A History of the Shankland Family

Compiled by the Rev. Fr. V. John Shankland, California

(Note: The following genealogy is compiled specifically to follow a direct descendancy from the original Robert Shankland, who first came to America in the year 1747, to my children and grandchildren. Unselfishly, however, this can also serve as a source to other branches of the family.)

The Shankland Family Tree (opens in new window)


The capacities of the human spirit are found in the creation of God and in his manifestation to man. In spirit, man is immortal, but not in body which is material. The free-will that man inherits with birth carries him into many paths in life but may his conscience deliver him to the awareness of God. There is nothing in life, or human nature, that prevents a man from being the one who decides whether or how he shall act. But it must always be remembered that human-will can be denied by the desire to please God - worship him - to love others - to strive in life to attain everlasting salvation of the spirit.

Man as an individual, created by God, is a part of the mass of men - connected by blood and human nature - derived by natural process in the course of reproduction. Inborn resemblances spring forth. We derive our existence from others in the constant stream of humanity. Heredity thus forms the stream of physical and moral continuity.

Each individual is the heir of all ages. The principle of inheritance can perpetuate moral evil or it can equally adapt to goodness. And so the stream of heredity produces both, and the strife between good and evil continues.

Man is what he is today - the progress continues and man is the crown of the process.

May the descendants of this family branch adhere to purity of life, high ideals of honor - bringing no discredit to the family. May the blessings of God be upon them, now, and for evermore.

The Rev. Fr. V. John Shankland

I. Early History and Source of the Family

Originally the Shanklands lived in Scotland and research indicates that our branch later located in Northern Ireland. The family name of this branch was originally MacGregor, and, as part of the MacGregor clan, claims descent from "Gregor", a son of King Alpine, who ruled about the year 747. The MacGregors had great possessions in Perthshire and Argyllshire. They held their lands by the sword, fighting bravely for their homes, and finally gave their enemies a good excuse to urge their dispossession. As a result, the name was suppressed by parliament. In the 13th century they held the lands of Glenorchy. Later they appeared as tenants of the Campbells. Patrick, who succeeded in the year 1390, had two younger sons - John Dhu MacGregor of Glenstrae; and Gregor MacGregor of Roro, in Glenlyn. In the year 1502, the line of Roro was dispossessed by the Campbells. In 1603, the MacGregors overthrew their oppressors, the Colquhouns of Luss, at Glenfruin. For this, they were outlawed, and their chief, Alexander MacGregor, with many of his followers, were executed in Edinburgh in 1604; but as late as 1744 MacGregor of Glengyle drew blackmail in the highland borders. The suppression of the name of MacGregor was annulled by parliament in the year 1774.

I am sure that many of our ancestors continued with the MacGregor clan but apparently our immediate branch were followers of the Bruce and Wallace clans in their struggle in Scotland in the late 12th and early 13th centuries. When finally defeated, the clans scattered and our branch escaped and settled in Northern Ireland. As they dared not use the name of MacGregor, being refugees from Scotland, they abandoned that name and adopted the name we now bear. Our name of Shankland is taken from the location of their residence which was on what is known in Northern Ireland as the "Shanks-of-Land". The now "Shanklands" settled eventually on a confiscated estate called "Butler's Hill", in County Fermanagh, near Enniskillen, Northern Ireland.

(Note: In searching back I found record of a Grissell Shankland in Cowhill 1682 and William Shankland in Galtway, Kirkbright 1689. These ancestors might have come out of Northern Ireland.)

(Note: One of the Shanklands entered the military service of William III, "William of Orange", and was in command of a company of dragoons at the Battle of the Boyne in July 1690. Robert Shankland, our original ancestor in America, is believed to be a grandson of this Shankland.)

II. The Shankland Descendancy of Our Branch in America

Robert Shankland

Robert Shankland, just above mentioned, was born in Enniskillen, Ireland, the year 1726. In 1747, Robert, then a rollicking young fellow, set out for Dublin to attend the University. He had been furnished money and a horse for the purpose by his father. The study of sciences not being exactly compatible with his impetuous nature, he, instead, boarded a vessel bound for America. After landing at New York, he proceeded up the Hudson River to Little Britain, Orange County, a few miles from Albany. There he found the Clintons, and Beatys, and other settlers, some of whom had been former neighbors of his father in Ireland. Here he married Miss Sarah Beaty (cousin of Gen. James Clinton). Soon after 1760, Robert moved to Cherry Valley, Otsego County (then Albany County). About this time, Robert was followed to America by two of his brothers, Andrew and Gilbert (Thomas?). They settled near Albany and apparently never married. In 1775 another brother, William, landed at Newcastle, below Philadelphia, and made his way to Cherry Valley where he settled.

(Note: About the time of the Revolutionary War the spellings of "Shankland" and "Shanklin" appear to have been used interchangeably by some of the subsequent members of the family. Some of the American descendants changed the spelling to "Shanklin" to distinguish themselves from members of the family fighting for the Revolution. Apparently the "Shanklins" were sympathetic to the Crown and thus were known as "Tories". Some of the Pension records give both spellings for the same individuals.)

Robert Shankland was sympathetic to the Revolutionary cause (a Whig) while his wife, Sarah Beaty, was a strong Royalist (Tory).

(Note: The Clintons and the Beatys took part in the defense of Fort Constitution and Fort Independence. In the list of those killed and wounded at those battles of the Revolutionary War occur the names of three Beatys, one of which was Alexander Beaty. This explains the partiality for the name "Alexander" among subsequent branches of the Shankland family.)

Six children were born to Robert and Sarah (Beaty):

  1. Andrew (b. ? - d. ?)
  2. Alexander (b. May 3 1756 - d. Feb 20 1833)
  3. Margaret (b. Feb 14 1759 - d. ?)
  4. William (next ancestor) (b. Aug 15 1762 - d. Apr 17 1850)
  5. Thomas (b. 1764 - d. Aug 21 1823)
  6. Sarah (b. 1767 - d. ?)

(Note: Andrew (above) adopted his mother's "Tory" sentiments while the father, Robert, and the other three sons strongly sympathized with the "Whigs" and took active part in the Revolution.)

(Note: The calendar of New York Land Papers, 1643 - 1803, p.279 records a "Bond of Robert Shankland to George Clerk "for L 10", on April 27 1753, "Conditioned that he shall settle within six months, "lott 67", in the township of Cherry Valley, and also that he shall be forthcoming for the rents and profits thereof.")

Robert Shankland and his family lived in a remote part of the town of Cherry Valley - about two or three miles from the Village where the garrison was kept. When Cherry Valley was destroyed on November 11 1778 by indians and Tories, under command of Brant and Butler, Robert's house, because of its remoteness, remained untouched. He helped to prepare the victims of the massacre for burial.

At this time, Robert fled with his family to a settlement along the Mohawk River for greater protection. The story is, that the following summer Robert returned to Cherry Valley with son Thomas, a lad about fourteen years of age. They were awakened one morning, a little before daylight, by a violent pounding at the door. A demand for admittance was made in broken English. Robert jumped from his bed, took down his guns, and directed son Thomas to load them as fast as they should be discharged by him. Listening closer, Robert ascertained that the intruders were indians, who were endeavoring to hew down the door with their tomahawks.

With a spear in his hand, Robert carefully unbarred the door and charged the unsuspecting indians, who were surprised by his sudden and unexpected attack. They fell back, and one of the indians whom he pursued, in retreat, fell over a log which lay near the door. Robert's spear penetrated the indian and stuck into the underlying log. He withdrew it back suddenly, whereupon the blade parted from the handle and remained in the log. He then quickly retreated into the house again as he was greatly outnumbered. Not a gun was fired or a tomahawk thrown at him during this brief sortie.

The indians now commenced firing through the door and into the windows, during which Robert, with Thomas' help, returned fire. One or two of the indians were slightly wounded. Thomas, who was frightened, made his escape through a window, ran towards some nearby woods, and was pursued and captured. From the shouts of the indians, Robert soon realized what had happened. His first impulse was to charge out again, and sell his life as dearly as possible, but, on second thought, he feared it might endanger the life of his son whom the indians otherwise might save alive. Thus, he concluded to remain and defend his house to the last.

The indians, finding themselves unable to effect an entrance into the house, hit upon another method of attack. They gathered combustible materials, and placing them at the side of the house where there were no windows, they proceeded to set fire to the building. In a very few minutes the whole side of the house was enveloped in flames. There was but one way of escape for Robert. He had grown a field of hemp which grew up to the opposite side of the house, and luckily on the side where a cellar door opened. As the success of a possible defense was no longer possible, Robert escaped out through the cellar, through the field of hemp, into the woods beyond. He returned as quickly as possible to the safety of the Mohawk River settlement.

The indians waited until the house was completely burned down, and supposing him to have burned in it, raised a shout of victory, and departed, taking their prisoner, Thomas, along with them to the western part of the state.

(Note 1: The above incident appears in several histories of New York state. It seems that in 1784 General Washington, accompanied by Governor Clinton, and General Hand, and several officers of the New York line, visited the settlement of Cherry Valley. Governor Clinton, a relative of Robert's wife, Sarah, called for Robert Shankland who related the above adventure.)

(Note 2: The final fate of son Thomas, though adventurous, was in the hand of God. It was in the summer of 1779 that he was captured by indians at Cherry Valley. He was sold as a slave to a Frenchman living in Canada and, after the close of the war, he gave Thomas his freedom and he returned to his home.)

In July of 1779, Robert Shankland and his family moved to Princeton, near Schenectady, moving back to Cherry Valley some time later. On October 5, 1785 he was an elector of the Presbyterian Society in Cherry Valley. He died in 1796, aged 70, leaving the bulk of his estate to his son Alexander. Sarah Beaty Shankland died in 1801.

William Shankland

William Shankland, third son of Robert, and our next ancestor-in-line, was born in Cherry Valley, New York, on August 15, 1762. On June 11, 1776 he enlisted as a private in Captain Robert McKean's Company, Colonel Samuel Campbell's Regiment, and later served as an indian spy in Colonel Clyde's Regiment. (This was apparently the 1st Regiment, Tryon County Militia.) In July of 1778 he was in Captain Ballard's Company, Colonel Alden's Regiment, and served until July 1779. He also rendered service in 1780 and 1781. After the close of the Revolutionary War, William lived in the Counties of Albany, Otsego, Saratoga, Montgomery, Oneida, Onondaga and Madison.

According to his pension application, he had been living in Madison County for 21 years on July 14, 1834. On the other hand, according to the Pompey "Re-Union" (some time in 1840), as quoted by a Rev. Beauchamp, he moved to Madison County, just across the County line from Pompey, Onondaga County, in 1808. His home, presumably a farm, was located in Delphi Valley (watered by Limestone Creek) at or near the village of Delphi, in the town of Cazenovia, Madison County, New York.

(Note: Colonel Ichabod Alden was in command of the fort at Cherry Valley at the time of the massacre on November 11, 1778. William Shankland was probably a member of the garrison at the fort.)

William Shankland was married to Miss Margaret Henry (b. in Scotland Oct 15, 1770 - d. in Cazenovia Nov 10, 1850.)

The following children were born to William and Margaret:

  1. Robert (II) (our next ancestor) b. Nov 3 1791 - d. Oct 1886)
  2. James Selkirk (b. 1793 - d. ?)
  3. Thomas Jefferson (b. 1795 - d Feb 4 1847)
  4. Peter Veeder (b. 1797 - d. 1861)
  5. William Henry (b. 1804 - d. Jan 1883)
  6. Ann Nichols (b. 1806 - d. ?)
  7. Diana (b. 1808 - d. ?)
  8. Mary Thompson (b. 1810 - d. ?)
  9. Marcia Mariah (b. 1812 - d. 1851)
  10. Eliza Selkirk (b. Oct 1814 - d. Nov 17 1884)

Robert Shankland II

Robert Shankland (II), son of William Shankland and Margaret Henry Shankland, was born in Otsego County, New York, on November 3, 1791. Robert spent his early life on his father's farm and received a common school education. He rendered two terms of service in the New York Infantry during the War of 1812. In July, 1812, he enlisted from Pompey, Onondaga, New York, in Captain Blakesley's Company of the 8th (98th?) Regiment of New York Infantry which went to Oswego to repel the British, and served as a guard during his first term of service. In October, 1814, he reenlisted, this time in Captain Pliny Draper's Company, and served as a sergeant. With this Company he was called out to repel an invasion at or near Sackett's Harbor, near Smith's Mills (Smithville?) on Sandy Creek. His Colonel was Christopher Clark, who commanded the first regiment in which he served. Robert remained at Sackett's Harbor and participated in the capture of three British boats in the conflict at Henderson's Harbor, under the command of Major Apling. He was honorably discharged from the service the latter part of 1814.

Robert was married to Miss Arabella Bennett (b. Oct 7, 1799 in Worcester County, Mass. - d. May 13 1855 in Washtenaw County, Mich.) at Sullivan or Quality Hill, Madison County, New York.

In August of 1830, Robert, and his family, moved to Washtenaw County, Michigan, and took up his first residence in Ann Arbor and then later settled on 80 acres of farmland in section 35, Northfield township. Here he built a log cabin, moving in on November 16, 1830. He lived there until 1837, at which time he sold his farm with the intention of moving to Texas. He had only progressed about half-a-mile on the proposed trip, however, when his horses attempted to run away, and, considering this to be a bad omen, he cancelled his plans and purchased 126 acres in section 32 of Salem township. This was within two miles of his previous home, where he continued to live until the time of his death in October, 1866, at the age of 95 years.

The following children were born to Robert and Arabella Shankland:

  1. Thomas Erskine (b. 1826 - d. 1901?) (Married Delilah Moore; children were Alice, Edith and Minnie)
  2. Caroline Matilda (b. 1827 - d. 1902) (Married Ira Root; children were Mary, Levi, Fannie and Frank)
  3. William Henry (b. 1828 - d. July 1864) (Married Martha Moore; one child named Harriett Adelaide)
  4. Arabella T. (b. 1830 - d. 1880) (Married David L. Botsford; children were Burton and Carrie)
  5. James Mosey (b. 1832 - d. 1869) (Was unmarried. Killed from a jack-knife wound while playing with Dudson and Rastus Webster)
  6. Robert Andrew Jackson (b. 1834 - d. 1910) (Married Julia Savage; children were Hascall and Clarence)
  7. Veeder La Grange (our next ancestor) (b. Mar 24 1837 - d Sep 15 1909) His wife and children are discussed later.
  8. Margaret A. (b. 1839 - d. 1914) (Married John Warner Hart; children were Elva and Addie)

Veeder La Grange Shankland

Veeder La Grange Shankland was born in Salem township, Washtenaw County, Michigan on March 24, 1837. He resided with his family until he was twenty years of age, assisting his father on the farm, as well as working for others. In the winter months he attended the public schools. In 1863 he married Miss Mary Ann Elizabeth Bush (b. Apr 10 1846 to William and Mary Jane McCormick Bush - d. May 7, 1928 in Dixboro, Mich.)

After his marriage Veeder purchased 100 acres of land in Superior township, Washtenaw County, where he made his home and engaged in farming until 1889 at which time he purchased the general store at Dixboro. He was also justice-of-the-peace and highway commissioner. Four years later he sold the store when he was elected superintendent of the Washtenaw County Farm. In the fall of 1908, he resigned this position because of ill health, and returned to Dixboro where he died in 1909.

There were three children born to Veeder and Mary Ann Shankland:

  1. John Bush (our next ancestor) (b. Jun 11 1864 - d. Feb 6 1941) His wife and children are discussed later.
  2. Maud (b. Apr 1 1866 - d Jan 16 1938) (Married to Dr. John Lemen and had two children, Ivah and Bess. She later married John Hugh Cowan)
  3. Robert William (b. Mar 24 1868 - d. 1946?) (Married Althea May Shuart and had three children: Mildred, Leah and Rodney)

John Bush Shankland

John Bush Shankland was born June 11 1864 in Superior Township, Washtenaw County, Michigan. As a lad he worked on his father's farm and later for other local farmers. He married Miss Almyra Galpin (b. Jun 23 1871 - d. Mar 10 1958) on August 7, 1888. They lived on farms in Superior and Salem townships for several years and later moved to Ann Arbor where he resided for 26 years, until the time of his death on February 6, 1941.

During his Ann Arbor residence, John was employed by the University of Michigan hospitals for nine years and subsequently by the Farmers & Mechanics Bank and the Ann Arbor Savings Bank.

Five children were born to John and Almyra Shankland:

  1. Harry La Grange (b. Nov 11 1889 - d. Oct 18 1929) (Married Jennie Blades on June 24, 1912; children were Elaine, Harriett and Carolyn Ann)
  2. Cora Evelyn (b. Jan 12 1894 - d. May 6 1932) (Married Fred Springer; children were Harold and Velma)
  3. Gertrude Almyra (b. Aug 17 1897 - now residing in Detroit, Michigan) (Married Russell Breen Mar 27 1920; children were Cecil and Robert)
  4. Adah Zilla (b. Aug 31 1899 - now residing in Royal Oak, Michigan) (Married Harold Fawcett, July 30 1921; one daughter, Shirley Ann)
  5. Veeder John (next ancestor) (b. Dec 14 1908 - now living in Rancho Cordova, California) His wife and children follow.

Veeder John Shankland

Veeder John Shankland was born in Superior township, Washtenaw County, Michigan, on December 14, 1908. He attended public schools in Ann Arbor, graduating from high school in 1928. He then attended the state University of Iowa, majoring in liberal arts and law, and graduated in 1933. He married Helen Rosamond Mayer (b. July 1 1908) on May 6, 1931 while attending college at Iowa.

(Note: Helen Rosamond Mayer Shankland is a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, basing her descendancy through her Maternal branch of the family from Ensign Stephen Southworth who enlisted in the Continental army at the age of 17 and served in Capt. Clapp's and Hammond's Companies of Colonel Cotton's Regiment. She also claims a direct descendancy from John Alden who landed with the Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock.)

Immediately following college Veeder John served as a First Lieutenant in the 507th Coast Artillery (Anti-Aircraft) on special duty commanding C.C.C. camps in Minnesota and Idaho. In May 1938, V. John and Rosamond moved to California. After a short period of employment with the State of California and, subsequently, with Dun & Bradstreet, Inc., V. John was employed by the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company for thirty years retiring on April 1, 1971. During these years he studied for the Episcopal Ministry and was ordained to the Diaconate on May 14, 1955 by the Rt. Rev. Noel Porter D.D., Bishop of the Diocese of Sacramento. After retirement from Goodyear, V. John completed his studies for priesthood and was ordained to the sacred Order of Priest on December 2, 1972 by the Rt. Rev. Clarence R. Haden D.D., Bishop of the Diocese of Northern California.

The following children were born to Veeder John and Rosamond Shankland:

  1. Janice Ruth (b. Dec 16 1935 - now residing in El Dorado Hills, Calif.) (Married to Dallas Ramsey Davis on June 30, 1956. Three children were born:
    1. Stephen John (b. Dec 21 1957)
    2. Kimberly Lynn (b. Feb 24 1959)
    3. Kerri Michelle (b. Nov 9 1961)
  2. John Gary (b. July 14 1938 - now residing in Tulare, Calif.) (Married Joyce Diane Stoddard on Sept. 17, 1960. Three children were born:
    1. Kathleen Diane (b. July 12 1962)
    2. Susan Maureen (b. Dec 28 1964)
    3. Doreen Ann (b. May 13 1968)

O God you have brought us together in one house, grant that we may be to each other a strength in need, a comfort in sorrow, a counsellor in perplexity, a companion in joy, and kindly affectioned one to another. In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

(Note: In conclusion, I express my appreciation for the Microfilm records of the Utah Genealogical Society, and, especially for the early research by my cousins Rodney and Mildred Shankland. Much research has been put into the foregoing genealogy and I pray that future members of the family will extend the records as time goes on.)

The Rev Fr. V John Shankland, May 1994

Editor's note: The MacGregor / Shankland connection as given here, and the origins of the Shankland name, are not proven! V. John told us that the story was given to him "by oldsters on a host of occasions from various members of the family". He added that "I like to think that there is some basis for the MacGregor connection as the story has come down sincerely through generations".