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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

52 Ancestors # 12: Catherine Constance Collins

     Catherine Constance Collins was my husband's grandmother, his father's mother. My mother-in-law told me that she was born in "Dublin County Cork" on 8 Nov 1891. When I started to research Dennis' family I started with his Father and the Negley family. There is quite a bit published about them and I was able to find quite a bit. But Catherine was different.

     First of all there was the matter of where she was born. Eloise said "Dublin County Cork" and I realized that the city of Dublin is not in County Cork. But on a detailed map of Ireland I found two places in County Cork called Dublin.  So that was possible. Then, Eloise had James and Catherine's marriage certificate. On that she says she was born in New York, it says "New York City" but the "city" is crossed out.  It says her father, J.C. Collins, was born in Ireland but her mother (no name) was born in New York. The 1920, 1930, and 1940 Censuses all say she was born in New York. So does her death certificate. then I found a biography of her husband in the "Cyclopedia of National Biography" that said her father was Patrick Collins, an insurance broker of New York. So I studied New York Censuses for 1900 and 1910 looking for a J.C. or Patrick Collins with a daughter Catherine of the right age.  With him born in Ireland and his wife  (whose first name I had found out was Mary) born in New York. There are many J or Patrick Collinses born in Ireland with wives named Mary and daughters named Catherine in New York in 1900 and 1910! But none where all the data matched. Then when I got her death certificate IT said that her father's name was Michael, so I re-looked at New York Censuses but still no match. Then I reviewed everything I had on her and found a postcard that Dennis' mother had sent us from Ireland.  She was visiting with her sister-in-law, Barbara, Catherine's daughter. The postcard was from Williamstown, Galway, Ireland and it said "This is where your grandmother was born." So now I had four places where she was born: New York State, New York City, Dublin, County Cork, Ireland or Williamstown, Galway, Ireland.

     This lead me to feel that perhaps Barbara knew the family history and data on her mother's family. I asked her if she'd write me about it but she said that Dennis' sister, Kasey, had it all.  Kasey died and when I went through her photos and family things I found nothing about the Irish family. Meanwhile, Barbara had also died. Her son, Mark, got in touch with Dennis via Facebook. Turned out that he had all the family photos and things from his Mom.  He was puzzled on who some of the people were. So I went to visit him and we spent an afternoon going through all the photos and papers that his Mom had left. We didn't find much about Catherine's family but we did find some photos and an address. This was for "Aunt Mary" Collins. There was a photo of her son, John Collins, so I figured that Mary wasn't Catherine's sister but her sister-in-law. I tried finding an address in Ireland for one of the cousins that was in the photos and writing to them.  But I never heard back.  I put the photos on my tree and left it for a bit.

     One day I decided to try looking for Catherine once again. So I once more read through everything I had on her or related to her. In doing that I noticed that the address for Aunt Mary Collins was "Leatra, Williamstown, Ireland". Where or what was Leatra? I had thought it was a street when I first saw the address but it didn't look like a street. So I did what any 21st Century family detective would do and I googled "Leatra".  There weren't too many hits and these weren't very revealing (most were about a dog shelter) but then I saw "Collins of Leatra". What!?! I clicked on it and it led me to "The Gathering" which was an Irish site.  It seems that Ireland was having a year long event of all sorts of family reunions, village festivals, etc. to gather back in the many who had left Ireland or their descendants.  The Collins family of Leatra was having their own family reunion in April 2013 (I was reading this in January 2013). I couldn't tell if this Collins family was related to Catherine or not. There wasn't any way to contact the man (Ray Collins) putting it on although there was a place for comments.  So I left one asking if they were related.  I didn't hear and was impatient so I went to the Home page of the site and found a person to contact.  I e-mailed him and explained that I was looking for my husband's family and could he put me in touch with Ray Collins. He answered and he got Ray to e-mail me. I explained to him who I was and what I was looking for.  I sent him a picture of Aunt Mary and her son John from Eloise and Barbara's trip.  He e-mailed me back, "Mary is my grandmother and Johnny is my Uncle". I was so excited! He put me in touch with another Cousin in New Jersey, her mother had known Catherine and knew of Dennis' father. But I got a little frustrated trying to get any real genealogical data. So I asked Ray to put me in touch with whoever in the family was interested in the family history.  He put me in touch with another John Collins, his cousin, who had some family data and was interested in knowing more. We have been sharing things ever since.

     So now I knew where she was from. Now I found her in the 1901 Census of Ireland (free online at the Irish National Archives). She is listed as Kate Collins. She and her whole family spoke Irish as well as English, her parents couldn't read or write. I found the family in the 1911 Census but Kate wasn't there. Using the rootsireland site, I found the civil record of her birth, but it was for 1 Nov 1888 (not 8 Nov 1891 which had always been her birth date in any American records). I discovered that the Mormon Family History Library had a microfilm of the parish records for Templetogher Parish, which is the one Leatra is in. In it I found her birth record and that of her brothers and sisters. Here she is recorded as born on 20 October 1888, close to the 1 Nov one but three years and 19 days earlier than the one she went by throughout her adult life. Unfortunately the parish record don't go back very far because of the suppression of the Catholic Church in Ireland by the English. John Collins sent me a history of the Leatra National School where she went to school and of Williamstown and her parish which were very helpful. Now that I had her age right I found her on a Passenger list coming to America.

     Catherine Collins (as her name is in both the parish and civil birth records) was born on 20 Oct 1888 to Michael Collins and Mary Connelly Collins.  She was the sixth child and fourth daughter, four more children, two boys and two girls, followed her. She attended the Leatra National School which opened in 1888 on land which had belonged to her father, so I don't think she had far to go to walk to school.  By the 1901 Census she could read and write and also spoke Irish. The 1940 Census says she finished High School but that seems doubtful, probably 8th Grade.  I believe I found her on the Parisian sailing from Galway and arriving in Boston on 2 Jul 1906. She was almost 18. In the 1910 Census she is a servant living with the Sachi family in Winchester, Middlesex, Massachusetts.

     On 15 September 1914 she married James Casper Negley, M.D. in Los Angeles. Here is where things change. This is the first time the middle name of Constance appears as well as the birthdate of 8 Nov 1891. Neither appear in any record or mention of her before this. She spells her first name with a "K" in this record.  Before this it was always with a "C". She says she was born in New York and that her father is J.C. Collins and that her mother was born in New York. Before this any record shows her as born in Ireland.  She is listed as a Registered Nurse.  Where did she train to be a Registered Nurse while being a servant in Massachusetts? I suppose she had time in 4 years to do so. However, what I think is this:  She came to America to better her lot. Being a housemaid in Massachusetts didn't really do that. She answered an ad for a nurse in California and in the transition from the East Coast to the West Coast she changed her name, her birthplace, her father's name, her life. She reinvented herself. She was beautiful, James married her and then she was automatically naturalized and the little inconsistencies didn't matter. When you see her in photos she was an elegant, dignified woman.  The life of an Irish farmwife with 10 children was not her style, nor an Irish house maid. She knew what she wanted and she did achieve it. That is my take on it. I may be wrong but I must say that I admire her for all this.

     She and James had two children, James Casper Negley, Jr. and Barbara Jean.  They lived in a big house on a large lot in La Crescenta, California. He died in 1951 and she died on 11 April 1959. They are buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale, California.

1 comment:

  1. Wow mom, this was a great post. What a lady. Now I am super glad I named Elinor after her (middle name is Catherine).