Simmons Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Simmons Meaning
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.

Select
Simmons Resources on
The
Internet

Select
Simmons Ancestry

England.
The
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

Simmons and Variants in the 1891 English Census.  The Simmons spelling has varied in England depending on where you were in the country.  The table below shows the breakdown by region for the Simmons, Simons, Symons, and Symonds spellings.

Numbers (000’s) Simmons Simons Symons Symonds Total
East Anglia    1.0    0.3     –    1.1    2.4
London    2.5    0.8    0.7    0.6    4.6
SE England    3.9    0.4    0.1    0.3    4.7
SW England    2.3    0.2    2.6    0.9    6.0
Elsewhere    2.2    2.3    0.8    1.0    6.3
Total   11.9    4.0    4.2    3.9   24.0

Simmons: Most were in London, followed by Sussex and then Kent.

Simons: London also
led, but the name was more widely spread – to
Lincolnshire and Leicestershire, Lancashire and south Wales.

Symons: Concentrated
in Devon and Cornwall.

Symonds: Mainly in
Norfolk, but also found in the west country
(Herefordshire, Gloucestershire and the southwest).

The Simonds name was also around at that time but have been much fewer in number (less than a thousand) than those shown above.  It was the local spelling in Berkshire and surrounds.  William Simonds was a brewer and banker in Reading in the late 1700’s.

Simmons and Variants Today.  There has been some consolidation around the Simmons spelling between
1891 and today.  In 1891, as the table above shows, Simmons
accounted for just under 50% of all spellings.  Today it is closer
to 70%.  The current estimated Simmons and variant numbers today
are shown below.

Numbers (000’s) Simmons Simons Symons Symonds Total
UK    25     7     5     6    43
America    57     9     1     1    68
Elsewhere    15     4     6     4    29
Total    97    20    17    11   134

Elsewhere above includes Ireland, Canada, Australia, and New
Zealand.  Simons is also a surname today in the Netherlands,
Belgium and northern Germany.

Theories on the Origin of the Symonds Name.  One
theory about the origin of the Symonds name came
from the Victorian writer and critic John Addington Symonds.  He wrote the following to a friend in
1865:

“Although
obscure at present, we happen to have a very long and full
and varied pedigree dating from Adam Fitz Simon who was a large holder
of lands
in Hertfordshire, Essex and Norfolk under Bishop Odo. The
family of Symonds, one branch of which I
represent, was supposed to have descended from Adam Fitz Simon, Lord of
St.
Sever in Normandy.

Adam
received lands
and manors in Threxton in Norfolk and Almeshoe in Hertfordshire and
died
sometime before 1118.  In the third generation after him, the
family divided
into two branches – the eldest continued to flourish for many
generations in Hertfordshire
and Essex (its most distinguished member being Richard Fitz Simon, one
of the
founders of the Order of the Garter); while the second branch settled
in
Norfolk at Threxton, Suffield, Ormesby, Runham Hall, and Cley by the
Sea.  Already by the beginning of the 14th
century,
they had anglicized their patronym to Symonds.

Our
name was probably derived from Sigmund and
not from Simon.  This accounts for the
short ‘y’ and for the ‘d’ which survives in the termination.  Fitz Symond was the son of Siegmund and the
accent fell upon the last syllable.”

Another view of
Symonds was that the west coast Symonds came
indeed from Normandy.  The name there was pronounced
“Simmonds.”  On the other hand Symonds in Norfolk had its origin
from a Danish fishing family which settled on a sandbank in Norfolk,
now Great Yarmouth, in 1654.  The Symonds pronunciation here
rhymed with diamonds.

Symonds at Dowlish Wake in Somerset.  Edward
Symonds, born around 1676, married Anne, the daughter
of William Milbourne the miller at Dowlish Wake in Somerset, in 1702.  Four years later, his father-in-law died and
Edward succeeded
him as miller, taking over as the copyhold tenant of Dowlish water mill
and also
inheriting a small estate in Cudworth.  

Edward
Symonds died in 1728 and his wife Anne in 1745.  But
the Symonds family continued to hold Dowlish
Wake mill on lifehold tenure for a long period well into the 19th
century.

The Simmons of Seaford in Sussex.  In 1858 Henry Simmons, four times bailiff of
Seaford and a great benefactor to the parish church and its
congregation, went
in full court dress with other local dignitaries to Queen Victoria’s
court at
St James’s Palace.  There he offered a
loyal address on the betrothal of Her Majesty’s eldest daughter.

Henry Simmons was related to other old
Seaford families and gave various church items and stained glass
windows as
memorials.  In 1898 the Simmons Institute
was built in Crouch Lane, his gift to the parish.  Dr
J.G. Taylor recorded in his history The Parish Church of
St Leonard, Seaford

that Mrs Henry Simmons gave the carved oak pulpit in memory of her
husband.

The original of the surname was
Seaman and one bearer of that name, Captain John Seaman, made his mark
not in England
but in America.  A religious
non-conformist, he was forced to cross the Atlantic with his
family in the 1640’s.  After some
wanderings, he purchased land from the Messapequa Indians in 1643 and
founded
the town of Seaford, Long Island, where the last of his descendants
died only a
few years ago.

Back in England the Seaman name changed over time to Seamans, Simons,
Simmonds,
Symonds, Symmonds, and finally to Simmons.

Simmons in Newfoundland.  There were
two stories about how the Simmons came to Newfoundland.
The first story was that two brothers arrived
from Poole in Dorset, one of whom settled in Mosquito and was the
forefather of
all the Simmons in Newfoundland.  The
second was that a Simmons came from the pirate stronghold of Saba in
the
Caribbean Leeward Islands where the Simmons had been since 1658.  Hemay have jumped ship in Newfoundland,
thereby starting the Simmons line.

Reader Feedback – Simmons in the South.  You have omitted the Simmons’ from the southern states, especially Louisiana and Mississippi, said to have come from Orange county, Virginia post-Revolution and Jamestown colony before that.

Simmons (josephine.lange@lplm.org)

 


Select Simmons Names

  • 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 Numbers 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)

 

Select Simmons and Like Surnames   

Patronymic surnames can be with either the “-son” or the shorter “s” suffix to the first name.  The “s” suffix is more common in southern England and in Wales.  Here are some of these surnames that you can check out.

AdamsHarrisNicholsStevens
AndrewsHicksRichardsWalters
DanielsMatthewsRobbinsWilliams
GibbsMorrisSimmonsWillis

 

 

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