In 2013, a DNA test revealed that my wife was 1/8 Jewish. A little digging quickly led me to her mother's mother's mother, Mildred Tabor, who was likely 100% Ashkenazi Jewish. Ninety years ago, my wife's great-grandfather, Russell Tenure, served five years in Sing Sing for the crime of bigamy, remarrying without first obtaining a divorce from his wife. On his prison admittance record, he claimed that he had left Mildred and his children because it had been a forced marriage and that he discovered that she was a Jewish girl.
But we had a mystery. That whole maternal line was Lutheran, not Jewish. I was very curious to when and why the family had converted. This line was straightforward to trace back to my wife's 2x great-grandparents, Sadie and William Tabor. However, Sadie and William had appeared out of nowhere on the 1900 census and I couldn't find any trace of them on any earlier record. But I did find that William had another name: Isidor Waldman Tabor. If he changed his given names, might he have changed his last name too?
Religious conversions, name changes, families appearing out of nowhere... what was going on here? Well, it took over 5 years of digging but finally, I might have an answer. In late 19th century New York, there was a tale of illicit romance, desperate marriages, hiding out in Mexico, and music. However, this document really isn't about telling that story, only proving it.
My immigrant ancestor was William Simson, who first appeared in Delaware in 1674, when he obtained 400 acres from the Duke of York near present-day Little Creek Landing in Delaware, which he named Simson's Choice. I can only speculate about how and when William arrived in America but I love to speculate so all good.
I have long believed that my paternal ancestors were Scottish, first because they always called themselves Scottish, sometimes Scots-Irish, but then because of a close Y-DNA match with distant Simpson cousin in England who claimed Andrew Simpson, born 1818 in Hutton in the Scottish Borders region, as an ancestor. Now, I have an even closer match, with a much more precise Big-Y test, with another Simpson cousin. My new Simpson cousin also lives in England and is 4th cousins with the first Y-DNA match.
His tree, which does make a speculative leap in the middle, stretches back to Andro Simson, baptized on January 14th, 1640, in Dunfermline, Fife, the son of James Simsone and Bessie Walker. Interestingly, James and Bessie had another son, born May 26, 1637 in Dunfermline, who would have been 37 in 1674, old enough to have completed an indenture, accumulate a little land, and migrate to Delaware. Could this be my William?
Originally Dutch, then Swedish, then English, then Dutch again, and finally English again, Delaware passed in to the hands of the Duke of York, the future James II, King of England, in 1783. Many of the new settlers into the region migrated up from the colony of Maryland, including William Simson's friends and neighbors, such as the Manlove, Dutton, and Truitt families. Could William of Simson's Choice have first landed in Maryland? At this time, not a lot of Scots were immigrating to America, so how would he have come to arrive there?
After the Battle of Dunbar in 1650, Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector of England, took many Scots as prisoners-of-war, most of whom died in captivity. However, the English transported thousands of Scots prisoners to the American colonies. A famous Scot transported to Maryland, through Barbados, was Ninian Beall, born 1625 in Largo, Fife not too far from Dunfermline. He arrived in 1652, served a five year indenture, and obtained 50 acres.
There are several reconstructed passengers lists of Beall arriving again and again in Maryland. It's possible that these were trips to obtained colonists for Maryland, which used a headright system, granting 50 acres for every colonist you brought to the colony. Beall reportedly recruited colonists from Fife. A William Simson is recorded arriving in Maryland in 1668, when William of Dunfermline would have been 29. Could this also be William of Simson's Choice?
The first task here is to confirm that the Simpsons of 17th Century Dunfermline are the right family. That will likely require finding another Simpson man who descends from them. That should tell us if we're in the right neighborhood at least.
John Isaac Rippey was my wife's 3x great-grandfather. Born 1845 in Clark County, Kentucky, he married Mary Jane Barnes and they had six children together. John and Mary moved their family to Kansas, where their eldest daughter, Elizabeth, married Robert Henry Ferguson.
Robert and Elizabeth then moved to Oklahoma, where their eldest child, Myrtie, married Leonard Nicholson. Leonard and Myrtie, my wife's great-grandparents would then relocate to the far north of Saskatchewan, Canada, where they laid down the roots for the next several generations.
There are some disagreements in online trees about exactly how John Isaac Rippey fits into the Rippey family tree. Was his mother or father born into the Rippey family? And although everyone agrees about the identity of his grandparents, the proof takes a little bit of digging. This document attempts to prove that Elizabeth Rippey, the daughter of Samuel Rippey and Sarah Vance, was John Rippey's mother and that his father remains unknown.
Roma, a 3rd cousin of my Dad, who shares the same 2x great-grandparents, Mark Heathcoat and Alice Jones, very generously shared some pictures with me. Below is one of those pictures.
The two adults seated in front are my 2x great-grandparents, Nathan Hethcot and Mary Jane Harper. This picture was taken about 1885, which means that my great-grandmother, Emma, in the back left, is likely about 13 or 14 years old.
Roma’s comments and credit on the photo: “Parents are Nathan and Mary Harper Hethcote, standing from left, Emma, Timothy Milton, Benjamin Franklin, Sarah, boy sitting is Henry Harrison, girl is Esther. Alice Belle and James Madison are not in photo. According to Alice Hampton 2008.”
As you'd expect with a photo nearly 140 years old, there were some scratches and dust but I cleaned it up some with Photoshop.