Author's Note, November 2000

All material copyright 2000, Michael Collins Dunn

As I have emphasized in earlier versions of this history, this is a work in progress. Please do not judge it as a finished work. It is intended, eventually, to be as thorough and well-documented a history of our Collins ancestors as possible. But there are still documents to be looked for, links to follow, and photos to take. The current version includes photos of the land in Franklin County, NC and Marshall County, TN, but I need better photos than I have at the moment for the earliest Virginia lands. This version goes through my great-great-great-grandfather, Henry Collins. I am also continuing to explore the earliest Collins traces in Virginia, and hope to add more detail as time goes on.

I was trained, and worked as, a professional historian, and I intend to apply the techniques of a professional historian to the recovery of our family history. Though under way for some 30 years, this work may never be finished (until I am), but the computer revolution allows me to share the work as it grows. More material is being added as it is acquired, and the draft updated. The earliest Collins history in Virginia has mostly been uncovered since 1994, and more may well emerge. (I believe that I am the first Collins descendant in our own line to carry the ancestry back several generations in Kingsale Swamp, Virginia. I am in contact with some other descendants from other lines who stem from the same area.) Even such material as the biography of our Revolutionary ancestor, James Collins (1758-1838), which I knew in outline in the 1960s, has continued to grow and develop in detail. I hope, and experience suggests I may rightly expect, to learn more.

Because some readers will want to know only the outlines of the family history, while others involved in the hobby themselves will want me to prove every assertion, I have had to try to write a very detailed account which, however, offers summaries and, at times, notes when some readers may want to jump ahead. In the earliest periods in particular, where records are sparse, it has often been necessary to spend several pages showing that someone is a relative. Later chapters, some of which are very long biographies, include brief summaries at the beginning.

I owe much to so many, and so few can be thanked here. I have depended on those who went before, and of course for collateral lines on descendants of those lines. When the time comes to provide this work, in full, to my relatives, I will be careful to remember everyone who has helped, and in the meantime, I hope that mentioning them as sources in the footnotes will serve. The list has been growing for three decades, and continues to grow. Some are specifically mentioned at the proper poiont in the text.

While I have already written much on my more remote ancestors, I hope to learn more, and for the time being I am far from writing a good history of my grandparents or great-grandparents. I first began researching my ancestors while in high school, in about 1964 or 1965, a couple of years after my grandmother (Effie Lorena Collins Dunn) died in 1962. Since I have had the good fortune to have spent much of that time in Washington, DC, I have had access to the variety of archives and libraries in Washington. I also taught for a year in Utah, giving me some exposure to the Mormon Church's interest in genealogy (though I am not Mormon) and their remarkable microfilmed records. The fact that I trained as a professional historian has also given me the tools which I seek to apply in the chapters which follow. In some areas of the family history -- the Collinses of Tennessee, the early Cowdens -- others have gone before me and published their findings. I have tried to check every single reference, reassess every piece of evidence. Sometimes I have had to disagree with their conclusions. Not only do I document why, but I also try to cite the source for every conclusion I have reached, so that future researchers will not wonder (as I sometimes have), "now whatever made him think that?" Those who do not like to read footnotes, of course, do not need to read them: they are there for those who want to know what the source evidence is.

Through the years I have been fortunate enough to visit most of the early Collins areas of settlement, from Isle of Wight/Nansemond Counties, Virginia, in the Kingsale Swamp area, thorugh the Sandy Creek area of Franklin County, North Carolina, and the Collins Creek and Collins Hollow areas of Marshall County, Tennessee, and of course the Collins settlements in Christian County, Missouri, where my father was born and which I have known from childhood. For those who share other collateral ancestors with me, I have also visited the original Cowden area around Paxtang Church in Pennsylvania, the Cowden settlements in Iredell County, North Carolina, and the curious old graves of John and Elizabeth Cowden in Marshall County, Tennessee. A Cowden history will also be prepared, as will material on the Vinsons, Martins, and otehr collateral lines. I have tried to use my sense of the land to help tell the story of our ancestors. The past few years have been particularly valuable in permitting me some travel to these areas. A (perhaps ancestral?) love of barbecue has made travel in Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee quite delightful if bad for my cholesterol count.

I have worked hard to answer most questions, and guess as little as possible -- some will no doubt think I spend too much time resolving minor questions at times -- but there are still many records unsearched, many questions unanswered. Some others may already know things I do not. I have tried to explain my conclusions whenever the sources leave any doubt, and to footnote as best I possibly can. Some material collected before I fully understood the importance of careful documentation is labeled as such.

I have tried to use spell-check programs to eliminate typos, but because many of the quotations are from old documents using original spellings, this has not always worked very well. Please forgive any lingering typographical errors; I believe it is more important to keep the original documents in their original spelling and let them speak with their own voice.

A table of contents will appear in future editions, and when the work is finally published an index will be essential. I apologize for the fact that these are not easily provided now. However, with this edition, an online version will be available at, which will of course be searchable. The online version will also include a database showing known relatives, though with no personal data for those still living.

This is also not a work intended for publication at this time. Some of the maps and other illustrations are taken from copyrighted works without permission. A future published version would include proper copyright permissions. For this reason the work is currently only for the private use of relatives and their families. Of course, blood relatives may reproduce it for their own families, but I do claim common-law copyright, meaning that while you may make copies, you must give credit to the source. A great deal of work has gone into this history, and I have never sought to make money from it, nor will I. But I do ask credit.

The present version of this history is also the first version to appear on the World Wide Web. I hope to add additional material regularly to that site. Finding the time to do it, as also finding the time to write additional chapters to this work, is the main problem, as I am also serving as Editor of both The Middle East Journal and my own newsletter, The Estimate, leaving me little time for my hobby.

Anyone wishing to add to the material, criticize or correct, or contact me for other reasons may reach me as follows:

Michael C. Dunn
3300 Red Pine Street
Falls Church, VA 22041-2524
Telephone: (703) 824-0869
Fax: (703) 671-2998
Email: (America Online thestimate)