Surname Saturday: Collier

After missing a couple weeks of surname studies, let's pick this up again where we left off.  Today we've got another line where I know of only a very small number of people, starting with my wife's third great grandmother, Harriet Collier.

There isn't a lot that I know for certain on this line, but I do have a few facts.  Harriet Collier was born in about 1836 in Michigan.  I say about 1836 because the only record I've seen so far for her birth was the 1850 U.S. census where she is listed as 14 years old.  She married Jenos Leonard (alternately spelled Zenos or Zenas, born about 1805 in Pennsylvania) on either 6 February or 11 February 1858 in Muscatine County, Iowa.  Jenos and Harriet had six children: Scott Leonard (M), Harry Leonard (M), Fred Leonard (M), George E. Leonard (M; b. 18 July 1858; d. 11 May 1917), Frank Leonard (M; b. circa 1863; m. 27 Sep 1890 Clara Benjamin) and Mabel Leonard (F; b. 15 May 1869; m. __ Ross; d. 3 April 1919).

So far, I've only been able to take this line back one generation to Harriet's parents.  They were Samuel Collier and Nancy __.  Samuel was born in 1805 and Nancy was born in 1812, both in New York.  I know of three children in this family: Harriet Collier (above), Alfred Collier (M; b. 1840) and Samuel Collier (M; b. 1849).  The best record that I've seen for this family so far, as noted above, was the 1850 U.S. census.

This census record is dated 21 October 1850 in Sweetland Township, Muscatine County, Iowa.  The family appears to have followed a common migration pattern in the early 19th century, starting in New York (maybe somewhere in New York City) then heading almost due west to Michigan where Harriet was born and then continuing on across the Mississippi River to Iowa.  At the time, the westward migration could have been made via the Erie Canal which opened in 1821.  Although railroads were working their way westward around this time, they probably didn't travel to Michigan that way; the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railroad, which roughly paralleled the canal across New York state, opened in stages beginning with the Erie & Kalamazoo Railroad in Michigan in 1833.  Michigan was working its way to becoming a state at this time.  The first state government was organized with the Constitution of 1835, and Michigan was formally admitted to the union in January 1837.  So, with Harriet's birth in 1836, the Colliers would have been among the first residents of the newly formed state.  The family followed the progress of statehood westward as Iowa was admitted as a state in 1846, a few years after Alfred's birth.

Perhaps the most interesting tidbit on this line is that Harriet's husband Jenos appears to have been about the same age as her father Samuel.  I've seen other families where the husband married around age 20, was widowed and then remarried to a younger woman, and this makes me wonder if Jenos was married to someone else before Harriet.  With a 31-year age difference, it is entirely possible. 

So, after further researching Harriet's life, it seems fairly obvious that the next steps to research this line include finding Nancy's maiden name and further verifying Samuel and Nancy's family connections to Harriet and the Leonard line further down.  Who were their parents?  From what country did their migration to the United States begin?  Do they connect with other colonial families?  I'm excited to see where this journey leads.


Kimberly Collier-McCarthy said...

Mother's maiden is Davenport, and there's a great history of their family through an uncle Alfred D Collier. Go to

I have a picture of her father, Samuel, headstone with the last name spelled at Collyer. Seems Nancy didn't know how to spell her last name, as many of Samuel's records are spelled correctly.

Still trying to find where the Collier's are from, would love to share.

slambo said...

Way cool, thanks for the pointer to Nancy's maiden name and more info. ((big grin)) I'll take a more thorough look at it this week.