The Mysterious William Ralston of Greensburg, Westmoreland County, PA (1750 ish to aft. 1801)

William Ralston (born about 1750) settled in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania in April, 1769 according to the testimony he gave to the court. This testimony can be found in the Pennsylvania, Published Archives Series, 1664-1902, 6th series, Volume XIII, Part Two on pages 31 and 32 and of which you can read below. This is also available in full on Ancestry.com.

In February of 1786, William tells the court that he claimed land north of Big Sewickley Creek, next to the lands of Jeremiah Lochrey and John Hughes in April/May of 1769. This is the exact time when this area of Pennsylvania was opened to legal settlement by the white people.  He loses this land during the American Revolution, and the US government pays him 646 pounds on March 17, 1782 as a result of the confiscation of his estate. You can see these documents in the same 6th series, Volume XII, pages 578 and 845.q

It is important to note the mention of Jeremiah Lochrey. This connects our William to Lochrey and we can then assume with a good deal of certainty that the William Ralston in the Pennsylvania Volunteers in the company commanded by Captain Jeremiah Lochrey, stationed in Westmoreland County, for the defense of the the frontiers is our William.

William Ralston was a sergeant in this company from April 11 to October 10, 1780 and then promoted to Ensign from October 11 to December 15, 1780. He is not listed as being specifically in the company of Rangers who were under Captain William Guthrie’s Company which served under the command of Captain Lochrey. But the term “ranger” was used for the soldiers who defended the American frontier at the time of the revolution from the American Indians working in conjunction with the British.

Here is a fabulous map of Pennsylvania in 1770. If you download it you can zoom in and see all of the marked areas.

1777fadenatlaspa

What else can we deduce with some certainty about this William Ralston?

He is not the William Ralston in East Caln, Chester County nor is William of East Caln, born about 1733, the father of my William. William of East Caln is the third son of John Ralston out of Pikeland and then Vincent, Chester County. John Sr. begins to own property in Chester County in the 1730s. William remained in East Caln, Chester County until he removed to Philadelphia and died there 18 Nov 1808 at the age of 75. Our William was in Westmoreland County with certainty. So the William Ralston in East Caln on the 1751, 1754, and 1786 census (and others) is another man. William Ralston also owned land in West Nantmeal and lists this as his residence when he purchases additional land in East Caln in 1756. See Book T-4, Page 629, Deeds of Chester County. He sold his property in East Caln to Joshua Way in 1801 Deeds Book W-2, Page 48 and he lists himself as being of Philadelphia at the time.

John Ralston Sr. came from Northern Ireland with his son Robert in 1728 and they settled in Pikeland, Chester County. Robert’s son John born in Vincent, Cester Co in 1744 and died in West Vincent in 1825. There is an entire article about these semi-famous and important Ralstons in the book Old Families of Philadelphia. Robert was an important man in the American Revolution and the listings of these Ralston men out of the Philadelphia militia in the Pennsylvania Published Archive Series are not my Ralstons, the Robert and William who lived in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania. William Ralston of East Caln, Chester County had only one child, Robert, born 18 DEC 1761 in East Caln, Chester County, Pennsylvania. This Robert resided in Philadelphia by 1780 and is the reason William moved there. Same names and approximately the same ages, different family.

My William was on Forbes Road in Hempfield Township, Bedford County, PA in 1773, an area that became part of Westmoreland County.  Pennsylvania Tax and Exoneration List:

 

WmRalston1773HempfieldTownship

He lived in or very near to the historic Old Hanna’s Town.

In 1776, his son Jon was born near Greensburg, Westmoreland County, also very near to Hanna’s Town. We know this from the book titled Butler County (PA) History.

In 1774, William’s brother Robert signs a petition of Westmoreland County at Fort Shippen. You can see this in Pennsylvania Published Archives Series 1, Volume 4, 534.

RobertRalstonSignsPetition1774

 

You can read more about Fort Shippen and other western frontier forts and places here.

Let’s stop here at 1776 and with William’s American Revolution service and continue next time. I have the archives to continue perusing and also Westmoreland land deeds and surveys to look up and download. We have a court proceeding to find also for William lost his land in a court proceeding in the 1790s. A court proceeding that arose due to an event during the Revolution, separate from the confiscation noted above. The Ralstons were Scots-Irish presbyterians so maybe we can find some church proceeding records on them also.

Once we find everything we can readily find on William and Robert (and I have Robert’s will) we will try and see if we can deduce from whence they came to Westmoreland County and to where William went, along with wives and children.

Make note please of the proximity of the Hanna family in Westmoreland County as DNA results show a common ancestor 12 generations back from me. Or a few more generations back from William.

William ~ John Sr ~ John Jr ~ Millen ~ William A ~ Ivan ~ Richard ~ Me.

But more on this as I cannot locate a birth record for Ivan, though he was born in 1902 when they were required at the county level in Iowa. Orphan Train baby?

 

The Conundrum of NPEs in Genealogical DNA Testing and the Ralston Family

I am finally finding some time to dig into my Ralston line. I was prompted to do this as my sibling’s DNA test is showing a possible Non-Paternal Event.

This means that somewhere on the male Ralston Y-DNA line, there was (possibly) an event in a family’s life in which they gave one of my ancestors the last name of Ralston, or he took on the surname himself, but his biological father was not a biological Ralston.

There are a lot of armchair DNA genealogists these days, running their little surname projects and asking everyone with the same surname to join the project and get tested. One of them did this to me and then wasn’t so nice about our results. Told me to stop saying my Ralstons were Scottish (not that I have), that I wasn’t a “real Ralston.” That my family tree was very problematic. See, he didn’t use the family tree I provided to the project but the one I was working on on Ancestry. And I don’t claim anything for sure without historical documents and references. If you haven’t noticed yet, most of the trees on Ancestry are cobbled together without fact-checking or sources. People don’t realize there were three Benjamin Ellisons all born within a year or so of each other and all born in Yorkshire (but in different towns or villages), for example, and they cannot possibly all have the same father. You have to do the work to sort these men out before you lay claim to one as yours.

BTW: I did figure out my Benjamin Ellison and was able to take his line back to the 1600s.

But the thing about Ancestry search is that the more you add to your tree, the better your search results. To combat this, I’ve taken to creating new trees with people I suspect might be my ancestors. Then I work through this tree, using ancestry, familysearch.org, archives, libraries, other source material. And when I can connect for sure with other people in another tree, I do so.

Couple of other problems with the armchair DNA genealogist’s claims. First, Y-DNA only tests the male line. So here is a very real scenario. One of my Ralston ancestors’ mother was a Ralston and she gave birth out of wedlock to him. I say this because on my maternal side, my fifth great-grandparents had a son out of wedlock and he was baptized under his mother’s maiden name and then a year later, his mother married his father. The baptismal record lists his father’s legal name. This child went the rest of his life using the name on his baptismal record, never using his father’s surname.

I could indeed be a real Ralston. Our maternal ancestry makes us just as much of who we are as our paternal does. Also, if our family has gone by the Ralston surname now since the early 1700s, I think we can say we are real Ralstons. Adopted doesn’t make someone any less part of the family.

Second, the Ralstons were Scotch-Irish Americans, or Ulster Scots, in the mid 1700s in Pennsylvania as is the family our DNA seems to be matching up with. Ulster Scots were from Scotland but some of them immigrated to Northern Ireland in the 1600s to help Mary Queen of Scots’s, the Roman Catholic queen who came to an awful end, Protestant son, King James I, populate Ireland with Protestants. Beginning in the early 1700s this wasn’t working out so well for these predominantly tenant farmers and they began migrating to colonial America. Land for the taking (or so they thought). They weren’t Irish in their ethnicity/heritage; they were Scottish. Most of them anyway. One hundred years is a long time to live in Northern Ireland and they intermarried and so forth. But basically, if you go far back enough, and you are of Scotch-Irish descent, you’ll find your roots in Scotland.

But like I said to the guy, Scotland is not better than Northern Ireland or vice versa. The English aren’t better than the Irish or the Scottish. Come on, this is the 21st century.

Back to figuring out an NPE. Where could this break have come into the line. My brother? My father? My grandfather? My great-grandfather? And so forth on back.

I called a cousin who knew both my grandfather and great-grandfather Ralston. We decided we are fairly certain that my father was my grandfather’s son and that my grandfather was his father’s son. I am fairly certain that my brother is my father’s son but there is no way I am bringing this up to either him or his mother.

Who do I check? My great-grandfather William Alfred Ralston of Iowa? His father, Millen Ralston of Butler County, PA then Jackson County, IA? His father John Ralston Jr of Butler County, PA then Jackson County, Iowa? His father John Ralston Sr of Greensburg, Westmoreland County, PA then Butler County, PA? Or his father, William?

So I decided to start with William Ralston born about 1755 somewhere and who suddenly appears in 1769 in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania. I am not sure who his father was. Or his wife. The published sources on the Ralstons, such as The Golden Threads and the other Ralston book have a lot of inaccurate information because they found a Ralston with that name in a locality (ignored the other ones in other nearby localities) and then blended the men together. There are at least three William Ralston’s in Western PA during the mid 1700s, so we cannot blend them together. Ralston was a common name.

I will start recording the results of this search in future blog posts.

But if you were notified of an NPE in your family DNA results, don’t let the project coordinators force upon you uneducated assumptions. These project coordinators should be held to the genealogical standards of sourcing, using primary and secondary credible documents, and of relaying information within the historical context of your ancestor’s life. It is okay to make an educated and informed best guess, after you have largely ruled out the other options.

And Northern Ireland is stunningly beautiful. On the Antrim coast you can see Scottish islands and practically swim across. You can at least take a boat.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
The Antrim coast in Northern Ireland with a view to Scotland.