Tidbits on this page were originally published online in February 2007
Uncertainty seems to follow all genealogies, but perhaps none more so than Isaac Runyon (1738 to ca 1821). Not only is there no proof to verify the identity of his parents or the location of his marriage, but his son, John, born 1761, married a woman whose name also is not agreed upon. She was identified as Betsy Raemer in Runyon Genealogy by Robert and Amos Runyon (published in Brownsville, TX, in 1955). The authors noted in the book that the spelling of the surname was uncertain. Other persons have said her name before marriage to John was Renner or Runner. In 1988, Clyde Runyon of Belfry, Ky., son of Runyon Genealogy co-author Amos Runyon, shed some light on the controversy. He said Robert and Amos Runyon, in researching their book, traveled to Kentucky to interview elderly Runyon relatives who had memories of Isaac Runyon’s ancestors. One such person was Mrs. Nancy Jane Varney of Road Fork, Ky., who in their presence pronounced Elizabeth’s surname as Raemer and that’s how it got into the book. Clyde wrote, however, that he had found published information that made him definitely decide that John’s wife was really Elizabeth Runner, a daughter of Adam Runner. His source was Early Adventures on Western Waters Vol. II by Mary B. Kegley published by Kegley Books in 1982. “This checks well with the uncertain memory of Mrs. Nancy Jane Varney,” wrote Clyde Runyon. “John Runyon and Elizabeth may have lived in that portion of Wythe County, Va., which was taken to help form Tazewell Co., Va., around 1800. They came to Pike Co., Ky (then part of Floyd Co.), around 1817.” The next question about Elizabeth is whether she was married before John. There is evidence suggesting that she was probably older than John and perhaps was married to a man named Nicholas Harris. More research is needed to confirm this suggestion. (Personal correspondence. Clyde Runyon. 1 Oct. 1988.)
In 1937, Midwestern newspapers were rife with accounts of a suspected jailbreak of a dangerous gangster named Thomas Runyon of Bethel, Minn. According to newspaper reports in the Sioux City Journal, Runyon was implicated in bank robberies in Eyota and Shakopee, MN, and robbery of the Kruse Lumber Co. at Rochester, MN. At the time of the article, Runyon was to be transported from Mason City, IA, to Sioux City, IA, for charges related to the murder of Iowa farmer James Zrostlik of Britt. Zrostlik and his wife were driving to church one Sunday morning when Runyon allegedly killed him. The report states that Runyon and two other gunmen then abducted another family before their crime spree ended. Iowa attorney general John Mitchell (apparently not the same John Mitchell who served in the Nixon administration) feared that Runyon’s trip to Sioux City might be the scene of more violence: “The investigation bureau has information which indicates gangsters are mobilizing at St. Joseph and St. Paul for an attempt to shoot Runyon’s way to freedom,” Mitchell said. Apparently, Runyon made the trip still in custody as we have been unable to confirm what happened or whether he was ultimately convicted. If anyone has information, let us know. (Source: The Sioux City Journal, Sunday 7 March 1937.)
The continuing research into where Vincent Rongnion lived between his reported birthplace in Poitiers, Poitou, France, and his arrival in New Jersey frequently leads to the isle of Jersey off the coast of England near Southampton. Jersey was a destination for Huguenots fleeing religious persecution in France. The Leglise Wallonne, or Strangers’ Church, in Jersey kept good records of baptisms, marriages and deaths during this period. In a list of persons who had professed their faith and been admitted to the church on 21 December 1567, was Rolant Rignon. An interesting side note is that the same list includes a Francois Boucherie—a surname close to that of Anne Boucher, the woman Vincent married in New Jersey. That same year, Rolant was listed as godfather in the registry of infants baptized in the Church of Strangers. The baby was Dauid de Beaulieu, son of Jehan De Beaulieu of Valentienne, France, and Sarra Van Houen of London. (Source: Registre des Baptesmes, Mariages & Mortz, et Jeusnes de Leglise Wallonne et Des Isles de Jersey, Guernesey, Sereq, Origny, &c., Etablie A Southhampton Par Patente Du Roy Edouard Sixe Et De La Reine Elizabeth. Edited by Humphrey Marett Godfray, Fellow of the Huguenot Society of London, Lymington, 1890.)
We encourage one male Runyon from each family to participate in the Runyon/Runyan/Runion/Runnion DNA project at or a similar genetic testing organization. This participation would be particularly valuable coming from a male who can document his lineage directly back to Vincent Rongnion. At present, six individuals with three varied spellings of the Runyon surname have participated in the DNA project. Their results indicate that they all share a common ancestor. Although each of them believes they are descended from Vincent, they each have reached a brick wall in their research that prevents them from closing the loop. A male who has documented proof of descent from Vincent Rongnion would be a valuable addition to the research. Each male of direct descent carries the same Y DNA that Vincent and his ancestors possessed. For that reason, participation in the project by a person with this genealogical proof would do two things:
First, it would show whether the individuals who already have been tested (as well as those who test in the future) do indeed descend from Vincent. This information would be invaluable in future genealogical research on an individual level.
Second, it will begin the long process to help current and future participants in DNA testing both here and in Europe begin to prove the link to a specific geographic location for Vincent. Was he indeed from the region around Poitiers?
So if you’re a male with a variation of the Runyon name, please consider contacting Family Tree DNA for a test kit.