Willie G., Part 2 – Nevertheless, They Persisted

Having bombed Tokyo and gotten most of Doolittle’s Raiders to safety with the help of numerous Chinese villagers, I closed the book and turned to Robin. “Anything I can do to help track down this William G. Rankin fellow?”

She laughed. “I hit ‘publish’ about two minutes ago – so, no. On the other hand, it is a good story but with a lot of holes. Let’s see what else we can find.”

Indeed, it is a good story, starting with a Union coat and vest up for auction. A guy comes out of nowhere, gets commissioned as a Captain in the Union Army in 1861, gets breveted to Major and Lt. Colonel on the same date in 1865, maybe carries a brevet Colonel rank in 1867, supposedly leaves the service in 1870, goes to work in Customs in New York City, applies for a veteran’s invalid pension in 1889, and appears in the 1890 schedule of Civil War Veterans — still in New York, although he was born in Pennsylvania.

But the holes are gaping. Where and when was he born? Who were his parents? What was his middle name? What did he do before the War? How did he wrangle a Captain’s commission? What really happened when he was at Fort Buford? Did he marry and/or have children?  As Yule Brenner said in The King and I, “Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.”

Well, by gosh, we persevered and found answers to many of those questions. He was born in 1822 (not 1835) in Mercer County, Pennsylvania. His parents may have been William S. and Martha (birth surname unknown) Rankin. His middle name was Galloway, which is interestingly the name of a single malt scotch. At Fort Buford our man was a conniving, scheming, alcoholic. He did marry – apparently to a woman with lavish tastes but some good sense. She left him. We still do not know about children. He died in 1891 and is buried in the Rankin plot in Mercer Citizens Cemetery, Mercer, Pennsylvania.

If you are interested in how this all came together, here is how the sausage was made. First, I found New York City Directories online at the New York Public Library site. Nicely digitized but non-searchable, not even to skip to a numbered image! Faced with scrolling page by page, I complained to Robin, “Sure would be nice if we were looking for someone named Adams or Bailey instead of Rankin.” She replied, “That is a funny thing to hear coming from a man named Willis!” I laughed and turned back to scrolling. Somewhere around image #900, the 1889-90 Directory lists Wm G Rankin on West 38th Street.[1] That was also Rankin’s location in the 1890 Civil War Veterans’ Schedule. He showed up at the same address in the 1890-1891 directory. And then Bingo — he does not appear in 1891-92. Maybe he moved. Maybe he died. I found the answer in a New York Death Index Extract. It read:

William G. Rankin, died 30 May 1891 in Manhattan, New York, age 69, born about 1822, Death Certificate #18993.

That looks like our guy! Unfortunately, there was no digitized image of the certificate, so we could not learn names of next of kin or parents that might be on that document. In any event, the discovery was a breakthrough. From that point, the search picked up steam.

Then, we found his middle name! A register of United States employees in 1873 listed “W. Galloway Rankin” as Entry Clerk in the Customs Department in New York at an annual salary of $2,200.00.[2] Surely, this is the same man as William G. Rankin who was a temporary Customs Inspector at a later date for $4.00 per day, about half the earlier salary. The 1873 listing showed he was born in Pennsylvania, which also matches our man.

Having that middle name  opened the floodgates to more information. One of the most revealing pieces was an article published in 1969 about drunken officers at forts in the West.[3] Based primarily on official military reports and correspondence, the author exposes Captain (not Colonel) William Galloway Rankin, commander of Fort Buford during the summer of 1867. He was a drunk and a thief who sold Army rations, probably to a nearby village of friendly Sioux. He was assaulted by an equally inebriated subordinate officer who discovered Rankin’s thievery. The article claims that he had a beautiful wife, half French and half Spanish, who left Fort Buford by steamboat for Omaha, apparently enjoying some of the Captain’s illicit wealth. As you might expect, the record does not include the wife’s name!

Despite substantial proof against Captain Rankin, he escaped punishment and was assigned to a coveted job in recruiting. The article claims he was friends with Colonel (later General) Rufus Ingalls, who headed the Army’s Quartermaster Corps. We have not been able to trace the beginnings of that relationship. Was that part of the reason Rankin got his commission in the first place? Was that why he apparently spent a lot of the war at headquarters rather than in battle? Was there any connection related to Rankin’s misappropriation of government supplies? One has to wonder.

In any event, the officer bringing charges against Rankin (and his assailant) was the commander of the U.S. 31st Infantry Regiment.[4] That regiment was formed from one battalion of the 13th Regiment in December 1866. Rankin’s company at Fort Buford was part of the transferred battalion, which explains how he came to be in the 31st during 1867.[5] We can reasonably conclude that whoever “rescued” him from his pending Court Martial and placed him in the recruiting assignment also transferred him back to the 13th, where he ended his service. Rankin apparently had some powerful friends.

Having Willie G.’s middle name also yielded results at Find-A-Grave. William Galloway Rankin’s tombstone is pictured on the site showing birth and death months of June 1822 and May 1891, respectively. That is our man! And a big breakthrough – he is buried in Mercer Citizens Cemetery, Mercer County, Pennsylvania. A Pennsylvania U.S. Veterans Burial Index confirmed our guy (although misspelling the name as Rawkin) – born June 1822, died 30 May 1891, buried in Mercer Citizens Cemetery.

With that information, Robin searched for William Galloway Rankin in Mercer County. Census records in Mercer County identified Willie G.’s possible family of origin.  A William S. Rankin family appeared in 1820, 1840, and 1850 censuses. The 1840 census includes a male born between 1820 and 1825, the right age for Willie G. The 1850 census shows William S. Rankin with wife Martha and several presumed children.[6] William G. Rankin is not listed in the household, which makes sense. He would be 28 years old.

The household, however, does include R. C. Rankin age 34, an attorney. Robin found a reference to a Robert C. Rankin who died in 1855.[7] She also found that William S. Rankin does not appear in the 1860 Census, so he likely died as well.

Next step has to be looking for those two in the probate records at FamilySearch! Hopefully, our Willie G. will be named as an heir or administrator.

Maybe tomorrow.

Cheers, and See you on down the road,

Gary and Robin

[1] To be fair, I could scroll eight pages at a time, so it “only” took about 120 clicks in each directory to get to image 900.

[2] “Register of Civil, Military, and Naval Service Employees 1863-1959,” 1873, Vol. 1, Customs.

[3] John R. Sibbald, “Frontier Inebriates with Epaulets,” Montana: The Magazine of Western History, vol. 19, no. 3, 1969, pp. 50–57. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/4517383. Accessed 29 Jan. 2023.

[4] Id at 51, Colonel Phillipe Regis de Trobriand.

[5] This transfer explains why the 1867 events were not included in the history of the 13th Regiment of Infantry prepared by Lt. J. B. Goe referenced in the earlier article on William G Rankin.

[6] The 1850 Census for Mercer, Mercer County, Pennsylvania lists Wm S Rankin 69 farmer with $9,000 of real estate, Martha Rankin 58, R. C. Rankin 34, Madeline Rankin 28, Martha J. Rankin 20, and James L. Rankin 4.

[7] Robert might have never married. The New Castle Public Library in Lawrence County, adjoining Mercer County, Pennsylvania, lists an obituary for Robert C. Rankin, Esq. No image is available for the obit, which appeared in the Lawrence Journal on 27 Jan 1855. However, the library’s index card does not indicate any spouse named in the article.

Where You Be, Willie G?

I’m stumped.

Addendum, several hours after hitting “publish” on this article: I am no longer stumped, thanks to Gary plowing through Manhattan City Directories. Willie G’s full name was William Galloway Rankin, and he was from Mercer County, PA. We will  publish a follow-up article after doing some due diligence on the Mercer County Rankins.

Back to the original article …

As of January 27, there was a Union Army jacket and vest on the auction block at Winter Fine Art and Antiques.[1] The uniform is attributed to Brevet Colonel William G. Rankin, commander of Fort Buford in what is now North Dakota. Last time I looked at the auction site, it could be yours for $1600 plus a buyer’s bonus of 25%.

Willie G apparently parachuted into the Civil War from Mars, because both his whereabouts when he joined the army and his family of origin are mysteries.

I thought about seeking help from my friend Spade, a shady P.I. with a rep for digging up dead Rankins. But his retainer is a bit steep — $100 plus a fifth of Cutty Sark. His fee has been going up ever since his success with John McGinley Rankin’s parents. My next thought was to ask Jessica “Gams” Guyer for help, but her specialty is deeds. They are recorded at the county level, of course. In Willie G’s case, I don’t even know what state he lived in before the War. I only know he was born in Pennsylvania, probably circa 1835-ish. Big whoop. So were a zillion other William Rankins.[2]

The best possibility for help was my friend Mary “the Bulldog” Buller, the world’s premier expert on mining military records at NARA.[3]  She could locate the official military report, if one existed, on a Brown Bess lost in the Revolutionary War. Unfortunately, I am hopeless in the NARA website labyrinth. Also unfortunately, I have pestered her often, and I hope she is currently busy looking for a home in Texas after a brief exile from Austin to Virginia. My last hope was ex-Captain Willis, USAF, author of two military histories. Unfortunately, his nose is currently in a tome about Doolittle’s Raiders. No chance there.

So I rolled up my sleeves, trying to verify information from the auction website. My friend and cousin Debbie Rankin sent me the link to the auction. In addition to a great description and numerous photos of the coat and vest, the website has a biography of Colonel Rankin. Here are the highlights:[4]

  • He was appointed Captain of the 13th Infantry regiment on May 14, 1861. That suggests he was from a family of some means, because officers had to provide their own horse and other equipment. He was probably, says Gary, in his twenties. Thus my crude estimate that he was born circa 1835-ish.
  • He received two brevetted promotions, to Brevet Major and Brevet Lieutenant Colonel.[5]
  • He was transferred to the 31st Infantry Regiment in September 1866 and then back to the 13th in 1869.
  • He was brevetted as a full Colonel during the American-Indian Wars. Maybe.
  • In 1866, he “founded” and commanded Fort Buford in the Dakota Territory along the Oregon Trail. “Founded” is the wrong word: soldiers don’t “found” forts. The writer probably meant to say “oversaw construction of a new U. S. Army military installation in his role as its first commander.”
  • The fort was attacked by members of the Sioux Nation. Because the garrison was isolated and unable to communicate to report its status, newspapers “inadvertently” created a story of the “Fort Buford Massacre.”
  • He was discharged from the Army in December 1870. That date doesn’t pan out.

Where to start? That is a wealth of information. Or misinformation, if the researcher didn’t know his or her genealogy bidness. In this case, she had a fairly respectable batting average. Probably hired Spade. I hope his hangover wasn’t too bad.

Right off the bat, I’d like to know how one “inadvertently” writes a newspaper story. That skill might be useful to me in writing blog articles.

First research stop: Fold3, an online source of military records. It requires a paid subscription. I don’t care for it, having compared the information on file at NARA for one of my ancestors with what the website has for him. Fold3 didn’t fare well. But it’s a quick-and-easy place to start.

In Willie G’s case, a search on “William G. Rankin” with the filter “Union Army, Civil War” provided many hits, but not much information. He is listed on Union Army Registers for 1861, 1865, 1866, 1868, and 1870. Those registers confirmed that he was commissioned (appointed) on 14 May 1861 as a Captain in the 13th Infantry Regiment. He remained in the 13th Infantry in 1866 and 1867. He was transferred to the 31st Infantry in 1868. He had transferred back to the 13th Infantry by 1870. He received promotions to Brevet Major and Brevet Lt. Colonel on 13 March 1865.

I found no mention of a promotion to Brevet Colonel. However, the coat being auctioned has a fabulous eagle embroidered on the epaulets. An eagle with outspread wings is the traditional uniform marking for a so-called “full bird” colonel, as opposed to a Lt. Colonel, whose rank insignia is a silver oak leaf. Below is a picture of a colonel’s insignia, although the one pictured has silver thread for the eagle. Col. Rankin’s eagle was gold thread. A Brevet Colonel rank might have been appropriate for a fort’s commander, says Gary, even though there may have been only one company originally on site.

I couldn’t find a mention of a discharge date on Fold3. It did have an image for a pension application filed on Sep. 28, 1889 from New York, asserting invalid status.[6] No doubt it was our Willie G. It includes the information that he was a Captain, 13th U. S. Infantry Regiment, Companies F and S.

There should be more information at NARA, such as when his pension (if approved) terminated, which would tell us when he shuffled off this earthly coil. But have I mentioned that I am not competent to find anything on the NARA website? I used up all my NARA brainpower looking at Revolutionary War muster and pay rolls for Bulldog’s Rankin ancestor.

Wading through all those hits on Fold3 did produce three new pieces of information:

  • That is where we learned he was born in Pennsylvania. I.Do.Not.Know.Where.to.Begin.
  • He was living in New York in 1889 and was physically incapacitated in some fashion.
  • He was appointed (or commissioned) from “W.T.” For most of the men listed on those Army registers, there is a standard state abbreviation for where the commission/appointment took place: e.g., “MO” or “PA.” Usually, that means where the soldier physically joined the unit. Where the heck was W.T.?

I rudely interrupted Gary’s perusal of Doolittle’s exploits. “What on earth,” said I, “might W.T. mean? Wyoming territory is out of the question because 1861 is too late.”

He pondered and decided it was probably an incorrect transcription of old handwriting and should be “M.T.,” as in “Missouri Territory.” I rolled my eyes. Missouri became a state in 1821. Translation from Garyspeak: please leave me alone with Col. Doolittle.

I went to the next logical source of information (not counting NARA): the U.S. Army Center of Military History. Specifically, I found historical records for the 13th Regiment of Infantry by Lieut. J. B. Goe at this link. What I hoped to learn was where the 13th Infantry Regiment was recruited, because Willie G and/or his family of origin probably lived nearby in 1860. One usually did not travel hundreds of miles to join the army.

Lt. Goe tells us that 13th Regiment headquarters were established at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri. The original military post was south of St. Louis, Missouri, on the banks of the Mississippi River. It was primarily a supportive military installation overseeing westward expansion and assisting in protecting the early (read: white) settlers.[7] The 13th had recruiting stations in Dubuque, Keokuk, and Iowa City, Iowa: Cincinnati and Bellefontaine, Ohio; and Madison, Wisconsin.

Well, now, isn’t that just fine and dandy! That narrows it down to one of six towns located in six counties in three states, plus St. Louis, the regiment’s HQ. So I searched the 1860 census for anyone named Rankin in the counties where those towns are located. I turned up no leads suggesting Willie G’s location when he was appointed. The arrived-from-Mars theory was gaining traction.

I was clearly on the wrong track. Barking up the wrong tree. Heading down fruitless rabbit trails. Please choose a metaphor which expresses “failing” in a kindly fashion.

What next? Well, the biography on the auction site said the alleged Ft. Buford Massacre became a newspaper story. Next stop: Newspapers.com, an easy to use searchable website, although it also requires a paid subscription. There are a number of stories in April 1867. Here is a sample.

The Delaware State Journal and Statesman story on April 2 was headlined “Another Horrible Massacre.” It said that “Indians … butchered ever [sic] man, woman and child, not one being left to tell the tale. The fort was under the command of Colonel Rankin, and Company C, Thirty-first United States Infantry.”

Yep, that’s our boy, then in the U.S. 31st. The story was reportedly relayed from friendly Sioux.

On April 10, the New York Times article reported this:

“The fate of Col. Rankin and his little garrison at Fort Buford, Dakotah, is still wrapped in uncertainty.” Unable to resist repeating gory details, the Times continued, “A few days since we published a circumstantial account of the massacre by the Indians of Col. Rankin, his wife and child, and eighty soldiers of his command. The account gave the details of the affair, described a three days’ siege, the final assault, the killing of Mrs. Rankin by her husband to prevent her capture …”

The article continues: “From military, but not official sources, we now have a complete denial of the whole story, and a dispatch from St. Louis alleges that Gen. Sherman has received letters from Col. Rankin of date subsequent to that of the alleged massacre.” The paper then went on to excoriate the army for a host of sins, including the vulnerability of remote military installations such as Fort Buford.

Duh. Doesn’t “vulnerable” usually logically follow “remote”?

The same day, The Charleston Mercury had a story headlined “Reported Massacre Unfounded.”

The only new information from those articles was the fact that Col. Rankin may have had a wife and child. Commanders of installations were usually permitted an “accompanied” tour, meaning the officer could bring his family along. If Willie G were married, there is probably a marriage license somewhere. Of course, that is yet another record kept at the county level, and is one more reason to figure out where he had lived before military service.

Getting desperate, I turned to an unusual source. Wikipedia. Since anyone can write anything at all in that forum, it has as much credibility as online family trees. Approximately zero, give or take a small measure. I briefly considered whether I should even admit I consulted it. But the truth is what the truth is.

The article about Fort Buford has no citations to sources whatsoever, except for the article’s sources of information on a nearby friendly Indian settlement. There is not a hint where the author obtained detailed information he/she provided on, e.g., the evolution of the fort’s structure, the repeated attacks on the fort by the Lakota, or the status of the fort’s water wells during the attacks. Please read it for what it’s worth.

Wikipedia identifies Willie G as a Brevet Lieutenant Colonel and says the fort was manned by Company C, 2nd Battalion, 13th Infantry, including three officers, 80 enlisted men, and six civilians. Here is a contradiction: was the fort manned by the 13th or 31st? I’d just like to know more about the six civilians, if that is true. Here’s the Wikipedia link.

In short, the Wiki article doesn’t shed any light on Willie G and I probably should have preserved whatever reputation I may have by omitting it altogether.

Whatever. The former fort is now primarily known as the location where Tatanka Iyotake — more familiarly known as Sitting Bull — surrendered his rifle.[8] He, of course, is famous for defeating Gen. Custer at Little Big Horn. He is less well-known for the siege of Fort Buford, but he was the leader of the Lakota attackers, according to Wikipedia.

Sitting Bull wasn’t my target, though. Willie G was, and I was still coming up empty on his location when he was commissioned. And zilch on his family of origin. So I turned to his post-Civil War adventures, guided by the 1889 pension application from New York. Only two post-war records surfaced …

First, the 1890 federal census (mostly lost) has a “Special Schedule, Surviving Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines and Widows, Etc.” Lo and behold, Willie G was enumerated in New York City. He is identified as “Rankins, William G., Capt., 13th U.S. Infantry, enlisted 14 May 1861, discharged 1873, served 13 years.”

By golly, that is our man, discharged in 1873 rather than 1870. Congress never approved his brevet promotions, since his rank is given as Captain. Since he was still a Captain after thirteen years, he was probably shown the exit from military service in a genteel fashion.  And there is his address: 60 West 38th Street. A multistory building now occupies that address. Perhaps it was a multi-family structure such as an apartment building in 1890?

Surely, thought I, finding more information on him would be a piece of cake. Hahahaha …

I’ve got to clear my throat before identifying the last source of info on Willie G, to wit (I am unable to persuade WordPress to allow single spacing):

OFFICIAL REGISTER OF THE UNITED STATES

CONTAINING A LIST OF

OFFICERS AND EMPLOYÉS

IN THE CIVIL, MILITARY, AND NAVAL SERVICE

ON THE

FIRST OF JULY, 1881;

TOGETHER WITH A

LIST OF SHIPS AND VESSELS BELONGING TO THE UNITED STATES.[9]

Page 188 is headed “TREASURY DEPARTMENT, CUSTOMS SERVICE.”

One William G. Rankin, identified as having been born in Pennsylvania, was a temporary employee in the office of the Customs Service Inspector, employed in New York, at a compensation of $4.00 per diem. Our Willie G. was surely the only William G. Rankin born in Pennsylvania and living in New York in 1881.

And that is all of the flesh I have been able to put on ex-Captain William G. Rankin’s bones: a temporary job as a customs inspector and a subsequent disability, for which he may or may not have received a pension. An address in Manhattan. I cannot find him anywhere in the 1880 census, although he was definitely alive, probably in New York. Where was he from before he joined the Army? Who was his family of origin? I don’t know any of those things. Was there ever a Mrs. Rankin? The only evidence for her existence is those inadvertent newspaper stories. Ergh.

Spade, do you have any of that Scotch left?

An occasional failure is just part of this hobby, but that doesn’t mean one has to like it. Had I been charging someone a fee for this matter,[10] I would write it off.

Somebody who reads this may have a clue about Willie G. I hope so. You know where to find me.

See you on down the road.

Robin

                  [1] I hope the website is still accessible. At last check, the high bid was $1500. Here is the link Debbie sent.

                  [2] There were 422 men of all ages named William Rankin listed in the 1850 census for Pennsylvania.

                  [3] The National Archives and Research Administration. Images of many records are available online.

                  [4] See Note 1.

                  [5] A “brevet” is a temporary promotion that might or might not be made permanent. Above a certain rank, promotions had to be approved by Congress. That is still the case.

                  [6] Civil War Pension Application number 731 201.

                  [7] Here  is more about Jefferson Barracks.

[8] And that fact has a highly credible source: the State Historical Society of North Dakota. See its entry about Fort Buford here.

                  [9] A copy of that undoubtedly weighty tome is owned by the University of Oregon and has been digitized by Ancestry.

                  [10] Just kidding. I have never been compensated for any genealogical research.

John McGinley Rankin: Too Many Have Lived

by Anonymous

I took a drag on my cigarette and leaned back in my chair. John McGinley Rankin was dead alright. Dead as a doornail. Had been for 187 years. Cholera they said, but I figured it was more likely a bad ticker. The probate records scattered all over my desk told the story. He’d been up to his eyeballs in debt with a wife and nine kids to support. It was a wonder he held on as long as he did.

Yep, John McGinley Rankin was dead, no doubt about it. My job: Find his parents.

Spade’s the name. Not my real name, of course. They call me “Spade” because I dig up dead relatives, mostly Rankins. I’d walked into the office that morning to find a manilla envelope on my desk. Inside was a $100 bill – my usual retainer – and a note that read “There’s more where that came from if you can tell me who his parents were.” There was also typewritten sheet titled “Memories” by a guy named James Doig Rankin,[1] plus a hand-drawn family tree.[2] Both had the name “John McGinley Rankin” circled in red.

I took a quick look at the “Memories.” Up top it mentioned Adam Rankin, son of William, who came to America from Ulster about 1720 with brothers John and Hugh. Adam had married Mary Steele and died in 1747 leaving his property to sons James, William and Jeremiah. So far, so nothing. Every Rankin under the sun claimed either Adam or John as an ancestor.[3] 90% of them were dead wrong, and the DNA evidence said Adam and John weren’t even brothers.[4]

James D Rankin went on to say that Adam’s son James had served under Washington and “for some notable service was given a tract of land at the foot of Two Top Mountain, Franklin County, Pa., a few miles from the present town of Mercersburg.” He’d married Mary McGinley, and John McGinley Rankin was one of his kids.

I chuckled. Every Rankin private dick knew that Adam’s son James was married to Jane Campbell, not Mary McGinley, and his four sons were William, David, Jeremiah and James. Not a “John McGinley” among them. It was easy to see how James D might have got mixed up, though… Guys named “James Rankin” were a dime a dozen.

The rest of the story rang true though. John McGinley Rankin had married a gal named Agnes Burns, “daughter of Hon. John Burns, first cousin and intimate friend of the Scottish poet.” About 1816, “they made their bridal trip in a covered wagon across the Allegheny Mountains, and after a short period in Eastern Ohio settled permanently a mile out of the village of Washington, Pennsylvania. Here they purchased a tavern and connected with it a farm. It stood on the Great Western Highway. The village around their home was called Rankintown. No liquor was sold in the tavern.”

I took a look at the family tree. It told basically the same story right down to the “full cousin of Robert Burns” bit, but also listed all John and Agnes’s kids and their spouses.[5] I flipped it over. It was written on stationary of the General Counsel of the Rock Island & Pacific Railway, a guy named William Thomasson Rankin. I did a double-take. Will Rankin was my own second great grandfather. Suddenly this wasn’t just another Rankin case.

This was personal.

Just then the phone rang. “Spade here… Yeah, I’m on the John McGinley Rankin case… Killed in a thresher accident in Centre County?[6] Nah, you’re barking up the wrong tree pal.” Click. What the hell was that? Some joker trying to send me off on a wild goose chase?

I ran through the list of John M’s kids from William T Rankin’s chart, and they all checked out. Two of them had been born in Warren, Ohio – James Graham in 1821 and John Walker, Will’s dad, in 1823 – so that bit of James Doig Rankin’s story looked OK, but at least one of the older girls had been born in Washington County, PA, according to her obit.[7] I also checked out Agnes’s father, “John Burns.” Turns out his name was really James[8] and he was born in Pennsylvania, so the odds of him being an “intimate friend of the Scottish poet” were just about nil. Agnes’s family had lived just west of Schellsburg, and that’s probably where she was born. That “crossed the Allegheny Mountains” part of the story was starting to look like a bunch of hooey.

I poked around in the records for Washington County for a while looking for some likely candidate for John McGinley Rankin’s father. There were a bunch of Rankins just north of the town of Washington at a spot called Raccoon Creek.[9] I even found a James who was about the right age, but it turned out he’d been ambushed and killed by Seneca on his way home from a trip to Kentucky and left no kids.[10]

So now here I was looking for clues in the probate records[11] for John M who had shuffled off on 4 Aug 1835[12] at his tavern in Canton Township. It was mostly a big pile of called in debts. The Rankintown Tavern practically had to be liquidated to pay it all off, including every barrel of beer and whiskey – so much for it being a “dry” tavern! Somehow, Agnes had managed to keep it all going for another 10 years as the Erie Canal and B&O Railroad slowly dried up traffic on the Old National Pike. She’d even managed to put most her kids through Washington College. Helluva gal.

I sighed. I’d hit a brick wall.

The phone rang again. “Yeah?… You don’t say… I’ll check it out. Thanks doll!”

It was Jess Guyer calling with a hot tip. When it came to deeds and wills, she had a nose like a bloodhound, and great gams to boot.[13] She said she’d found something in Belfast Township, Bedford County, that I might be interested in. I pulled down my dusty copy of Bedford County Deed Book P, turned to page 255, and there it was. In 1825, John M Rankin of Canton Township quitclaimed ground rent on a parcel he’d sold to one James Austin in 1815. That was definitely my boy.

Jess had said there were other deeds for the same property. I flipped back to Deed Book L, page 601. In 1818, John M Rankin, then of Belfast Township, was selling 200 acres to a guy named David Humphreys from Franklin County for 9400 clams. As I went through the details of the agreement, though, something hit me. This was no ordinary sale; this was a bailout!

John M had bought the land in 1813 for 6 grand – 2 grand up front and 4 notes of 1 grand each. It was supposed to have been paid off by the beginning of 1818. But David Humphreys was agreeing to pay off the remaining balance, so John M must have had trouble getting his hands on the dough. Not only that, but Humphreys was taking on $3400 of other debts owed by John M. That was a lot of lucre back in 1818! Besides getting rid of his debts, John M was getting a 120 acre piece of land in Warren, Ohio.

The phone rang. “Yeah?… Yeah, I’m on the case…. Doctor in Piney Township, Clarion County?[14] No, you got the wrong guy, bub.” Click. Joker.

I did a little quick arithmetic… If 200 acres in Pennsylvania was worth $9400, 120 acres in Ohio couldn’t have been worth more than two or three, probably a lot less since the feds were still selling off undeveloped land in Ohio for $2 an acre. But the deed valued it at six grand. I had to scratch my head at that one. Maybe they were trying to make it look like John M wasn’t getting such a raw deal. Anyway, what happened to John M wasn’t much different than what happened to a lot of other small farmers in those days. Everybody had been running up debt speculating on land and they all got left holding the bag when the credit dried up and the whole house of cards came tumbling down in the Panic of 1819.[15] Poor sap.

As my eyes went over the Humphreys deed again, I noticed something I’d missed on the first pass. The land in Ohio was to be transferred to John M Rankin and his father James Rankin! So the family had it right… John M’s father really was named James. Well, that helped a little, but there were so many James Rankins floating around back in those days that you couldn’t spit without hitting one in the eye. Which was John M’s daddy?

The phone rang again. I was just about ready to throw it across the room, but picked it up anyway. “Spade here… Doctor in Kalamazoo?[16] You gotta be kiddin’ me…. No, no, that’s way too late… Yeah, well, same to you.” Click.

Maybe I needed to come at this from another angle. If John McGinley Rankin’s mother was really Mary McGinley, chances are her father was named John McGinley. That’s how the Scotch-Irish liked to name their kids back in those days… give the kid the full name of some friend or relative. All I had to do was find the right guy.

Ten minutes thumbing through Pennsylvania will books and I had it. John McGinley of Adams County, Pennsylvania. Will dated December 12th, 1796.[17] He left 10 pounds each to his four daughters: Mary wife of James Rankin, Margaret wife of Isaac Moore, Sarah wife of James Rankin, and Abigail wife of William Rankin. I blinked and read it again. James Rankin was married to Mary McGinley… and Sarah McGinley?  That had to be a transcription error.[18]

Well, now at least I knew where Mary McGinley came from, but I still didn’t feel any closer to figuring out James Rankin. I started digging into the background of this John McGinley character. Turns out, he was married to a gal named Jane Alexander, and her grandmother was Mary Steele. I blinked. Wasn’t that the name of Adam Rankin’s wife? Yeah, her first husband had been a guy named James “the Carpenter” Alexander according to his will.[19] So Mary McGinley was married to James Rankin, and her father was married to the step-granddaughter of Adam Rankin? My head was starting to spin. Maybe there was something to this Adam Rankin connection after all.

The phone rang again. “This is Spade… Wait, did you say Two Top Mountain?… No kidding… I’ll look into it.” Click.

It was my cousin Ralph. He’d been digging into the Adam Rankin story and had found where Adam’s son James had his farm. It was at a spot called “The Corner,” in Montgomery Township, Franklin County, PA, a little south of Mercersburg, where Punch Bowl Road crosses Licking Creek, and right at the foot of Two Top Mountain, just where James Doig Rankin’s “Memories” had said it was. James’ will had split the property between his four sons, and Ralph had worked out all the property lines, with the easternmost tract going to James Jr.[20]

I started paging through Pennsylvania land warrant applications looking for clues, but the phone rang. Again.

“Spade here… Yeah, I’m on the case… Farmer in Guernsey County, Ohio?[21] No no no no NO! Not the right guy!” Click. What a Nimrod![22]

Back to the land warrants I went, and boy did I get lucky! February 23, 1816.[23] There it was. John M Rankin of Belfast Township applies for a Warrant on a tract at The Corner. And evidence was given by none other than James Rankin, “a disinterested witness”, saying that John M had settled there in March 1812. The survey[24] put the tract just east of James Jr.’s. James Jr had to be John M’s father, but that “disinterested” bit put me off. Could a father be “disinterested”?[25] I was so close I could taste it.

I went back to the deed books. There had to be something there. Finally, I found it! A deed from James Rankin Jr to Charles Kilgore[26] for a tract of land bordered on the east by lands “late the property of said James Rankin & his son John Rankin.” There was my smoking gun!

I now had a solid paper trail proving that John McGinley Rankin, husband of Agnes Burns, was the son of James Rankin Jr, grandson of the Adam Rankin who died in 1747.  James Jr. had married Mary McGinley, his first cousin once removed of the half blood, as the old timers say, and she’d named her son after his granddad. Sometime around 1813, John M had moved to Belfast Township, Bedford County, and met and married Agnes Burns. The first two or three kids must have been born there, not in Washington County, obit notwithstanding. By 1818, with bankruptcy looming, he sold out and they all moved to Warren, Jefferson County, Ohio. After a couple more kids, they sold out again and moved to “Rankintown” in Canton Township, Washington County, Pennsylvania, to open the tavern.

James Doig Rankin and William Thomasson Rankin had got it nearly right after all. They just dropped a generation.

I poured myself a double shot of Cutty Sark and leaned back in my chair again. The phone rang. This time, I picked it up with a smile. “Don’t tell me you’ve got another one?… Died of typhoid in 1898?[27] No, that’s not the guy, but you’ve certainly been very helpful to my investigation.” Click. No amount of kibitzing was going to spoil my drink.

[1] The original copy of “Memories” is in the private collection of a descendant of John McGinley Rankin who provided an abstract to me.

[2] I discovered a hand drawn chart of descendants of William Rankin, including the lines of John McGinley Rankin and James Clark Rankin, among a packet of family papers left by my father.  It is in the hand of William Thomasson Rankin, son of John Walker Rankin and grandson of John McGinley Rankin.  It is on stationary of the Rock Island and Pacific Railroad, so must have been drawn up in about 1900 when Will Rankin was General Counsel.

[3] There are a number of articles on this website concerning Adam Rankin who died in 1747 in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

[4] See “Adam Rankin Who Died in 1747, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania – AGAIN!” here.

[5] These were:  Mary Jane Rankin (~1814-~1843) m. Rev. James Law; Esther Burns Rankin (~1816-1851) m. Rev. James Rolla Doig; Ann Eliza Rankin (~1818-1912) m. Rev. Robert Johnston Hammond; Rev. James Graham Rankin (1821-1868) m. Catherine Pollack; John Walker Rankin Esq. (1823-1869) m. Sara Dupuy Thomasson; Agnes McGinley Rankin (1825-1913) m. Rev. Byron Porter; Rev. Alexander Reed Rankin (1828-1917) m. Vianna Katherine DeGroff; Dr. David Carson Rankin (~1833-~1865) m. Margaret S Speedy; Samuel Murdock Rankin (~1833-?).

[6] John M Rankin (1797-1838), son of William Rankin and Abigail McGinley, died after being injured by a threshing machine.  John Blair Lynn, “History of Centre and Clinton Counties, Pennsylvania” 222 (Press of J. B. Lippencott & Co., Philadelphia), available online.  Abigail McGinley was a daughter of John McGinley, so the man was likely named for his grandfather. See an article about the Centre County Rankins on this website here.

[7] “The Americus Greeting,” Americus Kansas, Thursday, December 12, 1912, Page 1. Obituary for Ann Eliza Rankin “Grandma” Hammond.

[8] Will of James Burns, Bedford County, PA, Will Book Vol. 4: 379, dated 28 Jan 1860, leaving $500 to “Agness Burns intermarried with John Rankin.”  James Burns seems to have been quite a story-teller.  In the 1850 census, he gave his age as 86.  In 1860, he claimed to be 101, the same age written on his headstone when he died in 1863.  His application for a revolutionary war pension was denied because, in spite of the extensive military history it detailed, including wintering with Washington at Valley Forge, the only evidence he provided was a pay record for a different James Burns who had lived in York County.  His own records, he said, had been eaten by a mouse.  Perhaps this was the same mouse whose fate was mourned by the poet Robert Burns, who James claimed as a first cousin.

[9] See “Pennsylvania Rankins: William and Abigail of Washington County” on this website here.

[10] Charles A. Hanna, Ohio Valley Genealogies Relating Chiefly to Families in Harrison, Belmont and Jefferson Counties, Ohio, and Washington, Westmoreland, and Fayette Counties, Pennsylvania (New York: Press of J. J. Little & Co., 1900) 104-105. It is online here.

[11] Pennsylvania Probate Records, File R, 1837-1844, Case 25.

[12] Biography of John Walker Rankin from the “CF Davis Collection” 261, authorship and publication unknown.  A copy of this hand written manuscript is in the possession of the author, and a transcription is available here (Ancestry.com subscription required).

[13] For the record, this is literary license:  I have never met Jess Guyer in person.

[14] Dr. John McGinley Rankin (~1792-1869) of Piney Township, Clarion County, was the son of James Rankin and Sarah McGinley.  His memorial at Find Grave has his middle name as “McKinley,” but there is no photo of a grave marker and no reference.  The cemetery record for his daughter Sarah M. Rankin shows his middle name as “McGinley.”  See “Find-a-grave information — fact or fiction? (e.g., Dr. John M. Rankin, 1833-1909)” on this website at this link for a discussion of name confusion between this Dr. John and a younger Dr. John of Kalamazoo, MI.

[15] See Wikipedia for a discussion of the Panic of 1819.

[16] Dr. John M. Rankin (1833-1909) of Kalamazoo, MI, was the son of James Huston Rankin and Margaret McCurdy.  Huston, in turn, was the son of James Rankin and Sarah McGinley.  Huston likely named his son for his brother, Dr. John McGinley Rankin of Piney Township, Clarion County, PA, as well as for his own grandfather, John McGinley.  See footnote 14 and this article.

[17] York County, PA, Will Books vol. H: 363, viewable here.

[18] But it was no transcription error.  Three McGinley girls married three Rankin boys, two of whom were named “James.”  Sarah and Abigail married brothers James and William respectively, sons of William Rankin (1723-1792) and Mary Huston, while Mary married their first cousin James, son of James Rankin (~1722-1795) and Jane Campbell.

[19] New Castle County, DE, Will Book C: 103.

[20] A copy of Ralph Jefford’s map can be found here.  Ancestry.com subscription required.

[21] John M Rankin (1834-1927) of Guernsey County, OH, was the son of Adam Rankin and Elizabeth Pumphrey.  Adam, in turn, was the son of James Rankin and Mary McGinley, and brother to the John McGinley Rankin who is the subject of this piece.  Adam almost certainly named his son after his brother, as well as his grandfather John McGinley.

[22] Nimrod W Rankin (1862-1952) was the son of John M Rankin (1834-1927) and Elvira Berry.  See footnote 21.

[23] The Franklin County, PA, warrant application is viewable here.  Ancestry.com subscription required.  I’m sure there must be a way to view it that isn’t paywalled, but I’ll be darned if I can figure it out.

[24] Early Land Surveys for Montgomery Township, Franklin County, PA, can be found at a unique Google Earth interactive map located here.

[25] It is possible that the “disinterested” James Rankin was a cousin of John M Rankin, son of his father’s brother William, who lived three farms to the west.

[26] Franklin County, PA, Deeds, Book 12: 230.

[27] John M. Rankin, Jr. (1874-1898) was the son of Dr. John M. Rankin (1833-1909) and Susan C Rankin (her maiden name) of Kalamazoo, MI.  See footnote 16.  Like his father, his middle name was almost certainly McGinley.

It’s all about the Benjamins …

… but we aren’t talking $100 bills. Our subjects are four eighteenth-century Virginians named Benjamin who hail from the Northern Neck Rankin Cluster. Two of these men will qualify a descendant for DAR or SAR membership. If that is your thing and you may have a Rankin ancestor in the right area, they might be worth a closer look.

But this Virginia Rankin family is a tough nut to crack. Only one of the Benjamins has proved parents. Precise birth years are nonexistent; we mostly have to settle for a likely decade. I’m hoping for a reader who has a Bible or other evidence to help us with these men …

  • Benjamin Rankin of King George County, Virginia, a proved son of the Robert Rankin who died there in 1747/48. Benjamin was probably born in the 1720s.
  • Benjamin Rankin of Frederick and Berkeley Counties, Virginia (later part of West Virginia). DAR information is that Capt. Benjamin was born circa 1740.
  • Benjamin Rankin of King George/Fauquier/Loudoun Counties, Virginia and Fayette County, Kentucky. He was a Revolutionary War soldier, suggesting he was born in the 1750s or early 1760s.
  • Benjamin Rankin of Loudoun and Frederick Counties, Virginia and Mason County, Kentucky. He was probably born in the 1760s. His probable or possible brothers were Lt. Robert, William, John, Moses, Reuben, and George Rankin.[1]

Here’s what county records reveal about them.

Benjamin Rankin of King George County, Virginia, son of Robert Rankin who died 1747/48

Benjamin first appeared in the Virginia records in 1747/48 when he was named a beneficiary of his father Robert’s will.[2]Benjamin and his siblings Mary Rankin Green, Moses, George, and Hipkins each inherited only one shilling. Sons William, John, and James, probably the three eldest, inherited Robert’s land.[3] Robert’s estate was appraised at less than one hundred pounds sterling, so he didn’t have much wealth to spread among his children.[4] As a general rule, that means his sons weren’t likely to be wealthy, either.

After his father’s will was proved, Benjamin didn’t appear again in the King George records until 1753.[5] He must have been of legal age by then, born by 1732. After 1753, he appeared regularly in the court order books through 1767. In at least two records, Benjamin was involved with one of his brothers. In 1753, Benjamin and Hipkins sued the same man for trespass, assault and battery.[6] In 1763, Benjamin was security for Moses Rankin, a defendant in a suit for debt.[7]Benjamin was a carpenter, as was his brother John.[8]

The King George court slapped Benjamin hard on the wrist once — on the record — for presenting what the justices called a “very extravagant” charge for building several structures at Gibson’s tobacco warehouse.[9] The justices instructed that Benjamin be paid a lesser amount than he charged. Benjamin, bless his heart, didn’t take it lying down. He sued, was awarded a judgment, and obtained a writ of execution against the warehouse. The court instructed that the judgment be paid from the county levy.[10] Score: Little Guy 1 – City Hall 0.

Benjamin was moderately respectable by the norms of the day, something one can’t say with confidence about his brothers. They appeared in grand jury presentments for “failing to attend divine services,”[11] swearing,[12] “vagrancy” (failing to appear for militia drills),[13] or in court records as defendants in lawsuits for debts.[14] Benjamin did not belong to the top tier of the social order, though. He was never identified with the honorific “gent.,” nor did he serve in a county leadership position — justice, vestryman, tobacco warehouse inspector, someone who took tithes, or the like. He was, after all, a carpenter.

Benjamin did appraise at least one estate, a court-ordered position of moderate respect and trust.[15] He served on a couple of juries.[16] He was appointed overseer of a road, an indicator of both probable land ownership and public trust.[17] However, I found no record of any land acquisition in the deed books or Northern Neck grants. I also found no evidence of Benjamin’s family, if any.

After 1767, Benjamin disappeared from King George records. Because I found no probate records for him, I assumed he had moved. Then I started digging into the online images of King George order books. It turns out that there are very few surviving court records from the 1770s, or at least I had limited luck in the FamilySearch.org microfilms. Court records for King George are disorganized after the 1760s. Benjamin may have remained there and died intestate in the 1770s. Or he may have moved away. I don’t know. !!%&@!**&%!!

Capt. Benjamin Rankin of Frederick/Berkeley County, Virginia

Benjamin of Frederick/Berkeley first appeared in the records witnessing a 1765 Frederick County lease.[18] He lived in the Bullskin Creek/Bloomery area in the northern part of Frederick that became Berkeley County.[19] He was a Captain in the Berkeley County militia. The DAR deems him a Revolutionary Patriot, apparently for furnishing supplies.[20] The DAR estimates he was born circa 1740, probably based on information provided by a descendant.

He resigned his Berkeley militia commission in 1779.[21] That same year, he purchased more than 700 acres and thirty-seven enslaved persons.[22] He was clearly a wealthy man. In 1786, he was a trustee of the city of Charlestown, indicating he was also well-respected.[23] He died in 1787, leaving a will naming his wife Judith MNU and daughters Molly (Mary) Rankin and Margaret Helm, wife of William Helm.[24] George Rankin, who was surely a relative, witnessed Benjamin’s 1787 will.[25]

I had a notion that Capt. Benjamin of Frederick/Berkeley might be the same man as Benjamin, son of the Robert Rankin who died in King George County in 1747/48.[26] However, a birthdate circa 1740 for Capt. Benjamin, if close to accurate, precludes that possibility. Robert’s son Benjamin was of legal age by at least 1753, and thus born well before 1740.[27] Also, I have since learned from microfilm of court records in King George that Benjamin, son of Robert, was still appearing in records there in 1767, while Capt. Benjamin of  Frederick/Berkeley was in a Frederick County record two years earlier.

I also wondered whether Capt. Benjamin of Frederick/Berkeley might be the father of Lt. Robert, William, John, Benjamin, Moses, George, and Reuben Rankin.[28] Those seven men were almost certainly brothers.[29] Capt. Benjamin was in the right place at the right time to have been their father. However, his only proved children are the two daughters named in his will. Further, a birth date circa 1740 makes him highly unlikely as a father of at least Lt. Robert, born in 1753.

If you are looking for an entrée to the DAR or SAR, Benjamin’s son-in-law William Helm is a sure bet. The Helms children were identified in the SAR application of a descendant.[30]

Revolutionary War Soldier Benjamin Rankin of King George/Fauquier/Loudoun Counties, Virginia and Fayette, Kentucky

This Benjamin lived as a young man in King George County and died in Fayette County, Kentucky. In between, he spent at least some time in Loudoun and Fauquier Counties, because he signed a letter from each county assigning his benefits as a Revolutionary War soldier to a Francis Peyton.[31] One of the letters states that Benjamin served for three years as a dragoon — a cavalry soldier — in Lt. Col. William Washington’s Regiment.

Col. Washington signed Benjamin’s discharge papers as follows: “Benjamin Rankins soldier in the 3d Regiment of Light Dragoons having served faithfully three years is hereby discharged.”[32] The discharge was dated May 17, 1781, suggesting that Benjamin entered the service about May 1778. He was definitely with the unit by July 1778, when he was on furlough. On that date, the regiment was located in Fredericksburg, less than thirty miles west of the King George county seat.[33] I have no idea why he was on furlough so soon after enlisting, which seems unusual.

In September 1778, the regiment was billeted in barns and houses around Old Tappan, New Jersey.[34] The soldiers’ presence was betrayed by loyalist townspeople to British troops in the area. They were attacked during the night in an event known as “Baylor’s Massacre,” named after Col. George Baylor, who was then the regiment’s commander. More than sixty of the Third Regiment men were bayoneted and died.

Benjamin obviously survived the Massacre, unless he was still absent on a pretty long furlough. He was definitely serving in the cavalry regiment when it made mounted charges at the Battles of Cowpens and Guilford Court House, both of which were major patriot victories in the Carolinas.[35]

According to depositions given in the pension application of Benjamin’s widow Jane Hickey, he was a resident King George County when he enlisted.[36] He may have appeared in King George records in the 1770s, although that is the period when court records are apparently lost. Given his military service during 1778-1781, he was probably born in the 1750s or early 1760s.

The first records I have for him are the two 1783 letters from Loudoun and Fauquier Counties assigning his Revolutionary War benefits to a third party. He moved from that area to Fayette County, Kentucky along with another Rankin, relationship unknown. John Rankin of Clark County, Kentucky gave a deposition in connection with the pension application of Benjamin’s widow. John did not (!!) define his relationship to Benjamin, although they were surely related in some fashion. John merely said that his father, not named, and Benjamin moved to Kentucky in 1784 from Fauquier County.[37]

Jane Hickey testified that she and Benjamin married in 1785. They had more than six children, some of whom were named in the depositions supporting her pension application. Children included Sarah (the eldest, born about 1786, married Charles Hall), William, Frances, John, James, and Thomas. Jane gave her deposition from Jefferson County, Indiana. She and her children probably all moved there. Jane, her daughter Sarah Rankin Hall, and two probable sons of Jane and Benjamin can be found in the 1850 census for Indiana in Clark County (Sarah Rankin Hall and Jane) and Jefferson County (William and James).[38]

It is a reasonable bet that Revolutionary War Benjamin was a grandson of the Robert Rankin who died in King George in 1747/48.[39] As to which of Robert’s sons might have been Benjamin’s father, I haven’t found a scrap of evidence. That is par for the course with the Northern Neck Rankin Cluster.

Benjamin Rankin of Loudoun/Frederick, Virginia and Mason, Kentucky

Lt. Robert, William, and John Rankin — three proved brothers who lived in Mason County at one time — definitely had a brother Benjamin. There is evidence for that in two records, which appear conclusive:

  • In July 1783, William Rankin executed a power of attorney authorizing delivery of William’s Certificate of Service to Robert Rankin in order for the latter to obtain William’s land warrant. William’s military service was certified by Capt. William Brady. Both Lt. Robert and William had enlisted in Brady’s company of Stephenson’s Independent Rifle Regiment in 1776, so it is clear we are dealing with those two brothers. Benjamin Rankin witnessed the power of attorney, good circumstantial evidence of a family relationship.[40]
  • In August 1792, the Northern Neck Proprietor executed a lease to Benjamin Rankin of Loudoun County for the life of Benjamin and his brothers Moses and Robert Rankin. George Rankin, relationship unknown, witnessed the lease. William Rankin, Lt. Robert’s proved brother, had a nearby lease for his life and the lives of his wife Mary Ann and son Harrison.

Benjamin and his brothers Moses, Robert, and William were not sons of the Robert Rankin who died in 1747/48 in King George. That Robert did not name a son Robert in his will. More importantly, Lt. Robert was born in 1753; William was born in 1758. If the Robert who died in 1747/48 was their direct ancestor, he was their grandfather.

Benjamin of Loudoun/Frederick did not leave probate records in Frederick, so he evidently moved on. I believe he is the same man as the Benjamin Rankin who appeared in Mason County along with Lt. Robert, William, John, Moses, and George. Benjamin owned a number of town lots in Williamsburg, name later changed to Orangeburg.[41] My notes also indicate he appeared on a tax list with 100 acres on Cabin Creek and an enslaved person.[42] He married Catherine Stubblefield in 1796.[43] His bondsman was George Rankin, who plays a variety of supporting roles in records concerning the Northern Neck Rankin Cluster.[44]

The last appearance in the Mason County records that I found for Benjamin was in 1803. He was not in the 1810 census there. In 1817, a Catherine Rankin — possibly his widow? — married. I found no probate records for Benjamin.

Need I say that Benjamin and Catherine’s children, if any, are a total mystery? We cannot even be positive that the Benjamin Rankin of Williamsburg/Orangeburg, Mason County is the same man as the Benjamin who leased a tract in Frederick County in 1792. They probably were the same man, since families often migrated together, several other Rankin siblings lived in Mason County, and, of course, the appearance of George Rankin in both Benjamin’s Mason County marriage bond and the Frederick County lease for life.

And that’s all the news that is fit to print about the Benjamins of the Northern Neck Rankin Cluster.

See you on down the road.

Robin

                  [1] There are a number of articles on this website about Lt. Robert, his brothers, and their possible parents. They include Part 1, an introduction to Lt. Robert Rankin’s family, Part 2, relevant military information for Lt. Robert and his brother William, Part 3, William’s war story, Part 4, Lt. Robert’s war story, and Part 5A and Part 5B, two articles seeking to identify their parents.

                  [2] Abstract of King George Co. VA Will Book 1-A: 201, George Harrison Sanford King, King George County Virginia Will Book A-I 1721-1752 and Miscellaneous Notes (Fredericksburg, VA: 1978), undated will of Robert Rankin proved 4 Mar 1747/48. Wife Elizabeth. Sons William, John, and James, all of Robert’s land to be equally divided. Daughter Mary Green and sons Moses, George, Benjamin, and Hipkins, one shilling each.

                  [3] William was definitely the eldest because he was summoned to court to object, if he desired, to the noncupative will of Robert’s widow Elizabeth Rankin. King George Co., VA Order Book 1754-56: 470, order dated 3 Apr 1755. The right to object was accorded only to the eldest son under the rules of primogeniture. The fact that William was the first-named child in the will suggests Robert named his children in birth order. Hipkins, the last-named, was almost certainly the youngest. Order Book entry dated 6 Apr 1753 regarding the lawsuit Hipkins Rankins by Richard Green his next friend v. Thomas Burnett. That is the only court record in which one of Robert’s children was proved to be under legal age.

                  [4] King George Co., VA Order Book 1746 – 1751: 577, inventory and appraisement of the estate of Robert Rankins, dec’d, presented and recorded. His inventory is recorded in Deed Book 6: 28. The estate included one enslaved person, who probably accounted for most of the estate’s value.

                  [5] King George Co., VA Order Book 1751-54: 212, May 1753, Benjamin Rankins was a plaintiff in a lawsuit.

                  [6] Id. Benjamin and Hipkins both sued Thomas Burnett for trespass, assault and battery. The suits almost certainly arose out of the same events.

                  [7] King George Co., VA Order Book 1751-1765: 1065, entry for April 1763, Benjamin Rankins was security for Moses Rankins in a suit for debt.

                  [8] Id. at 781, entry of March 1758 binding Henry Jones as an apprentice to Benjamin Rankins to learn the trade of house carpenter. As for John, see King George Co., VA Deed Book 4: 36, 9 May 1753, a mortgage by John Rankins, carpenter of Hanover Parish, to William Bruce, an enslaved person named Sall or Sarah, witnessed by Richard Green, Mary Green, and Joana Pool. Mary Green was John’s sister, see Note 2.

                  [9] Id. at 903, Jun or July 1760 order concerning Benjamin Rankin’s “very extravagant” account for building several structures at Gibson’s tobacco warehouse.

                  [10] Id. at 1078, court order to pay from county funds to discharge Benjamin Rankin’s execution against Gibson’s warehouse.

                  [11] Moses, George, John, and Hipkins were all summoned by a grand jury at least one time for missing church. King George Co., VA Order Book 1754-56: 594 (Moses and John); Order Book 1751-65: 823 (George); Id. at 924 (John and Hipkins).

                  [12] King George Co., VA Order Book 1746-51: 610, grand jury presentment against James and Moses Rankins for “swearing an oath”.

                  [13] King George Co., VA Deed Book 4: 283, Moses Rankin “vagrant,” not appearing for militia drills. I don’t know whether that was one offense or two.

                  [14] E.g., King George Co., VA Order Book 1754-56: 583 (money judgment granted against James Rankins and George Rankins), 580 (judgment against William Rankins for suit on an account), 582 (default judgment against John Rankins). All of those records were in November 1755. There are more.

                  [15] King George Co., VA Order Book 1751-1765: 971, Benjamin Rankins et al. to appraise the estate of Richard Strother.

                  [16] E.g., King George Co., VA Order Book 1751-1765: 903, Benjamin Rankins on a jury. I have always thought that only freeholders could serve on colonial juries, although both Benjamin and Moses did so. Order Book 1751-54: 143, Moses on a jury. Neither inherited any land from their father Robert, and I found no deed or grant in which either one acquired land.

                  [17] Id. at 694, Benjamin Rankins appointed overseer of a road in place of Samuel Kendall.

                  [18] Amelia C. Gilreath, Frederick County, Virginia Deed Books 9, 10, 11, 1763-1767 (Nokesville, VA: 1989), abstract of Frederick Co., VA Deed Book 11: 12, Benjamin Rankins witnessed a lease dated 5 May 1765.

                  [19] Virginia Genealogical Society, Frederick County [Virginia] Road Orders 1743-1772 (Westminster, MD: Heritage Books, 2007), abstract of Frederick Co., VA Order Book 13: 383, entry of 7 May 1767 appointing Benjamin Rankin overseer of the road “from Bullskin to the Bloomery.”

                  [20] You can search for Benjamin Rankin on the DAR website here. See also William & Mary Quarterly, Series 1, Vol. 13, No. 1 (July 1904), “Soldiers of Berkeley County, W. Va.” 29-36.

                  [21] Berkeley Co., WV Order Book 3: 401, 20 Apr 1779, Benjamin Rankin personally appeared in court and resigned his commission as a captain in the Berkeley Militia.

                  [22] Berkeley Co., WV Deed Book 5: 744, deed of 8 Dec 1779 from Richard and Francis Willis to Benjamin Rankin.

                  [23] William Thomas Doherty, Berkeley County, U.S.A.: A Bicentennial History of a Virginia and West Virginia County, 1772 – 1972 (Parsons, WV: McClain Printing Co., 1972) 36 note 9.

                  [24] Larry G. Shuck, Berkeley County, Virginia Deeds and Wills, Abstracts Deed Books 1-5 (1772-1781), Will Books 1-3 (1772-1805), abstract of Berkeley Co., VA Will Book 1: 441, will of Benjamin Rankin of Berkeley proved 16 Jan 1787. Mentioned land on Bullskin. Witnessed by George Rankin.

                  [25] Benjamin, son of Robert d. 1747/48, had a brother named George. See Note 2. That is one reason I had speculated that Benjamin of Frederick/Berkeley was the same man as Robert’s son Benjamin, although I no longer believe that to be the case. I don’t know for sure who George Rankin might be.

                  [26] See Note 2.

                  [27] See Note 5.

                  [28] See Part B of an article about the possible parents of Lt. Robert here  and one identifying Lt. Robert’s siblings here. The only evidence for Benjamin Rankin as a possible father, so far as I found, is that Lt. Robert Rankin and his brother William enlisted in Col. Hugh Stephenson’s Maryland and Virginia Rifle Regiment from Berkeley County, which typically means they resided there. Benjamin lived near the Stephensons. In other words, he was in the right place at the right time.

                  [29] The first four men (Lt. Robert, William, John, and Benjamin) can be deemed proved. Moses, Reuben, and George are possible.

                  [30] See the SAR application of Standiford Helm, a descendant of William Helm, 1755-1806. His first wife was Margaret Rankin, daughter of Capt. Benjamin of Berkeley. William served in the 3rd VA Regiment of the Continental Line. He lived at “Helms Hill” in Berkeley Co. Standiford’s SAR application identifies the children of William and Margaret Rankin Helm as (1) Benjamin Helm, (2) Thomas Helm m. Eliz. Mort 8 Jan 1806, (3) Elizabeth Helm m. John Mort, (4) John Helm, (5) William Helm, (6) Lucy Helm m. Mr. Jennings, (7) George Helm, (8) Ann Helm m. Mr. Williams, and (9) Erasmus Helm m. Lavinia Oliver. Some of the Helms went to Mason Co., KY, as did Lt. Robert Rankin and his brothers.

                  [31] The originals of Benjamin Rankin’s two letters are in the records of the Library of Virginia, although my links to the online images no longer work. Instead, see Annie Walker Burns, Revolutionary War Pensions of Soldiers Who Settled in Fayette County Kentucky (Washington, D.C.: 1936), available online here. The two letters are at p. 52, and are included in the pension applications of “Hickey, Daniel and Jane.” Jane was Benjamin’s widow; Daniel Hickey was her third husband.

                  [32] Christine L. Langner, Baylor’s Regiment: The Third Continental Light Dragoons (Berwyn Heights, MD: Heritage Books, Inc., 2015) 149.

                  [33] Id.

                  [34] Id. at ix.

                  [35] See a brief history of the 3rd Continental Regiment of Light Dragoons here.

                  [36] Burns, Revolutionary War Pensions 49-52, applications for Daniel and Jane Hickey at this link. One deposition identifies a Benjamin Rankin as the deponent, but that was clearly an error. Ms. Burns transcription indicates that a John Rankin signed the deposition.  The only way the testimony makes sense is if the deponent was a John Rankin who came to Kentucky with his father in 1784.

                  [37] Id.

                  [38] Benjamin’s widow Jane Hickey gave her deposition in Jefferson Co., IN in 1847. Their eldest daughter, Sarah Rankin, married Charles Hall and lived in Bourbon Co., KY briefly before also moving to Indiana. Sarah Hall and her mother Jane Hickey are listed in the 1850 census in Clark Co., IN: Sarah Hall, 64, b. KY, with Jane Hicky, sic, 82, b. NC. William Rankin, age 65, and James Rankin, age 51, were enumerated in Jefferson Co., IN in the 1850 census. They may well be and probably are sons of Benjamin and Jane. Both were born in Kentucky and were the right age.

                  [39] I don’t believe Benjamin, the Revolutionary War Soldier, was a son of John and Sarah Woffendale Rankin, although that is possible. John and Sarah’s son Reuben was born between 1736 and 1741. Benjamin was probably born circa 1760. With this crowd, of course, it is anyone’s guess.

                  [40] See a transcription of the power of attorney letter here. It is not clear from the letter where William was living when he wrote it. Knowing that might help determine which of the several Benjamins was the witness. I believe Benjamin the witness was William’s brother, the grantee in the 1792 lease for life, although he might well have been Capt. Benjamin of Berkeley.

                  [41] Mason Co., KY Deed Book C: 73, 75, deed dated March 1796, Benjamin Rankins of Mason Co. bought three lots in Williamsburg; deed dated March 1794, Benjamin purchased Lot #10 in Williamsburg. My notes also have Benjamin on a tax list showing him taxed on 100 acres on Cabin Cr. and one enslaved person. I failed to note the FamilySearch Film number and now cannot find such an entry.

                  [42] My notes say that FamilySearch films of Mason County tax lists were the source of that information. I cannot find it again. Doing so will require going through the films page by page, a commitment I am not ready to make after my adventures in the King George court order book films.

                  [43] Mason County, Kentucky Marriage Records 1789 – 1833 (Kokomo, IN: Selby Publishing, 1999), marriage bond for Benjamin Rankin and Catherine Stubblefield, 20 Apr 1796, bondsman George Rankin.

                  [44] George, the supporting actor (or some other man named George Rankin), also witnessed the 1787 will of Capt. Benjamin Rankin of Berkeley and Benjamin Rankin’s 1792 lease for life in Frederick.

A Willis-Rankin connection … with a foray into history

No, I am not talking about the Willis-Rankin connection in our immediate household. Instead, this is about a man named James Lee Rankin. However, the story begins with Gary’s father, Noble Sensor Willis.

Noble was a native of Wilmington, Delaware, but wound up in the deep south during World War II. On June 13, 1942, he graduated from the Navigation School, Gulf Coast Air Corps Training Center, at Kelly Field in San Antonio, Texas. His “Certificate of Proficiency” was signed by “D. H. Rankin, Captain, A.A.F., Secretary.”[1] “A.A.F.” stands for Army Air Force.

I saw that record for the first time this week. I wondered which (if any) lineage in the Rankin DNA Project could lay claim to Captain Rankin. I started searching for him the easy way – at Ancestry. How to begin with only the information on Noble’s certificate? Well, to have been a Captain in 1942, he was probably about 25 to 30 years old.[2] He was certainly born by 1920, probably in the 1910s. My search criteria were:

     D. H. Rankin, born 1915, plus or minus 5 years, and lived in San Antonio at one time

A “David H. Rankin” was #42 on the list of hits resulting from that search. Hit #42 showed that David was enumerated in the 1950 census in Ft. Worth, Texas. That made him an attractive choice, so I clicked on his name. The sidebar links suggested for him included a marriage record in May 1945 in Ft. Worth for Major David Henry Rankin, Adjutant, Army Air Force Training Command.

Bingo.

Records for him also included census entries for his family of origin,[3] a World War II draft registration card, the information that he graduated from the University of Nebraska, and a Find-a-Grave memorial.[4] The census entries reveal a brother James Lee Rankin (1907-1996), an attorney who also graduated from the University of Nebraska. He went by Lee.

Bells started ringing in my memory. I ran across Lee several years ago and had intended to write an article about his remarkable career. Something intervened. Here we are, better late than never.[5]

Lee Rankin’s career started with a private law firm in Lincoln, Nebraska. He quickly became involved in politics. A moderate Republican, he helped organize the 1948 campaign for Thomas E. Dewey in Nebraska. In 1952, he managed Dwight D. Eisenhower’s presidential campaign in Nebraska. He became assistant attorney general the following year.

In 1956, he became solicitor general, the third-ranking job at the Justice Department. In that capacity, he was instrumental in resolving claims among Western states to Colorado River water, as well as establishing a balance of Federal and state jurisdictions in offshore oil drilling. He developed the Justice Department’s position in lawsuits concerning legislative reapportionment fights that ultimately led to the principle of “one person, one vote.” If you have never had the pleasure of listening to former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, don’t miss this video  in which she and former Justice Stephen G. Breyer discuss Baker v. Carr and Reynolds v. Sims, two cases dealing with the issue.

After his career in the Justice Department, Lee was chief counsel for the Warren Commission, which investigated the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. He represented the ACLU as amicus curiae in the 1962 landmark case Gideon v. Wainwright, which established the right of an indigent person accused of a non-capital crime to legal counsel at public expense.[6] He was former New York City Mayor John Lindsay’s Corporation Counsel from 1966 to 1972, heading a staff of 378 attorneys. Their duties included defending New York City in a wide range of litigation and developing opinions on various municipal issues. Later, Lee taught constitutional law at New York University Law School.

Perhaps the most outstanding part of his career is that he argued dozens of cases before the U. S. Supreme Court in his capacity as solicitor general. The pièce de résistance in that job was his participation in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, a consolidation of five separate cases challenging the constitutionality of school segregation. The Supreme Court issued its unanimous decision in 1954.[7] Brown reversed the 1896 decision in Plessy v. Ferguson, which had held that the constitution permitted separate facilities for Blacks and Whites so long as the facilities were equal.[8] For more than a half-century, Plessy had provided the legal underpinning for de jure segregation — i.e., segregation according to law. Brown eliminated that underpinning. The case is probably best known for the principle that “separate facilities are inherently unequal.” Thurgood Marshall, then the head of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, was the lead attorney for the Plaintiffs.[9]

But Lee Rankin also participated in the argument, which took place over several days. As Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Justice Department’s office of legal counsel in 1953, he supported the argument that Plessy’s “separate but equal” doctrine violated the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment.[10]

His New York Times obituary says this about Lee’s further role:

“In an effort to avoid violence that might arise from the decision, Mr. Rankin argued in a presentation requested by the High Court that the effort to desegregate schools — overturning decades of entrenched practices — should take place gradually. Accordingly, he suggested the plan by which local school districts submitted desegregation plans to Federal judges in their states.”

This was a radical departure from normal practice. Usually, the Court’s decision that a law was unconstitutional required an immediate end to enforcing that law, period. After the decision in Loving v. Virginia, for example, all laws forbidding interracial marriage became unenforceable immediately. In Brown, on the other hand, the Court ordered integration “with all deliberate speed.”[11]

Lee lived until 1996, so he was around to see how “all deliberate speed” played out. I would give my right arm to ask him whether he thought the principle gave rise to unconscionable delay, and whether it successfully avoided violence. What, I wonder, did he think of the need to send the U. S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division to Little Rock to allow the “Little Rock Nine” Black students to enter Central High School? Or the fact that all of Little Rock’s public schools were not fully integrated until 1972?[12]

On to the genealogy question: does James Lee and David Henry Rankin’s ancestry place them into one of the identified lineages of the Rankin DNA Project? The answer is YES. Their line belongs to Lineage 2, so I can happily claim the brothers as my genetic cousins. Their Rankin line is that part of Lineage 2C which descends from David and Jennett McCormick Rankin of Frederick County, Virginia. David, who died in Frederick in 1768, was most likely the immigrant Rankin ancestor in that line.

Here is a brief outline chart for Lee’s and David’s Rankin ancestors. When (!!!) I finally do a full-fledged descendant chart for the family of David and Jennett McCormick Rankin, I will include citations to evidence. Meanwhile, here are the bare names and places:

1 David and Jennett McCormick Rankin of (probably) Ulster, Ireland and Frederick Co., VA.

   2 William and Abigail Rankin of Frederick, VA and Washington Co., PA, see an article about them here. William was one of four proved children of David and Jennett. He and Abigail had ten known children.[13]

      3 John and Rebecca Rankin of Washington Co., PA. John predeceased his father William, who devised some Washington County land to John’s two children, James and Mary Rankin.[14] James moved to Harrison Co., KY.

         4 James Rankin Sr., b. Washington Co., PA, d. Harrison Co., KY. His wife was a Miss Montgomery. Two different men in this extended Rankin family married Montgomery women; Gen. Richard Montgomery was a near neighbor of the Rankins in Washington County. James Sr. and his wife had a son named Richard Montgomery Rankin.

            5 James Rankin Jr. m. Anna Dills of Harrison Co., KY and Menard County, IL.[15]

               6 William L. Rankin of Harrison Co., KY – Springfield, IL and his second wife Susan Jane Primm. [16]

                  7 Herman Primm Rankin of Menard Co., IL – Lincoln, Lancaster, NE and his wife Lois Cornelia Gable.[17]

                     8 James Lee Rankin and David Henry Rankin. [18]

And that is all the news that is fit to print about James Lee Rankin. If I could choose my relatives, Lee would be high on my preferred list. I am tickled pink that he actually IS a distant cousin, and that his brother David certified the passing grades in navigation school for Gary’s father Noble Willis.

In a strange coincidence, today is the anniversary of the date the so-called “Little Rock Nine” Black students first attempted to attend classes at Central High School.[19] Gov. Faubus had the Arkansas National Guard surround the school to prevent their entry.

See you on down the road.

Robin

[1] Noble’s certificate was signed on Captain Rankin’s behalf by E. W. Earnest.

                  [2] When Gary was in the Air Force, it normally took three years from an officer’s initial commission as a Second Lieutenant until a promotion to Captain. In the Army, it took two years. Gary doesn’t know what the standard was during WW II. He says there were some Lieutenant Colonels in their twenties, although he suspects they were typically fighter or bomber pilots. David Rankin was not a combat soldier, so his promotion progress would have been considerably less spectacular.

                  [3] 1920 federal census, Lincoln, Lancaster Co., NE, household of Herman P. Rankin, 42, printer, b. IL, father b. KY, mother b. VA, with wife Lois C., 39, daughters Marta M., 15, Lois C., 14, and Mary J., 10, and sons James Lee, 12 and David H., 5. All children were born in NE. See also the 1930 federal census, Lincoln, Lancaster Co., NE, Herman P. Rankin, 52, wife Lois C. Rankin, 50, sons Lee, 23 and David, 16, daughter Mary Jo, 20, and mother-in-law Josephine Gable, 70. James Lee’s S.A.R. application identifies his father as Herman Primm Rankin, b. 31 Jul 1877, and his mother as Lois Cornelia Gable, b. 20 Mar 1880. It also identifies his paternal grandparents, William L. Rankin, b. 15 Sep 1816, d. 1902, and Susan Jane Primm, b. 20 Mar 1809, d. 1885.

                  [4] David Henry Rankin’s find-a-grave memorial is at this link.

                  [5] For information about Lee Rankin’s career, see obituaries by Robert D. McFadden, “J. Lee Rankin, Solicitor General Who Was a Voice for Desegregation, Dies at 88” (New York Times, June 30, 1996, Section 1, p. 33) and Santa Cruz Sentinel, 29 June 1996, at 1, 12. Lee died in Santa Cruz, CA.

                  [6] Before Gideon v. Wainwright, a criminal defendant was only entitled to legal counsel at public expense if he were accused of a capital offense. For a description of the case, see this link.

                  [7] There is a good discussion of Brown at  at this link; see also the second link in Note 11 concerning “all deliberate speed.”

                  [8] For an example of a case dealing with allegedly equal facilities, see Sweatt v. Painter.

                  [9] A number of important SCOTUS cases concerning segregation and involving Thurgood Marshall are described in Gilbert King, Devil in the Grove (New York: HarperCollins, 2012). The central story in the book is a criminal case in Florida in which some Black men were wrongly accused of rape. The book is a clear-eyed and graphic account of Jim Crow-era treatment of Blacks. It won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction.

                  [10] The fourteenth amendment has two clauses, known as the “equal protection” and “due process” clauses. Section 1 of the amendment reads in part, “[No State … shall] deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” (Emphasis added).

                  [11] See a brief discussion of the “deliberate speed” notion at this link. A more detailed explanation can be found here.

                  [12] Here are a few facts from post-Brown history. One of our acquaintances would refuse to read any of this, saying he will not participate in what he deems “white shaming.” He does not grasp the fundamental difference between recounting the history of an admittedly shameful event and seeking to make someone feel personally shamed about the event. I certainly don’t want anyone to feel ashamed. If you feel as our acquaintance does, please skip this footnote.

Lee Rankin would probably agree that, as a practical matter, “all deliberate speed” facilitated obstruction and delay. In Shreveport, my high school was still all-white when I graduated in 1964, ten years after Brown. It finally integrated several years later. Many churches in the city promptly opened all-white schools. De jure segregation — segregation as a matter of law under Plessy — became de facto segregation, i.e., separation of Blacks and Whites as a result of segregated neighborhoods, economic status, and alternatives to public schools. Shreveport’s experience was undoubtedly typical of many cities.

Further, gradual desegregation did not prevent violence, as the experience of the “Little Rock Nine” illustrates.  This History Channel article has their story. When nine Black students attempted to enter Little Rock’s Central High School on Sept. 4, 1957, they were met by a mob of 400 people shouting racial epithets and threatening violence. One Black female student was surrounded by the mob, which threatened to lynch her. Her stoic visage  and the women screaming at her became an iconic image of desegregation. Although the mob had grown to 1,000 by Sept. 24, the Black students were ultimately admitted after the 101st Airborne was called in. Throughout the school year, they continued to suffer verbal and physical assaults. One student had acid thrown in her eyes; one was pushed down a flight of stairs.

The ultimate iconic image of desegregation is probably the famous Norman Rockwell painting of four U. S. Marshalls escorting a six-year-old pigtailed and beribboned little girl into a classroom. The painting pictures stains left by tomatoes thrown at her, as well as a racial epithet scrawled on the wall. Ruby Bridges was probably Rockwell’s inspiration for the painting. As an adult, she recalled people throwing things and screaming by the hostile New Orleans crowd. Her father lost his job; her grandparents were forced off their land in Mississippi. Information on Ruby’s story can be found at this link. And see Rockwell’s painting here.

                  [13] Washington Co., PA Will Book 1: 206, will of William Rankin of Raccoon Creek identifying ten children, two of whom predeceased him.

                  [14] Will of John Rankin written and proved in 1788 naming his wife Rebecca and children James and Mary. Washington Co., PA Will Book 1 : 81.

[15] Here is a link to James Rankin Jr.’s Find-a-Grave memorial.

                  [16] See Note 3 and William’s Find-a-Grave memorial at this link.

                  [17] See Note 3. Here is Herman’s Find-a-Grave memorial.

                  [18] The Find-a-Grave memorial  for James Lee Rankin has a picture of him from an obituary. See a link to David’s memorial in Note 4.

                  [19] See Note 12.

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

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

Old business:

… Theories #1A and #1B identify Lt. Robert’s parents as Robert William Rankin (or William Robert Rankin) and Margaret Massena Marshall (or Massena Margaret Marshall). This is the conventional wisdom. However, there seems to be no evidence that people by those names ever existed. Further, the people identified as Massena Marshall’s parents are improbable. HOWEVER, I received an email saying there is a family Bible in the DAR Library and Museum proving that Lt. Robert’s mother was “Margaret Massena Marshall, daughter of John of the Forest.” If anyone has seen it, please yell!!!! I searched the DAR Library database for Bibles and had no luck.

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

New business:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finally, there is the matter of Benjamin’s age. He is a recognized D.A.R. patriot. The D.A.R. indicates his birth year was circa 1740. If so, that is obviously too young to have been the father of Lt. Robert and his siblings. I don’t have any reasonable basis for estimating his age.

If he were actually born in the 1720s, Benjamin could have been another son of Robert and Elizabeth Rozier Rankin of King George. Robert’s will named sons James, William, John, Benjamin, Moses, George, and Hipkins or Hopkins.[7] Theory #2 suggests Lt. Robert’s father was William, the second of those seven sons. Theory #3 suggests Benjamin, possibly the fourth son. Taking the hint from those theories, I turned to King George records.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Problem #1: George H. S. King, an extremely well-respected genealogist and historian cited the Draper Manuscripts, also an authoritative source, for the proposition that John and Sarah Woffendale Rankin were married in 1720 – 1722.[13] In fact, Mr. King abstracted the first volume of King George County wills, see Note 9. The 1720-22 marriage works just fine for Reuben, who was born between 1734 and 1741. But it might be a stretch for Sarah’s childbearing years to throw in Lt. Robert, born in 1753, William, born about 1759, and John, birth year unknown, but before 1765.[14] Sarah was still alive in 1762, so a possible second wife for John doesn’t circumvent that problem. In fact, Sarah was still alive in 1790, when her sister Ann Rankin Thornley wrote her will. If she had been married in 1720-22, she certainly reached a ripe old age.

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

Given the paucity of evidence in actual records for any other theory, the two Berry deeds witnessed by Reuben and Robert Rankin should probably be displayed in neon lights. The glaring issue is the 1765 sale of Peg by John Rankin.

The only reasonable conclusion is that the Reuben who witnessed the Berry deeds is NOT the same man as Reuben, son of John and Sarah Rankin. It does seem possible that Reuben and Robert were brothers. But not sons of John and Sarah Woffendale Rankin.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See you on down the road.

Robin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See you on down the road.

Robin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 [15] Id.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rankin families in the darn book

I hope this is the last time I blather about The Compleat Rankin Book, which continues to nip at my heels. I’m ready to move on to Volume 2.

I’ve received two emails asking me which Rankin families are included in the book. Also, one blog commenter speculated that her line is not in it. In response, here are some short blurbs for the lines in the book to let you know which Rankins are included and generally who they are …

Robert and Margaret (“Peggy”) Berry Rankin of Virginia, Kentucky, Alabama, Texas, and Louisiana. Lt. Robert and his brother William were both Revolutionary soldiers. Their fabulous individual war stories are covered in some detail. Lt. Robert died in Louisiana, but is buried in the Texas State Cemetery in Austin … or so the Cemetery believes, despite some hilarious evidence to the contrary. Lt. Robert’s brother William died in Mason County, Kentucky, as did his brother John. The three brothers (there may be others) left large families — twenty-eight children among them. Their descendants should be legion. Their parents are not proved. The next article I post will share my opinion about their family of origin, assuming I am able to formulate one that isn’t just rank speculation.

Joseph and Rebecca Rankin (“J&R”) of New Castle County, Delaware. Their sons John and William went to Guilford County, North Carolina. Their descendants are well-documented in a book by Rev. Samuel Meek Rankin.[1] J&R’s son James went to Washington County, Pennsylvania. Only J&R’s sons Joseph (Jr.) and Lt. Thomas Rankin stayed in New Castle. J&R’s probable son Robert is a mystery. Their daughter Ann lived with her brother Joseph (Jr.) and apparently never married. No, Samuel Rankin who married Eleanor (“Ellen”) Alexander was not J&R’s son, despite Rev. Rankin’s speculation on that issue.

Four of J&R’s sons fought in the Revolution, assuming Rev. Rankin is correct about John and William fighting at Guilford Court House. His family tradition that they fought in that battle accords with the fact that every able-bodied patriot for miles around reportedly participated. Ostensibly a British victory, it was nevertheless a major blow to Cornwallis in the Southern Campaign. If you haven’t been to the Guilford Courthouse National Park in Greensboro, it is worth a trip.

Robert and Rebecca Rankin (“R&R”) of Guilford County, North Carolina. Their son Robert died there in 1795, leaving one son named George and four daughters. R&R’s son George married Lydia Steele and died in Rowan County (from which Guilford was created) in 1760. George left two young sons, John and Robert, who left Guilford for Kentucky and Tennessee, respectively. R&R also had at least three daughters: Ann Rankin Denny (proved), Rebecca Rankin Boyd (probable) and Margaret Rankin Braly/Brawley (also probable).

R&R’s line includes at least one Revolutionary War soldier and the famous Rev. John Rankin of the Shaker colony in Logan County, Kentucky. Shaker Rev. John was kind enough to pen an autobiography identifying where the family lived before they came to the colonies. That is a rare case of certainty about a Rankin family’s specific Ulster location. Otherwise, Rev. John’s autobiography is a piece of work. I challenge you to get through it.[2]

David and Margaret Rankin of Iredell County, North Carolina. David may have been a son of Robert and Rebecca Rankin of Guilford. Y-DNA tests allow that possibility, although there seems to be no evidence in the paper records. David and Margaret’s son James died at the Battle of Ramsour’s Mill in 1780, leaving four underage children in Lincoln County. Their son Robert survived Ramsour’s and moved to Gibson County, Tennessee, where he filed a Revolutionary War pension application.

Robert had proved sons David and Denny Rankin, both of whom remained in Iredell and married McGin sisters. Robert also had a daughter Margaret Rankin Finley, who appeared with him in Gibson County in a deed of gift. Descendants of Robert and his wife, probably Jean Denny of Guilford County, still live in Iredell County.

John Rankin of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. He died there in 1749, leaving a will naming a wife Margaret, two sons, and eight daughters.[3] His son Richard went to Augusta County, Virginia. Son Thomas also went to Augusta, then moved on to East Tennessee. Thomas was the patriarch of the line of Rankins celebrated in the famous Mt. Horeb Presbyterian Church Cemetery tablet in Jefferson County, Tennessee. This family has also been thoroughly documented, especially by a 19th- century descendant named Richard Duffield Rankin. One descendant is Rev. John Rankin, the famous abolitionist whose home in Ripley, Ohio was a waystation on the underground railroad. He deserves an article of his own. Another fairly well-known descendant is John Knox Rankin, who was among those who faced Quantrill’s Raiders in Lawrence, Kansas in 1863. Both Rev. John and John Knox Rankin are high on my to-do list.

Adam and Mary Steele Alexander Rankin of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Adam died there in 1747, leaving a daughter and three sons. This is perhaps the best known of all Rankin families. Adam and Mary’s children, possibly not in birth order, were James, Esther Rankin Dunwoody, William, and Jeremiah. James married Jean/Jane Campbell and lived in a famous location in Montgomery Township, Franklin County called “the Corner.” Tales of “mint julip” (moonshine?), evil groundhogs, and a haunted house in the Corner abound. Story to follow. James and Jean had four sons and two daughters. David, William, and Jeremiah remained in Franklin. The fourth son, James Jr., is elusive.

Adam and Mary’s son William married Mary Huston and had seven sons and a daughter, Betsy Rankin Robison. Four of their sons — William Jr., James, Jeremiah, and John — went to Centre County, Pennsylvania, where they owned land devised by their father. William and Mary’s son Adam, their eldest, became a doctor and moved to Kentucky. Son Archibald married Agnes Long and remained in Franklin County. Son David married Frances Campbell and wound up in Des Moines County, Iowa.

Adam and Mary’s son Jeremiah (wife Rhoda Craig) died in a mill accident in Franklin County, Pennsylvania in 1760. Jeremiah seems to be totally absent from Pennsylvania records other than his father’s will. His four sons went to Kentucky.

Famous descendants of Adam and Mary include Confederate Brigadier General Adam Rankin “Stovepipe” Johnson, who was the father and grandfather of two major league baseball players. Stovepipe is also buried in the Texas State Cemetery in Austin. He is from the line of William and Mary Huston Rankin through their Kentucky son Dr. Adam. Another famous descendant of Adam and Mary is Rev. Adam Rankin of Lexington, Kentucky, a son of Jeremiah and Rhoda. Rev. Adam was well-known among Presbyterians for his obsession with the so-called “Psalmody controversy.”

Samuel and Eleanor (“Ellen”) Alexander Rankin of Lincoln/Gaston Co., NC. His nickname was “Old One-Eyed Sam,” according to a descendant who grew up across the Catawba River from Sam’s home in Lincoln. I haven’t found many good stories about this family, other than their grandson Samuel who was indentured as a thirteen-year-old. Indentured servitude was fairly uncommon in a family as prominent and wealthy as the Lincoln County Rankins. Sam’s two brothers escaped that fate, making me suspect that young Sam was a handful. He married Mary Frances Estes in Tishomingo County, Mississippi and wound up in Jefferson County, Arkansas.

Sam and Mary had eight sons and two daughters. Four of their sons were Civil War soldiers. Two joined the Confederate army and two fought for the Union, probably after having been first captured as Confederate soldiers.[4] One of Sam and Mary’s sons, my ancestor John Allen Rankin, deserted the Army of the Confederacy after a terrible loss at the Battle of Champion Hill east of Vicksburg. Private John Allen’s war story intersects with a good love story about meeting his future wife, Amanda Lindsey. One of John Allen and Amanda’s great-grandchildren still flies a Confederate battle flag on his front porch, citing his “proud southern heritage” as justification. He might not know about his ancestor’s desertion. My cousin and I fly different flags.

Robert Rankin of Rutherford County, North Carolina and Caldwell County, Kentucky. Robert married Mary Witherow in North Carolina. The couple apparently divorced, which was evidently rare at that time. Alternatively, Robert may have just walked away. He left North Carolina while Mary W. Rankin was still alive. He eventually remarried. I haven’t found any fun stories about his family, although I haven’t looked very hard. Their descendant Francis Gill is the expert on Rutherford Robert’s line. The Compleat Book contains entries from several family Bibles that Francis kindly shared. If this is your crowd, the Bibles provide good information. The book also has an article about Robert’s son Jesse, who married Cynthia Sellers and went to Gibson County, Tennessee. He has been confused with another Jesse Rankin, a son of Shaker Rev. John Rankin.

William and Abigail Rankin of Washington County, Pennsylvania. William was a son of David and Jeanette McCormick Rankin of Frederick County, Virginia. William and his brother David were easy to track; their brother Hugh, not so much. That translates to the fact that I have unfinished business with this line. William and his wife Abigail left a passel of children, many of whom remained in Washington County. Their son David left Washington County for Kentucky. One son, Zachariah, died of hydrophobia after being bitten by a rabid wolf. The most charming stories about this family concern the detailed list of Zachariah’s clothing in his inventory and the amount of whiskey purchased for his Washington County estate sale. Who says probate records are dry and boring? You can bet that estate sale was neither.

William Jr. and Jane Rankin of Fayette County, Pennsylvania. This is an interesting line in early Pennsylvania which also deserves more research. Some of their line remained in Fayette County, where the cemeteries are awash with their descendants. Some went “west,” which often meant “the Ohio Country.” That referred to land roughly west of the Appalachian Mountains and north of the Ohio River.[5] One of their sons who went “west” had accumulated an overwhelming amount of debt from lenders in at least two states, leaving mind-boggling deeds about it. What, I wonder, did he spend all that money on? If I could suss it out, it would surely be a good story.

Jeanette Pickering Rankin and her sister Edna Rankin McKinnon. It isn’t easy finding famous women in family history research. Jeanette is known for her terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, where she was the first female. She is famous (or infamous) for her votes against entering both World Wars. She was a woman of integrity and courage, no matter what one thinks about those votes. She also did considerable work obtaining the vote for women in her home state of Montana. In her eighties, Jeanette led an anti-Vietnam war march in D.C. The marchers dubbed themselves the “Jeanette Rankin Brigade.” Her little sister Edna is famous for her work in Planned Parenthood. If those two Rankin women had been around at the right time, there would undoubtedly have been some rousing good speeches in favor of the Equal Rights Amendment.

Now … I need to see if I have sufficient evidence to formulate a semi-cogent opinion about the parents of Lt. Robert Rankin and his brothers William and John. If not, there are plenty of other genealogical mysteries and interesting Rankins waiting in the wings.

See you on down the road.

Robin

                  [1] Rev. S. M. Rankin, The Rankin and Wharton Families and Their Genealogy (Greensboro, NC: J. J. Stone & Co., printers and binders, 1931, reprint by Higginson Book Co., Salem, MA).

                  [2] John Rankin, “Auto-biography of John Rankin, Sen.” (South Union, Ky., 1845), transcribed in Harvey L. Eads, ed., History of the South Union Shaker Colony from 1804 to 1836 (South Union, Ky., 1870). You can obtain a copy of Ead’s transcript from the Special Collections Library, Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green, Kentucky (WKU), where it is designated “Shaker Record A.”

                  [3] More accurately, John Rankins’s 1749 will named six daughters and two sons-in-law.

                  [4] Captured Confederates were sometimes allowed to play a “get out of jail free” card by renouncing the Confederacy and joining the Union Army. Usually, the ex-prisoner served in the west, where he was unlikely to be shooting at members of his family.

                  [5] The “Ohio Country” consisted roughly of modern-day Ohio, eastern Indiana, western Pennsylvania, and northwestern West Virginia.

The Compleat Book of Rankins … or at least what I have so far

Like all fine literature and authoritative non-fiction, The Compleat Book of Rankins has reviewers’ blurbs on the back cover. Here is what they say:

— Old One-Eyed Sam Rankin: “These family histories provide unexpected insights.”

 — Brigadier General Adam Rankin “Stovepipe” Johnson: “A picture is worth a thousand words — so is a nickname.”

 — Genghis Khan: “They will need to add me to this book if they go back far enough.”

— John Cleese: “This book proves genealogists are not a dull, humorless lot. Check out the Index entries for Star Trek, Mars, Dr. Richard Kimble, Sesame Street’s Swedish Chef, Tommy Lee Jones, and Victorian Era Silly Walks.”

— Sponsors of the Mt. Horeb Presbyterian Church Cemetery Tablet:    “Family legends are rarely completely accurate — but some are nevertheless cast in bronze.”

— Former Bastard Stable Boy, now Laird of the Manor: “DNA does not lie.”

Truth in lending compels me to admit that the Book is not actually complete. It contains Rankin articles published on this blog, the majority of which have been updated and corrected since publication. New Y-DNA results and new information arrive daily. I was revising the book this morning to add information about a Rankin wife’s maiden name when Gary threatened mutiny. He prepared the book’s Index, a thankless task because Word’s indexing tool alphabetizes people by given name. If you want to look up entries for everyone named John, I suppose that’s a perfect approach. Gary converted the entries so that they are organized by surname. This required a substantial investment of time.

My addition of a Rankin wife’s maiden name and her father’s identity required revising the index. Thus the near mutiny. If the pagination had changed (rendering the existing Index obsolete), he would have been justified in resigning his commission.

More on incompleteness: in addition to newly arriving Y-DNA results and other info, there are a half-dozen new Rankin articles floating around in my head. They are screaming to reach fruition on my laptop, but have been deferred while I corrected the damn book. Allegheny County, Pennsylvania has several Rankin families which need to be distinguished. Ditto Westmoreland. Rankin disinformation abounds on the web. I have some Rankin outline descendant charts in progress, including one for the line of Adam and Mary Steele Alexander Rankin. An article about a mill in Antrim Parish, Franklin County, Pennsylvania, is begging to be written (assuming I can sort out conflicting info about the mill and find some Rankin who owned land on Muddy Creek).

Also, of course, I could not add new articles to the book without screwing up the Index. I knew better than to cross that Rubicon.

You get the drift. Meanwhile, as the subtitle (“or at least what I’ve got so far“)  suggests, it is time to cut bait and fish. Belly up to the bar. Choose your pithy saying. There is clearly a Volume II in my future.

I chose to have the current book bound in hardcover rather than paperback. That is because many libraries receiving softcover books promptly pay to have them recovered in hardback to prevent rapid deterioration. Libraries are notoriously penurious, except for the FHL in Salt Lake City, and I didn’t want any to incur that expense. Here’s the rub: the Compleat Book‘s publisher, Lulu Publishing, sets the purchase price. IMO, it is a bit dear (almost $40). No one except a Rankin, library, or genealogical/historical  society would conceivably have any interest in this book. And most Rankins presumably have something better to do with discretionary funds than purchase a book which devotes only a chapter to their own Rankin line. This was never intended to be a profitable venture in any case. My goal was and is to make information available to Rankin researchers.

Accordingly, here’s my plan. I can buy the book at cost. If you will email to me information for your local library and/or genealogical/historical society, I will simply pay for a copy to be mailed to that address. If you have any interest in those pithy back cover blurbs, or our son’s imaginative cover, you will know where to find it.

So … Happy Fourth of July! I feel like a brand-new nation all by myself, having finally gotten that damned thing finished.

See you on down the road. New posts are calling, and some of them aren’t even about Rankins.

Robin

Will of Mary Huston Rankin, wife of William, with a brief chart

This is a cautionary tale: be careful what you wish for.

One of my Rankin researcher friends says I need to consolidate information about the descendants of William and Mary Huston Rankin into one article. She complained that one must read several posts to assemble information on that family. Even that, she says, is hit-and-miss as to the identity of descendants, because I don’t provide charts.

I plead guilty.[1] I shall try to respond to her request.

William was one of the three sons of Adam and Mary Steele Alexander Rankin, a famous immigrant Rankin couple claimed by many hopeful descendants. Actually, my friend wants a chart for all of Adam and Mary’s line — not just William’s. OK … A draft of one is underway. It is already more than twenty pages long as a Word document because I occasionally succumb to the urge to provide evidence. I will obviously have to post it in multiple parts. Charts of that nature do not make good reading. They don’t even make reading. That’s the “be careful what you wish for” aspect of this.

The upside is that descendancy charts provide an abundance of easy-to-follow information that might help you know where, or if, your family fits into a specific ancestral pool, and where you might need to flesh out the research on your line.

Adam’s line is the main course: to come. This article hardly even counts as an appetizer.

I have started with Mary Huston Rankin’s will because I have mentioned it on this blog before but never abstracted it. It is an important document because it helps prove which of the two David Rankins in Franklin County — one was a son of James, and one was a son of William and Mary, and both were grandsons of Adam — was her son. It also proves fourgranddaughters of William and Mary who are not established by any other records, so far as I know.[2]

Here is an abstract of Mary’s will, followed by an outline descendant chart using information from the will. Then I will flesh it out with more descendants. This will be a “skeleton” chart because it includes only names with very few dates and spouses. No evidentiary clutter. Its utility may be (1) as a starting place for your own research or (2) as confirmation of your existing charts. If it isn’t helpful, hang on for the series on all of Adam and Mary Steele Alexander Rankin’s line.

Mary Huston Rankin’s Franklin County will was dated April 11, 1818; it was proved in 1824. Mary expressly identified her relationships to each beneficiary and, except for one, identified the beneficiary’s Rankin parent. Mary did not name Betsy Rankin, her only proved daughter. She also omitted her eldest son Dr. Adam Rankin, who had moved to Kentucky. Otherwise, she mentioned all of her children.

Mary’s will recites that she resided in Peters Township, Franklin County, Pennsylvania. She was almost certainly living with her son David.[3] Here are her beneficiaries, all of whom received cash bequests:

  • Sons John and Jeremiah Rankin. They were William and Mary’s two youngest sons, although they are the first-named beneficiaries in Mary’s will.
  • Granddaughter Easter Robison, cash when she reached age 18. Easter’s parents aren’t identified. Her mother was probably Mary’s only daughter, Betsy Rankin, who evidently married a Robison and may have died by the time Mary wrote her will.
  • Grandson William, son of her son William, cash for the purchase of books. The will doesn’t say so, but he was a medical student.
  • Granddaughters Betsy, Martha, and Mary Rankin, daughters of her son David.
  • Grandson David Huston Rankin, son of her son David.
  • Granddaughters Betsy and Maria Rankin, daughters of her son Archibald.
  • Granddaughter Maria Rankin, daughter of her son James.
  • Executors: sons Archibald and William Rankin.
  • Witnesses: Robert W. Kerby and Martha Kerby.[4]

Here is a skeleton outline chart one can create for Mary’s family from her will. This chart begins with Adam and Mary Steele Alexander, William Rankin’s parents, as Generation 1.[5] I’ve included some information obviously not available from Mary’s will. The chart ignores descendants of William’s siblings James, Jeremiah, and Esther, who are waiting their turns. This chart lists William and Mary Huston Rankin’s children in birth order and provides their birth dates from a family Bible.[6] They are shown in boldface type.

1  Adam Rankin, d. 1747, Lancaster Co., PA. His wife was Mary Steele Alexander, daughter of John Steele of New Castle Co., DE and widow of James Alexander of Cecil Co., MD. Adam and Mary were married between August 1718 and 1724 in the Colonies.[7] Adam’s reputed father, grandfather, and alleged first wife are unproved, although their names are cast in concrete (or bronze) in the conventional wisdom. The conventional wisdom also claims Adam had a brother John; that notion is now conclusively disproved by Big Y. Adam was the immigrant in his line. Adam and Mary’s four children are not listed here in birth order: James was likely the eldest, Jeremiah likely the youngest, and I have no idea where Esther and William should appear between those two. I put William last because his is the line that is extended in this chart.

     2 James Rankin, who left a will in Franklin dated 1788 and proved 1795.[8] Wife Jean MNU. Four sons, two daughters.

     2 Jeremiah Rankin, died in Franklin (then Cumberland) in 1760. Wife Rhoda Craig. Four sons, all of whom went to Kentucky. I am not aware of daughters, if any.

     2 Esther Rankin Dunwoody. I know virtually nothing about her.

     2 William Rankin and wife Mary Huston. He died in 1792 in Franklin.[9] She probably died in 1824, the year her will was probated.

       3 Adam Rankin, b. 10 Nov 1762, not named in Mary’s will.[10]

       3 Archibald Rankin, b. 10 Apr 1764.

          4 Betsy Rankin, apparently not proved anywhere except Mary’s will.

          4 Maria Rankin, ditto.

       3 James Rankin, b. 20 Apr 1766.

          4 Maria Rankin, apparently not proved anywhere except Mary’s will.

       3 William Rankin, b. 5. Nov 1770.

          4 William Rankin, the med student who received money for books.

       3 Betsy Rankin, b. 13 Oct 1774. Apparently m. Mr. Robison and d. by 1818.

          4 Easter Robison, not proved anywhere except Mary’s will.

       3 David Rankin, b. 5 Feb 1777.

          4 Betsy Rankin

          4 Martha Rankin

          4 Mary Rankin

          4 David Huston Rankin

       3 John Rankin, b. 1 May 1779.

       3 Jeremiah Rankin, b. 26 Nov 1783.

OK, the expanded chart below adds William and Mary Huston Rankin’s descendants down to their great-grandchildren, where proved. I have omitted Generation 1 (Adam and Mary Steele Alexander Rankin) and their children except for William and Mary Huston Rankin of Generation 2. I’ve generally omitted evidence, spouses, dates, and locations, saving all that for later. William and Mary’s children (the generation numbered 3) are again shown in boldface.

2 William Rankin and wife Mary Huston, daughter of Archibald and Agnes Huston. William died in 1792, devising land in his will that makes it easy to track his sons with confidence.[11] According to The Pennsylvania Archives, he was a Revolutionary War soldier. If you are descended from William and Mary, you will have no problem obtaining membership in the DAR or SAR. If you are a male descendant named Rankin, for heaven’s sake, man, please do a Y-DNA test! His wife Mary evidently died in 1824. There is no evidence of a birth year for either William or Mary. William appeared in a plethora of county records. He is NEVER shown with a middle initial, much less a middle name, in any of them. The middle name “Steele” shown for him in internet trees is fiction.

     3 Dr. Adam Rankin, b. 10 Nov 1762. He went from Franklin to Henderson Co., KY, where he died. He married three times: (1) Elizabeth Speed, m. 1 Nov 1792 in Danville, KY (six children, she died 15 Aug 1803); (2) Ann Gamble, m. 23 Oct 1804 (one son, she died 14 Aug 1806); and (3) Susan (Susannah) Anderson, m. 3 Sep 1807 (six children).

       4 Mary Huston Rankin

       4 William Rankin

          5 Adam Rankin

          5 Gwatkin Rankin

          5 Juliet S. Rankin

       4 Elizabeth Speed Rankin

       4 James Speed Rankin

       4 Juliet Spencer Rankin, 1800 – 1871, Henderson Co., KY. Married Dr. Thomas J. Johnson.

          5 Benjamin Johnson

          5 Elizabeth Speed Johnson

          5 Confederate Brigadier General Adam Rankin “Stovepipe” Johnson, see article with photographs at this link.

          5 Thomas J. Johnson

          5 William Stapleton Johnson

          5 Campbell Haussman Johnson

       4 Adam Rankin

       4 John David Rankin

          5 Adam Rankin

          5 Sallie Rankin

          5 Juliet Rankin

       4 Nathaniel Alexander Rankin

          5 Adam Rankin

       4 James Edwin Rankin

          5 Ann E. (Nannie?) Rankin

          5 Sarah A. (Sallie?) Rankin

          5 James Edwin Rankin

          5 Rev. Alexander Taylor Rankin

          5 Coalter Wardlaw Rankin

          5 Samuel W. Rankin

          5 Alice H. Rankin.

          5 Fannie M. Rankin

          5 C. Wardlaw Rankin, the second child by that name.

       4 Lucy Rankin

       4 Archibald Rankin

       4 Susan Daniel Rankin

       4 Weston Rankin

   3 Archibald Rankin, b. 10 Apr 1764. Remained in Franklin County his entire life. His wife was Agnes Long. Only three daughters are proved; one son is probable.

       4 Betsy Rankin, proved by her grandmother’s will.

       4 Maria Rankin, ditto.

       4 Fanny Rankin, proved by a record of the Upper Conococheague Presbyterian Church.

       4 William Rankin, a probable son.

           5 Archibald Huston Rankin

           5 Olivia Catherine Rankin

           5 James Irvine Rankin

     3 James Rankin, b. 20 Apr 1766. Went to Centre Co., PA. Either died or moved away. Had a large family, but only one daughter is proved.

          4 Maria Rankin, proved by Mary Huston Rankin’s will.

     3 William Rankin (Jr.), b. 5 Nov 1770. Went to Centre Co., PA, where he died. Married (1) Abigail McGinley and (2) Susannah Huston.

       4 Adam Rankin

       4 Dr. William Rankin (III), the med student who inherited money for books. Wife Caroline Niven.

          5 Rev. William Alexander Rankin

            6 Annie J. Rankin

            6 William W. Rankin

            6 Percy Randolph Rankin

        5 Mary Adaline Rankin

        5 Dr. David Niven Rankin

        5 Abigail McGinley Rankin

        5 Alfred J. Rankin

        5 James Henry Rankin

        5 Elizabeth Rankin

        5 Joseph Pierce Rankin

        5 Caroline Olivia Rankin

        5 Anna Margaretta Rankin

    4 Dr. James Rankin

        5 Dr. William M. Rankin

          6 Dr. James Rankin

       5 Dr. Andrew Hepburn Rankin

       5 Emily J. Rankin

    4 John M. Rankin

       5 Oliver Rankin

       5 Susannah Rankin

       5 John Rankin

       5 James Rankin

    4 Joseph Alexander Rankin

       5 Abigail M. Rankin

       5 William Blair Rankin

       5 Sarah C. Rankin

       5 Anna M. Rankin

       5 Caroline E. Rankin

       5 John A. Rankin

    4 Dr. Archibald Rankin

    4 Abigail Rankin

    4 Susannah Rankin

  3 Betsy Rankin, evidently married a Mr. Robison. May have died by 1818.

    4 Easter Robison, proved by her grandmother’s will.

  3 David Rankin, b. 5 Feb 1777. Wife Frances Campbell, daughter of Dougal Campbell. Eventually moved to Des Moines Co., IA, where he died. For information on this family, see the links in Note 1.

     4 William Rankin

        5 Frances Elizabeth (“Libby”) Rankin

        5 Samuel Bruce Rankin

        5 Areta Catherine Rankin

     4 Elizabeth (“Betsy”) Rankin

     4 Martha C. Rankin m. Mr. Sweeny.

        5 Frances C. Sweeny

     4 Mary H. Rankin m. Mr. Bruce.

        5 Martha (“Mattie”) Bruce

        5 Lawrence H. C. Bruce

        5 David R. Bruce

        5 Sarah Bruce

        5 Margaret Bruce

     4 Dougal/Dugal Campbell Rankin

        5 David C. Rankin

        5 Hezekiah Johnson Rankin

        5 Sarah F. Rankin

        5 John William Rankin

    4 Frances Rankin (Jr.)

    4 David Huston Rankin

        5 Martha (“Mattie”) C. Rankin

        5 Fannie Rankin

          6 Rankin Rice

    4 Archibald Rankin

        5 Elizabeth J. Rankin

        5 Frances Margaret or Margaret Frances Rankin

        5 Martha Catharine Rankin

    4 Adam John Rankin

 3 John Rankin, b. 1 May 1779. Moved to Centre Co., PA, where he died. Wife Isabella Dundass.

     4 Mary Rankin

     4 Isabella Rankin

     4 Jane Rankin

     4 Eliza Rankin

     4 William D. Rankin

     4 Dr. John C. Rankin

     4 James H. Rankin

        5 Alice Rankin

        5 Jane A. Rankin

     4 J. Duncan Rankin

     4 Luther Calvin Rankin

        5 Mary J. Rankin

        5 Anabella (“Anna”) Rankin

        5 George F. Rankin

        5 Charles Rankin

        5 William Rankin

        5 Edith? Rankin

        5 Eliza Rankin

  3 Jeremiah Rankin, b. 26 Nov 1783. Went to Centre Co., PA with his three brothers. Wife  Sarah Whitehill.

     4 Mary H. Rankin

     4 David W. Rankin

        5 Oscar Rankin

     4 Rachel Rankin

     4 William Rankin

     4 Adam Rankin

        5 Mary Rankin

        5 James Foster Rankin

     4 Robert Rankin

I was amazed to find that this chart, with information largely limited to names with virtually no evidence, required four pages in a Word document — and that is with normal spacing, not the crazy spacing the WordPress format uses.

Jeremiah Rankin, the son of Adam and Mary Steele Alexander Rankin who died in a mill accident in 1760, is up next. Maybe. There are several Rankin projects in the mill, including good stuff happening at the Rankin DNA Project. Meanwhile, a chart for Adam’s entire line continues to grow.

See you on down the road.

Robin

            [1] One can find blog articles about William and Mary’s line here  and  here  and here  and still more here.

            [2] Jessica Guyer, a Rankin data mining bulldog, provided a link to Mary’s will from a new source she found for Franklin County records. My attempts to access the website once produced a message saying “service not available.” Perhaps the website was undergoing maintenance. Sometimes it asks for a password, with no clue how to get one. In any event, the link is accessible as I type it here.

            [3] The 1820 census for Peters Township, Franklin Co., PA, has an entry for David Rankin with a woman over 45, almost certainly his mother Mary, in the household.

            [4] I don’t know how Robert and Martha Kerby were connected to the Rankins, if at all.

            [5] Adam’s parents are unproved, although his purported father and grandfather are identified in a family legend along with an alleged first wife.

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

            [7] For proof of Adam and Mary’s marriage date, see the article at this link.

            [8] Franklin Co., PA Will Book A: 345, will of James Rankin Sr.

            [9] Franklin Co., PA Will Book A: 256, will of William Rankin dated and proved in 1792.

            [10] This Adam (in the third generation) is named in his father William’s 1792 will. Franklin Co., PA Will Book A: 256. William named his wife Mary and children (in this order) Adam, Archibald, James, William, Betsy, David, John and Jeremiah. William identifies Betsy, John, and Jeremiah as being less than 21 years old. The family Bible identifies the same children, see Note 6.

            [11] Franklin Co., PA Will Book A-B: 256. William named his wife Mary and children (in this order) Adam, Archibald, James, William, Betsy, David, John and Jeremiah. William identifies Betsy, John, and Jeremiah as being less than 21 years old. The family Bible identifies the same children, see Note 6.