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Modern day Rankins descend primarily from individuals who were at one time Scottish, Irish, or English, around the time when fixed family surnames became common. Fixed surnames were adopted to varying degrees between the 13th and 17th centuries AD, first among the social elite, and later more broadly. But the people who lived there at that time, who adopted or were assigned the Rankin surname, came from a wide variety of genetic origins, including ancient Stone Age Europeans, Bronze Age Celtics, Roman Era arrivals, Germanic (e.g. "Anglo-Saxon") tribes, and Nordic / Viking / Norman peoples.

There are eight defined Rankin Lineages at present, each consisting of members who are related to each other paternally within a genealogical time frame. Their common ancestor may not yet be known. But each member of a Lineage is proven by Y-DNA to be related to the other members of that Lineage through their paternal line.

By contrast, the members of each Lineage are unrelated paternally to the members of the other Lineages. There are also individual Rankin project members who do not yet match any other Rankin project members. Of course, all of these Rankins, and indeed all humans, are related in the ancient mists of prehistory.

Rankin Lineage 1 is of Viking / Nordic origin. Lineage 2 is of Germanic / Anglo-Saxon origin. Lines 3, 5, 6, and 7 are all Celtic. Lines 4 and 8 are associated with other groups, including Ice Age and Stone Age nomadic Europeans. More information on each Lineage is provided below.


Lineage 1 descends from the strongly Slavic, Baltic, and Nordic branch of Haplogroup R1a (R-M420). Further downstream of R1a, additional Y-DNA mutations Z289, Z284, and L448 are all closely associated with the late Viking Expansion into Scotland, Ireland, and England, including both Dane and Norman ("Northman"). These were likely among the later arrivals to Britain, compared to the earlier Stone Age arrivals, Bronze Age Celtics, Romans, and post-Roman waves of Germanic immigration (e.g. Angles, Saxons, Jutes).

Lineage 1 ("L1") has two sub-lineages: Robert and Rebecca Rankin of Guilford Co., NC (L1A) and Joseph and Rebecca Rankin of New Castle Co., DE (L1B). Robert was definitely the original immigrant in L1A. Joseph was probably the original immigrant in L1B. No common ancestor for the two lines has been found. Y-DNA results establish a low probability that there is a common Rankin ancestor on this side of the Atlantic. He probably exists around 1400, plus or minus a century, and almost certainly in Scotland.

L1A Robert and Rebecca came to the colonies in 1750 from County Donegal, Ireland, according to the autobiography of a grandson. There is no known evidence of L1B Joseph’s country of origin, although it was most likely either Scotland or Ireland. Both Rankin families first appeared in county records in the area around the Philadelphia ports, where most Scots-Irish immigrants landed during the “Great Migration” from Ulster. See the article about the Scots-Irish at http://digupdeadrelatives.com/2018/12/28/reprise-scots-irish-anyway/ by copying and pasting the link in your browser window.

L1A Robert and Rebecca’s family first appeared in the records in Chester County, PA. Robert and George Rankin (either father and son or brothers) were on the 1753 tax list for West Nottingham Township in Chester. Robert and George received so-called “Nottingham Company” land grants in Guilford (then Rowan) County, NC. According to a grandson's autobiography, they migrated to North Carolina in July 1755.

Robert and Rebecca’s children were almost certainly adults when they arrived in Pennsylvania in 1750. Two sons, Robert and George, are proved. There is convincing circumstantial evidence in the Rowan and Guilford records for other children, including a son John and daughters Ann Rankin Denny (wife of William Denny Sr. of Guilford), Margaret Rankin Braly or Brawley (wife of Thomas Braly), and Rebecca Rankin Boyd (wife of John Boyd). 

The David Rankin who died in Iredell Co., NC in 1789 (wife Margaret, birth surname unknown) may also have been a son of Robert and Rebecca. Y-DNA results establish that David and Robert were close genetic relatives, although there is apparently no paper evidence of a family connection. David is therefore shown on the descendant tree as a probable son of Robert and Rebecca, denoted by question marks. There has also been speculation among Rankin researchers that Samuel Rankin of Lincoln/Gaston (wife Eleanor "Ellen" Alexander) was a son of Robert. Y-DNA has also disproved that possibility. Descendants of Samuel and Eleanor do not even remotely match members of either Lineage 1A or 1B.


L1B Joseph of Delaware arrived in the colonies before Robert and Rebecca. He may be the Joseph Rankin who appeared as a “freeman” (i.e., unmarried and not a landowner) on a 1729 tax list in London Britain Township in Chester Co., PA. By 1731, he had acquired a tract on White Clay Creek in New Castle Co., DE, a short distance away from London Britain Township. Joseph had four sons proved by deeds (Joseph Jr., Thomas, John and William), two sons proved by strong circumstantial evidence (Robert and James), and a daughter Ann proved by a brother's will Joseph Sr. is buried at Head of Christiana Presbyterian Church in Newark, New Castle County. His 1764 tombstone still exists. Rev. Samuel M. Rankin's book about the Rankin and Wharton families speculated that Samuel Rankin of Lincoln Co., NC (wife Eleanor "Ellen" Alexander) was also a son of Joseph of Delaware. Y-DNA testing has conclusively disproved that theory. 

Based on birth dates that are known, Joseph’s children were born in Delaware. Two of his proved sons – John and William – moved to Guilford Co., NC. Probable son James almost certainly moved to Washington Co., PA. Joseph Jr. and Thomas remained in New Castle. Probable son Robert's migration is unknown. Descendants of John and William have Y-DNA tested, and the two men who tested are a close genetic match. There seems to be no evidence of the identity of Joseph's wife, except that she was named Rebecca, birth surname unknown. Joseph and Rebecca were almost certainly married in the colonies. There is no known evidence of either Joseph's or Rebecca's family of origin. 

A descendant chart for Lineage 1 appears below. There is no information for anyone born after 1900 in order to protect members' privacy.

Unknown # of Generations Back 
Lineage 1A     Lineage 1B
        ?? ??                  
Robert and Rebecca Rankin of Guilford, NC; he d. abt 1770

Joseph Rankin

of New Castle, DE



Robert d. 1795 Guilford, NC

George d. 1760 Rowan, NC David d. 1789 Iredell, NC
1736 - 1814
Guilford, NC
1744 - 1804
Guilford, NC
1767 - 1851
McNairy, TN
1759 - 1840
McNairy, TN
~1748 - ~1834
Gibson, TN
1780 - 1866
Guilford, NC
John C.
1781 - 1858
Guilford, NC
John D.
1816 - 1870
1792 - 1845
m. Isabel
1791 - 1861
1778 - 1854
Robert C.
1830 - 1921
 Watson W.
1814 - 1857

Francis M.
1836 - 1890

Reuben Burr 1834 - 1909

1807 - 1890
James R.
1860 - 1938
Watson W.
1852 - 1906
Robert W.
1860 - 1890
George Alver
1868 - 1939
George Lee
1833 - 1909
Osborne Tatum 1852 - 1918 Jas Rowland
1894 - 1945
Fred W.
1886 - 1954
    George Whitfield 1874 - 1942 James Daniel 1875 - 1966    
# 628529 # 207504 # 552162 # 595004 Private # 149142


1 Robert Rankin, d. abt 1770 Guilford NC. wife Rebecca MNU. Immigrants to Chester Co., PA from County Donegal, Ireland.

2 Robert Rankin, d. 1795 Guilford NC. Wife uncertain, possibly a Jean Denny.

3 George Rankin, b. 1767 Guilford NC d. McNairy TN 1851. Wife Nancy Gillespie.

4 John D. Rankin, b. 1816 Guilford NC d. 1870 McNairy TN. Wife Mary (“Polly”) Kerby.

5 Francis Marion Rankin, b. 1836 TN d. 1890 McNairy TN. Wife Louisa Elizabeth James.

6 Robert W. Rankin, b. 1860 TN, d. 1919 Chester, TN Wife Margaret J. MNU.

Kit # 628529

4 Robert Rankin, b. 1792 Guilford NC, d. 1845 Pope AR. Wife Isabel Rankin, also a great-grandchild of Robert & Rebecca Rankin.

5 Reuben Burr Rankin, b. TN 1834 d. 1909 Franklin AR. Wife Nancy Elizabeth Nash.

6 George Alver Rankin, b. Crawford AR 1868 d. Franklin AR 1938. Wife Ollie Delana Francis.

Kit # 207504

2 George Rankin, d. Rowan NC 1760. Wife Lydia Steele.

3 Robert Rankin, b. 1759 Rowan d. 1840 McNairy TN. Wife #1 Mary (“Polly”) Cusick, wife #2 Mary Moody. Revolutionary War vet.

4 Isabel Rankin, b. 1791 Guilford d. 1861 Pope AR. Married her second cousin Robert Rankin b. 1792, see above for their line.

2 David Rankin, d. Iredell NC 1789. Possible son of Robert & Rebecca. Wife Margaret MNU.  

3 Robert Rankin, b. abt 1748, d. abt 1834 Gibson TN. Wife Jean, probably Jean Denny.

4 James Rankin, b. 1778 d. 1854 Iredell NC. Wife Elizabeth McMin.

5 James Rankin, b. 1807 d. 1890 Iredell NC. Wife #1 Frances (“Frankey”) Mayhew, #2 Patsey Little.

6 George Lee (or Leroy) Rankin, b. 1833 NC d. 1909 NC. Wife Margaret Mills.

7 George Whitfield Rankin, b. 1874 Iredell NC, d. 1942 Iredell NC. Wife Sara Jane Parker.

Kit # 552162

6 Osborne Tatum Rankin, b. 1852 Iredell NC d. 1918 Rowan NC. Wife Amanda Isabella Shuford.

7 James Daniel Rankin, b. 1875 Rowan NC d. 1966 Watauga NC. Wife Tula Roberta Abernathy.

Kit # 595004.


1 Joseph Rankin, b. unknown 1704 d. New Castle, DE 1764. Wife Rebecca MNU.

2 John Rankin, b. abt 1736 New Castle DE d. 1814 Guilford NC. Wife Hannah Carson.

3 Robert Rankin, b. 1780 Guilford NC d. 1866 Guilford NC. Wife #1 Margaret Scott; #2 Margaret Patterson.

4 Robert C. Rankin, b. 1830 Guilford NC d. Alamance NC . Wife Mary Ann McLean.

5 James R. Rankin, b. 1860 Guilford NC d. 1938 Vance NC. Wife Minnie Rowland.

6 James Rowland Rankin, b. 1894 Vance NC d. 1945 Wayne MI. Wife Charlotte Knudsen.

Kit # is private

2 William Rankin, b. 1744 New Castle DE d. 1804 Guilford NC. Wife Jane/Jennet Chambers.

3 John Chambers Rankin, b. 1781 NC d. 1858 Rowan NC. Wife Tabitha Wharton.

4 Watson Wharton Rankin, b. 1814 NC d. 1857 Cabarrus NC. Wife Sarah Elizabeth Alexander.

5 Watson Wharton Rankin b. 1852 d. 1906. Wife Margaret C. Houston.

6 Dr. Fred Wharton Rankin b. 1886 Catawba NC d. 1954 Fayette KY. Wife Edith Mayo.

Kit # 149142


Rankin Lineage 2 (“L2”) is the largest Y-DNA lineage in the Rankin family project. There are currently more than two dozen Rankin Project members whose Y-DNA results place them in L2. The family lines represented in the lineage are diverse, although the Y-DNA results are not. The group members are relatively closely matched genetically, suggesting that there may be a common ancestor no earlier than 400-500 years ago. The common Rankin ancestor is probably in Scotland, although Ulster is also a possibility. The immigrant ancestor of many of the L2 members first appeared in Pennsylvania or Virginia during the "Great Migration" of Scots-Irish from Ulster. From there, they spread west into the Ohio Valley or south and southwest into Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee.

Genetically, L2 belongs to one of the largest Haplogroups in Western Europe, R1b (R-M343) and its downstream R-M269, the Western Atlantic Modal Haplotype ("WAMH"). Further downstream, L2 descends from the distinctively "Germanic" R-U106 haplogroup, with additional distinctive downstream SNPs L48 and Z9. These represent a possible later addition to the Scots-Irish family tree, descending from similar genetic stock as Angles, Saxons, and Jutes. No other known Rankin lineages descend from R-U106 at this time, although a couple of ungrouped individual members do also have R-U106+.

Thus far, there are three identifiable Rankin sub-lineages in Lineage 2. There are also a number of L2 members who are "one of a kind," meaning each man’s last known Rankin ancestor isn’t (so far as is known) shared with another L2 member. Some members of L2 are “one of a kind” only because they have provided no information about their Rankin family trees, although they may well belong in one of the three known L2 families.

The three known L2 family lines having more than one member in the project are: 

(1) Lineage 2A, the line of John Rankin d. 1749 in Lancaster Co., PA; 

(2) Lineage 2B, the line of Samuel and Eleanor ("Ellen") Alexander Rankin of Lincoln Co., NC; and 

(3) Lineage 2C, the lines of David and Jeanette McCormick Rankin of Frederick Co., VA and William Rankin of Fayette Co., PA.

Members of Lineage 2 who don't have a common ancestor with another member of L2 are designated as "Lineage 2U" on the DNA results chart.

Lineage 2A, Line of John Rankin d. 1749, Lancaster Co., PA

This is the Rankin family line memorialized on the bronze tablet in the Mt. Horeb Cemetery in Jefferson Co., TN. Lineage 2A consists of descendants of John Rankin who died in 1749 in Lancaster Co., PA whose wife was reportedly Mary McElwee. John’s will named his widow Margaret, rather than Mary, sons Thomas and Richard, six daughters, and two sons-in-law. All of the L2A members are descended from John’s son Thomas, who appeared briefly in the records of Cumberland Co., PA, moved to Augusta Co., VA for a time, and then migrated to east Tennessee. No member of the Rankin project self-identifies as a descendant of Richard, who moved from Pennsylvania to Augusta Co., VA, where he died.

John d. 1749 was reportedly a son of William Rankin and grandson of Alexander Rankin of the Scotland “Killing Times” and the 1689 Siege of Londonderry. Hazel Townsend, who is descended from John d. 1749, has done research in Ireland. She found no proof that he was a son of William, or that William was a son of Alexander. Records in Ireland are limited, however. In light of Hazel’s research, the chart below does not include either William or Alexander and, instead, focuses on the line that can be proved. As with Lineage 1, there is no information for persons born after 1900.

JOHN d. 1749

John Rankin

d. 1749

Lancaster, PA



ca 1724-1812

Jefferson, TN




Blount, TN



Jefferson, TN



Jefferson, TN



1781-aft 1870

Harrison, IN

Robert Henderson


Cass, IN

Samuel Steele


Adams, IL



Jefferson, TN




Livingston, KY

John Knox


Douglas, KS

David Steele

ca 1813-1898

Linn, KS

Christopher H.
Jefferson, TN

Wm Sanders


Livingston, KY

John Karl


Shawnee, KS

Samuel Joseph


Wyandotte, KS

Frank Walter
Jefferson, TN
#105150 #516675 #N21274

Lineage 2B, Line of Samuel and Eleanor ("Ellen") Rankin of Lincoln Co., NC

Lineage 2B (“L2B”) is the line of Samuel and Eleanor (“Ellen”) Alexander Rankin of Rowan, Tryon, Mecklenburg, and Lincoln Counties, NC. There are several misconceptions about Samuel and Eleanor that persist among internet family trees. One myth is that Samuel was a son of either Joseph Rankin of Delaware (see Lineage 1, above) or a son of Robert and Rebecca Rankin of Guilford Co., NC (also Lineage 1). Both of these possibilities are conclusively disproved by Y-DNA. Another myth claims that Samuel and his wife were married in Pennsylvania, although her family of origin (her parents were James and Ann Alexander) was already in Anson/Rowan County by at least 1753. Samuel and Eleanor were married about 1759, almost certainly in Rowan. There is no evidence of Samuel’s birthplace. The oral family history of one of Samuel’s descendants claims that he was the original immigrant in his line.

Samuel’s tombstone at the Goshen Grove Presbyterian Cemetery in Gaston Co., NC no longer exists.. A WPA cemetery survey in the 1930s transcribed his tombstone inscription to say that he was born in 1734 and died in 1816. His will was dated 1814, but wasn’t probated until 1826. His last appearance in the Lincoln Co., NC records was in June 1816. He left his most of his surviving children (his son Richard predeceased him) a token bequest, devising the bulk of his estate to his son James. Lincoln Co. Will Book 1: 37. Samuel and Eleanor’s children either remained in the Lincoln/Mecklenburg/Iredell area or moved to Arkansas, Rutherford Co., TN or Shelby Co., IL.

        RANKIN LINEAGE 2B        
Samuel & Eleanor Alexander Rankin, Lincoln, NC
 SAMUEL RANKIN 1734-1816
Shelby, IL
Rutherford, TN
Mecklenburg, NC
Lincoln, NC
Joseph B.
 abt 1799-1862
James Alexander 1829-1881
James H.
John Allen
Robert Benjamin 1870-1957
 Born aft 1900
Joseph P.
John Marvin
Born aft 1900
#559214 #73182 #81394 #888555

Lineage 2C

Based on posted trees and YDNA results, Lineage 2C has two distinct families: (1) David Rankin Sr. of Frederick Co., VA and (2) William Rankin of Fayette Co., PA.


David Sr.’s line is apparently represented by three project members, although one hasn’t posted an ancestry except to state he is descended from “David Rankin b. 1691 in Londonderry” (presumably the same man as the David Rankin who died in 1768 in Frederick Co., VA). 

David Sr. left a Frederick Co. will naming his wife Jennett and four children: sons Hugh, William, and David Jr. and a daughter Barbara. Frederick Co., VA Will Book 3: 443. Many online trees identify David Sr.’s wife as Jennett Mildred, although all of the records involving Jennett identify her without a middle name or initial. Those trees have probably conflated David Sr.’s wife Jennett with a Mildred Rankin who was married to a different David Rankin, one of David Sr.’s grandsons.

David Jr. married Hannah Province or Provence, probably in Frederick County. Their line is represented by two Rankin project participants. David Jr. moved from Frederick to Washington Co., PA and then to Harrison Co., KY, where he died. David Jr.’s brother William also moved to Washington County and died there in 1799. William left a large family, although no known descendants have tested and joined the Rankin project. Some of Hugh’s line probably moved to Kentucky and then to Ohio. 

The second family in Lineage 2C, William Rankin of Fayette Co., PA, is clearly genetically related to the line of David Rankin Sr. within a genealogical time frame. The common ancestor between the two L2C lines is not known.

Common Ancestor
? ?
David Sr. d 1768 Frederick, VA, wife Jennett McCormick William d. 1797, Fayette Co., PA
David Jr. b. 1726   William d. 1808
Thomas b. 1751