During the 18th and 19th centuries, a number of different Collins families settled in Newfoundland. Some were newcomers; others decided to stay after having been part of the migratory fishing industry for years. This study arose out of a desire to determine whether any of those families were related and where they came from. It is also hoped that through traditional genealogical research and the sharing of information, participants will learn more about, and be enriched by, their own family lines.
Collins: Surname Origin
The surname Collins has several origins: Anglo-Saxon, Irish Gaelic, and Scots Gaelic.
The Anglo Saxon Collins derives from “Colin,” an English diminutive of Nicholas. Henry B. Guppy (1854-1926), a pioneer in surname distribution in Great Britain, “found Collins widespread in the Midlands and southwest of England, with Collings characteristic of Cornwall, Devon, Gloucestershire and Somerset where it is also associated with Collins.” (Seary, E.R., (Corrected edition, edited by William Kirwin), Family Names of the Island of Newfoundland (Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1988), p. 104 and 105.)
In Ireland, the anglicized “O’Collins” represents two ancient Irish families, the O'Cuilleain and O'Coilean, and is a truly indigenous name.
O'Cuilleain derives from Gaelic cuileann, meaning “holly,” a sacred plant in pre-Christian Celtic culture and history. The O’Culleain originated in the Wicklow Hills, with migration to County Cork occurring several centuries before the arrival of the O’Coilean.
O’Coilean comes from the Gaelic coileain meaning "young fearless warrior" or “hound”. They had their roots in County Limerick, where they were the warrior clan of the Uí Chonaill Gabra, one of the two principal septs of the ancient kingdom of the Ui Fidgenti (4th century – 1178). They were eventually driven south into Cork by the Anglo-Norman invaders during the late 12th and early 13th centuries.
Edward MacLysaght (1887-1986), one of the foremost Irish genealogists of the 20th century, “found Collins especially associated with Cos Cork and Limerick”. (Seary)
Collins of Scots origin is a variation of MacCollin, which is derived from the more ancient Gaelic MacCuilinn. It has been suggested that these Collinses are part of the Ulster Scots group in Ireland (http://www.tamandmichael.com/COLHIST1.htm), found mostly in Ulster but to a lesser extent in the rest of Ireland. Their ancestors were mostly of Galloway, Ayrshire, and the Scottish Borders Country, although some were from the Scottish Lowlands and the Highlands. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ulster_Scots_people).
Early instances of Collins in Newfoundland
Collinses have been present in Newfoundland since at least the 1600s. Some early instances are:
- John of St. John’s Harbour, appearing in Sir John Berry’s census of 1675, documenting one female, six men, two boats, and one stage.
- James at Renews, 1681.
- John Collens, at “Ould Perliacan,” 1698/99—to whom a Richard Morris was apprenticed for catching and making fish.
- John Collins, merchant, who was appointed governor and commander-in-chief of the fort and harbour at St. John’s and “all the sea‑coasts between Ferryland and Carbonear Island”, 1706-20. During the capture of the St. John’s garrison by the French in the winter of 1709, he was taken prisoner and held at Placentia for several months.
- John and George Collings at St John’s or Petty Harbour, 1739-1743.
- Captain John Collins, who, from at least the 1760s, through the 1770s, and possibly into the 1780s, sailed the 80-ton brig, Hannah and Lydia, from Cove (Cobh), County Cork, to Harbour Grace and Carbonear. He recruited fishermen, shoremen, and youngsters for the Newfoundland trade and guaranteed all passengers sailing with him “the best Accommodations of every kind, and the Kindest Treatment from the Captain.”
- The Collins family of Placentia, who hosted Prince William Henry, the future King William IV, during his time as naval surrogate and Lieutenant Governor of Placentia from July to September 1786.
Where Collinses could be found in Newfoundland
Many of the early settlers went to Newfoundland in the employ of the English West Country fish merchants and shipowners. Merchants such as Slade & Co., the Ryans, Whites, Lester, Jeffrey, Street, and Spurrier recruited fishermen, youngsters, and shoremen, not only from the counties of Dorset, Devon, Cornwall, and Somerset, but also from Ireland and, to some extent, the Channel Islands. These firms established premises on shores ranging from Burin to Placentia, around the Irish shore including Ferryland, and up to St. John’s, then through to Conception, Trinity, and Bonavista bays, and to Fogo on the northeast coast. Scottish and Irish merchants and shipowners, such as John Munn, Patrick Morris, and Henry Shea, recruited as well for the Newfoundland trade. Many young men came to Newfoundland on the merchants’ ships, working to pay their passage. Once their debt had been paid, many moved on to other parts of Newfoundland and North America.
Eighteen and nineteenth century records show that Collins families were fairly widespread in Newfoundland during these periods of early settlement. Among the communities they could be found were:
- Burin (William, 1805)
- Jean de Bay (William, 1817)
- Davis Island (also known as Flat Islands/Port Elizabeth), Placentia Bay (William, 1823)
- Placentia (Samuel (and others), 1794)
- St. John’s and surrounding area (William, St. John’s, 1804)
- Harbour Grace (John, 1766; Ann (wife to John), 1783.)
- Spaniard’s Bay (Timothy, 1796)
- Carbonear (Richard, 1828; Nicholas (Collin), 1832)
- Bay de Verde (Patrick, 1806)
- Old Perlican (William (Collans), 1749-1759; John, 1815)
- Trinity (William (originally from Devon), 1789)
- Catalina (James, 1836)
- Bonavista (Jane, 1789; John, 1791)
- Flat Island (Bonavista Bay) (William, 1806)
- Fogo (Michael, 1816)
- Round Harbour (Charles, 1844)
- Joe Batt’s Arm (Ellen, 1815)
- Indian Islands (George, 1851; John, 1858)
- Herring Neck (Ann, 1852)
Timothy Collins of Spaniard’s Bay - Terminal SNP R-FGC17135
Timothy Collins was probably born around 1758. In 1783 he married 19-year-old Jane Warford, a “local Church of England girl” from Bear’s Cove, Harbour Grace, whose ancestors had been on the island since the early 1700s. Timothy and Jane settled first in Harbour Grace, where they had several children, and then in Mint Cove, Spaniard’s Bay, where, in 1796, Timothy cut and cleared a section of land “agreeable to the act of William III”. Together they raised a family of nine girls and two boys, most of whom survived to adulthood. Timothy died sometime between the end of May 1820 and the end of April 1821; Jane followed on October 5, 1829.
Timothy’s only two sons, John (1789-1848) and George (1792-1853), went on to have families of their own. In the mid 1800s, at least four of John’s sons (George, John, Timothy, and William) relocated to Indian Islands, just off Fogo Island in Notre Dame Bay, with John's son Timothy later moving to Seldom‑Come‑By. It is not known whether the fifth son, James, survived childhood. If he did, he may have followed his brothers north; there is some indication through baptismal records that a James Collins lived on Indian Islands for a while, though the records in this case look faulty. George’s sons (Timothy, Abraham, John, and George) raised their families in Spaniard’s Bay.
As a result, many of the Notre Dame Bay Collinses descend from John (1789-1848), whereas those having a more recent connection to Spaniard’s Bay are descendants of George (1792‑1853).
The terminal SNP for this line is FGC17135, descended from R1b and its Celtic subclade R-L21. Two closely related Timothy Collins descendants have completed Big Y, which has brought the subgroup completely within the genealogical timeframe, to the last 125 years. It should be noted that an ancestor of FGC17135 is FGC11134 (which in turn is a descendant of R-L21 and a further descendant of R1b) and that FGC11134 is also ancestor to CTS4466, the South Irish subclade.
Patrick Collins of Riverhead, Harbour Grace - Terminal SNP BY2881
Patrick and Johanna had at least five children, three of whom were born in Ireland before the family moved: James (1826-1918); unknown child, born around 1828; unknown child, born around 1830; Margaret (c 1838); and Michael William (1842-1913). Of the two known boys, James married Grace Dwyer and stayed in Harbour Grace, while Michael, a master mariner, married Catherine Hanrahan and moved to St. John’s.
One of Patrick's descendants lives on his land today.
(G. Collins / P. Collins)
The Collinses of Grandy’s Point / Clattice Harbour, Placentia Bay - Terminal SNP R-BY2881
John Collins was born to parents John and Bridget Oates Collins on September 7, 1797, and baptized ten days later at the Anglican St Marylebone Parish Church, London, England. He was tied to his master until he was 21 years old as an apprentice shipbuilder, after which he immigrated to Newfoundland. He married Honora Denief, a Roman Catholic from Kilkenny, Ireland, and the couple settled at Grandy’s Point, where they raised a family of eight children: Mary (c 1821); Lizzie (c 1829); Ellen (c 1834); Peter (c 1824 – c 1898); Michael (c 1826); Daniel (c 1831); John (c 1836); and James 1835-1920). John carried on business at St. Ann’s, Placentia Bay (close to Grandy’s Point and Clattice Harbour), a port at which foreign vessels called, landing their goods and loading up fish for foreign ports. John, himself, was a sea-going captain and had his own ship. He died in 1864.
John may have had brothers William and Michael who joined him in Newfoundland; the Burin records of 1834 show them as sponsors at the baptisms of each other’s children. Certainly as evidenced by the later directories of Hutchinson (1864), Lovell (1871), and McAlpine (1870-1871), there were other Collinses, including a Michael, living at Grandy’s Point that were not of John’s family. Jerome Collins, the great-grandfather of one of the participants in this project, was born there in 1841; he later moved to Clattice Harbour, where he and his wife, the former Mary Hepditch, raised their family. It may be that Jerome was a son of Michael, since Michael is a name that occurs in his family.
Oral tradition has it that John and Bridget Collins, parents of John Collins, may have been born in Ireland.
(With thanks to T. Collins for a number of clarifications. Sources include student paper of John Whittle (Memorial University) and personal research both online and in person at the Rooms, St. John’s, NL.)
This SNP also represents a subgroup of the South Irish clade, CTS4466. The terminal SNP can be shifted further downstream by additional testing. It should be noted that although the Collins families of Grandy's Point / Clattice Harbour at the moment share a terminal SNP with the Collins family of Harbour Grace, they are not considered to be related within the genealogical timeframe.
John Collins of Lamaline, Placentia Bay - Terminal SNP R-A664
The patriarch of this Collins family was John, born about 1790, somewhere in Ireland. According to family lore, he was a coachman for a Lord O'Shane when he fell in love with his master’s daughter Catherine. He and Catherine ran away to Newfoundland, sometime around 1812, and settled in Lamaline, at the boot of the Burin Peninsula. They raised a family of at least four children: John II (1812-1892), Patrick (1814-?), Mary (1819-?), and Michael (1825-?).1
Both John II and Patrick were ship-builders. John built the Mary, a 24-ton schooner, in 1841, as well as the Shamrock, a 16-ton schooner, in 1849. Patrick constructed the Mary, a 17-ton schooner, in 1849. All three schooners were built at Lamaline, and both Patrick and John identified themselves as farmers/planters of Lamaline when they registered their ships.2
John II passed his ship-building skills along to his sons John III, Patrick, Michael, David, and Thomas. Together the five “boys” constructed the 34-ton E.M. Collins in 1879. All five of them, fishermen, were given the status of shipbuilders and the ship register attributes the building to the “Collins Bros.” John Collins was master of the vessel.3
John and Catherine’s sons lived out their lives in Lamaline, and raised their families there. John II married Mary Hickey, and in addition to the five sons mentioned above had a daughter Mary Ann. Patrick wed Frances Spearns; their children were John, David, Michael, and Mary. Michael's spouse was Martha Pitman; their family consisted of William, Mary, Frances, Susannah, John, and Andrew Richard. Mary married William Hodge and had children John, Mary, Margaret, William Jr., and Selina.4
This line belongs to R1b-A664, which again is a subclade of the South Irish haplogroup, CTS4466. With further testing, the terminal SNP can be moved further downstream.
1 Randy J. Harnett. User Home Pages: Harnett Family of the Burin Peninsula, NF. (Genealogy.com) -- See link to site in Links section.
2 Ships and Seafarers of Atlantic Canada (Maritime History Archive, St. John's NL)
4 Harnett website noted above.
William Collins of Placentia – Haplogroup I-M253
William Collins was born around 1728, most likely in Dorset England, and died on 29 November 1795 at Placentia, Newfoundland. He and his wife, the former Ruth Goodall, raised eight children, as noted in William’s Last Will and Testament of July 10, 1795:
- Elizabeth Collins – married John Evans
John Paul Bradford notes in “A History of the Collins Family of Placentia, Newfoundland” (see links section) that the family tradition in 1886 was that the first Collins to arrive in Placentia was a soldier in the British Army—not a fisherman, as was the situation in many other Newfoundland communities. Bradford estimates that William arrived in Newfoundland probably in the latter half of the 1740s and that instead of returning, he eventually decided to stay and to settle in Placentia.
The family enjoyed some prominence in the community, leading historian D.W. Prowse to suggest in future years that William had received preferential treatment in a case before the courts when his servant alleged William had assaulted him.1 Certainly, when Prince William Henry, later King William IV, assumed the governorship of the island for a brief period in 1786, the prince much favoured the family and went so far as to return to England with Edward, to whom he later granted a commission in the Royal Navy.2
Two different branches of this Collins family were tested: one member descends from William’s son Samuel, the other from John Collins (c 1824) and Agnes Green of Bond Path. Up until now it has been believed that the Bond Path Collinses were of Irish descent and not related to the William Collins (1728-1795) family; however, results to date suggest this is not the case. Further testing of descendants is encouraged to confirm these results.
This family belongs to haplogroup I-M253. In Britain, I-M253 is often used as a marker for "invaders," Viking or Anglo-Saxon. It has been suggested by Dr. Ken Nordtvedt that a 9 at DYS511 paired with a 12 at DYS462 indicates Anglo Saxon, while a 10 at DYS511 paired with a 13 at DYS462 indicates Norse. These two markers were tested within the group and the results were 9 (DYS511) and 12 (DYS462), indicating an Anglo Saxon origin for the William Collins family of Placentia.
1 D.W. Prowse, A History of Newfoundland, p 315, Boulder Publications, 2002.
2 To quote Prowse: "The story goes that, in order to test the courage of the boys to be selected for commissions, the Prince made a feint to give them a tremendous blow with a stick. Young Collins, a stolid, strong fellow, never budged, and was accordingly chosen for His Majesty’s service." (Prowse, p 366)
The Collinses of Burin—Collins Cove—Flat Islands1 - Terminal SNP R-S16785
It would appear there were at least two founders of the Collins family in Burin: Samuel and William. Samuel was buried at Burin on September 17, 1816, aged 68 years. William, who was probably his brother, was buried in Little Burin on March 30, 1834, aged 87 years. This places Samuel's year of birth at around 1748 and and William's at around 1747. Where they were born isn’t known, but, like many residents of Burin at the time, they may have been recruited from the British Isles by Spurrier’s of Poole, Dorset, a merchant firm engaged in the Newfoundland trade during the 18th and 19th centuries, which had a principal establishment at Burin.
There was also an Ann Collins, buried at Burin on June 30, 1847, aged 85 years. She is probably the Ann Collins who left a will dated July 27, 1838, which was probated in 1848. In it, she describes herself as the widow of William Collins of Burin and names the following as their sons and gives as well their sons’ wives:
- John (married to Mary, sons John Jr and Edward);
- Edward (married to Elizabeth [Barfoot], sons John and Edward;
- Samuel (married to Amelia [Beazley]), son William Henry; and
- Isaac. (By all accounts, Isaac also had a wife—Hannah Moulton—whom he married in 1830, eight years before the will was made. Why Ann chose not to name her is a mystery.)
Of those named in the will, John and Mary were residing at Jean de Bay in 1820, where their daughter Elizabeth was baptized on July 2. In 1835 they were back at Burin, where Caroline Mary was born, and were settled in Collins Cove by 1838, as noted by the birth of Robert William. Edward and Elizabeth were also living at Burin when their daughter Ann Makala was born in 1833, but had moved up to Collins Cove by the time Hannah arrived in 1839. Samuel and Amelia followed the same pattern, living in Little Burin until at least 1836, when their son William Henry was born, but being resident in Collins Cove by 1839, as shown by the baptism of Ellen. Isaac and his wife Hannah repeated the pattern: Their son William was born in Burin in 1834; Thomas in Little Burin, 1838; and Ann Mary in Collins Cove, 1839. It would appear, then, that the sons of William and Ann, as noted in Ann’s will, settled in Collins Cove around 1838-1839.
When John and Mary were living in Jean de Bay, a William Collins was living there too. His wife Elizabeth2 had been buried at Jean de Bay on May 15, 1820, and at least two of their children—William Henry and Ann—were baptised there: William Henry in 1817, Ann in 1819. Sometime after their mother’s death, William moved his family to Flat Islands; he was buried there on April 1, 1855, at the age of 71. Both of his children, William Henry and Ann, raised families on Flat Islands; and Ann’s marriage record states she was living there at the time.
Other Burin Collinses settled on Flat Islands as well. The birth of a child May, daughter of Henry and May, was recorded in 1823. She was probably not the first child to be born on the island, however. A burial record, dated September 1, 1895, for a George Collins, aged 75, farmer, of Garia Bay, stated he had been born on Flat Islands; this would place his year of birth as approximately 1820. There was also a William Collins, born around 1796, who married Harriet Andrews of St. John’s, in St. John’s, on November 13, 1821. At the time of his marriage William stated he had been born in Burin. This couple, too, raised their family on Flat Islands.
Given the proliferation of the same Christian names among subsequent generations of these Collinses, it is sometimes difficult to attribute individuals to particular families.
The diary of William Harding (1793-1877) provides numerous mentions of Collinses from Burin, Collins Cove, and Flat Islands. See Links section.
A Y-DNA match has occurred between a descendant of a Flat Islands Collins and a Collins Cove Collinses. These Collinses (Burin—Collins Cove—Flat Islands) belong to haplogroup R-S16785; this haplogroup is downstream of DF27 and below Z209, the latter of which is known as the North-South Cluster, because of its northern and southern coastal distribution. Additional testing would move this terminal SNP further downstream.
1 Renamed Port Elizabeth (Placentia Bay) in 1952.
2 Elizabeth's maternal haplogroup is H16. More than half a dozen full sequence matches relating to H16 have been found in Newfoundland, but a common ancestor has not yet been determined. Other full sequence matches trace their maternal ancestry to Germany, Poland, Slovenia, and Slovakia.
Francis Collins/Collings of Cuckold's Cove, Trinity Bay - Terminal SNP E-V65
This is to certify that FRANCIS COLLINS, bachelor, of this parish, and SUSAN HURDLE, spinster, of this parish, were married in this church of St. Paul’s, with consent of mother, being no impediment, this third day of Nov. in the year one thousand eight hundred and twenty-seven by me, William Bullock, Epis. Miss. (St. Paul's Anglican Church, Trinity Bay Marriages 1821-1836)
Where Francis Collins/Collings (c 1800 or 1805) was born in unknown. He was almost certainly of British origin, and either he or his immediate ancestors probably came from the Dorset or Devon area. In Newfoundland, he resided in Island Cove—the farthest point in Cuckold’s Cove (now known as Dunfield), Trinity Bay. A few kilometers north east, in the town of Trinity, lived a William Collings, originally of the parish of Coffinswell, Devonshire, England. Given their proximity, it is easy to speculate the two men were related, though there are no records to substantiate this. There may also be a chance that Francis was connected to the Collins families of either Carbonear (Richard) or Blow-Me-Down (William). Further investigation is needed, preferably through the DNA testing of someone from one of these lines, before any determination can be made.
Francis and Susan had a fairly large family of at least 10 children:
- William (1828-1904) – married (1) Mary Ann* (?); and (2) Patience Alcock in 1869. (*Marriage register says a William Collins of Ireland’s Eye married Ann Guy Olive Moores in 1858, with witnesses Francis Collins and Louisa Collins. It’s hard to translate “Ann Guy Olive” to “Mary Ann,” but given the witnesses (Francis and Louisa), it does seem the William is the correct one.)
- Ellen (1830-?)
- Mary Ann (1832-1893) – married Joseph Wiseman in 1856
- Charlotte (1834-1896) – married James Wiseman in 1852
- Robert Thomas (1837-1897) – married Joanna Clifford in 1858
- Louisa (1840-?) – married James Way in 1865
- Susannah (1842-?)
- Francis (1844-?) – married Tryphena (Hiscock?)
- Emma (1845-?) – married William Clarke in 1871
- Thomas (1848-?)
For the most part, Francis and Susan’s married children raised their families in the Cuckold’s Cove area.
This family belongs to haplogroup E-V65, a subgroup of E-M78, which is a rare haplogroup for the British Isles. It has been speculated by Stephen C. Bird in his article on the haplogroup that it was introduced into Britain by soldiers during the Roman occupation. More specifically he says:
The invasion of Britain by the Roman military in CE 43, and the subsequent occupation of Britain for nearly four centuries, brought thousands of soldiers from the Balkan peninsula to Britain as part of auxiliary units and as regular legionnaires. The presence of Haplogroup E3b1a-M78 among the male populations of present-day Wales, England and Scotland, and its nearly complete absence among the modern male population of Ireland, provide a potential genetic indicator of settlement during the 1st through 4th Centuries CE by Roman soldiers from the Balkan peninsula and their male Romano-British descendants. (Haplogroup E3b1a2 as a Possible Indicator of Settlement in Roman Britain by Soldiers of Balkan Origin -- Journal of Genetic Genealogy. 3(2):26-46, 2007)
Further testing would move this terminal SNP further downstream.
Research continues in this area.
Researching Your Collins Ancestors in Newfoundland. See Links section.