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.

* * *
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:

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