Some Virginia Winn families: a Holland connection

I’ve been organizing my files, a project I undertake whenever I’m overcome by guilt re: the mess I will leave behind if I’m hit by a bus. I persevere at this Sisyphean task until something mercifully diverts me.

Sorting through random paper yesterday, I ran across information I had collected on a colonial Holland family of Goochland, Hanover, and Amelia Counties, Virginia. My cryptic and somewhat snarky note about them implied that Winn researchers had not noticed the connection between these Hollands and the well-known Winn families of Hanover/Amelia/Lunenburg. I penned that note a couple of decades ago and it is probably no longer true, if it ever was. But it got me out of organizing my files to write this post, for which I am grateful.

The Winn context here is provided by Richard and Phoebe Wilkes Pledger Winn of Hanover County, Virginia. Richard’s family of origin is the subject of much speculation but no apparent evidence. He died about 1750. There is no extant will for him in Hanover, although he probably had one.[1] He did, however, own land and enslaved people located in Amelia which provided an essential link to establishing Richard and Phoebe’s family. Five children — there might be others — are established by excellent circumstantial evidence. I consider them all proved, although you might disagree.[2] I described the evidence in this article, so you may judge for yourself:

Here is a refresher on Richard and Phoebe’s five proved children, birth order unknown, just in case you’re new to them or have forgotten:

  1. Col. John Winn of Amelia County, whose wife was Susannah Irby, daughter of Charles Irby Senior. Col. John died in Amelia in 1781, leaving a will naming his children Richard, Jane, Charles, John, and Susannah.[3]
  1. Col. Thomas Winn of Lunenburg County, who was married twice. His first wife is usually identified as a Miss Bannister, although the only evidence I know is that the couple named a son Bannister Winn. Col. Thomas’s second wife and widow was Sarah, a genuine character who was almost certainly née Bacon.[4] Col. Thomas died in Lunenburg, also in 1781. His eleven children — including which ones were Miss Bannister’s and which were Sarah’s — are conclusively proved by a fabulous chancery lawsuit in Lunenburg.[5] I explained the lawsuit in this article.
  1. Daniel Winn, also of Lunenburg. His wife was probably Sarah Tench, about whom I know nothing except that she was a daughter of Henry Tench. Daniel died in Lunenburg in 1799 leaving nine sons and one daughter. His will named only his son Joseph, although his other children are established by gift deeds and a web of other convincing evidence.[6] His children are identified and the evidence concerning them described in this post.
  1. Susanna Winn, who married John Irby (also a child of Charles Irby Sr.) in Amelia in 1757. John Irby died in 1763, and his will identifies their young children as Charles, Lucey, and John Irby.[7] Susannah and two of the Irby children witnessed her brother Col. Thomas’s Lunenburg will.
  1. Phoebe Winn. And here, at last, is the Winn-Holland connection. Phoebe’s husband was Michael Holland Jr., son of Michael Holland Sr. of Hanover and Goochland Counties. Michael Jr. died in Amelia County in late 1762 or early 1763. Their only proved children were Joseph and Mary Holland. Both were established by a deposition concerning Michael’s estate.[8] Joseph is also proved in a deed in which he sold some of his father’s land. His mother Phoebe, identified as such in the deed, released her dower interest.[9]

And with that, I will add a brief chart for the family of Michael Holland Sr. of Hanover and Goochland, along with a few notes which (I hope) will help you track these guys if you wish.

See you on down the road.

Robin

1 Michael Holland Sr., wife Judith _______. They apparently lived in Hanover, although a will was probated in Goochland.[10] He amassed an enormous amount of land in Louisa, Goochland, and Hanover Counties, much of it on Licking Hole or Lickinghole Swamp or Creek. He died in early 1746/47.

2 John Holland, inherited 800 acres on Lickinghole. Died in 1773. Wife Martha _______. Seven children are named in his Goochland will.[11]

3 John Holland, b. by Oct 1746

3 Judith Holland Parish

3 Hezekiah Holland

3 Martha Holland Graves

3 Nathaniel Holland, inherited land on Little Bird Cr. in Goochland.

3 Lucy Holland

3 Alice Holland Nash

2 Michael Holland Jr., inherited 400 acres in Louisa Co. Born about 1695. Was in Goochland Co. in Aug 1752 when he bought 865 acres from Philip Pledger. Was in Nottoway Parish, Amelia Co., by 28 Mar 1755, when he sold some of that tract. Died in the 4th quarter of 1762 in Amelia County. His wife was Phoebe Winn, sister of Col. John of Amelia, Col. Thomas of Lunenburg, Daniel Winn of Lunenburg, and Susannah Winn Irby of Amelia.

3 Joseph Holland

3 Mary Holland

2 Elizabeth Holland m. Pouncy Anderson; he inherited several tracts from his father-in-law.

2 Richard Holland, inherited a plantation in Louisa Co. and “Meridith’s Branch” in Henrico, where he lived as of Oct 1746, probably 500 acres and 450 acres, respectively.

2 George Holland, inherited 700 acres in Louisa Co., plus another 650 acres, location uncertain. Wife Sarah Ford, daughter of William Ford. Michael Sr. had to leave this large legacy to George Holland to assure that Mr. Ford would give Sarah a legacy.

2 Judith Holland m. Henry Martin, inherited 520 acres on Lickinghole plus 50 acres in Hanover a half-mile below the plantation where Michael Holland Sr. lived.

2 Anne Holland, under age in Oct 1746.

2 Susannah Holland, under age in Oct 1746.

2 Mercy Holland, under age in Oct 1746.

                  [1] There are few Hanover Co. records prior to 1865.

                  [2] Professional genealogical proof standards are relaxed somewhat when burned records result in the loss of primary conclusive evidence, such as Hanover County wills.

                  [3] Amelia Co., VA Will Book 2: 360. Will of John Winn of Amelia County dated 3 Mar 1780, proved 25 Jan 1781. Daughter Susanna when she reaches age 18 or marries, 7 slaves of equal value to those given daughter Jane Epes before her marriage. Son Richard Winn, 2 years after my death, 2 slaves (for support of wife until delivery). Wife Susanna, possession of dwelling house and sufficient maintenance out of my estate. Sons John and Charles Winn, remainder of my estate divided equally 1 year after death. Wife Susanna Winn, executrix, and Truman Epes and Charles Winn, executors. Witnesses: Giles Nance, John Irby, William Gooch, Elisha Winn, Joseph Winn, and Jane Epes. Charles and John qualified as executors.

            [4] Lunenburg Co., VA Deed Book 25: 82, agreement dated 16 Mar 1820 between Edmund Winn (son and executor of Col. Thomas), Sarah Winn (Col. Thomas’s widow), and John Winn Jr. providing that Edmund would build a house for John Jr. on land where Edmund lives. The land belonged to Edmund’s mother Sarah for her lifetime, then descended to Bannister Winn, a son of Col. Thomas. However, John Jr. had bought the remainder interest in the land from Bannister Winn’s heirs. Edmund and his mother Sarah agreed not to deprive John Jr. of use of a certain part of the said tract. Edmund was expressly not bound for his mother’s conduct, only his own. I’m not sure who “John Jr.” is, probably either the son of John Winn m. Ann Stone or the son of Daniel.

            [5] Col. Thomas Winn’s children by his first wife were Mourning, Elizabeth, Thomas, Richard, William, Bannister, and John Winn (who predeceased his father). His children by Sarah Bacon were Keturah, Henrietta Maria (AKA Marie), Edmund, and Washington.

                  [6] Lunenburg Co., VA Will Book 4: 264, will of Daniel Winn dated 23 Apr 1789, proved 14 Feb 1799. After payment of debts, remaining estate to son Joseph, other children already provided for. Daniel’s children were Marticia (wife of Cornelius Crenshaw Jr.), Joseph, John, Thomas, Elisha, Alexander, Orsamus, William, James, and Galanus.

            [7] Amelia Co., VA Will Book 2X: 45, will of John Irby dated 28 Jan and proved 27 Oct 1763. Witnesses Thomas Wilkinson, William Fitzgerald, Mary Irby, and Henrietta Maria Irby. Executors Susannah Irby, “her brother John Winn,” and my brother Charles Irby. Wife Susanna Irby, 15 slaves and personal estate until the eldest child is 21 or wife remarries, then an equal division between my wife and children Charles Irby, Lucey Irby, and John Irby. Sons John and Charles, 560-acre tract where I live divided equally when son Charles comes of age or marries. Wife to have manor house and 1/3rd of land for life.

            [8] The deposition suggests that Michael Holland may have had more than two children, although I can only prove two.Amelia Co., VA Deed Book 8: 314, deposition signed 3 Jan 1764 by John Nance repeating Michael Holland’s stated intent to give his daughter Mary two enslaved women and his son Joseph two enslaved men, and identifying Michael Holland’s wife’s brother as Mr. Winn. Holland also said his family was so large that he “wished his children could go for themselves.”

                  [9] Amelia Co., VA Deed Book 9: 105, deed dated 26 Feb 1767 from Joseph Holland of Nottoway Parish, Amelia, to Charles Irby, same, 118 acres in Raleigh Parish adjacent Winn’s line et al. Phoebe, the mother of Joseph Holland, released dower.

            [10] Michael Sr.’s Hanover will, if any, is probably lost. Benjamin B. Weisiger, III, Goochland County, Virginia Wills and Deeds 1742-1749 (Richmond: 1984) 222, will of Michael Holland dated 10 Oct 1746, proved 17 Mar 1746/47. Wife Judith, 800 acres in Louisa County and 800 acres on Lickinghole Cr. Son John Holland, 800 acres on Lickinghole. Son Michael, 400 acres in Louisa bought from Craddock. Son-in-law Pouncy Anderson, 900 acres on Lickinghole and 200A bought from William Owen and other land. Son Richard, the plantation in Louisa County and “Meridith’s Branch” in Henrico where he now lives, 500 acres and 450 acres. Son George, 700 acres in Louisa County and other land. Son-in-law Henry Martin, 520 acres on Lickinghole plus 50 acres in Hanover, 1/2 mile below the plantation where Michael Sr. lived. Daughters Anne, Susannah and Mercy when of age or married. Daughters Elizabeth Anderson and Judith Martin. Grandson John Holland, the son of John, 500 acres in Orange County.  Executors Henry Martin, Pouncy Anderson and Richard Holland. Witness John Martin, John Parrish, John Sandland.

            [11] Goochland Deed & Will Book 10: 378, will of John Holland dated 7 Jun and proved Sep 1773. Wife Martha. Children John Holland, Judith Parish, Hezikiah Holland (female), Martha Graves, Nathaniel Holland, Lucy Holland, and Alice Nash. Son Nathaniel inherited land on Little Bird Cr.

 

A weird genealogy problem: location fixation error

This is a cautionary tale about being too invested in a particular fact. In my case, the culprit is usually location. If you are convinced Prince Charming lived and died in Perry County, Alabama, you may miss him popping up in Ouachita County, Arkansas. I have made the location fixation error several times, most recently in the case of a Quaker Loyalist from York County, Pennsylvania.

Specifically, I am talking about John Rankin Jr., one of the three sons of John Sr. and Ann ______ Rankin Niblet/Niblit.[1] My last post told the three brothers’ stories. All three were “attainted of treason” in Pennsylvania and fled York County to save their necks during the Revolution, first to Philadelphia then to New York City. Two of the brothers — William and James — wound up in England.

The third brother, John Jr., went to Canada. His “memorial,” i.e., his request for compensation for losses he sustained because he supported the British, mentioned that he had gone to Pennsylvania for “trading” in about 1785. He stated he returned to New Brunswick, and I concluded he died there. An excellent researcher in this family concurred, so I felt comfortable with that conclusion.

Too comfortable. I now believe John Jr. died in Pennsylvania between 1808 and 1810, although I found no estate records. Of course, it is possible he returned to Canada or relocated elsewhere.[2] If so, I would be completely wrong about the same person twice, which isn’t easy to do.

Here’s how the evidentiary trail unfolded.  At any point along the way, the obvious should have become obvious — but for my certainty that John Jr. never lived in Pennsylvania after the Revolution.

The first clue was a 1790 York County deed conveying a one-third interest in four tracts in Newberry Township, York County. The Rankin brothers lived there before the Revolution broke out. That deed was a conveyance from John Sr.’s widow Ann to some John Rankin.[3] Convinced that Ann’s son John Jr. was in Canada, I guessed that the grantee was Ann’s proved grandson John, son of William and Jane Rhodes Rankin — John Jr.’s nephew. The deed described John the grantee as residing in West Chester, Goshen Township, Chester County. It made no sense to me for a convicted traitor to return home to face possible execution, especially since the conventional wisdom was that John died in Canada.

In hindsight, how could I have been so blind? William and Jane Rhodes Rankin had eight children, seven of whom remained in Pennsylvania.[4] Why on earth would Ann pick out only one of those grandchildren for her largesse? Worse, note that Ann conveyed a one third interest in the four tracts to John: who do you suppose the other 2/3rds may have been intended for? Gee, were there by any chance three Rankin brothers having some association with Newberry Township, York County?

Duh. What can I say.

Second, I was doing what Jessica “Gams” Guyer and I call a “blitzkrieg” through the deed records of Chester County, trying to find information on several mysterious Rankins who left tracks there. I ran across some Chester deeds executed during 1792-1803 in which a John Rankin of West Chester, along with his wife Abigail, conveyed land. As you know if you read the prior post about the three Loyalist brothers, John Rankin Jr. married Abigail Rhodes  in 1760.

Those deeds finally aroused a niggling suspicion that I had stumbled across one of the Loyalist Rankins, despite his conviction for treason. I gave short shrift to my suspicion, however. Instead, I again focused on the other John Rankin, the son of William and Jane Rhodes Rankin. “Abigail” was a popular Rhodes name, so it seemed conceivable to me that John Jr.’s nephew John coincidentally had a wife named Abigail.

At this point, I remembered Rule 1: coincidences in genealogy are rare as hen’s teeth.

Belatedly, I consulted Google to learn whether Pennsylvania pardoned Loyalists convicted of treason. And, if so, when.

I didn’t find whether there was ever a general pardon. Instead, I found a 1905 article about five men who were specifically exonerated by the Supreme Executive Council of Pennsylvania, which was charged with considering pardon requests.[5] Here is what it says about John Rankin:

“The last member of this group [of five men] was John Rankin, who settled at the conclusion of the war in the Quaker colony at Pennfield, N. B. [New Brunswick], the lands of which he helped to select, being one of the three agents sent from New York City by an association of Pennsylvania Quakers for the purpose. The vicissitudes which this colony passed through in 1787 and the years just following served to disperse many of the settlers at Pennfield, among them being John Rankin, whose petition must have expressed a deep desire of his heart, when he asked to be restored to the rights of citizenship in Pennsylvania. The Council acceded to his prayer on March 9, 1790.”

It’s not hard to imagine the “deep desire of his heart” that might have swayed the Council to restore John Jr.’s citizenship. His mother was still living in York County in 1790. She must have been about eighty, since her three sons were probably born in the 1730s.[6] John Jr.’s wife Abigail had family in the area as well, including her sister Jane Rhodes Rankin and her children, who had been left behind in Pennsylvania when Jane’s husband William Rankin fled Pennsylvania. Two of James Rankin’s children also still lived in Pennsylvania in 1790.[7]

The vicissitudes of the Quaker Colony at Pennfield in 1787 undoubtedly contributed to the family’s yearning for home. I didn’t do sufficient research to learn much about their troubles, although I read that they were desperately poor and initially supported by contributions from family and friends. I also found a document signed by the Pennfield residents agreeing not to own enslaved persons.[8] John Rankin Jr.’s original signature is included, as is his nephew Abraham’s, a son of John’s brother James.

If I were weaving a story about John, I would have him returning to Pennsylvania in 1788 or 1789 and staying with friends or relatives until his petition was granted. John was not nearly as prominent as his brothers James and William, and after the passage of so much time — John fled Pennsylvania in 1778 — it is unlikely that anyone who hadn’t been close to the family would have recognized them.[9] Surely John and Abigail would have been reasonably safe if they stayed a fair distance from their former residence, which they did: they settled in West Chester, about 70 miles east of their former home in York County, on the other side of the Susquehanna River.

In any event, it didn’t take long after the March 1790 pardon for the Rankins to start making tracks in the records. In June 1790, John bought a 99-acre tract in West Chester. The metes and bounds description of the tract is tortuous, but it is adjacent at some points to High Street and Church Street, both of which run roughly north-south through the middle of town, and Gay Street, which runs east-west.[10] The historic Chester County Courthouse is located on what was probably once John Rankin’s tract. It is bounded by those three streets.

In November 1790, his mother Ann granted John Jr. the undivided one third part of four tracts in Newberry Township, York County.[11] Beginning in May 1792, John began selling town lots and other tracts in West Chester. Because of her dower right, the law required his wife Abigail to acknowledge any conveyance.[12] Three of the tracts John and Abigail sold were identified as town lots on High Street or the south side of Gay Street.

John may be, and most likely is, the John Rankin listed in the 1790 census in Goshen Township, Chester County.[13]The family was likely also enumerated in the 1800 census for Goshen Township in the household adjacent to his nephew Abraham Rankin, who had also been a member of the Pennfield Colony.[14]

Abigail died sometime between 1803, when she acknowledged a sale of land, and 1808, when she was no longer named in a conveyance by John.[15] He probably died by 1810, when he was no longer listed in the census. I would guess he was in his mid to late 70s. I identified only one son, Rhodes Rankin, who I was unable to trace, and two daughters, given names unknown. A descendant of James Rankin identified three sons, although I don’t know their names.

I am still looking for a living male Rankin descendant of the York County Loyalists who might be willing to Y-DNA test. A descendant speculates that John Rankin Sr. had roots in Scotland, which would make the family a solid bet to match one of the existing Rankin DNA Lineages. If you find a male Loyalist descendant with the Rankin surname, please swab his cheek. I’ll pay for the DNA testing, but you are on your own for any legal fees.

See you on down the road.

Robin

                  [1] Ann Rankin, birth surname unproved, married Abraham Noblit after John Rankin Sr. died.

                  [2] I would wager a small sum that John did not return to Canada. If you have evidence that he died there and will share it in a comment, I will publish a post naming you the blog’s Family History Wizard of the year. “Many internet trees” saying John died in Canada do not constitute evidence.

            [3] York Co., PA Deed Book 2G: 81, Ann Noblit, widow of Newberry Twp., to John Rankin of Goshen Twp., Westchester Co. (sic, Goshen Township was in Chester County; the town of West Chester was in Goshen Township), an undivided 1/3rd part of 4 tracts in Newberry Twp.: (1) 100 acres granted to William Rankin in 1762, he sold it to Ann in 1775; (2) 75.5 acres granted to Wm Baxter who sold it to Ann in 1770; (3) 100 acres granted to James Rankin in 1762, who sold it to Ann in 1770; and (4) 100 acres in Newberry Twp. that Ann bought in 1765.

                  [4] York Co., PA Deed Book 3B, deed dated 17 June 1816 naming all the heirs and parties in interest of Jane (Rhodes) (Rankin) Walker, “late widow of William Rankin dec’d.” The deed recited the names of eight children and their locations: (1) James Rankin of Missouri Territory, (2) John Rankin of Newberry Twp., (3) William Rankin of Philadelphia County, (4) Nathan Potts of Newberry Twp. and wife Ann (Rankin) Potts, (5) William Webb of Abington Twp., Montgomery Co., and wife Abigail (Rankin) Webb, (6) Jesse Walker of Wayne Co. and wife Catharine (Rankin) Walker, (7A and 7B), grandchildren, Thomas Robinson and wife Anna and Charles Branson, all of Chester Co., two children of Jane Rankin Walker’s daughter ________ Rankin Branson), and (8) Isaac Walker and wife Mary (Rankin) Walker of Washington Co.

            [5] Wilbur H. Siebert, “The Loyalists of Pennsylvania” (Columbus, OH: Ohio State University, 1905. Available online at this link.

                  [6] James Rankin’s London tombstone says that he was born in 1730. My hunch, based on no evidence whatsoever, is that James was the eldest son.

                  [7] See Note 4 for the children of William and Jane Rhodes Rankin. THe children of James and Rebecca Bennett Rankin who remained in Pennsylvania when James fled were Abraham Rankin (who wound up in Pennfield Colony with John Jr.) and Ann Rankin Nebinger, wife of George Nebinger. James and Rebecca Rankin’s son John died in York County in 1785.

                  [8] Here is the document with John’s signature.

            [9] John Rankin’s “memorial” included an estimate of the value of the estate which he possessed as of 18 March 1778. John’s Memorial begins at image 65 of 235 in this link.

                  [10] Chester Co., PA Deed Book E2: 478 and Deed Book W2: 324.

                  [11] I don’t know what became of that York County land. I need to persuade Gams to ransack the York County courthouse and any county genealogical societies.

                  [12] Other than two Quaker records, I have no information on Abigail Rhodes Rankin other than her deed acknowledgments. Thank goodness for the dower right.

                  [13] The 1790 census entry is 1-1-3-0-0, meaning 1 male 16 or over (John), 1 male < 16, and three women of indeterminate ages, one of whom should be Abigail. John and Abigail had two daughters. If I were continuing to weave a story about this family, I would make one of the women in the 1790 census record a widowed daughter and the remaining male and female her children.

                  [14] The entry for John Rankin in 1800 in Goshen, Chester Co. was 10001-00101, putting John and Abigail in the “over 45” category, with a female age 16 – 26 and a male less than 10. Abraham Rankin, in the adjacent household, was listed as 20010-1001, with the two adults in the age 26 < 45 category and 3 children less than age 10.

                  [15] Chester Co., PA Deed Book W2: 324, deed dated 8 Mar. 1803, John Rankin and wife Abigail of West Chester, tract on the south side of Gay Street, one acre; Deed Book C3: 109, deed dated March 29, 1808, John Rankin of West Chester, conveyance without mention of wife Abigail.

Schemes to quell the Revolution, buried treasure, horses in canoes, and more

Imagine a Pennsylvania Tory writing about his plan to kidnap the Continental Congress. The same man proposed several other schemes to “suppress the Rebellion,” some almost plausible. One of his Tory brothers reportedly buried gold coins and other loot before he fled the country, then made a royal pain of himself seeking restitution in London. And, of course, there were the horses in canoes.

But I’m getting ahead of their stories. Here’s the Cliff Notes version …

There were three brothers in York County, Pennsylvania in the late colonial period: William, James (1730-1803), and John (Jr.) Rankin.[1] They were sons of John Rankin (Sr.) and his wife Ann.[2] They owned a lot of Pennsylvania land and lived high-profile public lives. They were Quakers. Each man was married with children. They became Tories, i.e., Loyalists who supported Great Britain during the Revolution. All were “attainted of high treason” and fled to Canada and England to save their necks. One of them left his wife and eight children behind in Pennsylvania. Each man asked the Crown to compensate him for the loss of his estate, which had been confiscated by Pennsylvania.

The information I have about the Tory Rankins is primarily from their “Memorials” — requests for restitution to the British Commission handling Loyalists’ claims. Images of the original Memorials are available online.[3]

William (d. before 1816)

William was a Justice of the York County Court of Pleas & Quarter Sessions by at least 1771.[4] He was the commander of the Second Battalion of York County militia, holding the rank of Colonel.[5] He was a representative to the Pennsylvania Assembly.[6] His wife was Jane Rhodes, a Quaker, with whom he had three sons and five daughters.[7] He claimed about 2,500 acres of his land in Pennsylvania were confiscated,[8] including a one-third interest owned with his brothers in the “Middletown Ferry.”[9]

William claimed he was originally a staunch supporter of redress for the Colonies against British oppression. He never resigned his commission in the militia. This required some artful tap-dancing when he made his request for restitution. He explained that he changed his mind about supporting the Colonies after what he considered a generous offer by the British to redress grievances, plus his growing perception that the colonists’ objective was complete independence. That was presumably plain by July 1776, even on the Pennsylvania frontier. He would immediately have resigned his commission, he said, except that he was persuaded he might help the British more if he retained command of the militia.

He concluded that was wise, because the militia was soon ordered to destroy the estates of certain Tories in York County. He claims to have carried out the order in some manner that protected the endangered estates.[10] Gary, the military expert in the family, is skeptical — how does one manage that? “Yeah, we burned ’em to the ground, but please don’t go look.”

By 1778, William was making regular proposals to Sir General Henry Clinton after the British captured Philadelphia. The Continental Congress fled Philadelphia, initially to Lancaster, Pennsylvania. They then went to York, where they met in the York County courthouse, virtually under William’s nose. He proposed kidnapping the entire delegation and delivering them as prisoners of war to Philadelphia.[11] Rankin claimed the delegation was guarded by “not more than forty invalids.” The delegation itself was small: by the time it was meeting in York, a mere eighteen delegates were attending.[12]

His strategy was sound, says Gary. Washington’s army was then in camp at Valley Forge. The Susquehanna, rendered unfordable by the spring thaw, lay between Valley Forge and the York courthouse. William proposed taking the captured delegation south to the Chesapeake and delivering the prisoners to a British frigate, presumably a bit north of Baltimore (controlled by the Patriots). The British Navy controlled the Bay.

For reasons William couldn’t fathom, General Clinton did not endorse the plan. Could Clinton have smelled a trap? After all, Rankin was still a Colonel in the York County militia and a member of the Pennsylvania General Assembly in the spring of 1778. Also, Clinton believed — probably correctly — that British efforts should concentrate on defeating General Washington’s army. But Gary would have given the kidnap scheme a thumbs up.

William said he was so demoralized by the rejection of his proposal that he thought about giving up on helping defeat the Revolution. He was persuaded otherwise by a message from Joey Galloway, who had been an influential member of the First Continental Congress but became an opponent of American independence.[13] Galloway, who was the Philadelphia Chief of Police after the British captured the city, encouraged William to continue expanding “the Associators,” a group of Loyalists who took oaths to the Crown and reported to William.

Another scheme of William’s was supported by some in the King’s army. The main supply magazine for Washington’s army was located about midway between York and Carlisle, within spitting distance of William’s residence. It contained substantial stores of beef, pork, gunpowder, guns, and the like. Here, however, Rankin’s tendency to exaggerate and his inevitable request for British help probably doomed the proposal. He claimed that the supply magazine was guarded by 600 people, of whom 400 were “Associators.” Further, he asked for a detachment under British Col. Butler, then in Detroit, to come to Pennsylvania to join up with the Associators, who would seize the depot. Gen. Clinton agreed to the proposal, said William, except he declined to order Butler from Detroit to Pennsylvania.[14] The plan never happened, although it’s hard to understand why the British did not try to capture the supply depot themselves.

The Patriots finally noticed William. In March 1781, he was put in the York Town jail. With the help of friends, he escaped and fled to New York. There, he gave Gen. Clinton a “full account” of the Associators. He claimed a force of the Associators could “put the three provinces of Maryland, Pennsylvania & the Delaware Counties into the peace of the Crown.” Rankin needed only a small detachment of British soldiers and supplies of arms and ammunition for the Associators. Like William’s other proposals, that never took place.

Nevertheless, William persisted. Ultimately, he claimed some 20,000 Associators under his command. By contrast, there were never more than 48,000 men in the Continental Army at any one time.[15] Surely, either William knowingly exaggerated or he was unrealistic.

Gen. Clinton privately expressed his opinion that Col. Rankin was “not much of an officer … but he appears to be a plain sensible man worth attending to.”[16] Perhaps weary of William’s proposals, Clinton sent him to Virginia in May 1781 to present his plans to Gen. Phillips. However, Phillips had died and been replaced by Cornwallis by the time William arrived. Cornwallis also declined to implement any of William’s proposals. One of them required sending a detachment of British troops up the Chesapeake to rescue “upward of 150” Associators who had been betrayed and imprisoned in Maryland.

However, William arrived when Cornwallis was fresh from his purported victory against General Nathaniel Greene’s band of mostly backwoods farmers at Guilford Courthouse in March 1781.[17] The British suffered heavy losses in that battle, prompting a member of Parliament to exclaim that they could not afford any more such victories. Cornwallis cannot have been inclined to use his exhausted forces to rescue some of Col. Rankin’s friends in Maryland.

Having no luck with Cornwallis, William returned to New York. When the British evacuated in November 1783, he went to England, where he lived on a pension of £120 a year and was awarded £2,320 to cover the loss of property confiscated by Pennsylvania.[18]

His mother Ann Noblet helped support William’s wife Jane and eight children during his exile, creating a trust for their use and funding it with land given her by her late husband Abraham Noblet.[19] There doesn’t seem to be a Find-a-Grave memorial for William in London, although he lived in Mill Hill, Hendon Parish, in the County of Middlesex. So did his brother James. His children all remained in America at least through 1816.[20]

James (1730 – 1803)

James was also a delegate in the Pennsylvania General Assembly back when his focus was apparently on acquiring land. When the revolutionary unpleasantness began, he said he “set his face like a Flint” and openly and actively opposed “every measure and step taken by the Seditious leaders.”[21] James claims he broke up “a public Election to constitute a new fangled rebel Provincial Assembly which the populace had conveined [sic] for the purpose … by appearing in person … pointing out to them the illegality of their proceedings and absolutely forbidding them to proceed on pain of having the Court House in which they were then assembled leveled about their Ears.”

Not surprisingly, he says he “soon became the object of Popular outrage and suffered not only every insult hurtful to the feelings of an honest Man and a Man of Spirit but real Injury of his Property and was moreover hourly exposed to emminent [sic] Danger of his person from being considered as the most mischievous Character to the Cause in the part of the Country where he resided.”

His brother John’s Memorial, however, says James “never took any part one side or other,” suggesting that James may not have been the most mischievous character in the area. Or perhaps John Jr. had an agenda: James expressed contempt for his brother in a submission to the Commission, saying John “was never worth £200 in his life.”

In addition to breaking up the election at the York court house, James helped some British soldiers who were imprisoned in York. One of them, a Lieut. Robert Chase, swore that James “always assisted us … for which he fell under the displeasure both of the Committee appointed to sit at York Town as well as the Committee of Safety at Philadelphia.” James was soon sent to jail. He escaped and fled with his family to the British lines in September 1777. From there, he went to Nova Scotia and then to England.

His real work began in earnest in England: convincing the Commission evaluating Loyalists’ claims to pay him more than £74,000 in Pennsylvania currency for his real and personal property. That was then equivalent to £44,000 British sterling. His estate included twenty-two farms and plantations, a fishery, two ferries, a mill, and “seven Negroes.” He was asking for roughly $105,000,000 in today’s U.S. dollars.

He stayed busy in his own behalf. He had (back in the Colonies) boarded a British ship in Chesapeake Bay to ask Lt. Chase to provide evidence of his help to the British prisoners in York. He sought witnesses and dug up old facts — e.g., an arbitration property valuation in 1768 — to bolster his case. He testified to the Commission in person, when (he said) they were “candid” about their view of his claims. One gathers they expressed some skepticism.

Mostly, he bombarded the Commission with letters about his claim. Frankly, he sounds arrogant and entitled. He asked for a speedy hearing because his “allowance is inadequate for support of his family and obliges him to incur debts.” He noted that other claims filed after his had already been considered. He wrote about “a small estate he wants to buy if assured he would participate in the £178,000 granted by Parliament.” He wanted to know if he would come in for payments of 30 or 40% of the last grant for the Loyalists, whatever that means. When the Commission complained that James lacked proper deeds, his reply asked for “Mr. Penn” to testify on his behalf. I can’t figure out who that was, but he sounds like he might be a member of William Penn’s family.

In December 1788, James complained that the amount he had received thus far — £10,772 in total — was “not one half of the real loss” he suffered. The amount received is equivalent to about  £1,889,515.03 in 2013.[22] In 2024 US dollars, that is roughly $2.4 million, which is probably close enough, give or take a million, to explain why James exhausted the Commissioners’ patience.[23] James’s actual award was a substantial multiple of what many others received.[24]

The final straw was apparently James’s letter of 15 March 1790, asking if the Commissioners “had any news” for him about his claim. The Commission responded with asperity a mere two days later: “The Claimant’s case has already undergone a full ______ [unreadable] & the Commissioners have done everything in it which they consider themselves at liberty to do.” With apologies to Peter O’Toole in Becket, one could easily picture a Commissioner saying, “Will no one rid us of this meddlesome claimant?”[25] The documents in James’s file indicate that was his last exchange with the Commissioners.

My friend Jess “Gams” Guyer found an image of James’s will in the prerogative court at Canterbury. James named his wife Ann and eight children, but he probably had another son who had remained in York County and predeceased him. So far as I have found, three children never left Pennsylvania, one died in the West Indies, one may have returned to Canada from England, and four remained in England.[26] His widow Ann, birth name unknown, was either his second or third wife.[27] And that is all I have found about James Rankin.

John Jr.

Of the three brothers, John Jr. was the least successful financially. He left little information in either his Memorial or York County records. He was a militia Captain, although he doesn’t mention that in his Memorial.[28] His brother William was his agent in John’s claim before the Commission. The information in his Memorial was short and sweet; John claimed two pieces of real property and very little personalty. John said he was living on one of James’s farms at one time. John’s Memorial, bless his heart, identified both James and William as his brothers. I don’t know how much he was awarded for his claim, if anything.

John said that he, too, assisted the British prisoners in York, and thereby “brought upon himself the hatred and Resentment of the Rebels, was obliged to fly for refuge to the Kings Army then at Philadelphia, had his property real and personal sold and his Person proscribed and attainted by High Treason, and is now for Refuge in the Province of Nova Scotia.”

Specifically, John said he “joined the British in March 1778, and remained with them until the evacuation of New York.[29] He came to Annapolis [Canada] in 1783 and settled in New Brunswick.” He went back to Pennsylvania at least once, about 1785, for trading; he was the only one of the three brothers to return, so far as I know.

John’s wife was Abigail Rhodes, sister of his brother William’s wife Jane Rhodes. John and Abigail had three children: two daughters (given names unknown) and a son Rhodes Rankin, a mariner. John also identified himself as a mariner, stating in an affirmation that he owned a schooner named Rebeckah.[30]

Finally, the horses and the canoes: John Rankin Sr., the family patriarch

One of those hoary old histories of Pennsylvania families says that a John Rankin emigrated to Pennsylvania from England before 1735, probably from Yorkshire, and probably by 1730.[31] He is almost certainly the John Rankin who obtained a 1733 grant in what was then Lancaster County on a memorable waterway: Yellow Breeches Creek. The creek location establishes that John’s grant wound up in York County.

Some of the English Quakers, including John Rankin (Sr.), reportedly crossed the Susquehanna from east to west about midway between Lancaster and Carlisle in what is now Middletown, at the mouth of Swatara Creek.[32] That location subsequently became the site of the so-called “Middletown Ferry,” jointly owned by the three Tory brothers. Here’s the canoe story …

“Some of the English Quakers crossed the Susquehanna [in Middletown] as early as 1730.  Five years later a temporary road was opened on the York County side.  Thomas Hall, John McFesson, Joseph Bennett, John Heald, John Rankin and Ellis Lewis from Chester County, crossed the Susquehanna from the mouth of the Swatara, and selected lands on the west side of the river in the year 1732.  It has often been related of them, that when they arrived at the eastern bank of the river, and there being no other kinds of crafts than canoes to cross, they fastened two together, and placed their horses’ front feet in one canoe and the hind feet in another, then piloted the frail crafts, with their precious burden, across the stream by means of poles.”

Glad I didn’t have to help load the horses.

I don’t know anything else about John Sr. except that he died in 1748.[33]  That was the perfect time to insure that his estate administration would fall between the cracks, since York was created from Lancaster in 1748. I didn’t find his estate in either county.

Epilog

 I will be happy to share mostly verbatim transcriptions of the three Memorials with anyone who asks. Will also share my start on an outline descendant tree for this family, just in case someone has a yen to find a living male Rankin who might Y-DNA test.

See you on down the road.

Robin

                  [1] Birth and death dates are proved only for James Rankin, per his tombstone. Online trees show James as the eldest and William as the youngest, with no evidence that I have seen.

                  [2] Ann Rankin’s birth surname is usually given as either Brown or Moore, although I have found no evidence for either. John Rankin Jr. is proved as a son of John Sr. by a Quaker marriage record; John Rankin Jr.’s Memorial (request to the Crown for restitution) proves that James and William were his brothers; and Ann Rankin Noblit/Noblet is proved as William Rankin’s mother by deeds. In short, there is a wealth of evidence establishing the members of this Rankin family.

            [3] If you are interested in the originals, John Rankin Jr.’s Memorial begins at image 65 of 235 in this link. James Rankin’s Memorial begins at image 115 of 482 here. William Rankin’s Memorial can be found in the same link as James’s, beginning at image 234.

                  [4] York Co., PA Deed Book D: 374, 400, 523, all three deeds dated May 1771, each one acknowledged by the grantor before William Rankin, Justice.

                  [5] Colonel William Rankin is listed as commander of the Second Battalion, York Co. Militia here.

                  [6] William Rankin was reportedly a member of the Pennsylvania Assembly from Sept. 30, 1777 to June 27, 1778, see info here.

                  [7] The children of William and Jane Rhodes Rankin were James, John, William, Ann (m. Nathan Potts), Abigail (m. William Webb), Catharine (m. Jesse Walker), Mary (m. Isaac Walker) and a daughter who m. a Mr. Branson. York Co., PA Deed Book 3B: 312.

                  [8] William Rankin’s Memorial lists confiscated properties of about 2700 acres, including his one-third interest along with his brothers in the 300 acres with the Middletown Ferry. He removed a 220-acre tract called “Noblett’s Old Planation” from his claim, noting that his mother had claimed and taken possession of it. A deed proves his mother was Ann (Rankin) Noblett. See York Co., PA Deed Book 2I: 305, 1790 deed from Ann Noblet conveying a tract in trust for the use of Jane Rankin, identified as the wife of Ann’s son William Rankin.

      [9] History of York County, Pennsylvania, John Gibson, Editor (Chicago: F. A. Battey Publishing Co., 1886) 630. The Middletown Ferry, located in Newberry Township, opened in 1738. It was originally called Hussey’s Ferry.  The ferry obtained its present name and was licensed in 1760.

                  [10] The story is repeated in an online article in Encyclopedia.com, citing Carl Van Doren, Secret History of the American Revolution (New York: Viking Press, 1941), at this link.

            [11] William “sent a confidential message to the General [Clinton] proposing that if he would send a Frigate or two (& more would not be necessary) to receive them in the Cheasapeak, he would deliver to him every member of the Congress then sitting & directing the affairs of the Rebellion at the Town of York … he was in his own Mind perfectly convinced that the Attempt would be crowned with Success: Washington’s Army, the whole force of the Rebellion was then at the Valley Forge sixty miles distant from York, a river unfordable at that season lay between his army and York. The place where the frigate was proposed to receive the Congress was about forty miles from the place of their Capture. The associated Loyalists under my command, being reputable farmers of the Country, had provided themselves with horses, arms, & ammunition, & could have delivered the Congress in a few hours to the Captain of the Frigate, which might have been ordered to receive them.”

                  [12] The number of delegates meeting at the York courthouse comes from the Mt. Vernon  website. The reduced delegation nevertheless accomplished some important work, including drafting the Articles of Confederation.

                  [13] Here is an article about Galloway, an impressive character.

                  [14] Christopher Sower, a Pennsylvania Loyalist, told Gen. Clinton that if he would direct that Butler make a raid on the principal rebel supply depot, Rankin and his supporters could not only assist in this operation but could also arm themselves for future action. See this article. Sower was Clinton’s link to the Loyalists in the frontier counties of Lancaster, Northumberland, and York.

            [15] For information on the Continental Army, see article here.

                  [16] Gen. Clinton expressed his opinion of William Rankin in a letter to Gen. Phillips quoted here.

                  [17] The Battle of Guilford Courthouse was a Pyhrric victory for the British and probably the turning point in the Southern Campaign, see this article.

                  [18] See this article for William’s award from the Commission.

                  [19] York Co., PA Deed Book 2I: 305.

            [20] York Co., PA Deed Book 3B: 312, deed dated 17 Jun 1816 from the heirs of Jane Walker (Jane Rhoads Rankin Walker, William Rankin’s wife) to Michael Stormington. The heirs: (1) James Rankin of Missouri Territory; (2) John Rankin of Newberry Twp.; (3) William Rankin of Philadelphia Co.; (4) Nathan Potts of Newberry Twp. and wife Ann (Rankin) Potts; (5) William Webb of Abington Twp., Montgomery Co., and wife Abigail (Rankin) Webb; (6) Jesse Walker of Wayne Co. and wife Catharine (Rankin) Walker; (7A and 7B), two grandchildren, children of Jane Rankin Walker’s daughter ________ Rankin Branson, Thomas Robinson and wife Anna and Charles Branson, all of Chester Co., and (8) Isaac Walker and wife Mary (Rankin) Walker of Washington Co.

                  [21] Here is a link to original images of James’s “Memorial,” available with a subscription on Ancestry. It is undoubtedly also available free at FamilySearch.org, although I have not looked there. James’s claim begins at Image 116 of 482.

            [22] £10,000 sterling in 1788 is equivalent in purchasing power to about  £1,889,515 in 2013.

            [23] £1,889,515 sterling in U.S. dollars = $2,403,211. Wow.

            [24] A mere £1,700 was more than many others received, according to historian Maya Jasanoff. See this article.

            [25] Peter O’Toole said,  as King Henry II, “Who will rid me of this meddlesome priest?”  referring to Thomas Becket, played by Richard Burton in Becket.

                  [26] James’s likely eldest son John died in York in 1785; his son Abraham and daughter Ann Rankin Nebinger also probably remained in Pennsylvania. Son William died in Granada in 1820, see info here. Son James Jr. may have returned to Canada. I have no record of the remaining children — Richard, Rebecca, Mary, and a second son John — who may have remained in England.

                  [27] James’s first wife was Rebecca Bennett, named in a family history, see Mary Elizabeth Bennett Durand and Edward Durand, Bennett Family History: William Bennett and Grace Davis (married 1789), their ancestry and their descendants (apparently self-published at Hassell Street Press, 2021). Rebecca reportedly died in 1773. James’s Memorial says he had a wife with him in Nova Scotia after he left NYC in 1783, suggesting he remarried in either Pennsylvania or New York. His Find-a-Grave memorial identifies his widow as Ann, birth name unknown. The transcription of the tombstone says “his tomb is erected by his disconsolate widow as a tribute of respect to his memory and a token of affection to a most tender husband.” See Find-a-Grave memorial here.

                  [28]  Captain John Rankin, 2nd Company, Newberry Twp., 3d Battalion, York Co. militia.

                  [29] On November 25, 1783, Gen. Washington rode into New York City with nearly 800 American soldiers as the British forces evacuated.

                  [30] John Rankin’s statement about the schooner Susannah was erroneously included among the papers filed with James’s memorial.

            [31] Colonial and Revolutionary Families of Pennsylvania: Genealogical and Personal Memoirs (New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Co., 1932, Vol. 4, editor Wilfred Jordan) 579. John Rankin Sr.’s son James was born in Pennsylvania according to James’s Memorial. James’s tombstone gives his birth date as 1730. Assuming that is correct, then John Sr. must have been in the Colonies at least by then.

                  [32] History of York County, Pennsylvania  (Chicago: F. A. Battey Publishing Co., 1886, John Gibson, editor) 630.

                  [33] John Rankin Sr.’s intestate estate in Newberry Township, Lancaster County was probated in 1748. There do not seem to be records of the estate in either Lancaster or York, except for an index to Lancaster County letters of administration. FHL Film No. 5534638, Image 117, John Rankin, 1748.

William Logan Burke(s): their stories

My mother’s family has produced so many men named William Logan Burke that we had to create nicknames to keep them straight. The first William Logan Burke (1860-1899) was simply “the Sheriff.”

His son, who was inter alia a polo player, was “W. L.” or “Billy” Burke (1888-1961) — AKA “Gramps,” my grandfather.

The next son in line was also a polo player, nicknamed “the Kid” (1914-1975) — AKA “Uncle Bill.”

The Kid’s elder son — our collective imagination failed here — was “Little Bill” (1952 – ?).

The fifth and possibly last of the name is Little Bill’s nephew. He has several brothers, all of whom are grown and might yet produce a sixth William Logan Burke.

They all have stories, with a couple of family legends in the mix. There has been a recent trend toward tragedy. I’m rooting for the most recent of the Sheriff’s namesakes to turn the luck around. As usual, I won’t write about anyone who might still be living.

Here is the Sheriff:

He was born in Wilson County, Tennessee in 1860, the eldest son of Esom Logan Burke and his wife Harriet Munday. Not inclined to be a farmer, he left for Texas shortly before his father died. He wound up in Waco, McLennan County, where he was “an early sheriff” and a U. S. Marshall. He died of tuberculosis at age 39, leaving his widow Betty and their 11-year-old son, the second WLB.

Here is his wife, Elizabeth (“Betty”) Morgan Trice.

According to my grandmother Ida Hannefield Burke, Betty had red hair and “could hold her liquor like a man.” The Hannefields also lived in Waco. Granny told me she always “felt sorry for Mrs. Burke.”

“Why?” asked I.

“Because the Sheriff was gone so much,” said Granny.

“Why was that?”

“I don’t know,” Granny replied. “Out chasing criminals, I suppose.”

Betty Trice’s family also came to Waco from Wilson County, Tennessee. The Burke and Trice families undoubtedly knew each other there, since both owned land on a lovely tributary of the Cumberland River called Spring Creek. Betty’s father, Charles Foster Trice, died in a cave-in of the creek bank in 1881, when she was 18. His estate was insufficient to cover debts and his land was sold, probably providing the impetus for his family to head for Texas.

Before Foster died, though, he and his wife Mary Ann Powell Trice gave rise to a cool family legend. Wilson County is in Middle Tennessee, a part of the state that was not partial to either side in the Civil War. The Union Army had a headquarters nearby and sent a “recruiting” detail around from time to time, looking for “volunteers.” Hearing they were in the neighborhood, Mary Ann dressed Foster up in a woman’s dress and bonnet. She sat him down in front of the fire in a rocking chair, peeling potatoes. The Union soldiers departed empty-handed.

Mary Ann lived to be 95. She died in Waco when her great-granddaughter, Ida Burke, was 18 years old. Ida, my mother, told me she heard that story straight from Mary Ann’s mouth. So it is the gospel truth, in my view.

Berry and Sion Trice, two of Mary Ann’s brothers-in-law, also went to Texas. They walked all the way from Wilson County to Waco — about 900 miles — in 47 days, according to William Berry Trice’s obit. Berry was also famous for weighing 425 pounds when he died, as well as having been a director of the Waco National Bank. Berry and Sion were partners in a Waco brickmaking company. It supplied most of the nearly three million bricks used to build the bridge over the Brazos River in Waco. The bridge was completed in 1870 and was then the longest single-span suspension bridge west of the Mississippi; it was part of the Chisholm Trail. Baylor has some fun photographs and postcards of the bridge at this site.

The Sheriff, his wife Betty Trice Burke, her mother Mary Ann Powell Trice, the Hannefields, and a whole host of other Trices are buried in the old Oakwood Cemetery in Waco. Not surprisingly, Sion and Berry have impressive monuments. Made of marble, not brick.

The Sheriff and Betty had only one surviving child, the second William Logan Burke: the polo player, Billy or W. L. Burke, AKA Gramps. He was an orphan by age 18, when his mother died. He went to live with one of his mother’s sisters, his Aunt Mattie Trice Harmon. Here is Gramps in his sixties as a referee in a polo match:

Gramps was the spitting image of his mother, IMO. Here he is as a young man:

Besides eventually becoming the oldest polo referee in Houston, Gramps was a Grade AAA, certifiable, lovable character. Whenever he came to Shreveport to visit his daughter Ida, he brought gifts for me. He started with an add-a-pearl necklace, undoubtedly Ida’s idea. He soon switched to various livestock: ducklings, baby chicks, and — my favorite — two quail. My father built an elaborate cage for the pair in the back yard. Unfortunately, the quail commenced their characteristic “bob-WHITE!” call just before the first light of dawn. They had extraordinary lungs. The neighbors complained. One night, the quail “escaped.” I don’t recall what happened to the cage.

My father was fond of saying that Gramps would probably bring an elephant one day.

Besides being a polo player, referee, and trainer of polo ponies, Gramps was a hunter and fisherman. He also raised bird dogs, including a prizewinner named April Showers. Gramps taught me how to shoot a BB gun at a moving target by hanging a coffee can lid from a tree limb by a string. The gun was another gift from Gramps, as was a small rod and reel. Never mind that my parents didn’t fish.

The Sheriff’s grandfather back in Tennessee was a John Burke whose first wife was Elizabeth Graves, daughter of Esom Graves and Ruth Parrot. John Burke was known as a teller of tall tales. If that is an inherited talent, Gramps most likely got it from his great-grandfather John. Granny once sent Ida a newspaper article she had torn out of one of the Houston papers, date unknown. Granny had written on the article in pencil, “Your father in print with a big one.” It was in a column titled “The Outdoor Sportsman” by Bill Walker. I have transcribed it on this blog before, but here it is again. Cinco Ranch is west of Houston.

“A roaring gas flame in the big brick fireplace in the Cinco Ranch clubhouse warmed the spacious room and the several members of the Gulf Coast Field Trial Club who gathered there for coffee Saturday morning before the first cast in the shooting dog stake.

“Usually when veteran field trial followers get together the conversations turns to great dogs of yesteryears and this group was no exception.

W. L. “BILLY” BURKE related one about an all-time favorite of ours — Navasota Shoals Jake.

“Burke and the late W. V. Bowles, owner of Ten Broeck’s Bonnett and Navasota Shoals Jake, were hunting birds in the Valley on one of those rare hot and sultry winter mornings. Jake pointed a covey several hundred yards from the two men and out in the open.

“BOWLES suggested they take their time approaching the pointing dog, since he was known to be very trustworthy. When the two hunters did not immediately move to Jake, the dog broke his point, backed away to the cool shade of a nearby tree and again pointed the birds.

“THE COVEY was still hovering in a briar thicket when Bowles and Burke arrived. Navasota Shoals Jake was still on point.”

Gramps’s only son, the third William Logan Burke, was nicknamed “the Kid” by other polo players, presumably in recognition of his father and the family sport — but also for his wild and reckless polo style, according to his sister Ida. That was Uncle Bill.[1]

He was good. According to Ida, West Point recruited him to play polo, but West Point probably wasn’t the Kid’s style. Ida’s best friend Tillie Keidel once shared a rumble seat with him on a trip from Fredericksburg to the dance hall in Gruene. Exhausted from fighting him off, she told Ida it seemed like the Kid had four hands. She rode with someone else on the trip home.

Ida also said the Kid was a mathematical genius, which might be true notwithstanding her propensity for embellishing Burke virtues. All three of the Burke siblings were smart as the dickens. The Kid’s son believes he was valedictorian of his high school class and received a scholarship offer. Bettye, the youngest sibling, was a member of Mensa. She once created a professional set of blueprints for a home she and her husband were building on the shore of Clear Lake. Ida, the eldest sibling, skipped two grades in elementary school, was valedictorian of her high school graduating class in Fredericksburg, and received full-ride scholarship offers from every major university in Texas.

I always thought she was exaggerating about those scholarships. Not so. After she died, I found them, seven in all, among her papers: University of Texas, Texas Technological College, SMU, Southwest Texas State Teacher’s College, Baylor, and TCU. Rice was tuition free, but they had an offer for her, too, because that’s where she went for her Freshman year. Then she switched to the University, where she was a Littlefield Dorm “beauty.”

October 1929 arrived, and she had to quit school to help support her family during the Great Depression. Gramps was a car salesman in Fredericksburg, and you can imagine how many people bought cars in the early 1930s. The family lived on the old Polo Grounds in San Antone for a while, eating so much peanut butter that Aunt Bettye swore off the stuff for life.

I don’t know what the Kid did in the 1930s, but he didn’t go to college, so far as I know. They would not have been able to afford it, even with a scholarship. I assume he also helped support the family during the Depression, as he was only 16 in 1930. He joined the Marines in time for World War II, probably after Pearl Harbor, when everyone enlisted. His tombstone identifies him as a First Lieutenant.[2] I don’t think he was ever stationed overseas. Mostly, he started getting married and kept it up his entire life. I have a tiny photograph of him in his Marine mess dress uniform when he was still a buck Sergeant, probably on his first wedding day. All told, he married four times. Looking at old pictures and remembering him, I can see why: he was an attractive man, with the standard issue navy blue Trice eyes and a charming grin. I thought he resembled JFK, another man with charisma.

Here’s a picture of the Kid with his sister Ida and her only child, who never learned to sit a horse worth a plug nickel:

Spoiler alert: at this point, the William Logan Burke stories take a dark turn. If you want a happy ending, sign off right now with the picture of Ida, Uncle Bill, and the little girl on the unhappy horse.

The last military record for him on Fold3 identifies him as a First Lieutenant on a 1946 muster roll. For as long as I knew him — beginning in the early 1950s —  the Kid worked a blue collar union job in the Dow Chemical plant in Brazoria County. It was one of several plants which manufactured Agent Orange. He died in 1975, only 60 years old, consumed by what Ida called “more kinds of cancer than I ever heard of.” I will refrain from a rant about Agent Orange and just put some information in the footnote at the end of this sentence.[3]

Well, that is a downer of a way to end a story, but you can’t say you weren’t warned. I will demur re: writing about Little Bill, who may still be alive and who has a beautiful daughter out there somewhere. Fortunately, there is definitely another William Logan Burke, the family’s fifth. He is one of the sons of Little Bill’s brother Frank and a grandson of the Kid.

So far as I can tell from our emails, Frank’s nice family is sane, sober, and happy. It is also sizeable, so I’m rooting for a sixth William Logan Burke. Maybe he’ll become a Sheriff, and we will have come full circle.

See you on down the road.

Robin

                  [1] For some reason, Uncle Bill went by William Logan Burke Jr., notwithstanding that he was the third of that name in the line. He first son went by William Logan Burke III.

                  [2] Here is an image of the Kid’s tombstone.

            [3] As early as 1962, the Monsanto Chemical Company reported that a dioxin in Agent Orange (TCDD) could be toxic. The President’s Science Advisory Committee reported the same to the Joint Chiefs of Staff that same year. As you probably know, Agent Orange was used as a defoliant in Vietnam. Many vets who served there have been diagnosed with cancer, but could rarely prove that Agent Orange was the cause. In 1991, the federal Agent Orange Act created a presumption that the chemical caused the cancer of anyone who served in Vietnam. That includes bladder cancer, chronic B-cell leukemia, Hodgkin’s disease, multiple myeloma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, prostate cancer, respiratory cancers including lung cancer, and some sarcomas.

 

A Chart for Adam and Mary Steele Rankin: Part 2 of n, Children of James and Jean/Jane Campbell Rankin.

An outline descendant chart is an example of what some Texans call “Aggie counting:” one, and another one, and another one, and another one … etc.

Likewise, the charts themselves are name/dates/spouse, name/dates/spouse, name/dates/spouse … etc., perhaps leavened occasionally with another fact or two.  I dislike creating the dang things almost as much as I hate reading them. I’m just trying to be a good citizen by sharing what I know (or think I know) about this famous family. An incredible number of people claim to be their descendants. Maybe this will assist someone in locating an ancestor. Or perhaps it will be a dose of cold water. Who knows.

The prior post in this series (“Part 1 of n”) only included information for Adam and his four children – James Sr., William, Jeremiah, and Esther. Adam and Mary are obviously generation number 1 in that chart; their children are each number 2. We pick up in this post with the line of James Sr. and his wife Jean/Jane Campbell. I think James Sr. was a son of Mary Steele Alexander Rankin, although some researchers believe he was a son of a prior wife (for whom there is apparently no documentary evidence — please speak up if you have some!).

James Sr. and Jean/Jane had six children proved by his will: Esther, Ruth, William, Jeremiah, David, and James Jr.[1] I have not listed these children in birth order herein for obscure reasons of my own. The chart includes descendants of all of James Sr.’s children as far as I have tracked them toward the present, with the exception of their son James Jr. He is listed last and his descendants aren’t named (yet). That is because James Sr.’s son James Jr. is Spade’s line, and if I get it wrong, Spade will never let me hear the end of it. James Jr.’s descendants will appear in “Part 3 of n” when I gin up the nerve to publish it.

2 James Rankin Sr. and Jean/Jane Campbell, see Part 1 of n for more info on that couple.

   3 Esther Rankin, 1762 – 1826, Franklin Co. Husband Samuel Smith. [2]

      4 Mary Smith, b. by 1788.

   3 Ruth Rankin m. John Tool.

   3 William Rankin, b. ca 1748, d. ca 1800, Franklin Co., PA. Received half of his father’s 280-acre tract on Licking Cr. and devised that land to his only son James.[3] William married Anne Gillespie on 5 Nov 1771 in the Upper West Conococheague Presbyterian Church. Not surprisingly, he has been confused with other men having the same name, but the records about him are straightforward.

      4 James Rankin, b. abt 1772-1776, Cumberland Co., PA. He was single in 1797 when William wrote his will. The last record I found for James was in an 1809 deed when he sold his father’s Franklin Co. land.[4]

      4 Elizabeth Rankin m. Mr. Ritchie.

      4 Jean Rankin, b. after 1776.

      4 Ann Rankin, b. after 1776.

      4 Ruth Rankin, b. after 1776.

      4 Mary Gillespie Rankin, b. after 1776.

    3 Jeremiah Rankin, b. ca 1752-1756, d. 1803. Jeremiah’s line is subject to controversy. One credible source says that James and Jean Campbell Rankin’s son Jeremiah was the man who married Mary Clark and died in 1803.[5] Two county history books claim that the Jeremiah who died in 1803 was a grandson of James and Jean. I come down on the side of the first argument, see the article at this link.

 Jeremiah inherited half of his father’s 280-acre tract on Licking Cr. He was a revolutionary soldier. He built the allegedly haunted house in the area of Montgomery Township, Franklin County known as “the Corner.” His wife Mary Clark was a daughter of James Clark. Jeremiah’s 1803 will named his wife, only son James Clark Rankin, and daughters Nancy, Mariah, and Esther.[6]

      4 James Clark Rankin, b. 1800, d. 1 Jun 1866.[7] Married Elizabeth Watson (1800 – 1871 or 1875) on 27 Mar 1828. He inherited the house in the Corner built by his father Jeremiah. His will names four children.[8]

         5 Mary J. Rankin, b. abt 1831-32 d. 1860. Husband John C. McNary. Six children, all of whom died in infancy.[9]

         5 Rebecca Vance Rankin, 1831-1865. She predeceased her father and was not mentioned in his will.[10]

         5 Esther Rankin, 1838-1889.[11]

         5 Samuel Johnston Rankin, 1833 – 1891, Montgomery Twp., Franklin.[12] Married Elizabeth H. Knox on 17 Mar 1868.

            6 Elizabeth “Lizzie” Watson Rankin, 19 Nov 1868 – 22 Aug 1959. Lizzie apparently resided in the home which her great-grandfather Jeremiah had built. The house was allegedly haunted.[13] There is undoubtedly a good story out there if I can just persuade Gams, Spade, and Columbo to write it.

         5 John Watson Rankin, b. abt 1836, d. 1872. Wife Mary (“Molly”) Dilworth.[14]

           6 James Clark Rankin, 12 Jun 1868 – 8 Jan 1908. Attorney. [15] Attended the Upper West Conococheague Presbyterian Church. Wife Jenette Forster, 1866 – 1954.

                7 Margaret Elder Rankin, 10 Nov 1898 – 15 Mar 1962. Husband Duffield W. Varden.[16]

            6 Mary M. C. Knight Rankin, b. abt 1871.

          5 Jeremiah C. Rankin, b. abt 1844-45.[17] No further information.

       4 Nancy Rankin, b. 2 Feb 1796, Franklin Co., PA, d. 13 Jul 1883, Beaver Co., PA. Husband John Imbrie. Ten children.[18] Her tombstone identifies her as Nancy Clark Rankin Imbrie, wife of John.[19]

      4 Mariah or Maria Rankin (Nancy Rankin Imbrie’s twin), b. 2 Feb 1796, Franklin Co.. Husband Samuel Johnston.[20]

      4 Esther Rankin, 25 Jul 1802 – 19 Jun 1870. Married Alexander M. Johnston, lived in Mercersburg.[21]

   3 David Rankin, d. Montgomery Twp., Franklin Co. abt. 1833.[22] David inherited part of the land where his parents lived. His wife was Mary (“Molly”), birth surname unknown. The Pennsylvania Archives confused this David with his first cousin David Rankin, son of William and Mary Huston Rankin.[23]

      4 Molly Rankin m. Mr. Sellars.

          5 Mary Elizabeth Sellars, b. by Jun 1829.

       4 James Rankin, b. abt 1799-1800, d. 1879.[24] Wife Elizabeth, birth surname unknown.[25]

         5 Elizabeth Rankin, b. abt 1829, m. Mr. Rhodes.[26]

             6 Hannah E. Rhodes or Rhoades m. Mr. Zuck

             6 David C. Rhodes or Rhoades.

         5 Mary Rankin, b. July 1835.

         5 David Rankin, b. abt 1833-34, d. 1882. Apparently never married. Left everything he owned to his brother J. Hervey Rankin, including land in Montgomery Twp. conveyed to the two brothers by their parents.[27]

         5 Marion Rankin, b. abt 1836, d. bef. 1860.

         5 Sarah Bell Rankin, b. abt. 1840, m. Mr. Hoffeditz. See Find-a-Grave memorial here.

         5 James Henry or Harvey Rankin, 26 Dec. 1841 – 7 Jun 1915. Evidently never married.[28]

        4 Betsy Rankin, born about 1795. Living with her brother James in 1850. Apparently never married.

     3 James Rankin Jr. To be continued in Part 3 of n.

Whew! And that’s it for now. I will return to this chart after I publish one other article that has been running loose in my head.

See you on down the road.

Robin

*   *   *   *   *   *   *

            [1] Franklin Co., PA Will Book A: 345, will of James Rankin Senior of Montgomery Township, Franklin, dated 25 Mar 1788 and proved 20 Oct 1795. The will names his wife Jean, daughter Ruth Tool and SIL Samuel Smith (whose wife was James’s daughter Esther Rankin), and sons David, William, Jeremiah, and James.

[2] Esther Rankin Smith’s memorial is in the Shannon Farm graveyard in Mercersburg.  The Find-a-Grave memorial cites Franklin County Cemetery Records, Vol. 31, 5 for the information on the website. I cannot find a complete citation for this series, a location on the FHL website, or any other means of verifying the information. The only reference I can find to it is at Esther’s Find-a-Grave memorial.

[3] Franklin Co., PA Will Book B: 124, will of William Rankin of Montgomery Twp., Franklin Co., PA, dated 8 Feb 1797, proved 16 Feb 1802. Wife Ann. Son James, not married. Daughter Elizabeth Ritchie. Four daughters not of age: Jean, Ann, Ruth, and Mary Gillespie Rankin. Witnesses Jeremiah Rankin and David Rankin (who were the testator’s brothers). William’s 1797 will was not proved until 1802. However, an Ana Rankin — with the right census profile to be his widow and no adult male in the family — was listed as a head of household in 1800, perhaps indicating William was dead by then. See 1800 census, Montgomery Twp., Franklin Co., PA, Ana Rankin, 00100-02201.

[4] Franklin Co., PA Deed Book 8: 380, deed dated 29 Jun 1809 from James Rankin of Montgomery Twp. to James Buchanan. Deed recitals, in part: in 1771, James Rankin Sr. (s/o Adam) acquired 280 acres from Wm. Marshall. In his will, James Sr. left half to his son William. Then William, by will dated 8 Feb 1797, devised his realty to his son James Rankin, the grantor in the 1809 deed. James conveyed 125 acres plus 6% on Licking Creek.

            [5] 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:  “Jeremiah Rankin, Ranger on the Frontier, served in 1778, under Capt. John McConnell and as Ensign, 1780-81, with Captain Wm Huston; a son of pioneer James Rankin of Montgomery Township. He mar. Mary, dau. of James Clark. His will was dated June 1803 and prob. August 1803, only son James Clark Rankin and three daus.: Nancy; Mariah; Esther. The widow Mary later married Charles Kilgore. James, Jeremiah, David and William Rankin were pewholders in the “Lower Conococheague” or Welsh Run Church. Nancy Rankin mar. John Imbrie, Beaver Co., Penna., 10 children. Maria Rankin mar. Samuel Johnston, son of Thos. and Anne Houston Johnston. Esther Rankin mar. Alex. M. Johnston, son of Thos. and Anne Houston Johnston. Pennsylvania archives fifth series Vol 6 Pages 262, 269, 274, 282, 374.” RRW note: the pewholders James, Jeremiah, David, and William Rankin were the four sons of James Sr. and Jean Campbell Rankin.

[6] Franklin Co., PA Will Book B: 167, will of Jeremiah Rankin of Montgomery Twp. dated 13 Jun 1803, proved 1 Aug 1803. Wife Mary. Four minor children, all less than 18: son James Clark Rankin and daughters Nancy Rankin, Mariah Rankin and Esther Rankin. Mentions land in Ohio. Executors were his wife, brother James Rankin, brother-in-law James Clark, and brother-in-law David Humphreys. Witnesses John McFarland, David Rankin, John Rankin. Nancy and Mariah were twins, born in 1796. James Clark Rankin was b. 1800-01. Esther was b. 1802.

                  [7] 1850 census, Franklin Co., Montgomery Twp, James C. Rankin, 49, farmer, entire household b. PA, Elizabeth Rankin 49, Mary Rankin 19, Rebecca Rankin 17, Johnston Rankin 16, Watson Rankin 14, Jeremiah Rankin 5; 1860 census, Mercersburg, Montgomery Twp., entire household b. PA, James Rankin, 60, farmer, Eliz Rankin, 59, Mary Rankin, 28, Rebecca Rankin 26, S. J. Rankin (Samuel Johnston) 34 (sic), and Jeremiah Rankin, 16.

                  [8] Franklin Co., PA Will Book G: 162, will of James C. Rankin of Mercersburg dated 9 Jun 1865, proved 1 Jun 1866. Wife Elizabeth, sons S. J. (Samuel Johnston), J. W. (J. Watson), and Jeremiah C. Rankin. Daughter Mary Jane C. McNary of Washington Co., PA. Mentions the “Home Farm,” the Patterson Farm, the Shrader Farm, all in Montgomery Twp., plus a house in Mercersburg. He is buried in the Fairview Cemetery, Mercersburg, with the names of his wife and two of his daughters on the same monument.

            [9] North American Family Histories, image available with an Ancestry subscription at this link.

            [10] Rebecca Vance Rankin is buried in the Fairview Cemetery and shares a memorial with her parents and her sister Esther.

            [11] Esther Rankin is also buried in the Fairview Cemetery and shares a memorial with her parents and sister Rebecca, see prior footnote.

                  [12] 1870 census, Montgomery Twp., Samuel J. Rankin, 36, farmer, $18,000/$2,600, Elizabeth Rankin, 30, Elizabeth Rankin, 1. 1880 census, Johnson Rankin, 46, farmer, wife Lizzie Rankin, 36, daughter Lizzie Rankin, 12, and niece Elizabeth Rankin, 6. Samuel J. and Elizabeth Knox Rankin have a shared monument in the Fairview Cemetery in Mercersburg.

                  [13] See PA death certificate for Elizabeth Watson Rankin, File No. 74957. Resided Mercersburg, PA, Rt #1, Montgomery Twp. Identifies her as a daughter of Samuel J. Rankin and Elizabeth Knox. Born 11/19/1868 in Mercersburg. Died 22 Aug, 1959. Never married.

                  [14] 1870 census, Franklin, Montgomery Twp., J. Watson Rankin, 34, b. PA, Molly D. Rankin, 25, PA, James C. Rankin, 1. Franklin Will Book G: 549, will of J. Watson Rankin dated 27 Feb 1872 proved 1 Apr 1872. Wife Mary D. Rankin, children James Clark Rankin and Mary M. C. Knight, both children under 21.

                  [15] 1900 census, Montgomery Twp., Franklin Co., James Rankin, b. Jun 1868, PA, parents b. PA. Lawyer. Wife Jennette, b. Aug 1868. Married 3 years, one child living. Daughter Margaret Rankin, b. Nov. 1898. James C. and wife Jenette are buried in the Fairview Cemetery, see memorial here.

                  [16] Margaret E. Rankin was baptized 21 Apr 1899 in the Presbyterian Church of the Upper West Conococheague in Franklin Co. The church record identifies her parents as James C. Rankin and Janette Forster, image available here.  See also PA Death Certificate for Margaret E. Varden, which identifies her as a daughter of J. Clark Rankin and Jennette Forster. Born 10 Nov 1898, d. 15 Mar. 1962. Spouse identified as Duffield W. Varden. Image available at this link with an Ancestry subscription.

            [17] 1870 census, Mercersburg, Franklin Co., Elizabeth Rankin, 69, and Jeremiah C. Rankin, 24, reaping machine agent.

            [18] For the names of John and Nancy Rankin Embrie’s 10 children, see a compiled history of the Embrie family  at this link. Requires an Ancestry subscription.

            [19] 1850 census, Beaver Co., PA, household of John Imbrie, 54, Nancy Imbrie 52, DeLorma (m) 26, Mary 24, Nancy F. 22, Robert S. 21, John 14, Euphanus M. (f) 17, Jeremiah 11, and David 9, all b. PA. You can find Nancy’s Find-a-Grave memorial at this link.

            [20] 1850 census, Montgomery Twp., Franklin Co., PA, household of Samuel Johnston, 58, farmer, Maria Johnston, 54, Ann Johnston 23, and J. Rankin Johnston, 14. The same family is listed in the 1860 census for Montgomery Twp., Franklin. The younger child was Jeremiah Rankin Johnston, a minister. He moved to Washington Co., PA, where he can be found in the 1870 and 1880 census.

                  [21] Esther Rankin Johnston is buried in the Fairview Cemetery in Mercersburg, see memorial here.

[22] Franklin Co., PA Will Book D:250, will of David Rankin of Montgomery Twp. dated 6 Jun 1829 proved 22 Jan 1833. Wife Molly, children James and Betsy, granddaughter Mary Elizabeth Sellars, only child of daughter Molly. Executor Andrew B. Rankin. 1830 census, David Rankin in Montgomery Twp is listed adj Jacob Kline and James Rankin. Jacob Kline was mentioned in a deed recorded in Franklin Deed Book 16: 507 conveying land adjacent James Rankin.

            [23] See an article about the David Rankin confusion here.

                  [24] Franklin Co., PA Will Book H: 578, will of James Rankin of Montgomery Twp. dated 24 Jul 1872, proved 10 Apr 1879. Wife Elizabeth, life estate in land, remainder to daughter Mary in fee simple. Daughters Elizabeth Rhoads and Sarah Bell Hoffeditz, cash. Mentions deeds to sons David and James Henry for “mansion farm and a tract of Mountain land.” Witnessed by S. J. Rankin. The witness was probably Samuel Johnson Rankin, son of James Clark and Elizabeth Watson Rankin.

                  [25] 1830 census (00001-10001) lists James Rankin in Montgomery Twp. adj his father David. The 1840 census has a family that fits the profile of David’s son James adj. Mr. Cline. He is identified as James C. Rankin, although the middle initial may not be correct. See 1850 census, Montgomery Twp, James Rankin, 51, $3,000, b. PA, Elizabeth Rankin 39, Elizabeth Rankin 21, Mary Rankin 18, David Rankin 17, Marion Rankin (fem) 14, James Rankin 8, Elizabeth Rankin 55 (undoubtedly his sister because she has $1500), and John Watson. 1860 census, Montgomery Twp, James Rankin, 61, Elizabeth Rankin 48, Mary Rankin 25, David Rankin 23, Sarah Rankin 20, and Harvey Rankin, 18; 1880 census, Montgomery Twp., Elizabeth Rankin, 70, daughter Mary 48, son David 46, son Harvey, and John Watson, 49.

                  [26] Elizabeth Rankin Rhodes/Rhoades had two children identified in an acknowledgement by heirs in Franklin DB 69: 49.

                  [27] Franklin DB 52: 299. Franklin Will Book I: 434, will of David Rankin dated 13 May 1882 proved 16 Nov 1882, J. Harvey Rankin sole beneficiary and executor.

                  [28] 1900 census, Mercersburg, Franklin Co., Harvey J. Rankin, 53, b. Dec 1846, single. Landlord. With sister Mary W. Rankin, b. Jul 1835.

Enter Spade and Columbo: Autosomal Evidence

It pays to have friends who excel at family history research and know DNA stuff. In that category, I am lucky to know Spade and Columbo. Y’all have met Spade before at least twice.[1] He is a California guy, famous for slurping Cutty Sark and hanging up on people. I don’t know where Columbo lives or what he drinks, if at all. Like Spade, though, he usually gets his man.

The two genealogy detectives are distant cousins. Both are descended from Adam Rankin who died in 1747 in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and his wife Mary Steele Alexander. Spade has a solid gold paper trail back to Adam and Mary. Columbo’s chart has one, um, interesting link, but it is still golden. Spade is descended from Adam and Mary through their son James and his wife Jean Campbell Rankin. Columbo descends through their son William and Mary Huston Rankin.

That brings us to an article published here on October 29, 2023 concerning Joshua and Mary Rankin Cox and her purported parents, John and Anna Craig Rankin.[2] That article wonders whether there was a relationship between those Rankins and Adam’s line. The article suggests some speculative possibilities — with no evidence as far as the eye could see.

It also pays to admit it when you don’t know nuthin’ and ask for help. Enter Spade and Columbo, both of whom have done autosomal tests, as have three of Columbo’s close relatives. Between them, they have numerous Cox matches. Spade sums up the autosomal evidence as follows:

“There’s zero chance that Mary Rankin Cox was not a very close relative of Adam Rankin d. 1747.”

Of course, we are still in the dark about how Adam and Mary Rankin Cox were related. DNA leaves that for us to figure out. Here are some possibilities:

…  Mary Rankin Cox and Adam Rankin were siblings.

…  Mary Rankin Cox was Adam’s niece; thus her alleged father John and Adam would have been brothers.

…  Mary Rankin Cox was Adam’s daughter.

Here is what Spade has to say:

“Lady, you ask so many questions I’m going to have to demand my usual retainer pretty soon. But this one’s on me: I go with siblings as the relationship between Adam Rankin and Mary Rankin Cox. Her oldest child would have been born about 1726, while Adam and Mary Steele Rankin were also having children in the 1720s. Joshua Cox, Mary Rankin Cox’s husband, died the same year as Adam, 1747, also in Lancaster County.  That looks like Mary and Adam were from the same generation. I think she would have been  Adam’s younger sister. Looks to me like there are too many matches at too many centimorgans to say that the connection extends back another generation.”

Columbo, on the other hand, opines that the John who was allegedly Mary Rankin Cox’s father was Adam’s brother, which puts Mary in the role of Adam’s niece. That theory gets support from the oral family legend that Adam of Lancaster County had a brother John.

The notion that Mary Rankin Cox may have been Adam’s daughter seems like forcing Cinderella’s shoe to fit. The argument in favor is that Mary had a proved brother William, while Adam had a proved son William. The glaring flaw here is that Adam’s will didn’t name a daughter Mary or a son-in-law Cox. Adam did give his married daughter Esther Rankin Dunwoody a cash bequest, so he wasn’t just omitting daughters. If there was ever a surefire way to stir up resentment, or even a will contest, failing to give a child at least a token bequest qualifies.

The other issue with the theory that Mary Cox was Adam’s daughter arises from the plethora of William Rankins in the area. Why pick on Adam’s son William to be Mary Cox’s brother out of all the William Rankin possibilities who appeared in Franklin County? Equally as reasonable — although just as speculative — Adam Rankin and Mary Rankin Cox could well have had a brother William, who would then have been the Rankin named in Joshua Cox’s will.

Spade’s argument sounds more persuasive. My only addition is the fact that Joshua Cox’s will, written in April 1747, provides that his children should be “put to trades” at age sixteen.[3] That suggests some of his children were born in the 1730s. His son John, named an executor, was probably indeed born by 1726. That seems to support Spade’s opinion that Mary Rankin Cox may have been Adam’s younger sister.

In short, there doesn’t seem to be any compelling logic dictating the type of family relationship between Mary Rankin Cox and Adam Rankin. Also, there is the niggling matter of evidence, which is entirely lacking in this matter. Does anyone reading this have any other ideas, evidence, or suggestions? If so, please share!

Meanwhile, I owe you the next installment in Adam and Mary’s descendant chart. Soon.

See you on down the road.

Robin

            [1] See articles written by or featuring Spade here and here.

            [2] See the article about Mary Rankin Cox and her possible parents at this link.. So far as I know, the only evidence of the existence of John and Anna Craig Rankin is a Cox researcher’s letter in a Franklin Co. historical society.

            [3] Lancaster Co., PA Will Book A: 131. The clerk’s transcription twice calls the testator Joshua and once John. In the margin where the deceased’s name is written, “Joshua” is struck through and “John” is written in. This may be the reason many people refer to this man as “John Joshua Cox” or “Joshua John Cox.” In any event, the will names as executors Joshua’s wife Mary and son John, with Joshua’s brother-in-law William Rankin to assist his wife. Joshua left two-thirds of his estate to his children, but identified by name only his sons John and Richard and a daughter Mary. The will also provided that his children should be “put to trades” when they reached age 16. That suggests at least some of the children were born after 1731, since the will is dated 22 April 1747. John, named an executor, was probably of age in 1747 and thus born by 1726.

Imagine that! A chart for Adam and Mary Steele Alexander Rankin (Part 1 of n)

THIS JUST IN!!! A Big Y test and well-documented papyrus trail prove that Adam Rankin, who died in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania in 1747 (wife Mary Steele Alexander), is descended from Adam Rankin of the Garden of Eden (wife Eve, birth surname unknown).

Just kidding. There were no surnames back then.

Enough fun. I’m attempting to construct an outline descendant chart for Adam’s and Mary’s family, including citations to evidence so that readers can evaluate issues for themselves. This will make for copious footnotes, although not for entertaining reading. My hope is that it will be useful reference material. The chart will expand to an unknown number of posts, thus the “Part 1 of n” in the title.[1]

We will begin with Adam, the original immigrant in his line, and the four children he named in his will.

1 Adam Rankin d. 1747, Lancaster Co., PA. Adam arrived in the colonies by at least 1722.[2] His only proved wife was Mary Steele Alexander, widow of James “the Carpenter” Alexander and daughter of John Steele of New Castle County, Delaware. Deeds establish that Adam and Mary married between August 1718 and 1724 in the Colonies.[3]

 The only evidence I have seen for Adam’s acquisition of land is a 1742 warrant.[4] Adam willed that land to his son James Sr., and a deed executed three-quarters of a century later by James Sr.’s son James recited the tract’s provenance.[5] The family probably lived on or near Conococheague Creek (also spelled Conogocheague) close to Greencastle, then in Lancaster County, now Franklin.

Adam’s 1747 will names three sons, a daughter, and a wife, although it doesn’t mention his wife’s given name.[6]  There is evidently no documentary evidence[7] for — take a deep breath here — Adam’s birth year, the birth years of his children, the identity of any wife prior to Mary, where he was born (although it was undoubtedly either Scotland or Ulster), his parents, or any siblings.[8] Anything to the contrary, no matter how “many online trees” claim otherwise, is unproved absent evidence. In that regard, the oral family history and “many online trees” identify a John Rankin who died in Lancaster in 1749 as Adam’s brother, although Big Y testing conclusively negates that claim.[9]

     2 James Rankin Sr. d. 1795, Franklin Co., PA.[10] Adam’s son James Rankin Sr. appeared on the 1751 tax list for Peters Township in Cumberland County, which would then have comprised the southwest part of modern Franklin County (including Peters and Montgomery Townships).[11] James appeared in the records of Peters or Montgomery Townships from 1751 until he died.[12]

Based on his first appearance in county records in 1751, James Sr. may have been born about 1726. Adam’s 1747 will, which states that James was already in possession of some land, suggests an earlier birth year, perhaps 1722.[13]

James Sr.’s wife was Jean/Jane Campbell, daughter of William Campbell.[14] James Sr.’s tract in Montgomery Township was on Licking Creek.[15] He died in 1795 in Franklin County, leaving a will identifying his wife and six children.[16] This family attended the Lower Conococheague  or “Welsh Run” Presbyterian Church.[17]

     2 William Rankin died in 1792 in Antrim Township, Franklin Co., PA. This William is well-known to Rankins, some of whom claim descent from him in error.[18] His wife was Mary Huston (died about 1824), daughter of Archibald and Agnes Huston.[19] Both William and Mary left wills. His named all his children and describes locations of the tracts devised to his sons. That makes it possible to find them thereafter with confidence. Mary’s will named inter alia four grandchildren for whom I have found no other documentary proof.[20] There is also a family Bible containing birth dates of their children and some grandchildren.[21] With those foundations, this is a fun and easy family to track.

William’s birth date is not proved. He began appearing in county records in 1751, when he was named on a tax list for Antrim Township.[22] As with his brother James, that suggests he was probably born by 1726. William lived in Antrim Township until he died.

His Revolutionary War service is deemed sufficiently proved to admit descendants into the S.A.R., although he was probably too old to have been in active military duty. His will proves seven sons and one daughter, as does the family Bible.[23] All of William and Mary’s children were born before Franklin was created in 1784, suggesting they were born in Cumberland Co., the predecessor county. Quite a few members of William and Mary’s family are mentioned in the records of the Upper West Conococheague Presbyterian Church.[24]

William appeared in a plethora of county records, but is never shown with a middle initial, much less a middle name. I have asked a number of people who assert he had one to share any evidence on that issue. So far, no takers. It is a solid gold bet that the middle name “Steele” frequently claimed for him is fiction.

     2 Jeremiah Rankin died in 1760 in what was then Cumberland County in an accident in his mill (or perhaps the family’s mill? I don’t know) on Conococheague Cr. near Greencastle.[25] He married Rhoda Craig about 1754. After Jeremiah died, Rhoda remarried to a Mr. English.

I have found no records for Jeremiah in Pennsylvania except for his mention in his father Adam’s 1747 will. There should be guardian’s records since he left four minor sons, and presumably probate records concerning his land, but I have found neither. Jeremiah and Rhoda’s sons went to Fayette and Woodford Counties, KY.[26]

Fortunately, there is secondary evidence concerning Jeremiah’s family. It includes (1) a letter written in 1854 by John Mason Rankin, a grandson of Jeremiah and Rhoda,[27] and (2) a history of Kentucky Presbyterianism, which includes information about Rev. Adam Rankin, a son of Jeremiah and Rhoda.[28] History is based in part on Rev. Adam’s autobiography, establishing its credibility. It identifies Rev. Adam as a son of a Miss Craig and confirms that his father died in 1760 in a mill accident.

     2 Esther Rankin, the only daughter named in Adam’s 1747 will, married a Mr. Dunwoody. I apologize for my failure to research daughters, including Esther. My focus is on the paternal line in an effort to identify potential Rankin Y-DNA test volunteers. The omission is likely shortsighted, since families frequently intermarried and/or migrated together. The Dunwoody family might provide helpful information. If you are a descendant of Esther’s, I would love to hear from you.

And that’s it for this installment. Next, assuming I don’t get diverted, will be the children of James Sr. and Jean/Jane Campbell Rankin.

See you on down the road.

Robin

            [1] Disclaimer: a friend and blog reader has pointed out my regrettable tendency to promise follow up articles but then fail to do so. My usual excuse is that some cool new puzzle became a distraction. Then life went on and I forgot about the follow up. I will try to do better. No guarantees.

                  [2] Some Adam Rankin, almost certainly the same man as the Adam who m. Mary Steele Alexander, was among the signatories to a 1722 petition to Lord Baltimore saying the petitioners believed they lived in MD, not PA. Calvert Papers, Maryland Historical Society Manuscript Division MS 174, Microfilm No. 6, Document No. 279. Family oral tradition says that Adam came to the Colonies in 1720, although I’m not aware of any records for him prior to 1722.

                  [3] For evidence of Adam and Mary’s marriage date and Mary’s parentage, see the article at this link.

            [4] 11 Nov 1742 warrant to Adam Rankin, 100 acres “situate at Conegocheage between the lands of Samuel Owen, James Swaster?, Samuel Brown and the Blue Mountains.” See the grant  here.

            [5] Franklin Co., PA Deed Book 12: 28, deed dated 27 March 1818 from James Rankin and wife Mary to Jacob Kline, all of Montgomery Twp., conveyance of land including a 107-acre part of a tract of 188 acres surveyed per a warrant to Adam Rankin dated 11 Nov 1742. Adam devised the tract to his son James Rankin Sr., dec’d at the time of the deed, who then devised it to his son James Rankin, the grantor, on March 25, 1788. That is the date of the will of James Sr., proving James the grantor in the deed was a son of James Sr.

            [6] Lancaster Co., PA Will Book J: 208, will of Adam Rankin dated 4 May 1747, and proved 21 Sep 1747. His wife was mentioned although her given name not stated. Sons James, William, and Jeremiah; daughter Esther Rankin Dunwoody. The deed establishes that James was already in possession of some of Adam’s land.  Adam devised the home tract to William and Jeremiah.

            [7] When I say, “there is evidently no documentary evidence,” it simply means I have not found any relevant records, nor have I found anyone who claims to have any.

[8] Family oral history claims Adam first married an Elizabeth May in Ireland. She allegedly died after arriving in the colonies and was reportedly the mother of Adam’s son James. While it is certainly possible that Adam had a marriage prior to Mary Steele Alexander, there is evidently no evidence for a prior wife other than oral family history. Adam’s alleged parents and Rankin grandfather are also identified in the oral history, also despite an apparent lack of evidence. Adam’s purported ancestry is nevertheless cast in bronze in a tablet located at the Mt. Horeb Presbyterian Church cemetery in Jefferson Co., TN. It is therefore cast in concrete in online trees. I don’t find the legend entirely credible, in part because there is evidence that it was a relatively recent creation, probably in the early twentieth century. Also, the fact that the legend is mistaken about Adam d. 1747 and John d. 1749 being brothers is significant. See an article about the legend here.

            [9] There was another John Rankin whose daughter and son-in-law reportedly went to Chester County (predecessor to Lancaster, Cumberland, and Franklin Counties) circa 1720, when Adam also allegedly arrived. That John’s wife was reportedly Anna Craig, or perhaps Mary Craig. Their daughter Mary Rankin m. Joshua Cox. It is possible that John Rankin was Adam’s brother. Alternatively, John and Miss Craig could conceivably have been Adam’s parents. I have found no evidence for either possibility, both of which qualify as rank speculation. Probably the only way to assess them is to find a male Rankin descendant of John and Anna and persuade him to Y-DNA test. See a brief article about John and Anna Craig Rankin at this link.

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

            [11] FamilySearch.Org Film No. 7856871, Image No. 29, 1751 tax list for Peters Twp., Cumberland Co., PA.

            [12] E.g., Cumberland Court of Quarter Sessions Docket 2: 115, James Rankin, constable in Peters Twp., March 1764; Id. at Docket 5: 270, James Rankin et al. appointed supervisors of roads in Peters Twp., 27 Mar 1778. His 1788 will states that he was “of Montgomery Township,” which had been created in 1781. Franklin Co., PA Will Book A: 345.

            [13] My observation is that colonial men consistently began appearing in county records and/or marrying around age 25. I have no actual evidence for that estimate, just a quarter-century of looking at county and other records. If I were estimating James Sr.’s birth year, I would choose “about 1724” and deem him a son of Mary Steele Alexander Rankin. In that regard, there is an 1854 letter written by John Mason Rankin (son of Rev. Adam Rankin of KY, grandson of Jeremiah and Rhoda Rankin, and great-grandson of Adam and Mary) which asserts that James Sr. was Mary’s son.

                  [14] Cumberland Co., PA Will Book A: 108, will of William Campbell of Peters Twp. dated 16 Aug 1776, proved 16 Mar 1787. William Campbell named inter alia his daughter Jean (Campbell) Rankin and a son Dugal Campbell. Dugal was the father of Frances (“Fanny”) Campbell, who was thus Jean Campbell Rankin’s niece. Fanny married David Rankin, a son of William and Mary Huston Rankin. David was thus James Rankin’s nephew. If I have this straight, one of James and Jean Campbell Rankin’s nieces (her Çampbell niece) married one of James and Jean’s nephews (his Rankin nephew).

            [15] Franklin Co., PA Deed Book 1: 36, deed dated 10 Mar 1785 from James Rankin Sr. of Montgomery Twp., Franklin Co., to William Rankin, son of James Sr., one moiety (i.e., half) of  279 acres, where William now lives, containing 133.5 acres on Licking Cr. by the division line of the original 279-acre part to Jeremiah Rankin. James Rankin’s land was located in part of Montgomery Township now called “The Corner,” south of Mercersburg, at the foot of Two Top Mountain.

[16] Franklin Co., PA Will Book A: 345, will of James Rankin Sr. of Montgomery Twp., will dated 25 Mar 1788 and proved 20 Oct 1795. Wife Jean to live with son David. Sons David, William, Jeremiah, and James; daughter Ruth Tool; SIL Samuel Smith and granddaughter Mary Smith. James Sr. had earlier deeded half of his 280-acre Licking Cr. tract to his son William. See id. In 1809, William’s son James, a grandson of James Sr., sold the tract on Licking Creek. Franklin Deed Book 8: 380.

            [17] 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., copyright 1944) 180, “Jeremiah Rankin, Ranger on the Frontier, served in 1778, under Capt. John McConnell and as Ensign, 1780-81, with Captain Wm Huston; a son of pioneer James Rankin of Montgomery Township … James, Jeremiah, David and William Rankin were pewholders in the “Lower Conococheague” or Welsh Run Church.” James Sr.’s will proves sons James, Jeremiah, David, and William. Franklin Co., PA Will Book A: 345.

            [18] See an article describing some of the confusion about this family at this link.

                  [19] Franklin Co., PA Will Book A: 110, will of Agness Huston, widow of Archibald Huston, dated 15 Nov 1776, proved 14 Mar 1787. She named William Rankin executor and identified him as the husband of her daughter Mary.

            [20] See an article about Mary Huston Rankin’s will here.  I don’t have a citation for this will.

                  [21] A transcription of information in the family Bible can be found on Disk 4 of the so-called “Cloyd tapes,” available from the Tennessee State Library and Archives. I do not have references to the relevant disk page numbers. Wading through Flossie Cloyd’s materials is a daunting task guaranteed to induce glassy eyes. Rev. J. O. Reed, a former pastor of a Presbyterian Church in Opelousas, LA, was a descendant of William and Mary Huston Rankin and owned the family Bible. He sent a transcription of information in the Bible to Ms. Cloyd in a letter dated May 6, 1954.

            [22] FamilySearch.Org Film No. 7856871, Image No. 26.

                  [23] Franklin Co., PA Will Book A: -B: 256, will of William Rankin of Antrim Twp., Franklin, dated 20 Oct 1792, proved 28 Nov 1792. William named his wife Mary and children, in this order: Adam, Archibald, James, William, Betsy, David, John, and Jeremiah. He identified Betsy, John, and Jeremiah as being less than 21 years old.

            [24] E.g., Archibald Rankin died 24 Jun 1845, an entry in the records of the Upper West Conococheague Presbyterian Church. Several other family members also appear in entries, including some children of David Rankin, son of William and Mary Huston Rankin. The original records may be viewed at an LDS Family History Center or with an Ancestry subscription at this link.

                  [25] Here  is an article containing sources for information about Jeremiah.

            [26] Id.

            [27] See a transcription of John Mason Rankin’s letter online at this link.   It is somewhat controversial, not least because the location of the original is a mystery. I for one haven’t communicated with anyone who has seen it. I exchanged emails with a Rankin researcher who talked to someone who claims to have seen the letter. She was informed the letter is in a museum in San Augustine, Texas. However, there is no museum in that city, although there is an historical/genealogical society. Further, the letter has so much information in it that either (1) John Mason had an astonishing memory or a source such as a family Bible, or (2) the letter is an elaborate fraud based on recent research. To the extent I have researched this family, the information in the letter is mostly accurate. It is noteworthy that John Mason’s letter says the father of Adam d. 1747 was named Adam, although the oral family legend claims his name was William. Also, the letter makes no mention of the oral legend’s stories about martyred Rankin ancestors in Scotland and the Siege of Londonderry. Prepare for a broken record here: there is apparently no documentary evidence for those ancestry claims. I believe John Mason’s letter is genuine in part because it is clear the writer was not familiar with the fabulous oral legend. Someone perpetrating a 20th century fraud would surely have included its stories. Also, the letter includes extensive comments about the local economy which suggest a contemporaneous familiarity.

            [28] Rev. Robert Davidson, History of the Presbyterian Church in the State of Kentucky (New York: R. Carter, 1847) 95.

Dr. Seuss again: “Thing 4,” need help!

Sometimes one has to belly up to the bar and admit she hasn’t a clue. This is one of those times.

Also, how could I possibly have omitted Thing 4 from my last post? He is one of the William Rankins who gives some of us gray hair. Or, to be accurate, more gray hair. If you are mystified by the Dr. Seuss and “Thing 4” references, please read the previous article on this website.

There are at least two sources attesting to the existence of Thing 4:

  • The 1747 Lancaster County, Pennsylvania will of Joshua Cox naming as executors his wife (given name not provided) and his brother-in-law William Rankin.[1]
  • A letter dated April 13, 1995 from Lucille Cox Thompson to the Kittochtinny Historical Society in Chambersburg, Franklin County, Pennsylvania. Ms. Thompson identified a John Rankin and Anna Craig as the parents of (1) Mary Rankin who married Joshua Cox and (2) William Rankin. It also says that Joshua and Mary Rankin Cox’s daughter married John Craig.

The letter goes on to say that John and Anna Craig Rankin arrived in the Colonies circa 1720 and settled in “Upland, Pennsylvania.” That borough is now in Delaware County, which was created in 1789 from Chester County.

Here’s the scanty outline chart the above information defines:

1  John Rankin m. Anna Craig

    2 William Rankin

    2 Mary Rankin m. Joshua Cox

      3 Mary Cox m. John Craig

So … who was the William Rankin with a sister Mary Rankin Cox?

I don’t know. The Rankin DNA Project doesn’t have a member who claims descent from William, son of John and Anna Craig Rankin.[2] He could be the same man as the William who married Victory Alcorn in Cumberland County and went to North Carolina, AKA “Thing 1.” Or he could be the same man as the William who married Mary Stewart in Franklin County and went to Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, AKA “Thing 2.” He might even be the same man as “Thing 3,” William Rankin of Indiana County, Pennsylvania. If anyone out there has a theory, please say so.

Here is another question: who was the John Rankin whose wife was Anna Craig?

Again, I don’t know. He was almost certainly not the John Rankin who died in Lancaster County in 1749. That John Rankin’s will named his wife Margaret,[3] while his family’s oral history identifies his wife as Jane McIlwee.

However, the surname Craig – which appears twice in the above minimal chart –  caught my attention. If you are a Rankin researcher or follow this blog, you know that Adam and Mary Steele Alexander Rankin of Lancaster County (created from Chester) had a son named Jeremiah. He died in a mill accident in Cumberland (created from Lancaster) in 1760. Jeremiah Rankin’s wife was Rhoda Craig.

As you undoubtedly know, colonial families frequently intermarried. If you find Rankins and Rankin descendants who married Craigs — e.g., John Rankin/Anna Craig, Jeremiah Rankin/Rhoda Craig, and Mary Cox/John Craig — a reasonable inference is that the Rankins were related. Alternatively or additionally, that the Craigs were related. But how? That, my friends, is the $64,000 question, to use an outdated metaphor.

Jeremiah’s father Adam Rankin allegedly had a brother John, according to an oral family legend that has become the conventional wisdom. Adam’s brother John, claims the legend, was the John Rankin who died in Lancaster County in 1749, two years after Adam died there. The problem with this part of the legend is that Y-DNA tests of both men’s descendants conclusively establish that the Adam who died in 1747 and the John who died in 1749 were not genetically related in the paternal line. They could not possibly have been brothers.

There are several possibilities here. Perhaps (1) the legend is just flat wrong about Adam having a brother John, or (2) the legend identified the wrong (albeit extremely convenient) John Rankin as Adam’s brother.[4] Enter a hoary genealogy maxim: family legends nearly always contain some element of truth, even if the details are frequently in error. What immediately sprang to mind was this: could the oral legend be right that the Adam who died in 1747 had a brother named John, but Adam’s brother was the John Rankin who married Anna Craig rather than the John who died in 1749?

Alternatively, might it be possible that John and Anna Craig Rankin were the parents of Adam died 1747, rather than John and Adam being brothers? The Cox family oral history, which is probably due as much deference as the Rankin family oral history, is that John and Anna’s daughter Mary Rankin Cox and her husband Joshua came to the colonies about 1720, which is supposedly when Adam arrived.

Those theories suggest two alternative speculative short charts for the line of Adam d. 1747:

Theory 1: John and Adam were brothers …

1  Unknown Rankin parents

2 John Rankin m. Anna Craig

2 Adam Rankin m. Mary Steele Alexander

OR Theory 2: John was Adam’s father …

1 John Rankin m. Anna Craig

2 Adam Rankin m. Mary Steele Alexander

2 Mary Craig m. Joshua Cox

2 William Rankin

I am not endorsing these theories, just throwing them out there as food for thought. I hope to find someone having relevant information and/or thoughts to offer on the subject.

See you on down the road.

Robin

            [1] Lancaster Co., PA Will Book A: 131.

                  [2] Not all members of the Rankin DNA Project provide a family tree. One of them could be descended from John and Anna Craig Rankin.

                  [3] Lancaster Co., PA Will Book J: 211.

                  [4] The fact that Adam d. 1747 and John d. 1749 were not related in the Rankin line is one of several aspects of the legend that make me wonder whether it was created relatively recently — i.e., in the 20th century — rather than having been handed down from generation to generation since the 18th or 19th century. Some of Adam’s and John’s descendants appear never to have heard the legend. Rev. Adam Rankin (son of Jeremiah and Rhoda Craig Rankin and grandson of Adam and Mary Steele Alexander Rankin) was apparently not familiar with the legend. Nor was Richard Duffield Rankin, a great grandson of the John Rankin who died in Lancaster in 1749. See this article about the legend.

With apologies to Dr. Seuss: Thing 1 (William Rankin), Thing 2 (William Rankin) … etc.

If you have children and/or grandchildren, or were a child yourself by the 1950s, you are almost certainly familiar with The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss. It features two characters named “Thing 1” and “Thing 2.” My friend Jess “Gams” Guyer, a talented Rankin researcher, suggested those would be appropriate names for any of the vast number of William Rankins who lived in southern Pennsylvania in the mid- to late 1700s. The only problem is that two “Things” aren’t enough.

With a large population of Williams to choose from, it was inevitable that some of the Things would be conflated with some of the other Things. “Same name confusion” is the easiest family history mistake in the world. Anyone who hasn’t made it yet just hasn’t been at this hobby long enough.

The clear winner in the “Thing Confusion Contest” is the William Rankin who married Mary Huston and died in Franklin County in 1792.[1] William d. 1792 was a son of Adam and Mary Steele Alexander Rankin of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.[2]  Adam and Mary are the first proved generation of a famous Rankin line from which numerous people aspire to descend, many erroneously. That may be attributable to a fabulous legend associated with Adam’s and Mary’s line.[3] Also, William d. 1792 was a Revolutionary War soldier, which often attracts hopeful descendants.[4]

So far as I know, at least three Williams have been mistakenly identified as either William d. 1792 or his son William of Centre County, Pennsylvania. Let’s call them Thing 1, Thing 2, and Thing 3. There are undoubtedly others.

Thing 1: the William Rankin who married Victory Alcorn and moved from Franklin County, Pennsylvania to Orange County, North Carolina.

Thing 2: the William Rankin who married Mary (probably née Stewart) in Franklin County and moved to Allegheny County, Pennsylvania.

Thing 3: the William Rankin with wife Jane who died in Armstrong Township, Indiana County, Pennsylvania.

Despite giving it the old college try, I have not made a dent in slowing proliferation of the above errors. These Things are a great case of “Whack-a-Mole.” Wictionary gives the example of spam e-mails: as soon as you delete one, another appears.[5] More like ten more. This article is therefore an attempt to whack some of the moles — AKA Things — into submission.

Thing 1: William Rankin m. Victory Alcorn

 Thing 1 William is easy to distinguish from William d. 1792 thanks to their different locations, another example of the “follow the land” theory. The William who married Victory lived in Hamilton Township, Cumberland (later Franklin) County.[6] William d. 1792, on the other hand, lived and died in the same county but in Antrim Township, appearing there in tax, court, and deed records consistently from mid-century until he died.[7]

Here are records locating William m. Victory in Hamilton Township, Cumberland/Franklin, Pennsylvania …

  • In May 1751, William Rankin obtained two surveys on Conococheague Creek in Hamilton Township when it was still in Cumberland County. Adjacent landowners were George Galloway and Thomas Armstrong, who help us track him with confidence. Samuel Moorhead, who also helps ID him, filed a caveat against one survey, claiming prior entitlement.[8]
  • In 1752, William Rankin appeared on the tax list for Hamilton Township.[9] He was the only Rankin on the list for that township.
  • In 1760, the will of Joseph Armstrong of Hamilton Township devised to his son Thomas Armstrong “land between Robert Elliot’s and Willm Rankins.”[10]
  • By 1761, William was married to Victory Alcorn, daughter of James Alcorn. The Alcorns owned land in the Conococheague “settlements” adjacent to Samuel Moorehead, the man who caveated William Rankin’s survey in Hamilton Township.[11]
  • In October 1765, William Rankin executed a deed conveying warrants for 150 acres in Cumberland County. It said, “William Rankin of Orange Co., North Carolina, farmer, to James McFarlan of Cumberland Co., Pennsylvania, blacksmith, 2 warrants by Rankin for a total of 150 acres in Hamilton Twp., Cumberland, adjacent James Dickson, George Gallaway, Thomas Armstrong.”[12]

The last deed proves that William and Victory moved to Orange County, North Carolina by at least 1765. William died in Caswell County, a successor county to Orange. William’s 1788 estate distribution in Caswell establishes that his widow was named Victory, his only son was named James (the name of Victory’s father), and they had a daughter named Victory.There seems to be no reasonable doubt that the William Rankin whose estate was probated in Caswell County was the same man as Thing 1, William who married Victory Alcorn of Cumberland County, Pennsylvania.

William and Victory’s son James married as his first wife Elizabeth Fuller in Caswell County.[13] He later moved to Logan County, Kentucky, where he married Hannah Forbush. He ultimately migrated to Sumner County, Tennessee, where his estate was probated.[14]

 The good news for Whack-a-Thing is that a male Rankin descendant of William and Victory has Y-DNA tested. He is not a match to descendants of Adam and Mary Steele Alexander Rankin. Thus, William m. Victory — Thing 1 — cannot possibly be the same man as William d. 1792, a son of Adam and Mary.

This article is already overlong. I will try to make short shrift of Thing 2 and say even less about Thing 3.

Thing 2: William Rankin and wife Mary (probably née Stewart) of Allegheny County

There are some major differences between Thing 2 and William d. 1792. They establish that Thing 2, the William Rankin buried in Allegheny County, cannot possibly be the same man as William d. 1792 of Antrim Township, Franklin County. Here are the big ones …

  • Thing 2 died in Allegheny County and was buried there in Round Hill Cemetery in 1813, while William, husband of Mary Huston, died in 1792 in Franklin County.
  • Thing 2’s wife Mary died in 1808, five years before her husband, and is buried in the Round Hill Cemetery in Allegheny. William d. 1792 named his wife Mary in his 1792 will. Mary survived him by more than three decades, leaving a will dated 1818 and proved in 1824.[15]
  • William d. 1792 lived in Antrim Township, Franklin County, as his will explicitly states. He appeared in the records there for roughly four decades. I’m betting his family didn’t wait until 1813, twenty-one years after his death, to bury his remains to a cemetery 150 miles away in a county where he most likely never set foot.
  • Thing 2 had two children named Andrew and Mary who died in 1794 and 1795, respectively. They have tombstone styles which are identical to their father William’s. The family Bible of William d. 1792 in Franklin names eight children. So does his 1792 will. None are named Andrew or Mary, both of whom died after William d. 1792 signed his will.[16]

Thing 2 and his wife Mary (and children Andrew and Mary) are buried in the Round Hill Cemetery in Elizabeth Township, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. The Find-a-Grave entry for Thing 2 has more errors than I can count, so I’m not going to provide a link to it, hoping you won’t be exposed to all that misinformation.[17]

Incidentally, there were a number of other Rankin families in Allegheny County. The William who died there in 1813 may well be related to one of the others, although I haven’t established any credible connection. Or even a speculative connection, for that matter. If you find one, I hope you will let me know.

Thing 3: the William Rankin with wife Jane who died in Armstrong Township, Indiana County, Pennsylvania in 1826.

Thing 3 has been wrongly identified as William and Mary Huston Rankin’s son William, who moved from Franklin to Centre County, Pennsylvania. A number of descendants of Thing 3 claim to be descended from Adam and Mary Steele Alexander Rankin, no matter how many Williams in Adam’s line it took for them to get back to Adam.[18]

I will cut to the chase, courtesy of science. A descendant of William and Jane Rankin of Indiana County has Y-DNA tested. His result places him squarely in Rankin DNA Project Lineage 2. He does not match descendants of Rankin Lineage 3B, which is the line of Adam and Mary Steele Alexander Rankin. Thus, the William Rankin with wife Jane who died in Indiana County cannot possibly have been either the son of, or the same man as, Adam and Mary’s son William d. 1792.

For the evidence, here is a link to an article about William Rankin of Indiana County with wife Jane.

It is a gorgeous day here, mild temps with a high, cloudless blue sky that makes you squint. It is time to bid adieu to the laptop and go outside.

See you on down the road.

Robin

            [1] Franklin Co., PA Will Book A: 256, will of William Rankin of Antrim Twp., Franklin Co., dated and proved in 1792. William named his wife Mary, sons Adam, Archibald, James, William, David, John, and Jeremiah, and daughter Betsy. William’s wife Mary is proved as a daughter of Agnes Huston (widow of Archibald) by Agnes’s will. Franklin Co. Will Book A: 110, will of Agness Huston dated 1776 and proved 1787. Agnes bequeathed a gift to her daughter Mary Huston, “alias Rankin.” One of her executors was her son-in-law William Rankin, “husband of my daughter Mary.” Also, you can find articles about William d. 1792 and Mary Huston Rankin’s line here  , and  here , and here , with still another here.

                  [2] Lancaster Co., PA Will Book J: 208, will of Adam Rankin dated and proved in 1747. Adam named his wife (although he did not mention her given name), sons James, William, and Jeremiah, and daughter Ester Rankin Dunwoody. His wife is proved as Mary Steele Alexander, widow of James “the Carpenter” Alexander, by a series of deeds that are a great example of the “follow the land” theory of family history research. Here is a link to an article containing the evidence.

                  [3] The oral family traditions of Adam and John who died in Lancaster Co. in 1747 and 1749, respectively, are memorialized in a bronze tablet in the Mt. Horeb Presbyterian Church Cemetery in Jefferson Co., TN. The legend has several problems, not least of which is that it identifies Adam d. 1747 and John d. 1749 as brothers. Y-DNA testing has conclusively disproved that possibility, leaving this interesting question: does the oral family history “belong” to Adam d. 1747 or to John d. 1749? The only part of the legend related to Scotland and/or Ireland that has been substantiated is that an Alexander Rankin was present at the Siege of Londonderry in 1689. There is no evidence SFAIK that Alexander was an ancestor of either Adam d. 1747 or John d. 1749. Here is a link to an article about the legend.

            [4] 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), citing PA Archives 5th Series, Vol. 6, 576, 583: “WILLIAM RANKIN of Antrim Twp., appears as a private under Capt. James Poe, 1782, on an undated roll. He married Mary Huston, daughter of Archibald, as shown by the will of Agnes Huston, widow of Archibald. The will of William Rankin of Antrim Twp., was dated Oct. and prob. Nov. of 1792.” See also PA Archives, 3d Series, Vol. 20: 254 for additional evidence of William d. 1792’s Rev. War service.

                  [5] Here is a link to a definition of Whack-a-Mole.

            [6] Here is a link to a Franklin Co. map showing Hamilton and Antrim townships, which are adjacent. Hamilton Township was founded in 1752; Franklin County was formed in 1784, so Hamilton was originally in Cumberland County, from which Franklin was created. Antrim Township is adjacent to and south of Hamilton. This was a crowded area for Rankins.

                  [7] See Note 1. I’m not going to cite records for William d.  1792 proving that he lived in Antrim Township because there are so many of them. See tax lists at Family Search for an easy start.

                  [8] William Henry Egle, Pennsylvania Archives Third Series Vol. II (Harrisburg: Clarence M. Busch, State Printer, 1894) 264, Samuel Moorhead entered a caveat against the acceptance of a survey made by William Rankin on a tract on the west side on Conecocheague Cr., in Hamilton Township, Cumberland Co. Moorehead alleged a prior warrant for part of the tract.

                  [9] FamilySearch.org film 7856871, image 30, 1752 tax list for Hamilton Township, Cumberland Co., PA.

            [10] Cumberland Co., PA Will Book A: 79, will of Joseph Armstrong.

                  [11] Cumberland Co., PA Will Book A: 88, will of James Alcorn. See Note 8.

                  [12] Franklin Co., PA Deed Book 6: 124, FamilySearch.org Film # 8,035,192, Image 361. The deed was executed in 1765 when the warrants were located in Cumberland, but recorded in the Franklin County deed records in 1803, when the warrants were for land then located in Franklin.

                  [13] Caswell Co., NC Will Book B: 341, LDS Film #004754650, image 333, will of Henry Fuller dated 1788, proved 1790, names his daughter Elizabeth Rankin.

                  [14] James Rankin’s widow Hannah was party to a deed in which the male devisees of James’s land (all named as parties to the deed) divided his land, see Sumner Co., TN Deed Book 12:43.

                  [15] See an article about Mary’s will here.

                  [16] See Note 1 for information about the will of William d. 1792.

                  [17] Instead, read this article for an explanation of what Find-a-Grave got wrong, plus citations to information about Allegheny County William AKA Thing 2 and his wife Mary.

                  [18] An erroneous S.A.R. application is probably to blame for many of the faulty claims by Thing 3 descendants to be descended from Adam and Mary Steele Alexander Rankin, see this article.

Alexander’s Gambit: How to Snare an Unwilling Rankin

Right off the bat, I need to put this story in context. First, my friend and distant cousin Roger Alexander is the main character. Roger is the all-time gold medal award-winning recruiter for convincing men to swab a cheek for the sake of country, motherhood, world peace, and the Alexander DNA Project. Second, this story takes place in the Genealogical Dark Ages, when amateur family history researchers had to walk barefoot in the snow, uphill both ways, in order to do research in person at a genealogy library.

I explain Roger’s success like so: you have either agreed to Y-DNA test, or you are still talking to him. Today. If you are within a three-hour radius of where he lives, he may show up at your front door. As a favor to me, he once convinced a Rankin about whom he knew virtually nothing to Y-DNA test. He has retired from the recruiting business, or I would still be pestering him for help.

Some of you may not know what the genealogical Dark Ages were like. The Church of Latter Day Saints (“LDS”) had not yet made available online the zillions of county records it has microfilmed, now accessible free at FamilySearch.org. Consequently, family history researchers back then either had to (1) rely on abstracts and microfilm[1] at their local libraries, (2) go to county courthouses to look at original records, or (3) go to the LDS main library in Salt Lake City to access the church’s vast microfilm library.[2] Alternatively, one could write a snail mail letter to a clerk of court to ask for copies of original deeds. I actually did that once and only once, and the resulting deeds play a minor role in this story.

O.K., now to the actual story. It begins a quarter-century ago, in the mid- to late 1990s. The Genealogical Dark Ages. I struck up an email conversation with a very nice man named John Alexander. One of my ancestors is Eleanor (“Ellen”) Alexander, the wife of Samuel Rankin of south-central North Carolina, so John and I had that surname and approximate location in common. He is the best researcher I have ever known, bar none.[3] We were unable to help each other, and the correspondence ended.

Fast forward about ten years, to 2005-ish. Not only was this still the Genealogical Dark Ages, it was also a time when many of us still had land lines, a telephone option some of you may not be familiar with. Landlines featured phones that may have actually dialed, and they were connected to the wall with a wire. We had eliminated our land line because it was a magnet for junk calls.

About this time, John Alexander and his cousin and fellow researcher Roger Alexander had reached an impasse. They had been convinced they were descended from a famous Alexander family known as the “Seven Brothers and Two Sisters.” That Alexander family had probably been among the early arrivals to the Colonies during the so-called “Great Migration” of Scots-Irish that began in 1717. Many of them moved to the Piedmont Area of North and South Carolina, which includes both Mecklenburg County, NC and Spartanburg, South Carolina. Several men from the line of the Seven Plus Two signed the famous Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence.[4]

John’s and Roger’s earliest proved Alexander ancestor first appeared in Spartanburg County, South Carolina, just a short hop across the state line from Mecklenburg. When Y-DNA testing disproved their descent from one of the Seven Brothers, they labeled themselves the “Spartanburg Confused,” or “SpartCon” for short.[5] Because their Alexanders first lived in North Carolina, they mucked around in NC records. They found — in a deed abstract rather than a film or an actual deed book — a series of gift deeds from James and Ann Alexander to their children James, David, Robert, and Eleanor. Roger’s and John’s mutual Alexander ancestor was a James, the right age to have been a son of James and Ann.

This was exciting, but for one problem: Y-DNA testing also suggested that their ancestor James had a brother named John. There was no John among the gift deeds in the deed abstract, however.

Roger’s cousin John Alexander, whose memory is as outstanding as his research skills, recalled having had a conversation some years earlier with a descendant of Eleanor Alexander Rankin. Roger and John thought I might be able to help them solve their puzzle.

Unfortunately, my email address had changed, eliminating the obvious means of contact. Roger switched into detective mode in high gear, trying to track me down.

Our next-door neighbor Sabrina rang our doorbell one morning. She handed me a scrap of paper with a name and phone number on it: Roger’s. I invited her in, but she was busy.

“What’s this all about?” I asked.

“I just got off the phone with this Roger guy after a half hour conversation. He is looking for you.”

“OK,” I said, still in the dark.

“He tried to get me to tell him your phone number or email address.”

“Did you?” I asked.

“Hell, no,” she responded. “He claimed he needs to get in touch with you about something having to do with Alexander genealogy. He made it sound like the earth would stop rotating on its axis if he couldn’t talk to you.”

I’m still confused by all this.

“So … why did he call you, rather than me?”

“Because he couldn’t find your phone number since you no longer have a land line.”

“OK, that’s why he didn’t call me, but why did he call you?”

“He was able to tell from an online map that we are next door neighbors, and he was also able to find our land line.”

All was now clear except for the apocalyptic nature of Roger’s need to talk to me.

“He made me promise to give you the message that he urgently needs to talk to you about some earth-shattering issue concerning Alexander genealogy, but he didn’t tell me what that is.”

“OK,” said I, “thanks Sabrina. I’m sorry you were inconvenienced by this nut.”

“No problem,” she said. “This will probably be the most interesting thing that happens to me all day.”

After she left, I promptly deposited the slip of paper with Roger’s name and number in the trash, having concluded that he was a total nutcase. Who on earth tries to contact you by calling your next-door neighbor?

A week or two passed. At some point the mail arrived, including a short handwritten letter on lined paper saying this:

“Please call or email me. I urgently need to talk to you about an important matter concerning Alexander genealogy. You can reach me at ______ (phone number) or _____ (email address).

Roger Alexander”

At this point, of course, my curiosity finally kicked in and I was hooked. Wouldn’t you be? Moreover, I didn’t have to call Roger — I could just email him and find out what the deal was. If he was truly wacko, I could simply block his emails.

Turned out that Roger and John are sixth-ish cousins of mine. We are all descended from James and Ann Alexander of Anson/Rowan, North Carolina. Furthermore, Roger turned out to be smart, witty, and fun — as well as being constitutionally incapable of accepting defeat.

All they needed to know from me was that the abstract of the gift deeds they consulted had omitted the deed from James and Ann to their son John. The copies of the gift deeds I had obtained from the county clerk identified James and Ann’s children as James,  John, David, Eleanor, and Robert.[7]

The unintended moral of this piece: don’t trust an abstract, check the original. That’s easy to do now, thanks to FamilySearch.org.

It is a good thing I emailed Roger, or he might have driven from his home to Texas and knocked on our front door.

If you have a better story about the lengths someone will go to in order to further their family history research, I really want to hear it.

See you on down the road.

Robin

[1] The library where my father researched in Shreveport, LA in the late 1960s had a microfilm collection limited to census film, so far as I knew.

[2] Another alternative was to go to a local LDS “family history center,” an option we didn’t use.

[3] If John Alexander tells me that James Alexander’s parents are X and Y, I will believe him without any evidence whatsoever.

[4] If you read this blog, you have run across a member of the Seven Plus Two before: Adam Rankin’s wife Mary Steele Alexander was the widow of “James the Carpenter” Alexander, one of the Seven Plus Two. If you do this hobby long enough, you will run over your own tail.

[5] You can find the lines of the Seven Plus Two and the SpartCons here.

[6] This is poetic license, of course. There are several places on the planet, particularly in Scotland, where Alexanders are thick as thieves.

[7] Anson Co., NC Deed Book B: 314 et seq., five deeds dated 12 Jan 1753 from James Alexander Sr. to his children James Jr., John, David, “Elener,” and Robert, gifts of land and/or livestock. Two other deeds prove another child, a son William, almost certainly the eldest son. Rowan Co., NC Deed Book 3: 495, 498, deeds from William Alexander identifying David and Robert as his brothers and Ann Alexander as his mother. Numerous court records establish that James Sr.’s widow was named Ann. See, e.g., Rowan Co., NC Court Order Book 1: 53, record dated 9 Oct 1754, Ann Alexander, “wife and relict of James, dec’d,” took the oath of office as administrator of his estate.