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 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.

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

William Ralston, Ensign in American Revolution

A special friend sent me copies of the cards on file at the DAR for my ancestor William Ralston, American Revolution veteran. This special friend closely matches our male Ralston DNA and I am certain we are related somehow. Our male DNA both comes from Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland. My Ralston DNA has Cherokee Indian markers attached to it at the seventh generation.

William Ralston born before 1755 in Pennsylvania married Martha.  William lived in the following PA counties in chronological order: Chester County, Bedford County and Westmoreland County.

One of his sons was John Ralston, born 1776 in Greensburg, Westmoreland County, PA married Elizabeth Sharp. John died in 1850 in Butler County, PA.

One of John’s sons was John Ralston Jr who married Nancy McLane in about 1834 in Butler County, PA. DNA results on Nancy show that she was Scottish on her mother’s side. Family lore and a photograph of her show she was American Indian.

One of Nancy and John’s sons was Millen Ralston, my great-great grandfather and father to William Alfred Ralston.