James Sharp, Betsey Ralston’s Father

Bestey Sharp married John Ralston, Sr about 1799 in what was then called Mercer County, Pennsylvania. By about 1803, John and Betsey moved down to Brady Township, Butler County, Pennsylvania.

In the History of Butler County, PA, within the biography of John Ralston Sr, it is noted that Betsey’s father was James Sharp and that either he or her brother James Sharp Jr was the founder of Sharpsville, PA.

So I contacted the Sharpsville Historical Society and ended up getting very involved in figuring out this James Sharp family. I have been working on this for months with absolutely frustrating results and have finally gotten some breakthroughs.

It is clear to me that James Sharp, Betsey’s father, was not the founder of Sharpsville. This does not mean his son wasn’t, only that he did not live on or own land anywhere near Sharpsville in Mercer County.

Betsey’s father, James Sharp, moved his family to what is now called Washington Township, Lawrence County in about 1797 but at the time was called Slippery Rock Township in Mercer County. In 1818, James Sharp sold 75 acres of the land he was living on for fifty dollars. He had an agreement with Dr Peter Mowry of Pittsburgh who owned vast amounts of land through warrant in this area, that Sharp would settle the land and improve it and in time would own it. But Sharp owed Mowry 50$ and he ended up selling the land to Henry Meacom (Macom) to pay the debt and Sharp walked away without any proceeds.

Here is the 1818 deed:

You will see from the deed there are names to tell us how to identify this piece of land. It was originally granted in the name of Wilson Hunt on a warrant. It adjoins James Gilfillen’s land on the east and Peter Mowry’s land is on the north and south. James Robeson owns 75 acres of this tract of land.

Here is the warrant survey of this land.

But most importantly you will see this land on warrant survey maps. The best map to look at, though the property was in Washington Township is the Scott Township map, for it shows the other pieces of land Mowry owned nearby, some of which he sold to James Gilfillen. And of those three pieces at the very top right of Scott Township owned by Mowry I had to figure out which one was the land James Sharp had been living on.

Finally, the Library of Congress has some very old maps of PA counties available and you can look at the map of Lawrence and Beaver Counties and see where James Sharp and his family lived from about 1797 to 1818. How do we know that I have the right spot on the map?

According to History of Lawrence County Pennsylvania by S.W. and P.A. DURANT, 1877 :

Early Settlements of Washington Township

“Probably the first white settler in the township was George Hettenbaugh, originally from Germany, who came in 1797, and settled the farm now owned by George and Michael Jordan. Mr. Hettenbaugh had two sons with him–Michael and George. They brought a good share of their provisions on their backs, having their household goods packed on the backs of four horses–a fine start for pioneers. Old Mr. Hettenbaugh set out the first orchard in the neighborhood, and a few of the trees are yet standing. Hettenbaugh run takes its name from this family, who settled at its source.
The same year the Hettenbaughs settled, a number of families came to the township and located in the immediate neighborhood.
Alexander Anderson came to America from Ireland, about 1789-90. Some time during the year 1797 he came to what is now Washington township, and settled the farm now owned by his grandsons, John and Joseph Totten. Either the same season or next, Mr. Anderson planted some corn, potatoes, &c., and soon set out an orchard, the second one in the vicinity. The old orchard now standing on Henry Jordan’s place was set out about 1812-13.
James and John Smith came the same year (1797) from the Chartiers valley, and helped swell the settlement begun by the Hettenbaughs.
James Sharp and family came about the same time and settled in the same neighborhood, as did also M. McLaughlin, who located on the farm now owned by Jonathan Bonny.”

So if you look at the map, you will see Gilfillen still owned the land at the time of the map and Hettenbaugh’s land is noted and most importantly, Henry Meacom’s name is on the map, which is where James Sharp lived.

So if you are descended from this James Sharp, you could visit this ancestral place, now that we know exactly where it is.

And when you read the published accounts of the history of Sharpsville, note that the accounts are mixing up two men named James Sharp.

I checked all the land sales by James Sharp as guarantor in Mercer County and the remainder note that James Sharp and his wife Nancy in the 1830’s sold land in New Castle, and then up in Sharpsville, about 30 miles northeast. New Castle is not that far from Washington Township, and all of these sales by a James Sharp, may be Betsey’s brother.

In 1824 and 1825, a couple of PA state senators attempted to get a James Sharp a veteran’s pension. This James Sharp was out of Butler County, PA and he was very old, 82 years old. I would hedge a bet this is my five times great-grandfather, Betsey’s father and I am waiting for the documents on this petition. Hopefully, the documents will reveal the militia Sharp served in and maybe even other identifying information about him. My James Sharp was born about 1750 and he was probably living with his children down in Butler County, being a man of no means, having sold his land in 1818 and walking away with nothing. John Ralston Sr was prosperous and I’m sure he and Betsey took care of him. The Scots- Irish stuck together.

James Sharp, according to 1800 and 1810 census, had many children: At least two sons, and five daughters of which I only know of Betsey for sure. A John Sharp of the right age, lived in Mercer County while James was there (actually Lawrence County) and he may be a son. Another man named Joseph Sharp, whose eldest son was James, lived in Slippery Rock Twp, Lawrence County and was the right age to be James’s son. I have to research this man yet.

To be continued….

William & Marth Ralston, Scots Irish Presbyterians in Colonial Pennsylvania

I like to try and immerse myself in the world of the ancestor I am working on. Context can provide important clues and paths to follow when trying to find appropriate genealogical and historical documents. For instance, it wasn’t until I went to West Yorkshire and travelled around there that I could with confidence trace my Ellison family back to the late 1600s. The context of the landscape and topography of the area were important facets of understanding this family.

As you know, I’ve been working on William Ralston (abt 1750- aft. 1801) of Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania. I know there is a microform I need from the Presbyterian Historical Society and some court records at the Pennsylvania State Archives, but both of these archives are closed due to the pandemic. I am trying to find a microfilm reader near me, as I think the PHS will loan me the film via interlibrary loan. The Library of Michigan is still closed so I cannot use their readers.

What I am certain of is William and his brother Robert Ralston were Scots Irish Presbyterians. I am not certain where they were born, my guess is Northern Ireland. We know with certainty that William claimed his land in Westmoreland County in 1769, according to a court record.

I have found a newspaper reference from The Pennsylvania Gazette that a nineteen-year-old William Ralston arrived in 1769 in Pennsylvania as an indentured servant and then ran away, and that he was Irish. For some reason, I am leaning toward this William as being mine. I think it is the idea of him making his way out to the frontier and claiming land in the wilderness, during hostilities with the indigenous people. Really imagine this in your mind, he showed up in the woods and had to build himself shelter, hunt/grow/find food to eat. There was no real town or settlement here at this time: Hanna’s Town was a few years away still. And he didn’t leave this land until after he lost the land in 1801 due to William Perry not fulfilling his obligations. I can see being a wanted fugitive indentured servant as adequate motivation to endure these hardships.

His brother Robert was on the other side of the Big Sewickley Creek (One side was called Huntingdon and the other Hempfield), but I think he followed William out there. Just because his name is William does not mean his father’s name was William. We do not know the birth order of this family and if he is first born he would have been named after his paternal grandfather. I am not sure his son William is his first born.

Everyone from both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland was termed “Irish” in the 1700s.

Here is a fabulous map I found to help picture the movements of the settlers and the changes in Pennsylvania. This map helped me ascertain that it is possible William was in Mercer County in 1800. When William and Martha had to sell their land in Westmoreland County, they listed themselves as being in Allegheny County at the time (1801). You can see that Mercer had just been formed out of Allegheny County in 1800.

Therefore, this is probably William and Martha in Mercer County on the 1800 census:

The census lists

Name William Rolston

Home in 1800 Mercer, Pennsylvania

Free White Persons – Males – 16 thru 25 1

Free White Persons – Males – 45 and over 1 WILLIAM

Free White Persons – Females – 10 thru 15 1 ISABELLA

Free White Persons – Females – 16 thru 25 1 JENNET

Free White Persons – Females – 45 and over 1 MARTHA

Number of Household Members 5

William had five sons: John (1776-1849), David (1778-1859), Jeremiah (1786-1847), Robert (1788-1835), and William (??-??). Who is the son living with them in 1800? Robert would have been twelve and Jeremiah fourteen.

Where were William’s minor sons in 1800? There should be at least two sons listed with him, unless one was apprenticing somewhere or with an older brother, such as David or William.

It is important to note that the two daughters were not married at this time. When searching for what happened to them, we can look for marriages after 1800.

Now I can try and locate William’s burial.

John was living next door. Here he is on the 1800 census with his family. The map above explains why in published articles about John he is listed as having traded his land in Lawrence County for land in Butler County. Lawrence County was formed from Mercer County in 1849.

Name John Rolston

Home in 1800 Mercer, Pennsylvania

Free White Persons – Males – Under 10 1    WILLIAM

Free White Persons – Males – 16 thru 25 1   JOHN

Free White Persons – Females – 16 thru 25 1  ELIZABETH

Number of Household Members 3

I have that John’s son William was born in 1800.

I just finished the book “The Scots Irish of Early Pennsylvania” by Judith Ridner (Temple University Press, 2018) and I recommend it.

It’s not a very long book, but it gives an overview of the Scots Irish (as they called themselves) and their migration from Scotland to Northern Ireland in the 1600s and then to America in the 1700s. It gives a good understanding of the politics of their time, their background, and their culture. The Scots Irish Prebyterians were seeking economic opportunity, including affordable land, and to be free of religious discrimination. Pennsylvania in particular was welcoming to people of all faiths. England had imposed Penal Laws, and required Presbyterians to pay tithes to the Church of Ireland (Anglican). Being a dissenter against the Anglican church created hardships for the Presbyterians in the 1700s.

One of the interesting things I learned was the importance of the production of linen to the Scots Irish families economic well-being and how this was a women’s trade. The Scots Irish grew flaxseed in America and the women spun this into linen thread which was woven into cloth, as they had done in Northern Ireland.

I can picture Martha Ralston at her spinning wheel, creating linen thread and teaching Jennet and Isabella to do the same.

Another fascinating tidbit is the Scots Irish carving of tombstones.

The True Image: Gravestone Art and the Culture of Scotch Irish Settlers in the Pennsylvania and Carolina Backcountry (Richard Hampton Jenrette Series in Architecture and the Decorative Arts) by [Daniel W. Patterson]

There is a chapter on the hostilities with the indigenous peoples and Ridner relays information about a couple of horrific massacres perpetuated upon innocent Native Americans at the hands of a Scots Irish militia mob. The Scots Irish, generally speaking, hated the Indians and were prone to resolving all conflicts with the Indians through violence. The whites simply did not care that the land they were settling most often had been stolen or deceitfully obtained from the local indigenous tribes. Since William served on the frontier in 1780, we can make an educated guess that he most likely perpetuated acts of violence upon Native Americans. Andrew Jackson, president during the removal of the Cherokee Indians from their lawfully-owned lands which we refer to as the Trail of Tears, was Scots Irish.

William’s grandson, John Jr, married (about 1833) a woman, Nancy Agnes, who was both white and Native American and her son, Millen, married (about 1861) a woman who was white and also Native American.

The notes contain references to other books/articles I want to read now, such as Irish Immigrants in the Land of Canaan: Letters and Memoirs from Colonial and Revolutionary America, 1675-1815 (Oxford University Press, 2003); The True Image: Gravestone Art and the Culture of Scotch Irish Settlers in the Pennsylvania and Carolina Backcountry (University of NC Press, 2012); Redemptioner and Indentured Servants in the Colony and Commonwealth of Pennsylvania by Karl Frederick Geiser, supplement, Yale Review, 10, no. 2 (August 1901); The Scotch-Irish of Colonial Pennsylvania (UNC Press, 1944); Breaking the Backcountry: The Seven Years’ War in Virginia and Pennsylvania, 1754-1765 (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2003).

More William Ralston (1750-after 1801) Information

A couple of additional documents from the Pennsylvania Published Archives. Here are two pages that document William Ralston of Westmoreland County receiving his pay as an Ensign for his service in 1780 during the American Revolution. He was paid 15 British pounds in 1782.

Below you will find several pages that document the most probable reason William Ralston lost his land during the American Revolution, and this loss resulted in a court finding that he be compensated. You will see below that “a set of people who call themselves Virginians have taken possession of most of the lands here…” writes Devereux Smith from Hanna’s Town in 1775.

Devereux Smith writes again on behalf of the white inhabitants in and near Hanna’s Town that they are in need of assistance to deal with the Virginians.

William Ralston’s Friend Jeremiah Lochry (1731-1824) of Westmoreland County, PA

Jeremiah Lochry (Lochrey, Loughry) was a pretty interesting guy. I can understand why William Ralston (1750 – aft. 1801) of N. Huntingdon in Westmoreland County might name one of his sons after him.

Jeremiah Lochry would have been about the same age as William’s father. Lochry was born about 1731 and he immigrated with his father, Jeremiah, and his brother Archibald prior to 1740 from County Londonderry, Northern Ireland. They settled in Lurgan Township, Cumberland County, PA and his father died before 1750.

Jeremiah died 21 JAN 1824 at the age of 94 in Westmoreland County and is buried at Congruity Cemetery.  Read a death announcement below:

There is a Robert Ralston who was buried in this cemetery in 1829 at the age of 40, whom I suspect might be Robert Ralston’s son, and William’s nephew.  In the Old Congruity Celebration William Ralston is listed as an elder. But I’m not sure if this is the William we are working on. I suspect that it is.

I have already listed and documented a few of Jeremiah Lochry’s service periods in the American Revolution.  His brother Archibald is the well-documented Colonel Archibald Lochry who was killed during a fight with Mohawk forces led by Simon Girty and Chief Joseph Brant in 1781. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archibald_Lochry

Lochry’s Defeat by Hal Sherman

I found a reference that Jeremiah Lochry’s wife was killed either at the burning of Miller’s Station or of Hanna’s Town in 1782. Lochry and his wife had one child, Barbara, born about 1760.



Jeremiah Lochry signed a 1774 petition, similar to the one Robert Ralston (spelled Roulston) in Hempfield Township signed, to Governor John Penn in regards to their fears of an “Indian war.” Jeremiah signed along with Robert Hanna out of Hanna’s Town.  We know that William Ralston lived very close to Hanna’s Town on the Big Sewickley. See History of Indiana County, Pennsylvania: 1745 to 1880, page 138.

According to the book Profiles of Patriots: A Biographical Reference of American Revolutionary War Patriots and their Descendants by Moira Ann Jacobs, in 1784 Jeremiah Lochry became a spy for the American Colonies, signing an oath and recruited by the President of the Extreme Executive Counsel of PA, John Dickinson. (page 54)

Much is written of Jeremiah and published in the Loughry Genealogy, including an autobiographical statement. See the pages listed below.

The historian “Day” says of him: “An old frontier man who had been in Armstrong’s Expedition, lingered around Kittaning for many years wandering from house to house, staying all night with people and repaying their hospitality with anecdotes of his adventures.”

I would surmise that our William was in the company Jeremiah talks about lastly, on pages 13 and 14.

You will note that William Perry was a neighbor to Jeremiah Lochry. You can imagine Lochry vouching for Perry to Ralston to secure Perry’s bonds with his lands.  The land Ralston ended up losing in 1801.

You can read the pages in the section on Jeremiah Lochry below:

William Ralston’s Connection to William Perry of Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania

I am still trying to figure out how William Ralston ended up owing the debt, along with John Miller, of William Perry.

The Pennsylvania State Archives does have the court records from 1792, but the archives are closed due to the pandemic.

I have found some things on William Perry and also more of a connection between the two and a bit more on Ralston’s service as a Ranger.

William Perry seemed to be a respectable sort of fellow.

He was the Captain of a company of rangers in Westmoreland County, sometime between 1778 and 1783. I tend to think toward the earlier years.

Here is a list of his company from the Pennsylvania Published Archives, Vol 23, page 335:

Take note that Jeremiah Lochry is listed under Perry’s company. Jeremiah was an important person in William Ralston’s life. He named one of his sons, Jeremiah. He was William’s neighbor. He was William’s captain when William was an Ensign in 1780 as a Ranger for Westmoreland.

Perry was a sheriff of Westmoreland County also for a number of years. Elected at Hanna’s Town in 1777 and still elected a sheriff through 1789. He was a collector of excise in 1778. He was also treasurer of Westmoreland County for some years. His people trusted him.

It seems something went wrong with Perry in 1787. John Nicholson posted public notices that as treasurer Perry had not settled his accounts and had until 2 July 1787 to do so.

Since the court case was determined in 1792, I am leaning toward this being the incident in which William Ralston ended up losing his land due to Perry’s debts (rather than the family story of 1778 in the Ralston books) but until I see the court documents, it is all speculation.

I was wondering why William Ralston, since he was in Westmoreland County in 1769, and was a young man at the time, hadn’t been more involved in the militia and I think I have found that he was earlier involved, not just in 1780.

He is listed on the list of Rangers on the Frontiers 1778 to 1783, which unfortunately has no precise date listed with service. He is listed on the general list and also as serving with George Baird’s company in Westmoreland County:

Since Lochry was serving in Perry’s company, not as a Captain, and Ralston in Baird’s company, not as an officer, I think these are earlier records of service because Lochry in 1780 was a Captain of his own company with Ralston as a Sergeant and then an Ensign and Perry was an elected official by this time.

I found this interesting article written by Gregory T. Knouff of Rutgers University, New Brunswick in which he talks about what it was like to be a Ranger on the Western Frontier of Pennsylvania. It is not pleasant to think about the violence and racisim in which William Ralston operated.

I have figured out, I think, how Ralston’s land was confiscated for some time during the Revolution, and this will be next time’s blog along with some more interesting information all gleaned from the Pennsylvania Published Archives. Stay tuned.

Searching for William Ralston in Deeds, 1773-1886 Westmoreland County.

Re: Digitized records available at familysearch.org through the catalog. There is an index and then all deeds are digitized.

So we saw from the last blog post William Ralston’s 1769 and also 1786 warrant survey for his land on the south side of Sewickley Creek in Huntingdon Twp, Westmoreland County. His land of about 280 acres bordered William Boyd on the east, William Howey on the west, William Boggs to the north, William Martin, James Robinson on the south, and on the 1786 survey the land shows adjoining Henry McClintock.

Then in 1790 William sells land to Robert Ralston. He sells the land for 300 pounds. There are 299 acres, John Boyd is on the east, James Robinson is on the south, William Huey on the west, James Pinkerton on the north. The land comes with water rights, a warrant, and a map, two mares, a cow, a sow, and 9 shoats (piglets) on the 25th day of May, 1790.

I am fairly certain that this is the land William first claimed in 1769 and of which the two warrant maps show.

William Ralston Deed to Robert Ralston

Then in 1792, Robert Ralston dies. He leaves a will. Signed on the 17th May 1792.

He is Robert Ralston of Hempfield Township, Westmoreland County. He leaves half of all his estate real and personal to his beloved wife, Jean and the other half to his son Robert.

Unto his brother William’s son Jeremiah 150 acres out of the estate his father now lives on and being in the township of Huntingdon.  And the remainder of that estate he wants equally divided between William’s wife and children viz unto Isabella and Jennet, Martha and Robert. He allows Jeremiah to give unto his brother John 6 pounds as soon as he comes of age. Robert made his wife and John Cambel executors.

So Robert names William’s family in the will that he is leaving something to. Viz unto denotes a listing that will follow of whom he was speaking about prior. Since Martha is mentioned on another land record as being William’s wife, we may be able to assume that William’s children were Jeremiah, Isabella, Jennet, Robert, and John.  You will note that John is not yet of age at the time of the will in 1792, which corresponds with our birth year of 1776 for John. This does not mean William did not have other children, only that I cannot document at this time that they existed.

I will have to check on how old Jeremiah was in 1792, he is listed as being born in 1786 elsewhere, making him only 6 years old at the time of the will. William’s son John is only left 6 pounds.

Robert Ralston’s Will from 1792

The land sale and will are attempts by William to not be forced into forfeiture of his land. Robert willed William’s land back to William’s minor children and wife, which gave William legal ownership of his own land. Unfortunately, this was an unsuccessful attempt.

You will see in the deed below that upon petition of John Nesbitt, James Lawson, and William Moore a judgment was obtained in the PA supreme court on 19 JAN 1792 against William Perry, the former treasurer of Westmoreland County. And two tracts of land in S. Huntington Twp were levied in the judgment, one being 300 acres owned by John Miller and the other being 300 acres owned by William Ralston. A fieri facias was issued on the judgement 21 JAN 1792. The rents issues and profits rendered within 7 years of the judgement did not satisfy the exection and a writ of vendition exponas was issued 29 MAR 1800. The sheriff then sold William Ralston’s and John Miller’s lands to satisfy the judgment.

Sheriff’s Sale Record of William Ralston’s Land 1803

William’s land was sold to Daniel Brenniman for $1180 and John Miller’s land was sold to John Hanna. While this sheriff was in office, he did not render the deeds as Brenniman had not fully paid for the land. The final deed below testifies that Brenniman did pay in full a couple of years later and so the deeds were rendered.

Testimony that Brenniman Paid for Land

The deed to Brenniman is kind of misleading as it says that William Ralston and his wife Martha of Allegheny County sold the land to Daniel Brenniman for $1380. But Ralston was forced to sell the land by the sheriff and give whatever he still owed for the judgement. We know this is the warrant land William claimed in 1769 and which there is a warrant survey of in 1786: it is land adjoining Henry McClintock’s land. And adjoining McClintock’s is how it is described in the deeds of 1801 through 1804.

William Ralston Deed of Land Sale to Brenniman 1801

It is good to see confirmation that William’s wife’s name was Martha and now we have a residence for the couple in 1801: Allegheny County. We know that both of them were alive in 1801.

Because William lost his land it is highly unlikely that he left a will but now we can look for him in Allegheny County.  Actually, we will look in Butler County, which was formed from Allegheny County in 1800. Why Butler County? William’s son John is reported to have purchased property in 1801 in Brady Township, Butler County.

So what’s up with this William Perry, who did something and it caused William Ralston and John Miller to lose their tracts of land?

Time to search that story out.

I also noted all Ralstons who sold land in Westmoreland County through the 1810s and will check those deeds out: Allen, David Sr, Elizabeth, James, John, Martha, Robert for any connections to our William and his brother Robert.

To be continued …

William and Robert Ralston Westmoreland Co, PA Land Warrants

You can look up on the Warrant Registers at the PA State Archives for your ancestors to see if they were the “first” owners of land in Pennsylvania, given to them on a warrant. Remember that the Native Americans owned this land first and then that land was taken from them.

The Warrant Registers are divided by county.

In order to check the Westmoreland County warrant registers for names and where exactly in the county the land was located go here: http://www.phmc.state.pa.us/bah/dam/rg/di/r17-88WarrantRegisters/WestmorelandPages/r17-88WestmorelandPageInterface.htm

You will need to write down the Letter and Numbers listed after the name, as designated on the far left of the entry. For instance H-31 105 and A-51 35.

I did take the time to check if any of the lands in Westmoreland had been released to William or Robert Ralston, as the register is alphabetical to original warrant applicant. I did find one example of this, so maybe worth the time.

Not all of the copied warrant surveys are digitized.  The copied surveys run from Volumes A through D.

You can find the copies here: http://www.phmc.state.pa.us/bah/dam/rg/di/r17-114CopiedSurveyBooks/r17-114MainInterfacePage.htm

William Ralston’s Warrant Survey of 350 acres was recorded 16 MAR 1786:

Volume A-13 228 and Vol D-57 266

Book A-13 pg 459Book A-13 pg 458 WmRalston

Book D-57 pg 531WmRalston

Robert Ralston’s land warrants (Robert died in 1792):

Indiana County (originated out of Westmoreland) Vol A-51 35 30 JUL 1784, Huntingdon Twp C-178 256 29 APR 1785, From Claudius Paul Raquet to Robert 14 MAY 1788 C-168 189:

Book A-51 pg 73Book A-51 pg 72RobtRalston

Book C-178 pg 512Book C-178 pg 511RobertRalston

Book C-168 pg 377Robertbought

A surprise find is there is a John Ralston in the same area, listed as Indiana County, who has a warrant from 22 JAN 1787. Volume C-190 300. Could he be another brother to William and Robert?

Book C-190 pg 600Book C-190 pg 599JohnRalston

There are more land records to dig through. To be continued…




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.


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:



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.



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 Scots-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?

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.

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

Not my Benjamin Ellison of Birkenshaw/Burnsall, Yorkshire

There are several Benjamin Ellison’s from the same ancient parish of Birstall in Yorkshire all born between 1781 and 1786. On Ancestry.com these men are being rolled into one man.

I myself made the mistake of thinking Frances Rebecca Ellison born 1814 and baptized at St Peter’s in Birstall was the daughter of my Benjamin Ellison but what made me realize the error was that my Benjamin Ellison was a currier, and never a woolstapler. Frances Rebecca’s father Benjamin was a woolstapler. I began trying to figure out who was this other Benjamin and Mary Ellison in Birstall, Yorkshire.

Benjamin Ellison (not my Benjamin!) was born in March 1784 in Cleckheaton (of the Birstall Parish) to John Ellison and Hannah Wilkinson. He had a sister named Sally born 1785 in Cleckheaton and also a brother named Edward born 1788. Sally married Richard Dixson and these two were the signed witnesses to Benjamin’s marriage to Mary Beaumont at St Martin in the Fields, Middlesex, England on 28 DEC 1809. This is why it is important to read the original documents yourself; they often give clues.

Mary Beaumont was the (well-off) daughter of Benjamin and Rebecca Beaumont. She and Benjamin had three children: Francis Beaumont Ellison (1810-1898), Frances Rebecca Ellison (1814-1889 and never married), and George Ellison (1819-1896). All of whom were well-off because of their mother’s estate.

Then Benjamin did a bad bad thing. He left Mary and his family in about 1843 and went to Penzance, Cornwall, England and was living with Mrs. Elizabeth Ruth Seamon. And in 1845, he murdered Mrs. Seamon. He was executed for this crime on 11 AUG 1845 in Cornwall and you can read the entire story here:


In the story, his son George is mentioned and it is stated he was from Birkenshaw. Birkenshaw is essentially the same area as Cleckheaton.

I have a couple more Benjamin Ellison’s to try and figure out as I am not certain of the parents of MY Benjamin Ellison who married Mary Maria Ambler in Baildon, Yorkshire and died in Burnsall in 1832. Benjamin and Mary Maria had my Walker Ellison, whose grave I just visited in Baildon. He named his son Benjamin Walker Ellison, following the naming tradition.

I am using the British naming tradition as a clue and so far, Benjamin and Mary Maria did follow this tradition, which means that Benjamin’s father was William Ellison. Unless William was not their firstborn son. They named their firstborn daughter after the maternal grandmother: Hannah Maria Margaret Ellison. And their second son, if William was the first, after the maternal grandfather John Ambler. More research to be done.


BENJAMIN ELLISON The above portrait of Benjamin Ellison, the murderer of Mrs. Seaman, of Penzance, is considered to be a good likeness, especially the upper part of the face and head; it was taken in the County Hall, Bodmin, while the unhappy criminal was receiving sentence of death for his awful crime. Ellison was a tall man, nearly six feet high, yet rather slightly formed. His aged was 61, and he was a native of Birkenshaw near Leeds, in the West Riding of Yorkshire. He had received a superior education, and had moved in a respectable station in life, having been connected with the manufacturing interest of his native county. We understand that his wife and family are still living, to deplore his untimely and disgraceful end. About two years since, he left his wife and home, in consequence of disagreements about pecuniary matters, and had not been heard of by her or his relatives until after his committal for the murder. The wretched culprit suffered for his crime on Monday last, and a full and authentic account of the execution is given in our fourth page. [The description of his death has been omitted; however, the confession is printed in full. He acknowledged in a letter that Elizabeth Bramble, whose testimony he adamantly denied at the trial, did substantially tell the truth. Ellison’s two sons visited him, but his wife did not – nor did any other relative. Evidently, he had no money of his own, so the will he signed bequeathing property to Mrs. Seaman was “purely a fabrication”; his wife was “possessed of considerable property”. jm]