Select Collins Surname Genealogy

Collins may be of Irish or of English origin.   The name origins in each case are different:
  • Collins in Ireland would most likely come either from the Gaelic cuilean, a term of endearment, or from the Gaelic surname O'Coileain, which means a whelp or young dog.  
  • the English name comes from Collin or Coll, a pet-form of Nicholas, or separately from Colin (deriving from the old Saxon Caewlin).  Collins would usually signify "son of Colin." 
Select Collins Resources on The Internet
Ireland.  There were apparently two early Collins septs - the O'Coileains and the O'Cuilleains.

The O'Coileain sept were originally to be found in county Limerick around Claonglass, but were then driven southwards by the Normans in the 13th century to west Cork.  It was said that Mahon O'Collins, lord of Claonglass and the last of the ruling Collins, was killed by his wife in 1266 with a thrust of a knife in a fit of jealousy.  The well-known Gaelic poem, translated as Lament over Timnoleague Abbey, commemorated Sean O'Coileain (John Collins) of this sept.   Meanwhile the O'Cuilleain sept was thought to have been indigenous to west Cork.

There were also other distinct O'Coileain septs in Galway, Tyrone, and Tipperary.

Today the name is mainly to be found in Limerick and Cork.  Michael Collins, the Irish revolutionary leader, came from west Cork.  

England.  The Collins of English origin have come mainly from SE England.  John Collins was an early 16th century ironmaker in the Sussex forests at Burwash; and Stanton Collins a smuggler on the Sussex coast three centuries later.

The Collins of Cornwall, it is believed, were started by Irish Collins from Limerick who migrated there in the 14th century.  Joseph Collins from the Trewardale branch of this family was the founder of the Mineralogical Society.  John Collins was an 18th century merchant in Swansea.  His son John was rector of Oxwich and became an important figure in church life in the area.

Irish-born William Collins settled in London in the late 1700's.   His two sons became well-known there, William as a noted landscape painter and Wilkie Collins who was said to have invented the detective story.

Scotland.  Kollyns in Scotland is thought to have become Collins.  The name has been mainly found in and around Glasgow.  The best-known Collins was William Collins, the Glasgow schoolmaster who founded the well-known publishing company of William Collins in 1819.  His son William was Glasgow’s Provost in 1877 and a temperance advocate.

.  Three early English Collins in New England were Henry Collins in Lynn, Edward Collins in Cambridge, and Joseph Collins in Eastham on Cape Cod.

Henry Collins left London with his family for New England on the Abigail in 1635 and settled in Lynn, Massachusetts:
  • one line via Samuel Collins, a Quaker, led to Rhode Island.  John Collins of this family became Rhode Island Governor in 1816.  John was also a trader out of Newport and this business was carried on by his son and grandson.  
  • another line went to the shipping entrepreneurs Isaac Collins and his son Edward who started the Collins Line service between New York and London in 1818.  It lasted until 1856 when tragedy struck.  One of his vessels sank in thick fog with many lives lost, including Edward’s wife and daughter.
Edward Collins was church deacon at Cambridge in 1638.  A descendant was William Collins of the Ohio Cavalry during the Civil War after whom Fort Collins in Colorado was named.

Joseph Collins married Ruth Knowles at Eastham, Massachusetts in 1671.  His descendants moved to Chatham where they prospered.  Later Collins were Loyalists and they moved to Nova Scotia where Benajah and his son Thomas were prominent merchants and local politicians.

Irish Collins came later.  Patrick Collins arrived penniless from Cork with his mother in 1848, escaping the famine.  He became a Congressman and was the Boston mayor from 1902 to 1905.  Another Collins of Irish roots, John Collins, was Boston mayor from 1960 to 1968.

Canada.  The Collins name appeared in Newfoundland in the 1700’s and possibly earlier.  John Collins was a well-known Irishman in Newfoundland in the 1760’s:

“Captain John Collins, a self-professed ‘fast sailor,’ sailed the 80 ton brig Hannah and Lydia from Cobh in Cork to Harbour Grace in Newfoundland.  He would recruit fishermen and shoremen for the Newfoundland trade.”

Collins in Placentia, Newfoundland date from the 1790’s.  Samuel Collins who arrived from Waterford during the 19th century was the great grandfather of Kevin Collins, the Newfoundland Irish folk singer.

Hallet Collins came from a seafaring family, but in America.  His forebears had been living at Eastham on Cape Cod since the 1650’s.  He himself moved north to Liverpool, Nova Scotia in 1760 where he prospered as a merchant and a trader.  One of his sons, Enos Collins was reportedly the richest man in Canada on his death in 1871

Australia.  David Collins of Anglo-Irish origins sailed on the First Fleet to Australia in 1788.  He was one of the founders of Sydney, NSW and Hobart, Tasmania.  Collins Street in Melbourne was named after him.
Thomas Collins, who arrived in 1814, had two careers - first as a whaler and then as a grazier.

Select Collins Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for further stories and accounts:

Select Collins Names

Wilkie Collins, a contemporary of Dickens, was a writer whose works were the precursors of today's thrillers.  He came from a well-known Wicklow family in Ireland.
Joseph Collins was a Victorian mining engineer who founded the Mineralogical Society.
Patrick Collins, born in Ireland, became a Massachusetts politician and mayor of Boston in 1902.
Michael Collins was the Irish revolutionary leader who took part in the Anglo-Irish treaty negotiations and was then assassinated by the IRA in 1922.
Joan Collins is the British actress best-known for her portrayal of Alexis in the American TV series Dynasty. Her sister is the novelist Jackie Collins.
Judy Collins is the American folk singer.
Phil Collins is a well-known English singer/solo artist.

Select Collins Today
  • 95,000 in the UK (most numerous in Surrey)
  • 120,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 73,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)

Select Surname List

Adams Ellis Johnson O'Connor
Allen Evans Jones O'Sullivan Shaw
Anderson Fisher
Kelly Parker Simpson
Bailey Foster Kennedy Perry Smith
Baker Fox King Peterson Stevens
Barnes Fraser 
Lee Phillips Stewart
Bell Graham Lewis Powell Taylor
Bennett Gray Marshall Price Thomas
Brown Green Martin Reed
Griffiths Mason      
Reynolds Turner
Campbell Hall McDonald Richards
Carter Hamilton Miller  Richardson Walsh
Chapman Harris Mitchell Roberts Ward
Clark Harrison
Moore Robertson Watson
Collins Henderson Morgan Robinson White
Cook Hill Morris Rogers Williams
Cooper Howard Murphy Ross Wilson
Cox Hughes Murray Russell Wood
Davis Jackson Nelson Ryan Wright
Edwards James O'Brien 

For other surnames check the surnames2 page where there are to be found the history and genealogy for more than 800 surnames.

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