Saturday, November 6, 2010

Humphrey Collins of Lissane

The Humphreys of Lissane (pdf file here) have put me in an agonizing state of "not knowing" equally as intense as that of the Larrys over in Adrigole - my Grandmom's paternal Collins line. The Humphreys are the paternal Collins line of my Grandfather.

Granddad John Humphrey Collins (b. 1895) was the son of Margaret McCarthy of Tooreen (b. 1860) and Humphrey Michael Collins (b. 1858) of Lower Lissane (m. 1890). Humphrey Michael is nicknamed "Humphrey Mickey", and his father, Michael Collins, is nicknamed Mickey. Mickey Collins married Ellen Driscoll 1854. Mickey and Ellen are in the 1901 census together in Lissane. How lucky for me, as he died a few weeks after. The census gave an age estimate, leading me to believe Mickey was born about 1822.

After the first known daughter Johanna (b. 1856), Humphrey Mickey was the first boy. Another mysterious Humphrey Collins was a baptismal sponsor. An elderly Humphrey Collins died in 1873, with his age estimated as 88, so he would have been born about 1785. The death record shows the mark of a Humphrey Collins, present at death, which got me thinking. Was the old man an informant of his own death?!? Was the informant a teenage Humphrey Mickey? Or was there there another Humphrey Collins about?

Obviously I am joking in the first case. I don't think think Humphrey Mickey was the informant, as he was literate and he could have signed his own name on the death record.  So I am inclined to think option #3.

A Humphrey Collins and Michael Collins were together in the 1827 Caheragh Tithe Applotment. From these facts I have developed the hypothesis that Humphrey Mickey's father Michael's father was probably 1785 Humphrey.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. There are lots of Collinses in Lissane and the families there have historically been tangled up with each other. Humphrey is the "breadcrumb" trail I have been following, since it is so easy to spot. I have identified a number of Collins families in Lissane in the latter part of the 19th century.

Michael Collins &  Ellen Driscoll (m. 1854)
I'll start with my own direct line, Mickey Collins and Ellen Driscoll. Marriage (28-Feb-1854, Caheragh) witnesses included Humphrey Collins. Children were Johanna (1856, bap sponsor Johanna Collins), Humphrey Mickey (1858, bap sponsor Humphrey Collins), Catherine (1860, bap sponsor John Collins), John (1862), Honora (1865, bap sponsor Mary Brien), Michael (1867), Margaret (1870), and Ellen (1875, bap sponsor John Collins).

I have a theory that 1865 Honora, or Nora, might have been the wife of Michael Lynch of Coolnaclehy (m. 1903), as according to my Aunt Peg, Granddad had Lynch cousins in Coolnaclehy (John and Hannah) who were first cousins. I think these cousins are in the 1911 census. But unfortunately I cannot find the marriage record in the online indexes to confirm Nora's origin.

Son Michael is with Mickey and Ellen in the 1901 census along with sister Honora "Noria" and cousin Noria Driscoll. And I think that is Michael in the 1911 census along with wife Nora, and children Michael, Humphrey, Hannah, and Jamsey, as well as his elderly mother Ellen Driscoll Collins. Michael's son Humphrey is registered 3-May-1903, and his mother was a Hannah Collins. So Michael was widowed with Nora being his second wife.

Humphrey Michael Collins &  Margaret McCarthy (m. 1890)
Humphrey Mickey, the son of Mickey, married Margaret McCarthy of Tooreen (b. 1860).  Humphrey Mickey went to go farm the Tooreen farm, as Margaret's parents Mary and Cornelius McCarthy had no son.  Their children were Michael (bap Oct-1891); Patrick (bap Mar-1893); Cornelius (bap May-1894); John (my Granddad, Jul-1895); Mary Kate (1897); Humphrey (21-May-1898, from civil reg); James (Nov-1899); Ellen (1901); Denis (Oct-1902); and Margaret (6-Mar-1906). Margaret McCarthy died three days after giving birth to baby Margaret, and the baby died that August. My aunt tells me that Humphrey Mickey never got over this, and likely lived in a state of despair until he died shortly after (in 1910).

The orphaned children are in the 1911 census, with their widowed grandmother Mary McCarthy taking care of them (she was there helping out in 1901 too.) The farm went to the oldest son, Michael Humphrey Collins, who married Ann (Nan) Morris, and had several children, among them a Patrick Joseph Collins, (b. Jun-1925, possibly d. Aug-2000 in England), and Michael (d. Oct-2009, Tooreen).

Denis Collins &  Margaret Mahony (m. before 1864)
One Denis Collins married one Margaret Mahony, unknown when or where. Children include, but are not necessarily limited to (from civil registration records): Denis 8-Jan-1866, probably died as infant; James 10-Dec-1866; Margaret 4-Dec-1868; Helena 20-Sep-1870 (may have had a twin Johanna or Honora); Patrick (17-Mar-1872); Timothy (1-Jul-1873 - not confirmed from civil reg yet); and Denis (1876 - not confirmed from civil reg yet). Denis is HoH, age 70 in the 1901 census, Bredagh DED, with wife Margaret, sons Patrick and Denis. In 1911, Denis HoH is age 80, with wife Margaret, sons Denis and Patrick, plus granddaughter Margaret McCarthy.

I think the censuses could have underestimated the age of Denis, as a death record in 1919 shows a Denis Collins of Lissane age 96. Or, the death record might be wrong.

There is more to this story. One Humphrey Collins, born about 1864, emigrated around 1889 and shows up in the 1900 US Census in Newport, Rhode Island, USA. The oldest son in his family is named Dennis. Looking further, the date of Humphrey's immigration can be traced to 7-May, 1890, on the ship Samaria, port of Boston. Looking further still, in the Rhode Island marriage records, the spouse of this Humphrey Collins was a Delia Lydon, they married in 1893, and his parents are listed as Dennis Collins and Margaret Mahoney! According to the Rhode Island death records, Humphrey died 14-Apr-1916.

I've looked, but have been unable to find this Humphrey Collins in the Ireland civil registration in 1864, at least in Skibbereen. Knowing the minefields that spring up in Irish genealogy, I am painfully aware there could be another couple named Denis Collins and Margaret Mahony to confuse the issue, but as the name Humphrey Collins from Ireland is such an uncommon name, for now I am hanging on to the theory that Humphrey Collins of Newport, R.I. was from Lissane.

John Collins &  Ellen McCarthy (m. before 1863)
Children in this family include Denis (est 1863); Johanna (9-Jun-1865); Honora (5-Aug- 1867); Catherine (3-Jun-1869); and John (26-Feb-1872). The last known child is super important; on his birth record it says "Humphrey Collins, present at birth."

John, the father, died young, age 55 years, in 1882. That would place his birth year around 1827.

I believe the son Denis is in the 1901 census, with wife Nora. Children listed are Mary E (Ellen?), and Hannah. His elderly mother Ellen is with them.

Hardly a day goes by when I don't scour the Southern Star news archives, and I think this Denis is the "Denis J. Collins" I've seen in news articles.

Who was the Humphrey who was present at the birth of this John Collins?

James Collins &  Honora Collins (m. before 1864)
Known children include Catherine (9-Dec-1864); Honora (15-Nov-1866); Michael (20-Oct-1868); Johanna (10-Dec-1870); Helena (3-Apr-1873); Julia (25-Aug-1874); and James (20-Oct-1876). There is no obvious connection to the Humphreys, except perhaps via the oldest son Michael's name. I'll get to that. James and Nora are in both the 1901 and the 1911 census. In the 1911 census they are in their son Michael's household.


Those are the main family lines out of Lissane that I know about.  Finally, I found a death record for an elderly Michael Collins, d. 1870, age 80, so he was born about 1790. Mary Collins was present at death.

I have gathered much more data on Humphreys in the townlands surrounding Lissane. But for my initial phase of research, I limited my data to these families. (I will post on these other Humphreys another time.) After spending close to a year gathering all this data, I went to Skibbereen Heritage Centre, proposed that 1785 Humphrey and 1790 Michael were brothers or cousins, that Humphrey was the father of 1822 Mickey, and then asked for research on the two lines. Margaret (God bless her) did so quite diligently and spent some time doing it. She checked and rechecked whatever she had available. Her research was a great lesson to me, showing that errors in genealogy records start right on the baptismal and marriage records.

Anyway, this is what Skibbereen Heritage found:

Humphrey Collins &  Johanna Barnane (m. 1820)
One Humphrey Collins married a Mary Bernard at the Old Chapel in Drinagh, 15-Feb-1820.   Bernard can be a form of Barnane, so there isn't any confusion about the surname at this point.  However, further evidence indicates that the bride's Christian name was not Mary but rather Johanna.

One Catherine Collins was born 2-Dec-1820 in Caheragh R.C. parish to John Collins and Johanna Barnane. Humphrey Collins and Catherine Hurley were witnesses.   Spotting another potential error, Margaret was convinced that the father's name John and the sponsor's name Humphrey were transposed, so that Humphrey Collins and Johanna Barnane were the parents. Additional children were discovered with parents Humphrey and Johanna, plus, Margaret was unable to find any baptismals of children to a Humphrey Collins and Mary Bernard.

Other children of Humphrey and Johanna were:   John (1824, Mary Donovan among sponsors); Honora "Norry" (1829); James (1833, sponsor Mary Barnane); and Jeremiah (1835).

One child was discovered with the mother's name Jane Barrett: Patrick (14-Mar-1839). Ordinarily, I might have thought the priest didn't get Johanna Barnane quite right. Barrett and Bernard can sound similar.  Jane is often cited as an interchangeable form of Johanna. But in this case I think there is a possibility Johanna Barnane and Jane Barrett were two different women. Baptismal sponsors were James Barrett and Ellen Barrett, and there was a James Barrett right there in the Caheragh tithe applotment. Unfortunately, I may not be able to resolve this question.

There are more children found, outside of Caheragh, in the R.C. parish of Skibbereen & Rath, born to Humphrey Collins and Mary Brien or Mary Collins. I don't know if 1785 Humphrey had multiple wives, or if there was yet another Humphrey running about. It's kind of late for somebody born 1785 to be having kids in the 1840's, you think?!?   Even Patrick (1839) sounds a bit late for old man Humphrey.  The other children of Humphrey are: Mary (19-Jan-1841); Johanna (2-Apr-1843); and Jerry (23-Oct-1845).

The BIG problem with these records is that Skibbereen Heritage was unable to find a baptismal record for Mickey. So his connection to this family is still not conclusively proven.  There is a convenient slot for him though, between Catherine in 1820 and John in 1824.

Michael Collins & Mary Donovan (m. before 1823)
Margaret was unable to find a marriage record for Michael Collins and Mary Donovan, but she did manage to find several children.  Margaret (27-Nov-1823); James (1-Feb-1829, sponsor Johanna Barnane?); Humphrey (1-Aug-1831, sponsor Catherine Collins); Catherine (15-May-1833); Michael (2-Jul-1837); and Jane (4-Aug-1840, sponsor Jerry Collins).

This son Michael cannot be the Mickey who married Ellen Driscoll, as he would have been alarmingly young (17?!?).  It doesn't fit.

I think this same son Michael is the "Michael W. Collins" I see in the Southern Star archives.


I have a few death records for elderly men named James Collins but neither are in Lissane. It is unclear which family - the Humphrey line or the Michael line - that James in the census came from, but I am inclined to think the Michael line, as the first (known) son of James and Nora Collins is named Michael.


On our recent trip to Salt Lake City, I obtained images of Registry of Deeds memorial #371769, as it mentions a Denis Collins, a farmer in Lissane. It turned out he was only serving as a witness to an agreement between a landlord and a tenant. Still, the date of the agreement (1803) compels these questions. Who were the Collinses of Lissane? Were they related to each other?  Where did they come from?

Margaret was unable to link elderly Denis Collins to 1785 Humphrey and 1790 Michael, but she did notice a Denis Collins over in Tonafora, in the backyard of Lissane. I have filed that piece of information in the back of my brain, knowing there could be a connection to the aforementioned Denis in the Registry of Deeds.

I am hoping that a few of these unanswered questions will be resolved when more church records come online. The most pressing question, of course, is WHY are we unable to find a baptismal record for Michael Collins 1822.

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