Collins Surname Genealogy

Collins may be of Irish or
of English origin.   The name origins in each case are

  • 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.”

Collins Resources on

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
said that Mahon O’Collins, lord of Claonglass and the last of the
Collins, was killed by his wife in 1266 with a thrust of a knife in a
fit of
.  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.

were also other distinct O’Coileain septs in Galway, Tyrone, and

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

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

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.

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.

America.  Three early English Collins in New
England were Henry Collins in Lynn, Edward Collins in Cambridge, and
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
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
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:

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.

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
and a trader.  One of
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
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

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
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)


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