I’ve been staring at two nearly identical census returns from 1840. Both involve someone named Thomas Collins. One is from Nansemond County, Virginia, and the other is from Gates County, North Carolina.
In Nansemond County, there are actually two Thomas Collins families. The first Thomas Collins is between 70 and 79 years old, indicating a birth year of between 1761 and 1770. His household includes a woman aged between 60 and 69, indicating a birth year of between 1771 and 1780. This is Anna Russell Collins. There is also a male aged 10-14 and a female aged 30-39.
The second Thomas Collins household is that of Thomas R. Collins. He is the son of Thomas Collins and Anna Russell Collins and is between 20 and 29 years old, indicating a birth year of between 1811 and 1820. This seems way off from his estimated birth year of 1806 at his death in 1888, where his age is given as 82. Thomas R. Collins’ wife was Mary/Polly Arline Collins, who is older than him. At her time of death in 1880, her birth year was estimated at 1803, which jibes with the 1840 census, where she is between 30 and 39.
Across the border in Gates County there is a Thomas Colling. He has a birth year of between 1801 and 1810, and seems to be the same Thomas Collins who married Nancy Parker in 1823. Who is this man? Remember the 1809 apprenticeship of Thomas Collins, orphan boy, to Daniel Eure (husband of Celia Collins)? This is probably the same guy.
So, we can construct two lineages starting with an older Thomas Collins, who died in about 1787 based on the Gates County tax lists. 1. Thomas Collins d. 1787 2. Thomas Collins b. 1769 d. 1849 3. Thomas R. Collins b. 1806 d. 1888 AND 1. Thomas Collins d. 1787 2. William Collins d. 1809 3. Thomas Collins b. 1801.
It’s not that unusual to come across multiple contemporaries in the same region with the same names. But it seems that the older generation here consisted of Thomas and William Collins, each of whom would be a generation older than Thomas, James, William, and David Collins, who were born in the 1770s. Considering most generations during this time period are about 20-25 years apart, that would put the birth years of the older Thomas and William Collins somewhere between 1740 and 1750.
But where did they come from? I have some good leads which I will share in my next post.