be proved, an almost embarrassing threshold question for this puzzle. A John Rankin in King George County married Elizabeth Marshall, a daughter of William Marshall, between July 1746 and September 1752. John was a son of Robert and Elizabeth Rozier Rankin, with whom we are already acquainted.[19]

Here is the evidence that John Rankin married Elizabeth Marshall. First, William Marshall bequeathed to his daughter Elizabeth a “mulatto named Sarah to be delivered on the day of her marriage.”[20] William Marshall’s King George County will was dated July 24, 1746, so Elizabeth was not married as of that date. In September 1752, John and Elizabeth Rankin sold to Thomas Turner the 100 acres where they lived that he inherited from his father.[21] In May 1753, John Rankin, “carpenter of Hanover Parish, King George,” mortgaged a mulatto enslaved person named Sall or Sarah.[22] John Rankin thus married William Marshall’s daughter Elizabeth sometime between July 1746 and September 1752. That couple could easily accommodate Lt. Robert, born in 1753, William, born about 1759, and John, born by 1765.

Evidence of this couple’s children eluded me, although there is circumstantial evidence for a son named Francis and possibly another son.[23] John probably died in King George County. His widow Elizabeth is mentioned in a 1783 deed in which Thomas Turner sold the 100-acre tract where Elizabeth then lived, the same tract Turner had previously purchased from John and Elizabeth.[24] She may also be and probably is the Elizabeth Rankin shown on King George tax lists in 1787 – 1790 with one white tithe.

The bottom line, though, is that Theory #5 is pure speculation.

I would love to hear your opinions. I would also love to hear from someone who has some actual evidence on this question. Meanwhile, I may sort through some of the Benjamin Rankins (there is more than one), Reuben Rankins (ditto, probably), Moses, George, and others who hail from King George.

See you on down the road.

Robin

                  [1] Pension file of William Rankin, S.31315, sworn declaration supporting his pension application dated 22 Nov 1833 in Mason Co., KY. See a good online transcription by Will Graves here.

                  [2] Id. William was 74 when he applied for a pension in Nov. 1833, so he was born about 1759. He would have been about 17 in July 1776.

                  [3] William Rankin of Berkeley was a trustee of the Hopewell Presbyterian Church when it was still located in Frederick. See Berkeley Co., WV Deed Book 1: 83, Nov. 1771 conveyance to six trustees of the Hopewell Presbyterian Congregation, including William Rankin. Lt. Robert’s line of Rankins probably migrated from England and left no evidence of Presbyterianism. William Rankin was listed on the 1783 tax list of John Davenport in the Sleepy Creek Valley, an area now in Morgan and Berkeley Counties in WV. William H. Rice, The 1774 List of Tithables and Wheel Carriages in Berkeley County, Virginia (Parsons, WVA: McClain Printing Co., 2006) 28.  He left a will in Morgan County naming, inter alia, a daughter Abigail. Morgan Co, WV Will Book 1: 199, will of William Rankin dated 1815, proved 1820. Sons Samuel, Simon/Simeon, and William, and daughter Abigail. See Note 20 of Part 5A for William’s probable parents (Wm. and Abigail) and grandparents (David and Jeanette McCormick), all of whom were Presbyterians down to their toes.

                  [4] Frederick Co., VA Deed Book 13: 366 and Deed Book 14: 457, conveyances in 1770 and 1771 to Benjamin Rankin witnessed by three Stephensons, including Hugh. The land was on drains of Evets Run (also Evetts or Evatts) and was adjacent to John Washington. John Berry also had land on that creek, see Frederick Co., VA Deed Book 10: 180. William Davis, the grantor in the 1770/71 conveyances, wrote a will witnessed by his neighbors John Berry and Benjamin Rankin, see Berkeley Co., VA Will Book 1: 14. See also 1779 deed to Benjamin Rankin for 313 acres adjacent Col. John Washington, Charles Washington, and “widow Stephenson.”

                  [5] I’m not going to get into the complicated Berry family of King George and Frederick.

                  [6] Berkeley Co., WV Will Book 1: 441, will of Benjamin Rankin of Berkeley Co., VA dated and proved in 1787. George Rankin, relationship unknown, was a witness. Benjamin named his widow Judith, two daughters, and a daughter’s son. Margaret Rankin, one of the daughters, married William Helm who migrated to Mason County, Kentucky, where the three proved Rankin brothers lived.

                  [7] King George Co., VA Will Book 1:A: 201, undated will of Robert Rankins proved 4 Mar 1747/48. Wife Elizabeth, sons William, John, James, Moses, George, Benjamin, and Hopkins, and daughter Mary Green.

                  [8] John, son of Robert and Elizabeth Rozier Rankin, married Elizabeth Marshall between July 1746 and September 1752. Sarah Woffendale Rankin, wife of the other John Rankin, married John before 1741 and was still alive in 1762.

                  [9] The agreement in a lawsuit concerning an enslaved person named Peg proves that John Rankin and Miss Woffendale (given name not stated) had a son Reuben. King George Co., VA Order Book 1751-1754 at 71, from abstract by Mary Marshall Brewer, King George County, Virginia Orders 1751 – 1754 (Lewes, DE: Colonial Roots, 2007) 42. The will of Reuben’s aunt Mary Woffendale proves that her sister Sarah Woffendale married a Rankin; Mary named her nephew Reuben executor. King George Co., VA Will Book A: 149, from abstract by George Harrison Sanford King, King George County Virginia Will Book A-I 1721-1752 and Miscellaneous Notes (Fredericksburg, VA: 1978), will of Mary Woffendale dated and proved in 1762.

                  [10] Id. Together, the lawsuit and will establish that Reuben was born between 1734 and 1741. Reuben was less than 18 when the lawsuit was settled in June 1752. He was of age and probably in his mid-twenties when his Aunt Mary Woffendale wrote her will naming him executor.

[11] The will of Mary Woffendale (see Note 9) names a number of her relations, including her sisters Elizabeth Kendall and Sarah Rankins. It also identifies a number of nieces and a nephew, although she called them “cousins.” Those include Reuben Rankin (son of sister Sarah Woffendall Rankin), Elizabeth Butler, Jenny Humston (daughter of Mary’s sister Frances Woffendall Humston), and Catherine Berry. Mary Woffendale’s will and other documents nicely illustrate the relationships between several King George families. (1) Mary Woffendale’s sister Elizabeth Woffendale married Samuel Kendall; Elizabeth and Samuel Kendall were the parents of Frances Kendall who married Thomas Berry; and Frances and Thomas Berry were the parents of Margaret “Peggy” Berry, who married Robert Rankin. (2) Mary’s niece Catherine was the wife of Capt. Joseph Berry. Catherine and Joseph Berry were the parents of the Thomas Berry who married Frances Kendall.

                  [12] Frederick Co., VA Deed Book 17: 75, deed dated 13 Nov 1770 from Thomas Berry and wife Frances of Frederick Co., VA to Elisha Williams of Frederick, MD, 337 acres, witnessed by two Benjamin Berrys, Robert Rankin, and Reuben Rankin; Frederick Co. DB 18: 224, deed of the same date from Benjamin Berry to Elisha Williams, witnessed by John Humphrey, Benjamin Berry, James Smallwood, Reuben Rankins, Thomas Berry, and Robert Rankins.

                  [13] George H. S. King cited the Draper Manuscripts for the proposition that John and Sarah Woffendale Rankin married in 1720-22. I have not been able to penetrate the Draper Manuscripts yet. See George’s sterling qualifications at this link.  I have not viewed either the Draper Manuscripts or Mr. King’s collection. The attribution to him for the date of John and Sarah’s marriage can be found at Linda Starr’s website here.  Linda, now deceased, was a serious Rankin researcher. She was led astray about Lt. Robert’s parents by Ms. Cloyd, who was led astray by Ms. Calloway. Otherwise, Linda’s research merits the highest respect.

                  [14] John Rankin’s eldest daughter Nancy was born about 1793; his eldest son Marshall was born about 1800. Four daughters were born 1800-1810. I haven’t been able to get a good handle on John’s likely birth year. The census reveals only that he was born by 1765.

                  [15] King George Co., VA Deed Book 5: 635, deed dated 6 Sep 1765 from John Rankin to Thomas Jett, enslaved person named Peg.

                  [16] Here is the entire order book statement about the lawsuit as abstracted by Mary Marshall Brewer: “John Rankin v. Francis Woffendale, suit in case. Parties agreed (bond posted) to abide by the award of Charles Carter and Thomas Turner, gent. They decided Francis Woffendale should deliver Peg an enslaved person, to John Rankins, who is to have the use of Peg and her increase for his life, and at his death, Peg and her increase to go to Reuben Rankins, a child of the said John Rankins by Francis Woffendale’s daughter. But if Reuben dies before age 18 or without children, then Peg and her increase to remain the absolute property of John Rankins. Woffendale to pay costs.”

                  [17] Lt. Robert’s brother John had a son Marshall Rankin; Lt. Robert had a son William Marshall Rankin.

                  [18] If you Google the name “Massena,” you will come up with an Italian general and the name of a town in New York.

                  [19] Theory #2 proposed that William, son of Robert and Elizabeth Rozier Rankin, was Lt. Robert’s father; Theory #3 said Benjamin, son of Robert and Elizabeth, may have been Lt. Robert’s father.

[20] King George Co., VA Will Book A-1: 212-214, will of William Marshall dated 24 Jul 1746.

[21] King George Co., VA Deed Book 3: 496, conveyance dated Sep. 1752 from John Rankins and wife Elizabeth of Hanover Parish, King George, to Thomas Turner, Gent., 100 acres where grantor lives given to him by will of his father Robert Rankin.

[22] King George Co., VA Deed Book 4: 36. There are two available abstracts of this mortgage. The Brewer abstract provides the name of the enslaved woman. An abstract by the Sparacios does not. Mary Marshall Brewer, Abstracts of Land Records of King George County, Virginia 1752 – 1783 (Lewes, DE: Colonial Roots, 2002); Ruth and Sam Sparacio, Deed Abstracts of King George County, Virginia (1763 – 1773) (McLean, VA: The Antient Press, 1986).

[23] A Francis Rankin witnessed the 1779 will of Philip Peed along with John Rankins. King George Co., VA Will Book A: 409. Philip Peed’s wife was Margaret Green, daughter of Richard Green, see Will Book A: 388. Richard Green was married to Mary Rankin, daughter of Robert and Elizabeth Rozier Rankin. Evidence of a possible second son of John and Elizabeth Marshall Rankin is in county tax lists during the late 1780s, when Elizabeth was shown with one tithe. The tithable would necessarily have been a male because free women were not taxable.

[24] King George Co., VA Deed Book 6: 401, Thomas Turner, Gent. and wife Mary convey 100-acre tract in Hanover Parish where Elizabeth Rankin now lives adj. Green’s corner. Robert and Elizabeth Rozier Rankin’s daughter Mary married Richard Green.

Who Were the Parents of Revolutionary War Lt. Robert Rankin (1753-1837)? (Part 5A of 5)

The short answer is I don’t know. This article merely offers theories. You choose the theory you prefer. “None of the above” is a reasonable answer.

This was difficult to write because Lt. Robert’s family of origin is such a will-o’-the-wisp. Some of the people in these theories are probably phantoms who cannot be either proved or disproved. I have a nagging suspicion I’m missing something important. And this article is too long, so I shall post it as Parts 5A and 5B of the Lt. Robert series.[1]

To be clear, the subject is Robert (no middle name)[2] Rankin, a Revolutionary War officer who first appeared in Frederick County, Virginia marrying his fiancé Margaret (“Peggy”) Berry in 1781. Lt. Robert was surely from the Rankin family which spread westward from Richmond County across Virginia’s Northern Neck beginning in the late seventeenth century.[3] William Rankin (also a Revolutionary soldier) and John Rankin were his proved brothers. The three all lived in Mason County, Kentucky at one time, although Lt. Robert moved on. Theory #4 suggests another sibling, although I remain skeptical for inchoate reasons.

Here are the possibilities I’ve identified. There may be others.

… Theories #1A and #1B identify Lt. Robert’s parents as Robert William Rankin (or William Robert Rankin) and Margaret Massena Marshall (or Massena Margaret Marshall). “Massena” has various spellings.[5] This is the conventional wisdom.

… Theory #2 claims a William Rankin, wife’s name unknown, as Lt. Robert’s father. He reportedly died after 1761 in Frederick County, Virginia.

… Theory #3  says Lt. Robert’s father could have been Benjamin Rankin of Frederick County, Virginia and Berkeley County, Virginia/West Virginia.

… Theory #4 identifies John and Sarah Woffendale Rankin of King George County as possible parents.

… Theory #5 proposes that John Rankin and Elizabeth Marshall (daughter of William Marshall) of King George County, Virginia were Lt. Robert’s parents.

Theories #1A and 1B: Lt. Robert’s parents were William Robert Rankin (or Robert William Rankin) and Margaret Massena Marshall (or Massena Margaret Marshall).

Theories #1A and 1B identify the same couple, although with their first and middle names in different orders. The two theories differ only in the identity of Massena’s parents. Evidentiary and credibility problems abound.

Right off the bat, there is no woman named Margaret Massena Marshall or even Massena Marshall in any record as far as the eye can see, anytime, anywhere. It is true that colonial women can be difficult to find. That doesn’t eliminate the need for some evidence that such a person actually existed. The same is true for William Robert/Robert William Rankin. No such man seems to have manifested himself. These two people may be phantoms, or possibly figments of someone’s imagination.

The likely source for the conventional wisdom does not inspire confidence. Flossie Cloyd, a respected Rankin researcher in the early to mid-1900s, identified William Robert Rankin and Margaret Massena Marshall as Robert’s parents. The “oh, no!” here is Ms. Cloyd’s source. She was assembling an ambitious Rankin family history in collaboration with other Rankin researchers/descendants.[6] She did not do any original research regarding Lt. Robert or his family.[7] Instead, she relied on May Myers Calloway, a descendant of Lt. Robert’s.

Ms. Calloway is credited with several whoppers about Lt. Robert. No, General George Washington did not personally hand Lt. Robert Rankin his discharge papers and call him “Colonel.” Lt. Robert never served in the same company as future Chief Justice John Marshall. And Rankin County, Mississippi, was not named for one of Lt. Robert’s children.[8]

Ms. Cloyd’s papers provide no evidence about Lt. Robert’s parents that I could find. It’s reasonable to conclude that Ms. Calloway offered Ms. Cloyd no evidence except family oral tradition.

Ms. Calloway also corresponded with Louis Wiltz Kemp, a historian whose papers on Lt. Robert can be found at the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History in Austin.[9] Mr. Kemp’s papers don’t contain any evidence regarding Lt. Robert’s parents, either. Ms. Calloway sent Mr. Kemp some of her own poetry, for Pete’s sake![10] How about evidence? Even family oral tradition is usually supported by some evidence. Yes? No?

But wait! The most damning problems with Theories #1A and B are facts.

In Theory #1A, Massena was allegedly a daughter of Thomas Marshall and his wife Mary Randolph Keith. Both are buried in the Marshall graveyard in Washington, Mason County, Kentucky. However, Thomas and Mary’s children were too young to have included Lt. Robert’s mother. Lt. Robert was born in 1753. Thomas and Mary Marshall’s children were born during 1755-1781.[11] That would mean Lt. Robert was born before his mother. Oops!

Perhaps recognizing this problem, some researchers backed up a generation and proposed Theory #1B. In this view, the elusive Massena Marshall was a sister rather than a daughter of Thomas Marshall. Massena’s parents would then have been John Marshall (known as “John of the Forest”) of Westmoreland County, Virginia and his wife Elizabeth Markham.

John of the Forest’s will is not helpful.[12] John named his daughters. No Massena. None of his three married daughters had husbands named Rankin. Only his youngest unmarried daughter, Peggy (whose given name was presumably Margaret), is a remote possibility to have been Robert’s mother.[13] However, Peggy/Margaret reportedly married a Hugh Snelling.[14] And she was probably too young to have been Robert’s mother in any event. The Marshall website puts her birth year as 1745, making her eight years old when Lt. Robert was born.[15]

Here is the pièce de résistance:  an extraordinary old chart of descendants of John of the Forest, available at this link. A label states that the chart was “drawn by W. M. Paxton, Platte City, Mo.” He was William McClung Paxton (1819 – 1916), whose mother was Anna Maria Marshall Paxton. Her great-grandfather was John of the Forest. Mr. Paxton was an attorney and family history researcher who published a book about the Paxtons in 1903.[16] This is one of those cases when I am comfortable relying on someone else’s research because he has good creds.

Mr. Paxton’s chart is circular, making it difficult to read. The print is small and faded, increasing the degree of difficulty. If you persevere and squint, you will find no Rankins and no one named Massena on the chart. John of the Forest’s daughter Peggy is listed, with her husband’s surname given (as best as I could tell) as Smellan, close to the Snelling identified on the Marshall website.

My take on Theories #1A and 1B as described above is that they zoom past “speculative” and land squarely on “highly improbable.” If Lt. Robert’s mother was in fact named Marshall, proponents of that notion need to look in a different Marshall line. For that option, please see Theory #5.

However, if you decide the Margaret Massena/William Robert theory is the best available option, you have plenty of company on internet trees.

Theory #2:  Lt. Robert’s father was a William Rankin who died after 1761 in Frederick County.[17] William’s wife isn’t identified.

 This theory appears on the Marshall website which (along with Mr. Paxton) identified Margaret “Peggy” Marshall’s husband as Mr. Snelling/Smellan.[18] The Marshall website says that William Rankin’s father — Robert Rankin (wife Elizabeth Rozier) — left a will in King George County identifying his children.[19] This gives Theory #2 heightened credibility right off the bat. It at least deals with people whose existence can be proved: William Rankin, son of Robert and Elizabeth Rozier Rankin of King George. And it has geographic appeal, because it says William Rankin died in Frederick County after 1761. That is where Lt. Robert first appeared in 1781 and where his brother William moved after the Revolution. It is also comforting that William doesn’t have a highly improbable middle name.

There are some rocks in this road. Evaluating the theory runs into a “too many William Rankins” issue. That is just a research problem, though, and doesn’t diminish the theory’s credibility. Having said that, the only William Rankin(s) I can find in Frederick after 1761 are (I believe) from the line of David and Jeanette McCormick Rankin,[20] plus a family which lived there too late to matter and moved to Missouri in any event.[21] Y-DNA tests negate any genetic relationship between Lt. Robert’s line and David’s line. If you have a dog in this hunt, you need to do a deep dive into Frederick, Berkeley, and Morgan County records, because I might be wrong again.

The only William I can identify in Frederick County after 1761 who does not fall into the two irrelevant lines (David and Jeanette’s family and the Missouri family) is Lt. Robert’s brother William. He reportedly moved to Frederick County “not long after the war”[22] (presumably the early 1780s) and was definitely a resident of Frederick by 1792.[23]

 A William Rankin who died in Frederick after 1761, if one can be found, definitely has more cachet than the spectral Massena Marshall. However, that qualifies as “damned by faint praise.” This theory should probably be considered speculative.

That is it for Theories #1 and #2. Part 5B in this series will attack the remaining three theories. Here’s hoping there are some comments on this article that provide some helpful grist for this mill.

See you on down the road.

Robin

 [1] Part 1 of the “Lt. Robert series” was an Introduction.   Part 2 discusses Revolutionary War history relevant to both Lt. Robert and his brother William. Part 3 tells William’s amazing war story. Part 4 has Lt. Robert’s story.

[2] At least one source identifies Lt. Robert as Robert Marshall Rankin. Another identifies him as Robert Richard Rankin. In the hundreds of records Gary and I reviewed while researching Lt. Robert and his family, we have never seen him identified with either a middle initial or middle name. Those middle names are fictional.

[3] E.g., Richmond Co., VA Order Book 1692-1694: 10, order dated 4 May 1692, John Rankin, who married the Executrix of John Overton, to appear and give security. If this John Rankin was the patriarch of the Northern Neck Rankins (I do NOT know if that is the case and am NOT saying it is!), it would help explain the appearance of more than one John Rankin at a time in King George Co. in the mid-1700s.

[5] One of Lt. Robert and Peggy’s daughters is identified as Mathina, Marsena, or Masena McComb in the 1850, 1860, and 1870 Polk Co., TX censuses, respectively. I use “Massena” because that is how it is spelled in Peggy’s will.

[6] Ms. Cloyd never published a book, but her voluminous research materials are available on CDs from the Tennessee State Library and Archives.

[7] The Cloyd CDs are a long, painful slog. I reviewed the CD cited by Linda Kay Starr for Ms. Cloyd’s conclusion about Lt. Robert’s parents. I found only information provided by May Myers Calloway.

[8] Rankin County was named for the Christopher Rankin who served in the U. S. House as a Representative from Mississippi. See information about him at this link. His will was probated in Washington, D.C, see “Washington, D.C., U.S., Wills and Probate Records, 1737 – 1952” on Ancestry. The will recites that Christopher was “a native of Washington County … Pennsylvania” but was then “a Citizen of the State of Mississippi and Representative of said state in the Congress of the United States.”

[9] Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas, Austin, papers of Louis Wiltz Kemp, Box 2R232, General Biographical Notebooks, Ranb-Reavis. Viewed Feb. 8, 2020.

 [10] Ms. Calloway’s poetry is so gosh-awful that I wish I had taken notes so I could share.

[11] See the birth years for Thomas Marshall’s children at this link.. This website is owned by Mike Marshall and has a number of researchers and contributors, as well as extensive footnotes and sources. See also the will of Thomas Marshall, Mason Co., KY Will Book B:212.

[12] Will of John Marshall of the Forest dated April 1, 1752, recorded in Westmoreland Co., VA Deed & Will Book 11: 419. Transcribed here.

  [13] Those of us who wonder where crummy information originates might speculate that the name of John of the Forest’s youngest daughter Peggy inspired someone to put Margaret in front of the standard Massena Marshall for the name of Lt. Robert’s alleged mother.

[14] See the Marshall website  here for the birthdate and husband of Peggy Marshall, daughter of John of the Forest.

 [15] Id.

[16] W. M. Paxton, We Are One (Platte City, MO: Landmark Press, 1903). See image of the book cover and other information about Mr. Paxton on his Find-a-Grave memorial  here.

 [17] Rankin data mining bulldogs, here’s a juicy one. The Marshall website’s information about William Rankin’s death in Frederick County — “after 1761” — implies that William was known to be alive that year. That is, there must be at least one record for William in Frederick County specifically in the year 1761. I haven’t found one. If anyone can, she is named Mary Buller or Jess Guyer.

 [18] The Marshall website adds several siblings to Lt. Robert, William, and John. As far as I can find, there is no evidence for the relationships. In all fairness, the webiste’s focus is on Marshalls, not Rankins.

 [19] King George Co., VA Will Book 1-A: 201, undated will of Robert Rankins proved 4 Mar 1747/48. Sons William, John, and James, all my land. Daughter Mary Green and sons Moses, George, Benjamin, and Hipkins, one shilling each. Wife Elizabeth Rankins. Witnesses William Rankins and James Rankins. NOTE: if you ever wrestle with the King George Rankins, please pay particular attention to this will. Keep in mind that beneficiaries do NOT witness wills — unless someone wants the will to be invalid. So who the heck were the witnesses William and James? Definitely not testator’s sons William and James, who were beneficiaries. I don’t know the answer.

[20] David Rankin died in Frederick in 1757, leaving a will naming children William (Sr.), David, Hugh, and Barbara. Frederick Co., VA Will Book 3: 443. William Sr. moved to Washington Co., PA and left a 1793 will stating that his son William (Jr.) was living in Virginia where William Sr. formerly lived. Washington Co. Will Book 1: 206, will of William Rankin, wife Abigail, leaving to William Jr. the place in Virginia where William Sr. formerly lived. William Sr. and Abigail’s land in Virginia was located in Berkeley County. Berkeley Co., VA DB 3: 386, 390, 1775 deeds from William and Abigail Rankin of Berkeley County.

 [21] The 1810 Frederick census has a William Rankin and Matthew Rankin, probably kin, in the same age group. The line disappeared from Frederick after the 1830 census and moved to Cooper Co., Missouri.

 [22] Deposition of John Kercheval in support of the Revolutionary War pension application of William Rankin of Mason Co., KY.

 [23] Frederick Co., VA Deed Book 24A: 152 conveyance from Denny Fairfax, the Northern Neck proprietor, to William Rankin of Frederick, lease for lives of William, wife Mary Ann, and son Harrison. This is Lt. Robert’s brother William, who moved to Mason Co., KY.

Rankin families in the darn book

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See you on down the road.

Robin

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

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

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

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

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

Breaking Down a Brick Wall: a Researcher’s Thrill

by Jessica Guyer

Note: the last guest author on this blog was such a success we’re doing it again. Jessica Guyer is one of the two best Rankin data mining researchers I know. When I first “met” Jess, she wasn’t acquainted with deeds. I suggested she take a look at deeds in Pennsylvania counties relevant to her brick wall, telling her only that deed images are available at FamilySearch.Org. I didn’t explain grantor/grantee indexes, how to navigate the Family Search catalog, or what constitutes meaningless deed boilerplate. Next thing I knew, she had blitzed through deeds in a half-dozen counties looking for clues on her brick wall. This article is a story about the trail of clues that finally knocked it down. Enjoy!

Robin

 Introduction

This is a story about Don D. Rankin’s brick wall. The story includes a rich old 19TH century man who was apparently popular with the ladies, some bigotry that probably prevented sharing important information, and a clue that finally allowed me — his great-great niece — to correctly break down the brick wall and fix his very public error.

A California schoolteacher, Don had to travel cross-country to conduct family history research on his Pennsylvania Rankins in the 1970s and ’80s — the pre-internet dark ages.  His goal was to identify the parents of his great-grandfather, Chambers Rankin (1805-1835). He dubbed his trips “High Adventure Genealogical Safaris” and wrote humorous letters to relatives about his finds.

After decades of work, Don did something every family history researcher has done at least once. He identified the wrong couple as Chambers Rankin’s parents. That is usually a “so what?” Unfortunately, Don typed up his conclusions and sent copies to every relative, friend, library, genealogical association, and historical organization in Pennsylvania. Punxsutawney Phil probably received a copy.  What ensued is predictable: Don’s error became the conventional wisdom. It can now be found in 99% of the family trees on Ancestry.com or Familysearch.org that include Chambers Rankin.

We’re going to follow his excellent detective work. However, we will identify the correct parents of Chambers Rankin: David (1776-1857) and Martha Culbertson Rankin of Westmoreland County, PA.

Road to Error

   Lee Rankin in 1954 at the gravesite of his grandfather, Chambers Rankin

Don’s father, Lee Rankin, took him to visit Chambers’ grave in the Old Log Church cemetery in Schellsburg, Bedford County, Pennsylvania. Lee’s father was Franklin Rankin; Chambers was Lee’s grandfather. Chambers had died when Franklin, his only child, was about 9 months old. Above are some 1954 pictures Don took of Lee by Chambers’ tombstone.

During Don’s visit, Lee shared an old velvet photo album of family pictures. One photo in the album was a very old tintype of a woman Lee called an “Indian Lady” — a Native American. When Don asked questions, Lee refused to discuss her further. Don’s daughter Marjorie subsequently asked Lee about her. He became agitated and said only, “she is one of your great great grandmothers” and told her not to ask any more questions.

That silence was probably a result of prejudice and misplaced family shame. It is a pity on several levels. Among other things, surely Lee had some information about her.[1] After all, she was his grandmother – the mother of Chambers Rankin’s only child, Lee’s father Franklin R. Rankin.  The family has never determined whether she and Chambers were married or any other circumstances about their relationship — not even her given name.

Don didn’t have much to go on in his quest for Chambers’ parents. All he knew for certain was that Chambers (1) fathered a son (Franklin) with a Native American woman, (2) died in 1835 about 9 months after Franklin’s birth, and (3) had a brother named J. C. Rankin of Harrison City.  The brother is proved by Chambers’ gravestone, which is engraved “Chambers Rankin died Mar. 16, 1835. Aged 30 years. Erected by his brother J. C. Rankin, Harrison City.”[2] This brotherly kindness will prove to be the clue that ultimately led to breaking down Don’s brick wall.

Sometime in the early 1980s, Don connected with a mother and son from Pitcairn, Allegheny County. On his behalf, the pair visited a number of cemeteries and sent Don information and photos of Rankin gravestones they came across. One of these was J. C. Rankin’s grave in Harrison City. His stone mentions his wife, Nellie Rankin, a name that Don remembered from his father’s old photo album. At the foot of J. C.’s grave is a marker for his sister, Martha Rankin Bisel. The proved nuclear family was growing: it now including Chambers, J. C., and Martha Rankin Bisel. Her stone was also purchased by J. C. This should have been a step in the right direction for Uncle Don, who already suspected that J. C. was “the long missing link” towards uncovering the mystery.

What Went Wrong?

The mother and son duo had ancestral ties to the Bisel family (Martha Rankin Bisel’s inlaws). So instead of focusing on researching J. C. and the Westmoreland County area, they followed the trail of the Bisel family, which took them to Bedford and Fulton Counties. Upon finding Rankins buried at the Big Spring Cemetery in Fulton County, they convinced themselves that those burials were Chambers’ parents – with literally zero evidence. Don accepted their conclusions and considered them his “Big Breakthrough.” In January 1985, he excitedly typed up his “case-solved-here-is-our-lineage” piece, now memorialized as the conventional wisdom.

Don claimed Chambers Rankin’s father was John Rankin (1754-1829) buried in Big Spring Cemetery in Fulton County. But he confused that John Rankin with a different John Rankin, born the same year, who married Martha Waugh, and moved to Tennessee.  Don used the Tennessee John’s lineage for the remainder of his erroneous Rankin lineage write up.

There were so many red flags (such as a father who was only 13 when a son was born) that the people in his chart might as well have been fictional. Instead, the erroneous information spread like a virus.

Uncle Don’s excitement was short lived. He passed away in May, just five months after completing and distributing his work. Perhaps he was worried about his health, which contributed to his acceptance of unvetted information to finish his life’s work before it was too late. This feeling is a relatable anxiety for researchers – hoping to “finish” our work before we die with our findings only in our minds and scribbled on mountains of notes that would make no sense to anyone else.

Setting the Record Straight

To begin, I went back to the place where evidence was pointing – Chambers’ siblings J. C. Rankin and Martha (Rankin) Bisel in Harrison City, Westmoreland County.  I spent hours of research hoping to find them in a will or deed pointing toward their family of origin. The only thing I found was another sibling – Culbertson Rankin of Somerset County, for whom J. C. also purchased a gravestone that was identical to Chambers’ marker. This find was interesting because it turns out J. C.’s given name was John Culbertson Rankin. That made two Culberson names among the siblings.

I began corresponding with one of J. C.’s descendants who shared her theory that the parents of the Rankin siblings were David and Martha (Culbertson) Rankin of Westmoreland County. Based solely on the importance of the Culbertson maiden name, the theory that they were Chambers’ parents seemed far more plausible than anything else I’d come across.  In her theory, David Rankin was the son of another David Rankin (Sr.) who died in Westmoreland County in 1790.

Our Rankin siblings didn’t fit in with any other Rankin clan in Pennsylvania, so I decided to research the David Rankins of Westmoreland County to search for clues.

David (Sr.) was a Westmoreland County innkeeper whose land was located in Unity Township along the Loyalhanna Creek. He died in 1790, leaving a will for which there are two transcriptions.[3] One leaves his estate to his “well beloved wife James” (obviously a transcription error) and which subsequently identifies his wife as Mary. The second transcription wrongly identified James as David’s son. However, estate records prove that James Rankin was actually David Sr.’s brother. Estate records also provided the names of David and Mary’s children: Daniel, David (Jr.), Jane, William, Matthew, Margaret, Martha, and Chambers.[4]YES, CHAMBERS! No, this wasn’t my Chambers, but it WAS another clue. Family names can be important circumstantial evidence, particularly in the case of unusual names such as “Chambers” and “Culbertson.”

Further down the rabbit hole, I learned that this Chambers died when he was in his teens. It seemed plausible that his brother, David Jr., would name one of his sons (my Chambers) after a deceased brother.  I gathered enough information about David Sr. and his wife Mary Cochran (and her family) to create a detailed timeline for him.[5] Unfortunately, I can’t find additional records about his son, David Jr. The only known detail about his life is that he married Martha Culbertson by 1800.[6] She and her family moved to Westmoreland County around 1785 from “Culbertson Row” in Franklin County.[7]

I changed direction to focus again on Chambers’ brother, John Culbertson Rankin. He married near Culbertson Row in Franklin County. In 1840, he moved his family to Westmoreland County, where he purchased coal and timberland and founded Harrison City. He also ran a store and a hotel. In the process, he became incredibly wealthy: many of the landowners in Westmoreland County wound up sitting atop thick seams of anthracite coal.

Researchers originally believed that his wife died shortly after their 9th child was born. That is because J. C. was married by 1850 to a second wife with whom he had three children. She was around the same age as his oldest daughter. However, his first wife was still very much alive. That first marriage evidently ended in divorce, as did his second marriage. Around 1865, he married a third time, to a woman named Nellie who was nearly 45 years younger. He conforms to an old cliche:  a rich guy who keeps getting divorced and marrying younger women – add a silk robe and smoking pipe for a stereotypical 19th century image.

God bless his heart, though, because he did something caring and useful with his overflowing money pot. He bought gravestones for his siblings that included his own name, without which this brick wall might have stood forever. And for that, Uncle J. C., we thank you.[8]  J. C.’s gravestone itself was about to provide another clue!

After COVID allowed, I was finally able to visit J. C.’s enormous gravestone. It was engraved “J.R. Oursler, Latrobe” – presumably, the tombstone engraver. I took note, hoping it would lead to something. I still lacked any direct evidence that David (Jr.) was the same David who married Martha Culbertson. And that David and Martha’s children were John C., Chambers, Martha, and Culbertson.

Serendipity Rewards the Prepared

That proof came in a way I least expected. I happened upon a single newspaper article that tied together all the random notes and circumstantial evidence I had collected for two years.  I said out loud to my laptop, “oh my god, WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN ALL THIS TIME, ARTICLE!?” It conclusively proves that J. C.’s family lived along Loyalhanna Creek near Hannastown, and the only Rankin family documented in that area is David (Sr.).

The Latrobe Bulletin newspaper reported that, in 1891, J. C. Rankin was in town meeting with John R. Oursler for ordering a cemetery monument. During this visit to Latrobe, J. C. stopped to visit the newspaper, which reported this:

“In the course of conversation, we learned that Mr. Rankin was one of the pioneers of this section of the country, being at the present time 87 years of age. He is a large, fine looking specimen of manhood, and not withstanding his advanced age, is as sprightly and active as a man of 45 or 50 years. He informed us that all his relatives were raised along the Loyalhanna and that his [father was[9]] at Hannastown the time it was besieged and burned by the Indians. They were forced to flee for their lives and escaped. He said that the town or fort was thickly surrounded by hazel bushes. These were cut off, piled up and burned. The stumps of these bushes were sticking out of the ground and had been burned to needle-like sharpness by the fire. In making his escape, his father was compelled to run over these spear-like points in his bare feet and in doing so, his feet were terribly lacerated. At the time of his death having a number of holes in the soles in which Mr. Rankin said he often inserted his fingers. He is blessed with excellent eyesight and an elegant memory and related many stirring scenes of early days.”

Hannastown was attacked and burned in July 1782. David Rankin (Jr.) would have only been around 6 years old at the time. The Rankin family home along the Loyalhanna was only a few miles away from Hannastown. So … why would the David Rankin (Sr.) family have been in Hannastown that day?  More direct evidence provides the answer.

Quarterly Court was in session the day of the attack, and on the docket was business regarding tavern keepers and selling “spirituous liquors in small measure.” Twelve tavern keepers attended, although they weren’t identified. David (Sr.) had been an innkeeper since at least 1781, per court records.[10] Surely he was there with the other county innkeepers.  Perhaps he brought his son, David Jr., with him on the trip – or maybe even the whole family, since it wasn’t safe yet on the homesteads due to continuing Native American attacks.

There were no other Rankins with land along the Loyalhanna except for David Sr. and his children, who remained in the area after his death.

Good ‘ol Uncle J.C….. that “fine looking specimen of manhood”…. irresistible to the younger ladies…and with money to burn….. once again came through in our quest to break through this brick wall to tell us that the earliest known Rankin ancestor in our line is undoubtedly David Rankin (Sr.) who died in 1790.

That brief celebration was interrupted by the realization that I’ve just left one brick wall (Chambers) only to hit another (his grandfather David.)[11]  Nevertheless – progress! I hope Uncle Don would be thrilled with this discovery, and not upset that his conclusion turned out to be error. Surely he was accustomed to the twists and turns — and errors — along our “High Adventure Genealogical Safaris.”

[1] She was probably Shawnee, the prevalent Native American tribe in the area.

[2] This gravestone was an 1890s replacement of Chambers’ original stone.

[3] Westmoreland County Pennsylvania Probate Records, Will Book Vol.1, Pg. 101.

[4] Children’s names are documented in the following records: 1.) OC Vol.A, Pg. 59   2.) OC Vol.2B, Pg.27 and Pg.31   3.) OC Vol.A, Pg.92   4.) Deed Book Vol.17, Pg.186   5.) Deed Book Vol.6, Pg.53.  6.) Undocketed estate papers for David Rankin and his father-in-law William Cochran in Records Management storage at the Westmoreland County Courthouse.

[5] This timeline document can be found on Ancestry when searching for David Rankin (1750-1790) or at this link: https://www.ancestry.com/mediaui-viewer/collection/1030/tree/8318305/person/112357108913/media/943c87d8-493e-4e44-81bc-07c40a879728?_phsrc=jHG7&usePUBJs=true&sort=-created

[6] Deed Book Vol.6, Pg.35

[7] Culbertson Row refers to a large area of land in Letterkenny Township, Franklin County, Pennsylvania, settled by several members of the Scots-Irish Culbertson family in the early 1700s.

[8] There is one more very likely sibling in this family. His name was also David Rankin, and he died in 1866 in Grapeville, Westmoreland County.

[9] The article actually reads “parents were” but I believe there was slight error to the way the story was printed. His mother would have only been a baby. Further, her Culbertson family didn’t come to Hannastown until at least three years later.

[10] Documentation includes: 1.) The Western Pennsylvania Historical Magazine, Volume 7, Issues 2-3, Pg. 172-174 and 2.) History of the County of Westmoreland, Pennsylvania: With Biographical Sketches of Many of Its Pioneers and Prominent Men, Volume 1 Pg. 136.

[11] Information on David Rankin (d.1790) remains elusive. The lack of any documents helping to reveal the origin story for he and his brother James, has nearly convinced me they were dropped there by aliens. I kid,…

Find-a-Grave Bloopers: a Really Cool One

First, I need to acknowledge that Find-a-Grave is a wonderful source for family history researchers. The information on tombstone images can be invaluable. Of course, the website itself doesn’t commit “bloopers,” e.g., confusing two men having the same name. Instead, Find-a-Grave members who post on memorials or add pictures sometimes provide bad information.

I am now aware of three Find-a-Grave bloopers for Rankins, all of which are wrong identifications of men named William. See articles about the first two here and  here. But the third Rankin blooper takes the cake. It’s not only that some Find-a-Grave poster has claimed the wrong William Rankin is interred in the Mahnes Cemetery in Ridersville, Morgan County, West Virginia. In this case, the grave has an image of a tombstone that wrongly identifies him! Better yet, the tombstone image is attached to two William Rankins who allegedly have different birth dates. Somebody has some ‘splaining to do, Lucy …

Here are the facts. If you go to the Find-a-Grave page for the Mahnes Cemetery and search on Rankin listings, it will take you to this page. There are three men named William Rankin who were born in the 18th century in that list of Rankin burials:

  1. William Rankin, 1760 – 25 Feb 1830
  2. William Rankin, 1748 – 22 Feb 1830
  3. Private William Rankin, 1720 – 1783

There is no tombstone photo for Private William, who was allegedly the father of the William born in 1748, according to a poster’s information.

Both the William born in 1748 and the William born in 1760 have tombstone images. It is the exact same stone for both men, although the two photos were clearly taken at different times. Here is the tombstone image for the William allegedly born in 1748, with what appears to be a slightly altered birthdate that is clearly not 1748. And here is the tombstone image for the William allegedly born in 1760, again with a slightly fuzzy birthdate on the stone.

You will notice that the marker doesn’t look like an almost 200-year-old stone. It looks more 20th century-ish. I wonder (1) when the stone was installed and (2) who paid for it. I have not yet tried to find answers to those questions.

The tombstone has this inscription:

PVT BRADYS CO ROWLING’S REGT

REVOLUTIONARY WAR

This is great information because it is subject to easy verification. In fact, there was a Private William Rankin who enlisted in Capt. Brady’s Company, Stephenson’s Regiment, later known as Rawling’s Regiment (not Rowling’s, although that’s close). His Revolutionary War pension application says he enlisted in July 1776 in Berkeley County, Virginia. Morgan County was created from part of Berkeley in 1820. So far, so good.

Unfortunately, the rest of the facts present serious problems. Private William Rankin of Brady’s Company, Rawling’s Regiment, filed his pension application from Mason County, Kentucky in 1833 — three years after the Mahnes Cemetery Williams reportedly died.[1] He lived in Frederick County, Virginia after the war. He may have moved to Mason County by at least 1800, based on tax lists. He was definitely in Mason County by 1810, when he was listed in the federal census there with a profile that fit his family. He died in Mason County on 12 April 1836. His estate was probated there. For detailed information about Private William Rankin of Brady’s Company, see articles about him here and here. His war story is fabulous and you might enjoy it, even if you aren’t related.

I don’t have any information about the William Rankin in the Mahnes Cemetery whose tombstone is attached to two listings. There is virtually no  chance that he is the same man as Private William Rankin of Brady’s Company, Rawling’s Regiment, who died in Mason County in 1836 — not in 1830, as the two listings in the Mahnes Cemetery claim. FYI, it is 500 miles from Washington, Mason County, Kentucky to Ridersville, West Virginia. Even if the Mahnes Cemetery Williams had the same death date as William Rankin of Mason, it is highly unlikely that the family would transport a body that distance for burial.

The William Rankin who died in Mason County in 1836 may be buried in the Old Washington Cemetery there, although there was a cemetery plot on the land William owned. When his children sold his land after he died, the deed reserved a 70 square foot graveyard.[2] It is a reasonable bet that William and his wife, who also died in 1836, were both buried in that family cemetery.

Finally, the odds are absolutely nil that there were two Private William Rankins in Brady’s Company, Rawling’s Regiment. Military records are clear on that point. The one and only William Rankin who served in those units lived in Mason County, Kentucky, where he applied for a pension in 1833, died in 1836, and is surely buried.

I would love to know more about the Morgan County Rankins. There are quite a few of them buried in the Mahnes Cemetery in Ridersville. Perhaps there is a living male Rankin descendant who might be persuaded to Y-DNA test? It wouldn’t be surprising to find that he is related to Private William of Mason County. There were more Rankin families in Virginia’s Northern Neck and into West Virginia than I can count. And we need more information about Private William’s important family.

Here’s hoping someone reading this knows about the Mahnes Cemetery Rankins. If so, I would love to hear from you.

See you on down the road.

Robin

[1] I have omitted citations to supporting records because my two articles about William Rankin’s war story provide considerable documentation, readily available for anyone who is interested. See links here and here.

[2] Mason Co., KY Deed Book 43: 65, deed dated 24 Sep 1836 from the heirs at law of the late William Rankin, dec’d, of Mason County, tract near Washington on the Waters of Lawrence’s Creek adjacent Berry, et al., 70 square foot graveyard excepted.

Revolutionary War Story: William Rankin of Virginia’s Northern Neck (part 3 of 5)

The previous article in this series ended with the Battle of Ft. Washington on November 16, 1776. William Rankin was captured there and imprisoned in Manhattan. Against long odds, he survived. His elder brother Robert Rankin was not in that battle, so far as we can determine.[1] Their war experience diverged after Ft. Washington, despite the fact that both had enlisted in Captain Brady’s Company of the Maryland and Virginia Rifle Regiment. Most that regiment fought at Ft. Washington.[2]

Let’s turn to their individual war stories. We’ll start with William because there is so much detail in his pension application file. Robert, bless his heart, didn’t have much to say about his war experience.

Private William Rankin[3]

The facts William states in his pension application dovetail with military history to a “T.”[4] His memory was awesome. His military service had been over for more than fifty-four years when he made his application declaration in November 1833 from Mason County, Kentucky. Here is part of what his declaration said:

    • He enlisted in July 1776 for a term of three years in Berkeley County, Virginia. He enlisted in Capt. William Brady’s company of Col. Hugh Stephenson’s regiment. He notes that Stephenson soon died and the company was attached to Col. Moses Rawlings regiment. William didn’t say so, but Rawlings was Stephenson’s second-in-command of the Maryland and Virginia Rifle Regiment. The regiment to which William’s company belonged didn’t change after Stephenson’s death, it just had a new commander.
    • William marched first to Philadelphia, then went to Trenton by water, then marched to Princeton.[5] All of his regiment went first to Philadelphia, where Washington was having his men inoculated for smallpox.[6] Next, William marched to Ft. Lee and Ft. Washington.[7] He stated the precise date of the battle at Ft. Washington. I’ll bet he could also have testified to the weather conditions.
    • The British imprisoned William in one of the notorious “sugar houses” in Manhattan before transferring him “after some time” to the British ship “the Duttons.”[8] The majority of British prisoners in New York City – four out of five – did not survive captivity.[9] Instead, they died of starvation or disease. William must have been a pretty tough teenager.

That gets us to the point in the previous article where we left William.  In February or March 1777, the British paroled him and he went from New York to Philadelphia. In April 1777, said William, “he was sent home by direction of Gen. Daniel Morgan who happened to be a personal acquaintance.”[10] He was recalled from home a year later to rejoin some remains of Rawlings’ Regiment at Ft. Frederick in Frederick, Maryland.[11] From there he went to Ft. Pitt in Pittsburgh, where he worked as an “artificer” – someone who constructed fortifications.[12] He was discharged at Ft. Pitt when his three-year enlistment ended in mid-1779.

Now let’s go back to when Morgan sent him home from Philadelphia. Thomas Jones filed an affidavit in support of William’s pension application, confirming that Morgan ordered him to take William home to Virginia. Jones said “in the year 1777 he received from the hand of General Morgan … William Rankin in … Philadelphia, a sick soldier … to convey Rankin to Virginia, his former state of residence.”[13]

Jones took William home in a wagon.[14] In my imagination, William was horizontal on the wagon bed, on top of and under (I hope) some blankets. A John Kercheval also filed an affidavit in support of William’s pension application. Kercheval stated that “he met the said William Rankin returning to Virginia then in a low state of health in the wagon of Thomas Jones who lived in the neighborhood.”[15]

Where the heck was William’s home? He was still a teenager in April 1777, about eighteen. You would think he was going home to recuperate under the care of his family of origin, wouldn’t you? Inquiring minds want to know who they were …

William leaves us dangling on that question. Kercheval was more helpful. In the middle of his affidavit is this attention-grabber: Kercheval said he understood “from Mr. [William] Rankin’s brother Robert Rankin, who was an officer, that his brother William” was at one time ordered to Pittsburgh. Yes, indeed, William Rankin was once in Pittsburgh, where he was discharged. William’s brother is the man I nicknamed “Lt. Robert” in the  first article in this series.

William may not have identified his parents, but his file gave us his brother, which is one clue to his family of origin. There’s more. William also provides the link between the Rankin and Kercheval families. William said that “John Kercheval and his wife Jane Kercheval both know that he did serve in the war of the Revolution and the latter recollects the day he marched from her fathers in Frederick County Virginia.”

John Kercheval’s wife was Jane Berry, a daughter of Thomas Berry of Frederick County.[16] One of Jane Berry Kercheval’s sisters was Margaret “Peggy” Berry, who married Lt. Robert Rankin in Frederick County. Seventeen or eighteen-year-old William Rankin may have enlisted in Berkeley County, but he marched off to war from Frederick County – to be exact, from Thomas Berry’s house. My imagination has Jane Berry and her sister Peggy, both still single, watching Robert Rankin (Peggy’s fiancee)[17] and his brother William march off to war from their father Thomas Berry’s house in Frederick County.[18]

Kercheval also testified that “William Rankins not long after the war was done settled in … Frederick” County, where he was still living when Kercheval moved to Mason County, Kentucky about 1798-1799.[19] That seems to imply that William wasn’t living in Frederick County before the war, which comports with him having enlisted from Berkeley. William was definitely in Frederick by 1792, because a Frederick County lease and release[20] recites that William was “of Frederick” in that year. Two Frederick deeds prove William had a wife named Mary Ann and a son named Harrison.[21] Thomas Berry was a witness to those instruments.

There is another tidbit or two in William’s pension file. Kercheval also said that William Rankin was “a very respectable man and entitled to credit in any court or county … he is a wealthy farmer of Mason County Kentucky.” Some of William’s wealth undoubtedly came from land speculation, which may have been Lt. Robert’s financial undoing. William said that his discharge papers had been “lost long ago or put in the land office in Virginia to get land warrants.”[22] At that point, his remarkable memory fogged up. He said he “could not recollect but possibly the latter,” he “having traded so much in that business cannot speak certainly.”

William was certainly well off by the standards of the day, when wealth was measured in part by ownership of other people. The 1836 inventory of his estate included twenty enslaved persons.[23] The current account of his estate in November 1839 showed an amount to be distributed of $17,911, after payment of an agreed $1,000 fee to the two estate administrators.[24]

That is all of William Rankin’s story I can tease out of online records.[25] He died intestate in Mason County on April 12, 1836, leaving a widow and children to collect the remainder of his pension.[26] William may be buried in the Old Washington Cemetery (AKA the Washington Baptist Church Cemetery) in Mason County. [27]

William’s pension file doesn’t name his children. Fortunately, a deed and court record fill in the blanks. First, a deed was executed conveying William’s land in September 1836. It identified the grantors as the heirs at law of William Rankin.[28] The heirs – in this case, his children– sold William’s land for $12,930. The tract was near the town of Washington on the waters of Lawrence’s Creek adjacent a Berry family. The deed excepted a graveyard.

Here are William’s heirs, along with the names of their spouses and their locations when they executed the deed.

  1. Blackston H. Rankin and wife Elizabeth of Bracken County, Kentucky.
  2. James M. Rankin and wife Lorina, also of Bracken County.
  3. John Hall and wife Elizabeth Rankin Hall of Scott County, Kentucky.
  4. Wyete (sic, Wyatt?) C. Webb and wife Ann D. Rankin Webb, also of Scott County.
  5. George D. Stockton and wife Harriett Rankin Stockton of Fleming County, Kentucky.
  6. John L. Rankin and wife Mary J. of Mason County.
  7. George W. Stockton and wife Caroline S.? Rankin of Illinois.
  8. Robert P. Rankin and wife Mary C. of Scott County, Kentucky.
  9. Thomas P. Rankin of Mason County.

Finally, here is a record from the Mason County court order book for September 1836.[29] It names eleven children rather than nine and was proved by the oaths of John Hall and Marshall Rankin. I don’t know Mr. Hall, but Marshall Rankin was William’s nephew – a son of William’s brother John. The purpose of the court order was to establish a claim to William’s pension. The children are listed in this order:

  1. Harrison Rankin. You may remember him from the lease and release for life back in Frederick County.
  2. Blackston H. Rankin
  3. James M. Rankin
  4. John L. Rankin
  5. Robert P. Rankin
  6. Thomas Rankin
  7. Elizabeth married John Hall
  8. Sarah married James Rankins
  9. Harriet married George D. Stockton
  10. Ann married Wyatt Webb
  11. Caroline married George W. Stockton

The court order list adds two children to the heirs identified in the deed: a son Harrison and a daughter Sarah, who married a James Rankins. It also states that William Rankin died on 12 April 1836 and his widow Mary Ann died on 29 July 1836.

May you rest in peace, William. And now … on to your more famous brother’s war story.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

[1] Gary and I found no military records to prove Robert’s location in 1776. Consequently, we can only speculate why he wasn’t in the battle at Ft. Washington. Perhaps he was one of the Rifle Regiment’s members who remained at Ft. Lee because of sickness? See Tucker F. Hentz, Unit History of the Maryland and Virginia Rifle Regiment (1776–1781): Insights from the Service Record of Capt. Adamson Tannehill (Richmond: Virginia Historical Society, 2007) 12, Note 50, at this link. Perhaps Robert was actually in the battle, but was neither killed nor captured? Statistically, that is highly improbable.

[2] William’s pension application declaration expressly stated that he enlisted in Brady’s company. Robert’s declaration didn’t name a company and contains an error about his regiment. Fortunately, muster and payroll records for Gabriel Long’s composite company of Virginia riflemen consistently name remnants of Brady’s company, including Robert Rankin. Those rolls specifically identify Robert as a member of Brady’s company. The remaining members of the other two rifle companies (Captains Shepherd’s and West’s) that were decimated at Ft. Washington also appear on rolls for Long’s composite rifle company.

[3] Information about William Rankin’s military history is largely taken from his pension application file. I made screen shots of many of the original images at Fold3, but unfortunately I rarely included the page number assigned to each image by Fold3. Accordingly, I have simply cited to “William’s pension application” with a brief description of the document in question. One of these days, I will go through the drill again and identify page numbers.

[4] William’s pension declaration echoes the history of the Maryland and Virginia Rifle Regiment, some of which was the subject of the previous article about the Northern Neck Rankins.

[5] Pension file of William Rankin, S.31315 (hereafter, “William Rankin’s pension file”), his sworn declaration supporting his pension application dated 22 Nov. 1833 in Mason Co., KY.

[6] Hentz, Maryland and Virginia Rifle Regiment. See p. 15 re: smallpox inoculations. The Philadelphia location was obviously before the British occupied the city in September 1777 following Washington’s defeat at Brandywine.

[7] William Rankin’s pension file, sworn declaration.

[8] Id.

[9] This discussion of “Prisoner of War Facts” states “[b]y the end of 1776, there were over 5,000 prisoners held in New York City. More than half … came from the soldiers captured at the battle of Fort Washington and Fort Lee.” Four out of five prisoners died.

[10] Morgan was actually a Colonel when he sent William home, although he ended his career as a General and was undoubtedly referred to with that title by anyone who knew him. Morgan lived on a farm just east of Winchester in Frederick Co. and was apparently acquainted with the Rankin family. See this link.

[11] William Rankin’s pension file, sworn declaration.

[12] United States Revolutionary War Rolls, 1775-1783, Familysearch.org, FHL Film/Fiche Number 7197150, image 57, return of Capt. Heth’s Company at Ft. Pitt, listing Private William Rankins as an “artificer.” He apparently recovered from his prison ordeal.

[13] William Rankin’s pension file, affidavit of Thomas Jones. I took some liberties with the affidavit’s spelling.

[14] Id., affidavit of John Kercheval.

[15] Id.

[16] Will of Thomas Berry of Frederick Co., VA dated 20 Feb 1806, proved Frederick Co. 4 Mar 1819. Copy certified and recorded in Mason Co., KY at Will Book E: 17 et seq. Thomas named his daughter Peggy, who married Col. Robert Rankin (that was his rank in the KY militia, not the Revolutionary War), and his daughter Jane, who married John Kercheval. Thomas Berry left part of his land in Mason County to his daughters Peggy Rankin and Jane Kercheval.

[17] Pension file of Robert Rankins, No. W26365 or Peggy B. Rankin, L.Wt. 1380-200, images of originals available from Fold3.com. Peggy (Berry) Rankin’s declaration dated 16 Feb. 1844 states that she and Robert were married on Oct. 1, 1781 in Frederick County while he was on furlough after his capture at Charleston, they “having been previously engaged.” Peggy’s declaration is at pages 16-19 of their combined Fold3 file.

[18] Presumably, William would not have bothered to mention that Peggy also saw him march off to war. By 1833, she and Robert no longer lived in Mason County and Peggy wasn’t available to testify in support of his pension application.

[19] Id.

[20] A “lease and release” was a two-step land transaction created to circumvent the English Statute of Uses. The two documents were typically executed on consecutive days. Together, they had the effect of a conveyance of land in fee simple.

[21] See Frederick Co., VA Deed Book 24A: 152, 155, lease and release dated 3 Nov 1792 from Fairfax, proprietor of the Northern Neck, to William Rankin of Frederick, 79 acres, part of the “Chestnut Level” in Frederick. Lease for the lives of William Rankin, his wife Mary Ann Rankin, and son Harrison Rankin. One witness was Thomas Berry.

[22] William Rankin’s pension file, declaration of 22 Nov. 1833.

[23] Mason Co., KY Will Book K: 448, inventory of William Rankin’s estate dated 4 June 1836.

[24] Mason Co., KY Will Book L: 538, Nov. 1839 current account of John L. Rankin and Robert P. Rankin, administrators of the account of William Rankin, dec’d.

[25] Deeds would probably provide evidence of William’s land speculation and the identity of other family members who witnessed his deeds or were grantees.

[26] William Rankin’s pension file, letter dated 14 May 1927 from Winfield Scott, Commissioner of the Revolutionary and 1812 Wars (pension?) Section, to an inquiry about William’s record from Miss May Harrison. Scott’s reply noted William’s date of death and failure of his pension file to mention names of wife and children. See also a letter of 17 Sep 1931 responsive to a request about William from Mr. Walter H. Rankins stating the same facts.

[27] See Elizabeth Prather Ellsberry, Cemetery Records, Mason County, Kentucky, Vol. 1 (Chillicothe, MO: 1965). The contents of that book were the source for the Mason County Cemetery Index database on Ancestry.com.

[28] Mason County Deed Book 43: 65.

[29] Mason Co., KY Court Order Book M: 403 (FHL Film No. 8192456, Image No. 563 et seq.).

UPDATE: Rankin DNA Project Families, August 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lineage 3 – David Rankin Sr. of Greene, TN. This was redesigned as “Lineage 3A” in June 2002 as a result of Big Y tests. The Big Y results prove than a member of former Lineage 3 and a member of former Lineage 9 (now “Lineage 3B”) share a common Rankin ancestor.

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

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

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

Lineage 7 – Five members, including recent additions in 2021. One identifies his earliest Rankin ancestor as John Rankin of Lochaber, Inverness, Scotland. Reporting awaits further administrative work and communication with members.

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

Lineage 9 – Adam and Mary Steele Alexander Rankin of Lancaster, PA. This lineage has been renamed Lineage 3B as a result of Big Y tests. There is no longer a separate Lineage 9.

Let’s jump in …

Lineage 1

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

Lineage 1A

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lineage 1B

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lineage 2

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

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

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

Lineage 2A

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

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

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

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

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

An interesting question about John’s lineage concerns the Adam Rankin who died in 1747 in Lancaster County.[45] Two Project participants are Adam’s descendants. Based on Y-DNA results, they are assigned to former Lineage 9 (recently renamed Lineage 3B). Neither man matches a descendant of John. Family oral tradition for both Adam’s line and John’s line (L2A) say that Adam and John were brothers. However, Big Y tests conclusively prove that cannot be the case. Here is the ticklish part: if John and Adam were not brothers, which line – John’s or Adam’s – is entitled to claim the Mt. Horeb legend and its Rankin ancestors?

Lineage 2B

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lineage 2C

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

There isn’t much information about David Sr. and Jennett in the Frederick County records. A book containing the genealogy of one of their sons says without providing a source that David Sr. “emigrated from the north of Ireland … about 1738-50.”[55] His 1757 will named his wife Jennett and children Hugh, William, David Jr. and Barbara.[56]

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

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

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

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

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

Lineage 3, now called Lineage 3A

This lineage has a known common ancestor for its four L3A participants: David Rankin Sr. who died in Greene County, Tennessee in 1802. His will identified seven children but not his wife, who evidently predeceased him.[68] David Sr. was reportedly among the “Overmountain Men” who fought in the Revolutionary War Battle of King’s Mountain, a decisive victory for the patriot forces.

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

An interesting question is where David Sr. lived before coming to Greene County in 1783. A friend and excellent researcher who is a descendant is certain that David Sr. of Greene was the same man as the David Rankin who received a 1771 land patent in Bedford County, Virginia. He is almost certainly right, although that theory is not without its difficulties. Bedford County David Rankin was a Quaker,[70] conflicting with the Presbyterianism of David Sr.’s children and his participation in the battle of King’s Mountain.[71]

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

Lineage 5

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lineage 6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Rankin (died in 1841) of Henderson County, Kentucky is the only L6 ancestor who cannot be placed in a specific Virginia County. There were two Rankin lines in Henderson County in the 1800s. Dr. Adam Rankin, a grandson of Adam and Mary Steele Alexander Rankin of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, was the patriarch of one Henderson County family. A descendant of his has tested and belongs in former Lineage 9 (now Lineage 3B). Dr. Adam’s line can be distinguished from the L6 Rankin family based on Henderson tax lists.

John and his wife Elizabeth Clay Rankin also lived in Henderson County. A descendant of his is an L6 match. A census says that John was born in Virginia,[85] but I have found no evidence of the county. John and Elizabeth’s children are established by a convincing web of connections in county records.[86] Among their children was an interesting character named Abia Benjamin Rankin, who traded a flatboat for land and subsequently amassed substantial acreage by bidding on adjoining tracts. He also planted a huge orchard which bore apples useless for anything except making cider. He gave the fruit to all comers. There is a picture of Abia at this link.

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

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

Lineage 9, renamed Lineage 3B in June 2022 due to Big Y test results

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Robin Rankin Willis

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

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

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

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

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

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

[7] Find-a-Grave has a number of Rankin tombstone images at Buffalo Church, as well as several fanciful claims. https://www.findagrave.com/cemetery/1987536/memorial-search?firstname=&middlename=&lastname=Rankin&cemeteryName=Buffalo+Presbyterian+Church+Cemetery&birthyear=&birthyearfilter=&deathyear=&deathyearfilter=&memorialid=&mcid=&linkedToName=&datefilter=&orderby=r&page=2#sr-161801342. In the latter category, the website has the patriarch Robert Rankin’s name (there is no tombstone image) listed as Robert Estes Rankin. My opinion of that claim is unprintable. For one thing, the Estes family was from Kent, not Ulster. It was Anglican, not Presbyterian. And there are no records for the patriarch Robert Rankin in which he uses a middle initial or a middle name.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[25] Id.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[40] See the pension application of Thomas and Isabel Rankin’s son William  Rankin transcribed at the end of this article. The pension application relates the family’s migration within Pennsylvania and then to Augusta Co., VA.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[50] See note 47.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[63] See deed in prior footnote.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[74] See the tombstone transcription at this link..

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JOHN 1754 – 1825 MARRIED MARTHA WAUGH

RICHARD 1756 – 1827 MARRIED JENNETT STEELE

SAMUEL 1758 – 1828 MARRIED – PETTY

WILLIAM 1760 – 1834 MARRIED SARAH MOORE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Robin Rankin Willis

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

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

“State of Tennessee               §

Greene County                       §                      October Session 1832

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[8] See id., Vol. IV  242-43, 260.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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