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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.

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