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Tristan Rankine

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Tristan and Sir Lachlan

The Family Rankine

Henry Whyte wrote a prize essay which was published in 1907 by the Clan MacLean Association entitled “THE RANKINS  Pipers to the MacLeans of Duart, and later to The MacLeans of Coll.”  The following is that essay in its entirety:

On Science and the Scientific Endeavour of Genealogy
We live in the Age of Science.  Most of us raised during this era, for better or worse, view the world in a certain light, interpret its manifestations from a scientific viewpoint.  Those of us who are specifically trained as scientists (and religious scholars may certainly fall into this category), in its methods and tenets and philosophy, tend to think along somewhat similar lines—our view of the world is strongly influenced by how we choose to perceive it, by the prevailing mindset of the day.

The aim of Science is Truth.  Yet we, as trained and practicing scientists, know that Truth is difficult to come by.  In fact, it is rarely if ever achieved—truth with a little”t” is as close as we usually come.  The Laws of the Universe and their manifestations, or God’s Laws if you prefer, are beyond our senses and sensibilities.  Unless spoken to by God, we can only examine the data we have collected with the best methods available and make our best guess as to what it all means—our best estimate of the Truth.

In the endeavour of scientific research, it is a truism that previous efforts and ideas are accepted and built upon until such time as the underlying precept is either proven invalid or inadequate.  This is the beauty and burden of science — we must always strive to know more since what we currently know is not the whole truth.  Sir Isaac Newton expounded upon the concept of gravity and shook the world with the weight of his discovery; Copernicus’ notion of an earth-centered solar system, based upon the best evidence available in his day, held sway for many centuries but has long-since been dismissed, shattered by the findings of Galileo.

Such is the case with Genealogy, a science in its own right with its own scope and rules of conduct.  The brevity of human existence makes it impossible to check every fact, to know every detail with absolute clarity.  It is a fact of human existence that we have neither the time or resources to constantly rediscover all knowledge.  We therefore accept that previous genealogical researchers and scholars have checked their facts to the greatest degree possible, just as we would accept the findings of physicists, chemists, psychologists and religious scholars.  We accept these scientific findings, however, critically and with questioning hesitance, always keeping in mind that future data may indicate the need for a revised understanding in our search for the Truth.

The Rankin Name and our Relationship with Clan MacLean
Over the last century, much has been written on the Rankin family—the origin of the name, their history as hereditary pipers for the MacLeans of Duart and Coll, their Presbyterianism and their immigration from Scotland to Ireland to America.  The attempt in this chapter will be to integrate as much of this information as possible into a coherent portrait of this venerable clan.

Henry Whyte wrote a prize essay which was published in 1907 by the Clan MacLean Association entitled “THE RANKINS  Pipers to the MacLeans of Duart, and later to The MacLeans of Coll.””  The following is that essay in its entirety:

In seeking to trace the history of these Rankin pipers (originally known as Clann Duiligh ) who were so long associated with the Clan MacLean in the capacity of hereditary pipers, it will be necessary to consider the origins of that clan, when it will be found that the MacLeans and Cu-duiligh, the progenitor of the Rankins, are descended from the same stock.  Nor is this a matter of astonishment if we reflect that the term clan  as applied to a tribe, is but the much older or clann  children, and that under the old patriarchal system, the chief stood in the relation of a father to his clann, or children.  Prior to the ‘45, a clan was a set of men all bearing the same name and believing themselves to be related the one to the other, and to be descended from the same stock.  The members of every clan were tied to one another, not only by the feudal, but by the patriarchal bond; for while the individuals who composed the clan were tenants of their own hereditary chief, they were also descended from his family and could count exactly the degree of the descent.

In Skene’s “Celtic Scotland,” Vol. III, p. 481, we have the genealogy of the MacLeans given from the MS. of 1467, supplemented from the MS. of 1540, as follows: “Eachduinn (or Hector), son of Lachlan, son of John, son of Malcolm, son of Maoiliosa, son of Gill-eion, son of MacRath, son of Maol-sruthain, son of Neil, son of Cuiduilig (Abbot of Lismore, Argyll), son of Raingce, son of Old Dougall of Scone...Raingce had three sons, Cu-catha, Cu-sidhe, and Cu-duilig, from whom descends the Clan Conduilig, that is the Clan MacLean in the island of Mull.”

It will thus be seen that the first chief of the Clan MacLean, “Gilleathain na Tuagihe,” (circa 1210), is descended from Conduiligh, who was his great-great-grandfather.  Mr. A. Maclean-Sinclair, the historian of “The Clan Gillean,” says (Page 38), “The Rankins, or Clann Mhic Raing, children of the son of Raing, are descended from Cuiduilligh, and were known for a long time as the Clan Duille.  They dropped the name and called themselves Clann Mhic Raing, or Rankins.”

According to tradition, the first of those pipers who acted in that capacity to his chief, MacLean of Duart, was known as Cu-duiligh Mac Raing.  It is said that he studied music in Ireland, prior to coming to Mull.  He is credited with having founded a college of pipe music in Mull, the first of the kind in Scotland.  The school of music was situated at Kilbrennan (Cill-a’-Bhrianain ), and was maintained by these hereditary pipers till about 1760.  From the information now available, it is impossible to give a chronological account of these Rankin pipers, and so I must fall back on such scraps of folklore as have survived in the district bearing on these musicians.

One of the Rankins, at an early period of their career as pipers, was said to excel all the pipers of his time, so much so that it was said he got his training from the fairies, or Daoine-sith.  The fairy training ground is still pointed out at Lagan-Ulbha  (Laggan Ulva).  He was passing a small hill when he noticed a light, an on going up to it he found that the side of the hill was open.  The fairies were playing and dancing.  He went to the door and was cordially invited in.  Before leaving, he was presented with a chanter, or “feadan sith,”  He was also taught to play a tune on it, afterwards known as A’ Ghlas-mheur, or Finger Lock.  Rankin kept this tune from his pupils.  It was a common practice then for masters to compose a tune which they would not learn to any of their pupils.  Such a tune was called a port-falaich, or hidden tune.  Rankin reserved this one as his port-falaich..  Unfortunately, for him, his daughter could play the chanter.  This young woman and a pupil of her father’s were lovers, so, unknown to her father, she learned to play it, and imparted her knowledge to her lover.  When this pupil had completed his musical education, he was preparing to leave, and his master, who was proud of the pupil’s abilities, got him to play over all the best tunes he had learned.  When finished, his master complimented him on his abilities.  “I have one other tune” said the youth, and forthwith proceeded to play the Glas-mheur.  The old master listened till the last note was played, and then he made a rush for his sword.  His pupil knew what this meant, and made for the door.

The Rankins were also rivals of the Northumberland pipers.  On one occasion one of these came to Kilbrennan to challenge the Rankin pipers of that period.  The

Origin of the Rankins

Old Dougall of Scone
(born about 1050 A.D.)


Cu-catha Cu-sidhe   Cu-duilig
(Hound of War) (Hound of Peace) (Hound of Leaves)
(Abbott of Lismore, Argyll)

Niall    Chloinn Dhuille
(Neil)    (Clan Mhic Fraing)



Ghill 'Eathainn

Bristi Gillebride   Maoliosa

Gillemore Gillecallum

Domanll  Niall Iain Dhuih

Eachainn Reganach  Lachlan Lubanach

(Lochbuie, Kingairloch, Dochgarroch) (Duart, Ardgour, Coll)

Englishman played on the wall of an old fort above Kilbrennan House, while Rankin played on a little hill at the end of his house called Cnoc-nam-piobairean  (the Piper’s Knoll), where his pupils used to play on fine evenings.  Rankin won, and the Englishman went away.  He returned, however, next year to be once more defeated.  It would appear, however, that the contest was a very keen one, for tradition states—“Cha robh ann ach gun do bhuidhinn Mac Raing”—Rankin won, but that was all.  The keenness of the competition frightened Rankin, and tempted him to take means to prevent his rival’s return.  He followed the Englishman, overtaking him at Acha-da-Seanaig, a field south of Aros Bridge.  They fought, and the Englishman was killed.  Rankin got him buried, and raised a cairn over him.  The field was afterwards known as Dail-an-t-Sasunnaich.  When the public road was made through the field about 90 years ago, there were some human bones discovered under the cairn.

An Irish gentleman was in the habit of visiting Duart.  He always came unaccompanied, save by his piper.  He made a point of being there at the annual gathering, or harvest home (Deire-bhuana ).  He was known by the name of “Morair na Coinneimh.”  One night Duart’s piper, Rankin, and the Irish piper were playing in a room by themselves.  The Irishman was an excellent performer, and would play tune for tune with Rankin.  When Rankin was finished, the Irishman changed his hands on the chanter and played away.  This Rankin could not do, and was so enraged at one of the race being beat that in a fit of passion he took a sword and cut off his little finger.  When retiring at night, the Irish piper informed his master what had happened.  His master said that when Duart would hear of it, he would kill them both, so when all the rest of the company had retired, the Irish lord and his piper cleared out of the castle and fled.  When Duart got up next morning, he inquired for his guests, and was told they had secretly left the castle.  MacLean became suspicious that they had some motive in doing this, so he called his men and pursued the Irish lord and his piper.  He was told they had gone the way of Tobermory.  When he got there, he was told they had crossed to Ardnamurchan.  He followed and overtook them at Kilchoan, where he killed and buried the two of them.  Rankin composed a beautiful lament for them, which he called “Cumha Morair na Coinneimh.”  Mr. John Johnston, of Coll, from whom this story was got, heard his uncle playing this lament.

The MacCrimmons of Skye and Clan Duiligh were on good terms.  The Rankins used to go to Skye to complete their musical education, while the MacCrimmons often completed theres in the Clan Duiligh School of Music.  As an instance, a Duncan Rankin went to Skye to finish his musical studies.  MacCrimmon had a very handsome daughter, and both Duncan and a MacDonald, from Morar, fell in love with her.  She favoured Rankin.  The two pupils completed their education at the same time, and went to their respective homes.  Shortly afterwards MacDonald got a boat and crew, and went back to press his suit.  The young lady received him in such a manner as to lead him to suppose that he was acceptable to her.  Immediately after making the usual inquiries, she excused herself, and left the room.  She got her father’s pipes, and struck up the tune “S ann a tha’n othail air bodaich na Mor-thir.”  MacDonald believing that it was MacCrimmon himself who was playing, suggested to his companion the wisdom of their retiring.  She afterwards married Rankin, who was then piper to MacLean of Muck.  When MacLean lost the island of Muck, he went to live at Grisbol, Coll.  MacLean had a large party one day at dinner.  Rankin was indisposed and confined to bed.  When his wife, Janet MacCrimmon   , got all the guests into the room, she took her husband’s pipes and played the hall, and neither MacLean nor his guests knew but that it was Rankin who was playing for them.

When the fortunes of the house of Duart waned, the Rankins transferred their allegiance to the house of Coll.
The training college for pipers had to be abandoned about 1760.  It is believed that there were some sixteen pupils attending it at that time, which seems to have been a considerable reduction on the attendance from its palmy days.  After the ‘45, the relationship between the chiefs and their clansmen changed considerably.  The chiefs in a measure ceased to care for their clansmen, and in many cases ceased to support the ancient customs of their forefathers.  The households were being reduced and expenditure curtailed so far as the ancestral halls were concerned.  It must have been about this time that the status of the family piper commenced to be reduced, and his music relegated to a secondary place.  Instead of playing in the presence of his chief and his guests, the piper was sent to the hall downstairs.  One of the Rankins, who was so treated, felt the insult so badly that he replied in terms more pointed than polite, telling the young chief that his father enjoyed his piper’s company as well as his music, but that he wanted his piper out of sight, and almost out of hearing.

The last of the Rankin pipers was Neil, who was Piper to MacLean of Coll, and played before Dr. Johnson when he visited that island in 1773.  The Doctor was no musician, but the appearance of the piper evidently attracted his attention, for he writes: “The bagpiper played regularly when dinner was served, whose person and dress made a good appearance, and he brought no disgrace on the family of Rankine, which has long supplied the Laird of Coll with hereditary music.”

Neil Rankin married Catherine MacLean   , the daughter of Charles , son of Hector , son of Duncan , 12th MacLean of Coll.  In the census of Coll, taken in the year 1776, we find Neil Rankin and his wife, children of age, Hector and Catherine , under age, Hugh , Conduilli , and Janet .  Two servant males and one girl are given after those in the Castle at Breacacha.  He was Neil, son of Hugh, son of Hector, son of Condulli.  He gave up piping about 1806.  He died in 1819.  Latterly he took the farm of Cliad in Coll, where he resided till his death.  The late John Johnston , Coll, who remembered him well, said he was not very tall, but well built, and though an old man when he saw him, looked exceedingly handsome.  The same authority declared that when he was a young man he was considered the most handsome piper of his time.  Hugh Rankin, Neil’s father, who resided at Kilbrennan, Mull, was appointed treasurer of the kirk Session of Kilninian and Kilmore Parishes on 16th August, 1780.  He signed the minute of accounts when passed in 1781 and 1782.  He initialed the collections for the last time on 28th September, 1783.  He died shortly after.  His son Hector was then appointed treasurer in his father’s place.  Hector gave up the farm of Kilbrennan about 1804.  Neil’s third son, Condulli, was training to succeed his father as piper to MacLean of Coll, when, one day at Breacacha Castle, practising on the chanter, Bailidh Threaslan, factor on the Coll Estate, came the way.  The factor, who could not help noticing how the position of the piper was being gradually reduced, said—Cuir bhuait sin, ‘nuair bhios cach comhla ris na h-uaislean bithidh tusa comhla ris na coin —“Put that away; while the rest are in the company of the gentry you will have the dogs for your companions.”  Young Rankin at once took the hint.  He shortly afterwards joined the army.  When Lord Hobart was appointed Governor of Grenada in 1803, young Rankin was among the soldiers sent out with him.  Lord Hobart died shortly afterwards, and Rankin had to come back to the old country with Lady Hobart, who was a daughter of MacLean of Coll.  During the voyage home, the Lady Vere Cameron of Lochiel was born.  Lady Hobart was very weakly during the voyage, having caught a severe chill of which she afterwards died, so her maid had to devote most of her time to her, so the nursing of the young voyager depended pretty much on Rankin.  He distinguished himself in the Canadian War of 1812–14, and rose to the post of Captain.  His first wife, Flora Morison   , having died, he returned to Scotland in 1816 or 1817.  He married Margaret MacLean   , daughter of Hugh MacLean , tacksman, Kengharair, of the Calachilly MacLeans, by whom he had a large family.  He remained in Scotland till after the death of his father.  In June, 1820, he and his brother Hector sailed for Prince Edward’s Island.  He took a large number of emigrants with him from Coll, who settled in Prince Edward’s Island.  Then the family of Rankin bade farewell to the Island of Coll, its chief, and likely pipe-playing for ever.  In 1831 he was in London canvassing for the appointment of Governor of Prince Edward’s Island.  He was not successful in securing the appointment.  At that time, he was Major Rankin, and commanded a regiment 700 strong, all “down-right Highlanders,” as he himself declared.  During the land agitation in Prince Edward’s Island in 1836, he took a prominent part.  At a public meeting held on 23rd April, 1836, he presided.  At the close of the meeting the following resolution was moved by Mr. A. MacLean, and seconded by Mr. D. Graham.  It was passed with cheers:  “That the respectful thanks of the inhabitants of this district are due to Major Condullie Rankin, who has always distinguished himself by his zeal to patronize and promote all measures of public utility, and to repress and to remove grievances, and that his able exertions to give energy and efficiency to the momentous measures which are today discussed, has afforded a most gratifying proof that his zeal for our weal is not abated nor alienated.”

Major Rankin died about 1856.  He was the last to adopt piping as his profession, though, already noticed, he gave it up early.  As piping in this family began with a Conndulli, it also ended with a Condulli.  His father, Neil, was the last of the race who was hereditary piper to the MacLeans, and his grandfather, Hugh, was the last to teach music at their college in Kilbrennan.  Conndulli left a son named Neil, who was for a time Mayor of Charlottetown, Prince Edward’s Island.  Neil left a son named Condulli, who still resides there.

For much of the foregoing information I am indebted to a lineal descendant of these Rankin pipers, Mr. Condullie Rankin Morison  of Dervaig, Mull.

One of the most thorough early studies of the origins of the Rankin family was conducted by the Rev. Samuel M. Rankin of Greensboro, North Carolina.  His book, The Rankin and Wharton Families and their Genealogy, appeared in 1931 and remains to this day required reading for an understanding of one version of the Rankin name and history.  According to Rev. Rankin, “The name originated in Flanders during the twelfth century; and it was in this way:  There were several small independent nations in the northern part of Europe at this time, and they were almost contantly at war among themselves.  A certain man manifested great valor and cunningness in these wars, and his companions called him, "Reynard" which means “fox.”  Webster defines “Reynard” when applied to man as meaning “Strong in council.”  C.W. Bardsley, in his book on the “Origin of English Surnames,” says the name Rankin came from Reynard.  It passed through many different spellings during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.  The first change was the addition of “chen” or “kyn,” making Reynardkyn.  This, Mr. Bardsley says, was to give a familiar or pettish ending, just as we add “ie” to John making it “Johnnie.”  Reynardkyn was soon contracted to “Reynkyn,” and “Reynkyn” was finally contracted to “Rankin.”  Rev. Rankin states, “The first record we have of a Rankin was about the year 1270.  At that time a Mr. Rankin was the burgomaster, or as we would say, the mayor of the city of Ghent in Flanders.  Ghent was a larger city than London or Paris at that time.  There are Rankins in Flanders to this day.  Some of our Rankin boys found them there while in service in the World War...James Paterson in his history of “Ayr and Wigton,” says that for many generations in Scotland they were called MacRankin; but that later the “Mac” was dropped, as the family was not of Celtic but of Flemish origin.”

Whether or not the name Rankin derives from “Reynard” or “Raing” or “Randolph” as suggested by the Surnames of Scotland is not immaterial, but is a point for the scholars to argue.  What is important is that the name appears to be of either Flemish/Scottish or purely Scottish origin and that it’s history is an old one.  In the ancient records of Great Britain, it is found as Rankyn, Renkyn, Renkin, Ranken, Ranking, Rankene, Rankine, Rankins, and Rankin of which the last form is that most commonly used today.  Families of this name were found at early dates in the Scottish counties of Ayr, Kinross, Perth, Sterling and Wigton; in the English counties of Kent, London, Northumberland, Somerset and York; and in various other areas of Great Britain shortly thereafter.  They appear to have been primarily landed gentry and yeomanry.

Is the name Rankin Scottish or Flemish?  One possibility is that the Rankins of Great Britain and those of mainland Europe developed the name independently.  But it seems more likely that, given the rather short distance between Great Britain and Flanders and their importance as centers of commerce, these two groups of Rankins are probably the same family, descended from a common ancestor.  One thing for certain, however, is that after nearly a millenia on Scottish soil, we must be about as Scottish as possible.  Rankins have their own tartan and several Coat of Arms though they are a sept of the Clan MacLean, their ancestral brothers.  Burke, in his Encyclopaedia of Heraldry (1844), states that “one of the most ancient and best known of the several coats of arms of the Scottish and English families of Rankin is that described as follows:

Arms—Gules, three boars’ heads crased argent between a lance issuing out of the dexter base and a Lochaber axe issuing out of the sinister, both creet of the second.

Crest—A lance argent issuing out of the wreath.

Motto—Fortiter et recte meaning “Boldly and rightly.”

The Rankins in Scotland
Rev. S.M. Rankin states that, “During the latter part of the thirteenth century, the Duke of Flanders made a friendly visit to King Alexander III, of Scotland, and carried with him as a member of his court Jacob de Rankin, the son of the burgomaster of Ghent...While visiting at the court of King Alexander, Jacob de Rankin fell madly in love with Margaret Keith   , the daughter of Marshall Keith , and they ran away and were married.  Marshall Keith, who held the second place of importance in the kingdom at that time, was very angry and sent his son to pursue and kill Rankin.  Rankin killed young Keith and started to flee the coutry, thinking he would be condemned to death in a strange land.  He was caught and brought into court.  During the trial, Rankin conducted himself in a becoming manner and with much decorum, and proved that he had not provoked the quarrel, and was found not guilty.  Later, Marshall Keith forgave him and received him into his family.  Jacob de Rankin then became a citizen of Scotland.”  Rev. Rankin then states, “So far as the records show, this was the beginning of the Rankin family in Scotland, and he is the progenitor of all the Scottish Rankins.”

Could this be true?  Not if one accepts the purely Scottish derivation of the name which would indicate that Rankins, of one form of the name or another, inhabited Great Britain at least 200 years prior to Jacob de Rankin’s arrival.

Among the earliest records of the family are those of Gilbert Reynkyn of County Kent, England in 1273; Richard Reynkyn of a slightly later date; John Rankyn or Somersetshire, England about 1327; Elona Rankyn of Yorkshire, England in 1379; and Alin Rankyn of Ayrshire, Scotland about 1431.  Others of the name include John Rankyne, burgess of Glasgow, Scotland in 1456; Peter Rankyne of the Schield, Scotland in 1496.

This Peter Rankin of Schield, Scotland was the father of William , who was the father of Lawrence , the “Laird of Schield” in 1544 as described by John Knox.  Lawrence had a son named William who married Agnes Crauford or Crawford   .  William and Agnes were the parents of John, William, James and Agnes.  John, the first son, was a friend of Robert Burns , probably the most famous son of Scotland.  William, the second son, married Helen Crauford   and was the father of William and Agnes , of whom the first was the father by his wife, Abigail Cathcart   , of an only child named Abigail.

James, the third child of William Rankin and Agnes Rankin nee’ Crauford, married Miss Douglas and had sons George and James who may be the Sir James Rankin of Whitehall, a known descendent of Schield.  Sir James Rankin had a son Robert who was chairman of the Liverpool chamber of commerce.  George Rankin married Elizabeth Blackwood   and was the father of George and William.  The first son of George and Elizabeth, George, married Agnes Farquhar and had James, Jean and Ann.  James, the son of George Rankin and Agnes Rankin nee’ Farquhar   , married in 1750 to Jean Hutchinson   and had children George and Agnes.

In 1567–1573, during the persecutions under the Duke of Alva, several thousand people fled from Flanders to England and it is likely that some by the name of Rankin came at that time.  Thus, it is likely that not all of the Rankins found on the British Isles after the mid-sixteenth century are of purely Scottish descent.  Other sixteenth century Rankins include: Dominus Johannes Rankyn, a chaplain in Glasgow in 1503 and possibly Schir John Rankin, a vicar of Girwane in 1504;  John Rankyn was rector at Hutoune in 1507; another John Rankin was tenant under the bishop of Aberdeen in 1511; a third John Rankyn had a house in Irvine in 1533; and still another John Rankin, a follower of the earl of Cassilis, was respited for murder in  1526.  Elspet Rankeyne is recorded in Aberdeen in 1570; John Rinking appears as a witness in Glasgow in 1587; and William Rankine was a notary in Ayr in 1590.  In the records of the Scots Guards in France is one Ranequin Kennedy.

In the latter part of the sixteenth century, Andrew Rankyn was living in County Kinross, Scotland and was married to Margaret Patoun   .  Their children were James , John , Walter and William .  James married Marion Steidman   and had John, Alexander , Agnes and Eupham .  James’ brother, John, married in 1643 to Janet Gib   and had James, John, Christian , and Margaret of whom James had by his wife, Anna Bogie   , Robert (who died young), James, William, Robert, David , Janet and Eupham.  Alexander Rankin, a son of James Rankin and Marion Rankin nee’ Steidman, lived in Perthshire and had among his children, an Alexander, who had, among his children, another Alexander .

As an aside, much has been written concerning the relationship between the Rankins and Burns of Scotland, much of this due to the special friendship between Robert Burns , Scotland’s most famous son, and his good friend John Rankine.  The following is taken from The Family Rankin 1688–1990 by Lois   Rankin (Mrs. D.W.. W.; ) Nash of Orlando, FL:

“For several centuries the Rankins and the Burns have been more or less inter-related in genealogical, social and literary ways, as well as in Church and Lodge relations.  Donald A. .; Tod, a well known Scottish Researcher, states that Janet   MacGrean, wife of John Broun of Littleton, Kirkeswald, Ayrshire, died in 1738.  They were great-grandparents of the famous Robert Burns.  Janet MacGrean was probably a MacGraine, MacRaing or Rankin.

In Burns Handbook by John D. .; Rose, LLD, F.S.A. (Scot.), page 106:
‘DENVER, COLORADO, STATUE.  Unveiled 4 July 1904, by Miss Jane Morrison .  The oration was delivered by the Hon. John D. M’Gilvray and the invocation by the Reverend James D. .; Rankin of the Presbyterian Church, a direct descendant of the Burns Family.’

Other Rankin descendants of Robert Burns are the three brothers, John Walker Rankin , James Graham Rankin  and Alexander Reid Rankin  of the Washington and Jefferson  College classes of 1841-42 and 1847.  According to the W. and J. Alumni register...these three brothers are the sons of John M..;  and Agnes W. Burns . 'Rankin';  . (Burns); Rankin and are grandsons of James Burns , a cousin of the poet.

Whatever Rankin ancestry Robert Burns may have had, he and his Rankin neighbors were a small but enthusiastic mutual admiration society.  Their farms were located near Lochlea and Largieside between Kilmarnock and Tarboulton, in the parish of Craigie, near Lochlie, ten or fifteen miles inland from Ayr, a west-coast town.  Up the coast from Ayr on the Firth of Clyde stands the Rankin Hospital at Greenock, “gifted” to the city by Miss Maggie Rankin , member of the famous firm of Rankin and Blackmore, Marine Engineers, Greenock.  Across the Firth from Dumbarton still farther up the Clyde is Glasgow, where Professor William John Macquorn Rankine made contributions to his chosen field of learning.  He was an outstanding professor at the University of Glasgow and a writer in the fields of mathematics, physics and engineering.

When “Rob the Rymer” was just beginning to become Robert Burns, the poet, John Rankine, his fiftyish neighbor, was a good well-to-do farmer.  His Adamhill farm was neighbor to the Mosagiel farm operated by William Burns and his sons Gilbert and Robert .  John Rankin was not the only friend and admirer of Burns in the household.  John’s sister, Margaret , and his daughter, Annie , each “claimed the honour of being the one who saw the poet through the barley on a Lammas night when corn rigs were bonnie.”  The poet goes on to say “Wi sma’ persuasion she agreed, Tae see me thro’ the baurley, Oh.”  Dr. John D. .; Ross in his Burns Handbook quotes from Peter Ross’ Scotland, the Scots, a passage regarding Robert Burns in Freemasonry.  He says: “In St. James’ Lodge, Burns made many worthy acquaintances and formed friendships of great importance.  First and foremost of these was Gavin Hamilton ...Another member who appears to have been a particular cronly of Burns was John Rankine, a farmer and a prince of Good Fellows.”

John Rankin’s wit, his dreams (invented for the purpose of roasting his dislikes) and his practical jokes were the talk of the countryside.  Robert Burns addressed an epistle to Rankine.  He also complimented him in an Epitaph as the one ‘honest man’ in a ‘mistie-maxtie mostley squad.’


Ae day, as Death, that gruesome carl, was driving to the tither warl’
A mixtie-maxtie, motley squad  Andmonie a guilt-besotted lad;
Black gowns of each denomination, And thieves of every rank and station,
From him that wears the star and garter, To him that wintles in a halter;
Asham’d himself to see the wretches, He mutters, glow’ring at the bitches;
“By God, I’ll not be seen behint them, Nor ‘mang the sp’ritual core present them,
Without at least ae honest man, To grace this damn’d infernal clan!”
By Adamhill a glance he threw, “Lord God!” Quoth he, “I have it now,
There’s just the man I want i’ faith.”  And quickly stoppit Rankin’s breath.

Rough, rude, ready-witted Rankine, The wale o’ cocks for fun an’ drinkin!
There’s monie godly folks are thinkin’ Your dreams and tricks
Will send you, Korah-like a-sinkin’ Straught to Auld Nick’s.
Ye he sae monie cracks an’ cants, And in your wicked drunken rants
Ye mak a devil o’ the saunt an’ fill them fou’;
And then their failings, flaws an’ want Are a’ seen thro’.

Hypocrisy, in mercy spare it!  That holy robe, O, dinna tear it!
Spare’t for their sakes, wha aften wear  The lads in black;
But your curst wit, when it comes near  Rives’t aff their back
Think, wicked sinner, wha ye’re skaithing; It’s just the Blue-gown badge an’ claithing
O’saunts; tak that, ye lea’e them naethin To ken them by
Frae onie unregenerate heathen  Like you or I.
I’ve sent you here some rhyming ware  A’ that I bargain’d for, an mair;
Sae, when ye hae an hour to spare  I will expect,
Yon sang ye’ll sen’t, wi’ cannie care,  And no neglect.
Tho’ faith, sma’ heart hae I to sing:  My muse dow scarecely spread her wing!
I’ve play’d mysel a bonie spring  An’ danc’d my fill!
I’d better gaen an sair’t the King  At Bunker’s Hill.
‘T was ae night lately, in my fun, I gaed a rovin wi’ the gun,
An’ brought a paitrick to the grun’ -A bonie hen;
And, as the twilight was begun  Thought nane wad ken.
The poor, wee thing was little hurt;  I straikit it a wee for sport,
Ne’er thinkin’ they wad fash me for’t  But, Deil-ma-care!
Somebody tells the Poacher-Court  The hale affair.
Some auld, us’d hands had taen a note, That sick a hen had got a shot’
I was suspected for the plot;  I scorn’d to lie;
So gat the whissle o’ my groat,  An’ pay’t the fee.
But, by my gun, o’ guns the wale  An’ by my ponther an’ my hail
An’ by my hen and’ by her tail  I vow an’ swear!
The game shall pay owre moor an’ dale, For this, niest year!
As soon’s the clockin-time is by, An’ the wee pouts begun to cry
Lord, I’se hae sportin’ by an’ by  For my gowd guinea;
Tho’ I should herd the buckskin kye  For’t in Virginia!
Trowth, they had muckle for the blame!  ‘T was neither broken wing nor limb,
But two-three chaps about the wame, Scarce thro’ the feathers;
An’ baith a yellow George to claim  An thole their blethers!
It pits me ay as mad’s a hare;  So I can rhyme nor write nae mair
But pennyswirths again is far,  When time’s expedient;
Meanwhile I am, respected Sir,  Your most obedient.

When death was about to come to the bard, his thoughts again turned to his friend and benefactor.  He wrote the following lines, forwarded to Rankine immediately after Burns’ death:

He who of Rankine sang lies stiff and dead,
And a green, grassy hillock hides his head:
Alas! alas! a devilish change indeed!

Reverend Jeremiah Eames Rankin , author of “God Be With You Till We Meet Again,” wrote a poem in the dialect of Burns:

Sae lang as Doon’s a rinnin’ river, Sae lang’s the share the daisy turns,
Sae lang as mice at plewmen quiver; -- Our een shall greet for Robie Burns.

Sae lang as blue-bells deck the heather, Sae lang as baum breathe Scotia’s ferns,
Sae lang as beasties dread cauld weather; -- Our een shall greet for Robie Burns.

Sae lang as Highlan’s ha’e their Marys, Sae lang as stars he’e gowden urns,
Sae lang as lovers tine their dearies;  -- Our een shall greet for Robie Burns.

Sae lang as hame o’ nights the cotter, Wi’ achin banes frae wark returns,
Tossin in air each gigglin’ trotter ;-- Our een shall greet for Robie Burns.

Sae lang as frae his han’ the chalice, That’s tyrant mixed the patriot spurns,
Sae lang as Scotchmen lo’e their Wallace; -- Our een shall greet for Robie Burns.

Sae lang as man forgies his brither, Sae lang as for his gude he yearns,
Sae lang’s the weak maun lo’e ilk ither; -- Our een shall greet for Robie Burns.

Sae lang as Dumfries’ sod lies vernal, Where mony a heart his story learns,
We’ll fling the husk, and tak’ the kernel;  -- Our een shall greet for Robie Burns.

The Rankins of Ireland
The descendents of Scots in Ireland are called the Scots–Irish although they are, for the most part, purely Scottish in blood.  Historians tell us that they rarely intermarried with the native Irish.  The Rev. Samuel M. Rankin in his book, The Rankin and Wharton Families and their Genealogy, did an excellent job summarizing the history of the British Isles in the late 16th and early 17th centuries.  His work provides deep insight into why our Rankins likely emigrated from Scotland to Ireland and, eventually, to the New World.  He states that, “during the last years of the reign of Queen Elizabeth, there was an organized rebellion among the Catholic earls of the province of Ulster, Ireland against the English government.  After much hard fighting, this rebellion was subdued, and the earls fled to France.  In 1603, King James VI of Scotland acquired the English throne and became King James I of England.  He restored to these earls their former lands and titles.  In 1607, it was reported, perhaps falsely, that another rebellion was being organized among these earls.  The English government began the collection of an army.  The earls became frightened and fled to other countries, leaving thousands of tenants and over five hundred thousand acres of land.  James I confiscated these lands to the Crown, and ordered all the tenants remaining there to move to other parts of Ireland.  He then offered these lands to his favorites of Scotland.  History tells us that within two years, 1610–1612, over ten thousand Scots, mostly from the Lowlands of Scotland, settled in Ulster, Ireland.  Large tracts of land were also given to London land companies who obligated themselves to have the land settled by Protestants.”

Another factor in this migration of Scots to Ireland was that “in 1610, Episcopacy, which lasted for only a few years, was forced on the people of Scotland, and this caused many Presbyterians to emigrate to Ireland.  In 1663, Episcopacy was again forced on Scotland and there was another large movement from Scotland to Ireland.  In fact, there was a constant movement, but greater at some times than others.  In 1688, during the last two years of the reign of King James II of England, there were religious and rebellious persecutions in Scotland.”  Alexander Rankin of Duart, a devout Presbyterian, lost two of his three sons as religious martyrs; one was killed on the highway and the other suffocated in a smokehouse while trying to escape pursuers.  The third son, William, escaped with his father to Londonderry, Derry County, Ireland where, in 1689, they participated in the siege of Londonderry.  Alexander’s name is on the Petition of Thanks to Almighty God, and William, King of Orange, for his timely assistance in raising the siege in August 1689.  Alexander died that same year.  His son, William , emigrated with his family to Chester County, Pennsylvania in 1721.  More will be mentioned of this family shortly.

If religious persecution was a driving force behind the migration of Scots to Ireland, what was the motivating factor in their move to the New World?  Rev. Rankin continues, “John Fiske , the historian, tells us that by 1650, there were over three hundred thousand Scots in Ulster; and that by 1700, their number had increased to nearly one million, largely ‘picked men and women.’”  He relates that in 1718, a miscellaneous bunch of three hundred and nineteen were called upon to sign a paper and that all but thirteen could write their names.  This could not have happened in any other part of the British Empire at that time.  He furthermore says that “in 1710, the percentage of illiteracy in Ulster was probably smaller than anywhere else in the world.”  The industrious and thrifty Scots caused Ulster to become the most prosperous province of Ireland ... They improved their lands and built better homes.  They first gave their attention to cattle raising, and shipped beef, cheese and butter to England.  This was hurtful to the business of the cattle raisers of England, and Parliament was persuaded to pass an Act forbidding the shipping of cattle, beef, cheese and butter from Ireland to England or to any of the English colonies.  This was a great hardship on the Ulster farmers.”

“They then began to raise large flocks of sheep, and were soon extensively manufacturing woolen goods.  This was hurtful to the business of the sheep raisers of England, and at their earnest request the English Parliament passed an Act in 1699 forbidding the exporting of wool and woolen goods out of Ireland.  The woolen factories of Ulster were closed down and forty thousand hands were thrown out of employment.”  That Act essentially ruined the Irish wool trade.  The next year, twenty thousand Protestants, mostly Presbyterians, emigrated to America.

The Scots of Ulster then concentrated on the raising of flax which was manufactured into Irish linens.  Again, to placate the fears of English merchants, the English Parliament passed an Act forbidding the export of Irish linen goods out of Ireland except to England which acted as middleman for these products.  Concomitantly, taxes were constantly being raised as were rents—the Scots of Ulster became increasingly dissatisfied.

The English Parliament, in 1704, passed the Test Act which required all government officials as well as all town, county and army officers, and lawyers, to take communion according to the rites of the Established Church of England.  The intent of the Test Act was to ensure loyalty to the King of England who was the formal head of the Church of England.  In 1714, Parliament passed the Schism Act which required all school teachers to secure a license from a bishop of the Church of England who could only grant this license to those who conformed to the Test Act—the intent was to eradicate Protestant (and particularly Presbyterian) ideas from formal education.  Presbyterians would surely resent both acts and, no doubt, many lost their jobs and patience as a result.

The Scots of Ireland were oppressed politically, economically and religiously by the English government.  It is not surprising, then, that they emigrated to America in such large numbers, facing untold hardships and an uncertain future for the slightest opportunity at a better way of life.  Nor is it surprising that the great majority of Scots–Irish in America engaged in a Revolutionary War against their historic oppressor, England.

The Rankins in America through the 17th Century
Every school-age child is taught that Columbus discovered America in 1492, that the first permanent settlement was made at Jamestown, Virginia in 1607 and that the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1620.  Though Rankins were not on the Mayflower, they did arrive in this country fairly soon after, even though the rate of immigration was quite slow.  Though it is not entirely clear, it is believed that the first Rankins in this country are all descended from a common ancestor in Scotland.  Very little is known of these earliest American Rankins.

Among the first of the name in America were Lawlin Rankin of Virginia in 1650, John Rankin of Roxbury, Connecticut before 1653 and Andrew Rankin of York, Maine.  Andrew Rankin was a Royalist soldier captured in the Battle of Dunbar in 1650.  He originally settled in New Hampshire and later settled in York, Maine in the 1650s.  He died about 1678 leaving a widow, Martha and probably five children whose names are unknown.  He is thought to be the father of Constant Rankin who was living in York in 1692.  Constant may be the father of James Rankin , who was living in York in 1745, and the grandfather of Captain Constant Rankin of Thomaston, Maine who was born in York in 1747.  The first Constant Rankin may also be the grandfather of Joseph Rankin who was married at Kittery, Maine in 1777 to Mehitable Dunnell   .

The Rankins in America from the 18th Century
As mentioned above, the rate of immigration to America was quite slow in the 16th and 17th centuries.  That situation hS changed dramatically by the early 18th century.  The Indians were all but conquered in the settled areas, transportation was readily available and the economic, political and religious climate in the Old World was intolerable.  The busiest ports of immigration were those of the New England states.  In 1719 and 1720, some five hundred Scots–Irish settled in the New England colonies and among these were three Rankins: Adam , Hugh  and Andrew , sons of the Alexander Rankin who participated in the Siege of Londonderry.

Alexander Rankin
As mentioned above, two of Alexander Rankin’s sons were martyred for Presbyterianism in Scotland: one was killed on a highway and the other suffocated in a smokehouse.  Their names are unknown.  Shortly thereafter, he fled with his family to Ulster, Ireland in 1688.  Alexander and his sons Alexander  and William were in Londonderry in July 1689 during the Siege of Londonderry.  Alexander (the younger) served as a Lieutenant and was killed during the siege.   Alexander Rankin (the elder) was one of 145 signatories on a petition of thanks to Almighty God to William and Mary, King and Queen of England, France and Ireland, for their timely assistance in raising the siege.

The entire genealogies of the Alexander Rankin family have been published elsewhere therefore only brief descriptions are given here.  Alexander’s (the elder) son, William , was born about 1663 in Scotland.  He married Dorothy   Black of Derry County, Ireland and is said to have had four children prior to emigrating to the New World: Adam , John , Hugh and Jane all of whom were born in Ireland except for Adam who was born in Scotland.  William and his family landed in Philadelphia settling in Chester County, Pennsylvania about 1720.

Adam Rankin, son of William, was born 16 July 1688 in Sterlingshire, Scotland and married in Ireland to Elizabeth May   .  Elizabeth died shortly after their arrival in the New World probably in 1721.  Adam then married Mary Steele   and had the following children: James , William , Jeremiah (b. 1733) and Esther (b. before 1742).  In 1736, this family moved to what is now Lancaster County, PA on Pequea Creek where Adam died on 4 May 1747.  Esther   married William Dunwoody and Jeremiah married in 1754 to Rhoda Craig   .

Jeremiah and Rhoda lived in Antrim Township, Franklin County, PA where Jeremiah founded Rankin’s Mill.  Born about 1720, he is said to have died at his mill about 1760.  His children are Adam , William , Thomas , Jeremiah and Mary “Polly” Rankin .  Thomas married in 1789 to a Miss Young of Woodford County, Kentucky.  Rev. Adam Rankin was born 24 Mar 1755 in Greencastle, PA, married Mary McPhatter  and went to Kentucky with a colony in 1784.  There he established a Presbyterian church in the present-day city of Lexington where he died in 1827.  He has descendents living in Texas and other western states.

John Rankin , one of the three brothers who came to Pennsylvania about 1720, was born about 1690 in Ireland.  He married Jane McElwee   and later Margaret ?.   He had a rather large family which included Thomas, Elizabeth , Ann , Margaret, Catherine , Rebecca , Agnes and Richard Rankin .  Thomas Rankin was born in 1724 and married Isabel Clendonin   of Pennsylvania.  In 1784, Thomas sold his farm in Pennsylvania and moved to Green County, Tennessee which is in the eastern section of the state.  He served as a Captain in the Revolutionary War and is the ancestor of most of the Eastern Tennessee Rankins.  Four of his grandsons were with General Andrew “Stonewall” Jackson in the Battle of New Orleans.  Many of his descendents are still in Tennessee through many migrated west.  In this book, mention will be made of the “East Tenneesee Rankins” which are understood to be mainly the descendents of Thomas Rankin.  The descendents of Thomas Rankin hold a well-organized and well-attended family reunion every year in Dumplin Creek, Tennessee.

Richard Rankin , the brother of Thomas, married Jennett “Jane” Steele   , later a Miss Douglas, and moved from Pennsylvania to Augusta County, Virginia shortly after the Revolutionary War.  Some of his descendents are still there but most have moved west.

Hugh Rankin and Others
Another Hugh Rankin, born about 1672, emigrated to New Hampshire in 1722 from Londonderry, Ireland.  It is likely, though there is no proof, that Hugh and Alexander were kinsman given that they both lived in Londonderry and emigrated to the New World at about the same time.  In the Genealogical and Family History of New Hampshire (1908), it is stated that Hugh’s wife was born a Dunlap and died in Ireland before 1689.  If they had sons, they must have fallen in the Siege of Londonderry, as did so many other Scots.  Hugh arrived in the New World with nine daughters and no sons.  These daughters married and produced children whose descendents are spread across this nation.

In the 1750s or 1760s, a James Rankin emigrated from Scotland to Littletown, New Hampshire.  He married Margaret Witherspoon   and had John, Andrew, Samuel , James, William, Henry , David and Marion Rankin .  He is likely related to Hugh Rankin of Londonderry, New Hampshire.

In 1763, William Rankin of Sterlingshire, Scotland came to America and settled in Troy, New York.  He later married the widow Wilhelmina Payne nee’ Dunble     and had a son William among his other possible children.  Sometime before 1795, James Rankin of Glasgow, Scotland arrived in Salem, Massachusetts accompanied by his son, Andrew , the father of the Rev. Andrew Rankin of Salisbury, New Hampshire.  Today, there are a few Rankins in the New England states but they have, for the most part, moved to New York and points west.

After 1720, the Scots–Irish settled mostly in Pennsylvania as Philadelphia became the major port of entry into America.  Indeed, between 1740 and 1750, it has been estimated that over twelve thousand immigrants landed annually in Pennsylvania from Ulster.  From there, many chose to remain in Pennsylvania but many also chose to take advantage of the southern frontier.  So many immigrants from the British Isles chose to settle in America that the Crown instructed their agents in the colonies to cease granting or selling them land lest they gain complete control of the colonies!  Fiske tells us that by the Revolution, a full one-third of the population of Pennsylvania and one-sixth of the population of the colonies were Scots–Irish.  And more were coming.  They arrived in the ports of Virginia in great numbers.  A number immigrated directly into the ports of North Carolina (including Flora MacDonald who settled in Cross Creek, later Fayetteville, NC), and Charleston, South Carolina.  Though many of the passenger lists of these more southern states are not in existence, the fact that there were many Rankins in the Carolinas in the early 1700s is telling.  Not all Rankins came through Northern ports.

Duncan Rankin was born in Scotland and emigrated to America prior to 1800.  He is found in the Richmond County, NC 1800 and 1810 censuses living in the town of Rockingham.  He was naturalized in Richmond County, NC in March 1814 but does not appear in any further censuses.  He is thought to be the Duncan Rankin mentioned in T.M. Owen’s History of Alabama (1921) as a native of Glasgow, Scotland who emigrated to America in the year 1797 and settled in South Carolina before moving to Alabama in 1822.  He and his wife, Janet , had a son Duncan who married Nancy Baggett   .  They had a son, Charles F. .; Rankin, born 1849 in Monroe County, AL.  Charles married in Brewton, AL in 1875 to Lilly   Lovelace and in 1887 in Union Springs, AL to Susan Martin   , daughter of William Martin of Bullock County, AL.

Robert Rankin
According to the Rev. S.M. Rankin, “There was a Robert Rankin of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, who settled in Guilford County, North Carolina in 1753.  He had a large family and his children were well grown when he came to Guilford.  He was perhaps married in Ireland and only tarried a short time in Pennsylvania.  No record of where he owned land in Pennsylvania could be found.  Some of his male descendants were in Guilford as late as 1845, but all of the name have now disappeared.  Some are living in Indianapolis, Indiana.”  Actually, Robert was from that part of Chester County, PA very near the Lancaster County border and he has many descendants in North Carolina to this day.  An entire chapter in this book is devoted to the descendents of Robert Rankin.

Today, there are over 50,000 Rankins living in 50 states, Canada, and Australia, according to Halbert’s, Inc., genealogists of Bath, Ohio.  There are more Rankins in Texas than in any other state.  It is a relatively small family, compared to such clans as ther Macdonalds, Stewarts, Campbells, Ross, etc... but wherever one travels in the U.S. and Canada one will locate Rankins.  In Nova Scotia, we have even located a Roman Catholic priest, a “Father Rankin.”  The name appears numerously in the archives of all our wars.  Many universities, research institutions, and high government agencies count Rankins on their staffs.   

A Partial Genealogy of Joseph Rankin and his
North Carolina Connections
The History of Delaware (Volume 1) states that “Joseph Rankin was the first of his family to settle in New Castle County.  He came from his birth place on the Clyde, in Scotland, to Delaware and brought with him his wife and children, and a rugged constitution and an indomitable will, his Bible and his memory of the teachings of John Knox.  He was one of the earliest white settlers of the White Clay Creek hundred and chose for his habitation a pleasant spot near the Head of Christiana.  Here he became owner of a large tract of land, and immediately began its improvement.  As that section of Delaware had not been invaded by the colonists before, Mr. Rankin’s undertaking was of great magnitude; but by indefategable labor he cleared the greater part of the land and made it productive.  Where the sound of his ax was heard, would be heard the music of the psalms; Mr. Rankin was one of the founders of the Church of Christiana, a Presbyterian Church, to which he was a liberal contributor...He died on his farm about 1760, and was buried in the graveyard at the Church of Christiana Creek.”

The Rev. Rankin could find no earlier record of Joseph in Delaware or in the adjoining counties in Pennsylvania and supposed that he came to America from Ireland about 1730.  In fact, Joseph was paying taxes in London Britain Township, Chester County, PA as early as 1729 along with John Rankin and David Rankin who had done so since at least 1724.  As the text points out, Joseph Rankin did indeed purchase 150 acres of land in New Castle County, Delaware in 1731 on the south side of White Clay Creek.    However, given Joseph’s close proximity, in both time and space, to the sons of the William Rankin who settled in Chester County, PA in 1721, we can speculate that Joseph is closely related to this family and may in fact be William’s grandson.

Joseph’s wife is unknown to us.  At his death, he left a family of:

1. John Rankin  — married Hannah Carson   and moved to Rowan, later Guilford County, NC.
2. Thomas Rankin  — married Elizabeth Montgomery   and remained on his father’s farm.
3. William Rankin  — married Jane Chambers   and moved to Rowan, later Guilford County, NC.
4. Joseph Rankin, Jr. — never married and moved just across the border to Chester County, Pennsylvania.
5. Anne Rankin — who never married, and perhaps the following three sons:
6. James Rankin  — who remained in New Castle County.
7. Robert Rankin  — who married Martha Latimer   and remained in Delaware.
8. Samuel Rankin  — who married Ellen Alexander   and moved to Rowan County, NC later settling in Lincoln County, NC.

We can be sure of all of these except James, Robert and Samuel.  James and Robert appear to be for the following reasons:

Thomas, Robert, James and Joseph Rankin, Jr. of New Castle County all take an Oath of Allegiance to Delaware in 1778 at the outbreak of the Revolutionary War.

Thomas, James and Robert Rankin were all members of Capt. Walter Carson’s Whig Company in which Thomas was a First Lieutenant.

The given names of James and Robert were handed down from generation to generation in the families of John, Thomas, William and Samuel.

We could find no place in the records of New Castle County where the Christian names of James and Robert were associated with any other Rankin family.

5. Robert Rankin married Martha Latimer   in 1765 and this date fits in with dates of the other children of Joseph Rankin, Sr.

We are sure that John and William were sons of Joseph Rankin, Sr. because in 1768, John Rankin and his wife, Hannah   of Rowan County, North Carolina along with their brother William Rankin sold land in New Castle County, Delaware which they “inherited from their father Joseph Rankin,” to Thomas and Joseph Rankin, Jr .  The old John Rankin farm was located in that part of Rowan County which became Guilford when Guilford County was formed in 1770 from Orange and Rowan counties.

We are sure that Thomas Rankin was a son of Joseph Rankin, Sr. because some of his children and his first wife are buried in the same plot with Joseph Rankin, Sr.  Also, Thomas Rankin lived on the same farm where his father lived.

As the name indicates, we can be sure that Joseph Rankin, Jr. was a son of Joseph Rankin, Sr.  Joseph Rankin is found living in London Britain Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania in 1771 according to a Chester County tax list of the day.  The same tax list also indicates two John Rankins, a Robert and a David Rankin, probably Joseph Rankin, Jr.’s cousins.  Joseph later signed an Oath of Allegiance to the state of Delaware on 19 Aug 1778 declaring no allegiance to the King of Great Britain.  Other Rankins who signed this Oath were Robert , Thomas and James Rankin , contemporaries of Joseph in New Castle County and his brothers.  A Nathaniel Rankin , above the age of 21, was in a Whig Battalion and is likely a close relative.

Joseph Rankin, Jr. moved from Chester County, Pennsylvania to New Castle County, Delaware sometime after 1778.  He is found there in the censuses of New Castle County dated 1790 and later.  He did not marry.

We are sure that Anne was a daughter of Joseph Rankin, Sr. because she is mentioned as a sister in the 1820 will of Joseph Rankin, Jr.  She did not marry.

We cannot know for certain that Joseph is the father of our Samuel Rankin, ancestor of the greatest number of Rankins currently living in North Carolina .  Quoting the Rev. Samuel M. Rankin: “It is thought that Samuel was a son of Joseph Rankin, Sr.  The dates fit in.  John was born in 1736, Samuel in 1740, and William in 1744.  The family names also indicate that Samuel was a brother of John and William.  There were children in each of the three families named Robert , Jane and Anne .  Both John and Samuel had a child named Samuel, and both William and Samuel had a child named William.  Furthermore, the personal appearance and personal traits of character of the descendents of these three men indicate that they were brothers.  Professor Jesse Rankin Wharton , who was in college with some of the descendents of Samuel Rankin, and who prepared a partial genealogical tree of the descendants of John and William Rankin, gave it as his fixed judgement that Samuel was a brother of John and William .  The fact that no record of Samuel was found in New Castle County, Delaware does not prove that he was not a son of Joseph.  Only one record, and that in a deed, was found to prove that John and William were sons of Joseph.”

Samuel Rankin settled lastly in Lincoln later Gaston County, NC near Mount Holly and is the progenitor of practically all the Rankins in the counties of Lincoln, Gaston and Mecklenburg.  John and William, known sons of Joseph , both settled in that part of Rowan County, NC which later became Guilford County near present-day Greensboro.  They have descendents there to this day.  Rev. Rankin gives an excellent account of the genealogies of these brothers in his book, The Rankin and Wharton Families and their Genealogy (1931).  Your authors have taken the liberty of adding his data to our own and fitting it to our format.  After all, no history of the North Carolina Rankins would be complete without this important family.  The descendents of Samuel , John and William Rankin have played an instrumental role in the development of the Tar Heel State as well as Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi and Texas.

Thomas Rankin , son of Joseph, was a First Lieutenant in Capt. Walter Carson’s Whig Company and married Elizabeth (perhaps Montgomery)   in 1783.  They lived and died near Newark, Delaware.  Their children were:

Montgomery Rankin — who moved away, perhaps to New York.
2. Joseph Rankin, III — who was born in 1786.  Joseph married Sarah Crawford    in 1816 and lived near Newark, Delaware.  Their children are:
Eliza Anne Rankin — b. 1817, never married and died in 1840.
Eleanor Rebecca Rankin — b. 1818, never married and died in 1895.
Robert Thomas Rankin — b. 1820, never married and died in 1896.
d) Sarah Maria Rankin   — b. 1822 and married James Springer .  They lived near Newark
and had the following children:
Margaret H. Springer .; — b. 1854, never married and died in 1920.
2)  Clara Springer   — married Thomas Davis and lived in Wilmington, DE.  Their
children are:
Mabel S. Davis.;
Joseph Rankin Davis
c)  Margaret Davis   — married Samuel J. Milliken .; and lived in
Anne Elizabeth Springer — b. 1850, never married and died in 1915.
Joseph Chamberlain Rankin — b. 1825, never married and died in 1916.
Hannah Margaret Rankin — b. 1825, never married and died in 1914.
Hannah Rankin — b. 1788, never married and died in 1866.
Margaret Rankin — b. 1793, never married and died in 1850.
5. Thomas Rankin, Jr. — b. 1795.  Thomas married Elizabeth _______ in 1827 and Sarah Moore   in 1840.  He died in 1860.  His children are:
Montgomery Rankin — who never married.
David Rankin — b. 1830, never married and died in 1906.
c)  Anna Maria Rankin   — b. 1832 and married William Crow .  They lived near Newark
and had children.
James Henry Rankin — b. 1834.  He moved to Kent County, Maryland and married
Elizabeth Thompson   there in 1881.  There were no children.  He died in 1904 and is
buried at White Clay Creek Presbyterian Church near Newark, DE.
Mary Elizabeth Rankin — b. 1836, never married and died in 1874.
William Rankin — b. 1841, married and lived near Newark.
Hannah Jane Rankin — b. 1843, never married and died in 1914.
h)  Louisa Rankin   — b. 1845 and married Thomas Nevin .  They lived near Newark and
had children.
Thomas Crawford Rankin — b. 1847, never married and died in 1917.

The Organization of this Book
Historically, there are eight major Rankin family groups, and a few smaller families, in the state of North Carolina.  Nearly every Rankin in North Carolina can trace his heritage back to one of these eight.  They are:

One:  The Rankins of Gaston County e.g. the descendents of 1) Samuel Rankin and and his wife Ellen Alexander who settled near Mt. Holly, NC from Rowan County; and 2) James Rankin of Burke County, NC about whom relatively little is known.  As is indicated above, Samuel may be a son of Joseph Rankin of Delaware though there is evidence to suggest that he is a son of Robert and Rebecca Rankin of Rowan County, NC.

Two and Three:  The Rankins of Guilford County e.g. the descendents of John and William Rankin  who settled near Greensboro, NC.  John and William are known sons of Joseph Rankin of Delaware and perhaps brothers of Samuel Rankin.

Four:  The Rankins of Rowan County e.g. the descendents of Robert and Rebecca Rankin of Chester County, Pennsylvania who settled in Rowan County, NC in 1753.

Five:  The Rankins of Rutherford County e.g. the descendents of Robert Rankin and his two wives, Mary   Witherow and Leah , who lived in Rutherford County, NC later settling in Pendleton District, South Carolina before moving to Kentucky.  Robert is thought to be a son of Robert and Rebecca Rankin of Rowan County, NC.

Six:  The Rankins of Orange County e.g. the descendents of William Rankin and his wife Victory    Alcorn:Victory 'Rankin' 'Vanhook';Alcorn, nearly all of whom seem to have left North Carolina by the year 1800.  William and Victory moved from Cumberland County, Pennsylvania to Orange County, NC about 1760.

Seven:  The Rankins of Buncombe County e.g. the descendents of 1) William Dinwiddie Rankin of Asheville, NC and 2) James Blackburn Rankin, both members of the East Tennessee Rankins.

Eight:  The Rankins of New Hanover County e.g. the descendents of Robert Rankin and his wife Ann   Jennings of Wilmington, NC.

As has been implied, the great majority of Rankins in this state can trace their lineage to Samuel, John or William Rankin—the first three families given above.  However, each of these families has played an important role in the shaping of their respective counties and each is worthy of our attention.

A Word of Thanks and a Mystery to Solve
Flossie Cloyd is a name all of those interested in Rankin history and genealogy should become familiar with.  Miss Cloyd was a librarian with the Tennessee State Archives who devoted nearly her entire adult life to researching and writing about ALL Rankin families native to the United States and Canada—a herculean task.  In the late 1950s, Flossie tried to publish in Nashville a two-volume epic on the Rankins of North America.  Too few copies were ordered to make publication feasible; this inspired effort was never published.  Though her loose notes are on microfilm at the Tennessee State Archives, no trace of the original manuscript has been found.  Should this manuscript ever be located, a wealth of information to be found nowhere else, and probably lost for all time otherwise, would likely shed light on branches of the Rankin family tree heretofore unknown or only hazily known.


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