Select Simmons Surname Genealogy

The surname Simmons and its variants were derived from the Hebrew Shimon which tended to become Simeon in the Old Testament and Simon in the New (because of its association with the Greek byname Simos meaning “snub-nosed.”)  The name spread throughout Europe in the Middle Ages, mainly because of the association with the apostle Simon Peter. 

Simon may also have derived from the given name Simund, a corruption of Sigmund, brought to England by the Normans.  One theory relates this to the origin of the Symonds name.  Simon could as well, in some places, be a corruption of Seaman.

The main surname spelling variations, because of regional differences, have been Simmons, Simons, Simonds, Symons, and Symonds.  The Simmons spelling accounts worldwide for about 70% of all these spellings today.

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EnglandThe spelling differences reflect regional variations, probably due to pronunciation differences. Simmons has been dominant in London and the southeast.  Simons was also found there, but to a lesser extent, as well as in the Midlands and south Wales; while Symons has been a name of the southwest (Devon and Cornwall) and Symonds mainly of East Anglia.  These differences were readily evident in the 1891 census.

West of England  Symonds and Symons have been the main spellings in the west country.  The place-name Simondesberge in Dorset (present-day Symondsbury) was listed in the Domesday Book.  John Symonds was the rector of North Stoke in Somerset in 1380 and John Symondes a juror in Gloucestershire in 1382.  Later Symonds families were to be found:
  • at the old manor house at Woodsford castle in Dorset where Thomas Symonds died in 1566
  • and at Dowlish Wake in Somerset, commencing with Edward Symonds the miller in 1706.
Those in Cornwall have tended to be Symons without the "d."   John Symons was MP for Helston in 1388. Later Symons were:
  • a family which began with the marriage of John and Ann Symons around 1680.  They were farmers at Ruan Lanihorne on the south coast.
  • another family which began with the marriage of William and Mary Symons at Newlyn, also on the south coast, in 1690.
  • James Symons nicknamed Cogden (the worthless one) who married in Breage in 1701.
  • and Walter Symons of Hatt House near Saltash who was High Sheriff of Cornwall in 1735.  General Penn Symons of this family died of his wounds during the Boer War.
East Anglia.  The Symonds at Suffield and later at Cley-on-the-Sea in Norfolk date from the 1350's.  The monumental brass to John Symonds, his wife Agnes and eight children at St. Margaret's church in Cley, completed in 1512, has recently been restored.  Other Symonds were recorded at North Walsham in Elizabethan times.  Symonds were later shipowners in the fishing industry of Great Yarmouth.

The Rev. Edward Symonds of Black Nosley in Essex wrote a well-known pamphlet at the time of Charles I.  His son Richard is remembered for the eye-witness diary he kept of events during the Civil War.  Meanwhile the Rev. John Symonds was rector of Horringer church in Suffolk in the early 1700's.  There followed the Symonds naval family from Bury St. Edmonds.

London and the Southeast  Simmons and Simons have been more numerous in London and the southeast than Symons and Symonds elsewhere, but more recent.

Simmons in Sussex date from 1553 in Seaford.  These Simmons were said to have been Norse invaders who had settled there.  The name seems originally to have been Seaman.  The Simmons of Seaford remained connected with the sea and later became prominent local figures in the town.  Elsewhere in Sussex, there were Symons and Symonds spellings until the Simmons name seems to have established itself in the mid-1700’s.

Simmons became the main spelling in Kent too.  John Simons was married in Margate in 1689.  William Simmonds was a freeman of Canterbury in 1722.  His son James Simmons became a printer, publishing the Kentish Gazette, and was the mayor of Canterbury in 1772.  Alfred Simmons, a Maidstone journalist, founded the Kent union for agricultural laborers in the 1870’s.

The Simmons in London were augmented by many Jewish Simmons.  The earliest of them may have been Aaron Simmons, born in 1780, who was a well-to-do businessman in Whitechapel in the early 19th century. His son Joshua was convicted of stealing and transported to Tasmania in 1853.  The Rev. Lawrence Mark Simmons, born in London in 1852, was minister at the Park Place synagogue in Manchester; while his son the Rev. Vivian George Simmons was the minister at the West London synagogue.  This Simmons family had come to London from Germany in the 1820's.

Wales.  The Welsh patronymic “ap Simon” sometimes became the surname Simons.  William Simons was a 19th century Registrar on the North Wales circuit who invested in gold mining and later was a practicing solicitor in Merthyr Tydfil.  John Litchfield Simons, based in Wrexham, started a travelling circus in north Wales in the late 1800’s.  The business is now in the fourth generation of Simons.

America.  Simmons in America can have English, Irish, Dutch, German, and Jewish origins.  This wide diversity probably explains why there are more Simmons in America than in England. 

Dutch  The first Simmons in America was probably of Dutch origin, the son of William Simonzoon from the Puritan center of Leyden in Holland.  He came to Plymouth on the Fortune in 1621, one year after the arrival of the Mayflower.  His name became Moses Simmons in the tax list of 1633 and that was the form that he and his children used.  He was a prominent citizen of Duxbury and his descendants are numerous.  His family line was covered in Lorenzo Simmons’ 1930 book History of the Simmons Family.

William Simmons from Duxbury settled in Little Compton, Rhode Island sometime in the 1690’s.  His line produced James Simmons, US Senator for Rhode Island in 1850, and John Simmons, a pioneer in ready-to-wear clothing and founder of Simmons College, a women’s liberal arts college.  They were seventh generation descendants of Moses Simmons.

English  From Great Yarmouth, Norfolk in England came John Symonds, a joiner, who was in Salem, Massachusetts by 1636.   John and his sons James and Samuel were furniture makers, catering to the wealthier members of the community.  Many of their pieces have been handed down over generations. 

German  Other early Simmons arrivals were German.  The Simon name from the Rhineland could become Simmons in America.  That was the case with immigrant Johann Wilhelm Simon, a Palatine refugee, who arrived with his family in 1709 and eventually settled in Dutchess county, New York.  However, many later Simon immigrants, particularly Jewish immigrants, remained Simon. 

Irish  There was also a Simmons Irish contingent in America.  The best known is probably Michael Simmons, born into an Irish family in Kentucky, who came west with his family in 1850 and was one of the first settlers on Puget Sound.

Caribbean.  Simmons have been in the Caribbean island of Saba (in the Leeward Islands) since 1658.  James Simmons was one of Morgan’s pirates.  Many later were sea captains.  There is a Major Omar Ralph Simmons museum on the island today. 

Canada.  Simmons came to Newfoundland in the mid-1700’s.  Samuel Simmons and his wife Ann lived in an area called Lower Island Cove.  The line then went via their son William to their grandsons James and John, both born in Mosquito nearby in the early 1800’s.  The family history was traced in Colin Simmons’ 2009 book The Simmons Family of Newfoundland.

Peter Simons arrived in the Quebec City area from Scotland in 1812, farmed and raised a family there.  His son John started a small store in town in 1840 which over the years expanded into the department store La Maison Simons, now spread over many locations in Canada and run by the latest generation of Simons, Peter and Richard. 

Select Simmons Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for further stories and accounts:

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John Addington Symonds was a Victorian writer and poet who was an early advocate of the homosexual cause. 
William Christian Symons was an English decorative designer and painter of the late 19th century, best known for his decorations of Westminster Cathedral. 
Zalmon Simmons was the man who popularized box spring mattresses in America in the early 1900's.
Kennedy Simmonds became the first Prime Minister of St. Kitts-Nevis in 1983.

Select Simmons Today
  • 25,000 in the UK (most numerous in London)
  • 66,000 in America (most numerous in Texas) 
  • 15,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)

PS.  You might want to check out the surnames page on this website.  It covers surname genealogy in this and companion websites for more than 800 surnames.

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