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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Tombstone Tuesday: Finally! Visiting Grandma 199 Years After Her Passing

Look fellow genealogy family seekers!  It's Grandma!  She's alive!  No, wait...her legacy is alive!

Catharine DALLY SALTER SIMMONS is resting in Rock Creek Cemetery in Washington, DC.  Her tombstone provides the important clue that leads us to her birth year as about 1742!  

I knew she passed away while living at her son, William, house in 1818, as the family gathered for the final disposition of the will of John SIMMONS (d.1795).  But, now, I can see her!

Catharine Dally Salter Simmons, Rock Creek Cemetery

Catharine Dally, my 5th great grandma!

Catharine was the daughter of Hendrick DALLY and Sarah GIFFORD.  Catharine's brother, Gifford DALLY, was the first elected doorkeeper of the first, second and third US Congress (1789-1795).

Catharine was first married to William SALTER, a ship's surgeon, in 1756 at Trinity Church in NYC. The young widow then married a second time in 1758 at Trinity Church in NYC, John SIMMONS the innkeeper.  Their tavern was a two story building located at 63 Wall St, and was directly across from Federal Hall, where our nation's first President was inaugurated.

History books tells us that WASHINGTON ate this tavern before Evacuation Day.

Catharine's sister, Elizabeth, was married to Samuel FRAUNCES, owner of Fraunces Tavern in NYC and the steward at George WASHINGTON's home after the American Revolution.

Catharine and John Simmons (d. 1795 NYC) had six children.

William SIMMONS (1759-1825)
John SIMMONS (1761-1843)
James SIMMONS (abt 1763-1809)
David P SIMMONS (abt 1770-1830)
Stephen Gifford SIMMONS (1780-1830)
Catharine C SIMMONS (1784-1821)

To learn more:

William SIMMONS, Government Accountant

Ahh, genealogy.  Remembering my grandma.  Acknowledging her ties to early America.  Now to get all those wanna-be grandchildren to realize she did not give birth to their grandpa in 1747 at the ripe old age of 5 and her parents did not go to England from NJ to give birth to her and then return to America for the rest of the children!

©2017  AS Eldredge

Photo credit:  Krista AQ & Tommy Thompson

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Treasure Chest Thursday: Following Early Pennsylvania Wills to Find the Way

Looking to unearth the dead in Philadelphia?  Looking for that elusive legal documentation?  Sometimes, digging can reveal the treasures of old.

For instance,  I've started looking in more detail at my old Philadelphia kin, their lives, their final resting spots in the Hood Cemetery and the Christ Church Burial Ground, their connections to George WASHINGTON, etc.

This month seems really appropriate as our country acknowledges the contributions of black Americans through history and celebrates the birthdays of a couple of our early Presidents.  While I have already sprinkled some seeds on Samuel FRAUNCES and his relationship to our first President, I will now see what sprouts as I look at a blood uncle who witnessed the inauguration of good old George.  I suspect since the inauguration happened next door to the family business in New York City, that all he had to do was lean out the window!

David P SIMMONS (1770-1853) was one of six children of John SIMMONS (d.1795) and his wife, Catharine DALLY (d. 1818).  The family business was next to Federal Hall in New York City, which history tells us was the site of the inauguration of George WASHINGTON.  As it took place on the balcony, I suspect grandpa John and his family leaned out of upstairs windows to watch.

David married Margaret CHAMBERS in 1792, at the family church, the Trinity Church, in New York.    Why he moved to Philadelphia I don't know.  What I do know is the family did spend some time there during the American Revolution and had kin there as well.  David and Margaret had one son I can document, William Clarke SIMMONS born 11 August 1793.

David remarries a woman named Ellen as is documented in the land deeds when he sold land in Chenango County, NY.  Right David?  Of course, it's the land that is described in the will of his father, John, who died in 1795.

David became a prosperous merchant in Philadelphia and spent the remaining years of his life there as did his brother, James (d. 1809).  They are both buried at the Hood Cemetery in Germantown.  Is the Margaret SIMMONS buried at Hood Cemetery who died 1798 the first wife of David?

David was the last of his siblings to die.  I wondered about his children and their families.  What a great treasure chest to be found online regarding some of the early PA Probate Records and Wills!

There he is--

Will of David P Simmons found online at

Noted in the will and probate files:

No living wife--  but a sister in law, Mary McKEAN

The grandchildren:

The great-grandchildren:  David DOWLING, Marshall DOWLING, Julius DOWLING-  all children of granddaughter, Margaret Simmons DOWLING.

Hmm, looks like more digging is needed to confirm some of the identities of these blood cousins of mine.  I have started to look around in Washington, DC, where I find Patrick DOWLING who was first married to Margaret SIMMONS.  More digging needed to unearth the details of this treasure chest.

Ahh, genealogy.  Digging for the proverbial treasure chest in the wills to find the way!

©2017  AS Eldredge

Sources: Pennsylvania, Wills and Probate Records, 1683-1993 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2015.
Original data: Pennsylvania County, District and Probate Courts.

Thankful Thursday: Rumor Mill for Access to UK Records

Is it true?  Did you hear?

The rumor mill says will open its United Kingdom records at no charge on Friday, February 17!  I suspect it will be a short window of opportunity for us to all crash the site as we jump in those records in record numbers!

Hanover Row was demolished in 1874.

As for me, I will be sailing across the pond via my tired fin fans looking at Portsea for those records on Hanover Row!  And then, there are the burial locations in Hampshire.  And then, and then........

Thanks, for spreading the rumor, uh, news!  Thankful for all you do!

Ahh, genealogy.  Must rest to be ready for the race!

©2017  AS Eldredge


Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Wordless Wednesday: Oh! If Only I Could See the Letters

Looking around in Philadelphia for more information has been quite an eye opening experience for me over the last two weeks.  While I have long known of the marriage of Catharine SIMMONS to Condy RAQUET at Christ Church in Philadelphia, I haven't spent much time on the two of them.

Condy RAQUET(1784-1842) was a merchant, an author, an attorney, a PA State Senator, Consul in Brazil, War of 1812 veteran, etc.  Much has been written on him and is easily found.  Politically, he was a Federalist, and his books on free trade are still discussed today. 

Condy Raguet.  Photo from PA Legislators Bios.

Of interest today, even if I can't see any of the words, are his letters.  There are several that still survive today in repositories across the land.

For example,
Daughters of the Republic of Texas Library at the Alamo has one:
Letter: Condy Raguet, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to James Condy Raguet and Henry W. Raguet, 1837 November 13.

As does the University of Michigan.  This collection contains 11 letters from Catharine and Condy written during his time as US Consul to Brazil in 1820.

I wish I could see these letters.

Ahh, genealogy.  His eyes reach out to me, although I just can't see the words.

©2017  AS Eldredge

Dana, William B. Sketch of the Life and Character of Condy Raguet, Merchant's Magazine and Commercial Review.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Friends Friday: Uh, Mr President? Appoint me!

Watching the process of being appointed to positions by the President of the United States teaches us many things about politics, grudges, personality differences, etc.  Today, we see all these arguments and confirmations almost instantly with the use of social media and the news.

But what about in the time of our first President?  When George WASHINGTON was first inaugurated in 1789, the power of the written word via letters carried back and forth ruled the day.  While WASHINGTON was known to request in writing the discussion of the cabinet, he also listened and understood the ground upon which he walked was untested.

Looking at history books and Washington's correspondence can reveal much about my own early American roots and ties to the early government.

As previously discussed, my grandpa and his brother-in-law both owned taverns in New York where it was documented at the time the presence of George and his cronies to dine often.  You have probably heard of one of the taverns, FRAUNCES Tavern, but the other one located at 63 Wall St is only mentioned in history books.

Looking around online, I found a letter collection from the revolutionary war period through the National Archives.  While I would love to see the originals, I am thrilled to see the transcriptions of several that pertain to my family.

Founders online- Search for Correspondence in early America

Let's see---

There are a couple to share which will hopefully prompt you to read more about our early country using the letters of their time.

First, on 7 September 1785, President WASHINGTON writes to his friend, Samuel FRAUNCES, and asks if Samuel knows of someone who could be induced to come work for WASHINGTON as a steward.  As history tells us, FRAUNCES himself accepted the position and was a member of the household for a number of years.

Another example is one that involves the nephew of FRAUNCES, William SIMMONS (my uncle).  On July 4, 1791, SIMMONS writes to WASHINGTON asking for the appointment as auditor of the United States.  SIMMONS, who lived in Philadelphia at the time was a clerk in the auditor's office, was first turned down for the position by WASHINGTON, but was given the position of accountant in the War Department upon a reference by Alexander HAMILTON.

Ahh, genealogy.  I wonder--  did old George ask Samuel if he should appoint his nephew for the job?   Hmmmm....

©2017  AS Eldredge

“From George Washington to Samuel Fraunces, 7 September 1785,” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified December 28, 2016, [Original source: The Papers of George Washington, Confederation Series, vol. 3, 19 May 1785 – 31 March 1786, ed. W. W. Abbot. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1994, p. 236.]
“To George Washington from William Simmons, 4 July 1791,” Founders Online, National Archives, last modified December 28, 2016, [Original source: The Papers of George Washington, Presidential Series, vol. 8, 22 March 1791 – 22 September 1791, ed. Mark A. Mastromarino. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1999, pp. 318–319.]

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Those Places Thursday: Dying in Old Philadelphia

Dig, dig, dig.  Don't you just love digging in old cemeteries?  Oh, wait.  Don't you just love to see what surfaces when you dig in old cemeteries?

While we genealogy buffs can't literally dig in old cemeteries, we can dig back to our roots by using cemeteries of old.  For instance, just this last week, I have been digging around in Philadelphia trying to find more evidence of the family.  While I have known of early family ties in the area, my new attempts at digging up more have resulted in both frustration and joy with the old cemeteries.

The two cemeteries of interest are the old Christ Church Burial Ground and the Lower Burial Ground.

The Christ Church Burial Ground in Philadelphia has been around for about 300 years.  Interred underground and in the above ground sections are many interesting and famous colonial families.  While its most famous resident is Benjamin FRANKLIN, there are also many other early Americans of interest.  There are five signers of our great Declaration of Independence who rest here, as well as other famous Americans, including John ROSS, Betsy's husband.  While my family does not have anyone considered "famous" residing here, I do have family.  I am related to the BRINGHURST, DALLY, and SIMMONS residents.  What is frustrating is I have identified the sections and the plot numbers.  Why is that frustrating?  Because there is no map showing where the sections are!  I know old Ben is in Section A, and I know my BRINGHUST kin are in section B.  How close are they?  Perhaps I need to take a pen to paper......

Entrance to Hood Cemetery.  Photo courtesy of Library of Congress

Imagine my delight after the disappointment of not finding section maps when I stumbled across the Hood Cemetery in Germantown!  This cemetery, originally known as the Lower Burial Ground, had its land set aside before 1700, thus making it also around 300 years old!  This cemetery is alive!  No, no.  It's not the walking corpses, it's the history!  Thanks to Brendon McTEAR for taking the time to thoroughly dig in to the lives of the residents and posting about them.  What a treat it is to read of the history of Germantown and its early residents.  Of course, I, too, have kin resting there as well.  Think BRINGHURST, SIMMONS, RAGUET and ASHMEAD.  See a common theme?

I have the roots in those early cemeteries and am always looking to learn more about the early folks, their lives, and how they shaped the history of our land.

Ahh, genealogy.  Gotta just dig the history!

©2017  AS Eldredge

Sources: Philadelphia, Tombstone Inscriptions from Christ Church [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2002.
Original data: Clark, Edward L. Record of the Inscriptions on the Tablets and Grave-stones in the Burial-Grounds of Christ Church, Philadelphia. Philadelphia, PA, USA: Colines, Printer, 1864.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Surname Saturday: Digging in Philadelphia's Hood

Going back and looking at old details with an open eye years later can be quite satisfying.  Just this week, someone contacted me regarding some early military commissions he has in his possession.  He just doesn't know why his family has them.  We looked together, and at the surface, I can't figure it out either.

What I can figure out is those commissions belonged to my family of old.  This sent me on a more thorough search of that side of the family.  Ah, all the new uploaded scans and information on the internet made this so much easier than it was when I first started all this some 20 years ago.

Anyway, I decided to go back and look at some of the research others have done on this one particular line.  It wasn't much, but it was enough to send me digging in the old Hood Cemetery and the old Christ Church Burial Grounds in Philadelphia.

Jacob Ashmead, Hood Cemetery, Germantown, Philadelphia, PA

I have more research to do and then I must start drawing some lines on paper to connect the dots.  For, you, see, I also found that my one-line-by-marriage had an officer in the American Revolution whose name I am familiar with.  Why?  Because he was the commander of the unit another one of my grandpa's served in--  the 2nd PA Regiment! This is really neat as that particular grandpa of mine was residing in Lancaster (Chester) at the time.  James GLENN (1750-1813), who is buried at my family cemetery, the St Clair Cemetery in Allegheny Co, PA, was a private in Captain Jacob ASHMEAD'S 2nd PA Regiment and is listed at Valley Forge on the muster rolls.

Let me see if I can sum it up:

Captain Jacob ASHMEAD (1742-1814)-  history tells us he served under Bendedict Arnold  (ouch)
before he was promoted to lead the 2nd PA Regiment.

He was nephew to George BRINGHURST (1697-1752) and Anna ASHMEAD(1708-1760) -his natural aunt.

George and Anna were parents of John BRINGHURST (1726-1795) who married Elizabeth SHUTE (1735-1808).

Their daughter, Margaret (1757-1798) married James SIMMONS (1763-1809).

James, son of John SIMMONS (c. 1730-1795) and Catherine DALLY (c. 1742-1818)--  my grandparents!

With the exception of John SIMMONS and Catherine DALLY, they all reside at Hood Cemetery in Philadelphia.  This cemetery has a fascinating history in its residents.  I hope to go there one day.

Ahh genealogy.  Digging in the Hood now has me mixing the blood of old with current generations.

©2017  AS Eldredge

Leach,Josiah, History of the Bringhurst Family, 1901.