My most frustrating brick wall of all time has been trying to find parents for my 4th great-grandfather, James Simmons, born 14 August 1764. I have been working on this for 25 years. The good news is that DNA testing has created a small crack in that brick wall. You can read up on where I am on with the DNA testing HERE but I have a bit of an update. There were three prominent Simmons men in adjoining counties to where my James lived — Ralph, Willis and Richard Simmons. These three men headed distinct family groups but I have always suspected that the three lines must tie in somewhere. I have actually mentioned Ralph and Willis before HERE.
Ralph served in the same Mississippi Militia unit at the same with my James’ oldest known son William. They were both officers. Coincidence? I was able to find a female descendant of Ralph’s through FamilySearch. She is a genealogist and she was able to find a direct line male descendant of Ralph’s for me to yDNA test. I wrote him a letter and he called me back yesterday. He is more than willing to take the DNA test. We spoke on the phone for about 30 minutes and he was very interested in the case. We should know something in about 6 weeks.
Another genealogist I happened across while working an atDNA angle was able to point me to some specific yDNA already on the Simmons project page. There is a man that has DNA tested who put his brick wall ancestor as John Simmons born 1725. According to this other researcher, This John was Willis Simmons’ grandfather. There is a book written about Willis that you can see HERE. Willis headed up the “Silver Creek Simmons Family”. On page 23 is this statement, “Willis Simmons was born in Wilkes County, Georgia in 1784, came to Mississippi from Jones County, Georgia sometime between October 11, 1809 and November 1, 1810…” all of this is unverified BUT take a look at THIS PAGE again. Scroll to the graphic at the bottom and then look at the DNA match on the right. Look at the very top person, William Simmons. Look what county he is in. JONES COUNTY. Hmmmmmm. I do have Willis’ passport from Jones County, Georgia to the Mississippi Territory 11 Oct 1809 so that part is correct.1
The person that yDNA tested who is in the Willis Simmons line only tested at 12 markers but it is a 12/12 marker match to my James. I have emailed him asking if he would be willing to upgrade to 67 markers and also does he have a tree I can look at. Willis is looking good as a match and I am thinking we will be able to hook him into the known Jones County line.
There is one other prominent group of Simmons’ in this area at this same time. There happens to be a book written about this family too and you can see it HERE. This is the “Bala Chitto Simmons Family” headed by Richard Simmons. Richard looks like a good candidate because he was born in South Carolina 04 July 1770 (not verified). Richard headed a huge family over in Pike County, Mississippi, and again, I suspected that the Pike County Simmons’ would tie in. The same person that alerted me to the person that DNA tested in Willis’ line pointed me back to the Simmons yDNA project page. There was something there that I had completely overlooked. Two direct line descendants of Richard have tested at 111 markers. I never saw this. Why? Their DNA is completely different. I stopped comparing their DNA to my James at 12 markers because they already had a genetic distance of more than 10. Ouch. Since Richard is a contemporary and was in South Carolina at the same time as my James, there could be an NPE to explain this. As a matter of fact, one tester carries the Simmons surname but the other does not. The two testers are a perfect match to each other. So where does that leave me? It means that I still have to try and follow Richard’s line on paper because this could still be a match (of a sort) and could lead me back to my James’ parents.
Copyright © 2016 Michèle Simmons Lewis
1 Georgia Department of Archives and History, Passports Issued by Governors of Georgia, 1785-1809 (Arlington, VA: National Genealogical Society, 1959), 28.