Ancestral Ace

Dear Ace: I was wondering if you’re up on any of the Atkins genealogy from the area? My ancestors came to Surry County, VA on the “Gods Giffte” in 1623, and another ancestor, Ida Atkins, purchased 400 acres in Albemarle County on the banks of the Rivanna around 1740. Any connection?—H.B. Atkins

Would that Ace knew, cousin. As it happens, Ace was found on a dark and stormy night on the doorstep of Albemarle County residents Mr. and Mrs. Atkins, tucked in a wicker basket with a letter that read, “Answer me.” Those words have become an existential imperative for Ace, dangling over him wherever he goes. Like a rain cloud, or a black sun that emits coldness instead of warmth.

The bottom line? Ace, having been adopted, only knows so much about Atkins family history, and all of that comes straight from the mouth of Mr. Atkins.

“Papa?” Ace would ask.

“That’s Mr. Atkins to you, boy,” he’d say.

“Yes, Mr. Atkins, sorry sir. Can you tell me where Atkins people come from?”

Easing back into his La-Z-Boy recliner and pouring himself a glass of bourbon, Mr. Atkins would talk about the good old days, when the Atkins name was “a right old dynasty” in Buckinghamshire, England. A family of investigative reporters, the Atkins clan wielded great power and influence for centuries. Then one day, two rival family agencies, the Rogers and the Jenkins, turned public opinion against them by spreading the rumor—completely false—that the Atkins made up most of the inquiries put to them. Facing an angry mob, the family quickly convened and chose to set sail for America. Future generations would call this historical assembly, and pursuant decision, the Diet of Atkins.

The “Gods Giffte” may or may not have been part of that departing Atkins fleet; all Ace knows for certain is that his papa—er, Mr. Atkins—traced his ancestry to another ship, the “Lords Leftouvers,” which probably accounts for much of Ace’s self-deprecating wit. Many would eventually settle in Atkins, Virginia, a census-designated place in Smyth County. Others—such as the late guitar legend Chet Atkins, and rapper Jeffrey Atkins, known by his stage name Ja Rule—would make their fortunes elsewhere.

You can ask Ace yourself. Intrepid investigative reporter Ace Atkins has been chasing readers’ leads for 20 years. If you have a question for Ace, e-mail it to

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