THE BLADE Enlarge | Buy This Photo
An Irish genealogical firm has dug deep into the birth, death, census, and property records of the immediate family of Toledo Mayor D. Michael Collins and has found no direct link between him and the famed Irish revolutionary Michael Collins.
Mayor Collins once believed he was a great-nephew of the military and political hero who helped give birth to modern Ireland.
The Blade commissioned the Dublin genealogical firm Records Ireland to search out the connection. But Hilda McGauley, principal owner of Records Ireland, said Mayor Collins’ family lore of a close relationship doesn’t hold up in the research she was able to do.
“Documenting a common link to the family of Michael Collins of Woodfield, which is near Klonakilty some 50 miles away [from D. Michael Collins’ family farm in Mullenataura] seems like a long shot,” said Ms. McGauley, a member of the Association of Professional Genealogists in Ireland. “In Irish terms for that period, 50 miles is a long separation of family.”
Though she didn’t rule out a family link, she said the records to prove a link between the Collins clans of Mullenataura and Clonakilty don’t exist to prove it.
“It appears on the basis of the results to date that the probability of ultimate success is quite low,” Ms.McGauley said.
Mr. Collins said the McGauley report upholds what he has found, that the exact link may never be known.
“It is more likely than not there is a relationship, but it cannot be documented through genealogy,” he said. “It’s not a vindication. It is my heritage. The way it was explained to me growing up is the way it was explained to me. I’m an Irish-American and I’m proud to be an Irish-American. My genealogy is part of my culture. It doesn’t make any difference whether I’m directly related.”
Mayor Collins, 69, is the son of an Irish immigrant, Michael John Collins, whose family was raised on a farm in Mullenataura in County Cork, and who died in Toledo in 1962. That farm is still in the Collins family.
According to family lore, Irish patriot Michael Collins was a relative, maybe even a great-uncle to him, as Mr. Collins claimed in 1996. That year, The Blade reported on the new movie, Michael Collins, and interviewed D. Michael Collins, then still a Toledo Police officer and president of the Toledo police union.
At the time, Mr. Collins believed that his own grandfather, John, and Michael Collins the revolutionary, were brothers.
Mayor Collins has visited County Cork several times and formed friendships with his long-separated relatives. In addition, his wife, Sandra Drabik, has searched the available genealogy and come up empty-handed.
Ms. McGauley said the the name Collins is common in Cork, accounting for 1 percent of the population in 1911.
Official recordkeeping of births, deaths, and marriages started in Ireland in 1864. The only other sources of records are the church parishes in Woodfield and Mullenataura, which have baptismal records going back to 1814 and 1792 respectively.
Ms. McGauley dug back further into John Collins and learned that he was born in 1866 in Mullenataura, the son of a Patrick Collins. She concludes that John Collins took over the family farm in Mullenataura before 1901, and that it is likely that the farm was in the family in the period of 1851-53, based on a property survey of that year. Meanwhile, Irish patriot hero Michael Collins’ father, Michael J. Collins, is known to have been born in 1815 at Woodfield Farm. That means that the families were well established in their separate areas at least as early as the mid-19th century.
“While it is certainly plausible” that the two sets of Collins are related, “the vital records necessary to prove the specific nature of the link may not be available,” Ms. McGauley said. “Given that the cousinly relationship … is believed to be of a far more distant nature, the basic stock of vital records simply will not exist to prove same.”
At least one piece of family lore relating to hero Michael Collins was established by Ms. McGauley. D. Michael Collins has recalled that his uncle John Collins fought with the National Army of the Free State. Indeed, he enlisted on Sept. 26, 1922, four weeks after the assassination of Michael Collins.