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John Rolfe Pocahontas descendants
Posted by: Gary Rolph (ID *****5508) Date: November 30, 2010 at 12:29:44
  of 1630

Would appreciate your critiques or documentation:

       John Rolfe born in England -- no strong evidence that he is the John Rolfe son of John Rolfe and Dorothy Mason baptized 6 May 1585 Heacham, Nofolk, England.
       Married first in England sometime in the 1605-1608 timeframe. First wife's name unknown.
       Sailed for Virginia 1609 but because of weather went to Bermuda. John's daughter, Bermuda, was born Feb 1610, but died shortly after. It is thought that John's wife also died either in Bermuda or shortly after landing in Virginia.
       John Rolfe probably single from 1610 to 1614. He married Pocahontas Apr 1614. His son, Thomas, was born probably 1615. About 1616 he, Pocahontas, and Thomas sailed to England. They set out to return to Virginia in March, 1617, but Pocahontas took ill, and died 21 March 1617 in Gravesend, County Kent, England. When John Rolfe landed back in Virginia, he sent a letter to Sir Edwin Sandys detailing the death of his wife and the reason he left Thomas in England.
       John Rolfe probably single from 1617 to 1619. About 1619 he married Jane Peirce, daughter of William Pearce, who two years later he made Executor of his estate. Jane and John Rolfe had one child, Elizabeth Rolfe, born probably 25 Jan 1620.

       So I think we have three children for John, and not much room for anybody else. Bermuda died as an infant. Elizabeth may have died 1635, although the source is not contemporaneous. There is one family chart in the Virginia State Library, prepared in 1940, that shows Elizabeth Rolfe marrying John Milner. There is no confirmation to prove this, and I have not found any Rolfe-Milner connections in the various land records available on the Internet or in the Cavaliers and Settlers books.

       The Library of Congress American Memory series of digitized records has the minutes of an "Extraordinary Court for Virginia" held in England by the Virginia shareholders 7 October 1622. Henry Rolfe, who says he is the brother of John Rolfe, is caring for young Thomas, and asks the shareholders to request an accounting in Virginia of John's estate, so that some of it could be used to indemnify Henry for raising young Thomas. Eight years later, William Peirce files John's will in the Prerogatory Court of Canterbury. The will indicates that John has two children, Thomas and Elizabeth, and a widow, Elizabeth.

       In Cavaliers and Pioneers, Book I, part I, page 29, is a grant of 2000 acres to "Capt William Peirce, Esq" for the transport of 40 persons, including "Thos. Rolfe." The grant is dated 1634, probably the year Thomas returned to Virginia.

       Some people have Thomas married "Elizabeth Washington." At this point I find that claim rather dubious. I have found no documentation linking the "Thomas Rolfe" who married "Elizabeth Washington" to the Thomas Rolfe of Jamestown. There may be more documentation out there, but I haven't found it yet.

       There are no contemporaneous documentation to indicate even the first name of Thomas' wife. The land documents I found have Thomas' name, but not the name of his wife. I looked at the grantees and witnesses, but there are no good clues there about any possible maiden name of his wife.

       Wilma Phelan, in her letter to me 23 November 2010, indicated that Rev John Perry Barnett wrote the names of two children of Thomas -- Anna and Jane. It appears that the evidence is about equal that either or both of them were children of Thomas. The supposed inscription that Jane is the "only daughter" was written in the early 19th century. So you have a Bible with the names of two daughters and a flyleaf inscription that there was only one daughter.

       In Cavaliers and Pioneers, Thomas Rolfe appears to buy and sell land in two areas -- on the North side of the James River, in James City County; and on the South Side of the James River that would become Surry County. It appears as though Thomas settled/ lived on the north side of the James River (he was in charge of James' Fort on the island) but that he divided and sold land on the south side of the River (land originally given him by his father-in-law Powhatan). I am looking for a book, Kornwolf's Guide to the Buildings of Surry, that might shed more light on whether or not Thomas ever lived in what became Surry county. There is also an article in the Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 43 (Jul 1935): 200-208, entitled "The Rolfe Property," that I would like to read.

       Thomas may have had an affair with (but probably was not married to) Di Poi or Oconoco. I am looking for the article by William Aubrey Rolfe in the Pocahontas Trails Quarterly April 1986 issue (Vol. 4, No 2) that describes this relationship and the son, "Thomas Rolfe Jr" that was born in 1654. I cannot find any documentation to support or disconfirm this person, so hopefully his article will give me some idea of the sources upon which he relied.

       The Thomas Relfe/ Rolfe who shows up in Pasquotank County North Carolina may or may not be the same as the Thomas Rolfe of James City Virginia. Based on the closeness of the ages of two Relfe boys and two Rolfe girls, I think this Thomas Rolfe is not connected with Thomas of James City. From the records I have found so far, this Thomas was born about 1620 in England, was married in England about 1640, and had two sons in England -- Capt Thomas Relfe (born 1645) and William Relfe (born 1647-1650). Note how close these dates are to Anna and Jane, one reason I think the two Rolfes are distinct. This Thomas' wife died between 1650 and 1669, Thomas came to North Carolina about 1669, and married about 1670 in Pasquotank County, North Carolina, "Dorothy." I could find no documentation of Dorothy's maiden name. Some say she was "Dorothy Jennings," but that confuses her maiden name with her married name after the death of Thomas Relfe (she married John Jennings). Dorothy and Thomas Relfe have one child, Elizabeth Relfe, who married Richard Rhodes.

       There are still some dangling ends. Who are the Rolfe families in Surry County in the mid- to late 18th century? Are they connected with the North Carolina Relfes, or some other family? I have not yet found any piece of evidence that would link the 18th century Rolfe famiies of Surry with Thomas Rolfe of Jamestown.

       I am interested in moving forward and seeing what documentation appears for the possible illegitimate son of Thomas by a Native American as well as what documentation appears for the two sons of Dr. Thomas Relfe. I am also interested in seeing what documentation appears for the 18th century Rolfe families in Surry County, Virginia, and whether there are any connections with Thomas Rolfe of James City County Virginia or Thomas Relfe of Pasquotank County North Carolina.

Gary Rolph

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