Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Revolutionary patriot Stephen Simmons in The Genealogist

Of the five most highly regarded US genealogy journals, The Genealogist publishes by far the longest articles. In the Fall 2011 and Spring 2012 issues, Dan W. Olds chronicled the parents and descendants of Stephen Simmons, who served in the Revolution from Connecticut and died near the banks of the Wabash in southeastern Illinois in 1835. The article occupies 57 pages (some books are shorter), and even so it followed the descendants of only three of the five children of Stephen Simmons and Mabel Hunt who lived to maturity.

The family moved west from Windham County, Connecticut, to Greene (then Albany) County, New York, before 1790; on to Scioto County, Ohio, about 1807; and to Wabash (then Edwards) County, Illinois, before 1820. The stories about Stephen, from a variety of sources, suggest a versatile and interesting person to know -- unless perhaps you were a sheriff delivering a court summons. One reported that Simmons "ansearede it by riding out of hearing."

The article rests in part on several wonderful sources -- Simmons's own declaration for a Revolutionary War pension in September 1832, a transcript of the family Bible record, and a collection of family letters from the Gunn family (into which one daughter married) 1808-1862. Most lines are carried to Stephen and Mabel's grandchildren, and two families of great-grandchildren are given as well.

The logistical challenges of managing such an extensive project have to be imagined, as it's so smoothly done. My only disappointment was that the article often cites marriages to index entries rather than to the original records -- an odd choice given that Illinois marriages are readily obtained through the relevant county or the Regional Archives Depository system. Citing derivative sources when originals are available does not seem in keeping with the publishing society's stated goal "to advance genealogical research standards," but perhaps there's more going on here than I know about.

Dan W. Olds, "Stephen Simmons (1765-1835), from Connecticut to Illinois: A Revolutionary Soldier and his Family," The Genealogist 25, no. 2 (Fall 2011): 169-199, and 26, no. 1 (Spring 2012): 133-160.

Harold Henderson, "Revolutionary patriot Stephen Simmons in The Genealogist," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 19 June 2012 (http://midwesternmicrohistory.blogspot.com : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

1 comment:

Michael Hait said...

To venture a guess, I would bet that the reason that The Genealogist has published an article citing derivative sources is probably due to a lack of stronger material. Either that, or they felt that the marriage index was sufficient because the marriages being noted were not central to the article (though I do not agree that this would be an acceptable compromise).