FOR A VERY LONG TIME, I was unable to trace my Collins line prior to their appearance on a 1783 militia list in Nansemond County, when the names William Collins and Thomas Collins first appear in the area. Moreover, additional research showed them actually living near Bennetts Creek in Gates County for most of the 1780s and 1790s.
I was fortunate in recent months to have access to the Norfolk County lists of tithables from the colonial era, which strongly suggest that prior to appearing in the Nansemond/Gates area, the Collinses were living in Norfolk County and neighboring Princess Anne County. They appear in the same lists as the Archers, Weavers, Halls, Basses, Owens, Shoecrafts, and other families considered to be of Indian descent. Families that were also associated with them later in Gates County, such as the Grants and Goomers, also appear in the Norfolk lists.
I have not seen the lists for Princess Anne County yet, but given the appearance of families down in the Indian Creek area there, I tend to think they migrated up from the Indian Creek area to Portsmouth, probably related to employment. There is a 1771 apprenticeship record in Portsmouth for Lemuel Collins, signed by Thomas Collins. Both names later surface in the Gates County tax lists in the 1780s.
This however is the first mention I have seen of them in Norfolk. It’s from a 1732 list for Western Branch in Norfolk, which is the district west of Portsmouth. “William Colins” is listed together with “John Stafard.” Perhaps he was employed by him. Interestingly, “John Stafford” was also the name of an early landowner in Currituck and Pasquotank in North Carolina. A William Stafford left a will in Pasquotank in 1750 naming a son John. It’s unclear if this is the same family.
William Bass and his son Thomas Bass are also listed in the same list in Norfolk as John Stafford and William Collins. The list itself might provide a snapshot of Nansemond/Yeopim families in the vicinity of Portsmouth in the 1730s.
It has been interesting to see how other families, such as the Weavers and Prices, later relocated to Gates County over time. The last Norfolk list that mentions the Collinses is from 1772. Sometime in the mid-1770s, which happened to be at the time of the American Revolution, they moved to Gates. Therefore, from 1732 to 1772, we can show that the Collinses were living in Norfolk and Princess Anne.
Interestingly, after 1732, William Collins drops out of the records in Norfolk. The next mention of the family is in 1751 when both Thomas Collins, Sr., and Jr., begin to appear.