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Nicholas Robbins Family


WILLIAM ALFRED ROBBINS (A Tribute to William Alfred Robbins with notes on his life and family history research by Lawrence G. Robbins) Re: The Nicholas Robbins Family, No. 7.47.7


Amongst the several thousand family group records, histories, pedigrees and associated correspondence that comprise the Robbins Family genealogical collection at the Family History Library in Salt Lake, there is a copy of a letter sent by Dr. Burtis F. Robbins to members of the Robbins Genealogical Society and other Robbins family researchers, requesting assistance with the preparation of a comprehensive publication dealing with the Robbins families in America. While the letter is undated, it appears from events described in the text to have been written around 1950. In the letter Dr. Robbins notes that Mr. William A. Robbins, a very eminent attorney and genealogist living in Brooklyn, New York, had with his wife's assistance, spent a large part of his life researching the family in court and church records throughout the eastern United States and augmenting and authenticating the work of earlier family historians. Further, that Mr. Robbins was now unable to carry on this work due to old age and ill health and had given his papers to the Society with the understanding that they be compiled and prepared for publication. William A. Robbins died in 1951. His records ultimately found their way into the Family History Library, where most have been microfilmed for use by the public at large thus fulfilling his legacy. Moreover, his research is frequently cited as the referenced source on Robbins family group sheets in the Family History Library collections. During the course of research on The Nicholas Robbins Family, I found his work to be most helpful and trustworthy and, in the absence of primary sources, if I saw his fingerprints on a document, it gave me confidence I was headed in the right direction. Whatever success The Nicholas Robbins Family enjoys is owed in no small part to the pioneering work of William Alfred Robbins. Included below are a few biographical notes which I found among his papers in the Family History Library collection.


William Alfred Robbins, son of Thomas Herrick Robbins and Adelia Stevens (Jordan) Robbins, born in Brooklyn, New York on August 5, 1864 and married July 3, 1924 at Trinity Church, Northport, Suffolk County, New York to 

Winnifred Helena Robbins, daughter of William Henry Harrison Robbins and Helena (Nickerson) Robbins. (Note: William and Winnifred were first cousins, both ninth generation descendants of Nicholas Robbins) 


William's father was a residential builder in the Brooklyn area. He also owned and operated a brickyard in Keyport, New Jersey which supplied bricks to markets in Brooklyn and New York City. Additionally, he owned timberland in North Carolina, an orange grove in Florida and a summer residence at Cornwall-On-The-Hudson, New York.


William attended public school in Brooklyn, receiving a diploma from Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute in 1882. He attended Yale, graduating with the Class of 1886, and received his law degree from Columbia University Law School in 1888. Following admission to the New York Bar, he set up a practice in lower Manhattan, specializing in real estate and estate settlement. His most complex legal work centered around the Estate of Ella Wendel of New York City, which involved 2,302 claimants and took the better part of three years to settle. At the turn of the century he took a two year sabbatical to supervise his father's timber operations in North Carolina and during the First World War he served as a volunteer for the YMCA performing relief work at a POW camp in Ervy-le-Chatel, France and, following the Armistice, as a representative with the Board of Damages. William was actively engaged in genealogical research throughout his adult life. By his own count, he researched and published articles on 149 different surname families, including the Robbins, the Treadwells and the Salmons. In addition to the Robbins Genealogical Society, copies of his manuscripts were also donated to the Long Island Historical Society, The New York Historical Society and the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society. He was a long time member of each of these organizations as well as the Mayflower Society and the Sons of the American Revolution. 


William and Winnifred had no children. As was noted in the previously mentioned letter, Winnifred was a partner in these genealogical endeavors and deserves much of the credit for their success. At the time of his death their home was at 178 Garfield Place in Brooklyn, New York, the residence they maintained throughout their married life. I could find no further record of her thereafter. As members of the Nicholas Robbins Family, we owe them much for their life-long promotion of our history and traditions.


Submitted by Lawrence G. Robbins, January, 2007. Mr. Robbins may be contacted by email at

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