Although I believe (as will be seen below) that
there is a growing likelihood that we descend from one of the two William
Collinses who sailed to Virginia in the ship Plaine Joan in 1635,
at this time the earliest date at which we can certainly identify an ancestor
on the Collins line is 1664/65, when one James Collins received a royal
patent for 400 acres of land in the Upper Parish of Nansemond County. A
copy of that document, which may be the first which names an ancestor,
appears below, on Page 23. His links to us will be proven at great length
at that time: though the exact relationship is uncertain the land he lived
on remained in our family for a century and passed to our known ancestors.
He is most likely either the great-great-grandfather or great-grandfather
of the James Collins "I" who moved to North Carolina and whose son James
"II" served in the Revolution. He could, however, be a brother of that
James' ancestor. He was certainly kin. The next chapter, which really begins
our Collins family history as such, begins with him.
However, there is sufficient evidence of Collinses
-- several separate families of them -- from which he might have sprung
that it is worth discussing the earlier history of people named Collins
in southeastern Virginia in its early decades of European colonization.
It may be that none of those families was the origin of James of 1664/65
-- he might have been just off the boat -- but there are some tantalizing
clues which suggest otherwise. As much of this evidence was quite recently
discovered in my research, it is quite possible that more will be forthcoming.
In case some readers were not aware that the Collinses
of North Carolina, Tennessee, Missouri and beyond originated in Virginia,
it should be noted that this is well established and will be traced at
each step in the pages which follow. Before the American Revolution James
Collins the elder had moved to North Carolina, where his son James lived
most of a long life and from which his children fanned out across the South,
many of them via Georgia and Kentucky to Tennessee. James the younger's
son Henry was one of those who moved to Tennessee, and his son John Collins
and three sisters moved to the Missouri Ozarks. But the Collins' American
roots, though long ago abandoned, were in Virginia.
We have long had some clues about where to look.
James Collins the Revolutionary soldier tells us clearly in his Revolutionary
War pension application (quoted in detail in his profile) that he was born
on October 10, 1758 in Isle of Wight County, Virginia; that before the
Revolution he had moved to Bute County, North Carolina (the part which
later became Franklin County), and that he lived for about a year after
the (Revolutionary) War in Nansemond County, Virginia. (See the accompanying
map for locations.)
The full story, so far as we can reconstruct it,
of the connections between Isle of Wight and Nansemond Counties in Virginia
and Franklin County in North Carolina will be discussed, in detail, in
the chapters which follow. For now we may merely mention that our Collins
line -- people we can definitely link, through land records and other kinds
of evidence, with our known ancestors -- lived along, and across, the line
dividing Isle of Wight and Nansemond Counties, apparently on either side
of a body of water called the Kingsale Swamp, which flows into the Blackwater
River at the present town of Franklin, Virginia. This area will be described
in detail in the next chapter. Because the Nansemond records were destroyed
not once, like many southern courthouse records, but three times, and the
Isle of Wight records, while surviving, are not comprehensive, reconstruction
of the early Collinses has been difficult. But from 1664/65 onward, we
can describe their history in at least general terms, as we do beginning
in the next chapter. But where did the Collins of 1664/65 come from?
Collinses in Virginia
Collins is a very common name in Virginia from early times, and certainly
there were more than one Collins family present in many areas of the colony.
The family historian of one Collins family has written that of some 50
men named Collins who immigrated to the early American colonies, no fewer
than 31 separate ones came to Virginia.(1)
A number of these have links to the Isle of Wight and Nansemond County
areas with which we are concerned.
First of all, a little background is in order.
Isle of Wight is one of Virginia's original eight "shires", being formed
in 1634 (as Warrascoyack, named Isle of Wight in 1637) from the area controlled
by the James City Corporation, one of the townships created before the
formation of Virginia shires or counties. It is part of the tidewater hinterland
of the original Jamestown colony, and lies across and slightly downriver
from Jamestown. Nansemond County, originally called Upper New Norfolk County,
is adjacent to the east.
Although there is no evidence of a direct connection,
it is worth mentioning that the name Collins is found in the Jamestown
colony and its hinterland from very early times indeed.
The first permanent English colony in North America,
Jamestown, as every schoolboy knew when people were taught such things,
was founded in May of 1607. At the beginning of October, 1608 -- a year
and a half after the first landing and 12 years before those latecomers,
the Pilgrims, got to Massachusetts -- the "second supply" convoy arrived
with supplies for the Jamestown colonists and a new group of settlers.
One of those aboard the second supply was named Henry Collings.(2)
Collings was often an alternative spelling of Collins (at least as late
as 1800 in our own family), and the name Henry was later popular with our
Collinses, but this does not mean he was related. It does mean that
Collinses reached America very early indeed. There were certainly no more
than a couple of hundred people of British origin in North America when
this Henry Collings landed, and he landed just across the James River from
where our ancestors would be found some 60 years later. That proves nothing
at all, for Collins is a common name, though the name "Henry" might be
suggestive. (A Henry Collins also turns up as an investor in the Virginia
Company of London, which settled Jamestown, and it is probably the same
man.) The name was very popular in the 17th Century, for Tudor dynastic
reasons, but much less so in the 18th and 19th centuries, when we keep
finding it in the Collins family. But it proves nothing, and there is no
evidence of its use in our own family before about the time of the Revolution.
But others were soon to arrive, probably not related
to Henry "Collings", and with a somewhat greater chance of being related
to us. In the very piece of land from which our ancestors derive, later
to be called Isle of Wight County, we find Peter and Thomas Collins; Peter
at least came to the area that became Isle of Wight (Warrascoyack) on the
Addam in 1621. Peter Collins may have been "bound" -- in indenture
-- to one Edward Bennett, who operated under contracts with The London
Company, from 1621 to 1625. (Indenture was a means by which many poorer
Englishmen gained a way to emigrate to the New World, by "binding" themselves
to a certain number of years service; upon completion of that service they
remained as freemen in the new colony.) Bennett founded the Warrascoyack
plantation and brought over a large number of people to settle it. But
Bennett was trying to create a Puritan settlement in generally Anglican/cavalier
Virginia, and it is not clear to me whether his colonists were actually
bound servants or voluntary colonists. Peter and Thomas Collins survived
the massacre at Warrascoyack in 1622. (On Good Friday, March 22, 1622,
Indians attacked all along the James River colonies, devastating the still
fragile settlements.) Both men appear on a list of servants of Edward Bennet
or Bennett in the Muster of Inhabitants of Warrascoyack on February 7,
There is no evidence other than geographical coincidence
to suggest that Peter or Thomas Collins were our ancestors, though again
the names recur in the family (but were of course common English names
of the 17th and 18th century). They do show that the name was planted,
not just in Virginia, but specifically in the Isle of Wight County area
very early. They also suggest at least two different immigrations: Henry
in 1608 (though he may not have remained in America) and Peter and Thomas
on the Addam in 1621.
Two William Collinses on the Plaine Joan
With the next Collinses to turn up in the Isle
of Wight county area, however, we start to have some clues suggesting a
connection. In fact, some of the coincidences, if they are coincidences,
are tantalizing. One of these men seems to be the same William Collins
who was brought over, perhaps for indentured service, by a man who, for
bringing him over, received a land grant in the same area where our Collinses
show up a generation later. He could be our immigrant ancestor.
For this reason, I want to look closely at the two men, both named William
Collins, who came to America on the same voyage of the same ship in 1635.
It is even possible that every Collins later found in Isle of Wight County,
Virginia, could descend from these two men, because there are two
distinct Collins families each of which used the name "William" in the
The Plaine Joan sailed for Virginia on
May 15, 1635, apparently from London, captained by Richard Buckam, Master.
Aboard were 84 men, all over 14 years of age. Two of them were named William
Collins, and their ages were given as 20 and 34 years. This would make
one of them born about 1601 and the other in about 1615.(4)
I believe that the two Collinses on the Plaine
Joan deserve considerable attention. Since what follows is mostly suggestive,
clues pointing towards a link which cannot be proven, some readers may
want to jump ahead to read about Collinses we know are related to us, beginning
in the next chapter on Page 23. But what follows is, I believe, tantalizing
and worthy of further pursuit.
First, though, I must address a side issue: one
of these men appears in quite a lot of genealogies of people descended
from the Collinses of Caroline and Spotsylvania Counties, Virginia. They
believe that the 20-year-old William Collins on the Plaine Joan was
the same man who married Ann Wilds in Isle of Wight County, Virginia, in
1675, had children by her, and later, moved elsewhere in Virginia, and
they identify him with a William Collins born (according to them) in 1612
in Maidstone, Kent, the son and grandson of men named John Collins. His
father John Collins came years later and settled in Surry County, VA which
is, admittedly, just west of Isle of Wight. The original William supposedly
died in King and Queen County, Virginia, in 1705. His progeny moved to
Caroline and Spostsylvania Counties, Virginia, and thence throughout the
This would not fit with a Scotch-Irish origin
(Kent is as far away from Ulster as you can get and still be in the British
Isles), and also doesn't match our ancestry in other ways, so if one of
these William Collinses is theirs, he isn't likely to be ours. On the other
hand, it is impossible that the William Collins from whom this family descends
is the same one who married Ann Wilds in 1675, which raises questions about
the accuracy of the Collins genealogy just cited. For their William Collins
is said to have died in 1705, and their connection with him requires him
to have lived that long.(6) Ann Wilds, who
was already the widow of Thomas Wilds when she married William Collins
in 1675, subsequently married Alexander Murray in 1687, soon after the
death of William Collins, who obviously had to have died before 1687 and
is therefore not the man who died in 1705. Her will, at the age of 49 on
February 10, 1700/1701 (Old Style: 1701 by our calendar) mentions her son
John Collins, daughter Ann Collins, and daughters Martha and Mary Murray,
the last two to live with their uncle Robert King, suggesting that perhaps
her maiden name was King.(7) Thus the William
who married Ann Wilds was not the progenitor of the Collinses described
in the book cited, since he died long before their William Collins did,
in King and Queen County in 1705. The Caroline County and Spotsylvania
County Collinses cannot descend from the William who married Ann Wilds,
though one will find many books which affirm that they do. There are other
instances in which these Collins genealogists seem to have assumed that
any Collins with the same first name was identical with theirs in the same
era. And in fact there were Collinses in New Kent and King and Queen Counties
quite early, and these may have had no connection with the Isle of Wight
and Surry County Collinses, or with us.
But was the William Collins who married Ann Wilds
in 1675 -- though not the ancestor of these Collinses -- one of the two
who came on the Plaine Joan in 1635? I will argue in a moment that
both of the men on the Plaine Joan may have been linked with the
Isle of Wight area or places near it, but remember that the two men on
the ship were born about 1601 and 1615. The one born in 1601 is surely
too old to have had children by a woman he married at the age of 74. (Not
impossible, but unlikely.) The other man might be the one who married Ann
Wilds, for he would have been about 60 in 1675, had at least two children
by her, and then died before 1687, when he would have been about 72. This
connection is certainly possible.
One might also ask: could the other William
Collins on the Plaine Joan, the one who didn't marry Ann Wilds,
have been the ancestor of the Caroline and Spotsylvania County Collinses?
Well, he was born about 1601, and their ancestor died in 1705 in King and
Queen County. Surely had he lived to 104 in those days, someone would have
remembered the fact.
The William who married Ann Wilds, as noted, may
have been the younger of the two men on board the Plaine Joan: his
descendants do seem to have lived in the Isle of Wight area, closer to
the James River and to Surry County than our ancestors, and we know that
he had a son John, and that there was a John Junior. These Collinses lived
in Isle of Wight County, as did ours, but not in the area where we can
show ours to have lived. They used some of the same names: the name William
is frequent in our own line, as is John -- but of course these are common
English names. From the reign of William and Mary (beginning in 1688) the
name William was very popular in England, but these Williams, and the first
appearance of the name in our line, predate that. I am still working on
how some of these other Collinses in Isle of Wight County may relate
to our line. We can say that they were still living in northwestern Isle
of Wight County and Surry Counties at a time when our Collinses already
lived in southeastern Isle of Wight, but there is no certainty that they
are related. They may, however, descend from the other William Collins
on the Plaine Joan, if he is the man who married Ann Wilds.
But who were the passengers on the Plaine
Joan? Let us take a look at them for a moment. Because the famous
publication which first printed the list is usually known by the short
title as Hotten's Original Lists of Persons of Quality, I am sure
many descendants of those Plaine Joan passengers have assumed their
ancestors were "persons of quality". But Hotten's full title for his famous
book, one known to all colonial genealogists, with all its subtitles was
"The Original Lists of Persons of Quality; Emigrants; Religious Exiles;
Political Rebels; Serving Men Sold for a Term of Years; Apprentices; Children
Stolen; Maidens Pressed; and Others Who Went from Great Britain to the
American Plantations 1600-1700".(8)
Now a closer look at the passenger list of the
Plaine Joan shows that there were certainly no "Maidens Pressed",
because there were no women at all, and no children under 14. There were,
in short, no families. All 84 passengers were males old enough to perform
labor, those of 14 being considered old enough to be farmhands at the time.
The oldest passenger aboard was Ralph Wray, 64; there were two men of 50,
one of 40, and the other 80 men were all between 14 and 36. This is a list
of able-bodied men coming to Virginia to work, without wives, without minor
children, without the elderly.
This is important to keep in mind in the discussion
to follow. Later Virginians created a myth that the colony was settled
by "distressed cavaliers" who fled England during the English civil war,
and created the planter aristocracy of the Chesapeake. Certainly there
were some distressed cavaliers among the early Virginian settlers, particularly
among the richest of the "first families of Virginia". But in 1635 the
civil war was still in the future and the cavaliers were not yet "distressed".
African slavery was slow to take root in Virginia, and a great deal of
the labor in the early years (and even much later) was performed by non-landholding
Englishmen, either for pay or under the system of indentured service.
To understand who the passengers on the Plaine
Joan appear to have been, and what that means to our ancestry, one
first has to understand the "headright" system under which the Chesapeake
and southern colonies were settled. Then we will come back to look at those
Plaine Joan passengers in greater detail.
The Headrights System and Indentured Servants
Much of the evidence we have for early landholding
in Virginia (and a significant part of the evidence for our early Collinses
and their relationships to us) comes down to us because of a system known
as "headrights". This began in the early days of the Colony, when the Virginia
Company still ran Virginia, and continued after the King took it over as
a Royal Colony in 1624. Similar systems were used in Maryland and the Carolinas,
with minor variations.
The idea of the headright was simple enough. To
persuade settlers to come to the new world, and particularly to
encourage them to settle on the frontiers where population was needed as
a defense against the Indians, the Crown offered a grant of 50 acres of
land for each person who came over at his own expense, or to the person
paying the transportation of someone else. A person who came with a wife
and five children could automatically claim a grant of 350 acres. He might
have to accept that grant where the Royal Governor thought it most useful
(the frontier for example), but he was guaranteed that amount of land.
Since one got 50 acres per head, this became known as a headright.(9)
One could, however, bring not only oneself and
one's family, but also others at one's own expense. One could simply import
people who wanted to come over, purely for the land, but in time it became
obvious that 50 acres on a relatively open frontier was not worth the cost
of transportation. Sometimes one brought over relatives, or an apprentice
to a trade. Increasingly as time went on, one brought over someone "indentured"
to service. An indentured servant bound himself to servitude for a fixed
amount of time -- it was usually six or seven years but could be less or
even more depending on the terms of the contract. During that time he had
almost as few legal rights as a slave, but he had a promise of freedom
at the expiration of his indenture. For someone without the money to pay
his way to the New World, it was a useful way to get there, and at the
end of his indenture (I say "his" because almost all were male: females
came in other capacities), he was a free man with rights to own property.
In Virginia at least,
At the expiration of the term of service, the
servants usually received equipment and supplies necessary to start them
as freemen. They received grain enough for one year, clothes, and in some
cases a gun and a supply of tools. As to receipt of land, the policy varied
from one colony to another, and at times there was uncertainty within one
colony about obligations to freedmen. In Virginia the indentured servant
did not usually receive land at the end of service unless he had insisted
... that a specific provision be included in the contract to include the
award of fifty acres as "freedom's dues".(10)
Quite a number of prominent Virginia families
descend from ancestors who came as immigrants "in service", though few
in the past called much attention to it. There seems to be some evidence
that London thought the 50 acre headright would go to the servant, not
the person who paid the transportation costs, or that each would get 50
acres, but clearly in most cases in Virginia, it was the person paying
the transportation that got the 50 acres.(11)
While it is not clear that the Collinses came
in indenture, this could very well explain a Scots or Irish ancestry; and
there is no social stigma; not only did many prominent Virginia families
originate through this manner of paying one's passage, but some estimates
suggest as many as three-quarters of the white immigrants to Virginia in
1623-1637 came as indentured servants, and that perhaps as many as 40%
of later landholders came to the colony as indentured servants.(12)
It should also be noted in passing that some immigrants
to Virginia were transported as prisoners, sentenced to work off a period
of servitude (also frequently six or seven years). There is no evidence
that any of the persons mentioned in this study or any of the passengers
on the Plaine Joan were prisoners.
If someone paid for another person to come to
this country, whether as an indentured servant or an apprentice or for
whatever reason, he (or she) usually claimed the "headright" at some point,
either immediately or within a few years of the importation. Naturally,
it was most common for someone importing an indentured servant to then
use that servant either on the land one was granted as a result of the
importation, or on other land one already owned. But one could also sell
his service -- he could be passed from hand to hand like a slave. One could
also sell, not the service, but the headright, so that someone else
got the land due for the person the original payer paid to import. This
could raise money quickly if the Crown took time to award the land.
Still, the claims for headrights give us some
idea of who paid for the importation of various immigrants (some perhaps
as freemen, others indentured), and if they worked for the man who imported
them, some idea of where they first lived. There are problems in using
this material. As Robinson notes in this connection:
The conclusions cannot be final and are subject to limitations. Identification presents a problem because of the frequency of the same name as Smith or Davis and because of the omission of middle names. The problem is further complicated by the fact that headrights were often transferred by sale. A person entitled to a headright claim on the frontier may not have wished to settle there; rather he may have preferred to sell his headright claim and purchase land in an established county. As a result of the sale of his headright claim, his name may have appeared in the headright list as the basis for the claim for someone else even though he had not been an indentured servant. Therefore, all persons so listed under the headright claim cannot be considered indentured servants.(13)
Sometimes, too, people claimed the names of persons
whom they had not transported, or in some cases, claimed themselves several
times if they regularly traveled back and forth to England. Some ship's
masters apparently claimed not only their passengers (who were also claimed
by others) but also the sailors on their vessels. Some people simply claimed
their neighbors as people they had "transported", to get more land as a
bounty, and as a result some of these names appear several times in land-greedy
claims. The governors were none too careful about checking; after all,
the land belonged to no one (except, of course, the Indians, who never
were asked). Robinson notes that Sarah Law received 300 acres for importing
John Good, "probably a sailor, six times".(14)
So one must use this material with caution. But
at the same time, one must recognize that there is a lot of historical
data buried in these early headright claims which, in the absence of early
census or tax lists, cannot otherwise be recovered.
and the Plaine Joan Passengers
All this discussion of headrights is important
to our assessment of who the men, including the two William Collinses,
on the Plaine Joan may have been. As we have seen, every passenger
was male, with no women or children. All were between 14 and 64, and 80
of the 84 were between 14 and 36: able bodied males, if not adults exactly
by our standards (for those under 18), then at least males able to work
in the tobacco fields.
After learning of some very interesting developments
involving men who may have been the two William Collinses aboard, and which
I will divulge shortly, I decided to sample the early land grants (in the
form of the index to the first volume of abstracts published by the Virginia
State Library, Cavaliers and Pioneers, already cited several times).
The results were surprising.
A significant number of the names in the passenger
list of the Plaine Joan turn up claimed as persons for whom another
person claimed land for their transportation, which means they were most
likely (though not certainly) indentured servants. The quotations above
show other possible interpretations. But a great many of these names turn
up from the late 1630s onwards in lists of those claimed for headrights.
Two William Collinses turn up, and since this
is the crucial part of our argument, I will save it for a moment.
Some of the names in the Plaine Joan list
are so common we cannot tell whether we are dealing with the same man,
and others are not found, in the form given, in any Virginia record. Perhaps
they died, never owned property, or the spelling was so deceptive we cannot
guess at the real name. And of course, large numbers of people lived in
early Virginia whose names may never have been written down.
But the coincidences far outweigh the exceptions.
The most stunning headright claim is also the most suspicious, for it is
so late that it may represent simply a "padding" of a headright list from
an old passenger list. On 18 February 1653 -- 18, more likely 19 (since
the date is "Old Style") years after the Plaine Joan sailed -- Francis
Emperor, Hugh Gale, and Edward Morgan received a grant for 1,000 acres
in Lower Norfolk County (what is today Norfolk, VA) for importing 20 persons.
Of the 20 men named, a stunning 13 match more or less exactly the names
on the Plaine Joan passenger list, three more look close, and only
two seem unmatchable.(15)
This suggests that between 13 and 18 of the passengers
of the Plaine Joan were imported by a single consortium of three
men, presumably as indentured servants, but it needs to be used with caution:
it may be a fraudulent case of just copying names from an old ship's list,
changing a few to camouflage the fact. One of the names claimed, John Resbury,
for example, had earlier been claimed as a headright importation by Benjamin
Harrison (ancestor of the Presidential family) back in 1637(16)
and owned land in his own right at least as early as 1642, though that
does not rule out his having served up to six years' indenture. (But he
earned his 1642 land for transporting three persons, suggesting he had
capital.)(17) An interesting note on Resbury:
in the 1642 grant in Charles County, his land adjoins John "Reddish" --
clearly the same as the John "Raddish" or Radish who at age 24 sailed with
him on the Plaine Joan in 1635 and who, by 1637, owned land in his
own right and clearly could not have come over as an indentured servant.(18)
Another man who clearly was not an indentured
servant held land very close to where our later Collinses were, and this
was Thomas Stamp (shown as Thomas Stump or Stamp in the Plaine Joan
lists). In 1638, only three years after arrival, he, with Gresham Coffield,
received a grant for 200 acres in Isle of Wight County joining the land
of Epahprhoditus Lawson, easterly, then northwest upon the Nansemond River.(19)
Epahprhoditus Lawson shows up in many grants in the Currituck and Pagan
Creek areas west of the Nansemond near the James, though the records make
clear Stamp held land elsewhere as well. The land was not exactly where
our ancestors lived, but not that far away either.
I plan to do further studies of the early immigrants
on the Plaine Joan. An interesting sampling suggests that 1) most
of them were claimed as headrights by someone in Virginia, and that 2)
most of the land granted as a result of these headrights was in either
Isle of Wight, Nansemond, or Lower Norfolk (later Norfolk) counties, or
their predecessors. While much of the evidence is so far anecdotal, I plan
to document it further.
The Two Williams of the Plaine Joan
But we may pursue several of these lines of inquiry
further at the moment. The most important is the obvious question of what
happened to the two William Collinses who came over on the Plaine Joan?
Two of the headright claims deserve attention
because both are located in Nansemond County, which with Isle of Wight
County is closely associated with our own Collinses. As has been mentioned
and will be demonstrated, our own ancestors come from an area right along
the county line and often lived in both counties.
On 26 November 1638, Oliver Sprye was granted
600 acres in the "Upper County of New Norfolk", which was later called
Nansemond County, extending "South West up a long banck of the maine river
and north west into the woods". He was granted this land for transporting
six persons, one of whom was named William Collins.(20)
This could easily be, and from the date seems even likelier to be, one
of the two Williams on the Plaine Joan. Where this land was, however,
is a bit more complex. Was the "maine river" the Nansemond River, in which
case we seem to be close to areas our Collinses will be later, or was it
the James, which is what the "maine river" usually meant in Virginia deeds
of those days? Oliver Sprye (sometimes Spry) appears in many early grants.
The land here cited adjoined Daniel Gookins, which suggests that it may
be land along the James between the Nansemond River and Pagan Creek.(21)
One can suggest other links, and I intend to research the issue further,
but this William Collins seems to be linked to an area close to the James
River, in the vicinity of the mouths of the Nansemond River and Chuckatuck
and Pagan Creeks. Based on the limited information I have so far, this
does not seem unlikely as an area for the settlement of that William Collins
who married Ann Wilds, discussed earlier in this chapter. But this family
does not seem closely connected to us.
Interesting Land Grant
What is likely the more important headright grant, however, and the one most relevant to our own ancestry, is a grant to John Geary by Governor Sir Francis Wyatt on April 22, 1640, for 250 acres also in Upper Norfolk (Nansemond) County. I rather suspect that this grant may someday supplant the one which heads the next chapter as the earliest documentary reference to our ancestors, but the proof is not yet in. In this grant, the Governor granted 250 acres in Upper Norfolk County (that is, Nansemond County) to Geary, between land "late in the possession of Mr. Thomas Dew & by him assigned to Thomas Davis" and land "now in possession of Thomas Powell" bounded on the Southern Branch of the Matravers River. It was granted for transportation of five persons: Robert Ward, William Collins, Walter Gary, Richard Gooday, and John Herst.(22) Thomas Dew is a well-known figure, a member and later speaker of the House of Burgesses; Thomas Davis owned land in several areas. And John Geary seems to have imported a lot of people, or claimed them as headrights anyway, though the name appears in the records as Geary, Gary, Garye, and other variations. Walter "Gary" in the list may be kin of his.
Before we even look at the geographical description,
one thing must be noted: the passenger list of the Plaine Joan,
about five years earlier, included not only two William Collinses, but
a Robert Ward. That makes it quite possible that we are dealing with persons
imported on that ship. And the location of this land is particularly interesting.
The "Matravers" River was none other than the Nansemond River,(23)
and thus the "Southern Branch of the Matravers" is, presumably, the same
as the Southern Branch of the Nansemond. We will show in the next chapter
that the upper reaches of the Southern Branch of the Nansemond (today called
Cohoon Creek) virtually adjoin Kingsale Swamp, where our later Collinses
lived, and that the upper waters of the Southern Branch were used to define
our earliest Collins land. (See Page 35, below.)
So here we have a William Collins, seemingly at
least serving a man who received land where, a generation later, we find
Collinses owning land, and by 1677, some 37 years later, find another (or
the same?) William Collins. What can we make of this?
At this point, I am simply going to note the extreme interest of this data. It proves little. Later we will find, clearly, that the earliest Collinses on these upper reaches of the "Southern Branch" of the Nansemond (or Matrevers, as it had been known) River were living along what became known as the Kingsale Swamp, and were living where our own provable ancestors grew up. Was William Collins of John Geary's "importation" an ancestor, and does the conjunction with Ward show he was the same man who came on the Plaine Joan? No: not to any degree of confidence. But yes: it's likely enough. As we shall see later, there is a real tendency of landholding Collinses in the records to alternate names (James-William-James-William-James), which may mean that each generation named his son for his father, and therefore the notion that the first James might be the son of a William is hardly far-fetched, but also unproven.
1. Mary Collins Landin, The Collins and Travis Families and their Allies, Utica, Mississippi, 1982, p. 9.
2. Arthur L. Waldo, True Heroes of Jamestown, 1977, citing Captain John Smith's Map of Virginia, 1612. On the second supply see Charles E. Hatch, Jr., The First 17 Years: Virginia 1607-1624.
3. On Bennett and Warrascoyack, see Hatch, The First 17 Years, plantation number 36; for Bennett and also for the Collinses see John Bennett Boddie, Seventeenth Century Isle of Wight County, Virginia, Chicago, 1938, pp. 36-39, listing Peter among 33 persons at Warrascoyack on February 16, 1623 and February 7, 1625. The latter citation mentions the Addam.
4. The passenger list was published in a work well known to colonial genealogists, The Original Lists of Persons of Quality; Emigrants; Religious Exiles; Men Sold for a Term of Years; Apprentices; Children Stolen; Maidens Pressed; and Others who went from Great Britain to the American Plantations 1600-1700 by John Camden Hotten, published in London in 1874; there is a 1986 reprint by Genealogical Publishing Company, Baltimore. The Plaine Joan's list appears on page 78. The list has been recopied from the original in Peter Wilson Coldham, The Complete Book of Emigrants 1607-1660, pp. 144-145, with another mention of the ship on p. 146; Coldham spells it Plain Joan throughout.
5. . Landin's Collins and Travis Families, already cited, and Herbert Ridgeway Collins, History and Genealogy of the Collins Family of Caroline County, VA and Related Families 1569-1954, Richmond, 1954, both make the identification of the William Collins of Kent with the William who married Ann Wilds. The identification seems to stem, based on Collins' History references, on Burke's Landed Gentry, which in earlier days was quite sloppy on American colonial genealogy. Collins does not seem as confident of the identification as Landin, and does not use the 1705 date.
6. . Collins and Travis Families, p. 11.
7. . The marriage of William Collins to Mrs. Ann Wilds, relict of Thomas Wilds, is in Isle of Wight Co. Will & Deed Book 2 (Rev.) p. 35; see Blanche Adams Chapman, compiler, Isle of Wight County Marriages, 1628-1800, p. 12. For William Collins' death, see Blanche Adams Chapman, Wills and Administrations of Isle of Wight County, Virginia, 1647-1800, appraisal cited on p. 27 (p. 271 of original will book); for Ann Wilds Collins marriage to Alexander Murray, see Will & Deed book 2, p. 62, cited in Chapman, Marriages, p. 37. For Murray's death and Ann's nuncupative will, see Wills and Administrations p. 40 and 41. These show that the William Collins traced in the Collins and Travis Families book, who died many years after this William Collins, is not the one who married Ann Wilds.
8. . For full reference see above, Page 13, Footnote 7.
9. . For a good introduction to the land patent system, including a discussion of the frauds frequently committed, See the booklet Mother Earth -- Land Patents in Virginia, 1957, by W. Stitt Robinson, Jr., Number 5 in the Jamestown Booklets Series of the University Press of Virginia, Charlottesville. On abuses, see pp. 40-42. There is also a good discussion in the introduction to Cavaliers and Pioneers: Abstracts of Virginia Land Patents and Grants, 1623-1666, Abstracted and Indexed by Nell Marion Nugent, Virginia Land Office, Richmond; reprint 1963. The Introduction is by Robert Armistead Stewart.
10. . Robinson, Mother Earth, p. 36.
11. . Robinson, Mother Earth, pp 36-37.
12. . Robinson, Mother Earth, 38-39; the estimate that 75% of immigrants 1623-1637 were indentured servants cites William G. Stanard; the estimate that 30-40% of all landholders originated that way cites T.J. Wertenbaker's The Planters of Colonial Virginia, Princeton, 1922. For those wishing a serious introduction to labor, indentured and slave, in colonial Virginia, Edmund S. Morgan's American Slavery, American Freedom: The Ordeal of Colonial Virginia (New York: W.W. Norton, 1975) is excellent, as well as a good history of 17th century colonial Virginia.
13. . Robinson, Mother Earth, p. 38.
14. . Robinson, Mother Earth, p. 40, which page and the following offer a good survey of the corrupt use of the system.
15. . Matches: John Resbury/Resburie; John Marshall; John Trent; Francis Barber/Barbar; "Mr Wolley"=Richard Wolley; Nicholas Kent; Mathew Lein/Lenn; Thomas Godby/Godbitt; John Rowles/Rolles; James Miller; Richard Downes; George Smith; John Hughes/Hues. Possibles: John Brooke/Robert Brooke; John Bennett/John Barnett; Thomas Gover/Thomas Viper; Charles Fleming/Richard Fleming; Richard Hitchcock/William Hitchcock. Apparent non-matches: Thomas Bonner, Thomas Simpson. See Cavaliers and Pioneers, Vol. I., p. 248, citing Patent Book 3, p. 47, and the passenger list of the Plaine Joan cited earlier.
16. . Cavaliers and Pioneers I, p. 56, citing Patent Book 1, part I, p 420.
17. . Cavaliers and Pioneers, p. 138, Oct. 29, 1642, citing Patent Book Number 1, Part II, p. 844.
18. . For Radish: See Cavaliers and Pioneers I, p. 138, citing Patent Book 1, Part II, p. 844, Resbury grant mentioning Reddish; Plaine Joan list; grant to John Radish and John Bradwell on James City Island, 20 may 1637, Cavaliers and Pioneers Vol. I p. 56, citing Patent Book 1, Part I, p.423. Note too that the Radish/Bradwell land abutted "Mary Holland", another surname which will often appear in this work.
19. . Cavaliers and Pioneers, I p. 95, citing Patent Book 1, Part II, p. 588, dated 14 August 1838.
20. . Cavaliers and Pioneers, Previously cited, p. 99, citing Patent Book Number 1, Part II, p. 605. I have not checked the original copy of this patent.
21. See for example the grant of 2500 acres to Daniel Gookins on 29 Dec. 1637 on the NW side of the Nansemond River beginning between the mouth of Nansemond and the mouth of Chuckatuck or New Towne Haven River. Cavaliers and Pioneers p. 78, citing Patent Book 1, Part II, p. 511.
22. Cavaliers and Pioneers, p. 119, citing Patent Book No. 1, Part II, p. 700.
23. See Cavaliers and Pioneers, p. 100 (John Gookins grant: "Nansamund River alias Matrevers River"); p. 102, (Abraham peltree Grant: "Nansamund Riv. alias Matrevers Riv."), and same formula on p. 103 (Robert Brassure & Peter Rey grant).