MALE RANKIN DESCENDANTS WANTED, AND WHY
A number of issues have conspired to make me doggedly pursue Adam’s line like Deputy U. S. Marshall Samuel Gerard on the trail of Dr. Richard Kimble. I have searched every residence, warehouse, farmhouse, henhouse, outhouse, and doghouse in Pennsylvania for evidence of Adam’s family.
Here is the context. I am writing a book about Rankins. More accurately, I am assembling Rankin material for a book — primarily articles from this website. It turns out that I have written more blog articles on the line of Adam Rankin than on my own Rankin ancestors. Why have I been on Adam’s trail? There are several reasons.
First, I have tracked Adam because more people erroneously claim descent from him than any other colonial Rankin I’ve run across. Even my Rankin first cousin’s closest Y-DNA match believes he descends from Adam, despite conclusive documentary evidence to the contrary. I have been contacted by Rankin researchers or DNA Project members whose claimed descent from Adam has been disproved by paper records and/or Y-DNA. One must have one’s ducks in a row for those kinds of discussions, because people don’t like hearing that their ancestry is incorrect.
It isn’t clear why Adam is such a popular ancestor. Perhaps it is because his line claims descent from the Rankins of the Mt. Horeb legend. According to oral family history, this Rankin family had two martyred Presbyterian brothers in the Scottish “Killing Times” in the 1680s. Surviving family members escaped to Ulster just in time for the Siege of Londonderry in 1689. It’s a great story, and who wouldn’t like to have that exciting heritage? On the other hand, the line of John Rankin who died in Lancaster in 1749 also claims descent from the Mt. Horeb legend Rankins – but I haven’t run into any Rankin DNA Project members who erroneously claim descent from John.
It is also possible that Adam’s line is prone to error because it produced a plethora of William Rankins born in the mid to late 1700s. Of course, every other line of Pennsylvania Rankins also produced countless Williams. Perhaps researchers hitting a colonial Pennsylvania brick wall ancestor named William Rankin found a host of seemingly reasonable possibilities to place him in Adam’s family, which boasts a Revolutionary War soldier. My experience is that Rev War soldiers produce many descendants, genuine or not. John’s line, on the other hand, also has Revolutionary War veterans, but is so well-researched and documented that there aren’t many opportunities to insert someone incorrectly.
In any event, Adam is frequently a fictitious ancestor.
Second, I tracked Adam’s line because I have a dog in that hunt. Due to my Rankin cousin’s close Y-DNA match to a claimed descendant of Adam, I had to figure out whether my own Rankin family is connected to Adam’s line. Both the paper trail and Y-DNA say we are not.
Finally, I pursued Adam’s family in an effort to determine whether some conventional Rankin wisdom about his line is correct. The Mt. Horeb legend asserts that Adam (who died in 1747 in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania) and John (who died in 1749, also in Lancaster) were brothers. Y-DNA has conclusively disproved that part of the legend. There are other parts of the legend worth pursuing, though, and I’ve been down several trails for that purpose.
It has not been easy to find descendants of Adam to test. Another Rankin researcher and I recruited four different Rankin men from Adam’s line to YNDA test. These were not people we found willy-nilly on Ancestry trees. These were Adam’s descendants identified by my research in county and other records.
The first recruit had no Y-DNA matches to anyone in the FTDNA database. The second and third had no Rankin matches. None of those three were genetic Rankins, much less Adam’s descendants. NPEs abounded in Adam’s line, evidently.
Fortunately, two Rankin project members are Adam’s descendants. However, the Rankin DNA Project really needs to test other Adam descendants to have confidence in a Y-DNA profile for that important line. In addition, the Project has two members whose paper research convincingly traces back to Adam. Neither one has the surname Rankin, and neither one has been able to find a distant Rankin cousin who will test. Thus, I remain on the trail of Adam’s line on their behalf.
I have also written often about Adam’s line simply because it has produced some memorable characters. E.g., Confederate Brigadier General Adam Rankin “Stovepipe” Johnson was a legend in the Civil War who had a son and grandson who became professional baseball players. Stovepipe was Adam’s great-great grandson. There was also a Rankin Presbyterian minister whose life was consumed by an obscure theological issue. Have you ever heard of the “Psalmody” controversy? Neither had I. That Rev. Rankin was Adam’s grandson. Adam also had a grandson whose migration west through three states, and eight of his nine children, were proved by three deeds. When I run across fun something like that, I am compelled to pause researching to write an article for this blog.
There are also a number of tangled branches on Adam’s family tree. As noted, the family had a plethora of Williams who led people astray, causing me to write two articles to correct mis-identified Rankins. One William in Adam’s line, a great-grandson, has been conflated with other William Rankins several times to my knowledge. That is a fine example of the “same name confusion” error, which is easy to do. There were also a passel of Jeremiah Rankins in Franklin County, Pennsylvania who made Adam’s line difficult to track. Further, conventional Rankin wisdom conflates a David Rankin descended from Adam with an unrelated David Rankin of Greene County, Tennessee. Some of the James Rankins are also confusing. Sorting out those men required research producing conclusions that I wanted to share in this forum.
Not surprisingly, the most frequently read Rankin articles on this blog are about Adam’s line. If the genealogical gods have even a shred of kindness, one of Adam’s descendants will read this article online, decide to Y-DNA test, and join the Rankin DNA Project. I can only hope.
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 The version of the legend inscribed on a tablet at Mt. Horeb Presbyterian Church cemetery in Jefferson Co., TN can be seen here. Unfortunately, there seems to be little evidence for the Scottish part of the story other than “family tradition.” I don’t know when or where the legend originated, although it may have been in the early twentieth century.
 Adam’s will named a son William. Lancaster Co., PA Will Book J-1, will of Adam Rankin dated 4 May 1747 and proved 21 Sep 1747, naming children James, William, Jeremiah, and Esther Rankin Dunwoody. Adam’s sons William, James, and Jeremiah each had a son named William. E.g., will of William Rankin dated 20 Oct 1792, proved 28 Nov 1792, Cumberland Co., PA will book A: 256, naming inter alia sons Adam, Archibald, James, William, David, John, and Jeremiah. Also, e.g., the will of James Rankin (Sr.) dated 25 Mar 1788, proved 20 Oct 1795, Cumberland Co., PA Will Book A: 345, naming inter alia sons William, Jeremiah, James, and David.
 There are at least three members of the Rankin DNA Project who wrongly claim descent from Adam’s great-grandson son Dr. William Rankin, probably due to the same-name confusion error. Traditional evidence proves where Dr. William went, who he married, and the identity of his children, and the claims are clearly erroneous. Y-DNA evidence also disproves the descent.
 The great-grandson of Adam who has been conflated with other men named William Rankin fits in Adam’s line thusly: Gen 1, Adam d. 1747 in Lancaster (wife Mary Steele); Gen 2, William d. 1792 in Franklin (wife Mary Huston); Gen 3, William who moved to Centre County and died there (wife #1 Abigail McGinley, #2 Susanna Huston). The third William left a will dated 11 Jun 1845 and proved 2 Feb 1848, Centre Co., PA WB B: 254, will naming inter alia sons William, James, Archibald, Alexander, John and Adam. Son William Rankin, great-grandson of Adam, was a doctor, lived in Shippensburg, and married Caroline Nevin. See 1850 census, Shippensburg, household of Dr. William Rankin, 52, Caroline Rankin, 37, Rev. William Rankin, 20, Mary A. Rankin, 18, David Rankin, 16, Abigail Rankin, 13, Alfred Rankin, 11, James Rankin, 9, Elizabeth Rankin, 7, Joseph Rankin, 5, and Caroline Rankin, 4.