Christine Collins mystery solved

From the mailbag:

Mr Girardot,

Just wanted to let you know that the fate of Christine Collins has been solved.  Collins is listed in the death index under Christin Collins.  This linked her name to a Kathleen Collins in the social security death index.  Collins indicated that this was an alias she used after the high profile trial.  The time period fits and I’m fairly certain it is her.  Collins died on 12/8/1964.  There is also an interesting back story.  At one point in time, she was staying with James C. Borton in 1930.  Borton took in Collins because he and her father were members of the Knights of Pythias.  She also spent sometime in Oakland Californa in the early 1930’s, with friends they met when the family was in Hawaii.  At one point in time she took a telephone number under an assumed name as well. As it turns out, her sister, at  one point in time, was listed on a passenger manifest as visiting Hong Kong in 1930, in the midst of the events involving her son.  She is listed under race as Octoroon.  Even in my work as an Archivist, I have never come acrossed that term.  It’s a guess, but I believe that Aimee Dunne was of Chinese Origin, which I also thought was an interesting note. 
I’m planning on taking the research further and write a book.  I’ve spent too much time learning about this family, so I need to justify it somehow!


Chris Garmire
California State Archives

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  • letty chapa

    thank you for this info if u have more let me know

  • PJ

    what kind of archivist have never seen the word ‘octroon’ before? (1/8 Black, from the days when even a drop of Black blood made you ineligible for most rights and privileges). In the case of a passenger manifest, being an Octroon meant you couldn’t go First class and were probably going to be stuck in steerage.

  • Ron Franscell

    I cannot dispute Chris Garmire’s research, although “fairly certain” is far from “mystery solved.” We are asked to take at least two crucial leaps of faith: that Christine Collins used the alias Kathleen, and to assume misspellings (accidental or deliberate) were at the root of her disappearance. I don’t see enough evidence to trust that she’s the rare or only Christine/Kathleen/Christin Collins who “fits” a rather wide time period. Not saying Chris is absolutely wrong, but I am saying that Chris hasn’t proven to be absolutely right either.

    As a lifelong journalist and a true-crime writer, I would have a crucial question that isn’t answered in Chris’ summary:

    Why would the mother of a missing child whom she desperately believed to be alive change her name or use aliases when doing so would effectively hide her from her son, too? Logic suggests that if she genuinely believed Walter was still alive, she’d do her best to remain close to the last place he lived and try to be in the most likely places he’d look. It’s possible she ultimately resigned herself to Walter’s death and moved on in life, and it’s possible that she used different names to escape media or police hounding. But I have a hard time believing that she’d hide if she believed Walter would somehow return.

    Sorry, but I think the mystery of Christine Collins’ fate remains open.

    Ron Franscell

  • Bill

    Where is the term Octoroon written ? On her birth certificate ?

  • leo

    Could it be possible that the person you have found is another Christine Collins who changed her name due to the high profile trial? What I mean is, maybe this is a completely different person with the same name that grew tired of inquiries due to said name.

  • DRO

    Octoroon means a person of fourth-generation black ancestry (1/8th black). Often one great-grandparent that is African and seven great-grandparents who are not. In the U.S this term would probably not be used to describe a person of Asian descent. It is usually applied to someone of African and European descent.

  • A. Kitzmiller

    Well, as others pointed out, “Octoroon” refers to someone with “Black” ancestry, not Chinese or other Asian. I’m curious as to how Octoroon could show up on her manifest to begin with? Was it that obvious? What Passenger/Shipping Line was that?

    The Hong Kong destination is interesting on it’s own, even if Aimee Dunne isn’t related to the same Christine Collins. Hong Kong of 1930 would have had little to offer an American Woman at the time. I believe that the U.S. Navy made port in the British Colony of Hong Kong even then, so add Hawaii + Hong Kong – Sounds like a possible Navy connection?

  • Jim

    Actually if you look at the letter posted in the LA Times history blog, Christine tells the Warden of the Prison in which her husband was encarcerated that she is using the alias Kathleen to maintain a lower profile. So Chris’ comments are supported by independent coorborative evidence.

  • Alan

    Every time I read something about this woman I learn a little bit more about her, but am always left with more questions.

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  • Sarah

    An Octroon is someone considered someone 1/8th black by descent.