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

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

Just kidding. There were no surnames back then.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See you on down the road.

Robin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

            [26] Id.

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

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

Allegheny County Rankin Families (Part 1 of ?)

We are back to “normal” writing style. This article has no alleged first-person account by someone who has been dead for more than a century. Nor does it have a whimsical story of research by a private eye named Spade. The purpose of this article, rather than entertainment, is simply to provide information about several Rankin families in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania beginning in the late 1700s. I hope someone finds it helpful. I fully expect a couple of emails featuring “yawning” emojis. 😉

Fortunately, the five Rankin families in this county are easy to distinguish by township location. I don’t know whether any of them are genetically related, because only one of the lines has a descendant who has Y-DNA tested. The Rankins here include: a family in Allegheny City, who are descendants of Adam and Mary Steele Alexander Rankin; a family in Mifflin Township which may have had three Revolutionary War soldiers; a Baldwin Township family who came to Maryland from Ireland, then lived in both Westmoreland and Allegheny Counties; a Robinson Township family which is a total mystery to me; and a family in Elizabeth Township which arrived from Ireland in two migrations decades apart. There is so much information in the records about these families that more than one article is surely in the works.

Allegheny City Rankins

 Dr. David Nevin Rankin jumps out of the records in Allegheny City, which was a separate city until it was annexed by Pittsburgh in 1907.  He was a great-great grandson of Adam and Mary Steele Alexander Rankin of Lancaster County.[1] Dr. David graduated from Jefferson Medical College of Philadelphia in 1854, then practiced with his father in Shippensburg until the Civil War.[2] He was in Company A of the 20th Pennsylvania Artillery, became an Assistant Surgeon, and helped open many of the largest Union Army hospitals during the war. He worked for many years as a prison doctor. He and several members of his family are buried in the Allegheny Cemetery in Pittsburgh.[3]

Here is an outline chart showing how Dr. David fits in Adam and Mary’s line:

1  Adam Rankin d. 1747, Lancaster Co., PA, wife Mary Steele Alexander.

  2 William Rankin d. 1792, Franklin Co., PA, wife Mary Huston.

    3 William Rankin, 1770 – 1847, moved to Centre Co., PA. Married first Abigail McGinley, second Susannah Huston.

      4 Dr. William Rankin, b. 1795, Centre Co., PA, d. 1872, Shippensburg, Cumberland Co. Wife Caroline O. Nevin. Dr. William was a son of Abigail McGinley Rankin, his father’s first wife.

       5 Dr. David Nevin Rankin, b. 1835, Shippensburg, d. 1901, Allegheny Co. Wife Ann Catharine Irwin.[4]

         6 Lilly J. Rankin, b. abt 1864.

         6 Dr. Henry Irwin Rankin, 1869 – 1914.[5] Married Hester McCaughey, both of Philadelphia, license issued 5 May 1908. No children found.

         6 Edith N. Rankin, 1873 – 1926, Allegheny County. Husband Henry A. Plumer. Buried in the Allegheny Cemetery.[6]

So far as I have found, Dr. Henry H. Rankin was the last male Rankin in the Allegheny City line. That’s a shame, because Y-DNA results for Adam and Mary Steele Rankin’s line are scarce as hen’s teeth.[7] If you are a male having the Rankin surname and think you are descended from them, please go take a “Big Y” test ASAP!

Mifflin Township Rankins

Hugh Rankin was the apparent patriarch of the Mifflin Township Rankin family. His tombstone says that he was a Revolutionary War soldier who served in the 8th Pennsylvania Regiment of Infantry as of 1777. That unit completed an epic winter march across the mountains from western Pennsylvania to New Jersey, leaving many men sick or dead. It was engaged at Bound Brook, Brandywine, the massacre at Paoli, and Germantown in 1777. It was also at Valley Forge. Wow.

The military records at Fold.3 have limited information, although they provide a possible clue about Hugh’s family. Two other men named Rankin(s) served in the same company as Hugh: Isaac and Solomon Rankin. It would be unusual if they were not kin. Based on no evidence other than names, it is possible (but rank speculation) that the three men were from the line of David and Jeanette McCormick Rankin of Frederick County, VA.[8] That couple definitely had a son Hugh and a grandson Solomon.

If I were a descendant of Hugh and Mary, I would head straight to the muster and payroll records available at the National Archives and Records Administration to see what is there for Hugh, Isaac, and Solomon. NARA is without question the best source for relatively complete Revolutionary War military records.

Hugh first appeared in the Allegheny records in the 1790 census. The county was organized in 1788, so he may have been from one of the Rankin families of Westmoreland or Washington County. Two of David and Jeanette Rankin’s children appeared in the latter county. Although Hugh’s family of origin is unproved, one thing is certain: they were Presbyterian through-and-through. That means that he (or his family of origin) were almost certainly Scots-Irish who immigrated from Ulster or, although it is less likely, Presbyterians who came to the colonies straight from Scotland.

Hugh’s tombstone is also inscribed with his wife’s name: Mary Stewart, 1769-1851. It is clearly a fairly new stone, so it could be either a replacement or a first-time marker installed well after the couple died. It gives Hugh’s dates of birth and death as 1764 – 1844-45. The uncertainty about his death date is a pretty solid clue that the stone wasn’t installed at the time Hugh died.

Neither Hugh nor Mary left a will. Census records suggest one son and three daughters. Deed records confirm a son, but only two daughters:

  • Archibald Rankin, 1802 – 1853.[9]
  • Mary Rankin Livingston, probably born 1790 – 1794.[10]
  • Another daughter, also born 1790-1794, who likely married a Mr. Torrence.[11]

Hugh and Mary’s son Archibald kindly left a will identifying his children. There is an outline chart for Hugh’s line below, along with a plethora of footnotes. There are a sufficient number of male Rankins in this line that there is surely a surviving Rankin male descendant who could Y-DNA test!

And that’s all the room available in this article for the first two Allegheny County Rankin families. Next up: William and Ursula Rankin of Bedford Township.

1 Hugh Rankin, 1764 – 1844-45?, wife Mary Stewart, 1769 – 1851, b. PA.[12] Their fairly new tombstone in the Mifflin United Presbyterian Cemetery is inscribed 8th PA Regiment, 1776 – 1779. NASA records could undoubtedly provide evidence for anyone in this line interested in a DAR or SAR membership.

  2 Mary Rankin, married a Mr. Livingston. Possibly William R. Livingston, who was an executor of her brother Archibald’s will.

  2 Miss Rankin m. Mr. Torrence.

  2 Archibald Rankin,  1802 – 1853, probably born and died in Allegheny Co. Wife Jane Brewster or Bruster, 1814 – 1876. Arch still had minor children when he died.[13] Both Arch and Jane are buried in the Miffllin United Presbyterian Church Cemetery.[14]

   3 Sarah Rankin, 24 Apr 1832 – 10 Sep 1914, b. Jefferson Twp., Allegheny Co. Sarah married Samuel J. Chamberlain.[15] Her Allegheny County death certificate identifies her parents as Archy Rankin and Jane Bruster.[16]

   3 Mary Rankin, 14 Jan 1834 – 19 Dec 1910. Her death certificate identifies her parents as Archibald Rankin and Jane Brewster, a minor spelling difference. She married a John Rankin, relationship unknown.[17] If you can figure it out, I would love to know.

   3 William Rankin, b. abt 1836. Wife Mary Ann McClure, daughter of Francis McClure.[18]

    4 Howard M. Rankin, 7 May 1860 – 24 Feb 1914.[19]

    4 William A. Rankin, 1861 – 1902.[20]

    4 Frank Rankin, 1867 – 1892.

    4 Rebecca C. Rankin, 1864 – 1868. The find-a-grave memorial for this family in the McKeesport and Versailles Cemetery indicates that Rebecca’s birth date is unknown and that she lived into the twentieth century, both of which are incorrect based on the family memorial, see Note 20.

    4 Fannie F. Rankin, 1868-1870.

   3 John Rankin, 1839 – 1892. Wife Alice Giles, 1836 – 1906. John sold his 1/3rd interest in his father’s land to his brother William.[21] John had moved to Oakalla, Iroquois Co., IL by 1870 and then to Pottawatomie Co., IA.[22]He is buried with his wife and two of their children in the Carson Cemetery in Pottawatomie.

    4 Archie Rankin, b. abt 1865, WV.

    4 Laura J. Rankin, 1867 – 1883, b. IL. Carson Cemetery.

    4 John P. Rankin, b. IL 1870 – 1883. Carson Cemetery.

    4 William S. Rankin, b. IL abt 1872. Married Winnie or Minnie Gertrude Pace. Their marriage record identifies his parents as John Rankin and Alice Giles.

    4 Son, b. abt 1874.

    4 Alice Rankin, b. IA abt 1877.

   3 Eliza Rankin, b. abt 1841-42

   3 Jane Rankin, b. abt 1844, m.  Dr. William D. Riggs. Lived in Pittsburgh.[23]

   3 Evaline Rankin Martin, 15 Jul 1846 – 7 May 1923. Buried in the Mifflin United Presbyterian Church Cemetery.[24]

   3 Samuel L. Rankin, 27 Feb 1849 – 11 Apr 1912. Wife Sarah Downay, 1848 – 1934. Samuel went to Iroquois Co., IL and then Pottawatomie Co., IA.[25]  The couple is buried in the Carson Cemetery in Pottawatomie along with two of their children.[26]

    4 Ella Rankin, 1874 – 1877. Carson Cemetery.

    4 Sammy Rankin, 1876 – 1877. Carson Cemetery.

    4 Warren Rankin

    4 Edna J. Rankin

    4 Lula M. Rankin

    4 Edith Belle Rankin m. Mr. Breneman.[27]

And that’s all for now on some Allegheny Rankins. See you on down the road.

Robin

                  [1] There are several articles about the line of Adam and Mary Steele Alexander Rankin on this website.

                  [2] Appletons’ Cyclopedia of American Biography, 1600-1889, Vol. V: Pickering – Sumter 180. There is a great picture of Dr. David and his wife Caroline Nevin at this link.

                  [3] Dr. Rankin’s find-a-grave memorial can be found here.

            [4] See 1870, 1880, and 1900 census entries for Dr. David Rankin; Allegheny County death certificates for son Dr. Henry and daughter Edith N. Plumer. Here  is Catherine’s find-a-grave memorial.

            [5] See cemetery memorial here. There is also an Allegheny County death certificate for Henry.

                  [6] See cemetery memorial at this link.. There is also an Allegheny County death certificate for Edith Rankin Plumer.

                  [7] Ironically, more Rankins claim descent from Adam and Mary than you can throw a stick at. If you think you might be from that line, please go to the Rankin DNA Project website and send me an email. I will answer questions and do whatever I can to help.

            [8] See Frederick Co., VA Deed Book 12: 46, lease and release from Hugh Rankin to William Rankin, proved sons of David and Jeanette McCormick Rankin, witnessed by Solomon and David Rankin. Solomon was a fairly unusual name. I have not tried to track Hugh’s family.

            [9] Allegheny Co., PA Deed Book 21: 250, FHL #8091674, image #432, deed dated 1815 from William and Tabitha Reed to Hugh Rankin, all of Allegheny Co., 401.5 acres called “Tabermore” to Hugh Rankin for his life or the life of his wife Mary, at the death of the survivor to their son Archibald in fee simple. See also Deed Book 55: 183, FHL #8036728, image #110, Hugh Rankin and wife Mary of Allegheny to their son Archibald “all … land … now in their occupation.” Hugh Rankin and his family were listed in the federal census for 1790 through 1820 in Mifflin Township. In the 1830 census, Hugh was probably living with his son Archibald.

                  [10] Allegheny Co., PA Deed Book 118: 181, FHL film #8091702, image #109, deed dated 1853 from Mary Livingston of Jefferson Twp, Allegheny Co., daughter of Hugh Rankin, dec’d, and one of his heirs at law, to my brother Archibald Rankin of Mifflin Twp., for $200, all my claim to Hugh Rankin’s property.

            [11] Allegheny Co., PA Deed Book 70: 163, FHL Film #8091683, image #532, deed dated 1845 from Mary Torrence and Jane Torrence of Mifflin Twp., heirs at law of Hugh Rankin, all our claim to Hugh’s real and personal property to Hugh’s son Archibald.

                  [12] Hugh and Mary’s shared tombstone can be found here.

            [13] 1850 Allegheny Co., PA census, household of Archibald Rankin 48, Jane 36, Sarah 18, Mary 16, William 14, John 11, Eliza 9, Jane 6, Emiline 4, and Mary Rankin 81; 1860 census, Mifflin Twp, Allegheny Co., household of Jane Rankin, 46, widow, $7,550/560, b. PA, John Rankin 21, Eliza Rankin 18, Jane Rankin 16, Emeline Rankin 13, and Samuel Rankin 11. They are enumerated adjacent the household of William Rankin, 24. For proof of their five daughters, see Allegheny Co., PA Will Book 26: 36, FHL film #5538, image #396, will of Jane Rankin of Mifflin Township dated 11 Jul 1871 proved 13 Mar 1876. To be buried in Mifflin graveyard, Presbyterian rites. Divide all property into 5 parts, 1/5th each to daughter (1) Sarah Chamberlin, (2) Mary Rankin, (3) dec’d daughter Eliza Forsythe’s children, (4) Jane Riggs, and (5) Emiline Martin. Executor Samuel J. Chamberlin. Witnesses Harvey Sheplar, C. D. Phillips.

                  [14] Archibald and Jane’s find-a-grave memorials can be found at here  and here, respectively.

                  [15] Allegheny Deed Book 290: 682, 1866 deed from Samuel J. Chamberlain and wife Sarah to John Rankin, tract in Jefferson Twp.; Deed Book 381: 99, FHL film # 8092431, image #285, 1877 quitclaim deed from Samuel J. Chamberlin (or Chamberlain) and wife Sarah, formerly Sarah Rankin, of Jefferson Twp., Allegheny Co., to William Rankin of Mifflin Twp. for $300. All claim by Sarah to tract “bequeathed to her by her father Archibald Rankin.”

                  [16] Sarah Rankin Chamberlain’s memorial in Mifflin United Presbyterian Church Cemetery can be found at this link.

            [17] Allegheny Co., Deed Book 396: 684, quitclaim deed dated 1878 from John Rankin and Mary Rankin (daughter of Archibald Rankin, dec’d) of Jefferson Twp., to William Rankin of Mifflin Twp. The grantors John and Mary were married, as is proved by her separate examination re: dower release. The deed conveys all of Mary’s claims to the legacy willed her by Archibald, including a 150-acre tract on the headwaters of Lewis Run, Mifflin Twp. Who the heck is John? I don’t know.

            [18] See Allegheny Co., PA Deed Book 243: 475, FHL Film # 8092177, image #413, 1869 deed from Mrs. Jane Rankin, widow of Archibald Rankin late of Mifflin Township, Allegheny, to William Rankin, son of Archibald, all of her right, title, interest to a tract in Mifflin Township containing 100A, part of the real estate which Arch devised to his wife for life known as the Adersen (sic, Anderson) farm. See also Allegheny Co., PA Deed Book 352: 670, film #8092385, image #18, 1875 quitclaim deed from Robert Day and wife Catharine J. of Allegheny City, Francis N. McClure and Margaret his wife of Allegheny Co., Sarah Rhodes, widow of David Rhodes of McKeesport, and William Rankin and wife Mary A. Rankin of Mifflin Twp., grantors, to Richard McClure of Mifflin, $3,500, 275A. Signatures reveal Wm. Rankin was married to Mary Ann McClure, daughter of Francis McClure. See 1860 census, Mifflin Twp, Allegheny Co., household of William Rankin, 24, farmer, $400, b. PA, Mary Anne Rankin, 23, PA, and Howard M. Rankin, b. May 1860, listed adjacent William’s widowed mother Jane and her children still at home; 1870 census, Mifflin Township, household of William Rankin, 34, farmer, $15,200/$15,000, b. PA, Mary Ann Rankin, 23 (sic, should be 33), $800, PA, Howard Rankin, 10, William Rankin, 8, Francis Rankin, 3 (male, Frank), and Fanny Rankin (female), 1.

            [19] Howard M. Rankin’s Allegheny Co. death certificate states his birth and date dates and identifies his parents as William Rankin and Mary McCure (sic, McClure).

                  [20] William A. Rankin, three of his siblings, and his parents William and Mary Ann are buried in the McKeesport and Versailles Cemetery in McKeesport, Allegheny Co. There is an impressive monument  inscribed with the names and birth/death dates of Mary Ann Rankin (1836 – 1896), William Rankin (1834-1904), William A. Rankin (1861-1902), Frank Rankin (1867 – 1892), Rebecca C. Rankin (1864 – 1868), and Fannie F. Rankin (1868 – 1870). I don’t know who erected the monument, but Howard M. Rankin, who survived all six of them, is a good bet.

                  [21] Allegheny Co., PA Deed Book 177: 299, FHL film #8092152, image #490, deed dated 1864 from John Rankin and his wife Mary Alice to William, undivided interest per the will of Archibald Rankin, father of the parties; Allegheny Co., PA Deed Book 301, FHL film #8092388, image #3421872 deed from John Rankin and wife Alice of Iroquois Co., Illinois to William Rankin of Allegheny for $5. Quitclaim to tract in Mifflin Township adj James and Robert Rath, et al. Archibald Rankin died owning tract and by his will devised it to his three sons John, Samuel, and William. Both Samuel and John are listed in the 1870 census in Iroquois Co.

            [22] 1870 census, Iroquois Co., Illinois, Oakalla PO, household of John Rankin, 31, farmer, $5,100/700, b. PA, Olive? Rankin, 33, England, presumably Alice Giles. Jennie Rankin, 7, PA, Archie Rankin, 5, VA, Laura Rankin, 3, IL, and John Rankin, 6 months, b. Jan 1870, IL; 1880 census, Grove Twp., Pottawattamie Co., IA, household of J. Rankin, 41, farming, b. PA, parents b. PA, wife Alice, 43, b. England, son Archie, 15, b. WV, daughter Laurie, 13, b. ILL, son John, 11, IL, son William, 8, IL, unidentified son, 6, IA, and daughter Alice, 3, IA.

            [23] Allegheny Co., PA Deed Book 369: 94, FHL film #8092392, image #108, 1877 deed from William Riggs, M.D., and wife Jane, formerly Jane Rankin, of the 28th ward of Pittsburgh, acknowledging receipt from William Rankin of Mifflin Twp payment of the $300 legacy bequeathed to Jane Riggs by her father Archibald Rankin in his LW&T dated 5 Sep 1853. Also, grantees quitclaim tract devised by Archibald to William and his brothers John and Samuel Rankin.

                  [24] See memorial here.

            [25] Allegheny Co., PA Deed Book 301: 477, FHL film #8092388, image #342, 1872 deed from Samuel Rankin of Iroquois Co., Illinois to William Rankin of Allegheny Co., Samuel’s undivided 1/3rd of tract in Mifflin Twp., Allegheny, adjacent James Rath, Robert Rath, Hays, McElhenny, Livingstons, Hope et al. Devised by Archibald Rankin’s will to the parties.

                  [26] Samuel L. Rankin’s find-a-grave memorial is at this link. His wife Sarah Downay Rankin’s memorial is here. Their daughter Ella and son Sammy Jr. are also buried in the Carson cemetery and have similar tombstones.

            [27] Edith Rankin’s delayed birth record says she was b. 9 Apr 1886, in Grove Twp., Pottawatamie Co., IA, and identifies her parents as Samuel Rankin, b. Pittsburg, and Sarah Downay, b. Oneida Co., NY. She signed the birth certificate as Edith Belle Breneman.

 

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.

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.

UPDATE: Rankin DNA Project Families, August 2021

This article is about Rankin families whose descendants participate in the Rankin DNA Project. It is a long read with numerous sources in footnotes, but that is the nature of the beast. It should be easy to find families of interest to you.

Two things stand out among the details. First, colonial Rankin families produced a considerable number of Revolutionary War soldiers. This is no surprise, because the Scots-Irish had little love for the British. Second, Rankin immigrants’ Presbyterianism frequently persisted for several generations. That was so often the case I concluded that non-Presbyterian Rankin immigrants may have come to the colonies from England rather than Ulster or Scotland.

Here are some Project basics. It began in 2006 with two Y-DNA test participants descended from the same immigrant ancestor. Fifteen years later, 75 of the 212 Project members are Y-DNA test participants[1] whose surname is Rankin or whose Y-DNA proves they are genetic Rankins.[2] The results identify nine genetic lineages comprised of at least eighteen different Rankin family ancestors.

Growth notwithstanding, the Project needs work. Some Y-DNA participants don’t yet have a match in the Project. That’s a concern because DNA is now an important tool for identifying ancestors. Little is known about some Y-DNA participants’ families. And the Project website isn’t always timely updated to add new information. Addressing these issues requires more Y-DNA testing, research, and administrative time. This is not criticism of Project administrators – I am one. It’s just a fact.[3]

This article treats the nine lineages and their component families unevenly. It contains considerable information and a wealth of supporting documentation for some families. Others receive cursory treatment, or none at all, pending further research. I must also apologize to Rankin daughters: my research is focused almost exclusively on the male line.

So that you may quickly identify lineages of interest to you, here are the earliest known families in each:

Lineage 1 – Robert and Rebecca Rankin of Guilford, NC, David and Margaret Rankin of Iredell, NC, and Joseph and Rebecca Rankin of New Castle, DE.

Lineage 2 – John Rankin of Lancaster, PA, Samuel and Eleanor (“Ellen”) Alexander Rankin of Lincoln, NC, David and Jennet McCormick Rankin of Frederick, VA, and William Rankin Sr. of Fayette, PA.

Lineage 3 – David Rankin Sr. of Greene, TN. This was redesigned as “Lineage 3A” in June 2002 as a result of Big Y tests. The Big Y results prove than a member of former Lineage 3 and a member of former Lineage 9 (now “Lineage 3B”) share a common Rankin ancestor.

Lineage 4 – Three members. No writeup is included in this report pending further research.

Lineage 5 – Chambers Rankin of Bedford, PA, James Rankin of Ayrshire, Scotland and County Tyrone, Ireland, and Michael Rankin of County Tyrone.

Lineage 6 – Lt. Robert and Margaret (“Peggy”) Berry Rankin of VA, KY, AL, TX, and LA, John and Elizabeth Clay Rankin of Henderson, KY, Moses and Mary (“Polly”) Gill Rankin of Mason, KY, and John Rankin of Stafford, VA.

Lineage 7 – Five members, including recent additions in 2021. One identifies his earliest Rankin ancestor as John Rankin of Lochaber, Inverness, Scotland. Reporting awaits further administrative work and communication with members.

Lineage 8 – Two members. William O. Rankin Sr. of SC is the earliest Rankin ancestor of one of them. No report pending further research and testing.

Lineage 9 – Adam and Mary Steele Alexander Rankin of Lancaster, PA. This lineage has been renamed Lineage 3B as a result of Big Y tests. There is no longer a separate Lineage 9.

Let’s jump in …

Lineage 1

Lineage 1 (“L1”) has two sub-lineages: L1A, Robert and Rebecca Rankin of Guilford County, North Carolina, and L1B, Joseph and Rebecca Rankin of New Castle County, Delaware. Robert was definitely the original Rankin immigrant in his line. Joseph was probably the original immigrant in his. The common Rankin ancestor for Robert and Joseph is unknown. Both Y-DNA results and traditional paper research indicate virtually no chance of a common ancestor in the colonies. He probably exists around 1400, plus or minus a century, almost certainly in Scotland.

Lineage 1A

Robert and Rebecca Rankin of Guilford came to the colonies about 1750 from the Irish province of Ulster, County Donegal, Letterkenny Parish. That information is from an impeccable source: the autobiography of Rev. John Rankin,  a grandson.[4] Rev. John was an ordained Presbyterian minister who converted to Shakerism and founded a famous Shaker colony in Kentucky. Robert and Rebecca’s family also produced at least three Revolutionary War soldiers. Two survived the war. A third died at the Battle of Ramsour’s Mill in Lincoln County, North Carolina. Like most Scots-Irish immigrants, this was a family of farmers and (except for Shaker Rev. John) staunch Presbyterians.

The Guilford Rankins belonged to the Buffalo Presbyterian Church in what is now Greensboro, North Carolina. Many Rankins are buried in the church graveyard.[5] Reverend Samuel Meek Rankin wrote a history of the church.[6] There is no extant marker for either Robert, who died about 1770-73, or Rebecca.[7]

Robert’s first appearance in colonial records was probably on the 1753 Chester County, Pennsylvania tax list.[8] That same year, he and his son George also began turning up in North Carolina deed records.[9] Robert and Rebecca’s children were undoubtedly adults by the time they arrived in Pennsylvania. Two sons, Robert (died in 1795) and George (died in 1760) are proved. There is good circumstantial evidence in the Rowan and Guilford records for other children. They include a son John Rankin and daughters Ann Rankin Denny (husband William Sr.), Margaret Rankin Braly or Brawley (husband John), and Rebecca Rankin Boyd (husband John).

Robert and Rebecca’s son Robert  died in Guilford in 1795, leaving a son George and four daughters.[10] The identity of his wife is controversial.[11] Robert’s brother George died in 1760, leaving two young sons, including the future Shaker Rev. John Rankin and his younger brother Robert. George’s wife was Lydia Steele, who married Arthur Forbis/Forbes after George died.[12]

Lineage 1A also includes the line of David Rankin (wife Margaret MNU) who died in Iredell County, North Carolina in 1789.[13] David may have been a son of Robert and Rebecca of Guilford. Two descendants of David and Margaret have Y-DNA tested, and the results show a close match to Robert and Rebecca’s line. Y-DNA doesn’t reveal the nature of the family relationship.

Iredell David and Margaret had two sons, Robert and James, and a daughter, Elizabeth Rankin McCrary (husband Samuel). James died at the Battle of Ramsour’s Mill.[14] He left four children whose guardian in Lincoln County was John Alexander, a brother of James’ widow.[15]

Robert Rankin’s wife was named Jean, possibly Jean Denny of Guilford County.[16]  In the late 1820s, Robert moved from Iredell to Gibson County, Tennessee.[17] He filed a Revolutionary War pension application there. His relative Robert Rankin, a grandson of Robert and Rebecca of Guilford, was also a Revolutionary War veteran.

Robert and Jean Rankin’s sons James (wife Elizabeth McMin) and Denny (wife Sarah McMin) remained in North Carolina. Both sons and their wives are buried in the Centre Presbyterian Church cemetery near Mooresville, as is their mother Jean.[18]

Lineage 1B

Joseph and Rebecca Rankin of Delaware had six sons, four of whom served in the Revolution. According to family tradition, two sons were in the 1781  Battle of Guilford Courthouse.  Shortly before the battle, British soldiers took “all the grain, cattle, sheep, hogs, and fowls (except one old setting hen) from both [Rankin] plantations.”[19] Two other sons of Joseph and Rebecca, a Lieutenant and a private, served in Capt. Walter Carson’s company in the Delaware line. In civilian life, Joseph and Rebecca’s family were farmers and, of course, Presbyterians.[20]

Joseph (1704 – 1764) arrived in the colonies about 1730, roughly two decades earlier than his kinsman Robert Rankin of Guilford. The approximate time Joseph arrived suggests he migrated from Ulster, although he may well have been born in Scotland.[21] He is probably the Joseph Rankin taxed as a “freeman” (unmarried and not a landowner) on the 1729[22] and 1730[23] tax lists for London Britain Township in Chester County, Pennsylvania. In 1731, Joseph acquired a tract on White Clay Creek in New Castle County, Delaware, just a stone’s throw from London Britain.[24]

Joseph and Rebecca had at least one daughter in addition to their six sons. Four sons –  Joseph Jr., Thomas, William and John – are proved by deeds.[25] Two sons, Robert and James, are established by circumstantial evidence.[26] A daughter Ann Rankin is proved by the will of her brother Joseph (Jr.).[27]

Based on the known birth dates of three sons,[28] Joseph and Rebecca’s children were born in Delaware. Two sons – John and William, the ones whose farms were plundered by British soldiers  – moved to Guilford County, North Carolina.[29] Descendants of both John and William  have tested and are an excellent Y-DNA match.[30]

Joseph Jr.[31] and Thomas[32] remained in New Castle County. Joseph Jr. apparently had no surviving children; he left his estate to two nephews and his sister.[33] Son Thomas left five children.[34]  Probable son James was likely the Revolutionary War soldier who filed a pension application and left a will in Washington County, Pennsylvania.[35] I was not able to trace probable son Robert.

Joseph (Sr.) is buried at Head of Christiana Presbyterian Church in Newark, New Castle County. His 1764 tombstone still exists.[36] His wife Rebecca’s maiden name is unproved. She and William Rankin, a son, were administrators of Joseph’s estate.[37]

Lineage 2

Rankin Lineage 2 (“L2”) is the largest group in the Rankin DNA Project. As of August 2021, there are twenty-five participants whose Y-DNA places them in L2. The families in L2 are diverse, although Y-DNA results are not. The L2 members are fairly close matches, suggesting a common ancestor about 400-500 years ago, almost certainly in Scotland or Ulster. The Y-DNA results for L2 members are so similar that paper research is the only reliable way to assign members to sub-lineages.

L2 has three sub-lineages designated L2A, B, and C. There are also eight “one of a kind” L2 members (“L2U”) who are not assigned to one of the sub-lineages. None of the L2U members (so far as is known) share an ancestor with any other L2 member. Some members of L2U are “one of a kind” because they have not provided information about their Rankin line, although they may well belong in one of the L2 sub-lineages or share a common ancestor with another L2U member.

The three L2 sub-lineages are (1) L2A, John Rankin who died in 1749 in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, (2) L2B, Samuel and Eleanor (“Ellen”) Alexander Rankin of Lincoln County, North Carolina, and (3) L2C, two families, David and Jenette McCormick Rankin of Frederick, Virginia, and William and Mary Rankin of Fayette, Pennsylvania.

Lineage 2A

This is the Rankin family memorialized on the famous tablet in the Mt. Horeb Presbyterian Church cemetery in Jefferson County, Tennessee. The Mt. Horeb church was organized in 1841 with four ordained elders, two of whom were Rankins. The land on which the original church was built was donated by another Rankin.

L2A includes Hazel Townsend, the Project Administrator who single-handedly started the Project fifteen years ago with two of her relatives as the first Y-DNA participants. She and her Rankin relatives hold a reunion at the Mt. Horeb church every year during the second weekend in July.

The original immigrant in this line was John Rankin, who died in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania in 1749. Family oral history on the Mt. Horeb tablet identifies John’s wife as Jane McElwee, although John’s will named his wife Margaret. John’s will also named his sons Thomas and Richard, six daughters, and two sons-in-law.[38]

All of the L2A members are descended from John’s son Thomas. The Mt. Horeb tablet says that Thomas  was a Revolutionary War Captain, although that is likely a case of “same name confusion.” Thomas lived in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania,[39] moved to Augusta County, Virginia,[40] then to east Tennessee.[41] John’s other son, Richard, moved from Cumberland[42] to Augusta and died there.[43]

According to family oral tradition, John was a son of William Rankin and grandson of Alexander Rankin of the Scotland Killing Times and the 1689 Siege of Londonderry – the legend inscribed on a tablet in the Mt. Horeb Presbyterian Church cemetery in Jefferson County, Tennessee. [44] I have not found anyone having evidence that John was a son of William and that William was a son of Alexander.

An interesting question about John’s lineage concerns the Adam Rankin who died in 1747 in Lancaster County.[45] Two Project participants are Adam’s descendants. Based on Y-DNA results, they are assigned to former Lineage 9 (recently renamed Lineage 3B). Neither man matches a descendant of John. Family oral tradition for both Adam’s line and John’s line (L2A) say that Adam and John were brothers. However, Big Y tests conclusively prove that cannot be the case. Here is the ticklish part: if John and Adam were not brothers, which line – John’s or Adam’s – is entitled to claim the Mt. Horeb legend and its Rankin ancestors?

Lineage 2B

Lineage 2B is the line of Samuel and Eleanor (“Ellen”) Alexander Rankin of south-central North Carolina. A descendant told me he was called “Old One-Eyed Sam.” She heard the story as a child from an older Rankin relative who inherited Sam’s home. Unfortunately, the homeowner had no idea how Sam lost an eye.

Sam’s name is on a D.A.R. plaque honoring “Revolutionary soldiers” that was once on the wall at Goshen Grove Presbyterian Cemetery in Belmont, North Carolina. Sam was buried there.[46] Some Rankin researchers believe (I agree) that the D.A.R. honored him for providing supplies to the army, a contemporary practice. A blue-haired D.A.R. lady I talked to at Clayton Library in Houston turned up her nose at that, condescendingly comparing those who merely provided supplies to “real” soldiers. She may have a point, although soldiers did have to eat, and one-eyed soldiers probably weren’t famous for their marksmanship.

The pension application of Sam and Eleanor’s son William doesn’t exactly burnish the family’s military reputation.[47] William was in the  Battle of Camden, a humiliating defeat in which many patriot soldiers cut and ran. His unit arrived a day late for the Battle of Ramsour’s Mill. He was also in the  Battle of Eutaw Springs,  another British victory. On the other hand, William was in the small-ish  Battle of Colson’s Mill,  a patriot victory.

The best I can do for Old One-Eyed Sam and Eleanor is clear up online misinformation about them.[48] For example, some researchers believe Sam was a son of Robert and Rebecca Rankin of Guilford County (Lineage 1A) or, alternatively, a son of Joseph Rankin of Delaware (Lineage 1B). Both possibilities are foreclosed by Y-DNA results..  There is no known evidence of Samuel’s parents.

Some researchers believe that Sam and Eleanor were married in Pennsylvania. That doesn’t work. Eleanor’s parents James and Ann Alexander were in Anson County by 1753. James made deeds of gift to five of his six children, including “Elener,” before he died in 1753.[49] Sam and Eleanor were probably married about 1760, almost certainly in Rowan County. Their eldest child, the Revolutionary War soldier William, was born there in January 1761.[50]

Sam’s will gave eight of his nine surviving children a token bequest and left the bulk of his estate to his son James.[51] His son  Richard Rankin  predeceased him.[52] Sam’s tombstone in the Goshen Grove Presbyterian Cemetery in Belmont is missing, as is the D.A.R. plaque. A WPA cemetery survey taken in the 1930s recorded the dates on his tombstone as 1734 – 1816.[53]

Sam and Eleanor’s children who did not remain in North Carolina moved to Tennessee or Illinois; grandchildren scattered to the four winds.[54] One descendant had a town in Upton County, Texas, named for him. Rankin, Upton County, Texas has an old corrugated tin building painted with images of Augustus “Gus” McCrae and Woodrow F. Call from “Lonesome Dove.” Call is taking a selfie of the duo. Two other descendants of Sam and Eleanor are currently members of the same Presbyterian church in Houston, Texas. They discovered their kinship after they had known each other for almost a decade. Of course they are Presbyterians.

Lineage 2C

Lineage 2C members are descended from either David Sr. and Jennett McCormick Rankin of Frederick County, Virginia or William Rankin Sr. of Fayette County, Pennsylvania. The common Rankin ancestor of David Sr. and William Sr. is not known.

There isn’t much information about David Sr. and Jennett in the Frederick County records. A book containing the genealogy of one of their sons says without providing a source that David Sr. “emigrated from the north of Ireland … about 1738-50.”[55] His 1757 will named his wife Jennett and children Hugh, William, David Jr. and Barbara.[56]

Two of the sons, David Jr. and William, left Frederick and were easy to trace. I have not been able to track Hugh’s line with confidence. David Jr. married Hannah Province or Provence, daughter of Thomas Province, in Frederick County.[57] The couple moved from Frederick to Washington County, Pennsylvania and then to Harrison County, Kentucky, where David Jr. died.[58] David Jr.’s brother William and his wife Abigail also moved from Frederick to Washington County. William died there in 1799, leaving eight surviving children.[59]

The second family in L2C is the line of William Rankin Sr. of Fayette County, Pennsylvania. William Sr.’s will was dated 1794 and named his children James, Hugh, William Jr., and Elizabeth Rankin Gillespie (husband William Sr.).[60]

One writer said that James had serious “financial troubles” and “removed to the west,” although I don’t know where.[61] James executed an agreement with several creditors that contained so many conditions it made Enron look like a more secure credit risk.[62]  Creditors named in a second deed were all members of his family.[63]

James’ brothers Hugh (wife Esther) and William Jr. (wife Jane) remained in Fayette and apparently stayed out of financial trouble.[64] There is no doubt this was a Scots-Irish Presbyterian family. Many of their descendants are buried in the Associate Reformed Cemetery and the Laurel Hill Presbyterian cemeteries.

Three of Hugh and Esther’s children moved “west;” their fourth child, Thomas, remained in Fayette.[65]William Jr. and Jane Rankin’s family Bible has names and birth death dates for eleven children, some of whom also remained in Fayette County.[66] Descendants of the Thomas Rankin who is buried in the McCoy Cemetery in Londonderry Township, Guernsey County, Ohio believe he is the same man as Thomas, son of William Jr. and Jane Rankin.[67] The death date on his tombstone matches the date in the family Bible. Two descendants of Thomas have tested and are Y-DNA matches with descendants of David Sr. and Jennett McCormick Rankin of Frederick County, Virginia.

Lineage 3, now called Lineage 3A

This lineage has a known common ancestor for its four L3A participants: David Rankin Sr. who died in Greene County, Tennessee in 1802. His will identified seven children but not his wife, who evidently predeceased him.[68] David Sr. was reportedly among the “Overmountain Men” who fought in the Revolutionary War Battle of King’s Mountain, a decisive victory for the patriot forces.

David Rankin Sr.’s home in Greene County is listed in the National Registry of Historic Places.[69] Some researchers (including whomever filed the National Registry application) believe that David Sr. was a son of the William Rankin who died in 1792 in Franklin County, Pennsylvania and his wife Mary Huston. That possibility is negated by both Y-DNA and paper evidence, including William and Mary Huston Rankin’s family Bible. David, son of William and Mary, moved to Des Moines County, Iowa rather than Greene, Tennessee. A descendant of William and Mary Huston Rankin has Y-DNA tested and does not match the L3 participants.

An interesting question is where David Sr. lived before coming to Greene County in 1783. A friend and excellent researcher who is a descendant is certain that David Sr. of Greene was the same man as the David Rankin who received a 1771 land patent in Bedford County, Virginia. He is almost certainly right, although that theory is not without its difficulties. Bedford County David Rankin was a Quaker,[70] conflicting with the Presbyterianism of David Sr.’s children and his participation in the battle of King’s Mountain.[71]

David Rankin Sr. of  Greene County, Tennessee may have been and probably was the immigrant ancestor in his line.

Lineage 5

Rankin Lineage 5 has four members who come from three families. Their common ancestor is not known. L5 is archetypal Rankin, tracing ancestors back to the province of Ulster in Ireland and Ayrshire in Scotland.

Chambers Rankin is the earliest ancestor in the only L5 family without proved roots in Ulster, although he was undoubtedly Scots-Irish. The family tradition is that his wife was Native American. Their only child was Franklin R. Rankin (1834 – 1878), a Civil War soldier. Portions of his diary are used in a book about two communities in the war, including Franklin County, Pennsylvania.[72]

Chambers died at age 30 in 1835 in Bedford County, Pennsylvania and is buried in the Old Log Cabin Union Church Cemetery near Schellsburg, Pennsylvania.[73] He had three known siblings: (1) Martha Rankin Bisel, born in 1818, buried in Harrison City Presbyterian Cemetery in Westmoreland County; (2) John C. Rankin, 1805-1897, buried in the same cemetery; and (3) Culbertson Rankin, born about 1793. Their parents may have been David Rankin and his wife Martha Culbertson of Westmoreland County. The Rankin Project needs a descendant of David and Martha to Y-DNA test in order to prove the ancestry of this line.

Another L5 participant still resides in County Down, Northern Ireland, in the traditional province of Ulster. The earliest known Rankin ancestor for this line is Michael Rankin, who died in County Down in 1722.

James and Rosana Rankin, the earliest ancestors in the third L5 family, are buried in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland. Descendants have located the family acreage and home, a charming farmhouse with a traditional thatched roof. James and Rosana are buried in the Old Donagheady Burial Ground in County Tyrone along with a son. The tombstone is inscribed “Sacred to the memory of James Rankin of Carrickatain who died Nov. 1835, aged 80 years. Also Rosana, his wife, Oct 1834 and his son William, died 29 Jan 1866 age 66.”[74]

William’s widow Matilda and children migrated to Perry County, Alabama. Several are buried in the Marion Cemetery there. The tombstones for Matilda Rankin and her son Anthony state that each of them was born in County Tyrone.[75]

Lineage 6

Lineage 6 has two men with fascinating Revolutionary War stories. L6 may have a common Rankin ancestor in the Northern Neck of Virginia, where Rankins began appearing in the late 1600s.[76] They migrated westward, primarily in counties on the south side of the Potomac River.[77] By the 1770s, Rankins had appeared in many of Virginia’s Northern Neck counties and into the area that became Berkeley and Morgan Counties, West Virginia. Given their early arrival in the colonies, they may have come from England rather than Scotland or Ulster. Further, the Northern Neck Rankins apparently lack the multigenerational Presbyterianism characteristic of  Scots-Irish  immigrants.

The  earliest known Rankin ancestor for each of the six L6 participants was born in Virginia. Four of the L6 lines lived in Frederick County; one lived in Stafford County. The Virginia county origin of the sixth L6 ancestor is unknown, although his birth in Virginia is established.

Robert Rankin (1753-1837) and his wife Margaret (“Peggy”) Berry are the ancestors of three people in Lineage 6. Robert was a Lieutenant in the Revolutionary War and is buried in the Texas State Cemetery in Austin. His brother William was also a Revolutionary War soldier.. The two Rankins originally enlisted in Hugh Stephenson’s Maryland and Virginia Rifle Company, an elite unit of sharpshooters. William was captured at the Battle of Ft. Washington and endured a lengthy imprisonment in brutal conditions. Upon release, an officer and family friend sent him home to Virginia in a wagon. Lt. Robert  also has a remarkable military history. He survived the famous winter at Valley Forge and was captured at the Siege of Charleston.

Lt. Robert, William, and John Rankin, another brother, all lived in Mason County, Kentucky. They may have had other siblings, but the Northern Neck Rankins are hard to pin down. The brothers’ parents are unproved, although speculative theories abound. William[78] and John[79] died in Mason County. Lt. Robert left Mason and lived in Logan County, Kentucky, Washington County, Alabama (then part of the Mississippi Territory), Texas while it was still part of Mexico, and St. Landry Parish, Louisiana. His wife Peggy’s pension application and her will prove she and Lt. Robert had 10 children.[80]

Lt. Robert and Peggy’s line is unusual in several respects. First, one descendant is established by a combination of autosomal and Y-DNA testing. Second, two of their descendants have an unusual unknown in their line. They know they are descended from a son of Robert and Peggy, but which of two sons is unknown. Third, those two members’ descent from Lt. Robert and Peggy is convincingly established by Texas land records written in Spanish.

Here are the details. Two of Lt. Robert and Peggy Rankin’s sons, Thomas Berry Rankin and Joseph Rankin, died at the Battle of Ft. Mims, Alabama in 1813.[81] There seems to be no evidence of their children in Alabama records. Fortunately, Texas land grants help fill the evidentiary gap. Lt. Robert’s 1834 land grant in Joseph Vehlein’s colony[82] in Texas (then part of Mexico) states that he came to Texas with “mi mujer y tres huerfanos” – his wife and three orphans. [83] Lt. Robert and Peggy came to Texas from Alabama.

Texas land grant records also include character certificates[84] for two men named William Rankin and James Rankin. Each identified himself in his character certificate as an orphan from Alabama. They were the right age to be sons of the Rankin casualties at Ft. Mims. Because of the lack of Alabama evidence, it is uncertain which Ft. Mims soldier was either orphan’s father. Both orphans have a proved descendant in the project. One, a descendant of Orphan William, has Y-DNA tested and is a match to Lineage 6. He is an autosomal match to a proved female descendant of Orphan James. And that’s a really fine example of the value of DNA testing.

John Rankin (died in 1841) of Henderson County, Kentucky is the only L6 ancestor who cannot be placed in a specific Virginia County. There were two Rankin lines in Henderson County in the 1800s. Dr. Adam Rankin, a grandson of Adam and Mary Steele Alexander Rankin of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, was the patriarch of one Henderson County family. A descendant of his has tested and belongs in former Lineage 9 (now Lineage 3B). Dr. Adam’s line can be distinguished from the L6 Rankin family based on Henderson tax lists.

John and his wife Elizabeth Clay Rankin also lived in Henderson County. A descendant of his is an L6 match. A census says that John was born in Virginia,[85] but I have found no evidence of the county. John and Elizabeth’s children are established by a convincing web of connections in county records.[86] Among their children was an interesting character named Abia Benjamin Rankin, who traded a flatboat for land and subsequently amassed substantial acreage by bidding on adjoining tracts. He also planted a huge orchard which bore apples useless for anything except making cider. He gave the fruit to all comers. There is a picture of Abia at this link.

Moses Rankin (died in 1845) is the earliest known Rankin ancestor of a third L6 family. He lived in Frederick County and perhaps other Virginia counties, including Loudoun.[87] He migrated to Mason County, Kentucky, possibly from Frederick. His Mason County will named his wife Mary and a son William. He mentioned “my children” without providing their given names and a farm in Nicholas County.[88] His wife was Mary (“Polly”) Gill. They married in Mason County in 1795.[89]

A second John Rankin (born by 1766) who lived in Stafford County is the remaining L6 ancestor. His whereabouts prior to Stafford are unknown. Some of Stafford John’s family apparently moved to Licking County, Ohio. A descendant of the Licking County family who identifies Stafford John as an ancestor is a Y-DNA match with the Northern Neck Rankin descendants.

Lineage 9, renamed Lineage 3B in June 2022 due to Big Y test results

Only two members of the Project who have tested have solid paper trails proving their descent from Adam Rankin and Mary Steele Alexander of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. The two men are a Y-DNA match, although not a close one. One man is descended from Dr. Adam Rankin of Franklin County, Pennsylvania and Henderson County, Kentucky. Dr. Adam was a son of William and Mary Huston Rankin of Franklin and grandson of Adam and Mary. The other L9 member is descended from Reverend Adam Rankin of Lexington, Kentucky. Rev. Adam was a son of Adam and Mary Steele Rankin’s son Jeremiah Rankin and his wife Rhoda Craig.

Adam and Mary have some interesting descendants. They include Rev. Adam Rankin of Lexington, who established a Presbyterian congregation there and is known for his obsession with a theological issue known as “Psalmody.” Adam and Mary’s line also includes Confederate Brigadier General Adam Rankin “Stovepipe” Johnson, famous for capturing an Ohio town during the Civil War without firing a shot. He used a clever ruse involving, of course, a stovepipe. Adam and Mary Rankin’s descendants also include Revolutionary War veterans, many doctors, two professional baseball players, the Chairman of the Board of Churchill Downs, and the editor of a Texas newspaper. With such an abundance of interesting characters, I have written about this line often. If you are a descendant, you might be interested in some of the articles about Adam’s line identified in this link.  

Adam and Mary’s three proved sons – James, William, and Jeremiah – lived in the part of Lancaster County that became Cumberland and then Franklin County. James died in 1795, leaving six children and a wife Jean, maiden name unproved.[90] William married Mary Huston and died in Franklin in 1792.[91]

Jeremiah married Rhoda Craig and died in 1760 in a mill accident. He left four sons, including Rev. Adam Rankin of future Psalmody fame. All four sons (Rev. Adam, Jeremiah, William, and Thomas) went to Fayette and Woodford Counties, Kentucky. So far as I have found, the only county record in which Jeremiah Rankin appeared was Adam Rankin’s 1747 Lancaster County will.

If you are a male Rankin descendant of Adam and Mary Steele Alexander Rankin, I hope that you will do a Y-DNA test and join the Rankin DNA Project. Please contact me for information and anything I can do to help! This important line warrants further testing.

And that’s all the news that is currently fit to print. Your comments, questions, and corrections are most welcome.

See you on down the road with, I hope, exciting news in 2022.

Robin Rankin Willis

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[1] The Project website doesn’t show a total of 75 Y-DNA test results. That is because some participants do not permit FTDNA to display Y-DNA results, despite anonymity. If you are considering testing, please be assured that Y-DNA information is identified on the website only by FTDNA kit number to safeguard privacy.

[2] Y-DNA participants include men who were adopted and have a surname other than Rankin, although their biological fathers were Rankins.

[3] The Rankin DNA Project needs additional administrative help. Please contact me if you are interested in grouping members into lineages, doing occasional research, maintaining and creating material for the Project website, identifying lines which need testing, or recruiting men to test. None of those things are difficult. They just need to be shared.

[4] Rev. John Rankin (1757-1850) found his Presbyterian faith emotionally unsatisfying and became a Shaker. A transcription of his autobiography is available from the Library Special Collections department of Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green.

[5] Raymond Dufau Donnelly, Buffalo Presbyterian Church and Cemetery (Greensboro: The Guilford County Genealogical Society, 1994). Mr. Donnelly’s book contains tombstone inscriptions and many relationship identifications. It is meticulously sourced.

[6] Rev. S. M. Rankin, History of Buffalo Presbyterian Church and Her People: Greensboro, N.C. (J. J. Stone & Co., Printers, 1934).

[7] Find-a-Grave has a number of Rankin tombstone images at Buffalo Church, as well as several fanciful claims. https://www.findagrave.com/cemetery/1987536/memorial-search?firstname=&middlename=&lastname=Rankin&cemeteryName=Buffalo+Presbyterian+Church+Cemetery&birthyear=&birthyearfilter=&deathyear=&deathyearfilter=&memorialid=&mcid=&linkedToName=&datefilter=&orderby=r&page=2#sr-161801342. In the latter category, the website has the patriarch Robert Rankin’s name (there is no tombstone image) listed as Robert Estes Rankin. My opinion of that claim is unprintable. For one thing, the Estes family was from Kent, not Ulster. It was Anglican, not Presbyterian. And there are no records for the patriarch Robert Rankin in which he uses a middle initial or a middle name.

[8] Robert and George Rankin were on the 1753 Chester Co. tax list for West Nottingham Township. J. Smith Futhey and Gilbert Cope, History of Chester County, Pennsylvania (Philadelphia: Louis H. Everts, 1881), reproduction facsimile by Chester County Historical Society (Mt. Vernon, IN: Windmill Publications, Inc., 1996).

[9] Shaker Rev. John Rankin’s autobiography says the family came to NC in 1755. The first deeds I found to which Robert was a party were executed in 1753. E.g., Rowan Co., NC Deed Book 2: 102, Granville grant to Robert Rankin dated 1 Dec 1753, 480 acres on the south side of Brushy Fork in a part of Rowan that later became Guilford. Robert and Rebecca gave that tract to their son George, see Rowan Co. Deed Book 2: 70, Robert Rankin and wife Rebecca to George Rankin, 480 acres on the south side of Brushy Fork for five shillings. The token consideration of five shillings flags the conveyance as a gift.

[10] Guilford Co., NC Will Book A: 318, will of Robert Rankin dated and proved in 1795. It named his son George, three sons of his deceased daughter Mary Rankin Wilson, and a daughter Isabel Rankin. Two other daughters are proved by the terms of the will but are not identified by name. Robert’s 1795 will identifies the testator as Robert Sr., perhaps causing some researchers to wrongly conclude the will was that of Robert, the original immigrant. See discussion of that issue at this link. https://digupdeadrelatives.com/2016/05/28/the-rankins-of-guilford-county-nc-the-mistake-identity-of-the-robert-rankin-who-died-there-in-1795/

[11] I believe the wife of the Robert Rankin who died in 1795 is unproved. Some researchers identify her as Jean Denny, see Note 16. I disagree because I believe the Robert who d. 1795 was Jean Denny’s uncle. Jean’s parents were William Denny Sr. and Ann Rankin Denny. Ann was a daughter of Robert and Rebecca, proved by a gift deed of land from her father Robert to her husband. William Denny’s will named his wife Ann and a daughter Jean Denny. Their daughter Jean was the only Jean Denny I found in Guilford who was of marriageable age in 1775, when she married a Robert Rankin.

[12] Guilford Co., NC Will Book A: 119, will of Arthur Forbis dated 1789, proved 1794. Executors were John and Robert Rankin, identified by the testator as his stepsons.

[13] Iredell Co., NC Will Book A: 200, will of David Rankin of Rowan Co. dated March 1787, proved 1789. Iredell was created from Rowan Co. in 1788.

[14] The evidence that James Rankin, son of Iredell David, died at Ramsour’s Mill is lengthy and difficult. See a discussion in this article. https://digupdeadrelatives.com/2017/01/18/the-mysterious-robert-rankin-of-gibson-county-tn/

[15] Anne Williams McAllister & Kathy Gunter Sullivan, Civil Action Papers, 1771-1806, of the Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions, Lincoln County, North Carolina (Lenoir, NC: 1989), April 1791, guardian bond of John Alexander as guardian of David, Jane, Margaret, and William Rankin, orphans of James Rankin, deceased.

[16] Some Robert Rankin married Jean Denny in Guilford in February 1775. Frances T. Ingmire, Guilford County North Carolina Marriage Records 1771-1868 Volume III Names O-Z (Athens, GA: Iberian Publishing Co., 1984). Many Rankin researchers believe the 1775 groom was the son of Robert and Rebecca of Guilford. However, that Robert was probably Jean Denny’s uncle. I believe the man who married Jean Denny was Iredell David and Margaret’s son Robert. See https://digupdeadrelatives.com/2019/08/06/robert-rankins-guilford-county-nc/  Robert and Jean Rankin of Iredell named a son Denny.

[17] See the article about Robert Rankin of Gibson Co., TN at https://digupdeadrelatives.com/2017/01/18/the-mysterious-robert-rankin-of-gibson-county-tn/.

[18] See Lois M. P. Schneider, Church and Family Cemeteries of Iredell County, N.C. (1992). There are five Rankin graves in the Centre Presbyterian Church cemetery: Jean, James, Elizabeth (wife of James), “Dennie” [sic, Denny] and Sarah (wife of Denny). Elizabeth and Sarah were sisters, maiden name McMin. See Lincoln Co., NC Will Book 1: 124, will of Rachel McMin of Lincoln dated 1828, proved 1829, naming daughters Elizabeth Rankin and Sarah Rankin.

[19] Rev. S. M. Rankin, The Rankin and Wharton Families and Their Genealogy (Greensboro, N.C., J. J. Stone & Co., printers and binders, 1931) 22. Rev. Rankin argued convincingly that John and William Rankin fought at Guilford Courthouse. Id. at 255-257.

[20] The members of Joseph and Rebecca’s family who remained in Delaware belonged to and are buried at Head of Christiana Presbyterian Church https://www.findagrave.com/cemetery/191343/memorial-search?firstname=&middlename=&lastname=Rankin&cemeteryName=Head+of+Christiana+Church+Cemetery&birthyear=&birthyearfilter=&deathyear=&deathyearfilter=&memorialid=&mcid=&linkedToName=&datefilter=&orderby=rand White Clay Creek Presbyterian Church in https://www.findagrave.com/cemetery/977816/memorial-search?firstname=&middlename=&lastname=Rankin&cemeteryName=White+Clay+Creek+Church+Cemetery&birthyear=&birthyearfilter=&deathyear=&deathyearfilter=&memorialid=&mcid=&linkedToName=&datefilter=&orderby=rNew Castle County.

[21] One unsourced history says that Joseph came from “Clyde Scotland.” It also claims that Joseph’s children were born in Scotland, which is not correct. Bill and Martha Reamy, Genealogical Abstracts from Biographical and Genealogical History of the State of Delaware (Westminster, MD: Willow Bend Books, 2001). The Find-a-Grave memorial for Joseph  https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/14416262/joseph-rankin says he was born in Ulster. It is also unsourced.

[22] USGenWeb Archives, Chester Co., London Britain Township, 1729 tax list, http://files.usgwarchives.net/pa/chester/taxlists/london1729.txt identifying “Joseph Ranken” as a “freeman.” London Britain Township is in the southeastern corner of Pennsylvania, bordering the MD and DE lines. Strickersville, the largest town in London Britain, is less than four miles from Head of Christiana Presbyterian Church in Newark, where Joseph is buried.

[23] Id., 1730 tax list, http://files.usgwarchives.net/pa/chester/taxlists/london1730.txt.   “Joseph Rinken” was taxed as a freeman in London Britain Township.

[24] I cannot locate the 1731 deed in which Joseph acquired the White Clay Creek tract. The conveyance is proved by recitals in another deed. See New Castle Co., DE Deed Book Y1: 499, deed dated 9 Apr 1768 from John Rankin and wife Hannah of Orange Co., NC (a predecessor county to Guilford) and William Rankin of New Castle Co., DE, grantors, to Thomas Rankin and Joseph Rankin, both of New Castle, grantees, 21.75 acres on the south side of White Clay Creek. The deed recites that James Miller conveyed to Joseph Rankin 150 acres on the south side of White Clay Cr. in 1731. It also recites that Joseph Rankin’s will devised 21.75 acres of that tract to John and William Rankin, who conveyed it to Thomas and Joseph Rankin. I have been unable to find Joseph’s will in the New Castle probate records.

[25] Id.

[26] Both Robert and James Rankin served in Capt. Walter Carson’s militia company in the Delaware 1st Battalion, as did Joseph’s proved son Lt. Thomas Rankin. Henry C. Peden, Jr., Revolutionary Patriots of Delaware 1775-1783(Westminster, MD: Family Line Publications, 1996). Additionally, Joseph Jr., Robert, James, and Lt. Thomas all signed an “Oath of Allegiance” in New Castle. Delaware Archives Revolutionary War in Three Volumes, Volume II (Wilmington: Chas. H. Story Company Press, 1919) 998. Finally, the 1782 tax list for White Clay Creek Hundred lists James immediately adjacent Thomas and Joseph Jr., suggesting the three were living together. Ralph D. Nelson, Jr., Catherine B. Nelson, Thomas P. Doherty, Mary Fallon Richards, John C. Richards, Delaware – 1782 Tax Assessment and Census Lists (Wilmington: Delaware Genealogical Society, 1994).

[27] New Castle Co., DE Will Book S: 116, will of Joseph Rankin (Jr.) dated Oct 1819 proved Jun 1820. Joseph left $100 to his sister Ann and provided that she was to live with “my two nephews Joseph and Thomas Rankin” (sons of Lt. Thomas and Elizabeth Montgomery Rankin).

[28] Rankin, The Rankin and Wharton Families 55, 149. Rev. Rankin gives John’s birth year as 1736 and William’s as 1744. He said both men were born in Delaware. Joseph Sr.’s probable son James Rankin was born in 1749 and lived in Delaware when he enlisted.

[29] Id. Rev. Rankin’s book is the definitive source for descendants of Joseph and Rebecca’s sons John and William Rankin.

[30] Only one of Joseph’s two descendants who have tested participates in the Rankin DNA Project. The non-participant is a Y-DNA match with a member of the Project. I confirmed the non-participant’s descent from Joseph via traditional paper research. There is an article about the saga of one of Joseph’s descendants on the Rankin Project at this link.

[31] See Note 27, will of Joseph Rankin (Jr.) was probated in New Castle.

[32] New Castle Co., DE Orphans’ Court Book 5, an 1801 petition for sale of part of Thomas Rankin’s land to pay debts. Joseph Rankin Jr. was an administrator of the estate. The petition said Thomas was survived by his widow Elizabeth and five children: Joseph, Hannah, Montgomery, Margaret and Thomas. The eldest was fifteen in 1801.

[33] New Castle Co., Deed Book N5: 7, deed reciting that Joseph Rankin Jr. devised his land to Joseph and Thomas Rankin, sons of Joseph’s brother Thomas. See also Note 27.

[34] See Note 32, petition for sale of land.

[35] Washington Co., PA Will Book 5: 370, will of James Rankin of Smith Township, Washington Co., PA dated 1834, proved 1837. James named his children William, Joseph, John, Martha (“Patty”), Rebeccah, and Mary Rankin. John went to Belmont Co., OH and William went to Delaware Co., OH. James Rankin’s entire pension file is available with a subscription on Fold3 at Ancestry.

[36] Joseph and Rebecca’s son Lt. Thomas is evidently buried in the same grave as Joseph because there is a marker for Thomas at the foot of Joseph’s tombstone. See images at  https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/15494084/thomas-rankin and https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/14416262/joseph-rankin

[37] New Castle Co., DE Orphans’ Court Record for 16 Apr 1765, online at Ancestry.com in Delaware Wills & Probate Records, 1676-1971, Register of Wills, Anna Racine – Lydia Rash, file of “Rankin, Joseph 1765.” The record refers to William and Rebecca Rankin as administrators of Joseph Rankin’s estate rather than as executors of his will. That suggests the will may not have been admitted to probate, which might explain why it doesn’t seem to be recorded in the New Castle will books.

[38] Lancaster Co., PA Will Book J: 211, will of John Rankin dated 1 Jan 1749 and proved 25 Feb 1749/50. Some researchers seek to reconcile the conflict between the family oral history (John’s wife was Jane McElwee) and John’s will (his wife’s name was Margaret) by giving John’s wife a middle name: Jane Margaret McElwee or Margaret Jane McElwee. The overwhelming odds are that a person born circa 1700 did not have a middle name. Another possibility is that John married more than once. A third possibility is that a different John Rankin’s wife was Jane McElwee.

[39] Thomas Rankin was a grand juror in Cumberland, PA in 1752. Diane E. Greene, Cumberland County, Pennsylvania Quarter Session Dockets 1750-1785 (Baltimore: Clearfield Company, Inc. 2000), citing Quarter Sessions Docket 1: 16. Thomas and his wife sold a  Cumberland County tract in 1779. Cumberland Co., PA Deed Book 1E: 511, Thomas and Isabel Rankin of Cumberland to John Rankin of same, 100 acres in  Fermanagh Township on the north side of the Juniata River.

[40] See the pension application of Thomas and Isabel Rankin’s son William  Rankin transcribed at the end of this article. The pension application relates the family’s migration within Pennsylvania and then to Augusta Co., VA.

[41] See, e.g., Timber Ridge Church: A Two Hundred Year Heritage of Presbyterian Faith 1786-1986 (Greeneville, TN: 1986), identifying Thomas Rankin of Pennsylvania as a church elder. According to the Mt. Horeb tablet, the twelve children of Thomas and Isabel Clendennon Rankin were (1) John 1754-1825 m. Martha Waugh, (2) Richard 1756-1827 m. Jennett Steele, (3) Samuel 1758-1828 m. Miss Petty, (4) William 1760-1834 m. Sarah Moore, (5) Thomas 1762-1832 m. Jennett Bradshaw, (6) James 1770-1839 m. Miss Massey, (7) Jane m. William Gillespie, (8) Margaret M. m. Samuel Harris, (9) Ann m. Lemuel Lacy, (10) Isabel m. Robt. McQuiston, (11) Mary m. James Bradshaw, and (12) Nancy m. Samuel White.

[42] See, e.g., Cumberland Co., PA Will Book B: 138, will of Robert Reed dated 18 Feb 1772 witnessed by Richard Rankin et al.

[43] Ruth and Sam Sparacio, Virginia County Court Records Land Tax Book Augusta County, Virginia 1788 – 1790 (The Antient Press, 1997), 1788 tax list included Richard Rankin Sr.; Lyman Chalkley, Chronicles of the Scotch-Irish Settlement in Virginia (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1965), Volume III 199, will of Richard Rankin dated 1 Mar 1788, proved Dec. 1792. Richard Sr.’s will named sons Richard, Isaac, Joseph, George, John, James, Samuel, and Armstrong Rankin and daughters Rachel Gilston and Mary Johnson.

[44] There is a transcription of the legend at this link. https://digupdeadrelatives.com/2018/07/17/pa-tn-rankins-famous-rankin-legend/

[45] Lancaster Co., PA Will Book J, Vol. 1: 208, will of Adam Rankin dated and proved in 1747 naming his sons James, William, and Jeremiah and his daughter Esther Dunwoody.

[46] The marker has vanished, but it was inscribed, “In memory of the following Revolutionary soldiers” with the names Robert Alexander (brother of Eleanor Alexander Rankin), William Rankin (Sam and Eleanor’s son), Samuel Rankin, et al. FamilySearch.org Film # 0,882,938, item 2, “Pre-1914 Cemetery Inscription Survey, Gaston Co., prepared by the Historical Records Survey Service Division, Works Progress Administration.” Samuel Sr.’s tombstone has  disappeared, but Eleanor’s tombstone https://digupdeadrelatives.com/2020/10/19/eleanor-ellen-alexander-rankins-tombstone/ still exists.

[47] William Rankin’s pension application is transcribed at this link. http://revwarapps.org/s7342.pdf

[48] There is a discussion of these issues in this article. https://digupdeadrelatives.com/2017/07/05/samuel-and-eleanor-ellen-alexander-rankin-a-few-corrections-to-the-record/

[49] Anson Co., NC Deed Book B: 314 et seq., gift deeds dated 12 Jan 1753 from James Alexander of Anson to his children James Jr., John, David, Eleanor, and Robert. James and Ann Alexander also had a son William, their eldest. Rowan Co., NC Deed Book 3: 495. Prior to NC, the Alexanders lived in Amelia Co., VA. I don’t know where they lived before that, but Cecil Co., MD, New Castle, DE, and Lancaster or Chester Co., PA are all reasonable bets. That area is swamped with Alexanders.

[50] See note 47.

[51] Lincoln Co., NC Will Book 1: 37, will of Samuel Rankin of Lincoln Co. dated Dec 1814 and proved April 1826. The will names sons William, Samuel, David, Robert, Alexander, and James and daughters Jean Heartgrove, Anna Rutledge, and Nelly Dickson.

[52] Richard Rankin died in 1804. Charles William Sommerville, The History of Hopewell Presbyterian Church(Charlotte, NC: 1939). Circumstantial evidence proves Richard was Samuel and Eleanor’s son. Samuel’s sons William and Alexander were administrators of Richard’s estate. Samuel Rankin Jr. was guardian of Richard’s children. See NC State Library and Archives, C.R.065.508.210, Mecklenburg County Estates Records, 1762 – 1957, Queen – Rankin, file folder labeled “Rankin, Richard 1804” (administrators’ bond); Herman W. Ferguson, Mecklenberg County, North Carolina Minutes of the Court of Pleas Volume 2, 1801-1820 (Rocky Mount, NC: 1995), abstract of Minute Book 4: 663, an 1807 order appointing Samuel Rankin guardian for the children of Richard Rankin.

[53] WPA cemetery survey, see note 46. The survey recorded tombstones for both Samuel (1734 – 1816) and Ellen Rankin (Eleanor, 16 April 1740 – 26 Jan 1802). Samuel’s last appearance in the Lincoln records was in July 1816, supporting the death date in the survey. Lincoln Co., NC Deed Book 27: 561, deed dated 25 Jul 1816 from Samuel Rankin to James Rankin for land on Stanley’s Cr.

[54] Sam and Eleanor’s children David, Samuel Jr., Robert, and Nelly Rankin Dickson went to Rutherford Co., TN. David stayed in Rutherford, but his three siblings moved to Shelby Co., Illinois. William, Alexander, James, and Anna Rankin Rutledge stayed in Lincoln. Jean Rankin Heartgrove https://digupdeadrelatives.com/2017/08/06/line-samuel-one-eyed-sam-eleanor-ellen-alexander-rankin-jean-rankin-heartgrove/  and family lived across the Catawba River in Mecklenburg Co., NC.

[55] 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) 103 et seq.

[56] Frederick Co., VA Will Book 3: 443, will of David Rankin Sr. dated 1757 and proved 1768. Some researchers identify David Sr.’s wife as “Jennett Mildred,” although no Frederick County records identify her with a middle name or initial. Researchers who call her Jennett Mildred may have  conflated her with an entirely different woman, a Mildred Rankin who was married to a David Rankin who was a grandson of David Rankin Sr. See Frederick Co. Deed Book 13: 8, lease dated 22 Mar 1769 for the life of David Rankin and his wife Mildred and Smith Rankin, his brother. The deed was dated after David Sr. died.

[57] Abstracts of Wills, Inventories, and Administration Accounts of Frederick County, Virginia, 1743-1800 (Baltimore: Genealogical Pub. Co., 1980) 31, will of Thomas Province dated 5 May 1767 naming among other children his daughter Hannah Rankin.

[58] Harrison Co., KY Will Book A:3, will of David Rankin of Harrison Co., KY naming his wife Hannah, sons William, Thomas, and David, and daughters Jenny Blackburn, Sarah Roberts, Hannah Morrison, Mary Rawlings, and Lettey Hays or Hals.

[59] Washington Co., PA Will Book 1: 206, will of William Rankin of Raccoon Cr., Smith Twp., Washington Co., PA. William named his wife Abigail and sons David, Matthew, Thomas, William, Jesse, and Samuel, his daughter Abigail Rankin Campbell (wife of Charles Campbell), a daughter of his deceased son Zachariah, two children of his deceased son John, and two children of his daughter Mary Rankin Cherry (wife of Thomas).

[60] Fayette Co., PA Deed Book D: 192, conveyance by William Jr. and his wife Jane recited provisions of the will of his father, William Sr., whose will was dated 5 Aug 1794. I have not found the will, although the deed recitals prove one existed.

[61] Franklin Ellis, History of Fayette County, Pennsylvania, Vol. 1 (Philadelphia: L. H. Everts & Co., 1882) 672: “Financial troubles overtaking Mr. Rankin, he disposed of his property about the year 1800 and removed to the West.” See also Fayette Co., PA Deed Book C3: 1241, agreement dated Sept 1798 to secure notes owed by James Rankin to his relatives James Rankin, Samuel Rankin, and Elizabeth Rankin Gillespie’s family.

[62] Fayette Co., PA Deed Book C3: 1387. The lengthy agreement specified when to sell tracts, when to move out, where to live, access to pasture, how to pay, and numerous other detailed conditions. It listed debts to four men who lived in Ohio Co., VA, Uniontown, Fayette Co., PA, Charlestown, VA, and Washington Co., PA, plus a woman who lived in Uniontown.

[63] See deed in prior footnote.

[64] Find-a-Grave has images of the identical tombstones of Hugh (1750 – 1826) and Esther (1760 – 1831) in the Associate Reformed Cemetery in Laurel Hill. See also Fayette Co., Will Book 1: 275 (Hugh Rankin’s will proved in 1826) and Will Book 1: 330 (Esther Rankin’s will proved in 1831).

[65] Franklin Ellis, History of Fayette County, Pennsylvania, identifying Hugh and Esther’s children William, Esther, Ann, and Thomas; only Thomas remained in Fayette.

[66] The family Bible says William Rankin (Jr.) d. Dec 1807; wife Jane d. 1837. Both are buried in the Associate Reformed (Presbyterian) Cemetery in Laurel Hill, Fayette Co. The Bible entries for the birth dates of their children are: Thomas Rankin 1786, Esther Rankin 1788, James Rankin 1789, Ann Rankin 1791, Hugh Rankin 1793, Samuel Rankin 1795, Mary Rankin 1797, James Rankin 1799, William Rankin 1800, John Rankin 1802, and Joseph Rankin 1804.

[67] Find-a-grave has images for the tombstones of both Thomas https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/47828906/thomas-rankin  and his wife Elizabeth Stevens. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/47828808/elizabeth-rankin

[68] Will of David Rankin dated 7 Feb 1802 abstracted by Goldene Fillers Burgner, Greene County, Tennessee Wills, 1783-1890 (Easley, SC: Southern Historical Press, 1981). David Sr.’s will named his children James Rankin, Mary Williams, Robert Rankin, David Rankin Jr., Ann Rankin, Elizabeth Rankin, and Jane Rankin.

[69] See https://npgallery.nps.gov/GetAsset/29dbc658-cdcc-4f12-8c30-8dc877e7fdb4. The application for historic site designation contains several errors.

[70] Will of James McMurtree dated 30 Dec 1771, Bedford Co., VA, witnessed by David Rankin and proved 24 Mar 1772 by his “solemn affirmation,” David “being one of the People called Quakers.” Joida Whitten, Abstracts of Bedford County, Virginia Wills, Inventories and Accounts 1754-1787 (Dallas: Taylor Publishing Co., 1968). I found only one David Rankin in Bedford County in the late 1700s.

[71] See, e.g., Mt. Bethel Presbyterian Cemetery in Greene County, tombstones of David Rankin Jr., 1775 – 1836 (son of David Sr.) and his wife Jane B. Dinwiddie, plus a number of their descendants. Buford Reynolds, Greene County Cemeteries from Earliest Dates to 1970-1971 (1971).

[72] Edward L. Ayers and Anne S. Rubin, The Valley of the Shadow: Two Communities in the American Civil War (New York: W. W. Norton & Co. Inc., 2000).

[73] https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/121616688/chambers-rankin. The Old Log Church is Lutheran, although Chambers’ siblings are buried in Presbyterian cemeteries.

[74] See the tombstone transcription at this link..

[75] E.g., https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/100035922/matilda-rankin

[76] E.g., Dec. 1693, power of attorney granted to John Rankin. Richmond Co., VA DB 1: 102, abstracted by Beverley Fleet, Virginia Colonial Abstracts Vol. XVI Richmond County Records 1692 – 1704 (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1961) 33. See also the 1706 deed witnessed by Robert Rankin, Richmond Co. Deed Book 4: 86a, abstracted by Ruth and Sam Sparacio, Virginia County Court Records, Deed Abstracts of King George County, Virginia (1753-1773) (McLean, VA: 1987).

[77] For example, there are a wealth of Rankin records in King George Co., VA in the 1700s. Rankins lived there along with Berry, Kendall, Marshall, Woffendall/Woffendale, and Harrison families. Those families are all connected to Northern Neck Rankins.

[78] William Rankin left no will, but a Mason Co. court record has information about his family. William d. 12 Apr 1836 and his widow Mary Ann Rankin d. 29 Jul 1836. Their children were Harrison, Blackstone H., James M., John L., Robert P., Thomas, Elizabeth Hall (husband John), Sarah Rankin (who married a John Rankin), and Harriet Stockson (husband George D.). Lula Reed Boss, Mason County, Kentucky: families, court records, Bible records, declarations of soldiers (Limestone, KY chapter of the DAR, 1944-45) 403; original court record at FamilySearch.org Film #7647144, images 1042-43.

[79] Mason Co., KY Will Book E: 53, will of John Rankin (Sr.) dated and proved in 1819. The will named his wife Winnifred, “affectionate brother William Rankin,” and children Nancy Rankin (wife of John Rankin (Jr.), a son of Moses Rankin), Huldah Rankin, Marshall Rankin, Frances Rankin, Polly Rankin, Margaret Rankin, and Elizabeth Rankin. There were apparently two men named Moses Rankin in Mason Co.

[80] Lt. Robert and Peggy Kendall Rankin’s children were (1) Thomas Berry Rankin (1783 – 1813, Ft. Mims), (2) Elizabeth Rankin (b. 1785, no further record), (3) William Marshall Rankin (b. 1786), (4) Joseph Rankin (1788 – 1813, Ft. Mims), (5) John K. Rankin (b. 1791), (6) James Rankin (b. 1792), (7) Frederick Harrison Rankin (1794 – 1874), (8) Henry Rankin (b. 1796, no further record), (9) Massena Rankin McCombs, and (1) Francis Rankin Hubert.

[81] See, e.g., Gregory A. Waselkov, A Conquering Spirit: Fort Mims and the Redstick War of 1813-1814 (Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press, 2006), Appendix #1 250-51. The book identifies Joseph Rankin as a “Tombigbee resident, born in Kentucky, brother of Thomas Berry Rankin.” The book lists both Joseph and Thomas B. Rankin as casualties at Ft. Mims. It has two errors about the Rankin family: it assigns both Lt. Robert and his wife Margaret (“Peggy”) three names. Specifically,  it identifies Joseph and Thomas B.’s father as “Richard Robert Rankin” and his wife as “Margaret Kendall Rankin.” There seems to be no evidence in voluminous records about this couple to support three names, or even middle initials. It is 99% certain that neither “Richard” nor “Kendall” is correct.

[82] Vehlein’s Colony included the area where Robert Rankin’s family settled, now in San Jacinto Co., TX. See the map at this link. https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/vehlein-joseph

[83] If anyone has a yen to translate Lt. Robert’s grant, here is the online image  https://s3.glo.texas.gov/ncu/SCANDOCS/archives_webfiles/arcmaps/webfiles/landgrants/PDFs/1/0/3/0/1030662.pdf   at the GLO website.

[84] Gifford White, Character Certificates in the General Land Office of Texas. (Austin: 1985).  Character certificates were required by Mexico in order to obtain land. See also the “Spanish Collection of the General Land Office,” which contains land titles issued by Mexico during 1821-1836, along with associated documents such as character certificates.

[85] See 1880 federal census, Fords Ferry, Crittenden Co., KY, listing for A. B. Rankin (Abia Benjamin), born in Illinois, parents born in Virginia. Abia was a son of John and Elizabeth Clay Rankin. A descendant of Abia’s has tested and falls in Lineage 6.

[86] John and Elizabeth Clay’s children were Marston T., James W. (administrator of John’s estate), John B., William W., Barnett C., Abia Benjamin, George R., and Mary Rankin Berry.

[87] The given name Moses appeared often in the Northern Neck Rankin line. The Moses Rankin of L6 might be the same man as the Moses who appeared in an Aug 1792 Frederick Co., VA lease to Benjamin Rankin of Loudoun Co., VA for the life of Benjamin and his brothers Moses and Robert, lease witnessed by George Rankin. Frederick Co., VA Deed Book 22: 303. The Moses of L6 is not the same man as the Moses named in the will of Robert Rankin of King George Co. proved Mar 1747/48. That Robert’s will named his children William, John, James, Moses, George, Benjamin, Hipkins or Hopkins, and Mary Rankin Green. King George Co., VA Will Book 1-A: 201. Moses of Lineage 6 was born between about 1770, see the 1830 census for Nicholas Co., KY (Moses b. 1760 – 1770) and the 1840 census for Fleming Co. (Moses b. 1770 – 1780). He was not yet born when Robert wrote his King George Co. will.

[88] Mason Co., KY Will Book D: 357, will of Moses Rankin dated 14 Mar 1845, proved April 1845. There is also a  Kentucky death record identifying Moses and Mary Rankin as the parents of William Rankin, 1808-1877, of Robertson Co., KY. Ancestry.com, Kentucky, U.S., Death Records, 1852-1965 [database online]. Lehi, UT, USA. Ancestry.com Operations Inc., 2007.

[89] Selby Publishing, Mason County, Kentucky Marriage Records 1789 – 1833 (Kokomo, IN: 1999), marriage bond dated 14 Nov 1795 for Moses Rankin and Molly Gill, bondsman Edward Gill. Another Moses Rankin married Ann (“Nancy”) Berry the same year.

[90] Franklin Co., PA Will Book Volume A: 345, will of James Rankin of Montgomery Township dated 1788 proved 1795. His children were David, William, Jeremiah, James, Ruth Rankin Tool, and son-in-law Samuel Smith (wife Esther Rankin).

[91] Franklin Co., PA WB A-B: 256, Will of William Rankin dated and proved in 1792. The will names his wife Mary and children Adam, Archibald, James, William, Betsy, David, John, and Jeremiah. Dr. Adam, the eldest, went to Henderson County, Kentucky, married three times, and had a bunch of children. Archibald married Agnes Long and stayed in Franklin County. James, William, John, and Jeremiah went to Centre Co., PA where they had inherited land. David married Frances Campbell and went to Westmoreland Co., PA, Allen Co., IN, and Des Moines Co., IA.

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

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.[1] It’s a great story, and who wouldn’t like to have that exciting heritage?[2] On the other hand, the line of John Rankin who died in Lancaster in 1749 also claims descent from the Mt. Horeb legend Rankins – but I haven’t run into any Rankin DNA Project members who erroneously claim descent from John.

It is also possible that Adam’s line is prone to error because it produced a plethora of William Rankins born in the mid to late 1700s.[3] Of course, every other line of Pennsylvania Rankins also produced countless Williams. Perhaps researchers hitting a colonial Pennsylvania brick wall ancestor named William Rankin found a host of seemingly reasonable possibilities to place him in Adam’s family, which boasts a Revolutionary War soldier.[4] My experience is that Rev War soldiers produce many descendants, genuine or not. John’s line, on the other hand, also has Revolutionary War veterans, but is so well-researched and documented that there aren’t many opportunities to insert someone incorrectly.

In any event, Adam is frequently a fictitious ancestor.

Second, I tracked Adam’s line because I have a dog in that hunt. Due to my Rankin cousin’s close Y-DNA match to a claimed descendant of Adam, I had to figure out whether my own Rankin family is connected to Adam’s line. Both the paper trail and Y-DNA say we are not.

Finally, I pursued Adam’s family in an effort to determine whether some conventional Rankin wisdom about his line is correct. The Mt. Horeb legend asserts that Adam (who died in 1747 in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania) and John (who died in 1749, also in Lancaster) were brothers. Y-DNA has conclusively disproved that part of the legend. There are other parts of the legend worth pursuing, though, and I’ve been down several trails for that purpose.

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

The first recruit had no Y-DNA matches to anyone in the FTDNA database. The second and third had no Rankin matches. None of those three were genetic Rankins, much less Adam’s descendants. NPEs abounded in Adam’s line, evidently.

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

I have also written often about Adam’s line simply because it has produced some memorable characters. E.g., Confederate Brigadier General Adam Rankin “Stovepipe” Johnson was a legend in the Civil War who had a son and grandson who became professional baseball players.[5] Stovepipe was Adam’s great-great grandson. There was also a Rankin Presbyterian minister whose life was consumed by an obscure theological issue.[6] Have you ever heard of the “Psalmody” controversy? Neither had I.  That Rev. Rankin was Adam’s grandson. Adam also had a grandson whose migration west through three states, and eight of his nine children, were proved by three deeds.[7] When I run across fun something like that, I am compelled to pause researching to write an article for this blog.

There are also a number of tangled branches on Adam’s family tree. As noted, the family had a plethora of Williams who led people astray, causing me to write two articles to correct mis-identified Rankins.[8]  One William in Adam’s line, a great-grandson, has been conflated with other William Rankins several times to my knowledge.[9] That is a fine example of the “same name confusion” error, which is easy to do. There were also a passel of Jeremiah Rankins in Franklin County, Pennsylvania who made Adam’s line difficult to track.[10] Further, conventional Rankin wisdom conflates a David Rankin descended from Adam with an unrelated David Rankin of Greene County, Tennessee. Some of the James Rankins are also confusing.[11] Sorting out those men required research producing conclusions that I wanted to share in this forum.

Not surprisingly, the most frequently read Rankin articles on this blog are about Adam’s line. If the genealogical gods have even a shred of kindness, one of Adam’s descendants will read this article online, decide to Y-DNA test, and join the Rankin DNA Project. I can only hope.

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[1] See an article about Scots-Irish history here.

[2] The version of the legend inscribed on a tablet at Mt. Horeb Presbyterian Church cemetery in Jefferson Co., TN can be seen here. Unfortunately, there seems to be little evidence for the Scottish part of the story other than “family tradition.” I don’t know when or where the legend originated, although it may have been in the early twentieth century.

[3] Adam’s will named a son William. Lancaster Co., PA Will Book J-1, will of Adam Rankin dated 4 May 1747 and proved 21 Sep 1747, naming children James, William, Jeremiah, and Esther Rankin Dunwoody. Adam’s sons William, James, and Jeremiah each had a son named William. E.g., will of William Rankin dated 20 Oct 1792, proved 28 Nov 1792, Cumberland Co., PA will book A: 256, naming inter alia sons Adam, Archibald, James, William, David, John, and Jeremiah.  Also, e.g., the will of James Rankin (Sr.) dated 25 Mar 1788, proved 20 Oct 1795, Cumberland Co., PA Will Book A: 345, naming inter alia sons William, Jeremiah, James, and David.

[4] There are at least three members of the Rankin DNA Project who wrongly claim descent from Adam’s great-grandson son Dr. William Rankin, probably due to the same-name confusion error. Traditional evidence proves where Dr. William went, who he married, and the identity of his children, and the claims are clearly erroneous. Y-DNA evidence also disproves the descent.

[5] You can find the article about Stovepipe Johnson here.

[6] Rev. Adam Rankin was a fascinating man. Read about him at this link.

[7] See the article here.

[8] There are two articles about William, son of Adam, on this blog. Here is one.

[9] The great-grandson of Adam who has been conflated with other men named William Rankin fits in Adam’s line thusly: Gen 1, Adam d. 1747 in Lancaster (wife Mary Steele); Gen 2, William d. 1792 in Franklin (wife Mary Huston); Gen 3, William who moved to Centre County and died there (wife #1 Abigail McGinley, #2 Susanna Huston). The third William left a will dated 11 Jun 1845 and  proved 2 Feb 1848, Centre Co., PA WB B: 254, will naming inter alia sons William, James, Archibald, Alexander, John and Adam. Son William Rankin, great-grandson of Adam, was a doctor, lived in Shippensburg, and married Caroline Nevin. See 1850 census, Shippensburg, household of Dr. William Rankin, 52, Caroline Rankin, 37, Rev. William Rankin, 20, Mary A. Rankin, 18, David Rankin, 16, Abigail Rankin, 13, Alfred Rankin, 11, James Rankin, 9, Elizabeth Rankin, 7, Joseph Rankin, 5, and Caroline Rankin, 4.

[10] You can find the article about the Jeremiah Rankins here.

[11] James, father of the controversial Dr. John M. Rankin, is discussed in this article.

Find-a-Grave struck again, although I was minding my own business

One of my favorite Rankin researchers sent a Christmas Eve email that began, “I was minding my own business, when …”

I was grinning by then because I knew in my bones that what followed would be some variation of “genealogy intervened.” Indeed, it was. Since you are reading this family history blog, you probably also saw it coming.

Another friend zapped me when I was otherwise occupied by sending a link to a Find-a-Grave site for a cemetery in Elizabeth Township, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. One of the graves purports to be that of a man who almost certainly never set foot — much less an entire corpse — in Allegheny County.

I will proceed gingerly. The last time I did anything concerning Find-a-Grave, I received an email from an angry man in a western state awash with militia. His last email said he would keep me apprised of his “confirmed kills” in the “impending civil war.”[1]

The recently received Find-a-Grave entry is allegedly the grave of the William Rankin who died in Franklin County, Pennsylvania in 1792, son of Adam and Mary Steele Alexander Rankin. William’s wife was Mary Huston Rankin, named as a beneficiary in William’s 1792 will. According to the Find-a-Grave poster, Mary died in 1790, two years earlier.

These claims raise questions. Why would a man who died in Franklin County be buried in a town 150 miles away?[2] And why would he have made his wife a beneficiary of his 1792 will if she had already died in 1790?

Someone out there must have answers to these questions, because the Find-a-Grave site for Round Hill Cemetery in Allegheny County says this unusual couple is buried there.  William’s tombstone is difficult to read.[3]  Other than the boilerplate “DIED” and “in the ____ year of his age,” the clearest information is the name “William Rankin.” There is no middle name. His date of death looks like 18___. It appears to be 1812 or 1813 in a sharpened and printed image. If that is correct, this is surely not the tombstone of a man who died near Greencastle in 1792, unless the trip to Elizabeth, Allegheny County, took waaaaay longer than one would expect.

There is an intestate estate for a William Rankin in Elizabeth Township, Allegheny County about that time. The Allegheny Probate Proceedings Index gives the date of his Inventory and Appraisement as 1813.[4] Because the I&A is customarily done soon after an estate is submitted to probate, a William Rankin of Allegheny County most likely died in 1812 or 1813.

More evidence lies in the cemetery (no pun intended). The DAR did a survey of tombstones at Round Hill Presbyterian Church near Elizabeth in the summer of 1940. The DAR listed a tombstone for “Rankin, William, d. Feb. 11, 1813, aged 69 years.” We can reasonably conclude that was the same William Rankin whose inventory was taken in 1813. The DAR also lists “Rankin, Mary wife of William d. July 22, 1808 in 62nd year.” Mary definitely died before her husband. The couple in the Round Hill cemetery cannot have been William and Mary Huston Rankin of Franklin County.

William’s tombstone provides additional evidence. The marker is an unadorned rectangular solid with an inscription in this format:

NAME

DIED

Month, day, year

in the ___ year of his age

There are two more Rankin tombstones in Round Hill cemetery with the identical unadorned shape, format, and “typeface.” One is for Andrew Rankin and another is for Mary Rankin. It appears from the hard-to-read inscriptions that both died in the 1790s. The 1940 DAR survey says that Andrew died in 1794 at age two, and that Mary died in 1795 at age 14. Find-a-Grave claims that both were children of “William and Mary Rankin.” Given the remarkably similar tombstones for William, Andrew, and young Mary, the three were clearly family.

That brings us to the family Bible of William and Mary Huston Rankin of Franklin County.[5] It identifies their children and their dates of birth as follows. Information other than names and dates is from my research, not the Bible.

    • Adam Rankin, b. 10 Nov 1762. He was a physician. He went to Henderson Co., KY, married three times, and had many children.
    • Archibald Rankin, b. 10 Apr 1764. Archibald stayed in Franklin County until he died. His wife was Agnes Long.[6]
    • James Rankin, b. 20 Apr 1766. He went to Centre County, PA with his brothers William, John, and Jeremiah. All four of them inherited land there.
    • William Rankin, b. 5 Nov? 1770. He also went to Centre County with three of his brothers. He married #1 Abigail McGinley, #2 Susannah (probably Huston).
    • Betsy Rankin, b. 13 Oct 1774. No further record.
    • David Rankin, b. 5 Feb 1777. His wife was Frances Campbell, daughter of Dougal Campbell. David and his family migrated to Des Moines, Iowa.
    • John Rankin, b. 1 May 1779. He went to Centre County with James, William, and Jeremiah.
    • Jeremiah Rankin, b. 26 Nov 1783. He also went to Centre County.

William’s family Bible doesn’t name either a son Andrew or a daughter Mary. William named each of the above children, and his wife Mary, in his 1792 will.[7] The Andrew who died in 1794 and young Mary who died in 1795, both buried in Round Hill Cemetery in Allegheny County, were not the children of the William who wrote his will in 1792. According to the family Bible, William died on October 25, 1792.

Unfortunately, all of the information about William at the Find-a-Grave link is unsourced. That is typical. Most of it is clearly erroneous. You’ve got to laugh, then wonder how the Find-a-Grave poster strayed so far from the facts.

Here is what Find-a-Grave says about William, shown in italics. My comments are in normal typeface. If anyone has evidence supporting the Find-a-Grave claims, please share it.

Birth 1713.” There is no evidence for an exact birth year for William Rankin, son of Adam, husband of Mary Huston. William’s first appearance in the records seems to have been a 1749 warrant for a tract in Antrim Township, Franklin Co.[8] That doesn’t provide much of a clue.

“County Antrim, Northern Ireland.”  There is no evidence for William’s exact place of birth. If Mary Steele Alexander Rankin was his mother, he was definitely born in the colonies, because Adam and Mary married there.[9]  

“Death 30 Nov 1792 (age 78 -79).” That is the date William’s will was proved in Franklin County court. The odds that someone’s will was presented in court the exact day he or she died are virtually nil. The family Bible says that the William whose wife was Mary Huston died on Oct. 25, 1792. Submitting a will to probate about four weeks after the testator died falls within a normal range.

“Franklin County, PA.” That is surely correct. William, son of Adam and husband of Mary Huston, lived and owned land in Franklin, and his will was necessarily probated there.

“Burial Round Hill Cemetery, Elizabeth, Allegheny Co.” Well. Some William Rankin who died in 1812-13 is buried in Round Hill Cemetery. I will bet real money that he is not William Rankin, son of Adam and husband of Mary Huston Rankin.

Continuing with Find-a-Grave information:

“William Steele Rankin was born in 1713 in County Antrium (sic) in the Northeast part of Northern Ireland. He was the son of Adam Rankin, born 16 Jul 1688 in Stenhousemuir, Stirlingshire, Scotland and died 4 May 1747 in Lancaster Co., PA and his wife Mary Steele, born about 1692 in Lancaster, Lancaster Co., PA and died 21 Sep 1747 in Somerset Co., PA.”

Let’s take this one alleged fact at a time.

… there is no evidence in a county or Bible record, or county history books, that William Rankin, son of Adam, ever used a middle initial — much less a middle name. It would have been highly unusual for a man born in the early 18th century to have a middle name. They didn’t come into common usage until the 19th century. Even George Washington and Thomas Jefferson had no middle name, for pete’s sake.

… William Rankin, a son of Adam and Mary Steele Alexander Rankin, was definitely born in what is now Pennsylvania or Maryland. Adam and Mary married in the colonies sometime between August 1718 and Sept 1724.[10]

… there is no evidence in colonial records for Adam Rankin’s birth date or place. There is no recorded birth of an Adam Rankin (including variant spellings) in the Church of Scotland records in the county of Stirlingshire between 1680 and 1690.[11]

… Adam’s will was dated 4 May 1747 and proved 21 Sep 1747 in Lancaster County. The odds that he wrote his will the day he died are virtually zero. The probate records prove only that Adam died sometime between 4 May 1747, when he wrote his will, and 21 Sep 1747, when it was submitted to the court.

… Adam’s wife was definitely Mary Steele Alexander, widow of James Alexander. If anyone has any evidence for her dates or places of birth and death, please share.

Here’s hoping you agree that the Find-a-Grave poster erred when he or she identified the William Rankin buried in Round Hill Presbyterian Cemetery as William (wife Mary Huston Rankin), a son of Adam and Mary Steele Alexander.

But that raises the obvious question: who the heck are the William and Mary Rankin buried in Round Hill Cemetery? They are probably William and Mary Stewart Rankin, who were married in Franklin Co., PA on 28 Feb 1774.[12] A follow-up article on that family will follow. Eventually.

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[1] See the article titled “Family History Stories: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” at this link.

[2] The Franklin County Rankins lived on Conococheague Creek near Greencastle, Franklin Co., PA. The distance from Greencastle to Elizabeth, Allegheny Co. by the fastest current route is about 150 miles.

[3] See an image of his tombstone  here. The middle name is pure fiction.

[4] Allegheny County, PA Probate Records, 1683-1994, Proceedings Index 1778-1971, Vol. 30, page 305, Block 5. It notes an Inventory and Appraisement, estate of William Rankin, dec’d, in 1813. FamilySearch.org Film No. 877053, Image No. 775, Block 5.

[5] Disc 4, Cloyd tapes. Unfortunately, I have lost my reference to the Cloyd disk page numbers, for which I apologize. Wading through those disks is a 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 the chart.

[6] Records of the Upper West Conocochegue Presbyterian Church show Archibald Rankin’s marriage to Agnes Long on 9 March 1790 and his death on 24 Jun 1845 at age 81.

[7] Franklin Co., PA Will Book A: 256, will of William Rankin of Antrim Township, Franklin Co., PA, dated 20 Oct 1792 and proved 28 Nov 1792.

[8] See p. 183, Land Warrants for Lancaster County, PA here.

[9] The country of Northern Ireland wasn’t established until May 1921. See an article titled “Who Are the Scots-Irish, Anyway?” here. The Find-a-Grave poster probably meant what was then called the Province of Ulster in the northernmost part of Ireland.

[10] See the citations in Notes 4 through 7 and the accompanying main text in this article.

[11] You can open a free account and search Scottish birth and baptism records on a website called  “ScotlandsPeople.” .The only Adam Rankin whose birth/baptism is recorded in Church of Scotland records in 1688 was born in Dunfermline Parish, County of Fife, a son of Robert Rankin and Agnes Smith.

[12] Records of the Upper West Conococheague Presbyterian Church, Franklin Co., PA.