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


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 book — primarily 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? There are several reasons.

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, which boasts a Revolutionary War soldier.[4] My experience is that Rev War soldiers produce many descendants, genuine or not. John’s line, on the other hand, also has Revolutionary War veterans, but 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 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 (who died in 1747 in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania) and John (who died in 1749, also in Lancaster) were brothers. Y-DNA has conclusively disproved that part of the legend. There are other parts of the legend worth pursuing, though, and I’ve been down several trails for that purpose.

It has not been easy to find descendants of Adam to test. Another Rankin researcher and I recruited four different Rankin men from Adam’s line to YNDA test. These were not people we found willy-nilly on Ancestry trees. 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 in Adam’s line, evidently.

Fortunately, two Rankin project members are Adam’s descendants. However, the Rankin DNA Project really needs to test other Adam descendants to have confidence in a Y-DNA profile for that important line. In addition, the Project has two members whose paper research convincingly traces back to Adam. Neither one has the surname Rankin, and neither one has been able to find a distant Rankin cousin who will test. Thus, I remain on the trail of Adam’s line on their behalf.

I have also written often about Adam’s line simply because it has produced some memorable characters. E.g., Confederate Brigadier General Adam Rankin “Stovepipe” Johnson was a legend in the Civil War who had a son and grandson who became professional baseball players.[5] Stovepipe was Adam’s great-great grandson. There was also a Rankin Presbyterian minister whose life was consumed by an obscure theological issue.[6] Have you ever heard of the “Psalmody” controversy? Neither had I.  That Rev. Rankin was Adam’s grandson. Adam also had a grandson whose migration west through 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 this 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 to correct mis-identified Rankins.[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] Further, 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 research producing conclusions that I wanted to share in this forum.

Not surprisingly, the most frequently read Rankin articles on this 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.

*   *   *   *   *   *  

[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.

7 thoughts on “Adam Rankin who died 1747 in Lancaster Co., PA – AGAIN!”

  1. I am trying to verify parents for Louisa Rankin b. 1804 in KY. The following quote may be of help.
    The only written source I have is a quote from the Kansas United States Biographical .Dictionary about her son George Warren Wood (who was a State Representative in Kansas. “His mother’s maiden name was Levico Rankin, a niece of Rev. John Rankin, distinguished as a pioneer in the cause of freedom and a daughter of James Rankin a soldier in the Revolution.”
    Tha James Rankin b 1770 would seem to be the uncle of The Rev John .Rankin but doubt he would have fought at age five or six. Anyone have light to shed on this?

    1. Carla, I will check my notes and get back to you via email.The only Rev. John Rankin I know lived in Ripley, Ohio and came from the family of Rankins from Jefferson Co, TN. His house was a way station on the underground railroad. Bur “Levico” sounds familiar. Are Levico and Louisa b. 1804 in KY the same woman?

  2. Yes, they seem to be the same person. I have been assuming the reference was to Rev John Rankin of Ripley. I have a feeling that Willis Wood her husband was likely involved in the Underground Railroad in Indiana as well as Caleb Jessup whose son my Harriet married, Elijah Jessup.
    Thanks for seeing what you might have.

    1. Carla, I’m afraid I don’t have any information about Louisa/Levisa Wood’s parents. What I DO have is that Willis Wood’s parents were Isaac Wood and Hannah Rankin of Harrison County, KY. Evidence: the death certificate for Willis Wood in Owen Co., Indiana identifies his parents as “Isaac Wood” and “H. Rankin.” Also, there is a marriage bond for Isaac Wood and Hannah Rankin, who were married 31 Dec 1808 in Harrison Co., KY.

      The Harrison County Rankins are from the line of David and Jenette McCormick Rankin of Frederick Co.,VA. One of David and Jenette’s sons, David (Jr.), married Hannah Provence. They moved to Washington Co., PA and then to Harrison Co., KY. I believe your Hannah Rankin Wood is the granddaughter of David (Jr.) and Hannah Provence, but I’m not sure which of their sons was Hannah’s father!

      I realize that isn’t anything like what you asked … and I may have just confused things. I just kept looking until I found a Rankin. YDNA says that the Harrison County Rankins aren’t related to the line of Rev. John Rankin of Ripley, Ohio, who came from Jefferson Co., TN.

      Happy hunting and thanks for your comment!

  3. Some helpful information I will follow up on. Many were named Willis Wood.
    My ancestor was Willis Wood (1796) who married Louisa Rankin. His father was George Wood (1759). He had a son Isaac (1787) who married Hannah Rankin (1788). Timewise the next Willis Wood was born 1819 son of Isaac and Hannah. Next (1837-1868) Willis G. Wood son of willis and Louisa. Next (1855-1910) Willis L Wood son of George Rankin (1827-1884) .who was a son of Willis and Louisa. Next (1878) Willis A Wood son of Lycyrgus H Wood (1833-1893) who was a son of Willis and Louisa. I share some DNA with some descendents of Hannah Rankin and Isaac Wood but they were not sure of parents for Hannah.

  4. Hi my name is Dennis Rankin and my from Canton, MS. M new to this website but boy, it’s great.
    My Father (I’m adopted to start with) was a descendant of Rev Adam by way of
    – Adam JR.
    – Theopholus (died Sarepta, MS 1912)
    – Joe Marcellus ( b. Saretpa , d. Wills point TX 1950)
    – Odie Marcellus – Dads father – (b Sarepta 1894, d. Canton MS 1968
    Several cousins are in the area. What would I need to provide from one of the cousins to enter them into the Rankin DNA? And would that be of any help in the quest?

    1. Dennis, welcome to the website! I hope you’ll “follow” it because more Rankin articles will follow.

      If you have a male cousin with surname Rankin, please ask him to Y-DNA test! It’s easy, not that expensive, and confidential. Join the Rankin DNA Project so that results (identified by kit number only) can be uploaded. The Rankin Project currently has only ONE descendant from Rev. Adam and could really use another!

      Google “Rankin DNA Project.” You will find email links to administrators. You can email me from there with any questions. I’ll be happy to help any way I can.

      Nice to meet you!

Leave a Reply

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