Sunday, June 8, 2014

The Surname Collins

                         Information on the surname Collins from the Collins DNA Project at World

                                                  COLLINS in Great Britain

Some sources on English surnames suggest that Collins is a double diminutive of Nicholas. The progression modifying the surname is roughly: Nicholas, Nichol, Nicholls, Nicholson, Nickson, Nixon, Cole, Colet, Colson, Collins*, Collison, Glascock, Glasson.

1. The French name Colline "a hill" may also be a source of the name in Great Britain.

2. Other sources cite St. Nicholas as the source of the surname but also suggest that 'Colin' came to us through the Normans, with '-on' or '-in' being the diminutive suffix. From that we get Collins, Collinson, Coleson.

 3. It may be a stretch, but Collen "a hazelgrove" in Welsh could be another source of the surname.
The source of the Collins surname in Scotland is not yet clear, but could be from Ulster in Northern Ireland (below). Collins has been well represented in the midlands and southwest. Collings is seen more in the southwest, and has been linked to Collins.

4. COLLINS in Ireland, There aren't many Irish surnames with such an emotional connection to them as Collins, which stirs up memories of Cork-born Michael Collins, the I.R.A. leader and finance minister of the new Irish government in the second and third decades of the 20th century.

Biographies suggest that his line came from the Ó Coileáin, who were among the people driven from Limerick down into Cork due to pressures exerted by the Normans. This migration of Limerick people occurred around 1200 A.D. The people from Limerick constitute the majority of the Collinses of County Cork. the Collins surname in Cork could in part be accounted for by the Ó Cuileán (often anglicized as Cullen), a family in the tuath of Ui Aenghusa (O'Hennessy) of the ancient Corca Laidhe tribe.

5. The Ui Aenghusa were situated approximately around Drinagh and Kilmacabea civil parishes in west Cork. Such surname absorption would not be unusual, and has also been proposed for other Cork surnames such as Donovan and (Mc)Carthy.

In each case, a group migrated into Cork and mingled with the existing Corca Laidhe people. Y-DNA testing is an extremely powerful tool that could distinguish these different groups and lend support to (or refute) these theories. Edward MacLysaght notes Collis as a diminutive of Nicholas present in Ireland first attested in 1638. It is associated with Co. Kerry.

6. Mac Coileáin was a sept in Ulster. Northern Ireland septs could account for the presence of the name in Scotland.

COLLINS in the British Isles Diaspora

Collins immigrants from the British Isles obviously made their way to North America. The majority of project members trace their lineage within the United States or Canada but have not made the leap across the water back to the British Isles.

A group of people known as Melungeons (the label often having been used pejoratively), living in or bordering Hancock and Hawkins counties in Tennessee and in neighboring Virginia, were so named because of their darker complexions. Collins is one of the surnames acquired by this group. There is a DNA Project devoted to the Melungeons, and an excellent paper by the project administrators can be found here.


1. Lower, Mark Antony. English Surnames. An Essay on Family Nomenclature, Historical, Etymological, and Humorous, with several illustrative appendices. Third Edition, Enlarged. In Two Volumes. Vol. I. p. 169
2. Ibid.
3. Bardsley, Charles Wareing Endell. English Surnames: Their Sources and Significations. Seventh Edition, 1901. p. 96
4. Lynch, Sheila and Seary, E. Family Names of the Island of Newfoundland. p. 104
5. O' Murchadha, Diarmuid. Family Names of County Cork. 2000. p. 82-83.
6. MacLysaght, Edward. The Surnames of Ireland. 1991. p. 51

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