Tenant Farmers

The most frequent type of search, although not always the easiest, is one which seeks to trace the tenant farmer who rented a modest property and for the most part remained out of the record. Typical of such a search is our quest for information on the Rankin family. Detail to be had suggested that the family came from Co. Antrim or Co. Tyrone. Thomas Rankin, born about 1833, son of Thomas Rankin and Sarah Carson, married Lydia McNinch, date however unknown. Members of the family left Ireland c.1896 and emigrated to Scotland.

According to the Index of Surnames the name Rankin appears in both Antrim and Tyrone. An attempt to locate the civil marriage record of Thomas and Lydia c. 1853 (a rule of thumb is to look around twenty years after the birth date given) proved unsuccessful. Happily we had the precise birth date for a son, Thomas, born of this couple on 12 July 1872. As luck would have it the birth was registered:

  • 12 July 1872 Ballee, Connor, Thomas to Thomas Rankin, Ballee, farmer and Lydia Ann Rankin formerly M’Aninch, registered in the district of Galgorm, union of Ballymena, Co. Antrim

The details of registration gave much needed information such as the precise location and the correct spelling of Lydia’s name. Armed with these details another search of the civil marriage registers produced the marriage entry of Thomas Rankin to Lydia McAninch:

  • Thomas Rankin, farmer of Ballee townland and Lydia McAninch, spinster of Brocklemont townland on 22 November 1856. Lydia’s father was Samuel McAninch a blacksmith. Thomas’s father was a gardener.

The couple were married in the First Presbyterian Church of Ballymena, Co. Antrim where registers were kept from 1824. This would give the bride’s ancestors as weddings traditionally took place in the bride’s church. The groom’s parish was Connor where the Presbyterian baptisms from 1819 are in local custody. The current Directory of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland provides us with the local minister’s name and address.

According to the General Alphabetical Index to the Townlands and Towns of Ireland. Ballee townland is in Connor civil parish, union of Ballymena. Sir Richard Griffith’s Primary Valuation for Co. Antrim, a land valuation c.1860 which lists property occupiers for tax purposes, had the following entry for the ancestor:

  • Thomas Rankin of Ballee townland, Connor parish rented a house and 7 acres 2 roods 20 perches from the landlord David S. Ker, annual rateable valuation £4 15s.

The valuation gives us some idea of the extent of the property and therefore the economic status of the ancestor.

Brocklamont, the bride’s townland, is in Ahoghill parish, Lower Toome Barony, Ballymena union. There was no entry for McAninch in Griffith’s Valuation in this parish although the surname appears in other parishes. It is likely that Samuel did not rent land and was therefore not included.

The Tithe Applotment Book of 1835 for Connor parish, which listed occupiers of agricultural land liable to pay tithes to the established church, had this entry for Rankin:

  • Charles Rankin of Ballee Townland, Connor parish rented 5 acres 26 perches, tithes 2s. 6d.

McAninch does not appear in Ahoghill parish in Protestant Householders 1740 (PRONI T808/15258; Genealogical Office MS. 539-539A). Connor parish records have not survived in this source nor in the Religious Census of 1766. (PRONI T808/15267; Genealogical Office MS. 536-537.) The Hearth Money Roll 1669 for Co. Antrim, a list of householders who had a hearth or fireplace for which they were taxed 2 shillings, had no record of Rankin in Ballee although the name appears elsewhere. The names of early Scots settlers can be found in the Hearth Money Rolls of the mid seventeenth century that exist for Antrim, Armagh, Derry, Donegal, Fermanagh, Tyrone, Monaghan and Cavan among other counties.

Other useful references to complete the search would be Hayes, Manuscript Sources for the History of Irish Civilization. B.R. Sharkie, Bibliography of Printed Material Relating to Co. Antrim, and for the future Gravestone Inscriptions: Co. Antrim, the first two volumes of which have already been published. Finally we look in George F. Black’s Surnames of Scotland which describes Rankin as a pet name with the diminutive suffix ‘kin’ added. In Irish it is Raincin. The name appears in Ayrshire, Scotland in the latter part of the sixteenth century. MacAninch derives from Mac Anonghus or son of Angus.