Alexander Family History: a “Must-Read”

If you follow this blog, you know that Gary and I do not cite compiled family histories as sources. Alexander Family History by John Alexander  will be an exception. It has many things to commend it, beginning with excellent, easy-to-read writing and meticulous research. It is an absolute “must-read” if you are from the line of James and Ann Alexander of Amelia County, Virginia and Anson/Rowan, North Carolina.

Before we get into the book itself, you can order it by contacting John Alexander at this email address:

The book is also available as an html version at this link. Make a note of that link, because John will continue to add to and correct the html version. John strongly encourages other Alexanders to add to the accumulated knowledge of this family via your own research. He is also happy to hear differences of opinion, provided they are backed up with citations to records.

Alternatively, John says he will send you a copy of the pdf file of the current book, and you can print away to your heart’s content. For those of us who are addicted to highlighting, this is clearly a good option.

Despite these nice alternatives, I strongly recommend that you order a bound copy of the book from John – even if you aren’t connected to this Alexander line – and donate it to your local library. Such donations are deductible. John says about $20 will cover the cost of the book plus postage.

For some information about the book, let’s just have it tell you about itself. The cover page, a good place to start, says this:

“James and Ann [Alexander], born around 1700 or shortly after, may be original American colonists or may have been born in the colonies. The story follows four of their sons, James, John, David, and Robert, and their only daughter, Eleanor, from the earliest-discovered records several generations toward the present.”

Here is some very brief information about these children that might help you determine whether any of these lines are of special interest to you …

  • James Alexander, son of James and Ann, was probably born about 1730 in the colonies. He appeared in the Anson, Rowan and Tryon records, and ultimately lived in Spartanburg County, SC. His wife was named Mary, MNU. He had four children of whom John is fairly certain, perhaps more. John identifies the four as James Jr., Matthew, William and Thomas. Matthew and William went to Logan County, KY, while most of the family remained in Spartanburg.
  • John Alexander, son of James and Ann, also born circa 1730, married Rachel Davidson and moved to the area that became Buncombe County, NC. Their four proved children were James, Ann, Mary and Thomas.
  • David Alexander, son of James and Ann, was born about 1736-37. He married Margaret Davidson (also spelled Davison) in Rowan County in 1762. They lived in Pendleton District, SC. David’s 1795 will (proved 1795, Anderson Co., SC, filed in Will Book c: 77) named his children Anne Gotcher, Jane Moore, David Alexander, Margaret Davis, Catherine Brown, Ellenor Read, James Alexander, Elizabeth Woods, John Alexander, William Morrison Alexander, and Ruth Alexander. 
  • Eleanor Alexander, the only daughter of James and Ann, married Samuel Rankin in Rowan County about 1760. The Rankins and their children lived in Lincoln (later Gaston) and Mecklenburg counties, North Carolina. Four of their ten children migrated to Rutherford County, TN and Shelby County, IL.
  • Robert Alexander, the youngest child of James and Ann, appeared in Rowan, Tryon, and Lincoln county records. He served in the Revolutionary War and was a Justice of the Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions in Lincoln County, where he died. His first wife was Mary Jack; his will names his wife Margaret, MNU. His children (not necessarily in birth order) were Lilly, Ann, Robert J., Polly, Margaret, Elisa, Evalina and Charity Amanda

For the record, James and Ann had a fifth son, their eldest, William Alexander. Unfortunately, there are apparently no records that can be attributed to him with any degree of confidence after the 1750s.

The book also includes copies of many original records, photographs, and a discussion of Y-DNA analysis. Again, the best thing to do is to let the book tell you about itself. Here is the table of contents:

Preface and Dedication

Chapter 1: What They Knew

Chapter 2: The Genealogical Digging

Chapter 3: James (died 1753) Alexander and Ann

Chapter 4: James Alexander of Spartanburg County, SC

Chapter 5: The Alexander Family in Western Kentucky

Chapter 6: Henry County and Beyond

Chapter 7: James C.’s Fayette County Branch

Chapter 8: James Alexander Jr. and the East Tennessee Branch

Chapter 9: Thomas Alexander and Mary

Chapter 10: Other Alexander Kin, Parentage Not Certain

Chapter 11: Family of John and Rachel Davidson

Chapter 12: Family of David and Margaret Davidson

Chapter 13: Family of Eleanor and Samuel Rankin

Chapter 14: Family of Robert and Mary Jack

Appendix A: Pension Applications Of Matthew And Eleanor

Appendix B: Documents from Amy Riggs, Born Amy Gore

Appendix C: South Carolina Deeds, James of Spartanburg

Appendix D: Records Relating to James (died 1753) and Ann

Appendix E: Legal Documents Relating to the Death of William McMillin

Appendix F: Siddle Documents and the Alexanders in Robertson County

Appendix G: Descendants of James (d. 1753) and Ann

Appendix H: 19th Century Marriages in Western KY and Western TN

Appendix I: Deeds of Trust, William and James C. Alexander, 1847

Appendix J: SC Documents Relating to Thomas Alexander

Appendix K: Documents from James Alexander and Rhoda Cunningham

Appendix L: Documents Relating to Ann (Alexander) Craig

Appendix M: Wills of Samuel, Alexander and James Rankin

Appendix N: Published Histories that May Be Difficult fo Find

Appendix Y: YDNA and YDNA Testing

I plan to sit down with this book, one chapter at a time, and make sure that my own family history software reflects John’s information. If it doesn’t, then I have some work to do.


10 thoughts on “Alexander Family History: a “Must-Read””

  1. I thank Robin for recommending my book on Alexander family history, and I fervently hope that it helps Alexander and Rankin researchers determine their ancestral lines. My advice is, “Don’t accept my conclusion on a given person a bit more readily than you accept those of other biographers, but, instead, look at the references I provide and let them guide you to your own conclusion.”

    I must also state that Robin is too modest about her role in doing the research for the history. As I relate in the book, she and I collaborated many years ago on researching whether our lines joined at James and Ann and then rejoined forces recently when YDNA testing proved to an almost certainty that my ancestor had three brothers who matched James’s and Ann’s sons in name, approximate age, and location and when records showed that two of three matching men had very close ties to and were extremely likely brothers to James’s and Ann’s daughter. We had a friendly competition in searching out records, and she often beat me to them and pointed me in the right direction. Except for James’s and Ann’s offspring, she may not be in closer agreement with my conclusions than anyone else, but I can hope she agrees with most of them.

    I will bring up only two of the several cases where future investigators need to dig deeper than I have gone. The first is the question of whether Charles M. Alexander (wife, Darney Robinson) of North Carolina, Georgia-Alabama, and Texas belonged to our family as the son of Robert J. Alexander and Louisa Moore. The second is the confusion surrounding two men born the same year and buried in the same cemetery, John B. Rankin, who I was unable to assign to a family but maintain was not the son of William Rankin and Ann Moore, and John D. Rankin, who, from his wealth, a marriage record, and a child’s name, would be accepted as their son without doubt if an earlier Rankin biographer had not denied him that place. Finding and obtaining a YDNA test from a male-line descendant can answer the first question, but only digging and sorting and more digging and sorting has any hope of answering the second beyond reasonable doubt.

    Good digging!

    1. I’m looking again at John D. Rankin and John B. Rankin and haven’t found ANYTHING to change your conclusion that John D. Rankin was a son of William Rankin and Ann Moore. As you say, most Rankin researchers identify John D. Rankin as a son of Samuel Rankin Jr. and Mary (“Polly”) Doherty. NONE of Sam Jr.’s children, however, amassed a tenth of John D.’s extraordinary wealth.

      It’s time for me to order some microfilm of Lincoln/Gaston records and get my hands dirty again. Oh, please, don’t throw me in that briar patch …

  2. Do you happen to know anything of Alexanders that lived in York Co SC about 1794-1830? Hiram is my line, and so far, after many years of searching I still do not find parents for him. there is an Alexander family in the nearby county Union, SC as Angus Alexanderhis siblings and descendants. Angus also has a son named Hiram. Both of them went to Weakly Co TN My Hiram went to Henry, McDonough, GA and died there 1849 after being thrown from a horse.

    I don’t know if both Alexander families are cousins , related or ? Many people today link to the Union Co SC Alexanders, yet nothing from York Co SC.

    Thanks for any tips or leads, Cathy Hart Farris

    1. Cathy, I haven’t researched the York Co., SC Alexanders. Have you looked at the Alexander Family DNA Project online? It’s an excellent one. Their YDNA results page shows Alexanders grouped with identifying locations and sort of a tabular ancestor chart for each subgroup. The very first group (identified as the Lanarkshire, Scotland Alexanders) includes some men born in York Co. Also, two of the administrators — Floyd Owsley and Roger Alexander — are connected to a great many Alexander researchers and might be able to point you in the right direction. Here is a link to the Alexander project website:
      Good luck!

  3. Robin, I am interested in a John Alexander who appeared in Lincoln NC records with Francis Cunningham, of my family, along with a Joseph Rankin who is allegedly Samuel and your Elenor Alexander’s son. This John was son of the Francis Alexander who died 1760 in Carroll’s Delight MD and is buried with many of my family near Gettysburg PA in Lower Marsh Creek Cemetery. I descend through Francis C’ham’s older brother Paul who is in a list of Rowan NC deeds with James Alexander . Paul died in 1805 and is buried in Knoxville ,TN overlooking the river. He came there from Iredell/Rutherford NC area late 1780’s. I think John Alexander is buried in Lebanon Cemetery in Knox TN as well. In Lower Marsh Creek Cemetery also is a Jean Steele. And Francis C’ham also had a son named Steele as middle name. My C’ham dna is R-M269 with probable terminal SNP of R-Z255. I am using these allied families to get back into Northern Ireland because directly pertinent C’ham records are rare and any help would be greatly respected. I believe these people, mine and yours all came over from Donegal and Londonderry, Northern Ireland. They seemed to have had an affinity for “keeping things in the family” as so many cousins intermarried. My laptop is brimming with material and glad to share if you are interested. Thanks, Greg Cunningham.

    1. Greg, I’m going to email you on this interesting comment. I would like your permission to share your post with the best Alexander and Rankin researchers I know. Some may be able to help.

      My memory is that Francis Cunningham was connected to the Rankin family of Iredell County. James Rankin, a son of David and Margaret Rankin of Iredell, married a Miss Alexander (probably Susanna). He was killed at Ramsour’s mill, leaving four children. An Alexander uncle became their guardian, and Francis C’ham was connected somehow. I will check my records …

      I don’t recall that Samuel and Eleanor had a son Joseph (or at least he isn’t mentioned in an old family “tree,” and I couldn’t prove a son by that name). Again, will check records. Please let me know if you’re interested in a group discussion via email.

      Correction: my Lincoln Co. notes state that I believed Joseph Rankin to be a son of Samuel and Eleanor, although that was purely speculative. I couldn’t prove it.


      1. Robin, Yes please e-mail me any time. I too think these branches are connected somehow. Circumstantial as the evidence may be, there is too clear-cut a trail to deny. They literally seem to have migrated South together. I have only recently stumbled onto your blog so still trying to catch up. I did just read your take on the “Londonderry siege” and must direct your attention to some of those C’hams AND Rankins mentioned in apparently the same book as I have seen that all before.
        Alexander CUNNINGHAM, md. Mary RANKIN, 1681 ”
        Andrew and Mary CUNNINGHAM, 1682 ”
        John and Grizell CUNNINGHAM, 1705 ”
        John and Mary CUNNINGHAM, 1684 “, not to mention the signatories of the King address with James McCormack who most definitely connects to my Carruth line from Hanover PA>Coddle Creek area NC.
        I do think there have been multiple connections here even prior to their emigration. Thanks again and you are more than welcome to e-mail me at your convenience. I did subscribe and look forward to future posts. Greg

  4. I am looking into James Alexander b. 1813 in Abbeville County, SC. I have some DNA matches that might connect him to my Barmore family from the same place. I have emailed John but would welcome contact from others who have researched this individual.

  5. Hello, I just found this page while doing my own digging this evening and am enthralled by this compilation – thank you all SO much. Wow. I’d gotten stumped at John M. Alexander of Henry County, TN, born 1829. His son, Thomas Elum Alexander, I believe was born in Niangua, Webster County, MO. My great-grandmother, Alfreda Marie (Alexander) Sell, was his granddaughter. She had a restaurant on Route 66, and passed away in Niangua in 1993. I was born up the road in Lebanon, MO in 1990. I’ve always been curious how the Alexanders ended up in southern Missouri. The FindAGrave stuff I saw notes that John M. Alexander died in Niangua, but I see that his grave is in Henry County. Maybe that’s an error. Still have lots of digging to do! Many, many for all your hard work and for sharing this bounty of useful information. This was such a wonderful find. Regards, Lacey Hopkins

    1. Lacey, thanks for the kind words! I love it when a visitor finds something helpful.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *