The Mystery of Lydia Collings Uptigrove

Still working on identifying women in my family history! Every one turns out to be quite a project.

About three weeks ago I began to research Lydia, my 4th great-grandmother and the wife of Elijah Uptigrove. She was born about 1795 in Virginia, per her census entries, and died after 1880 in Carroll County, Tennessee.

Lydia is generally assumed to be the daughter of William Collings (sometimes spelled Collins). William was born before 1752 in Albemarle County, Virginia, and died in 1829 in Patrick County, Virginia. He was one of at least four Collings brothers who migrated to Patrick County and adjoining Stokes County, North Carolina from Albemarle in the 1780s. However, there is no proof of the relationship between Lydia and William Collings that I have been able to find.

I have not found any marriage record for Lydia and her husband, Elijah Uptigrove. None of Lydia’s children listed her maiden name on their death certificates (if they had death certificates). And there are no Patrick County census records surviving from 1790-1810, so the most obvious way to look for Lydia is not available. And so, I turned to other methods, chiefly tax lists and land records at Family Search.

The Uptigrove connection

First, I researched Lydia’s husband, Elijah Uptigrove (1788-1862). Being a man, and having an unusual surname, he was of course much easier to investigate than Lydia herself. More on him in a later post, but the key point is that he is found along with William and many other Collings in the same district on tax lists in Patrick County, Virginia from 1810 to 1814. Lydia’s first child was born in 1813, so she and Elijah were most likely married in 1812-13.

Unfortunately, the Patrick County tax lists are organized alphabetically instead of sequentially, so there is no way to know whether William and Elijah lived very near each other. While there are plenty of deeds for William Collings, I have found no mention of Elijah anywhere, and he has no acreage on the tax lists. I think he was probably a farm laborer who just passed through Patrick County briefly on his way to Kentucky, and finally, Tennessee.

There are Uptigroves found earlier in Albemarle County, however. Hannah Uptigrove married Elisha Collings, one of the older sons of William Collings, 17 June 1794 in Albemarle County. (Elisha must have returned to Albemarle to marry her, as he was living in Patrick County by 1792.) This is a definite connection between the Uptigroves and the Collings. Furthermore, Hannah was in Albemarle and old enough to witness the will of Ephraim Bowin (Bowen) in 1790 (Albemarle DB A, p 38). Ephraim’s sons, John and Reuben, who are named in the will, are found that same year in the same district as Thomas Collings, father of William Collings. And on the 1787 tax list, a Sally “Upthegrove” is found in that district with Thomas. So, all these people lived in fairly close proximity to each other.

Sally (Sarah) Upthegrove was almost certainly the mother of Hannah Uptigrove. She is found in Albemarle County on the Hardware River as early as 1784, when she purchased a tract of land there (Albemarle DB 8, p 150). The fact that she is purchasing her own land would indicate that she is a widow, which would explain why there are no Uptigrove males to be found in Albemarle around that time. (Online trees have her as Sarah Lewis, the wife of an Edward Uptigrove from Pennsylvania, which is something I will research later.)

There is one more Uptigrove in Albemarle who is the right age to be Elijah’s father: a George “Upthegrove,” probable son of Sally, is found on Albemarle county tax lists beginning in 1790. If Sally was widowed by 1784, then she likely is not the the mother of Elijah, who was born in 1788. He is much more likely to be George’s son, and her grandson. There just weren’t that many people running around with that unusual last name, so the odds are very much in favor of all these Uptigroves and Upthegroves being closely related.

In summary, there appear to be both geographic and marital connections between the Collings and Uptigroves that precede Lydia and Elijah’s presence in Patrick County. Perhaps Elijah Uptigrove was in Patrick County to work for his probable aunt, Hannah Uptigrove Collings, and her husband, Elisha Collings. Deeds show that Elisha lived next door to his father, William Collings. That would certainly explain how Elijah and Lydia could have become acquainted.

Looking for more evidence

But before I get too deep into those Uptigrove weeds, back to Collings. It seems that there is plenty of evidence to suggest that Lydia was a member of the Collings clan, and probably the daughter of William, but with so many Collings running around at the time, it would be nice to have more proof. I spent a couple of weeks researching William Collings and his many brothers and sons in hopes of figuring this out.

William had three definite brothers: Roger, Anthony and Thomas. These three, sons of Thomas Collings of Albemarle County, are named in the 1754 will of their grandfather, Anthony Collings of Charles County, Maryland (Charles DB 18, p 194). All four settled right along the Virginia/North Carolina state line in Patrick County VA and Stokes County NC.

Hezekiah (or Ezekiah) Collings is another likely son of Thomas Collings, based on his presence in the same district as the four known sons on tax lists, as is a James Collings. And a George and Jeremiah Collings are also in the running, though I personally feel that the connection in those cases is not as firm.

This means that Thomas Collings had at least six, and possibly eight or more sons who all settled in the same area–which straddles two counties and two states just to keep things more interesting! There were so many Collings and Collins that a town, Collinstown, North Carolina, is named after them. (Deeds show that William lived just north of Collinstown, across the Virginia state line between Elk and Turkeycock creeks.)

William Collings’ deeds nearly all mention Elk Creek (circled), the VA/NC state line, and a smaller creek called Turkeycock creek that I believe is located somewhere to the east of Elk Creek. Other names on this 1821 map (Beasley, Flippen, Hanby, Joyce) are also mentioned in Collings deeds as being adjoining neighbors.

I researched all these men to the extent that was possible–I always research the siblings of my ancestors in any case– and did not find any wills, deeds, or other documents that connected Lydia to them.

Back to the obvious

I then turned to researching William Collings in depth. After all, Lydia’s daughter, Lydia Jane Uptigrove Butler, with whom she was living in 1880, lived until 1915. She certainly knew who her grandfather was, and that wasn’t so very long ago. William’s name may have come from her, via oral history.

Lydia Jane “Liddy” Uptigrove Butler, my 3g grandmother (1837-1915)

In addition to all those brothers, William had plenty of kids of his own! I am thankful to some helpful FindaGrave contributors for the hints that led to confirmation of some of their identities. I also, after a couple of weeks of researching, found this most excellent PDF book on the Collings family which both confirmed what I had already dug up and gave me some new leads. I love genealogists who share freely!

Here are William’s known or possible children in order of birth.

  • Elijah Collings (b. bef. 1772) is found in the same district near William and his known sons on Patrick County tax lists and may be a son of William Collings. There is no census to say exactly how old he is, however, and he could actually be a younger brother to William, or a nephew. (Note that Elijah is often confused with Elisha, but Patrick County tax lists prove that they were definitely two separate individuals.)
  • Elisha Collings, (b. abt 1772) (who married Hannah Uptigrove) lived right next door to William on several tax lists, and appears to be an heir in William’s estate documents. He is a very likely son of William Collings.
  • Daniel Collings (b. abt 1775) is found on multiple tax lists with William’s known sons, and is a probable son of William Collings.
  • Frances Collings Holt’s (b. 1778) Greene County, Indiana death certificate lists her birthplace as Patrick County, her father as William “Rollings” and helpfully gives her mother’s name as “Lydia Rollings.” She is definitely William’s daughter.
  • Edward Collings (b. abt 1780) is found on tax lists alongside William and his known sons, and is a very likely son of William Collings.
  • Malinda/Millinder Collings Burch (b. 1784) also moved out to Greene County with her husband, lived right next door to her brother Micajah, and her tombstone even lists her maiden name as Collings! She is certainly a daughter of William Collings.
  • Micajah Collings (b. abt 1788) another migrant to Greene County, is definitely William’s son, based on an 1833 deed (Patrick DB 8, p 441) in which he gives power of attorney to James Collings (likely his own son, or possibly a brother) to settle his share of his father’s estate.
  • Reuben Collings (abt 1797), and William Collings Jr (abt 1799) also appear living near William Collings on mutiple tax lists and in deeds. They are possible sons of William Collings, but could also be nephews or grandchildren. (“Junior” in this context simply meant “younger” and not necessarily “son of.”) Note the nine-year gap between these sons and Micajah.
  • Thomas Collings (abt 1827) and James Jackson Collings (abt 1830) are generally thought to be William’s sons by his much younger second wife, Martha Nunn, who he married in 1827. I have not found proof of this relationship, but two sons under 5 years are found on Martha’s 1830 census entry, so this is very likely the case.
  • Polly Collings received land from William Collings in 1827 (Patrick County DB 7, p 50). William referred to Polly as “my daughter.” So, she is definitely a child of William Collings, although her birth date is unknown.

But, other than William’s wife’s name also being Lydia, I still did not find a single piece of information linking Lydia Collings Uptigrove to William Collings!

Here’s a theory

Lydia was born about 1795, and so could fit in between Micajah and Reuben in birth order. That is, even assuming that Reuben is a son of William Collings. However, unless William had a second wife in between Lydia and Martha Nunn (which cannot be ruled out, but then why would Lydia be named after his first wife?), based on starting her family by 1772 with Elisha (possibly earlier with Elijah), Lydia Collings would be have been getting on to fifty years old by this point. It’s not impossible that she could have been Lydia the younger’s mother, but it seems much more likely that she would have been Lydia’s grandmother.

And here is where all that time viewing tax lists and deeds may have paid off. There is a a Nathaniel Collings who pops up briefly in Patrick County records. He witnessed a deed from William Cloud to William Collings in 1797 (Patrick DB 1, p 535), along with Elisha Collings, William’s son. He also appears on the 1797 tax list with William and his other sons. He would have to have been 21 to be listed as a head of household in 1797, which puts his birth date at or before 1776.

Elisha, William, Thomas, Daniel and Nathaniel Collins (Collings) were all counted in the same district in 1797.

Elijah and Lydia Uptigrove named their first son Nathaniel Franklin Uptigrove. It is the only time that the name Nathaniel appears in either family.

This Nathaniel only appears on one other document that I have found, which is as a witness on a marriage bond for an Elizabeth Collings, daughter of Roger Collings, in Patrick County in 1793. For this reason, researchers have assigned him as a son of Roger Collings, William Collings’ brother. But all these Collings lived near each other, so he could have just been visiting that day and asked to witness because he was present. He could just as easily have been a son of William Collings–after all, he witnessed a deed for him as well (above).

Roger Collings gives permission for his daughter Elizabeth to “jine” in wedlock to John Field, 9 Dec 1793.

While Nathaniel is listed as a son of Roger in many online trees, I have not seen any primary sources to verify that fact. These trees have Nathaniel moving first to South Carolina, then to Hall County, Georgia. This would be a completely different migratory pattern to the rest of the family. The rest of that generation of Collings moved west to Kentucky, Tennessee, and Indiana. And there are no family names in common that would link Roger and Nathaniel. He even went by “Collins” instead of “Collings” as most of the rest of the family did during that time period. I just think this is a pretty shaky connection, and that it much more likely that the second Nathaniel was actually born in South Carolina, and like many South Carolinians around that time, migrated to Georgia. (If anyone out there has sources to verify a connection between the Georgia Nathaniel Collins and Roger Collings, please contact me.)

It seems quite possible that Lydia Collings is a daughter of the Patrick County Nathaniel Collings, who apparently died young as I have not been able to find any record of him after 1797. She may have then been raised by her grandfather, William Collings and his wife Lydia, which, together with being named after her grandmother, led to her being attributed as their daughter. Later, she named her first son after her father, Nathaniel. It all fits, and though I have no proof, I think it is the most likely scenario for her relationship to William and Lydia, who were pretty old to be her biological parents.

The same scenario is possible for Reuben and William Collings Jr, born two years and four years after Lydia, respectively, the usual interval for childbirth at that time. They may well be additional children of Nathaniel Collings who were orphaned and raised by their grandparents, William and Lydia Collings.

Or, she could have been Nathaniel’s daughter, but Nathaniel actually was the son of Roger Collings. Or, she could have been a much younger sister of Nathaniel. (It’s worth noting, however, that she named another of her sons William, named a daughter Lydia, and that no Roger Uptigrove appears to exist.)

What does DNA have to say about it?

Ancestry’s Thrulines is only as good as the trees that go into it, of course. But I do have 102 matches tracing back to William Collings/Collins and several of his known children, as well as many other matches with Collings or Collins in their trees. I feel confident that Lydia was one of the multitudinous Patrick County Collings clan, and that William Collings was most likely either her father or (more likely) her grandfather.

Tombstone of William Collings, located in the Overby Cemetery, which straddles the line between Patrick County, Virginia and Stokes County, North Carolina.

Up next

In the process of trying to identify Lydia, I was able to trace the Collings line “back to the boat.” This hardly ever happens in my research, and I am looking forward to learning more about Anthony Collings, William’s Cornish grandfather!

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