Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Do you think you can crack this one?

James Simmons was born on 14 Aug 1764.1 He married Ellenor Lee about 1787.2 It is unknown where James was born only that two of his known children were born in South Carolina about 1794 and 04 June 1797.3 James and his family migrated to the Mississippi Territory sometime after that. The earliest record of James in the Mississippi Territory is the 1805 Washington County Mississippi territorial tax roll,4 HOWEVER, there is a gap between the 1811 and the 1816 tax rolls. It is possible that the 1805-1811 entries refer to another man names James Simmons and the 1816 and later is my James Simmons. The first land deal that I can attribute to my James is dated 13 June 1816.5 Knowing WHEN James actually came to Mississippi might be crucial.

Research question: Where in South Carolina did James and Ellenor migrate from?

I need to know where they came from before I try and find James’ parents.

James was old enough to have been listed as head of household in 1790. He was also, most likely, already married. More on that in a bit.

I did a yDNA test on my uncle to get James’ DNA profile. The matches are interesting. He has two 66/67 marker matches. Here are the matches, the information about each person is being taken at face value at this point. I have not done any research to verify the dates or locations. I am currently talking with the two people that submitted this DNA.

William Simmons born about 1780 of North Carolina
Joseph Simmons born 22 December 1755 in Richmond, Virginia

Migrations from Virginia to North and South Carolina were common so this is something that has to be considered.

Back to the 1790 census. There were five James Simmons’ (with name variations) in South Carolina. Since only very basic information is given it is hard to rule people in and out using just that. Doing a comparison between the 1790, 1800, 1810 and 1820 census is more helpful in ruling people in and out. This is where WHEN James migrated comes into play. If the tax records refer to TWO James Simmons then the most likely candidate for James is one that shows up in the Old Pendleton District in 1800 and 1810. If the tax records refer to one James then out of the five that are in South Carolina in 1790 only two can be ruled out. I am ruling those two out merely on the basis that those two men had 39 and 110 slaves which would be unlikely at James’ age at that time. James did have slaves in Mississippi but only two.6

To throw in another date wrench, James’ wife Ellenor died 20 May 1801.  Did she died in South Carolina or Mississippi?  Two unsourced written genealogies have her dying in Mississippi and all of the online trees I looked at also have this.  No one has a source for this information.7

I am not giving you more information about the census (I have a big table that has all of this information in it) because I would love someone to go behind me and do a comparison of the 1790, 1800, 1810, 1820 census records in South Carolina for James Simmons (with name variations) to see if I have made any mistakes with who I ruled in and who I ruled out based on ages and who carried over to the next census.

You have this information to work with:
James born in 1764
Ellenor born in 1769
William born between 1788 and 1792 in ?
Silas born about 1794 in South Carolina
James Jr. born 1797 in South Carolina

[I have an entire indirect case study showing the linkage between the 3 sons and the parents. If you would like to see it just let me know and I will send it to you]

We know the family was still in South Carolina in 1794 and 1795 and was in Mississippi by either 1805 OR 1816.

Here are a few other tidbits. James does not show up in the Passports Issued by Governors of Georgia, 1785-1820. This would have told us exactly when they migrated.

South Carolina does not have county level marriage records until the 20th century. If James and Ellenor married in South Carolina, finding that marriage record would have been a major clue.

I have consulted a plethora of index and abstract books for South Carolina (deeds, newspapers, church records etc.) with no results. I have checked everything I can think to check that is available online. The one thing that I haven’t done is made a trip to the South Carolina Archives. An archivist there could possible point to me to a records group I not aware of.

There is an unsourced genealogy written in the 1970’s that says

“Historical records consulted indicate that the Simmons Family lived in Ullesthrope, county Leicester, England.  The Arms was first granted to William Simmons of that place.  Early American records indicate that a member of the Simmons family came to America and settled in Boston, Massachusetts about 1679.  Another descendant of the Simmons family settled on a large grant of land in Summerville, South Carolina.” 8

In 1995 another unsourced genealogy came out that quoted the above verbatim and then added:

“It is assumed that James Simmons was a descendant of the Simmons Family that came over from England and settled in South Carolina…. James Simmons was born Augusta 14, 1764 near Pendleton, South Carolina, married the daughter of a rice planter of Santee, near Georgetown, South Carolina.” 9

I am sure you can see the problems with these statements.  I just wanted to throw them out there.  I spoke with Mack Simmons’ daughter.  She was unable to locate her father’s notes after he died.  I spoke with Howard and John Simmons and they stated they based their findings on what Mack had written and interviews with George Simmons, a grandson of Silas Simmons.  George died in 1962 at the age of 96 (according to Howard and John).  The interviews were conducted in 1937 and in 1946 by Howard. 

If you have any questions, ask me in the comments.  If anyone can tell me where in South Carolina James and and his family were before they came to Mississippi (with proof) I will send that person a gift card to go out to dinner Smile 

1 James Simmons, Jr. Family Bible Records, 1764-1898, The Holy Bible (Philadelphia: Kimber and Sharpless, n.d.), “Family Record,” privately held by Homer Kees, (Baton Rouge, Louisiana), 1979. Though there is no publication date printed, the publication date is between 1807 and 1844 when the Kimber and Sharples publishing company was actually in business [John Wright, Early Bible of America (New York: Thomas Whittaker, 1892), 123.]. The earliest entries are in one hand, the later entries are in a different hand and the latest entries are in a third hand. Per Mr. Kees, the Bible passed from James to his youngest child Charity Green Simmons who was Mr. Kees’ grandmother. He inherited the Bible from her. Author has photocopies of the pages.

2 James and Ellenor’s approximate marriage date is based on Ellenor being 18 years of age at the time of the marriage.

3 1850 U.S. census, Perry County, Mississippi, population schedule, p. 384 (stamped), dwelling 185, family 185, Silas Simmons household; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 10 February 2009); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M432, roll 379.  1850 U.S. census, Copiah County, Mississippi, population schedule, p. 251 (stamped), dwelling 606, family 606, James Simmons household; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 10 February 2009); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M432, roll 371. James Simmons, Jr. Family Bible Records, 1764-1898.

4 Greene County, Mississippi Territorial Tax Rolls, 1805, p. 8, line 7, James Simmons; digital images, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Family Search (http://www.familysearch.org: accessed 13 January 2012); citing Mississippi State Archives, Various Records, 1820-1951, box 144, series 510.

5 James Simmons (Greene County) cash entry file, certificate no. 363, St. Stephens, Alabama, Land Office; Land Entry Papers 1800-1908; Records of the Bureau of Management, Record Group 49.

6 1830 U.S. census, Perry County, Mississippi, p. 157 (penned), line 11, James Simmons household; digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 28 Sep 2014); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M19, roll 71.

7 James Simmons, Jr. Family Bible Records, 1764-1898.  Mack Simmons, “Simmons” [manuscript of a a compiled genealogy of Silas Simmons circa 1970], preface page; copy in possession of author, 1991.  The Family Simmons Living in Perry and Forrest County, Mississippi on Leaf River and Black Creek Early 1800’s thru 1995.

8 Mack Simmons, “Simmons”

9 The Family Simmons Living in Perry and Forrest County, Mississippi


Copyright © 2014 Michele Simmons Lewis


  1. Michele,

    have you serached this database?



    1. I have. There are a few entries for James Simmons that are in the correct time period but I won't know if they are possibly my James until I go to the Archives and have the records pulled. The index doesn't give enough info (and the records might not either, who knows). What I would LOVE to find would be a will naming, "my son James of Perry County, South Carolina." Do you think that will happen :)

  2. You might call the Archives at 803-896-6104 or fill out one of their forms at http://archives.sc.gov/researchrequest/Pages/GenealogyResearchFormInstructions.aspx, asking what records they have. They are very helpful people and will I'm sure give you an idea or two for searching.

    In general, what the SCDAH did was visit every county seat and get the records they held, up to about the early 20's. So it varies from county to county what they have, and the quality of what they have. It is generally the usual mix you'd expect- probate court, RMC, court of general sessions, equity, court of common pleas, tax rolls, etc. A lot is microfilmed, much isn't. And the indexes are only those of the original jurisdiction, so you best expect to do a lot of scrolling and scan reading.

    I've spent many many hours there- but I have the advantage of being local. Good luck.

    1. Lucky for me I have a genealogist friend that lives in Columbia and I will be talking him into meeting me up there to help me :) I have been looking at their card catalog a bit. My biggest problem is that I am going to have to search every District. I am going to start with Charleston, Georgetown and Ninety-Six (later Pendleton) which is a lot of territory. These Districts are the most likely based on what little info I have.

  3. I too have done some research in S.C. and it's frustrating!

    The S.C. archives are excellent - away from downtown with free parking in a modern building, and excellent staff! While in Columbia, you should also visit the South Caroliniana Library on the campus of the Univ. of S.C. Unfortunately, it's downtown so parking is not near and you have to pay. But the library is worth it. A number of genealogists left their papers to this library, most notably Leonardo Andrea.

    The local genealogy societies can be very helpful. For example, the Fairfield County society has a wonderful room full of material and helpful volunteers, but no card catalog (not even a paper one!). So you really have to go there.

    Why did James move from S.C. to Mississippi by 1816 or earlier? That was the frontier at that time so he must have had an incentive.

    Have you found any local histories of his church or town in Mississippi that tells where people came from and why they settled there?

    Did any of James' sons fight in the War of 1812?

    1. Several people have recommended the South Caroliniana Library so it is definitely on my agenda. I don't know if I can do it all in one day though, I might have to makes two trips, one for the Archives and one for the Library. I live about an hour and a half away.

      Big chunks of open land was up for sale in the Mississippi Territory. Most people moved because they were hoping for better farming because a lot of the land east had been overworked and was not producing well.

      I have read every local history book I have been able to get my hands on and nothing earth shattering. Most of the books just copy off the names from the 1820 Perry County Federal census and say that those were the first settlers of the area even though there were people in that area much earlier. I have had no luck with church records. I have a cousin that did find some church records for this area but not this early in time.

      All three known sons fought in the War of 1812. They enlisted in the same unit on the same day. Their compiled service records have nothing of use. None of the three men show up in the pension index. I don't know who William's wife was (assuming he even had one) and James and Silas' wives do not show up in the index. Silas and James received bounty land and I have the complete land entry file for both. There is no information of use in there. There is no record of William receiving bounty land that I can find, at least in Mississippi.

  4. Some generalizations that might be useful:
    The Department of Archives and History (SCDAH) primarily houses original government records. The South Caroliniana Library(SCL) houses mostly secondary publications, books, general histories, personal papers, newspapers.

    The SCDAH is an open system for everything that has been microfilmed. The SCL is a closed shelf library.

    The SCDAH is very open and helpful to the general public. Although they have made great strides in improving lately, the SCL has in the past had a strong academic bias, somewhat less welcoming to the general public.

    The kind of "fishing expedition" you anticipate, judging from your description in the blog, is much easier done at the SCDAH, and more likely to yield a result. If you have to prioritize your time, I would recommend visiting the SCDAH first.

    Disclaimer- All opinions above are mine, arrived at with time spent at each facility, but I'm sure the opposite view is as strongly held by others;)

    1. I appreciate the input. I have also been studying the NGS booklet South Carolina by Janis Walker Gilmore. There is a lot of background information in the booklet. She also details all of the available record groups and where they are located.

  5. Hav you seen this book? http://books.google.com/books/about/The_Simmons_Family_James_Simmons.html?id=_dnPnQEACAAJ

  6. Ah yes. This is one of the unsourced genealogies I was speaking of. I have have had several conversations with the author.

  7. Question - Have you looked at Military records? In the "War of 1812", according to the dates James would have been 48. That might be too old, but you never know. William and Silas both would have been 20 (1792) and 18. If they served, their records or pensions might give you a few more clues.

    Also the Revolutions War Rolls go to 1798 and that would put James at 19. There might be some info and a pension there too.

    1. Yes. Brothers William, Silas and James all fought in the War of 1812 in the same militia unit. I have their compiled service records which yield no information about where in SC they might have come from (they would have been children when they migrated). There were no pension files found at NARA for any of them. The James Simmons' that are found in the DAR Patriot Index and the SAR Patriot Index do not match mine.