For months, I have been working on tracing the “deep” ancestry of one branch of my family. The family’s name is Collins. I relate to them through my great grandmother Martha Lydia Collins (1877-1945), her father Hugh Wilbur Collins (1839-1915),and his father Graham Russell Collins (c. 1802-1880).
This family lived for the entirety of the 19th century on the border between Gates County, North Carolina, and Nansemond County, Virginia. There is even a “Collins Rd.” that leads from the “Drum Hill” area of Gates into the “Cypress Chapel” area of Nansemond County, which is now the incorporated city of Suffolk. The family’s farms were near that road.
Tracing the family beyond Graham Collins becomes more difficult. His parents are Thomas Collins (1770-1849) and Anna Russell. They were married in Gates County in 1801. From land records, we can see that Thomas had two brothers or cousins in the vicinity of his farm. These were James Collins and David Collins.James Collins was married to Catherine Russell, likely the sister or cousin of Anna Russell. Both were probably the daughters of James Russell, Sr., whose farm was next to Thomas Collins’ farm.
Thomas Collins and James Collins were about the same age, both born in about 1770. David was about a decade younger. Thomas Collins and James Collins appear in the Nansemond County tax lists in 1805 and 1804, with 50 and 8 acres, respectively. David appears for the first time in 1810 with 50 acres. Before any of these three men appeared in Nansemond County tax lists, there was a William Collins.
William Collins first appeared in the Nansemond County tax lists in 1796 with 50 acres. This is likely the same land that David Collins was listed as head of in 1810, perhaps after William had died. Where was William Collins before 1796? Apparently he was in Gates County. The 1790 census lists a “William Collings” and a “Lamuel Collings” in Gates. The 1800 census lists a Sarah Collins and Thomas Collins.
Older records show a Samuel and Thomas Collins in Gates County in 1786. To me this shows that there are two Thomas Collins — one older who was probably deceased or out of Gates County by the time of the 1790 census, and one younger, who was married in Gates in 1801 and appeared on the Nansemond tax list in 1805.
So who are Samuel and Lamuel/Lemuel Collins? I do not know. A search of Gates County land records showed no Collins at all during the 1779 (when Gates was founded) to 1805 period (when Thomas appears in the Nansemond County tax lists). At the same time, there are no Collins in the tax lists for 1782 through 1796 in Nansemond County.
So where did this family come from? With William Collins, apparently our ancestor, we have an appearance in Gates records in 1790 followed by a move to Nansemond in 1796, where he remained until 1810, his apparent death.
Where was the Collins family prior to the American Revolution? There are a number of families in the region, but I have so far not been able to connect with any of them. I will address this more in my next post.