I spent the late hours the other night flipping through the Gates County deed books, trying to spot any patterns that might shed light on the origins of the elusive Collins family. I revisited tax lists from Nansemond and Gates and Hertford Counties, just to see that I was retracing my old footsteps. At the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, I grew equally as weary, as I could find no good information prior to the American Revolution.
We know this. In 1783, three Collins families appeared in Nansemond County militia lists — Thomas, William, and Samuel Collins. From 1782 until 1796, there are no Collins members on any Nansemond County tax lists. In neighboring Hertford and Southampton Counties, there is one Collins — Samuel Bridger Collins — who appears in the Murfree Tax Book in 1768 and 1770 and, if you follow the records, was betrayed by his wife Jemima Collins, who took up with another man, and promptly disappeared from the record books.
Fun times. I can’t find Thomas and Samuel Collins in the 1786 Gates County census, but Ancestry.com has them indexed as being there. Thomas, Samuel (sometimes Lamuel) and William Collins are the fathers of all of the other Collins who populated Gates, Nansemond, and Hertford Counties in the 19th century. But where the heck did they come from? Are they grandsons of John Collins of Bertie through one of his sons like Absalom or David? Or did they come up (or down) from somewhere else?
On the Indian side of things, Collins is a name that seems to predominate in a number of indigenous groups — just not Chowanoke, although a Chowanoke origin would make sense. There are the Mattamuskeet, who claim it as a core surname, and there seem to be a lot of people in North Carolina who have Tuscarora roots among their Collinses. Looking at the old tax lists, I did notice a Samuel and Thomas Collins in the Craven County tax lists in 1769 and 1770. Could these be the same men? Craven County was certainly the heart land of the southern Tuscarora and also the Core Indians, who are thought to have been relatives of the Tuscarora.