When I shared my last post on a Facebook group, a fellow blogger helpfully directed me to some “hidden” Virginia probate records on Ancestry.com. There I found a little more information about William Collings.
This probate file for William Collings, dated 11 Oct 1832, does mention Lydia Uptigrove. But it is not specific about the relationship to William. She is one of several people who received money who appear to be heirs.
Patrick County Will Book 2, p. 50.
In this accounting, the Widow Collings, Martha Nunn Collings, receives her “widow’s third.” Elisha Collings, Martha’s step-son received money to be guardian to Martha’s two sons by William Collings, Thomas and James, who were very young at this point. He received $14 for the two of them, so $7 apiece.
Below, Elisha Collings received $7, and appears to be as a “Legatee.” Frances Holt, who is also a known child of William Collings, receives $7. And finally Lydia Uptigrove and Polly McKinny each receive $7. This can only be a share of William Collings’ estate.
At first glance, it appears that both Lydia and Polly must also be William’s children. But, there’s a catch.
Most researchers have assumed that Polly McKinny is the same person as Polly Collings, William’s known daughter. But as I attempted to learn more about her, I found that this could not be the case.
In 1827, William Collings “senior” sold 60 acres to his daughter, Polly Collings for $100. (Patrick DB 7, p 50.)
In 1829, Polly (referred to as Mary–Polly was usually a nickname for Mary) sold the same land either back to William or to his son, also named William, again for $100 (Patrick DB 8, p 191).
In 1832, the record above appears, with Polly “McKinny.”
However, in 1834, Polly Collings bought one “Lot of puter (pewter)” at William Collings’ estate sale. (Patrick WB 2, p 218). Not only did she still have her own name, but it appears that she still had her own household.
It certainly appeared that Polly Collings and Polly McKinney were not the same person. I then looked into McKinneys, and discovered that a Polly McKinney Haines was named in the probate file of Jesse McKinney of Surry County, NC, not far from Patrick County. The will refers to her mother and her grandfather, William Bourn of Grayson County, formerly part of Patrick County, so also in the same area. William Bourn’s 1835 will also refers to Polly McKinney, daughter of Martha Bourn McKinney.
Polly Collings, known daughter of William Collings, and Polly McKinney are therefore not the same person. However, Polly McKinney appears to be a legatee of William Collings. My best guess is that she is a grandchild, perhaps by an earlier Collings husband of Martha Bourn McKinney. (Nathaniel Collings maybe?)
On the positive side, this information definitely ties Lydia to William Collings. But, given that she received an inheritance along with a woman who was not William’s daughter, it does not definitely establish that she was William’s child. That question remains unanswered.
I was unable to discover anything further about Polly Collings. I did not find her on tax lists or the census, nor is the marriage record that I could locate. She seems to have been a lifelong spinster.
Polly may have supported herself as a midwife. Dida Collings, thought to be her daughter out of wedlock, born about 1810, proclaimed herself to be a midwife on the 1860 census. I thought it very interesting that she appears to have had just three or four children (one of whom was born eight years after the others, so likely an accident). This is less than half the usual number of children at the time, and it just makes me wonder if she knew some good midwife tricks!
Dida’s first husband, Allen Overby, died in 1859. In 1860, Dida was possessed of a decent estate, declaring $1,000 worth of real estate and $900 worth of personal estate. This “personal estate” was a 33 year old enslaved woman, possibly a housekeeper, but could also have been a skilled midwife. A 45 year old black woman named Jennie Overby is found living right next door to Dida in 1870 with two children. She is the only black householder in the neighborhood and must certainly be Dida’s former slave who decided to maintain some kind of relationship with her after emancipation.
According to FindaGrave, when Dida remarried in 1867, to Pryor Mays, she had a prenuptial agreement drawn up stating that she would retain possession of her own property. Dida outlived both of her husbands and died some time after 1880 while living with her daughter, Eliza Jane. She was clearly an unusual woman for the time and place.
If Dida was indeed Polly’s daughter, which seems likely given her independent streak, and was born about 1810, probably when her mother was a teenager, that would make Polly approximately the same age as Lydia. It seems possible that Lydia and Polly were sisters, both grandchildren of William Collings.