The Ancestry of William Alexander (1749-1838) 

by Floyd L. Owsley 


Updated July 25, 2018 



Alexander Family Tree 

William Alexander (c1749-1838) and Anne Laird 

William was the son of: 

Joseph Alexander (c1712-aft1778) and Margaret 

Joseph was the son of : 

James Alexander “the carpenter” (1685-1717/18) and Mary Steele 

James was the son of: 

Samuel Alexander (1657-1733) and Mary Taylor


Based on numerous findings in my Alexander family research during the last several years, I have come to believe William Alexander was one of seven Alexander brothers who resided in Washington County, Virginia, in 1780. A huge amount of circumstantial evidence, along with convincing DNA test results of direct male descendants, clearly supports my belief. Along with William, the brothers were named as follows: Ebenezer, James, Jeremiah, John, Joseph, and Oliver. All lived in the Green Spring area of Washington County, near the town of Abingdon. It appears these brothers had migrated from York County, Pennsylvania, to Augusta County, Virginia, then to Washington County, Virginia. They later moved on to East Tennessee, with a few moving on to other states such as Alabama and Kentucky.  


While residing in Washington County, Virginia, William and four of his brothers (James, Jeremiah, Joseph, and Oliver) served in the Battle of King’s Mountain campaign in the Revolutionary War. 


In William Alexander’s obituary, it is noted he was born in Pennsylvania and removed to Augusta  County, Virginia, a short time before the Revolutionary War began. According to William’s Revolutionary War pension records, his war service began in 1774, while he was a resident of Augusta County, Virginia


William Alexander married Anne Laird in 1778 in Rockbridge County, Virginia, with his brother, Ebenezer Alexander, serving as the Bondsman. Rockbridge County was formed in 1778 from Augusta and Botetourt counties in Virginia.   


I believe, without a doubt, the father of William Alexander and his “brothers” was Joseph Alexander, who purchased land in Augusta County, Virginia in 1768. Also, William Alexander named his oldest son, Joseph. I had earlier believed Joseph's brother, John, was William's father. This has proven to be incorrect as John Alexander stayed in Cecil County, Maryland, and died there in 1802.  


Joseph Alexander was born about 1712 probably in Cecil County, Maryland, and was the son of James Alexander “the carpenter” and Mary Steele of Cecil County, Maryland. James was the son of Samuel Alexander (1657-1733) and Mary Taylor. Samuel Alexander is said to have been one of seven brothers and two sisters who migrated from Ireland to America around 1685. They settled in Somerset County, Maryland, and later Cecil County, Maryland.  


James Alexander “the carpenter” was born in 1685 in Somerset County, Maryland, and died around 1718 in Cecil County, Maryland. In his will, he referred to himself as James Alexander “the carpenter” and named three sons, Joseph, John, and Francis. Francis was referred to as the youngest. Also named in the will was his wife, Mary, father-in-law, John Steel “yeoman,” and brother, Francis Alexander “weaver.” By 1724, Mary Steele Alexander was married to her second husband, Adam Rankin. According to Rankin genealogy, the name of Adam Rankin’s second wife was Mary Steele.  


In 1722, Adam Rankin resided in Cecil County, Maryland. He was one of several signers of the “Petitioners of New Munster Circa 1722 to Lord Baltimore.” In the petition, they stated their belief that Maryland was their proper place of residence, not Pennsylvania. In a resurvey (dated September 28, 1724), of the land James Alexander left to his heirs, it was noted his widow, Mary, was now married to Adam Ranken (Rankin).   


Most Rankin family researchers have Adam Rankin and his second wife, Mary Steele, as the parents of four children: James Rankin, William Rankin, Jeremiah Rankin, and Esther Rankin. As noted earlier, two grandsons of Mary Steele Alexander Rankin were Oliver Alexander and Jeremiah Alexander. It would appear Jeremiah Alexander was named after his half uncle, Jeremiah Rankin. Also, the youngest son of Oliver Alexander was named Adam Rankin Alexander. Adam Rankin Alexander (1781-1848) resided in west Tennessee and was twice elected to the United States Congress, before being defeated by Davy Crockett. 




It is believed Joseph Alexander (born c1712) and his family, moved from Cecil County, Maryland, to Pennsylvania sometime around 1740, along with his mother and stepfather (Mary Steele and Adam Rankin). In 1740, Joseph Alexander sold his land, called New Munster (in Cecil County, MD). This was land he inherited from his father, James Alexander "the carpenter." It was noted in the deed that he sold the land because he was moving. 

On November 11, 1742, Joseph's stepfather, Adam Rankin, purchased 100 acres of land in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, which was "more or less situated at Conococheague between the lands of Samuel Owen, James Swaffer, Samuel Brown, and the Blue Mountains." It appears the Conococheague Creek is located in what is now Franklin County, Pennsylvania. This area of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, became Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, in 1750 and then Franklin County, Pennsylvania, in 1784. Franklin County, Pennsylvania, now borders Adams County, Pennsylvania, to the west.

Adam Rankin died in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania in 1747. According to Adam Rankin's will, his wife, Mary, was still living at the time.

Joseph Alexander was residing in York County, Pennsylvania (now Adams County, Pennsylvania) in the 1760's, before he moved to Augusta County, Virginia. The Craig, McGinley, and Rankin families also resided in or near York County. These families were closely associated with each other and the Alexander family. The McGinley family, along with the Francis Alexander family, lived in the Fairfield area southwest of Gettysburg. This part of York County became Adams County in 1800. (NOTE: York County was created from Lancaster County in 1749 and now borders Lancaster County to the west. Adams County now borders York County to the west.) It is believed Joseph Alexander and his family resided in this same area. My ancestor, William Alexander, probably spent most of his childhood living in the Fairfield area. 



How do we know Joseph Alexander lived in York County, Pennsylvania?  

In the 1880’s genealogical research of Dr. Ebenezer “Eben” Alexander (1851-1910), he noted there was definitely a connection between the Alexander and McGinley family back in Pennsylvania. (NOTE: According to reliable McGinley family history, the McGinley family definitely resided in York County, Pennsylvania, now Adams County, Pennsylvania.)         


It seems certain the Alexander and McGinley connection in Pennsylvania occurred when Jane Alexander (born c1742), married John McGinley about 1762. Jane is believed to have been a daughter of Joseph Alexander. Jane Alexander and John McGinley had the following children: James, Ebenezer, John, Abigail, Mary, Margaret, and Sarah. (NOTE: The names given to these McGinley children were commonly used in the Alexander family.) Their son, James McGinley, later married his first cousin, Susan Alexander, in 1787, in east Tennessee. Susan was the daughter of Oliver Alexander. Two daughters of Jane Alexander and John McGinley married grandsons of Adam Rankin and Mary Steele. They were noted as Abigail who married William Rankin and Mary who married James Rankin.   


More proof of Joseph Alexander having resided in York County, Pennsylvania, can be found in the Revolutionary War pension records of his son, Jeremiah Alexander (1763-1847). In the pension records, John Craig (1764-1852) of Limestone County, Alabama, stated he had known Jeremiah Alexander since earliest youth. According to Craig family history, John Craig was born ion May 24, 1764, in York County, Pennsylvania. According to the records of Dr. Eben Alexander, John Craig and his brother, David Craig, were half brothers of Margaret Paul, wife of Oliver Alexander. 

John and David Craig were sons of James Craig, who purchased 200 acres of land in Augusta County, Virginia, on November 18, 1768. This was the same day Jeremiah's father, Joseph Alexander, purchased 265 acres of land in Augusta County, Virginia. The land tracts purchased by Joseph Alexander and James Craig bordered each other near the boundary of Beverley Manor and Borden's Grant. It appears the Craig and Alexander families were always very close and moved together from Pennsylvania to Augusta County, Virginia, then to Washington County, Virginia. They later moved to Greene County, Tennessee, and Blount County, Tennessee. In 1785, John Craig built Fort Craig, which was located where the city of Maryville, Tennessee, is today. 

Without a doubt, Jeremiah Alexander and John Craig grew up together and knew each other well.

(NOTE: Jeremiah Rankin, son of Adam Rankin and Mary Steele, married Rhoda Craig providing another Alexander, Rankin, and Craig family connection.)  


Also living in York County, Pennsylvania, very near the McGinley family, was the family of Francis Alexander "the weaver" (1693-1760) and Jane Blair. Francis was a son of Samuel Alexander and Mary Taylor and was a brother to James Alexander “the carpenter” who died in 1717/18. 




On November 18, 1768, Joseph Alexander purchased 265 acres of land in Augusta County, Virginia from Francis Beaty. On March 17, 1772, Joseph Alexander purchased another 336 acre tract from Francis Beaty, which was located next to the 265 acre tract. 

The 601 acres of land in Augusta County, Virginia, owned by Joseph Alexander, bordered the Dutch Hollow Cemetery to the west. The cemetery is highlighted in green on the following map.

The following map shows the two land tracts, which were owned by Joseph Alexander in Augusta County, VA.  

Map drawn by J. R. Hildebrand


The two tracts of land purchased by Joseph were located in the southwestern corner of the old Beverly Manor district of Augusta County. This was near the border of the Beverly Manor district and the Borden Grant. Joseph's land was located near Cherry Grove Road between the present towns of Greenville and Middlebrook in Virginia.


On October 12, 1769, Joseph Alexander, of Augusta County, in the Colony of Virginia, deeded David Alexander, of Cecil County, Maryland, two tracts of land called “Sligo” and “Alexandria”, in Cecil County.  This instrument was dated October 12, 1769, and recorded in Book II, page 125, Cecil County. The name of Joseph Alexander is found in the court records, that he removed to the Shenandoah Valley about the time he sold land in 1769. NOTE: It is unknown how Joseph Alexander came into possession of the tracts of land “Sligo” and “Alexandria,” which were both formerly owned by his grandfather, Samuel Alexander, and his uncle, Francis Alexander (1693-1760). 


Earlier, a deed from Joseph Alexander, carpenter, and Margaret his wife, to Adam Wilson, of New Castle, Delaware, is dated December 12, 1740 (Cec. 6-660).  It identifies the land as being in New Munster, on the east side of the Elk River; “said tract left Joseph by the will of his father, James Alexander, carpenter, who bought from Thomas Stevenson, August 15, 1718. In the 1740 Cecil County, Maryland deed, it was noted that Joseph Alexander was moving. The land Joseph received from his father was located in the Fair Hill area of Cecil County, Pennsylvania.



How do we know that the Joseph Alexander who deeded land in Cecil County,  Maryland, in 1769, was the same Joseph Alexander who purchased land in Augusta County in 1768?  

It seems clear since Joseph was a landowner in Maryland, he most likely would have been a landowner in Augusta County, Virginia. In my research, I have found only two men named Joseph Alexander residing and owning land in Augusta County in the 1760’s and 1770’s. One was Joseph Alexander, son of Archibald Alexander. The Archibald Alexander family had already been living in Augusta County, Virginia for two or more decades. Archibald’s son, Joseph, certainly wasn’t the Joseph Alexander who sold land in Maryland in 1769. The other Joseph Alexander was the one who purchased land from Francis Beaty in Augusta County in November of 1768. It appears almost obvious this was the same Joseph Alexander who deeded land in Maryland in 1769, and was the son of James Alexander “the carpenter.” (NOTE: In 1740 in Maryland, Joseph’s wife was listed as Margaret. In 1772 in Augusta County, his wife was listed as Abigail. Sometime between 1740 and 1772, Joseph’s first wife, Margaret, must have died. He later took Abigail as his second wife.)  


As noted earlier, Joseph Alexander purchased land in Augusta CountyVirginia, in 1768. Later in 1772, Joseph Alexander sold land he had purchased from Francis Beaty, to James Alexander, Oliver Alexander, and Alexander Montgomery, husband of Sarah Alexander. Sarah is believed to have been another daughter of Joseph Alexander, son of James Alexander and Mary Steele. 


Sixteen direct male descendant of Joseph Alexander have submitted to DNA testing with Family Tree DNA. Based on the tests results, these descendants were placed in the 7+2 group of the Alexander family in the Alexander DNA Project. (NOTE: The 7+2 group is defined as direct male descendants of the seven brothers and two sisters who migrated from Ireland to America around 1685. They first settled in Somerset County, Maryland, and then moved to Cecil County, MD.)

The DNA test results revealed all of the descendants of Joseph Alexander had a one step mutation at marker 390, which clearly distinguishes them from the rest of the 7+2 group, including some known direct male descendants of Samuel Alexander (1657-1733). It is clear the one step mutation at marker 390 most likely occurred with the birth of Joseph Alexander, or possibly his father, James Alexander "the carpenter." 

The DNA results clearly supports the belief Joseph Alexander was the son of James Alexander 'the carpenter."  

Alexander Family Tree  

William Alexander (c1749-1838) and Anne Laird 

William was the son of:  

Joseph Alexander (c1712-aft1778) and Margaret 

Joseph was the son of :  

James Alexander “the carpenter” (1685-1717/18) and Mary Steele  

James was the son of:  

Samuel Alexander (1657-1733) and Mary Taylor