The Simas of Sao Miguel: The Search for a Common Ancestor
By John Miranda Raposo
Anyone trying to research the origins of the Simas family will be in for a monumental and arduous journey. The name is absent from the Armorial Lusitano, the Nobiliário de Famílias Portuguesas and the recently re-issued Livro do Armeiro Mor. The Armorial Português of Santos Ferreira (Lisbon:1920) contains the first description and heraldic design, without attribution and the Brasonário de Portugal of Armando Matos (Lisbon:1943) also depicts a similar design and description, clearly based on Santos Ferreira's work. Yet, there is no shortage of Simas families on continental or island Portugal as a glimpse at any of Portugal's telephone directories will demonstrate. Some researchers claim the name derives from Cimas, a place name from northern Portugal.
The family does not have a prominent position in Madeira's history and there is no mention of the Simas either in Nobiliário Genealógico das Famílias que Passaram a Viver a esta Ilha da Madeira depois do seu Descobrimento, or in Luiz Peter Clode's Registo Genealógico de Famílias que Passaram à Madeira. Gaspar Frutuoso does not document any Simas in Saudades da Terra and neither does the Jesuit António Cordeiro's history published in 1717.
Still, the Simas name is very prominent in several of the islands, primarily in Pico, Faial, S. Jorge and S. Miguel. The noted genealogist, Douglas da Rocha Holmes, believes that all of the Simas in the Azores may descend from a common elusive ancestor. James Guill believes that they may descend from an English Simms who went to Portugal in 1387, along with John de Sudley in the retinue of Philippa of Lancaster, the bride of Portugal’s João I.
A common ancestor, there may be, but at present the work of connecting all these branches into a common trunk is the challenge facing Mr. Holmes, who is researching the origins of the Azorean Simas. On São Miguel, most, if not all the Simas, can claim Domingos de Simas as their common ancestor.
Domingos de Simas flourished in Nordeste in the last half of the sixteenth and first quarter of the seventeenth centuries. His birth can be estimated at 1540. Who his parents were, or where he came from remains a mystery. A review of the documents from that period indicate that in 1602 he was a member of Nordeste's town council. In a deed of sale, he is described as an armigerous nobleman. And, a review of the vital records of Nordeste from that period, indicate that he was a slave owner. He was a witness at several marriages in Nordeste and was obviously literate, signing his name with a flourish. The chancery records of King Sebastião indicate that in 1568 the King himself placed him in charge of raising the funds to ransom Christians captured by the Moors. He was married twice. His first wife, Maria Álvares, must have died before 1604 when he and his second wife, Susana Afonso Columbreiro were parties to a real estate transaction. Nothing is known of his first wife, who gave him three children: Sabina, Martim and Leonor. Susana Afonso Columbreiro's ancestry is easier to discern. The records indicate that she is the daughter of Manuel Afonso Columbreiro and the granddaughter of Afonso Fernandes do Vale and Isabel Anes Columbreiro, who both lived in Ribeira Brava in Madeira.
The Columbreiros, according to Frutuoso, were part of Henry the Navigator's household and lived in the Algarve. Afonso Anes Columbreiro's sons went first to Madeira, some of whom remained, settling primarily in Ribeira Brava, while others went on to São Miguel, settling primarily in Vila Franca. Isabel may very well be a daughter of one of those who stayed on Madeira.
By his second wife, Domingos de Simas had two other children, Margarida de Simas and António de Simas Columbreiro. Their father died on the 23 February 1615; their mother was still living in 1617. His descendants by both wives are represented throughout the island and even on continental Portugal.
Domingos de Simas, (living in Nordeste; d. 1615 in Nordeste) married:
(1) Maria Álvares, (d. by 1604) by whom he had:
Leonor m. Miguel Salgueiro
Sabina (d. before 1630) m. 2-7-1587 to Francisco de Resendes Pimentel.
Martim (living in Assomada) m. Maria da Silva
(2) Susana Afonso Columbreiro (d. after 1617), he had:
Margarida m. Pedro Botelho Dutra on 17-5-1614 in Nordeste
António m. Maria Borges da Costa on 4-6-1620
From his daughter Leonor and her husband Miguel Salgueiro, descends Philip Rivard Rapoza, who has had a distinguished career in the law and is today a Justice on the Massachusetts Superior Court.
His son Martim and his wife Maria da Silva lived in Assomada; their son, Armando married into the Brandão family and the Brandão de Simas claim them as a descendant. An illustration of their crest can be found in Famílias Antigas da Povoação.
Sabina de Simas married Francisco de Resendes Pimentel, Nordeste's notary, and a descendant of one of the island's first settlers, Afonso Pimentel, on 2-July-1587. Their daughter Barbara went to Feteiras and her descendants went to Bretanha where they settled and became the Pacheco Simas, Pacheco Mirandas and Cordeiro Mirandas. The noted researcher and genealogist Marya Meyers is a descendant.
From António de Sousa Columbreiro descends Dr. Francisco de Simas Alves de Azevedo of Lisbon, a respected heraldic historian and the author of the seminal work on Portuguese heraldry, Uma Intepretação Histórico-Cultural do Livro do Armeiro-Mor (Lisbon:1966). Rosa Maria de Simas, fourth great granddaughter of António de Sousa Columbreiro and his wife Maria Borges da Costa, married António Rodrigues Ferreira in Lisbon in 1798. In the civil war between the conservative Miguel and the liberal Pedro, Rosa Maria de Simas sided with the liberals and for her pains was imprisoned until the liberals triumphed. From António Rodrigues Ferreira and Rosa Maria de Simas the Ferreira de Simas descend. A great-grandson, Frederico António Ferreira de Simas was made a Companion of the Order of Saint Michael and Saint George by King George V. Dr. Alves de Azevedo is his grandson.
The descendants of Margarida de Simas and Pedro Botelho Dutra married into the Quental and Raposo do Amaral families.
Today, the descendants of Domingos de Simas are present throughout the island of São Miguel, with the highest concentration in the eastern third of the island. Tracing today’s Simas back to the primary ancestor can be a daunting challenge. Although Nordeste’s vital records go back to the 16th century, the records of neighboring parishes, to where some of his descendants migrated, do not. Bridging the wide gap between the time when a Simas from Nordeste moved to a parish where vital records for the next 75 years have not survived can involve a costly, timely and sometimes futile search. A trained researcher would need to have access to other records from the period, e.g. wills and property records. But success is to claim descent from a minor nobleman who in his time enjoyed the confidence of a King.
The Simas Surname Research Project
The California based genealogist and researcher Douglas da Rocha Holmes is researching the Simas surname in the Azores to connect as many branches to as few, (and hopefully a single) trunks as possible. He hopes to eventually publish his research into a book. Since he is looking to account for every Simas from the Azores, he is looking for input from anybody with a tie to the family. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org and the home page can be located at www.dholmes.com.
Several people have been most generous with their time and in sharing their research and I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge their contribution.
Douglas da Rocha Holmes and Luis Cavaleiro Madeira provided me with the references to Domingos de Simas' royal appointment. Dr. Francisco de Simas Alves de Azevedo provided me with the descent of Domingos de Simas' continental descendants as well as the results of his research into the origin of the name and Simas crest. Joseph Simas provided me with a color rendition of the crest. Jorge Pacheco and Eloise Cadinha first suggested that my ancestor, Sabina de Simas, dona viuva, in the Feteiras records, might very well be Domingos’ daughter, given the confluence of her descendant's names. Dr. Miguel Figueiredo Cortereal generously shared the results of his own research into the Simas and Salgueiros of Nordeste. The late Azorean researcher and genealogist Dr. Hugo Moreira provided me with information on Domingos de Simas from the unpublished portion of Rodrigo Rodrigues’ Genealogias de S. Miguel e Santa Maria.
About the author:
John is researching his Portuguese roots and is primarily interesting in his ancestry from Bretanha and Santo Antonio alem Capelas on Sao Miguel Island, Azores. John is currently working on his Miranda line in addition to Simas. He may be reached at: Marralha@cs.com
© 2004 John Raposo Miranda - Reprinted with permission of the author.
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