UPDATE: Rankin DNA Project Families, August 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s jump in …

Lineage 1

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

Lineage 1A

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lineage 1B

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lineage 2

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

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

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

Lineage 2A

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lineage 2B

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lineage 2C

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lineage 3

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

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

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

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

Lineage 5

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lineage 6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lineage 9

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Robin Rankin Willis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[25] Id.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[50] See note 47.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[63] See deed in prior footnote.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[74] See the tombstone transcription at this link.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JOHN 1754 – 1825 MARRIED MARTHA WAUGH

RICHARD 1756 – 1827 MARRIED JENNETT STEELE

SAMUEL 1758 – 1828 MARRIED – PETTY

WILLIAM 1760 – 1834 MARRIED SARAH MOORE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Robin Rankin Willis

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

“State of Tennessee               §

Greene County                       §                      October Session 1832

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[8] See id., Vol. IV  242-43, 260.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MALE RANKIN DESCENDANTS WANTED, AND WHY

A number of issues have conspired to make me doggedly pursue Adam’s line like Deputy U. S. Marshall Samuel Gerard on the trail of Dr. Richard Kimble. I have searched every residence, warehouse, farmhouse, henhouse, outhouse, and doghouse in Pennsylvania for evidence of Adam’s family.

Here is the context. I am writing a book about Rankins. More accurately, I am assembling Rankin material for a self-published book – this one, in fact. Among other things, it includes articles from this website. It turns out that I have written more blog articles on the line of Adam Rankin than on my own Rankin ancestors. Why have I been on Adam’s trail?

First, I have tracked Adam because more people erroneously claim descent from him than any other colonial Rankin I’ve run across. Even my Rankin first cousin’s closest Y-DNA match believes he descends from Adam, despite conclusive documentary evidence to the contrary. I have been contacted by Rankin researchers or DNA Project members whose claimed descent from Adam has been disproved by paper records and/or Y-DNA. One must have one’s ducks in a row for those kinds of discussions,  because people don’t like hearing that their ancestry is incorrect.

It isn’t clear why Adam is such a popular ancestor. Perhaps it is because his line claims descent from the Rankins of the Mt. Horeb legend. According to oral family history, this Rankin family had two martyred Presbyterian brothers in the Scottish “Killing Times” in the 1680s. Surviving family members escaped to Ulster just in time for the Siege of Londonderry in 1689.[1] It’s a great story, and who wouldn’t like to have that exciting heritage?[2] On the other hand, the line of John Rankin who died in Lancaster in 1749 also claims descent from the Mt. Horeb legend Rankins – but I haven’t run into any Rankin DNA Project members who erroneously claim descent from John.

It is also possible that Adam’s line is prone to error because it produced a plethora of William Rankins born in the mid to late 1700s.[3] Of course, every other line of Pennsylvania Rankins also produced countless Williams. Perhaps researchers hitting a colonial Pennsylvania brick wall ancestor named William Rankin found a host of seemingly reasonable possibilities to place him in Adam’s family.[4] John’s line, on the other hand, is so well-researched and documented that there aren’t many opportunities to insert someone incorrectly.

In any event, Adam is frequently a fictitious ancestor.

Second, I tracked Adam’s line because I have a dog in that hunt. Due to my Rankin cousin’s close Y-DNA match (37 markers, GD = 0) to a claimed descendant of Adam, I had to figure out whether my own Rankin family is connected to Adam’s line. Both the paper trail and Y-DNA say we are not.

Finally, I pursued Adam’s family in an effort to determine whether some conventional Rankin wisdom about his line is correct. The Mt. Horeb legend asserts that Adam (died 1747 in Lancaster) and John (died 1749 in Lancaster) were brothers. For several reasons, I think that is wrong. Having apparently exhausted the documentary evidence, Y-DNA is the only way to attack the puzzle.

Fortunately, a half-dozen descendants of the John who died in 1749 have Y-DNA tested and belong to the Rankin DNA Project. All that is needed is to find descendants of Adam to test, right? And compare the Y-DNA results to John’s line? Ha! That’s much easier said than done. Another Rankin researcher and I recruited four different Rankin men from Adam’s line to YNDA test. These were not people we found on trees at Ancestry. These were Adam’s descendants identified by my research in county and other records.

The first recruit had no Y-DNA matches to anyone in the FTDNA database. The second and third had no Rankin matches. None of those three were genetic Rankins, much less Adam’s descendants. NPEs abounded, evidently.

The fourth recruit is a genetic Rankin. He does not match John’s line, which supports a conclusion that Adam and John were not brothers. Further, he is a Y-DNA match to one of the several men in the Rankin DNA Project who is also descended from Adam. It is a distant match, though: a genetic distance of five on 67 markers. The Rankin DNA Project really needs to test other Adam descendants to have confidence in a Y-DNA profile for that important line and to confirm whether Adam and John were brothers.

I am therefore pleading for help and continuing to research Adam’s line. From time to time, someone or something informative or interesting turns up. E.g., Confederate Brigadier General Adam Rankin “Stovepipe” Johnson was a legend in the Civil War whose descendants include two professional baseball players.[5] Stovepipe was Adam’s great-great grandson. There is also the Rankin Presbyterian minister whose life was consumed by an obscure theological issue.[6] Have you ever heard of the “Psalmody” controversy? Neither had I.  He was Adam’s grandson. Adam also had a grandson whose migration west in three states, and eight of his nine children, were proved by three deeds.[7] When I run across fun something like that, I am compelled to pause researching to write an article for the blog.

There are also a number of tangled branches on Adam’s family tree. As noted, the family had a plethora of Williams who led people astray, causing me to write two articles.[8]  One William in Adam’s line, a great-grandson, has been conflated with other William Rankins several times to my knowledge.[9] That is a fine example of the “same name confusion” error, which is easy to do. There were also a passel of Jeremiah Rankins in Franklin County, Pennsylvania who made Adam’s line difficult to track.[10] Conventional Rankin wisdom conflates a David Rankin descended from Adam with an unrelated David Rankin of Greene County, Tennessee. Some of the James Rankins are also confusing.[11] Sorting out those men required a research that I wanted to share online.

Not surprisingly, the most frequently read Rankin articles on our blog are about Adam’s line. If the genealogical gods have even a shred of kindness, one of Adam’s descendants will read this article online, decide to Y-DNA test, and join the Rankin DNA Project. I can only hope.

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[1] See an article about Scots-Irish history here.

[2] The version of the legend inscribed on a tablet at Mt. Horeb Presbyterian Church cemetery in Jefferson Co., TN can be seen here. Unfortunately, there seems to be little evidence for the Scottish part of the story other than “family tradition.” I don’t know when or where the legend originated, although it may have been in the early twentieth century.

[3] Adam’s will named a son William. Lancaster Co., PA Will Book J-1, will of Adam Rankin dated 4 May 1747 and proved 21 Sep 1747, naming children James, William, Jeremiah, and Esther Rankin Dunwoody. Adam’s sons William, James, and Jeremiah each had a son named William. E.g., will of William Rankin dated 20 Oct 1792, proved 28 Nov 1792, Cumberland Co., PA will book A: 256, naming inter alia sons Adam, Archibald, James, William, David, John, and Jeremiah.  Also, e.g., the will of James Rankin (Sr.) dated 25 Mar 1788, proved 20 Oct 1795, Cumberland Co., PA Will Book A: 345, naming inter alia sons William, Jeremiah, James, and David.

[4] There are at least three members of the Rankin DNA Project who wrongly claim descent from Adam’s great-grandson son Dr. William Rankin, probably due to the same-name confusion error. Traditional evidence proves where Dr. William went, who he married, and the identity of his children, and the claims are clearly erroneous. Y-DNA evidence also disproves the descent.

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

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

[7] See the article here.

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

[9] The great-grandson of Adam who has been conflated with other men named William Rankin fits in Adam’s line thusly: Gen 1, Adam d. 1747 in Lancaster (wife Mary Steele); Gen 2, William d. 1792 in Franklin (wife Mary Huston); Gen 3, William who moved to Centre County and died there (wife #1 Abigail McGinley, #2 Susanna Huston). The third William left a will dated 11 Jun 1845 and  proved 2 Feb 1848, Centre Co., PA WB B: 254, will naming inter alia sons William, James, Archibald, Alexander, John and Adam. Son William Rankin, great-grandson of Adam, was a doctor, lived in Shippensburg, and married Caroline Nevin. See 1850 census, Shippensburg, household of Dr. William Rankin, 52, Caroline Rankin, 37, Rev. William Rankin, 20, Mary A. Rankin, 18, David Rankin, 16, Abigail Rankin, 13, Alfred Rankin, 11, James Rankin, 9, Elizabeth Rankin, 7, Joseph Rankin, 5, and Caroline Rankin, 4.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See you on down the road.

Robin

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

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

[3] J. Smith Futhey and Gilbert Cope, History of Chester County, Pennsylvania (Philadelphia: Louis H. Everts, 1881), reproduction facsimile by Chester County Historical Society (Mt. Vernon, IN: Windmill Publications, Inc. 1996).

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

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

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

[7] Ralph D. Nelson, Jr., Catherine B. Nelson, Thomas P. Doherty, Mary Fallon Richards, John C. Richards, Delaware – 1782 Tax Assessment and Census Lists (Wilmington: Delaware Genealogical Society, 1994).

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

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

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

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

Find-a-Grave struck again, although I was minding my own business

One of my favorite Rankin researchers sent a Christmas Eve email that began, “I was minding my own business, when …”

I was grinning by then because I knew in my bones that what followed would be some variation of “genealogy intervened.” Indeed, it was. Since you are reading this family history blog, you probably also saw it coming.

Another friend zapped me when I was otherwise occupied by sending a link to a Find-a-Grave site for a cemetery in Elizabeth Township, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. One of the graves purports to be that of a man who almost certainly never set foot — much less an entire corpse — in Allegheny County.

I will proceed gingerly. The last time I did anything concerning Find-a-Grave, I received an email from an angry man in a western state awash with militia. His last email said he would keep me apprised of his “confirmed kills” in the “impending civil war.”[1]

The recently received Find-a-Grave entry is allegedly the grave of the William Rankin who died in Franklin County, Pennsylvania in 1792, son of Adam and Mary Steele Alexander Rankin. William’s wife was Mary Huston Rankin, named as a beneficiary in William’s 1792 will. According to the Find-a-Grave poster, Mary died in 1790, two years earlier.

These claims raise questions. Why would a man who died in Franklin County be buried in a town 150 miles away?[2] And why would he have made his wife a beneficiary of his 1792 will if she had already died in 1790?

Someone out there must have answers to these questions, because the Find-a-Grave site for Round Hill Cemetery in Allegheny County says this unusual couple is buried there.  William’s tombstone is difficult to read.[3]  Other than the boilerplate “DIED” and “in the ____ year of his age,” the clearest information is the name “William Rankin.” There is no middle name. His date of death looks like 18___. It appears to be 1812 or 1813 in a sharpened and printed image. If that is correct, this is surely not the tombstone of a man who died near Greencastle in 1792, unless the trip to Elizabeth, Allegheny County, took waaaaay longer than one would expect.

There is an intestate estate for a William Rankin in Elizabeth Township, Allegheny County about that time. The Allegheny Probate Proceedings Index gives the date of his Inventory and Appraisement as 1813.[4] Because the I&A is customarily done soon after an estate is submitted to probate, a William Rankin of Allegheny County most likely died in 1812 or 1813.

More evidence lies in the cemetery (no pun intended). The DAR did a survey of tombstones at Round Hill Presbyterian Church near Elizabeth in the summer of 1940. The DAR listed a tombstone for “Rankin, William, d. Feb. 11, 1813, aged 69 years.” We can reasonably conclude that was the same William Rankin whose inventory was taken in 1813. The DAR also lists “Rankin, Mary wife of William d. July 22, 1808 in 62nd year.” Mary definitely died before her husband. The couple in the Round Hill cemetery cannot have been William and Mary Huston Rankin of Franklin County.

William’s tombstone provides additional evidence. The marker is an unadorned rectangular solid with an inscription in this format:

NAME

DIED

Month, day, year

in the ___ year of his age

There are two more Rankin tombstones in Round Hill cemetery with the identical unadorned shape, format, and “typeface.” One is for Andrew Rankin and another is for Mary Rankin. It appears from the hard-to-read inscriptions that both died in the 1790s. The 1940 DAR survey says that Andrew died in 1794 at age two, and that Mary died in 1795 at age 14. Find-a-Grave claims that both were children of “William and Mary Rankin.” Given the remarkably similar tombstones for William, Andrew, and young Mary, the three were clearly family.

That brings us to the family Bible of William and Mary Huston Rankin of Franklin County.[5] It identifies their children and their dates of birth as follows. Information other than names and dates is from my research, not the Bible.

    • Adam Rankin, b. 10 Nov 1762. He was a physician. He went to Henderson Co., KY, married three times, and had many children.
    • Archibald Rankin, b. 10 Apr 1764. Archibald stayed in Franklin County until he died. His wife was Agnes Long.[6]
    • James Rankin, b. 20 Apr 1766. He went to Centre County, PA with his brothers William, John, and Jeremiah. All four of them inherited land there.
    • William Rankin, b. 5 Nov? 1770. He also went to Centre County with three of his brothers. He married #1 Abigail McGinley, #2 Susannah (probably Huston).
    • Betsy Rankin, b. 13 Oct 1774. No further record.
    • David Rankin, b. 5 Feb 1777. His wife was Frances Campbell, daughter of Dougal Campbell. David and his family migrated to Des Moines, Iowa.
    • John Rankin, b. 1 May 1779. He went to Centre County with James, William, and Jeremiah.
    • Jeremiah Rankin, b. 26 Nov 1783. He also went to Centre County.

William’s family Bible doesn’t name either a son Andrew or a daughter Mary. William named each of the above children, and his wife Mary, in his 1792 will.[7] The Andrew who died in 1794 and young Mary who died in 1795, both buried in Round Hill Cemetery in Allegheny County, were not the children of the William who wrote his will in 1792. According to the family Bible, William died on October 25, 1792.

Unfortunately, all of the information about William at the Find-a-Grave link is unsourced. That is typical. Most of it is clearly erroneous. You’ve got to laugh, then wonder how the Find-a-Grave poster strayed so far from the facts.

Here is what Find-a-Grave says about William, shown in italics. My comments are in normal typeface. If anyone has evidence supporting the Find-a-Grave claims, please share it.

Birth 1713.” There is no evidence for an exact birth year for William Rankin, son of Adam, husband of Mary Huston. William’s first appearance in the records seems to have been a 1749 warrant for a tract in Antrim Township, Franklin Co.[8] That doesn’t provide much of a clue.

“County Antrim, Northern Ireland.”  There is no evidence for William’s exact place of birth. If Mary Steele Alexander Rankin was his mother, he was definitely born in the colonies, because Adam and Mary married there.[9]  

“Death 30 Nov 1792 (age 78 -79).” That is the date William’s will was proved in Franklin County court. The odds that someone’s will was presented in court the exact day he or she died are virtually nil. The family Bible says that the William whose wife was Mary Huston died on Oct. 25, 1792. Submitting a will to probate about four weeks after the testator died falls within a normal range.

“Franklin County, PA.” That is surely correct. William, son of Adam and husband of Mary Huston, lived and owned land in Franklin, and his will was necessarily probated there.

“Burial Round Hill Cemetery, Elizabeth, Allegheny Co.” Well. Some William Rankin who died in 1812-13 is buried in Round Hill Cemetery. I will bet real money that he is not William Rankin, son of Adam and husband of Mary Houston Rankin.

Continuing with Find-a-Grave information:

“William Steele Rankin was born in 1713 in County Antrium (sic) in the Northeast part of Northern Ireland. He was the son of Adam Rankin, born 16 Jul 1688 in Stenhousemuir, Stirlingshire, Scotland and died 4 May 1747 in Lancaster Co., PA and his wife Mary Steele, born about 1692 in Lancaster, Lancaster Co., PA and died 21 Sep 1747 in Somerset Co., PA.”

Let’s take this one alleged fact at a time.

… there is no evidence in a county or Bible record, or county history books, that William Rankin, son of Adam, ever used a middle initial — much less a middle name. It would have been highly unusual for a man born in the early 18th century to have a middle name. They didn’t come into common usage until the 19th century. Even George Washington and Thomas Jefferson had no middle name, for pete’s sake.

… William Rankin, a son of Adam and Mary Steele Alexander Rankin, was definitely born in what is now Pennsylvania or Maryland. Adam and Mary married in the colonies sometime between August 1718 and Sept 1724.[10]

… there is no evidence in colonial records for Adam Rankin’s birth date or place. There is no recorded birth of an Adam Rankin (including variant spellings) in the Church of Scotland records in the county of Stirlingshire between 1680 and 1690.[11]

… Adam’s will was dated 4 May 1747 and proved 21 Sep 1747 in Lancaster County. The odds that he wrote his will the day he died are virtually zero. The probate records prove only that Adam died sometime between 4 May 1747, when he wrote his will, and 21 Sep 1747, when it was submitted to the court.

… Adam’s wife was definitely Mary Steele Alexander, widow of James Alexander. If anyone has any evidence for her dates or places of birth and death, please share.

Here’s hoping you agree that the Find-a-Grave poster erred when he or she identified the William Rankin buried in Round Hill Presbyterian Cemetery as William (wife Mary Huston Rankin), a son of Adam and Mary Steele Alexander.

But that raises the obvious question: who the heck are the William and Mary Rankin buried in Round Hill Cemetery? They are probably William and Mary Stewart Rankin, who were married in Franklin Co., PA on 28 Feb 1774.[12] A follow-up article on that family will follow. Eventually.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *

[1] See the article titled “Family History Stories: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” at this link.

[2] The Franklin County Rankins lived on Conococheague Creek near Greencastle, Franklin Co., PA. The distance from Greencastle to Elizabeth, Allegheny Co. by the fastest current route is about 150 miles.

[3] See an image of his tombstone  here. The middle name is pure fiction.

[4] Allegheny County, PA Probate Records, 1683-1994, Proceedings Index 1778-1971, Vol. 30, page 305, Block 5. It notes an Inventory and Appraisement, estate of William Rankin, dec’d, in 1813. FamilySearch.org Film No. 877053, Image No. 775, Block 5.

[5] Disc 4, Cloyd tapes. Unfortunately, I have lost my reference to the Cloyd disk page numbers, for which I apologize. Wading through those disks is a challenge. The information in the Bible appears in the form of chart accompanying a letter dated May 6, 1954, from Rev. J. O. Reed, pastor of a Presbyterian Church in Opelousas, LA, to Flossie Cloyd. Rev. Reed, a descendant of William and Mary Huston Rankin, was the owner of the Bible and drew the chart.

[6] Records of the Upper West Conocochegue Presbyterian Church show Archibald Rankin’s marriage to Agnes Long on 9 March 1790 and his death on 24 Jun 1845 at age 81.

[7] Franklin Co., PA Will Book A: 256, will of William Rankin of Antrim Township, Franklin Co., PA, dated 20 Oct 1792 and proved 28 Nov 1792.

[8] See p. 183, Land Warrants for Lancaster County, PA here.

[9] The country of Northern Ireland wasn’t established until May 1921. See an article titled “Who Are the Scots-Irish, Anyway?” here. The Find-a-Grave poster probably meant what was then called the Province of Ulster in the northernmost part of Ireland.

[10] See the citations in Notes 4 through 7 and the accompanying main text in this article.

[11] You can open a free account and search Scottish birth and baptism records on a website called  “ScotlandsPeople.” .The only Adam Rankin whose birth/baptism is recorded in Church of Scotland records in 1688 was born in Dunfermline Parish, County of Fife, a son of Robert Rankin and Agnes Smith.

[12] Records of the Upper West Conococheague Presbyterian Church, Franklin Co., PA.

Will the “correct” David Rankin of Franklin Co., PA please stand up?

I told my husband at breakfast one day that I was working on an article to correct bad information about some Rankins in the Pennsylvania Archives 5th Series.

He put down his fork, arching his eyebrows. “Are you kidding me? You’re taking on the Archives? That’s practically sacred scripture among Pennsylvania family history researchers.”

“Well,” I said (yeah, I realize this sounds prissy), “the Archives has confused two men named David Rankin who were contemporaries in the late 1700s – early 1800s.”

“So,” said Gary, “who would care, anyway?”

“Hmmmm,” I temporized, “perhaps descendants of either of the two men? Or someone who is trying to track early Rankin families around, as I am doing? Perhaps people with D.A.R. or S.A.R. aspirations? One of these two men was a soldier in 1780, but the other was too young.”

“You realize you will receive a dozen comments from people saying there are ‘many online trees’ showing you are wrong?”

I dug in. I’m not a Scots-Irish Rankin for nothing. “You’re undoubtedly right,” I responded, “but I’m writing the article anyway.”

Here ‘tis. It includes (1) a very brief chart, (2) the misinformation in the Archives, (3) the bottom line, (4) the argument supporting the bottom line, and (5) some additional information about this family just for fun – including the only photo I could find of a descendant. What’s not to like about a handsome man in a old-timey baseball uniform?

(1) A brief Rankin family chart

Let’s start with a short outline descendant chart to put the two Davids in their family context.

1 Adam Rankin was the immigrant ancestor in this Rankin line. The two David Rankins who are the subject of this article were his grandsons. Adam’s wife was Mary Steele Alexander, widow of James Alexander.[1] Adam’s 1747 Lancaster County, Pennsylvania will named his sons James, William, and Jeremiah, and a daughter, Esther Rankin Dunwoody.[2] This article deals with only James and William – fathers of the two Davids.

2 James Rankin, son of Adam, died in 1795 in Montgomery Township, Franklin County, Pennsylvania. James’ wife was Jean, whose maiden name is unproved so far as I know. His will named their sons William, Jeremiah, James, and David #1, and two daughters, Esther Rankin Smith and Ruth Rankin Tool.[3]

2 William Rankin, son of Adam, died in 1792 in Antrim Township, Franklin County.[4] His wife was Mary Huston, daughter of Archibald and Agnes Houston.[5] William named seven sons and one daughter in his will: Adam, Archibald, James, William, Betsy, David #2, John, and Jeremiah.

I will refer to these two David Rankins by numberbecause it helps me keep them straight. David #1was a son of James d. 1795, Montgomery Township; David #2 was a son of William d. 1792, Antrim Township.

(2) What the Pennsylvania Archives got wrong

Here’s the bad information the Archives provides about one of the two David Rankins. Only the boldface text is wrong; the rest is correct.

 “David Rankin is shown in 1780, as a private under Captain William Smith. The will of David Rankin of Montgomery Twp., was dated 1829 and prob. 1833. He names wife Molly and two children, James and Betsy. To Mary Elizabeth Sellers, only child of daughter Molly, who had married Alexander Sellars, Oct, 7th 1824.  Miss Molly L. McFarland of Mercersburg stated the above David was the son of William Rankin of Antrim Township who died 1792.”[6]

(3) The bottom line

No, the David Rankin whose will was proved in 1833 was not David #2, son of William Rankin of Antrim Township. With all due respect to Miss Molly L. McFarland, the man the Archives describes was David #1, son of James and Jean Rankin of Montgomery Township.

Here are the key factors for telling the two Davids apart: age, wife’s identity, and – the pièce de résistance– location.

(4) The argument

Age. Although the law or custom varied from time to time, men were typically required to serve in the militia beginning at age sixteen. Sometimes boys served as early as 13.[7] Thus, the David Rankin who was a private in 1780 was probably born by 1764 and definitely no later than 1767. According to county tax lists, David #1, son of James and Jean Rankin, was born no later than 1767-68.[8]

On the other hand, the family Bible in Flossie Cloyd’s material establishes that David #2 was born in 1777. He was definitely not the man who was a militia private in 1780. Strike 1, Archives.

FYI, here is information from the family Bible listing the birth dates of all eight children of William and Mary Huston Rankin. In case you wish to track any of them, I’ve added enough information to tell you where to look.

  1. Adam Rankin, born March? 10, 1762. Adam first appeared on the Franklin Co. tax list in 1782, identified as a doctor. He inherited land in Westmoreland County that his brother Archibald sold for him.[9] Adam moved to Henderson County, KY, married three times, and had a large family. He was the grandfather of Confederate Brigadier General Adam “Stovepipe” Johnson[10] and the ancestor of a Rankin who is (or was, at one time) the chairman of the board of Churchill Downs.[11]
  2. Archibald Rankin, born April 10, 1764, married Agnes (“Nancy”) Long. He remained in Franklin County his entire life. Records from the Upper West Conococheague Presbyterian Church record his death on June 24, 1845 at age 81.
  1. James Rankin was born April 20, 1766. He moved to Centre County along with his brothers William, John, and Jeremiah. He may have died between 1820 and 1830. I’ve found no evidence establishing his children or his wife’s identity.
  1. William Rankin (Jr.) was born Nov. 5, 1770. He moved to Centre County, married Abigail McGinley and then Susannah, possibly Huston. He died in Centre County.[12]
  1. Betsy Rankin was born Oct. 13, 1774.
  1. David #2 Rankin, one of the subjects of this article, was born Feb. 5, 1777.
  1. John Rankin was born May 1, 1778 and died Apr. 22, 1848.[13] He moved to Centre County with his three brothers, married Isabella Dundas in 1804, and died in Centre County.[14]
  2. Jeremiah Rankin, born Nov. 26, 1783, married Sarah Whitehill. The date is confirmed on his tombstone in Centre County, PA.[15]

Wife’s identity. Based on his will, the wife of the David Rankin who died in 1833 was named Molly, maiden name unproved. I have found no deeds or other records identifying the wife of David #1. We have better luck with David #2. Deeds conclusively establish that he was married to Frances (“Fanny”) Campbell, daughter of Dougal (Dongal/Dugald/Dugal) Campbell.[16] In case there is any lingering doubt, the Rankin family Bible transcript Ron Rankin provided says that Frances Campbell and David #2 were married on June 13, 1799.  In short, Molly’s husband was David #1. Strike 2, Archives.

Location is a great tool for establishing family connections. An 1818 Franklin deed from James Rankin (brother of David #1) to Jacob Kline conveyed a tract in Montgomery Township. Part of the tract was devised in 1788 by James Rankin Sr. to his son James Rankin (Jr.), the grantor in the 1818 deed – so we are certain that the deed deals with the line of James Rankin Sr.[17] The conveyed tract was adjacent to David #1. The deed thus proves that David #1 owned a tract adjacent to Jacob Kline in Montgomery Township at some point. And …

    • In the 1830 federal census for Montgomery Township (three years before David #1 died), David Rankin was listed adjacent Jacob Kline, grantee in the above deed.[18] He was the only David Rankin listed in Montgomery in the 1830 census. His census profile “fit” the family of the David Rankin who died in 1833.
    • David Rankin’s 1829 will, proved in 1833, referenced his Montgomery Township tract adjacent Jacob Kline.

Bottom line: the David Rankin who died in 1833 was David #1, son of James Sr. and Jean Rankin, and not David #2, son of William and Mary Huston Rankin.

(5) A few more facts

Some genealogists believe that David #2 went to Greene County, Tennessee.[19] Not so. Instead, he and his family went from Franklin to Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, then to Allen County, Indiana, and finally to Des Moines County, Iowa. David died there. His wife Frances apparently died before they reached Iowa.[20]

While he lived in Franklin, David #2 attended the Presbyterian Church of the Upper West Conococheague,”[21] as did his brother Archibald.[22] On the other hand, David #1 and his brothers were pew holders in the Welsh Run Presbyterian Church, also known as the “Lower Conococheague” Church.[23]

The Upper West church kept baptism records, although they are evidently incomplete.[24] The four youngest children of David #2 are listed: Frances Rankin (baptized 9 May 1814), David Huston Rankin (28 Apr 1817), Archibald Rankin (10 Oct 1819), and Adam John Rankin (13 Feb 1822). In light of David #2’s entry in the 1820 census (seven children in the household), you would expect other children. [25]  Indeed, the family Bible, Westmoreland County deeds, and other records prove nine children:

    • Elizabeth (Betsy) Rankin, b. 3 Feb 1803, never married.
    • Martha C. Rankin, b. 22 Nov 1805, married Mr. Sweeney.
    • William Rankin, b. 6 Jan 1807, married Martha Jane Gray.
    • Mary C. or H. or E. Rankin, b. 6 Feb 1809, married James Bruce.
    • Dougal C. Rankin, b. 10 Apr 1811, married Mary Johnson.
    • Francis Rankin, b. 1 Jan 1814, married James Waddle.
    • David Huston Rankin, b. 14 Mar 1817, married Mary A. Oliver.
    • Archibald Rankin b. 1 Aug 1819, married Lydia Blair.
    • Adam John Rankin, b. 29 Dec 1821, apparently never married.

David #2 and his family left Franklin between 1827 and 1830.[26] They are listed in Westmoreland County in the 1830 census and in Iowa Territory in 1840.[27] The 1850 census in Des Moines County shows David as age 73, born in Pennsylvania.[28] He is buried in the Round Prairie Cemetery in Des Moines County.[29] Adam John Rankin and Dougal/Dugal Campbell Rankin are also buried in the Round Prairie Cemetery. Archibald Rankin is buried in the Kossuth Cemetery, also located in Des Moines County.

The family Bible also names the children of Archibald Rankin and Lydia Blair: (1) Elizabeth Jane Rankin m. William B. Reed, (2) Margaret F. Rankin, and (3) Martha C. Rankin.

Finally, here is the image of the baseball player: Dougal Wylie Rankin. He was a son of John William Rankin and Jennie S. Wylie. John William was a son of Dougal Campbell Rankin – a son of David and Frances Campbell Rankin.[30] That is a fabulous shirt …

And that’s it from me on the two David Rankins, grandsons of Adam and Mary Steele Rankin.

See you on down the road.

Robin

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

[1] For evidence establishing that Adam Rankin’s wife was Mary Steele Alexander, see this  article.

[2] Lancaster Co., PA Will Book J, Vol. 1: 208, will of Adam Rankin dated 4 May 1747, proved 21 Sep 1747.

[3] Franklin Co., PA Will Book A: 345, will of James Rankin of Montgomery Township dated 25 Mar 1788, proved 20 Oct 1795.

[4] Franklin Co., PA Will Book A: 256, will of William Rankin of Antrim Township dated 20 Oct 1792, proved 28 Nov 1792.

[5] Franklin Co., PA Will Book A: 110, will of Agnes Huston, widow of Archibald Huston, dated 15 Nov 1776, proved 14 Mar 1787. Her will names William Rankin, husband of daughter Mary, as an executor.

[6] Thomas Lynch Montgomery, ed., Pennsylvania Archives, 5th Series, Volume VI (Harrisburg, PA: Harrisburg Publishing Co., 1906) 275.

[7] See  https://allthingsliberty.com/2014/06/explaining-pennsylvanias-militia/ and/or  https://www.battlefields.org/learn/articles/fighting-man-continental-army and/or https://www.constitution.org/jw/acm_3-m.htm

[8] David #1 was listed on the Montgomery Township tax list for 1789 along with his father James (Sr.) and brothers William, Jeremiah, and James Rankin. David was a “freeman,” meaning that he was age 21 or older and not married.

[9] Westmoreland Co., PA Deed Book 7: 392, deed from Archibald Rankin of Antrim Twp., Franklin Co. to David Carson of Greencastle Twp., tract on waters of Pine Run, Westmoreland,  originally granted to William Rankin of Antrim Twp., 27 Jul 1773, surveyed 4 or 11 1776. Tract left to Dr. Adam Rankin by his father’s LW&T dated 20 Oct 1792. Doctor Adam Rankin granted his brother Archibald Rankin power of attorney dated 29 June 1792.

[10] See article about Stovepipe Johnson at this link.

[11] There is some more information about Dr. Adam Rankin in this article.

[12] Commemorative Biographical Record of Central Pennsylvania: Including the Counties of Centre, Clearfield, Jefferson and Clarion (Chicago: J. H. Beers, 1898) at 100-101.

[13] John Blair Linn, History of Centre and Clinton Counties, Pennsylvania (Louis H. Everts, 1883, reprinted Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott & Co., 1975), 222-223.

[14] Id.

[15] Mary Belle Lontz, Tombstone Inscriptions of Centre County, Pennsylvania (1984). Image of tombstones at  this finagrave post..

[16] Franklin Co., PA Deed Book 9: 288, deed dated 8 May 1807 from David Rankin of Franklin and wife Fanny conveying land devised to David by the will of William Rankin dated 20 Oct 1792. Frances/Fanny’s father is also conclusively proved by a deed, see Franklin Deed Book 14: 245. See also Franklin Co., PA Deed Book 14: 266, deed dated 28 Aug 1827 from David Rankin and wife Frances of Montgomery Township, 54 acres in Peters Township, deed witnessed by Archibald Bald.

[17] Franklin Co., PA Deed Book 12: 28.

[18] 1830 federal census, Montgomery Township, Franklin Co., household of David Rankin, 0000101-000010001 adjacent Jacob Kline. There are two people age 20 < 30 in David’s household, as we would expect: his daughter Molly was already married when David #1 wrote his will in 1829. The age category for the eldest male is clearly erroneous. He should be in the same age category as the eldest female, age 60 < 70 (born in the 1760s), if he was a militia private in 1780.

[19] See, e.g., https://npgallery.nps.gov/GetAsset/29dbc658-cdcc-4f12-8c30-8dc877e7fdb4. Please be advised that this application for historic site designation contains several Rankin history errors and unproved assertions.

[20] See the article about proof for this family in this article.

[21] The creek and church name were spelled Conococheague or Conogogheaue, among other variants.

[22] The Upper West church records show Archibald’s marriage to Agnes Long, as well as his death date. Recall that David and Archibald each inherited a part of their father William’s “Mansion Place,” so they originally lived next to each other. See Franklin Co., PA Will Book A: 256, will of William Rankin of Antrim Township devising 200 acres “off my Mansion Place” to son Archibald, and “the old Mansion place,” 300 acres, to his son David #2. You would expect both brothers to attend the nearest Presbyterian church.

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

[24] Some records of the Upper West Conococheague church are available online at Ancestry.com.

[25] David #2 was then living in Peters Township and is listed as age 26 < 45 (born 1775 – 1794). There were seven children in his household, including 1 male and 2 females age 10 < 16 (born 1804 – 1810), plus 3 males and one female under age 10 (born 1810 – 1820).

[26] David #2 and his wife Frances executed a deed in Franklin Co. in Oct 1827, see note 17. He did not appear in the 1830 census for Franklin.

[27] 1840 federal census for Iowa Territory, Des Moines Co., David Rankin, age 60 < 70 (born 1770 – 1780).

[28] The 1850 federal census listing in DesMoines Co. for David Rankin’s household includes Dugald Camel, 30, b. PA, and Frances Camel, 14, b. Indiana. Given the spelling perversions one finds in the census, they were probably Dugal (or Dougal) Campbell and Frances Campbell.

[29] Here is a link to his  findagrave posting.

[30] Dougal Wylie Rankin, b. 7 Jan 1889, d. 12 Oct 1850, Eugene, Lane Co., OR. Buried in West Lawn Memorial Park . See 1910 census, Lane Co., Oregon, J. William Rankin, wife Jennie W., sons Dougal, Byron L. and Boyd, and daughter Frances E. Rankin; 1870 census, Des Moines Co., IA, D.n C. Rankin, 58, with David, Hezekiah, Sarah and John W. Rankin

Revolutionary War Story: Robert Rankin of the Northern Neck (part 4 of 5)

A hoary old joke goes like this: what is the shortest book ever written? Possible answers: Nixon on Ethics or Bill Clinton on Fidelity. A book titled Robert Rankin on His Revolutionary War Service would challenge them for brevity. Everything Robert had to say about himself is contained in nine pages of his 117-page pension file. Many of his words are boilerplate. Worse, some of what he remembered is demonstrably wrong.

You can’t blame Robert for an occasional memory failure, minor error, or uncertainty about his unit assignment. He wasn’t a rear echelon organizational bigshot (there is a precise military term for that, but this is a family blog). He was a sharpshooter, a scout, a guerrilla who harassed British foraging parties, a soldier who guarded his army’s camps and flanks, a brigade forage master, and a line combat officer.

Unfortunately, misinformation provided by Robert and others is compounded by seemingly endless and endlessly confusing military reorganizations. In an effort to promote clarity, I divided Robert’s story into two sections and an “appendix.” The first section is his basic war story. The second section contains Robert’s own words about himself. The appendix explains military reorganizations affecting him.

Section 1: Robert’s war story, CliffsNotes version[1]

Robert enlisted on July 26, 1776[2] as a private in Capt. William Brady’s Company,[3] Col. Hugh Stephenson’s Maryland and Virginia Rifle Regiment (the “Rifle Regiment”).[4] That means Robert was a skilled marksman, because the Rifle Regiment recruited sharpshooters.[5] Robert’s pension declaration said he enlisted for the term of “during the War,” although company records prove he enlisted for three years.[6] Robert was promoted to Sergeant by at least January 1, 1777 and possibly earlier.[7]

The Rifle Regiment was decimated at Ft. Washington on Dec. 16, 1776.[8] His brother William Rankin, also in Capt. Brady’s Company, was taken prisoner there.[9] Robert wasn’t in that battle, although we don’t know why. Captain Brady wasn’t at Ft. Washington, either.[10]

Robert was in winter camp in Morristown, New Jersey in the winter of 1776-77 during the so-called “Forage War.”[11] He was probably in the battles of Princeton and Trenton in December 1776 and January 1777, respectively.[12] Both were spectacular victories for Washington’s army. Trenton was the famous surprise attack at dawn after crossing the icy Delaware River. Robert also fought at Brandywine on September 11, 1777 (a terrible rout by the British) and Germantown on October 4, 1777 (a somewhat less humiliating loss).[13] Amazingly, the only battle Robert named in his pension application was the Siege of Charleston.

Robert spent the winter of 1777-78 at Valley Forge.[14] By the following winter, he was listed on muster rolls as acting Brigade Forage Master in winter camp, located again at Morristown.[15] He was commissioned an Ensign on July 4, 1779, shortly before his original three-year enlistment expired.[16] After that point, he had no “term” of service because commissioned officers serve until they resign or are discharged. Gary, the family military historian, says it is unusual even in wartime for a private to become a commissioned officer.

Less than two weeks later, Robert probably participated in what we would call today an elite temporary unit for a risky mission at Stony Point on July 16, 1779.[17] General “Mad Anthony” Wayne assembled for the assignment a provisional troop of light infantrymen. Wayne and some of the patriots overwhelmed a well-fortified British position with bayonets.

Here’s how they did it.[18] Stony Point was surrounded on three sides by the Hudson River and on the fourth by a marsh. One part of the patriot force feinted a frontal assault across the marsh’s causeway, laying down “a galling fire.” This took place around midnight, at low tide.[19] Two larger parts of the force waded silently through the river to the north and south sides of the hill, carrying unloaded muskets with bayonets affixed. The muskets were not loaded to prevent accidental discharge, which would have ruined the crucial element of surprise. The two patriot forces ascended the hill and overwhelmed the British from both sides. Wow.

In early 1780, Robert’s company was assigned to the enlarged 1st Virginia Regiment. It then began a roughly four-month march to the Siege of Charleston, which was Robert’s last significant military engagement. The siege ended on May 12, 1780 when the entire patriot army defending Charleston surrendered. It was the worst American defeat of the Revolution, with about 6,000 patriots captured.[20]

After the siege, Congress conferred a “brevet” on all participating officers.[21] The brevet designation recognized outstanding service by temporarily promoting an officer to a higher rank. Robert was subsequently promoted to Lieutenant effective January 1, 1780.[22] That is his so-called “date of rank.” Robert thus became a “Brevet Lieutenant” on the date Congress awarded the promotions, but his actual promotion to “Lieutenant” was retroactive to January 1, 1780.

In July 1781, nearly all patriot prisoners in the south were released as part of a prisoner exchange between the United States and Britain.[23] Not long after the exchange, Robert went home on furlough to Frederick County, Virginia. He married his fiancé Margaret “Peggy” Berry there on November 1, 1781.[24]

 After Charleston, the Virginia Line essentially ceased to exist.[25] Robert was “reduced” on January 1, 1783.[26] That means he was listed as a surplus officer having no assignment. In the final “arrangement” of the Virginia Line, Robert was the 37th Lieutenant out of sixty based on the Lieutenants’ dates of rank. Put another way, there were 36 Lieutenants who would have been offered an assignment ahead of Robert. The odds are that Robert never had another duty assignment after the exchange of prisoners from Charleston. He was officially discharged on January 1, 1783.[27]

Along the way, Robert served in Stephenson’s (Rawlings’) Rifle Regiment and the 11th, 7th, and 1st Virginia Regiments. All regimental changes were due to reorganizations. He had five different company commanders we can identify. He only actually changed companies once, and that was when he was commissioned an Ensign.

Here is what Robert himself said …

Section 2: Robert’s pension file declarations

Robert made two sworn declarations, one for a pension and one for a land warrant. He also wrote an unsworn letter supporting the former.

Below is a verbatim transcription of part of Robert’s declaration of July 26, 1828, including a strikethrough in the original. I have omitted boilerplate and material irrelevant to his war story. I inserted footnotes to correct the errors or ambiguous statements noted in boldface.

“ … I, Robert Rankins, of the County of Washington, in the state of Alabama, do hereby declare, that I was an Officer in the Continental Line of the Army of the Revolution, and served as such to the end of the War,[28] and also to the time when the arrangement of the army provided by the Resolves of Congress of the 3rd and 21st of October, 1780, were carried into effect, and was reduced under that arrangement, at which periods I was a Lieutenant in the Third Regiment[29] of the  Virginia line.

“… And I do further declare, that I was one of the officers who served under, and was captured with, Major General Lincoln at the Siege of Charleston, South Carolina, and that every officer in the Army of the said General Lincoln in reward for the signal services rendered by them at that memorable siege Defence was promoted a Grade higher by a Resolve of Congress, but I cannot remember, at this distance of time, whether the Said officers were regularly commissioned, or not. But if my Commission as a Lieutenant, (the grade to which I had been promoted) was ever received, it has, in the long lapse of fifty years, been either lost or mislaid, or destroyed by time or accident, so that it cannot now be produced.

                                        Robert Rankins

Sworn to & subscribed before me this 26th July 1828.” Wm Grimes, clerk of court.

Robert also wrote an unsworn letter dated July 1828 in support of his application with a “few explanatory remarks.” Here are relevant parts.

“… I embarked in the services of the United States, in the capacity of an Ensign in a Regiment of the Virginia Line upon the Continental Establishment (the number of which I do not now distinctly recollect) … A short time after the formation[30] of the said Regiment it was ordered to the South[31] under the command of Majr Gen Lincoln where it was captured, with his whole army, at the surrender of Charleston … [Thereafter, Congress] passed a Resolve raising each officer a grade higher or rather conferring upon them Brevets, and holding them in reserve to fill any vacancies that might thereafter occur in the Army.”

“I have never wanted and never sought relief from my Country, and nothing but the helplessness of age with unlooked for poverty[32] forces me now to ask a portion of the munificence extended by the government.”

Robert made a second sworn declaration in September 1828 in support of a request for a “Bounty Land Warrant.” The underlining and strikethrough are exactly as they appear in the original.

“The State of Alabama

County of Washington

“I, Robert Rankins, aged Seventy five years, do, upon oath, testify and declare, that in the year, one thousand seven hundred and seventy six – I entered the service of the United States for the term of “during the War” in the Third Regiment (to the best of my recollection) under the command of Colonel Hugh Stevenson – of the Virginia Line, and that I continued in the service aforesaid until the close of the War.[33] I do further declare that I entered a private and was afterwards promoted to the rank of Ensign and, before the close of the War, was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant, in which capacity I was disbanded or deranged after the conclusion of Peace.”[34]

“Signed, Robert Rankins”

The clerk’s attestation is dated September 18, 1828.

Finally, for the hard-core military historians, here is how Robert’s units were shuffled.

Appendix: military reorganizations affecting Robert

There were three military reorganizations which made it difficult to track Robert’s service: (1) the reorganization of the Rifle Regiment after the battle of Ft. Washington; (2) the 1778 reduction in the number of Virginia Line regiments from fifteen to eleven; and (3) the 1779 reduction of the Virginia Line from eleven regiments to four.

… the Rifle Regiment and its assignment to the 11th Virginia in February, 1777

Robert and his brother William enlisted in 1776 in one of the four newly recruited Virginia companies in the Maryland and Virginia Rifle Regiment, AKA Stephenson’s Regiment (later Rawlings’ Regiment). As noted, it was not part of a Virginia Line regiment. Stephenson’s regiment also included a veteran Virginia rifle company under Capt. Abraham Shepherd. The four newly created companies of Virginians were commanded by (1) Capt. William Blackwell (Lt. John Marshall, future Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, was second in command, and Robert was not in this company), (2) Capt. Gabriel Long, (3) Capt. Adam West, and (4) Capt. William Brady.

With two exceptions, the Virginia companies in the Rifle Regiment fought and were decimated at Ft. Washington on November 16, 1776. First, Capt. Blackwell’s company (including Lt. Marshall) didn’t reach New Jersey until April 1777, when the main army was in winter quarters at Morristown.[35] Upon arrival, Blackwell’s company was attached to the 11th Virginia Regiment and was never in an engagement as part of the Rifle Regiment. Second, most of Capt. Long’s company did not arrive until after the battle at Ft. Washington.[36]

That left Brady’s, Shepherd’s, West’s, and part of Long’s companies to participate in the awful defeat at Ft. Washington.[37] After that battle, Gen. Washington reorganized the few Rifle Regiment soldiers still fit for service (i.e., alive and not a prisoner). He created two “composite” rifle companies, one composed of Marylanders and the second of Virginians. Capt. Gabriel Long commanded the latter, and Robert Rankin was in his company along with the remainder of his own, Shepherd’s, West’s, and Brady’s companies.[38]

In February 1777, the 11th Virginia regiment was organized. Long’s composite rifle company with Robert Rankin was one of the nine companies assigned to the regiment. Capt. Long’s pay and muster rolls continued to include men identified as being from Shepherd’s, West’s, and Brady’s companies. After Long resigned, Robert remained in the same company under different commanders until he was promoted to Ensign on July 4, 1779. He was then assigned to Capt. William Johnston’s company. He was almost certainly still with Capt. Johnston at Charleston, but there are two more reorganizations to go through before we get there.

… the September 1778 rearrangement of the Virginia Line, effective May 12, 1779.

In response to the expiration of enlistment terms and other manpower losses, the 1778 rearrangement reduced the number of regiments in the Virginia Line from fifteen to eleven. You might want to take a Dramamine here. The 5th, 6th, 8th, and 9th Regiments were combined with the depleted 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Regiments (not in respective order) to restore the latter to full manpower. The former 5th, 6th, 8th and 9th regiments then ceased to exist. The 1st through 4th retained their numbers. The other seven remaining regiments – the 7th, 10th, and 11th through 15th – were renumbered. The 11th Virginia then became the 7th. As a result, Robert Rankin was now serving in the 7th Virginia, where he remained until the next rearrangement. When he was commissioned an Ensign on July 4th, 1779, he was assigned to Capt. William Johnston’s company, still in the 7th Virginia.

… the 1779 rearrangement.

The Virginia Line was reorganized yet again shortly before the march to Charleston. In late 1779, ten regiments of the Virginia Line[39] were consolidated into the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Regiments.  Companies from the regiments formerly designated 5th, 7th, 10th, and 11th were folded into the 1st Virginia Regiment. Ensign Robert Rankin, soon to be Brevet Lieutenant Robert Rankin, was still in Capt. Johnston’s company in the 7th Virginia Regiment as of November 1779.[40] Robert was almost certainly still in Capt. Johnston’s company in the enlarged 1st Virginia Regiment at Charleston. Gary says the odds are slim to none that Ensign Rankin was assigned to any other company or regiment. Capt. William Johnson’s Company in the 1st Regiment of the Virginia Line was among the patriot reinforcements arriving in Charleston on April 8, 1780 and surrendered on May 12.[41]

And that is it for reorganizations. I wish Robert had written his memoirs and provided detail on the battles he was in. While he was at it, he might have identified his parents and siblings. No such luck. We are on our own on that question. Next up: a quest for his family of origin and a look at his family’s oral history.

See you on down the road.

Robin

[1] CAVEAT: Gary and I are not historians, although he published an award-winning history of the unit in which he served in Vietnam (Red Markers, Close Air Support for the Vietnamese Airborne, 1962–1975). We are family history hobbyists fond of obscure records. As for this article, some information is from Robert and Peggy’s pension application file, designated “Rankins, Robert No. W26365 or Rankin, Peggy B.L.Wt. 1380-200” (cited herein as “Robert Rankin’s pension application file”). Evidence also includes muster and pay rolls, other original military records, and published histories.

[2] United States Revolutionary War Rolls, 1775-1783, Familysearch.org, Film/Fiche No. 7197156, image 395. Muster roll dated Sept. 1778 for Capt. Charles Porterfield’s Co., 11th Virginia Regiment, says that Sgt. Robert Rankins enlisted for three years on July 26, 1776. Hereafter, I will cite this simply as War Rolls, identifying the film/fiche and image numbers.

[3] War Rolls, Film/Fiche Number No. 7197155, images 590-591. Payroll dated 1 May 1777 for “pay and subsistence to 1 May 1777.” Sgt. Robert Rankins of Capt. Brady’s company listed on roll for Capt. Gabriel Long’s composite rifle company.

[4] Robert Rankin’s pension application file, declaration dated 18 Sep 1828, says he enlisted in Stephenson’s Regiment as a private. Images of Robert’s entire pension file are available for a fee from Fold.3 at ancestry.com.

[5] Part 2 of this series has information about Stephenson’s Rifle Regiment.

[6] See Note 2.

[7] See Note 3. Robert’s pay was £3 per month, the same as other Sergeants. Since that May 1, 1777 payroll was £12 for four months, he was a Sergeant by at least January 1, 1777. Robert may have become a Sergeant before Brady’s company ever left Virginia, since enlisted men sometimes elected their own non-commissioned officers. E.g., Danske Dandridge, Historic Shepherdstown (Charlottesville, VA: The Michie Company, 1910), p. 80, online here.

[8]  Part 2  of this series has information about Ft. Washington. So does Part 3,  which is about William Rankin’s Revolutionary War service.

[9] Id. See also William Rankin’s pension application. His declaration in support filed Nov. 22, 1833 said he enlisted in Capt. Brady’s Company, Stephenson’s Regiment, and that he was taken prisoner when Ft. Washington surrendered.

[10] War Rolls, Film/Fiche No. 7197160, image 275, “Arrangement of the officers of the 11th Virginia Regiment” (undated, probably about June 1777). It states that “William Brady was a Captain in the 11th Regiment and has never done any duty. Absented himself without leave.”

[11] 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), p. 21, available online at this link. Units which performed skirmishing duties in the first half of 1777 included Gabriel Long’s composite rifle company. Sgt. Robert Rankin was in the composite company during this time. See War Rolls, Film/Fiche Number No. 7197155, images 590-591, payroll dated 1 May 1777 for “pay and subsistence to 1 May 1777.” Sgt. Robert Rankins of Brady’s company is listed on Capt. Gabriel Long’s composite rifle company payroll.

[12][12] Robert’s widow Peggy didn’t include either Trenton or Princeton in a list of Robert’s battles. Nevertheless, it is likely that the remaining soldiers of the Maryland and Virginia Rifle Regiment were engaged in those battles. One “return of the forces” record dated Dec. 22, 1776 appears to include the remnants of the Rifle Regiment “on the banks of the Delaware in the State of Pennsylvania.” Hentz, Unit History of the Mawinterryland and Virginia Rifle Regiment at page 14, note 59. The Battle of Trenton, on the other side of the river, was four days later on Dec. 26, 1776; Princeton was on Jan. 3, 1777. It is almost inconceivable that the soldiers camped on the Delaware River didn’t participate in those two battles. However, the “return” does not identify company captains or enlisted men. It does say there were 108 men fit for combat and two Captains. This profile “fits” with how the two composite rifle companies would have looked after the Battle of Ft. Washington, taking losses into account. The two composite companies were Capt. Alexander Lawson Smith’s (the remaining Marylanders from the Rifle Regiment) and Capt. Gabriel Long’s (the remaining Virginians). Robert Rankin was in Capt. Long’s composite company.

[13] Robert Rankin’s pension application file, declaration of Peggy Rankin of Liberty Co., TX dated March 22, 1844. She said Robert fought at Brandywine, Princeton, Stony Point, and Charleston.

[14] War Rolls, Film/Fiche Number No. 7197155, image 578. A muster Roll for February 1778 for Capt. Philip Slaughter’s company (formerly Capt. Gabriel Long’s company) in the 11th Virginia Regiment stated it was taken at Valley Forge. The list of soldiers includes Sgt. Robert Rankin.

[15] Id., Film/Fiche No. 7197156, image 395. Muster roll for September 1778, Capt. Porterfield’s company, Col. Daniel Morgan’s regiment. Sgt. Robert Rankins was acting as Brigade Forage Master, abbreviated “Act as B.F.M.” For more information, see a resolution of Congress regarding  forage master duties.

[16] War Rolls, Film/Fiche No. 7197160, image 373. Arrangement of the Field Officers and Captains in the 7th Regiment of the Virginia Line states Ensign Robert Rankin’s date of rank was July 4, 1779.

[17] We found no muster roll or other record identifying the soldiers at Stony Point. The only evidence that Robert participated so far as we know is Peggy Rankin’s pension declaration. She had considerable credibility with the judge who took her declaration, who noted her remarkable memory and knowledge of the war.

[18] Samuel W. Pennypacker, “The Capture of Stony Point,” The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 26, No. 3 (1902), pp. 360-369, published by the University of Pennsylvania Press.  A PDF   can be downloaded from JSTOR.

[19] Yes, the Hudson River is tidal  from its mouth upstream for 153 miles. Stony Point is 38 miles upstream of the river’s mouth.

[20] Estimates vary of the number of American troops surrendered at Charleston. One source One source says that an army of “roughly 5,000 men ceased to exist” when Gen. Lincoln surrendered. Carl Borick, who seems to be the leading authority on the Siege of Charleston, says some 6,000 Continentals, militia, and seamen were captured when Charleston surrendered. Carl P. Borick, Relieve Us of this Burthen (Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 2012). “Burthen” is not a typo.

[21] Robert Rankin’s pension application, declaration dated 26 July 1828.

[22] War Rolls, Film/Fiche No. 7197160, image 395-398, numerical list dated Jan. 1, 1783 of the redundant junior officers in each grade in the Virginia Line. Date of commission for Robert Rankins was Jan. 1, 1780. He was number 37 out of 60 Lieutenants based on date of rank.

[23] Mark Berry article  in “The College Today,” the news site of the College of Charleston, June 25, 2015.

[24] Robert’s pension application file, declaration of Peggy Rankin of Liberty Co., TX dated March 22, 1844. She testified that she and Robert, having been previously engaged, married in Frederick Co., VA on 1 Nov 1781. She believed he was then on a furlough of 60 days.

[25] By the end of 1782, only 730 officers and enlisted men remained active in the Virginia Line. That number is roughly normal manning for only one regiment, compared to fifteen regiments comprising the Line at one time. War Rolls, 1775-1783, Film/Fiche No. 7197160, image 391, “Arrangement Review Board Proceedings” dated January 1, 1783.

[26] Robert Rankin’s pension application, declaration dated July 26, 1828.

[27] Id., Film/Fiche No. 7197160, image 449, list of the officers “deranged” (discharged) on Jan. 1, 1783, included Lt. Robert Rankins, due $80 for 1782 and nothing for 1783.

[28] What on earth did Robert mean by “the end of the war”? He was discharged on Jan.1, 1783. See Note 27.  The “Preliminary Anglo-American Peace Treaty” was signed in Paris on November 30, 1782. Gen. Washington issued the “Declaration of the Cessation of Hostilities” (“an extra ration of liquor for every man”!!) on April 18, 1783. The Treaty of Paris was signed September 3, 1783 and ratified by the Senate January 14, 1784. Peggy testified that her marriage to Robert took place on November 1, 1781, “nearly a year before his service expired.” That suggests she thought his service was over by November 1782. My bet is he had come home to stay about then. He had no assignment at that time and probably no expectation that he would receive one.

[29] For a discussion of Robert’s regimental assignment as a Lieutenant, see the text accompanying Notes 39 and 40, infra. The records establish he was in the 1st Regiment rather than the 3rd.

[30] Gary would scold Robert for using the term “formation” in the context of the Virginia Line Regiments that were “ordered to the South” under General Lincoln. Every time I tried to write “newly formed” or “newly created,” Gary got out his red pen. “A regiment by that number already existed,” he would say. “The existing regiment was just enlarged.” The only time “newly created” was appropriate in this article was to describe the four Virginia companies recruited for the Maryland and Virginia Rifle Regiment in 1776.

[31] See text accompanying Notes 39 and 40, infra. In his July 26 declaration, Robert said he was with the 3rd when his service ended. In this letter, also written in 1828, he cannot recall the number of the regiment that was ordered to the south. Ensign Rankin almost certainly marched to Charleston and fought there with the 1st Virginia Regiment, not the 3rd. Likewise, Lieutenant Rankin ended his service in the 1st.

[32] The letter reveals he was suffering “unlooked for poverty” by 1828, a fact confirmed by other documents in Robert’s pension file. One historian says Robert had a financial reversal around 1819-1820, probably in conjunction with land speculation and the panic of 1819. Ann Patton Malone, Handbook of Texas Online, “RANKIN, ROBERT.” Given his brother William’s statement that he (William) engaged in a good deal of land trading, land speculation and plummeting land values seem a likely cause of Robert’s poverty. See William Rankin’s pension application, declaration filed Nov. 22, 1833.

[33] Robert’s use of the phrases “close of the war” and “conclusion of the peace” in this letter raises the same questions as the phrase “end of the War.” See Note 28.

[34] Stephenson’s/Rawlings’ Regiment, AKA the Maryland and Virginia Rifle Regiment, was not part of the Virginia Line. It reported to Congress and was independent of any state regulation. Note that Robert correctly struck through “3rd” in this declaration.

[35] Hentz, Unit History of the Maryland and Virginia Rifle Regiment, pp. 15-16. Blackwell’s company was still in Philadelphia receiving smallpox inoculations in March 1777 after moving up from Virginia. It joined the main army at Morristown in April.

[36] An advance element of 13 men from Long’s company reached New York ahead of the rest. A muster roll of Long’s company in April 1778 states those 13 men were captured. War Rolls, Film/fiche number 7197155, image 551.

[37] A 1778 report by Col. Moses Rawlings (Stephenson’s successor) names Rifle Regiment officers who died or were taken prisoner at Ft. Washington. Hentz, Maryland and Virginia Rifle Regiment, p. 13. Based on other information in that report, Gary estimates that 264 out of 297 riflemen engaged at Ft. Washington were killed or captured.

[38] The muster and pay rolls for Long’s composite company had a strange format. Rolls were titled “Capt. Gabriel Long’s Company,” but each also contained a listing of the names of soldiers in Captains Shepherd’s, West’s, and Brady’s companies — generally not more than a dozen men from each company. From the army’s standpoint, a soldier enlisted in Brady’s company remained in Brady’s company and was thereafter considered (in Robert Rankin’s case, for example) attached to Long’s company.

[39] The remaining regiment in the then 11-regiment Virginia Line was stationed at Ft. Pitt.

[40] War Rolls, Film/Fiche No. 7197152, image 330. Nov. 1779 muster roll of Capt. William Johnston’s Company in the 7th Virginia Regiment, junior officers included Ensign Robert Rankins.

[41] Capt. William Johnston’s Company, 1st Virginia Regiment, 1st Virginia Brigade is listed among patriot reinforcements here.

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

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

Let’s turn to their individual war stories in parts 3 and 4 of this series.  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 is awesome. His military service had been over for fifty-four years and four months when he made his application declaration in November 1833 from Mason County, Kentucky. Here is what his declaration said, in part:

  • 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 got 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.

OK, that gets us up to the point in Part 2 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 the remains of Rawlings’ Regiment at Ft. Frederick in Frederick, MD.[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 “that 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 18. 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 on these Rankins.

William may not have identified his parents, but at least his file proves a brother, who comprises 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, 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 18-year-old William Rankin may have enlisted in Berkeley County, but he went marching off to war from Frederick County – to be exact, from Thomas Berry’s house. I will bet a big stack of genealogical chips that Jane Berry and her sister Peggy, both still single, watched Robert Rankin (who was then engaged to Peggy)[17] and his brother William march off to war from their father Thomas Berry’s house in Frederick County. That is a nice visual image – two sisters and two brothers.[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 tells us William probably wasn’t living in Frederick County before the war. William was definitely in Frederick by at least 1792, though, because a Frederick County lease and release[20] says William was “of Frederick” in that year. The deeds also prove William had a wife named Mary Ann and a son named Harrison.[21] Thomas Berry was a witness to those two 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 the financial undoing of his brother Robert. 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 memory fogged up a bit. He said he “could not recollect but possibly the latter.” He probably got land warrants but “having traded so much in that business cannot speak certainly.”

William was certainly wealthy by the standards of the day, when wealth was measured in part by ownership of enslaved persons. The 1836 inventory of William’s estate included twenty enslaved persons.[23] The current account of his estate in November 1839 shows 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 the records I have accessed.[25] He died intestate in Mason County on April 12, 1836, leaving a widow and children to collect the remainder of his pension.[26] Unfortunately, William’s pension file doesn’t name them.[27] William may be buried in the Old Washington Cemetery (AKA the Washington Baptist Church Cemetery) in Mason County. [28] The 1810 through 1830 census records for Mason County suggest he had as many as ten children, although I can only prove three (a number of other Rankins were purchasers at his estate sale, and they probably include some children):

  • Harrison Rankin, who was born by 1792 in Frederick Co., Virginia, is conclusively proved by a lease and release.[29] He is most likely the same man who appeared in the 1850 census in Scott County, Kentucky at age 58. He was a merchant, lived in Georgetown, had at least four children, and last appeared in the Scott County census in 1870.[30]
  • John L. Rankin was one administrator of William’s estate.[31] I have not been able to track him with confidence.
  • Robert P. Rankin was also an administrator. He probably moved at some point to Scott County along with Harrison, although I haven’t found Robert in the census there. Some Robert P. Rankin is buried in the Georgetown Cemetery,  b. 1805 – d. 1892. It is also possible that Robert P. Rankin was the man by that name who married Mary C. Withers in April 1832 in Bourbon Co., KY.

If you have evidence for any other children, please post a comment! It would be wonderful to find a living male Rankin descendant from William’s line who would take a YDNA test.

May you rest in peace, William. And now … on to your famous brother in part 4 of this series.

See you on down the road.

Robin

[1] Gary and I found no military records to prove Robert’s location in 1776 except for the locations mention in William’s pension application. 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), p. 12, Note 50, at this link. Perhaps Robert was actually in the battle, but was neither killed nor captured? Statistically, that is highly unlikely.

[2] William’s pension application declaration expressly stated that he enlisted in Brady’s company. Robert’s declaration didn’t name a company. 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 Long’s composite rifle company rolls.

[3] Information about William Rankin’s military history is largely taken from his pension application file, available for a fee at Fold3 on Ancestry.com. I made screen shots of many of the original images at Fold3 (available free at Clayton Library), but they rarely include 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.

[4] William’s pension declaration echoes the history of the Maryland and Virginia Rifle Regiment, some of which was the subject part 2 of this series.

[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] https://revolutionarywar.us, discussion of “Prisoner of War Facts,” which 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, Frederick Co., and was apparently acquainted with the Rankin family. https://emergingrevolutionarywar.org/2019/05/27/george-washington-daniel-morgan-and-winchester-virginia-on-memorial-day/

[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 must have recovered nicely from his prison ordeal.

[13] William Rankin’s pension file, affidavit of Thomas Jones. I took a few 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. at Will Book E: 17 et seq. Thomas named his daughter Peggy, who married Col. Robert Rankin (his rank in the KY militia, not the Revolutionary War), and his daughter Jane, who married John Kercheval. Thomas left part of his land in Mason County to Peggy and Jane.

[17] Pension file of Rankins, Robert No. W26365 or Rankin, Peggy B.L.Wt. 1380-200, images of originals available from Fold3.com at Ancestry. 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 provide confirmation. Of course, my mental image of that event is pure speculation.

[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 normal conveyance of land in fee simple.

[21] See Frederick Co., VA Deed Book 24A: 152, 155, lease and release (essentially a conveyance) 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, wife Mary Ann Rankin, and son Harrison Rankin. One witness was Thomas Berry.

[22] William Rankin’s pension file, his 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] I haven’t been to the Mason county courthouse or anyplace where one can access land records online. 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] I cannot find a distribution in the Mason County will books, which would provide conclusive proof of William’s heirs.

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

[29] See Note 21, which should be the 1792 lease for life and & release.

[30] 1850 census, Scott Co., KY, dwelling 20, Harrison Rankin, 58, merchant, Betsey Rankin 48, KY, Martha Rankin 28, Elizabeth Rankin 22, Rufus Rankin 17, and Elizabeth Rankin 8; 1870 census, Georgetown, Scott Co., KY, dwelling 160, Harrison Rankin, 78, b. VA, $5,000/3,000, dry goods merchant, Elizabeth Rankin, 68 KY, Martha Rankin, 44 KY, Rufus Rankin, 35, KY, Lizzie Kenney, 28. Also listed in Harrison’s household: Paul Rankin, 46, doctor, b. KY. Underneath Paul’s name: William Rankin 20, Bettie Rankin 13, and Malvina Rankin 11.

[31] Mason Co., KY Will Book K: 448.

Two Revolutionary War stories: Robert and William Rankin of Virginia (part 2 of 5)

By Robin Rankin Willis and Gary Noble Willis

Sometimes military experience is essential to interpret military records. I therefore enlisted former USAF Captain Gary Willis to untangle the Revolutionary War records of two brothers from the Northern Neck of Virginia: Robert and William Rankin. They took wildly different tracks in the war, despite the fact that they enlisted in the same company in 1776.

Our initial objective was to examine the accuracy of family oral history about Robert’s war experience. Somewhere along the research trail, we fell in love with the Rankins’ war stories and the underlying military history.[1] This article is the first of three about the brothers’ military history.[2] Then we will move on to the vexing final question: the identity of their family of origin.

Background: Hugh Stephenson’s/Moses Rawlings’ Independent Rifle Regiment

The military history begins in June 1775, when the Continental Congress directed the raising of ten independent companies of riflemen from Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. “Independent” means the companies reported to national rather than state authority and were not attached to another state regiment. Two Virginia companies were raised in Berkeley and Frederick Counties, near where the Rankins lived. They were commanded by Hugh Stephenson and Daniel Morgan, whose names appear in the pension applications of both Rankin soldiers.[3]

Rifle companies had different equipment and roles than other units. Regular infantry soldiers carried British-made smooth bore “Brown Bess” muskets having a range of about 100 yards.[4] They were not very accurate even within that range. However, they were deadly when fired en masse at an oncoming enemy formation. They could be reloaded rapidly: a trained soldier could load and fire the weapon three to four times in a minute. For the conventional warfare of the times – successive massed formations advancing toward opposing massed formations – the Brown Bess was made to order.

In contrast, the rifle companies were equipped with American long rifles (AKA Kentucky long rifles). They were accurate up to 200 yards, but could not be reloaded as rapidly as the Brown Bess. The rifle’s advantages in range and accuracy were also offset by the fact that it could not mount a bayonet. It was therefore not effective in close combat.

The rifle companies’ role was different than the musket companies. Riflemen normally provided scouting duties and guarded the main army’s flanks or fixed encampments such as Valley Forge. They were especially effective in patrols that remained out of musket range and harassed enemy foraging parties seeking supplies. As you might expect, rifle company recruits were skilled sharpshooters.

One rather florid history describes the Virginia riflemen and their uniforms like so:

“Volunteers [in the original 1775 Virginia rifle companies] presented themselves from every direction in the vicinity of [Shepherdstown and Winchester, VA]; none were received but young men of Character, and of sufficient property to Clothe themselves completely, find their own arms, and accoutrements, that is, an approved Rifle, handsome shot pouch, and powder-horn, blanket, knapsack, with such decent clothing as should be prescribed, but which was at first ordered to be only a Hunting shirt and pantaloons, fringed on every edge, and in Various Ways.”[5]

In July 1776, the Continental Congress authorized raising six new independent rifle companies. A total of nine companies comprised the Maryland and Virginia Rifle Regiment. The regiment included three remaining from 1775 and the six new ones raised in 1776. Five of the nine companies were from the area where the Rankins lived in Virginia.

The regiment was originally commanded by Col. Hugh Stephenson and was commonly called “Stephenson’s Regiment.” When he died in August or September 1776, Lt. Col Moses Rawlings assumed command and the regiment became known as “Rawlings’ Regiment.” Captains Thomas West, William Brady, Gabriel Long, William Blackwell, and Abraham Shepherd commanded the five Virginia companies.

The company commanders are significant because our family history objective required identifying the companies in which William Rankin, Robert Rankin, and John Marshall (the future Chief Justice of the Supreme Court) served. Family oral history asserts that Robert Rankin served in Justice Marshall’s unit. There is no support for that claim in the records.

Determining two of the trio’s company was easy. One of Capt. Blackwell’s junior officers when the company was formed in 1776 was Lt. John Marshall.[6] Documents in William Rankin’s pension application file establish that he was in Capt. William Brady’s company.[7] Only Robert Rankin’s company took some digging. Payroll and muster roll records establish he was in Capt. Brady’s company with his brother.[8]

The rifle regiment’s first significant engagement was the Battle of Ft. Washington on November 16, 1776.[9]The fort was located at a high point near the north end of Manhattan Island. It overlooked the Hudson River to the west, providing an ideal vantage point for artillery harassment of British ships.[10]  Rawlings’ Regiment occupied an outpost north of the main fort. The riflemen repelled several bayonet charges by massed German mercenaries throughout the day. Vastly outnumbered, Rawlings ordered their retreat to the fort. About 2,800 surviving defenders, including 235 in Rawlings’ Regiment, were surrendered. It was a devastating loss in George Washington’s defense of New York. Shortly thereafter, he retreated from a position across the Hudson and began moving his army to northern New Jersey.

Prisoners taken at Ft. Washington suffered horribly. British treatment was brutal. Prisoners were initially crowded into jails, churches, sugar houses, and other large buildings in New York, including Columbia College.[11]Some were transferred to British ships, where conditions were also notoriously bad. By the end of 1776, the British held about 5,000 prisoners (including those from Ft. Washington) in New York City.[12] Approximately four out of five did not survive captivity. Most died of starvation or disease.

Two of Rawlings’ five Virginia rifle companies did not participate at Ft. Washington.  Capt. William Blackwell’s company (with Lt. John Marshall) didn’t complete recruiting in Virginia until early 1777.[13] By the time Blackwell’s company arrived at the army’s winter camp near Morristown, it was assigned to the 11th Virginia Regiment. It never fought as part of Rawlings’ Regiment.[14] Most of Captain Gabriel Long’s company were still in Virginia on Nov. 21, 1776, days after the battle.[15]

They were fortunate, because the rifle companies which fought at Ft. Washington were decimated.[16]Roughly 90% of the participating riflemen (including men from both Virginia and Maryland companies) were either killed or captured.[17] Captains West’s, Shepherd’s, and Brady’s companies were in New York by November 13, 1776. All three were in in the battle[18].

Capt. William Brady is of particular interest because both William and Robert Rankin were in his company.  He was a bad choice for a commander. Brady was not in the battle himself. He resigned his commission in disgrace in March 1777. A mid-1777 report by Col. Daniel Morgan, who then commanded the regiment that included the remainder of the rifle companies, said that Brady “had never done any duty,” “absented himself without leave,” and “is said to have behaved in an infamous manner.”[19] The only reason we can imagine he wasn’t court martialed is that he was back in Virginia.

William Rankin was one of Capt. Brady’s men who was taken prisoner at Ft. Washington.[20] He was 17 or 18 at the time.[21] His brother Robert was not in that battle, although payroll and muster records prove he was also in Brady’s company.[22] Ironically, the fact that William was a Ft. Washington prisoner but Robert was not is the decisive factor that caused the Rankins brothers’ war stories to take divergent paths.

With that background, it is time to turn our attention to the two Rankin brothers individually. However, this post has already gone on far too long and we are footnote-weary. Please check the next two articles for the individual military histories of William and Lt. Robert Rankin.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

               [1] This article is based on information obtained primarily from five sources. (1) muster roll and payroll records from the National Archives and Records Administration (digitized images available at FamilySearch.com); (2) 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), online here; (3) Danske Dandridge, Historic Shepherdstown (Charlottesville, VA: The Michie Company, 1910), online here; (4) Robert K. Wright Jr., The Continental Army (Washington, D.C.: Center of Military History, United States Army, 2006); and (5) the original Revolutionary War pension files of Robert/Peggy Rankin and William Rankin.

[2] Neither Gary nor I are historians. As the list of sources in Note 1 suggests, we assemble what we believe is credible information from actual histories. The only primary sources we had were pension applications and payroll, muster, and other records from NARA.

[3] Dandridge, Historic Shepherdstown, p. 78-79. Hugh Stephenson’s name appears in the pension applications of both Robert and William Rankin. Daniel Morgan’s name appears in William’s. Both Stephenson and Morgan were acquaintances of the Rankins and lived in the same part of Virginia as the Rankins.

[4] Information on rifles and muskets is from this site and this one.

[5] Dandridge, Historic Shepherdstown 79.

[6] Lt. Marshall was consistently listed on Capt. Blackwell’s pay and muster rolls until Blackwell resigned in January 1778. United States Revolutionary War Rolls, 1775-1783, Familysearch.org, FHL film/fiche number 7197155, image 274 (cited hereafter as “United States Revolutionary War Rolls, FHL film/fiche number ______, image ____.”). Marshall became the commander of Blackwell’s former company by no later than August 1778. United States Revolutionary War Rolls, FHL film/fiche number 7197156, image 223.

[7] Pension Application file of William Rankin, No. 25274, contains notes on the second page in official handwriting that William was a private in Capt. Brady’s company in a regiment commanded by Hugh Stephenson. William’s sworn statement made in Mason Co., KY in 1833 also states he enlisted in Capt. Brady’s company in Stephenson’s Regiment. William Rankin’s Pension Application, Fold3.com at 1, 3. So far as I know, Fold3.com is the only online source for original pension file images.

[8] See, e.g., muster roll dated 16 May 1777 for Capt. Gabriel Long’s company at camp near Bound Brook, NJ, with detachments from Capt. West’s, Shepherd’s and Brady’s companies, in the 11th VA Regiment commanded by Col. Daniel Morgan. Sergeant Robert Rankin is listed as a member of Capt. Brady’s company, attached to Long’s company. United States Revolutionary War Records, FHL film/fiche number 7197155, image 551. We found no muster or pay rolls for 1776 naming individual soldiers. By May 1777, the remains of Rawlings’ Rifle Regiment were assigned to the 11th Virginia Regiment. The remaining riflemen after the disastrous loss at Ft. Washington had been assigned to either a composite rifle company (such as the one in which Sgt. Rankin is listed, above), or a provisional rifle company. Both were commanded by Captain Gabriel Long.

[9] There were about 3,000 defenders at Ft. Washington against 8,000 British troops. You can see an old painting of Ft. Washington overlooking the river here.

[10] The site of Fort Washington is now Bennett Park on Fort Washington Avenue between West 183rd and 185thStreets, a few blocks north of the George Washington Bridge. The locations of the fort’s walls are marked in the park by stones. Nearby is a tablet indicating that it is the highest natural point on Manhattan Island, a prime reason for the fort’s location.

[11] Dandridge, Historic Shepherdstown 166-67.

[12] See  this website for a discussion of “Prisoner of War Facts.”

[13] Hentz, Maryland and Virginia Rifle Regiment 16, Note 67, which says the company “had difficulty recruiting even close to full strength, with the effort extending into early 1777.” Blackwell’s Company did not join the Main Army until April 1777, when the army was still in winter quarters near Morristown. Id. at 15.

[14] Id. at 16, Note 67. Blackwell’s company arrived at Morristown as the sixth company of the 11th Virginia Regiment, having never “taken up arms” as part of Rawlings’ Regiment.

[15] An advance element of 13 men from Long’s company reached New York ahead of the rest and was captured at Ft. Washington. A muster roll of Long’s company in April 1778 states those 13 men were captured. United States Revolutionary War Rolls, Film/fiche number 7197155, image 551.

[16] We found no list of all Ft. Washington prisoners by name. However, a 1778 report by Col. Moses Rawlings about his regiment names company officers who died or were taken prisoner. Hentz, Maryland and Virginia Rifle Regiment, p. 13 (hereafter, “Rawlings’ Report”). The report establishes that West’s, Shepherd’s, and Brady’s Companies were in the battle, as was part of Long’s Company.

[17] Based on information in Rawlings’ Report, Gary estimates that 264 out of 297 riflemen engaged at Ft. Washington were killed or captured.

[18] Rawlings Report states that West’s three junior officers were all taken prisoner, as were Capt. Shepherd and two of his three junior officers. One of Brady’s three junior officers was killed and one was captured. After Ft. Washington, the men in those three rifle companies (West’s, Shepherd’s, and Brady’s) who were neither killed nor captured were attached to a composite rifle company commanded by Capt. Long.

[19] United States Revolutionary War Rolls, FHL film/fiche number 7197160, image 275.

[20] William Rankin’s Pension Application, Fold3.com at 3.

[21] Id. William stated he was age 74 when he applied for a pension in November 1833.

[22] It isn’t clear why Robert Rankin was not in the battle at Ft. Washington. He may have been across the Hudson River at Ft. Lee. All three of the Virginia companies who fought at Ft. Washington (West’s, Shepherd’s, and Brady’s) were at Ft. Lee on Nov. 13, 1776. A return of Rawlings’ Regiment on that date indicates that 48 out of 293 enlisted men were sick. Hentz, Maryland and Virginia Rifle Regiment 12, Note 50. Perhaps Robert was among them, although that is speculation. In any event, it is virtually certain that Robert was not in the battle despite having been in Capt. Brady’s company because (1) he was not taken prisoner there and (2) his widow Peggy did not list Ft. Washington as a battle in which Robert participated. Nevertheless, payroll and muster roll records after Ft. Washington consistently place him in Brady’s company.

“Follow the land” theory: believe it or not

Would you believe me if I told you that three deeds – just three deeds – could conclusively prove the names of eight of a couple’s nine children, the family’s migration history, the surnames of married daughters, and the given names of two sons-in-law? No? Oh, ye of little faith! Please keep reading.

This is another paean to deeds as a family history research tool.[1] It is also a tip of the hat to Jessica Guyer. She abstracted deeds in several Pennsylvania counties in an effort to break through her Rankin brick wall. Three deeds she found in Westmoreland County are the genealogical gold mine described above. The deeds concern the family of David and Frances (“Fanny”) Campbell Rankin, originally of Franklin County, Pennsylvania.

The story in short

Ferreting out David and Fanny’s story requires slogging through deeds concerning tracts of land in two Pennsylvania counties. The deeds mention bequests in a will, inheritance via intestacy, two trusts, judgments, and a court-ordered confirmation deed. All in the arcane language of 19th-century deeds written in tiny, cramped, handwriting.

For those of us whose brains are addled by cabin fever during the coronavirus nightmare, here is the CliffsNotes version of their story. It is easier on one’s eyesight and sanity than the original deeds. Connoisseurs of evidence and other gluttons for punishment can find citations to deeds in the footnotes.

David and Fanny originally lived in Antrim, Peters, and Montgomery Townships in Franklin County, Pennsylvania.[2] David, born in 1777, was a son of William and Mary Huston Rankin of Antrim Township in Franklin (formerly Cumberland) County.[3] Fanny was a daughter of Dugal/Dougal Campbell.[4] The 200-acre Franklin tract Fanny inherited from her father became security for her family’s financial future, along with legacies David’s mother Mary left to their children.[5]

By the 1820s, David was deeply in debt to Archibald Bard, a Franklin County justice.[6] To secure judgments “and other monies owed,” David pledged both the tract Fanny inherited from her father and his children’s legacies from his mother. Bard was entitled to sell the land and retain the proceeds, as well as the legacies from Mary Rankin, to apply to David’s debt. Bard was to use any surplus to purchase “lands to the west.” Bard was to hold the land in trust for the maintenance of Fanny and her children. Bard purchased a tract in Rostraver Township, Westmoreland County, called the “Dailey Farm.” For reasons unknown, David’s debts to Bard weren’t repaid until the Dailey Farm was sold.[7]

By at least 1830, the family had moved to Westmoreland.[8] David’s financial troubles must not have tarnished his reputation, because he was a justice there.[9] From Westmoreland, the Rankins moved to Allen County, Indiana.[10] Finally, the family relocated to Des Moines County, Iowa Territory about 1838.[11] In 1844, the Rankins executed a deed from Iowa confirming the prior sale of the Dailey Farm to Gilbert Beck.[12] The entire family (including two living sons-in-law) acknowledged the deed in Burlington, Iowa. Only Fanny, who apparently died before 1840, and Adam John Rankin, who died in 1842, were not parties to the 1844 deed.

Voilà! Only three deeds identified this entire family and unlocked its path westward. If you’re interested in this Rankin family, please thank Jessica Guyer.

The children

Finally, here are David and Fanny’s nine children. I drilled down in the records just far enough to help anyone who is interested to track this family. Except for Betsey’s interesting will, I didn’t find any good stories, so these are just a few bare facts.

William Rankin, b. 5 Jan 1807, Franklin Co., PA, d. 2 Jan 1873 Des Moines Co., IA.[13] He was listed in two federal censuses in Huron Township, Des Moines with his wife Martha Jane Gray[14] and their children Frances Elizabeth (“Libby”) Rankin, Samuel Bruce Rankin, and Areta Catherine Rankin Tewksbury.[15]William’s sister Betsey’s will (see below) named all three children and helped flesh out their full names.[16]

Elizabeth “Betsey” Rankin was born 3 Feb 1803 in Franklin Co., PA, and died 5 July 1888 in Des Moines Co.[17] Betsey left a remarkable will identifying two of her three sisters, four of her five brothers, a host of nieces and nephews, and some of her siblings’ grandchildren.[18] Betsey left cash legacies to all of them. Unfortunately, her estate assets consisted entirely of notes, primarily on family members. Most of the notes were barred by the statute of limitations because they were long since overdue. Some were uncollectable. As a result, the administration of Betsey’s estate consisted primarily of (1) collecting on the few good notes, (2) paying $500 to her brother Archibald for taking care of her during the last five years of her long life, (3) payment to the administrator for his work, (4) obtaining releases from beneficiaries who agreed to waive payment of their legacies in exchange for forgiveness of their notes, and (5) paying one or two small legacies. Betsey and her administrator went to a lot of trouble for virtually no financial benefit to her family. Her big probate file, however, is a wonderful legacy for Rankin researchers. Question: where did she get the money to loan to her relatives?

Martha C. Rankin, b. Franklin Co., PA on 22 Nov 1805. She married a Mr. Sweeny/Swenny/Sweeney, given name unknown. She may have married in Indiana because her one child was born there. Martha was living with her father David in 1850 in Des Moines,[19] and with her daughter and sister Betsey in 1856.[20] Her only known child was Frances C. Sweeny, born in Indiana about 1836. A solid bet is that Frances’s middle name was Campbell.

Mary H. Rankin, b. Franklin Co., PA on 6 Feb 1809, d. Iowa 12 Nov 1885.[21] Her husband was James Bruce. Taken together, the census records from 1850 through 1870 suggest their children were (1) Martha (“Mattie”) Bruce, b. 1842, (2) Lawrence H. C. Bruce, b. 1844, (3) David R. (Rankin) Bruce, b. 1846, (4) Sarah Bruce, b. 1849, and (5) Margaret Bruce, b. 1851.[22] Mary’s sister Betsey’s will named all of them except Lawrence, who probably predeceased her. Betsey identified Mary Bruce’s married daughters as M. B. Bruce Cartwright (Martha), S. J. (Sarah Jane) Bruce Yost, and M. B. (Margaret) Crowder. Online trees name a dizzying array of additional children for James and Mary, most of which are error.

Dougal/Dugal Campbell Rankin, b. Franklin Co. on 10 Apr 1811, d. Yellow Springs Township, Des Moines Co., IA, 21 Feb 1885.[23] His wife was Mary Johnson. He is buried in the Round Prairie Presbyterian Cemetery in Des Moines Co. Census records from 1860 through 1880 suggest their children were (1) David C. Rankin, b. abt. 1853, (2) Hezekiah Johnson Rankin, b. abt. 1855, (3) Sarah F. Rankin, b. abt. 1858, and (4) John William Rankin, b. abt. 1860.[24] Dougal was still alive when his sister Betsey wrote her will, so she named Dougal rather than his children as her beneficiary.

Frances Rankin (Jr.) was born 1 Jan 1814 and baptized 9 May 1814 in the Presbyterian Church of the Upper West Conococheague (the “Upper West Church”) near Mercersburg, Franklin Co., PA.[25] Frances married James Waddle.[26] The only record I have for this couple is the 1856 Iowa State Census in Yellow Springs Township, Des Moines County.[27] He was a merchant. The couple had no children, so far as I know. Her sister Betsey Rankin’s will didn’t mention either Frances or any children.

David Huston Rankin was born 14 Mar 1817 and baptized 28 Apr 1817 in the Upper West Church. He married Mary A. Oliver on 5 Jun 1844 in Des Moines.[28] The couple is listed in the federal census for Des Moines Co. in 1850 and 1860.[29] They moved to Garnett, Anderson Co., KS by 1870, where David was an innkeeper. The 1870 federal census and his sister Betsey’s will suggest that David and Mary had two daughters: Martha (“Mattie”) C. Rankin Osborne and Fannie Rankin Rice.[30] Fannie married James Wesley Rice, the Garnett postmaster, and had a son named Rankin Rice. David died on 19 Jan 1874 and is buried in the Garnett Cemetery in Anderson Co.[31] There was apparently an obituary for him, although I have not found it.

Archibald Rankin was b. 1 Aug 1819, Franklin Co., PA and baptized 10 Oct 1819 in the Upper West Church. He died 4 Mar 1889 in Kossuth, Des Moines Co., IA. His wife was Lydia Blair. They had three daughters: Elizabeth J. Rankin, b. abt 1854 (married William B. Reed), Frances Margaret or Margaret Frances Rankin, b. abt 1858, and Martha Catharine Rankin, baptized on 7 Apr 1866 in the Round Prairie Presbyterian Church.[32] Archibald is buried in the Kossuth Cemetery in Mediapolis, Des Moines Co.[33]

Adam John Rankin, b. 29 Dec 1821, Franklin Co., baptized 13 Feb 1822 in the Upper West Church, d. 8 Jul 1842. Apparently never married. Buried in the Round Prairie Presbyterian Cemetery in Des Moines, County.[34]

And that may be more than I know about David and Frances Campbell Rankin’s family. See you on down the road.

Robin

[1] See another article about the “follow the land” theory of genealogical research in the article titled “Adam and Mary Steele Alexander Rankin’s Son William: “Follow the Land” at this link.  There is a similar article about the value of deeds in family history research about the children of Lyddal Bacon Estes and “Nancy” Ann Allen Winn here.

[2] 1810 federal census, Antrim Twp., Franklin Co., PA, listing for David Rankin, 10020-31111; 1820 federal census, Peters Twp., Franklin Co., PA, David Rankin, 310010-12022; Franklin Deed Book 14: 266, deed dated 28 Aug 1827 from David and wife Frances Rankin of Montgomery Twp.

[3] The Pennsylvania Archives confused William and Mary Huston Rankin’s son David (married to Frances Campbell) with his cousin David. The latter David was a son of James Sr. and Jean Rankin, also of Franklin Co. See the 1792 will of William Rankin of Antrim Township naming inter alia his wife Mary and his son David, Franklin Will Book A: 256, and the 1788 will of James Rankin Sr. of Montgomery Township naming inter alia his wife Jean and son David, Franklin Will Book A: 345. David’s birth year is established by the family Bible, as well as the 1850 federal census and his tombstone. An article addressing the Archives error can be found in the article titled “Will the “Correct” David Rankin of Franklin County Please Stand Up?” here.

[4] The identity of Fanny’s father is established by a deed. Franklin Co., PA Deed Book 14:245, quitclaim deed dated 5 Dec 1827 from the children of John Beatty to David and Frances Rankin and Archibald Bard. The deed recites that Dongal [sic, Dugal or Dougal] Campbell died intestate owning 400 acres. The tract descended “in coparcenary” to his daughters Frances Campbell Rankin (wife of David Rankin) and Elizabeth Campbell Beatty (wife of John Beatty). Each sister’s share was called a “purpart.” If you know what those terms mean, you need to get a life! “Coparcenary” describes the ownership of land that two sisters inherited from their father who died intestate with no male heirs. “Purpart” means each sister’s share. Fanny’s share of the coparcenary tract was held in trust by Bard (see Note 7) to secure debts David owed. The Beatty children promised in the quitclaim deed not to make any claim to Fanny’s purpart.

[5] Franklin Co., PA Deed Book 14: 97, deed of trust (“DOT”) dated Dec 1826 from David Rankin and wife Frances of Montgomery Twp. to Archibald Bard, Esq. The DOT secured David’s debts to Bard with the coparcenary tract and legacies bequeathed by Mary Rankin to some of David and Frances’s children. I have not been able to find Mary (Huston) Rankin’s will

[6] Westmoreland Co., PA Deed Book 29: 470, reciting that Bard had judgments aga.inst David of $1,602.91, plus “other moneys owing and due.”

[7] Id., deed dated 27 Mar 1832 from David Rankin and his wife Frances of Rostraver Township in Westmoreland Co. and Archibald Bard of Franklin Co., grantors, to William Rankin and Dugell (sic) Rankin, sons of David. The deed recites the terms of the Franklin Co. deed of trust (Franklin Co., PA Deed Book 14: 97), stating that Bard could satisfy David’s debts with proceeds from the sale of the coparcenary tract and the legacies Mary Rankin left to David’s children. Money left over was to be invested by Bard in “lands to the west to be conveyed to and vested in Bard” for the support of Frances and her children. Apparently, the debts were not repaid from the sale of the coparcenary tract. Instead, Bard contracted with a Philadelphia bank to purchase a tract in Westmoreland Co. The deed provided that (1) the Dailey Farm would be sold to Gilbert Beck, (2) Archibald Bard would be repaid from the proceeds and released of his trustee duties, (3) Gilbert Beck would pay to William and Dougal Rankin the legacies from Mary Rankin, and (4) the residue from the sale would be used to buy “lands to the west.” Newly purchased land was to be conveyed to William and Dougal in trust for the use of Frances Rankin and her children and heirs. There is a lot going on in that deed. I recommend you read the original if you are interested in this family.

[8] Id. Grantors David and Frances Rankin were “of” Rostraver Township, Westmoreland Co. in 1832. See also the 1830 census, Westmoreland Co., PA, Rostraver Twp., listing for David Rankin, Esqr., 01211001-00022001.

[9] See 1830 federal census, Note 8. Usually, the honorific “Esquire” was reserved for judges. I have not confirmed in Westmoreland court records that David was a justice.

[10] Westmoreland Co., PA Deed Book 29: 470-71, deed dated 26 Mar 1834 from “Sundry Rankins,” as the deed book calls them: David, Frances (Sr.), William, Betsey, Martha, Mary, Frances (Jr.), David H. (Huston), and Dougel C. (Campbell) Rankin of Indiana, grantors, to Gilbert Beck, the Dailey Farm. The Rankins acknowledged the deed in Allen Co., Indiana.

[11] 1856 Iowa State Census, listing #198 for James Waddle, 45, merchant, b. OH, and Frances (Rankin) Waddle, 43, b. PA; both have resided in Iowa for 18 years. Also listing #199, Elizabeth Rankin, 50, b. PA, and Martha C. (Rankin) Sweeny, 48, b. PA, both have resided in Iowa 18 years, with Frances C. Sweeny, 20 (Martha’s daughter), b. Indiana abt. 1836.

[12] Westmoreland Co., PA Deed Book 29: 471-72, deed dated 24 Feb 1844 from David Rankin, Betsey Rankin, Martha Sweney (whose husband must have been deceased, since he was not a party), William Rankin, James Bruce and wife Mary (Rankin) Bruce, Dugal Campbell Rankin, James Waddle and wife  Francis (Rankin) Waddle, David Huston Rankin, and Archibald Rankin, all of Des Moines County, Iowa Territory, to Gilbert Beck. This deed simply confirms the sale of the Dailey Farm to Beck, who complained that he had never received a deed. The entire Rankin family signed the deed except for Frances (Sr.), who probably died in Indiana, and the Rankins’ youngest son John Adam Rankin, who died in 1842.

[13] See the Find-a-grave image of William Rankin’s tombstone, Round Prairie Presbyterian Cemetery, Des Moines Co., IA, here.

[14] Martha Jane Rankin’s tombstone in the Round Prairie is inscribed “wife of William Rankin.” Available at the Find-a-Grave website.

[15] 1860 federal census, Huron Twp., Des Moines, IA, dwelling #91, William Rankin, 53, $5,700/$700, b. PA, Martha Rankin 27, b. Illinois, Frances Rankin, 5, b. IA, and Samuel Rankin, 4, b. IA; 1870 federal census, Huron Twp., dwelling 72, William Rankin, 63, farmer, b. PA, $8800/$1825, Martha Jane Rankin, 34, b. Illinois, Elizabeth Rankin, 15, b. IA, Samuel B. Rankin, 14, farm hand, b. IA, and Areta Rankin, 3?, female, b. IA.

[16] See Note 18 for Betsey’s beneficiaries. Here is a find-a-grave image of Samuel Bruce Rankin’s tombstone,tombstone, ,  and one for his sister Areta Catherine Rankin Tewksbury.

[17] Betsey’s birth year in the census vary between 1802 and 1807. In the 1856 Iowa state census, she was age 50 (born about 1806); 1860 Des Moines census, age 57 (born about 1803); 1870 Des Moines Co. census, age 67 (born about 1807); 1880 Des Moines census, age 78 (about 1802); 1885 Iowa State census, age 83 (1802). Find-a-Grave doesn’t have an image of Betsy’s tombstone, but claims her death is recorded in the register of Round Prairie Cemetery in Des Moines, Co. and that Betsey was born in Feb. 1803.

[18] Images of original records available online at FamilySearch.org, Des Moines Co., IA Probate records, Film #007594729, image #315 et seq. Will of Betsy Rankin of Des Moines Co. dated 29 Nov 1881, proved 17 Sep 1888, recorded in Will Book D: 111. Beneficiaries: sister Mary Bruce; brothers D. C. Rankin (Dougal Campbell) and Archibald Rankin; children of William Rankin, dec’d (S. Bruce Rankin, Libbie Rankin, and Areta Rankin); Martha C. Osborne, daughter of David H. Rankin, dec’d, and Rankin Rice, grandson of David H. Rankin; John W. Rhea, grandson of sister Martha C. Sweeney, dec’d. James Bruce, brother-in-law, executor. By the time the will was probated, James Bruce had died, so the court appointed William Harper administrator with the will annexed. Administrator’s bond named her heirs as (1) brother A. Rankin, (2) deceased brother William Rankin’s children (Frances E. Rankin, Samuel B. Rankin, and A. C. Tewksbury); (3) children of deceased sister M. H. Bruce (D. B. Bruce, M. B. Cartwright, S. J. Yost? and M. B. Crowder); (4) children of deceased brother D. C. (Dougal Campbell) Rankin (D. C. Rankin, H. J. Rankin, Sarah F. Rankin, and J. W. Rankin); (5) Martha C. Osborne, daughter of deceased brother D. H. (David Huston) Rankin, and Rankin Rice, grandson of D. H. Rankin; and (6) John W. Rhea, grandson of deceased sister Martha C. Sweeney.

[19] 1850 federal census, Huron Twp, Des Moines Co., IA, dwelling #496, listing for David Rankin, 73, farmer, b. PA (abt 1777), $2800, with Martha Rankin, 35, PA, Dugald Camel (sic, Campbell), 30, PA, and Frances Camel (sic), 14, Indiana. I believe that Dugald is actually a Rankin – Dougal Campbell Rankin, son of David. Martha Rankin is probably David’s daughter Martha Rankin Sweeney. Frances Campbell is probably Martha’s daughter Frances C. Sweeney. Considering other information, that seems the most sensible way to interpret that otherwise baffling census listing.

[20] 1856 Iowa State Census, listing #199: Elizabeth Rankin, 50, PA, b. abt 1806. Has resided in Iowa 18 years. Martha C. (Rankin) Sweeny, 48, PA, b. abt 1808. Also resided in Iowa 18 years. Frances C. Sweeny, 20, b. Indiana about 1836.

[21] The Find-a-Grave image for the Bruces’ tombstone incorrectly names Mary’s mother as Frances Huston rather than Frances Campbell Rankin. See it here.

[22] See 1850 federal census, Yellow Springs Township, Des Moines Co., IA, household of James Bruce, 30, farmer, $2,000, b. OH, Mary (Rankin) Bruce, 30 (wrong age), Martha Bruce, 8, Lawrence Bruce, 6, David Bruce, 4, and Sarah Bruce, 1, all children b. IA; 1856 Iowa State Census, Yellow Springs Twp., James Bruce, 42, b. VA, Mary Bruce, 45, b. PA, Martha E. Bruce, 14, L.H.C. (Lawrence) Bruce, 12, David R. Bruce, 10, Sarah J. Bruce, 7, and Margaret Bruce;  1860 federal census, Des Moines, Yellow Springs Twp., dwl 249, James Bruce, 46, farmer, b. VA, Mary Bruce, 50, PA, Martha Bruce, 17, Florence (sic, Lawrence) Bruce, 16, David Bruce, 14, Sarah Bruce, 11, and Margaret Bruce, 9, all children b. Iowa; 1870 federal census, Yellow Springs Twp., dwl 252, James Bruce, 56, $6525/2010, Mary H. Bruce, 60, PA, Mattie Bruce, 28, IA, and Margarite Bruce, 19, IA (adjacent the household of David R. Bruce, 25, and Ellen Bruce, 25).

[23] FHL Film #956344, Iowa Deaths and Burials, 1850 – 1990.

[24] 1860 federal census, Kossuth PO, Yellow Springs Township, Des Moines, household of Dugald Rankin, 43, farmer, b. PA, Mary Rankin, 36, b. PA, David Rankin, 7, b. IA, Johnson Rankin, 5, IA, Sarah Rankin, 2, IA, and William Rankin, 10 months, IA. 1870 federal census, Yellow Springs, household of D. C. Rankin, 58, $4,860/$1500, b. PA, David C. Rankin, 17, Hezekiah J. Rankin, 15, Sarah F. Rankin, 12, John W. Rankin, 10, all children b. IA. 1880 census, Yellow Springs, household of D. C. Rankin, 69, widowed, b. PA, parents b. PA, son David C. Rankin, 27, farmer, and son Hezekiah J. Rankin, 25, teacher.

[25] The source for the baptism records is the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, Historic Pennsylvania Church and Town Records, database available online at Ancestry.com titled “Pennsylvania and New Jersey Church and Town Records, 1669-2013.” Frances Rankin, David Huston Rankin, Archibald Rankin, and Adam John Rankin are listed as children of David Rankin, along with their baptism dates, in the Presbyterian Church of the Upper West Conococheague.

[26] Westmoreland Co., PA Deed Book 29: 471-472, the 1844 deed from “Sundry Rankins” to Gilbert Beck signed inter alia by James Waddle and wife Frances (Rankin) Waddle.

[27] 1856 Iowa State Census, Yellow Springs Twp., Des Moines Co., listing for James Waddle, 45, merchant, b. OH. Has resided in Iowa 18 years. Frances (Rankin) Waddle, 43, b. PA, has also resided in Iowa for 18 years.

[28] Compiled Iowa Marriages, available online at Ancestry.com.

[29] 1850 federal census, Yellow Springs Twp., Des Moines, IA, David H. Rankin, 33, farmer, $1000, b. PA, dwl #393, Mary Ann Rankin, 32, NJ?, Margret Rankin, 4, IA, Martha Rankin, 2, IA, Samuel Dickey, 40, PA, Rebecca Dickie, 36, PA, and William Dickie, 14, Indiana; 1860 federal census, Huron Twp, Des Moines Co., IA, dwelling #122 (adjacent Archibald Rankin): David Rankin, 43, farmer, b. PA, Mary Rankin, 40, b. NJ, Margaret Rankin, 14, IA, and Martha Rankin, 12, IA.

[30] 1870 federal census, Garnett, Anderson Co., KS, David H.? Rankin, 53, b. PA, hotel keeper, $6800/1200, listed with (among others) May A. Rankin, 52, b. NJ, Mattie C. Rankin, 21, IA, James W. Rice, 33, postmaster, and Fannie? Rice, 24, b. IA. Betsey Rankin’s will named David’s daughter Martha C. Osborne and David’s grandson Rankin Rice.

[31] Here is an image of David Huston Rankin’s tombstone at the Find-a-grave website, Garnett Cemetery..

[32] 1860 federal census, Huron Twp, Des Moines Co., IA, dwelling #123, household of Archibald Rankin, 41, $2,500/$805, b. PA, Lydia Rankin, 35?, b. IL, Elizabeth Rankin, 4, IA, and Frances M. Rankin, 2, IA. 1870 federal census, Huron Twp., Archibald Rankin, 50, $500/$2100, b. PA. dwl 107, Lydia Rankin, 48, b. IL, Elizabeth J. Rankin, 14, IA, Frances M. Rankin, 12, IA, and Martha C. Rankin, 4, IA. 1880 federal census, Huron Twp., Des Moines Co., IA, Archibald Rankin, 61, b. PA, parents b. PA, farmer, Lydia Rankin, wife, 58, daughters Elizabeth J. Rankin, 24, Frances M. Rankin, 21, and Martha C. Rankin, 14.

[33] Here is an image of Archibald’s tombstone.. I have no idea where anyone came up with the middle name “August” (some online trees show it as “Augustus”). Arch was baptized in the Upper West Conococheague church along with two brothers whose baptism records expressly list their middle names (David Huston Rankin and Adam John Rankin). If Archibald ever had a middle name, it would surely have shown up in those church records. Give us all a break.

[34] Tombstone image available on Find-a-Grave  here.