Thursday, February 22, 2018

The Perplexing Parallels of Pariss and Parish Sims

Pariss and Keziah Sims's tombstone,
erected by descendants in 1974,
Giles County, Tennessee
(posted by Mark Todd)

My Ulster-Scots ancestor Pariss Sims was as perplexing in genealogy as he was in life.

Some genealogies maintain his name was Pariss while others insist it was Parish, disputing whom he married, who his parents were, and where he was born and died. There are verifiable records that back up both accounts -- and sometimes at different locations at the same time.

Who was Pariss/Parish Sims?

Clearly, they are two individuals because of the records. But their narrative lives are complicated by several similarities:
  • Pariss had a father named James Barlett Sims, born in Belfast, Antrim County, Province of Ulster, Northern Ireland.
  • Parish also had a father named James Barlett Sims, born in Belfast, Antrim County, Province of Ulster, Northern Ireland.
  • Pariss had a wife named Keziah.
  • Parish had a wife named Grizel Kessiah
  • Both emigrated to Tennessee from North Carolina.
  • Both found their final homes in 1807.
The initial confusion stems from the often-sourced 1948 book by Almon Sims, The Pariss Sims Family. Then Almon Sims published a 1965 revision, in which he corrects the first book, anouncing in a new forward that he made a "serious error, by confusing Pariss Sims, our ancestor of Giles County, Tenn., with Parish Sims who made Sims Settlement on Elk River, just south of Giles County, in Limestone County, Ala., in 1807, the same year our Pariss arrived in Tennessee from North Carolina. This error was caused by the two being confused in an early history of Giles County, Tennesee."

It took me months to sort out Pariss from Parish, and it turns out the two were related: Pariss Sims's brother was James Bartlett Sims Jr, whose first-born son was named Parish Sims. What follows are snapshot sketches of each of their lives, piecing together how these two individuals became so entangled.

Pariss Sims (1740-1833)
Pariss Sims (my fifth great-grandfather) was born between 1740 and 1750 in Belfast, Antrim County, Province of Ulster, Northern Ireland, to James Barlett Sims Sr.

Pariss and his brother James Bartlett Sims Jr were both born and grew up in a region where state-sponsored settlements were part of the Plantation (colonization) of the Province of Ulster in Northern Ireland, which had begun in 1609. This scheme, instituted by James VI of Scotland when he became King of England, was intended to confiscate all the lands of the Catholic Irish nobility in Ulster and to settle the province with Protestant Scottish and English colonists on confiscated land.

Ulster-Scots weathered the turbulent relocation and colonization, but throughout the 18th century, considerable numbers of these Plantation settlers began immigrating to the North American colonies.

Pariss's older brother, James Bartlett Sims Jr, emigrated to British Colonial America in the early 1760s, and Pariss followed with two younger brothers in 1765, settling first in Pennsylvania, but with Pariss later moving near Salem, North Carolina.

According to Continental Army pay vouchers, Pariss enlisted during the War of Independence. Family tradition claims he served in Gen. George Washington's personal body guard, wintering at Valley Forge and even crossing the Delaware with the commander-in-chief.

He married Keziah Royster of Granville County, North Carolina, in 1782. The family moved from North Carolina to Tennessee in the summer of 1807: "With all their possessions loaded into a covered wagon, drawn by oxen, Pariss Sims and his family set out on a rugged trek," a trip that took some 40 days, and settled in what is now Giles County, Tennessee, according to Almon Sims.

Pariss Sims died in 1833 and is buried in English Cemetery, Campbellsville, Giles County, Tennessee.

Parish Sims (1762-1808)
Pariss's older brother James Bartlett Jr, had come to the Colonies in the early 1760s and married Elizabeth Parrish, who gave birth to their son Parish on in Patrick County, Virginia Colony. Presumably, Parish (sometimes spelled Parrish) was named for his mother's family. That birth occurred three years before Pariss Sims arrived in the New World.

James's family moved from Patrick County to Hawkins County, Territory of North Carolina (later to become Hawkins County, Tennessee), and Parish married Grizel Kessiah on  

According to Almon Sims, "Both Parish and his father were large land owners, had slaves, and were active in the early development of Hawkins County which in the early days included Claiborne, Hancock and Grainger counties, all in North Carolina territory."

Sims Settlement, Alabama
His father James died in 1793. Almon Sims's narrative states, "Parish Sims, with his wife Grizel (Kessiah) and their children, his widowed mother and most of his brothers and sisters ... started from Hawkins County in East Tennessee in the Spring of 1807 with four boats. When the boats had ascended Elk River ... [they] concluded to stop and settled what was long known as Sims Settlement, in Limestone County, Ala."

Later that same year, on 26 Nov 1807, Parish wrote his last will and testament, stating, "I, Parrish [sic] Simes . . . give to my beloved wife, Grizel, all of my estate." He died only a few months later in Sims Settlement, Limestone County, Alabama.

A Tale of Two Sims's
Uncle Pariss and nephew Parish were both sources for multiple generations of namesakes in the lines of both Pariss and his brother James. Not too surprisingly, confusion and conflation of the different lives of Pariss and Parish persist to this day -- not only for genealogists but even through the hand-me-down stories of their descendants.

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Mark and Kym Todd are volunteers on WikiTree, a project to create the entire human tree.
Profiles, sources, and documents for the individuals described above are on WikiTree:

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Not all Ulster-"Scots" were Scots

(posted by Mark Todd)

One of the more satisfying aspects of genealogy research is those moments when information goes beyond mere statistical data and a person's history begins to take shape and tell a narrative -- sometimes revealing glimpses of an individual's personality.

Such an instance emerged when I began researching one line of my dad's ancestors, going back five-plus generations to the eighteenth and seventeenth centures.

British Isles history buffs and genealogists are likely to be familiar with the so-called Ulster-Scots who immigrated to British Colonial America in droves during the eighteenth century, fleeing the turbulence of the Province of Ulster in Northern Ireland at the time.

But fewer casual researchers realize that Ulster was home to not only relocated Scots but also a large population of resettled English during Ulster's Plantation conlonization, initiated by James VI of Scotland when he became King of England in the seventeenth century. In effect, the colonization was intended to confiscate all the lands of the unruly Catholic Irish nobility in Ulster and to resettle the province with not only Protestant Scottish but also Protestant English colonists on the confiscated lands.

But several generations of resettled Ulster colonists had grown weary of the strife and fueding that resulted, and many determined to relocate to the Americas.

Not too surprisingly (given my strong roots in the American South), I had already discovered a strain of true Ulster-Scots from the family of my maternal grandmother (born a Sims). So when I found another group of transplanted Ulster colonists on my paternal side, I immediately assumed they were also Scots. But as I delved deeper, I discovered they had hailed three generations earlier from Essex, England, just north of London -- a far cry from the English-Scottish borderlands.

It took a bit of further investigation to make the connection: my paternal Ulster ancestors had settled in the town of Derry in Northern Ireland, which was soon renamed Londonderry by the settlers, to reflect their origins. That group was also comprised almost entirely of families from the London area-based "great guilds." So much for the mystery of the English rather than Scottish origins on that branch of my family tree.

But when I started tracing down records and documents for the branches of both grandparents who had arrived from Ulster to the Province of Massachusetts Bay, the story started to become more personal -- especially since it involved two unrelated families until joined in marriage by my ancestral grandparents.

The Story between the Lines

Matthew Gray Jr (my fifth-generation grandfather) arrived in Worcester County, Province of Massachusetts Bay, in 1718 as a ten-year-old, accompanying his father Matthew Sr and grandfather John Gray Jr, alongside other new immigrant families from Londonderry, Northern Ireland.

The new arrivals were not partricularly welcome in Masschusetts Bay, shunned, as it were, by the second-generation Puritan descendents already in Worcester County. Only 26 years earlier, in 1692, the English king had issued the colony a new land charter that shifted voting rights from Puritan church membership to land ownership.

Cotton Mather
According to historian Charles Bolton, Matthew Sr’s father “John Gray had land laid out to him by the town's committee November 26, 1718.”

Bolton explains, Puritan forefather and minister "Cotton Mather had in mind very early that the emigrants from Ulster would be useful settlers on the frontier. In 1718 the village of Worcester could claim a position on the Massachusetts frontier, although it lay only forty miles from Boston. First settled in 1674, it was deserted in King Philip's war, 1675, and again in Queen Anne's war, 1702."

According to Bolton, however, the Ulster Presbysterians "came to act as a buffer against the Indians, and instead of welcome they received surly conversation from the few inhabitants who turned out to meet them."

Another Ulster family had arrived in 1718 from Londonderry: Hugh Kelso, his wife Sarah, and their two-year-old daughter Jean (my fifth-generation grandmother). By trade, Kelso was a wheelright, a craftsman who built and repaired wheels for wagons and carriages.

Ten-year-old Matthew Jr would not likely have paid much attention to two-year-old Jean on the two-month voyage to the New World. But the town was small and both the Gray and Kelso families attended the same church in Worcester and participated in the same circles of community involvement.  Sixteen years later, when Matthew was 22 and Jean was 18, the two married in 1734 in Worcester.

After 1737, according to records reported by Bolton, "The lands now included in the town of Pelham were being opened for settlement, and on the 21st of January, 1738-39, John Stoddard arranged to settle a number of families ... such as were inhabitants of the Kingdom of Ireland or their descendants, being Protestants." Names included in this resettlement as "proprietors" included John Gray Jr and Matthew Gray Sr.

Record of deaths for both Matthew
Gray Jr and wife Jean (Kelso) Gray
But records suggest that Matthew Jr did not relocate to Pelham with his father and grandfather, some 30 miles from Worcester. Instead, Matthew Jr and Jean remained where her parents Hugh and Sarah Kelso still lived. Matthew's father-in-law signed a will on 14 Jun 1737, in which he refers to Jean's husband as "my well beloved son Matthew Gray," and to whom Hugh bequeaths his "wearing cloaths [sic]," a gesture that suggests Matthew and Jean were regularly present in the Kelso household in Worcester at that time, and Matthew had become like a son to Hugh Kelso.

Hugh died only two months later, and he named Matthew's grandfather as co-executor to his estate, revealing how close the two families had remained.

Old Common Burial Ground in
present-day Worcester, Massachuestts
On 14 June 1742, Matthew and Jean had a daughter in Worcester named Jemima (my fourth-generation grandmother).

Jean died 22 years later in 1764, and Matthew would go on to marry twice more before dying himself in 1783. But at his death, he was buried next to his childhood sweetheart in the Old Common Burial Ground in Worcester.

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Mark and Kym Todd are volunteers on WikiTree, a project to create the entire human tree.
Profiles, sources, and documents for individuals described above are on WikiTree:

Monday, February 5, 2018

Introduction -- the Great Adventure

For us, it started with DNA tests that whetted an appetite for discovering our own roots. Before long, we were exploring the ancestors who gave us those genes.

From family records and relatives' anecdotes, we learned names, dates, places, and stories about our parents and grandparents.

But it didn't take long to exhaust those resources in reconstucting our earlier generations.

Mark's family came over from England during the Great Puritan Migration of the 1600s, plus a bit of Cherokee mixed in later. Or so he thought.

Kym's family came to this country only three generations ago from Norway and Germany. Or so she thought.

We next researched available genealogical resources and services, trying out several as a way to methodically recreate our respective trees. At first, it seemed easy enough, and within a few short months, we had each compiled enough second-hand sources to track our seperate roots back a couple of thousand years!

Problem was, we soon discovered not everyone researches their own roots as meticulously as we wanted ours to be. We knew we had to look harder to get the facts straight.

And so began our real initiation into genealogy.

It's an ongoing project with surprising stories and unexpected roots. Mark's ancestors weren't Puritans after all (nor did he have a lick of Cherokee), and Kym's relatives from Germany turned out to be from a small Friesian island that was as much Danish as German.

We had our work cut out for us.

And so began our serious exploration of our genealogical roots. It's an on-going passion, and the lessons we're learning in how to research (and where to verify the "facts" we'd collected earlier) have been eye-opening -- not only for our own family stories but also for the connections we've discovered to the larger human tree.

In this blog, we share personal family stories but also the genealogical journeys we discover along the way. And we plan to share the lessons we're learning as well as a few tips that just might save others the time and trouble of having to back-track and correct earlier mistakes.

Despite the detours we've taken already, the journey has turned into a marvelous journey we never expected -- one we hope will reward those choose to look over our shoulders as we forge ahead.