First, a warning: roughly a gazillion Rankins lived in southern Pennsylvania beginning in the mid-eighteenth century. At least it feels that way. Rankins litter the deed books from Chester County in the east to Washington in the west. You may think you are researching only one Rankin line in only one county. Ha! Before you know it, you have worked your way through every county on the Maryland border.
The bottom line is that undertaking Rankin family research in southern Pennsylvania is a slippery slope … a course of action that leads inevitably from one action or result to another with unintended consequences. This may result in a scorched-earth march through deed records in multiple counties. Washington County alone had, as nearly as I can tell, seven distinct Rankin families.
Let’s start with one of them: William and Abigail Rankin. He was a son of David Rankin Sr. and Jennett McCormick Rankin of Frederick County, Virginia. For the record, David’s wife Jennett did not have the middle name “Mildred.” And William did not have the middle name McCormick.
Two deeds in Frederick prove that William’s wife was named Abigail and that he owned a tract of land in Frederick called “Turkey Spring.” William’s will proves that he and Abigail moved to Washington County from Frederick because his will in Washington names his wife Abigail and devises Turkey Spring to his son William (Jr.). Boyd Crumrine’s 1882 History of Washington County, Pennsylvania says that William and most of his family came to the area in 1774.
William died in Washington County in 1793. He named ten children in his will – eight sons and two daughters – as well as some of his grandchildren. Charles A. Hanna’s book on Ohio Valley genealogies identifies a ninth son James, who was killed by Native Americans while returning to Pennsylvania from a trip to Kentucky.William identified himself in his will as a resident of Smith Township on the middle fork of Raccoon Creek. That location distinguishes this family from other Rankins in the county for the better part of a century. The Raccoon Creek area was incorporated in Mt. Pleasant Township, and many of William’s descendants are buried in Mt. Prospect Cemetery in that township.
Four of William’s sons – John, Thomas, Jesse and Zachariah – served in the Washington County militia.Thomas was a D.A.R.-recognized Revolutionary War veteran. The brothers served in the 4th Company, 4thBattalion, in Washington County. John Rankin was a Lieutenant. An official list of Revolutionary War soldiers buried in Ohio names Thomas Rankin, who is buried in Harrison County, and identifies his three brothers and their parents. A Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission website says the Rankins’ company was from the area of Raccoon and Millers Run, so we know that we are looking at the right family.
Here is some information about William and Abigail’s sons. I have omitted their daughters Mary Rankin (married Thomas Cherry) and Abigail Rankin (married Charles Campbell), whom I did not research.
David Rankin, born by 1755, died unknown. David, probably the eldest son, inherited the tract where he lived from his father. If you followed the link to Boyd Crumrine’s 1882 History in footnote 3 of this article, you saw Crumrine’s assertion that David remained in Virginia. That wasn’t the case. Charles Hanna made the same mistake. Two deeds involving his inherited tract make it clear that David and his wife Grace (maiden name unknown) lived on Raccoon Creek in the middle of their Rankin family.
David arrived in Washington County no later than 1781, when he appeared on a Smith Township tax list with his father William and brothers John, Matthew and Zachariah. David sold parts of his inherited land in 1799 and 1805. He was listed in Washington County in the 1800 and 1810 censuses. Taken together, the censuses suggest he had at least three daughters and a son born between 1784 and 1810. I haven’t found where David went after 1810, and don’t know the names of his children.
There is at least one online tree that has confused David, son of William and Abigail, with William’s brother David. The latter moved to Cynthiana, Harrison County, Kentucky. This creative tree has David born when both of his parents were less than ten years old. Never a dull moment with online trees!
John Rankin, born by 1760, died in 1788 in Washington County. John left a will naming his wife Rebecca and minor children James and Mary. Their grandfather William Rankin left the two children 253 acres. In 1808, James and Polly sold that tract, located “on the waters of Raccoon Cr.” The deed recited that John’s widow Rebecca Rankin had married Jonathan Jacques, which helped track the family. James accepted notes for part of the purchase price, and the record of the 1808 mortgage identifies him as a resident of Harrison County, Kentucky.There is a listing in the 1810 Harrison County census for a John Jaquess and an Isaac Jaquess. The latter is listed three households down from a James Rankin, who is a good bet to be the son of John Rankin and Rebecca Rankin Jacques. Other members of the Frederick-Washington Rankin family also moved from Washington to Harrison County, but I will save them for another day.
William Rankin (Jr.). William Sr.’s will devised to William Jr. the tract where William (Sr.) formerly lived called “Turkey Spring.” I haven’t attempted to track William Jr. in Virginia. Some online trees identify him as a Revolutionary War soldier (1748-1830) buried in the Mahnes Cemetery in Morgan County, West Virginia. That William may belong to another Rankin family from the Northern Neck of Virginia. It may be that the only way to resolve that question is Y-DNA testing.
Matthew Rankin, born by 1755, died in 1822, Washington County. Matthew’s wife was Charity, maiden name unknown. The couple apparently had no surviving children because Matthew willed all his property to his wife, his brother Jesse, and some nieces and nephews. Matthew was clearly the family caretaker, ensuring enforcement of a family agreement to distribute the family land equally, and acting as executor of his brother Zachariah’s will.
Zachariah Rankin, born by 1760, died 1785, Washington County. Zachariah clearly knew he had a fatal illness before he died, because he executed his will on Oct. 17, 1785 and it was proved exactly one week later.Crumrine tells us that Zachariah died of hydrophobia from the bite of a rabid wolf. What an awful death. His probate file might make you smile, though: his brother Matthew’s spelling (or misspelling) throughout is charming. Zachariah’s wardrobe is described in some detail, suggesting a well-outfitted frontiersman. Here is a list:
- 2 Shirts
- 1 coat 1 Jacket ____ & wool
- one coat & one Jacket of thick cloath
- one Pair of Buckskin Briches
- one pair of Cordoroy Ditto & Jacket Nee Buckle
- one Pair of Leggins one Letout Coat
- one Jacket
- one Beaver Hat & one Wool hat
- three Pair of stockings
- one Silk Handkerchief & one linnen Ditto
Reading between the lines, there are a couple of other interesting details in Zachariah’s estate files. The only people who bought anything at Zachariah’s estate sale were named Rankin, except for Thomas Cherry, Zachariah’s brother-in-law. That suggests that either (1) the estate sale was attended only by family, which is highly improbable, or (2) the Rankins and Cherry outbid everyone on every item. Also, Zachariah’s brother Thomas bought five gallons of whiskey for Zachariah’s funeral. Either attendance at the funeral was considerably larger than attendance at the estate sale, or the Rankin family had an enormous capacity for alcohol.
Thomas Rankin, born 16 Sep. 1760, died 1832, Cadiz Township, Harrison Co., Ohio. Thomas’s wife was named Ann (nickname Nancy). Her maiden name was Foreman, according to Charles Hanna. Like his brothers, Thomas inherited land on Raccoon Cr. from his father. He is listed in the 1790 Washington County census adjacent William Sr. That census suggests two sons and one daughter born by 1790. Hanna identifies five children named James, William, David, Jane and Nancy.
Thomas sold his land in two deeds in 1798, which may be when he left Washington County. Thomas appeared on the 1810 tax list and 1820 census in Cadiz Township in Harrison County. In the 1820 census, he is listed adjacent a David Rankin, possibly his son. Thomas is buried in the Rankin Methodist Episcopal Cemetery in Cadiz Township.
Jesse Rankin, born 1763, died 21 Sep. 1837, Mt. Pleasant Township, Washington County. Jesse’s probate files conclusively establish the identities of his eight surviving children: sons Matthew, William, Isaac and Jesse, and daughters Margaret (married James Futen or Tuten or Teten), Abigail (married Robert Tenan or Tinan), Jane (never married), and Maria or Mariah (married George Kelso). The probate files are full of information. Some of it suggests that members of this branch of the Rankin family had each other’s backs.
First, there was a quitclaim deed from Jesse’s widow Jane (maiden name unknown) and their four sons to their four daughters, giving each one personal property essential for an early 19th-century female: a bed and bedclothes, saddle and bridle, some flax yarn and flannel, and a cow and calf. Also, a set of silver teaspoons, a luxurious gift in the early 1800s.
Second, the family agreed to give Isaac a share of the estate over and above what he would have been entitled to under the law of intestate descent and distribution. The family did that because Isaac had continued to live with and work for his family as an adult. The family’s agreement recites that “for and in consideration of the labours and services of … Isaac Rankin for and during the time of 6 years 9 months which he … continued with his father and family after he arrived at 21 years of age … $100 per year for the said time … to be paid by the Administrators of Jesse … over and above the legal share of the estate.” Nice.
Samuel Rankin, born about 1767, died October, 1820, Washington County. Samuel died intestate and left little trace in the records. Charles Hanna says his wife was Jane McConahey. Samuel’s brother Matthew named Samuel and Jane’s children in his will: John, David, Samuel, James, Stephen, Matthew, Matilda, Abigail, and Jane. Charles Hanna adds a son William. Matthew’s will in Washington County Will Book 3 is now typewritten, presumably copied from the original handwritten will book. Perhaps either the clerk who first entered the will in the records, or the typist who later transcribed it, omitted William. It’s a solid bet that Hanna was correct, and Samuel had a son William. Further, the 1850 census for Washington County has two William Rankins living in Mt. Pleasant Township, where Matthew’s land had been divided among his brother Jesse and the children of his brother Samuel. One William was likely Samuel’s son, and the other William was Jesse’s son.
And that’s enough for me on the Rankins of Raccoon Creek, Washington County. I have a feeling I will be returning to that county soon enough, because there are a slew of Rankins there just begging for attention.
See you on down the road.
* * * * * * * * * *
 Will of David Rankin dated 5 Nov 1757, proved 2 Aug 1768, naming wife Jennett, sons David, William, and Hugh, and daughter Barbara. Frederick Co., VA Will Book 3: 443.
 Amelia C. Gilreath, Frederick County, Virginia Deed Books 5, 6, 7, 8, 1757-1763 (Nokesville, VA: 1990), abstract of Deed Book 5: 343-345, lease and release dated Sept. 3 and 4, 1759, from William Rankin of Frederick to John Smith, a tract on Opeckon Cr. called “Turkey Spring,” part of a 778-acre grant from Lord Fairfax to William and David Rankin (William’s father, David Sr.) on 30 October 1756. William and Abigel (sic) Rankin signed the release. See id., abstract of Deed Book 5: 398-400, lease and release dated Mar. 2 and 3, 1760, from David Rankin Sr. and William Rankin, all of Frederick Co., to David Rankin Jr., 463 acres on a branch of Opeckon Cr., part of a 778-acre grant to David and William dated 30 Oct. 1756 from Lord Fairfax. David Rankin, Jannet (sic) Rankin, William Rankin, and Abigill (sic) Rankin all signed.
 Bob and Mary Closson, Abstracts of Washington County Pennsylvania Willbooks 1-5 (1776-1841) (Apollo, PA: Closson Press, 1995), will of William Rankin of Smith Twp. and the “middle fork of Raccoon Creek,” dated 10 Apr 1793 and proved 21 Oct 1793.
 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.
 Jane Dowd Dailey, DAR, under the direction of the Ohio Adjutant General’s Department, The Official Roster of the Soldiers of the American Revolution Buried in the State of Ohio, Vol. 1, p. 300 (Columbus, OH: The F. J. Heer Printing Co., 1929). Here is a link.
 Here is a link to an image of Thomas’s tombstone. Notice the DAR Rev War marker to the left. Crumrine (see note 3) says Thomas moved to Cadiz, Ohio. The Rankin cemetery where Thomas is buried is located there, and there is a tombstone image here.
 Pennsylvania Archives Series, Series 6, Volume II 133, 144.
 See note 6, Dailey, Official Roster, Vol. 1 300.
 Washington Co., PA Deed Book 1P: 232, deed dated 8 May 1799 from David and Grace Rankin of Smith Township to James Denny, a tract on Raccoon Cr. adjacent James Leach, willed by William Rankin to his son David; Washington Co. Deed Book 1T: 12, deed of 11 Jan 1805 from David Rankin of Smith Township to William Rankin, son of Samuel Rankin, for love and affection and $100, the tract where David now resides adjacent James Leach.
 Raymond Martin Bell and Katherine K. Zinsser, Washington County, Pennsylvania Tax Lists for 1781, 1783, 1784, 1793 and Census for 1790 (Bowie, MD: Heritage Books, Inc., 1988).
 See note 10.
 1800 federal census, Washington Co., Smith Twp., David Rankin, 10001-01001; 1810 federal census, Washington Co., Mt. Pleasant Twp., David Rankin, 01001-20101. The census suggests that David was born by 1755, as was his wife Grace. If the children in his household were his, he had a daughter b. 1784-1790, son b. 1794-1800, and two daughters b. 1800-1810
 Family History Library DGS Film No. 5,537,968, Washington Co., PA Will Book 1: 81, will of John Rankin of Smith Township dated 16 Feb 1788 and proved 22 Apr 1788 naming wife Rebecca, father William, and children James and Mary.
 Closson, Abstracts of Washington County Pennsylvania Willbooks, 1793 will of William Rankin.
 Washington Co., PA Deed Book 1U: 130, deed dated 22 Feb 1808 from James Rankin for himself and as attorney for Polly Rankin. The deed recites that James and Polly inherited the tract from their father John Rankin, who left a wife Rebecca, “now married to Jonathan Jacques.”
 Id., Washington Co., PA Deed Book 1U: 132, mortgage dated 22 Feb 1808 reciting the sale of land by James and Polly Rankin and stating that James Rankin was “of Harrison Co., KY.”
 1810 federal census, Harrison Co., KY, listings for John Jaquess (32001-03100, 2 slaves), Isaac Jaquess (00100-001), and James Rankins (11000-11001). James is listed in the 10<16 age category, which is too young to be James, son of John and Rebecca. I imagine this is an example of census error, particularly since there is a female in the 26 < 45 age category in the household.
 See note 2.
 Washington Co., PA Will Book 3: 484, will of Matthew Rankin Sr. of Mt. Pleasant Twp. dated 20 Dec 1821, proved 25 Apr 1822. Matthew named (1) his nephew Matthew Rankin (Jr.), the 4th son of Matthew’s deceased brother Samuel Rankin (60 acres), (2) his brother Jesse (100 acres), (3) his brother Samuel’s other children John, David, Samuel, James, Stephen, Matilda, Abigail, and Jane Rankin (the rest of Matthew’s land), and (4) nephews James Rankin (cash and clothes), son of Matthew’s brother Thomas, and nephew John Cherry, son of Thomas and Mary Rankin Cherry (cash).
 Washington Co., PA Deed Book 1B: 374, agreement dated 13 Aug 1785 among William Rankin of Smith Township and his sons Matthew Rankin, Zachariah Rankin, and Jesse Rankin, all of Smith Township. The three brothers gave to William Rankin all rights to lands adjacent to the settlement where William Rankin lived that “come to our hands from the office of Philadelphia.” In return, William promised to make “equal division according to quantity and quality” among William’s sons. William’s will failed to honor that agreement by devising to his sons Samuel and Jesse the share of William’s land to which Zachariah (who predeceased William) was entitled. Zachariah’s only heir, his daughter Abigail, was entitled to that land. Matthew remedied that situation with several deeds in order “to do justice and equity” according to the contract and William’s will, ensuring that Zachariah’s daughter received that land. Washington Co., PA Deed Book 1R: 186, Deed Book 1R: 189, and DB 1R: 295. The last deed contains a conveyance from Jesse and Samuel Rankin to Abby Rankin (Zachariah’s only child and heir), “it being the share of William Rankin’s estate to which Zachariah was entitled,” all in order “to do justice and equity” according to the contract among William and his sons.
 Washington Co., PA Will Book 1: 52, will of Zachariah Rankin naming wife Nancy, father William Rankin, and his unborn child (an afterborn daughter named Abigail). Zachariah named his brother Matthew to be his executor.
 Family History Library DGS Film 5,558,493, Probate File # R9.
 1790 federal census for Washington Co., PA, Thomas Rankin, 12201 (1 male 16+, 2 males < 16 [ b. 1774-1790], and 2 females, suggesting 2 sons and 1 daughter).
 Washington Co., PA Deed Book 1N, 665 and 754, conveyances by Rankin and wife Ann in two deeds, 100 acres and 150 acres.
 See note 7.
 Family History Library Films 5,558,495 and 5,558,496, Probate Files R32, R51 and R52.
 Samuel’s wife may be the Jane Rankin buried in the Mt. Prospect Cemetery in Mt. Pleasant Township. She died in 1869 at age 95, so was born about 1774. The cemetery was established by the Mount Pleasant United Presbyterian Church sometime between 1790 and 1800 as a graveyard beside the church. There are also McConaheys buried in that cemetery.
 Washington Co., PA Will Book 3: 484, will of Matthew Rankin.