The Collins family recently had a special reunion in Fallon, but the gathering took a generation to assemble.
As a matter of fact, the siblings met for the first time as a family at their mother’s house west of Fallon.
Perline Collins Porter, who lives in Layton, Utah, began a quest to discover the identity of her real father and to see if she had other siblings. Her search faced roadblocks and wrong surnames, but eventually she had a breakthrough almost two years ago.
“In November 2011, my sister (Jolene or JoJo) and I had been searching for my father, and we decided to join a DNA site,” Porter recalled. “One man came up … and then a second cousin who shared a large amount of chromosomes.”
Eventually, Porter discovered she had a half-sister, Carey Collins living in Fallon and a half-brother, John Collins Jr. in San Diego.
It wasn’t easy searching for the true identity of her father, though, in the early stages. Porter doubted the name of the man on the birth certificate as her father because the man associated on the document wasn’t living in Kelso, Calif., at the time of her birth; she then set out on a search that would cover the West.
Perl and Jolene found the surname of Casper and a second one of Cosper, but their investigation led nowhere. Porter said she and Jolene weren’t related to Patrick Cosper, so they started a new search that took them to another surname, Collins. Porter turned to DNA as a way to narrow names and families and see who else matched the chromosomes.
A DNA search done through the female chromosomes revealed the surname of Collins where they identified a first cousin with the name of Lee Ann. Porter explained the chromosome testing goes through the mother’s side because of the X chromosomes. She said DNA results also reported “a lot of information and health background.”
“Through the female side, we found the Collins family, who had left Louisiana and Arkansas,” Porter said. “Our grandfather (George) moved to California where my mom conceived me in Kelso.
“George had four boys and one girl, and we knew it was one of the boys. We searched the children and found one son and a daughter from another one of the boys. We didn’t think it was our day because he (the son) was only 17 years old, but we didn’t consider testing John (Collins) Sr.”
At the urging of others, however, Porter decided to contact John Collins Jr., which eventually led her to a woman named Carey, (John Collins Jr.’s full sister) after DNA results came in.
“I finally tracked John down like a dog,” Porter said with a laugh. “Jo Jo and I did more researching in San Diego and found the family through DNA.”
John Collins Jr., shook his head in agreement.
Collins said he was surprised when Porter called, but he thought her questioning was odd.
“She was asking questions about this person or that person and asked me to do a DNA test,” Collins said.
Before he agreed to take any type of test, he initiated some research on Porter and her background. Once he was satisfied she wasn’t “crazy,” he finally acquiesced. After John Collins Jr. took the DNA test by spitting in a tube and sending it to a lab, Porter’s hopes kept increasing that she had found the connection to her father and that the results would confirm this.
“John, by the way he talked, had the same mannerisms of her father,” said Carey Collins, a half-siser to Porter who lives with her mother, Susan Lederer, in Fallon.
Porter and John Collins Jr. began to talk regularly, trying to know more about each other and their families. One day, Collins called Porter and suggested a road trip to Fallon and Roseville to meet the nieces and nephews and his half-sister Jolene. He drove to Fallon from San Diego with his nephew, Travis, to meet Carey and Susan for the first time, while Porter headed west from Utah for the rendezvous.
The DNA testing of the family — and specifically the siblings — showed they had the same father but different mothers.
“After 30 years of searching, I never knew we had a sister, and dad never knew he had a daughter,” Carey Collins said.
For Porter, though, her years of searching and finding her siblings provided closure. She said her genealogy research on the computer took her to the 1500s on the Collins’ side of the family.
“It’s neat, it’s cool to know where I came from,” John Collins Jr. said.
Porter said her friends doubted she would find her father and siblings.
“We did the DNA test to see how close we are,” Carey Collins said.
After John Collins Jr. talked with Carey, he discovered she was older than him. For Porter and her mother, they were astounded by the accuracy of the results.
“I can’t believe she found us,” said Lederer. “I think it’s fabulous.”
She turned to look at Perline, who was standing behind a couch in the living room.
“I’m glad you didn’t give up, Perl,” Lederer added.
The testing process was a roller coast ride for Porter and her siblings when they searched for their father, John Mason Collins Sr. Porter, unfortunately, discovered he died in 2004 in Barstow, Calif.
As the Porter and Collins families begin to look forward in their research, they hope to find more relatives.
Once, her friends doubted her, but now Porter feels vindicated.
“They knew I had been searching for them for a long time, but they didn’t think I would find them,” Porter said of her siblings, adding she strongly feels it is important for her children to know their ancestry.