A Twin For James

Week 28: #52 Ancestors – Multiple

By Eilene Lyon

[Note: the image above bears no relation to the story below, but it fits the theme of “Multiple”😁 Young violet-green swallows peer from their nest cavity the day before they fledged. E. Lyon 2020]

This story is somewhat incomplete, because the discovery is quite fresh. It turns out that my 3rd great-grandfather, James Ransom, had a fraternal twin sister. I have long had a copy of James’s mother’s will, which names her heirs, but had not gotten around to learning more about all of them until very recently.

My 3rd great-grandparents, Elizabeth Anderson and James Ransom. (family collection)

James Ransom’s mother was Fanny Ransom, born Frances Wilkey. James Wilkey (or Wilken), of Dunbar Township, Fayette County, Pennsylvania, names a daughter, Fanny, in his will, but doesn’t give her last name.1 His wife, Hannah, does name “Frances or Fanny Ransom” in her later will (she was Fanny’s step-mother).2 James Ransom named his first daughter Frances Jane and he gave one of his sons the middle name Wilkey.

We do know that Fanny lived in Fayette County, Pennsylvania, until sometime prior to her death when she moved to Ohio.3 Then there is the matter of Fanny’s husband, who is believed to be James Ransom (Sr.), who allegedly died in 1806, the same year James Ransom (Jr.) was born.

Family lore indicates that James, Sr. came to America from Ireland. There are tax records in the 1790s in Fayette County, Pennsylvania, for a James Ransom (and no other Ransoms).4 No official marriage record for James and Frances has turned up, but there is a reported Bible record naming them as James Ransom Jr.’s parents (a sketchy source).5 So far, that’s all that is known of James, Sr.

Reportedly from Jesse Ransom Bible in Ohio GS - tideh20 marion painter - A 7-14-20
Image reportedly from Jesse Ransom’s family Bible. See citation below.

What about Fanny’s children, then? In her will, Frances Ransom divides the residue of her estate equally among the following list of heirs: “Sarah Jones, Margarette Ransom, Robert Ransom, James Ransom, and Lucretia Detwilder.” Fanny died in Belmont County, Ohio, in 1853 when she was in her late 70s or early 80s (her birth date is unknown), so it’s entirely possible that some of her children pre-deceased her.6

Though she does not state these heirs are her children, that is the presumption. They appear to be in order of age, so it’s interesting to note that Lucretia’s name appears after James. Recall that James was born the year his father reportedly died.

Lucretia (Ransom) Detwiler’s headstone gives her birth year as 1806, supporting the theory that she is James Ransom’s twin sister.7 It’s also known that a tendency to produce fraternal twins can be a genetic trait. It turns out that Lucretia gave birth to a set of fraternal boy/girl twins in 1835.

I discovered in 2016 that Sarah (Ransom) Jones was James’s sibling, because her children are key characters in the two books I’m writing. Her husband, Thomas Jones, witnessed Fanny’s will.

Sarah (Ransom) Jones (cropped). (Courtesy of J. Hollandsworth)

Susan Ransom, another of Fanny’s daughters, married Thomas Jones’s brother, Benjamin Jones. Susan died in 1827, long before her mother.

“Margarette” Ransom would likely be either an aged spinster or widowed daughter-in-law. I found Margaret Ransom, single or widow in 1840, living in Fayette County with four children, aligning with the hypothesis that her late husband was Fanny’s son.8 A copy of Fanny’s will was filed in Fayette County, supporting this Margaret as the heir. (There are other possible scenarios for Margaret – more evidence is needed to determine her relationships.)

There is a marriage record in Belmont County in 1821 for an Elizabeth Ransom to Charles Kincade.9 I strongly suspect Elizabeth is Fanny’s daughter, but you note she is not named as an heir. Based on census records, it appears that Elizabeth (Ransom) Kincade died prior to 1850 (Fanny dictated her will in 1845). Additional evidence that Elizabeth is Fanny’s daughter is that Benjamin Jones (son-in-law) attested to the bride and groom on the marriage record.

So, why didn’t Fanny name her son-in-law, Charles, in the will, the way she did with Margaret? I suspect one reason Margaret made it into the will is because she had an additional relationship to Fanny. It appears that Margaret’s maiden name was Wilkey.10 Some trees in Ancestry suggest that the mother of Kincade’s children was not Elizabeth, so it’s also possible she died shortly after marriage and left no offspring.

I have many records for Robert Ransom. He eventually moved to Blackford County, Indiana, where James and Elizabeth Ransom settled in 1836. Robert’s descendants were well known to James’s descendants and that information got passed down to me. For some reason, the existence of James’s other siblings, including his twin, faded from family consciousness.


  1. Will of James Wilken [sic] of Dunbar Township, Fayette County. Pennsylvania, Wills and Probate Records, 1683-1993 Fayette Wills No 1, Vol 1-3 1784-1833, images 532-533 (pp. 1004-1008). Ancestry.com unindexed record, retrieved Oct. 16, 2017. 
  2. Will of Hannah Wilken. Pennsylvania, Wills and Probate Records, 1683-1993 Fayette Wills No 1, Vol 1-3 1784-1833, image 633 (pp. 1190-1191). Ancestry.com unindexed record, retrieved July 14, 2020. 
  3. Census records for 1810 and 1820 place Fanny Ransom in Fayette County. She was apparently not enumerated in 1830, 1840 or 1850. 
  4. T.L.C. Genealogy. 1991. Fayette County, Pennsylvania Taxpayers 1785-1799. p. 130. 
  5. Image reportedly from the family Bible of Jesse Ransom in the collection of the Ohio Genealogical Society, shared by tideh20 on Ancestry.com. Image shown above. 
  6. Frances Ransom. Probate Court Records, No 3051-3165, 1853. Ancestry.com. Ohio, Wills and Probate Records, 1786-1998 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2015. Fanny’s will was probated in July 1853, but her exact death date is unknown. 
  7. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/42862041 
  8. Margarett Ransom. Year: 1840; Census Place: Dunbar, Fayette, Pennsylvania; Roll: 460; Page: 413; Family History Library Film: 0020545 – via Ancestry.com. 
  9. Elizabeth Ransom and Charles Kincade. Ancestry.com. Ohio, County Marriage Records, 1774-1993 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2016. 
  10. Death certificate for Susan Ransom. Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission; Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1967; Certificate Number Range: 020231-023520 – via Ancestry.com. 

24 thoughts on “A Twin For James

Add yours

  1. What a cool discovery! And poor Fanny—left with twin infants when her husband died and all those other children. Did she ever remarry? We see all the time how men who are left with oodles of kids find a new wife quickly after their wife dies, but I bet it was harder for a widow to find a man willing to take on her children.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. What I find from that era is young widows with many children who don’t remarry will indenture some of the children, even as toddlers or infants! I noticed that one of her two known sons was not with her in 1810.

      I do wonder why James doesn’t appear to have been very close to his siblings and particularly his twin.

      Wow. That just made me realize why James had such a close relationship with Elias D Pierce. Pierce was also a fraternal twin and his father died young and his mother indentured him. What an experience to have in common!

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Beats letting them starve, I’m sure. But people weren’t so hard-hearted. Usually there was an overseer for the poor and people did help out. Taxes were used to reimburse people who took in poor widows and such.

        Liked by 2 people

    1. It’s hard to say. I’m sure there’s some resentment involved. That’s probably why neither James Ransom nor Elias Pierce appears to have had relationships with their twin sisters. The girls got to stay with mom. But in some cases, it was more like being part of a new family.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Between the will, her birth year (supported by census records), the number of girl children in Fanny’s household in 1810, it all adds up. If she was younger than James, it could only have been minutes or hours, if James, Sr. died in 1806. Unfortunately, no family Bible from that time has been found. Records are hard to come by on the frontier for that period.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. They were absolutely adorable. We’ve been watching the nest for many weeks. There are a ton of fledglings of many species hanging around our house right now. Life goes on….


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