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

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

Old business:

… Theories #1A and #1B identify Lt. Robert’s parents as Robert William Rankin (or William Robert Rankin) and Margaret Massena Marshall (or Massena Margaret Marshall). This is the conventional wisdom. However, there seems to be no evidence that people by those names ever existed. Further, the people identified as Massena Marshall’s parents are improbable.

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

New business:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Given the paucity of evidence in actual records for any other theory, the two Berry deeds witnessed by Reuben and Robert Rankin should probably be displayed in neon lights. The witness Reuben might have been the son of John and Sarah Woffendale Rankin. I still have a hard time crossing that last bridge and concluding that Robert the witness, if he was Lt. Robert, was Reuben’s brother. I wish I had a cogent alternative explanation of their likely family relationship, but I do not.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See you on down the road.

Robin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See you on down the road.

Robin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 [15] Id.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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