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

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

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

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

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

William (d. before 1816)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

James (1730 – 1803)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Jr.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Epilog

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

See you on down the road.

Robin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      4 Mary Smith, b. by 1788.

   3 Ruth Rankin m. John Tool.

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

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

      4 Elizabeth Rankin m. Mr. Ritchie.

      4 Jean Rankin, b. after 1776.

      4 Ann Rankin, b. after 1776.

      4 Ruth Rankin, b. after 1776.

      4 Mary Gillespie Rankin, b. after 1776.

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

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

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

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

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

         5 Esther Rankin, 1838-1889.[11]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      4 Molly Rankin m. Mr. Sellars.

          5 Mary Elizabeth Sellars, b. by Jun 1829.

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

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

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

             6 David C. Rhodes or Rhoades.

         5 Mary Rankin, b. July 1835.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See you on down the road.

Robin

*   *   *   *   *   *   *

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

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

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

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

            [5] Virginia Shannon Fendrick, American Revolutionary Soldiers of Franklin County, Pennsylvania (Chambersburg, PA: Historical Works Committee of the Franklin County Chapter of the D.A.R., 1969) (copyright 1944) 180:  “Jeremiah Rankin, Ranger on the Frontier, served in 1778, under Capt. John McConnell and as Ensign, 1780-81, with Captain Wm Huston; a son of pioneer James Rankin of Montgomery Township. He mar. Mary, dau. of James Clark. His will was dated June 1803 and prob. August 1803, only son James Clark Rankin and three daus.: Nancy; Mariah; Esther. The widow Mary later married Charles Kilgore. James, Jeremiah, David and William Rankin were pewholders in the “Lower Conococheague” or Welsh Run Church. Nancy Rankin mar. John Imbrie, Beaver Co., Penna., 10 children. Maria Rankin mar. Samuel Johnston, son of Thos. and Anne Houston Johnston. Esther Rankin mar. Alex. M. Johnston, son of Thos. and Anne Houston Johnston. Pennsylvania archives fifth series Vol 6 Pages 262, 269, 274, 282, 374.” RRW note: the pewholders James, Jeremiah, David, and William Rankin were the four sons of James Sr. and Jean Campbell Rankin.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enter Spade and Columbo: Autosomal Evidence

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

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

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

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

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

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

…  Mary Rankin Cox and Adam Rankin were siblings.

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

…  Mary Rankin Cox was Adam’s daughter.

Here is what Spade has to say:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See you on down the road.

Robin

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

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

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

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

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

Just kidding. There were no surnames back then.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See you on down the road.

Robin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

            [26] Id.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1  John Rankin m. Anna Craig

    2 William Rankin

    2 Mary Rankin m. Joshua Cox

      3 Mary Cox m. John Craig

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Theory 1: John and Adam were brothers …

1  Unknown Rankin parents

2 John Rankin m. Anna Craig

2 Adam Rankin m. Mary Steele Alexander

OR Theory 2: John was Adam’s father …

1 John Rankin m. Anna Craig

2 Adam Rankin m. Mary Steele Alexander

2 Mary Craig m. Joshua Cox

2 William Rankin

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

See you on down the road.

Robin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thing 1: William Rankin m. Victory Alcorn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See you on down the road.

Robin

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

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

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

            [4] Virginia Shannon Fendrick, American Revolutionary Soldiers of Franklin County, Pennsylvania (Chambersburg, PA: Historical Works Committee of the Franklin County Chapter of the D.A.R., 1969, copyright 1944), citing PA Archives 5th Series, Vol. 6, 576, 583: “WILLIAM RANKIN of Antrim Twp., appears as a private under Capt. James Poe, 1782, on an undated roll. He married Mary Huston, daughter of Archibald, as shown by the will of Agnes Huston, widow of Archibald. The will of William Rankin of Antrim Twp., was dated Oct. and prob. Nov. of 1792.” See also PA Archives, 3d Series, Vol. 20: 254 for additional evidence of William d. 1792’s Rev. War service.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t Trust, Just Verify: The Perils of SAR[1] Applications

I called my friend Spade yesterday evening. He picked up on the first ring.

“Hey, doll, what’s cooking? Have you found one of my cousins who will Y-DNA test?” I could hear ice clinking in a glass. He was no doubt having some Cutty Sark to celebrate yet another successful case in which he dug up someone’s long-dead relative.

Spade has a Rankin line with a solid paper trail back to Adam and Mary Steele Alexander Rankin. But we all want Y-DNA confirmation. He supplied the names of a half-dozen Rankin men in his line — his distant cousins. My job was to recruit just one to Y-DNA test. I failed miserably.

“No. Your cousins are a frustrating lot. I wrote to four or five of them but received no replies. But never mind them. My beef is with you, Spade.”

He sighed, and I clearly detected the sound of a generous splash into a glass. “Now what have I done?” Spade is definitely not the long-suffering type, but he can play that role on occasion.

“I was looking at your otherwise excellent online tree and found a SAR application you included as evidence for one Rankin family. It has a terrible error which is a zombie that won’t die. I’m holding you partly responsible for its survival because you are publishing that thing.”

There was a momentary silence. I knew it wouldn’t take him long to demur, so I wasn’t holding my breath.

“I know the one you mean. Yep, it does contain an egregious error. But I like to attach all relevant evidence, even if it’s partly wrong.”

Now the momentary silence was on my end of the line. “Well,” I finally said, “that’s an interesting notion. But how are people supposed to know which parts of the evidence are correct and which parts are error?”

“Because I file an explanatory comment explaining what’s what,” he quickly rejoined.

I thought I detected slurping. I didn’t know anyone slurped Cutty. This conversation was clearly heading downhill quickly.

“That’s helpful, but what if people don’t read your comment? I, for one, missed it altogether.”

Another slurp. He ignored my first question. “You missed it because I haven’t written a comment yet. Why don’t you post an exposé on your blog?”

With that, he hung up. Spade is famous for hanging up on people.[2]

* * * * * * * *

Spade left me no choice. As it turns out, there is no way for him to comment on that accursed SAR application. So here is my exposé. Don Quixote would be proud.

I am going to quote the SAR application, putting the crummy information in boldface with a comment clearly indicating error.

The SAR application in question was by WILLIAM STEWART RENKIN,[3] whose great-great-great grandfather was, according to the application, a member of the Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania militia during the Sandusky Expedition in 1782. That was an engagement on the western front and one of the last operations in the Revolutionary War.[4]

William Stewart died in 1967, but I communicated with his daughter[5] for several years. She has since died as well. Her father did the initial family history research for their Renkins and prepared the SAR application. She diligently supplemented his work with excellent, thorough research of her own. I enjoyed arguing with her.

Unfortunately, the information on her father’s SAR application has one flaw — and the flaw is not even relevant to his claim to SAR membership! Put another way, the error wasn’t needed to establish whether William Stewart was eligible. He could have omitted two generations and his application would have been perfectly fine.

The bad information in that SAR application has, of course, multiplied like Tribbles on the starship “Enterprise” in the original Star Trek. The error is included in countless online trees.

We have ALL made research errors, so I am not being critical of William Stewart’s work. I do confess to an occasional eye-roll when people accept assertions on Find-a-Grave, SAR applications, and online trees despite lack of evidence. Or, worse yet, without verifying the assertions for themselves.

Here is what the application says. My comments are in either italics or boldface.

William Stewart Renkin, born on June 16, 1913, was:

(1) the son of William Oran Renkin, 1875-1943, and Jane Fulton Stewart.

(2) the grandson of William Wilson Renkin, 1842-1922, and Sarah Hefron Hunter.

(3) the great-grandson of William Johnson Rankin, 1813-after 1870, and Nancy Johnson Anthony.

(4) the great-great-grandson of William Jackson Rankin, 1788-1870, and his first wife Margaret McHargus Ramsey.

(5) the great-great-great-grandson of William Rankin Jr, 1743-1823, and his wife Jane Taylor. “Jr.” is handwritten on the application, although William never used that designation SFAIK. His most likely death date is 1826 rather than 1823. This is the man whose service was the basis of the SAR application. He died in Indiana County and left a will dated 1822, proved 1826.[6]

(6) the great-great-great-great-grandson of William Rankin, died 1798, and Mary Huston. THIS IS WRONG: the William Rankin who died in Indiana County in 1826 was NOT a son of William and Mary Huston Rankin. That couple did have a son named William, but records (see discussion below) conclusively prove he moved to Centre County, Pennsylvania, and died there in 1847. He cannot possibly have been the same man as the William Rankin who died two decades earlier in Indiana County. Also, the William Rankin who married Mary Huston died in 1792 rather than 1798.

(7) the great-great-great-great-great-grandson of Adam Rankin died 1750  and his “2d wife Mrs. Mary Steele.” Adam died in 1747 rather than 1750. There is apparently no evidence in the records for a first wife. That is an assertion in the oral history of two genetically unrelated families, one of whom claims descent from the Adam who died in 1747 in Lancaster County. The other claims descent from John Rankin who died in Lancaster in 1749. Y-DNA testing proves those families are not related through the paternal Rankin line. Given the error in item (6), it follows that William Stewart Renkin was not descended from Adam and Mary Steele Alexander Rankin. Big Y testing confirms that.

Below is the evidence concerning William, son of William and Mary Huston Rankin. It is yet another example of what I call the “follow the land theory.” That is a solid form of genealogical proof if you want to be certain, for example, that the William you are following around was the same man as William, son of Adam and Mary Steele Alexander Rankin.

Let’s start with a will. Specifically, the will of William Rankin of Franklin County whose wife was Mary Huston.[7] We are concerned with two provisions, those dealing with land devised to four of their sons:

  • Sons James and William jointly received 900 acres in Penns Valley, Mifflin County.
  • Sons John and Jeremiah jointly received 408 acres on Spring Creek in Penns Valley, Mifflin County.

Now let’s check out Mifflin County, Penns Valley, and Spring Creek to make sure we know where these two inherited tracts wound up.

… “Penns Valley” is located in southeastern Centre County and includes Potter Township, which appears often in the records for these men.

… A “Spring Creek” runs through the middle of Bellefonte, the county seat of Centre County.[8]

… Centre County was created in 1800 from parts of four counties, including Mifflin.

We therefore know that the two tracts William devised to four of his sons were located in what is now Centre County. John and Jeremiah should be located close to each other, since they jointly inherited one tract. James and William should also be located near each other for the same reason.

Voila! There they are, all four brothers in Centre County, paired off geographically just as one would expect. In the 1800 Pennsylvania Septicentennial Census for Potter Township, James and William are entries #150 and #151, respectively, indicating they were surveyed sequentially and thus lived adjacent to each other. John and Jeremiah did not appear in that census, and may have still been home in Franklin County.

In the 1810 census for Potter Township, James Rankin is listed two households down from William Rankin.[9] The prior page for Potter Township has listings for Jeremiah and John, a dozen households apart.[10] All four men were enumerated in the age 26 < 45 category, so they were born during 1765–1784. The family Bible establishes the birth dates of the four men as follows: William, 1770, James, 1776, John, 1779, and Jeremiah, 1783.[11] Fits like a glove! Finally, Centre County cemetery records show John Rankin’s birth year as 1778 (off by one year, a common error since the deceased wasn’t there to provide a correction, or possibly a typo or misread by the abstractor) and Jeremiah’s as 1783 (correct).[12]

There is just no reasonable doubt that the four Rankins in Centre County were sons of William and Mary Huston Rankin and grandsons of Adam and Mary Steele Alexander Rankin. There is also no reasonable doubt that William Rankin of Centre County, who died there in 1847, was a different man than the William Rankin who died in Indiana County in 1826 and who was William Stewart Renkin’s ancestor. As one would expect, a Y-DNA test by one of William Stewart’s grandsons confirms that, since his results don’t match those for descendants of Adam and Mary.

At the risk of piling on, here are excerpts from a county history published in 1883. It identifies James, John, Jeremiah and William as brothers who came to Centre County from Franklin County, home of William and Mary Huston Rankin.

First, the following from History of Centre and Clinton Counties:[13]

“Rankin, William, was born in Franklin County, Nov. 5, 1770. He removed to Centre County and settled upon a farm two miles west of Potter’s Mills.”

A footnote to the above adds that “James, John, and Jeremiah Rankin, brothers of William, came to Penn’s Valley” from Franklin County.

History continues about William’s brother John, with the correct birth date:

“Rankin, John, Esq., died at the residence of his son-in-law, John Irvin, in Penn’s valley, April 22, 1848, aged sixty-nine. He was born in Franklin County, May 1, 1779, and was an early settler in Penn’s valley …”

And that is all.

I am fairly sure I haven’t heard the last on this subject from Spade, though.

See you on down the road.

Robin

[1] “Sons of the American Revolution.” That organization is obviously the male equivalent of the DAR, although their due diligence was deficient in this case.

[2] For proof of Spade’s propensity to hang up, please see a fun post at https://digupdeadrelatives.com/2023/01/01/john-mcginley-rankin-too-many-have-lived/

[3] “Renkin” and “Rankin” are genetically equivalent. My Rankin cousin’s closest match at 37 markers is a man named Renkin.

[4] See, e.g., https://emergingrevolutionarywar.org/2018/09/04/the-crawford-campaign-1782-battle-on-the-sandusky/

[5] I hope I spelled Jeanne’s name correctly but am not certain.

[6] Indiana Co., PA Will Book 1: 140.

[7] Franklin Co., PA Will Book A-B: 256, will of William Rankin of Antrim Twp. dated 20 Oct 1792, proved 28 Nov 1792. Wife Mary. Sons Adam, Archibald, James, William, David, John, and Jeremiah. Daughter Betsy.

[8] See, e.g., https://bellefontechamber.org/attractions/fly-fishing#:~:text=Anglers%20enjoy%20the%20world%2Dclass,the%20historic%20borough%20its%20name.

[9] 1810 census for Potter Township, Centre Co., PA.  https://www.ancestry.com/discoveryui-content/view/430206:7613

[10] Id.

[11] Birth dates are from the family Bible, a transcription of which (along with the cover letter from the Bible owner) are contained in electronic storage of Flossie Cloyd’s materials at the Tennessee State Library and Archives. She was the premier Rankin historian of the 20th century, although she did very little research herself except on her own line. For the most part, she assembled materials from a number of other Rankin researchers.

[12] Mary Belle Lontz, Tombstone Inscriptions of Centre County, Pennsylvania (1984).

[13] John Blair Linn, History of Centre and Clinton Counties, Pennsylvania (Louis H. Everts, 1883, reprinted Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott & Co., 1975) 222-23 and footnote at 222.

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.

It’s all about the Benjamins …

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

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

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

Here’s what county records reveal about them.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Capt. Benjamin Rankin of Frederick/Berkeley County, Virginia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See you on down the road.

Robin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                  [26] See Note 2.

                  [27] See Note 5.

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

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

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

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

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

                  [33] Id.

                  [34] Id. at ix.

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

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

                  [37] Id.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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