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Thomas Rolfe (abt. 1615 - bef. 1681)

Lieutenant Thomas Rolfe
Born about in Jamestown, James City County, Colony of Virginiamap
Ancestors ancestors
Brother of [half] and [half]
Husband of — married 1644 in Jamestown, James City, Virginiamap
Descendants descendants
Died before before about age 66 in James City County, Colony of Virginiamap
Profile last modified | Created 30 Nov 2008
This page has been accessed 56,258 times.
US Southern Colonies.
Thomas Rolfe resided in the Southern Colonies in North America before 1776.
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Matoaka Amonute Powhatan
Thomas Rolfe is a descendant of Pocahontas. Here is the trail.
flag of the Jamestowne Society

Thomas Rolfe was the only known child of Amonute Matoaka (Rebecca) Powhatan Rolfe, commonly referred to as "Pocahontas", her childhood nickname. [1] See the research notes in her biography for a discussion of claims that she had other children. The descendants of Jane Rolfe Bolling via her only child, John Bolling of Cobbs, are the only documented descendants of Pocahontas.

Early Life

Thomas Rolfe is thought to have been born in about 1615 in Jamestown, Colony of Virginia. [2] There are no records of his birth. See Research Notes below.

In 1616, he travelled with his parents to England for their public relations tour on behalf of the Virginia Colony. [3] [4] In March 1617, shortly after the Rolfes began their return voyage to Virginia, Pocahontas became ill. The ship they were on put in at Gravesend, Kent, England. She died there and was buried under the chancel of St. George's Church on 21 March 1617.[5] [6]. The chancel was the holiest part of the church where only the most important people in the community were buried.[7]

Thomas and his father resumed the voyage home, but when they got as far as Plymouth (in England), John Rolfe saw that Thomas was too ill to continue. On 21 March 1617, John Rolfe appointed Lewis Stucley as guardian of young Thomas.[8][9] Stucley later transferred custody and care of Thomas Rolfe to his uncle, Henry Rolfe, who petitioned the Virginia Company in 1622 for support from the estate of John Rolfe for the care of Thomas.[10][11]

John Rolfe married his third wife, Jane Pierce, in 1617 in Virginia and they had a daughter, Elizabeth. John Rolfe wrote his will on March 10, 1622 wherein he appointed his father-in-law, William Pierce, as executor of his estate and guardian of his two children, Thomas and Elizabeth. He named Thomas as the rightful heir of all his land, profits and any royalties pertaining to such land.[12] [13]

Thomas remained in the care of his uncle, Henry Rolfe, until he reached approximately 20 years of age.

Return to Virginia

Sometime before June 1635 Thomas returned to Virginia to claim his parents' property, his transportation paid for by his Virginia guardian and grandfather by marriage, William Pierce. Pierce patented land on June 22, 1635, claiming headrights for the transportation of 40 individuals, including Thomas Rolfe. [14] [15]

Prior to March 1640, Thomas took possession of the land he inherited, located on the lower side of the James River. [16] Thomas also inherited about 150 acres in Surry County, across from Jamestown; the land was described in a later deed as "Smith's Fort old field and the Devil's Woodyard swamp being due unto the said Rolfe by Gift from the Indian King". [17]

In 1641, with an interest in rekindling relations with his mother's family, Thomas petitioned the governor for permission to visit his "aunt, Cleopatra, (sister of Pocahontas), and his kinsman Opechancanough (younger brother of Powhatan who became chief)." [18]

In 1646 Thomas, as lieutenant, was appointed commander of Fort James, one of four forts established on the frontier to protect the colony from Native American attacks. [19] [20]

Thomas and his wife, Jane (surname unknown), had only one child, Jane Rolfe, who was the first wife of Colonel Robert Bolling. Many sources say his wife's surname was Poythress (Jane Poythress). See "Research Notes" below for a discussion of this claim.

The last record of Thomas was a land patent from September 16, 1658. [21]He is known to have died before 23 Apr 1681 when a land deed shows that the lands of Thomas Rolfe, deceased, known as "the Fort Land", were divided and sold. [citation needed][22]

His only grandson, John Bolling, signed over some "1000 acres commonly called the Fort on Chickohominy river" of Thomas' land in 1698 to a William Brown. [23][24]

Research Notes

Date and Place of Birth

There are no records of the birth of Thomas Rolfe. The year 1615 is given by The Jamestowne Society in their list of Qualified Ancestors. [25] W. G. Stanard, writing in the Virginia Magazine of History and Biography in 1894, states that Thomas was born in 1616 in England when his parents were visiting there. [26] Encyclopedia Virginia states that he was born "sometime between 1614 and 1617." [27]

Disputed Information About Thomas' Wife

Numerous sources have stated that Thomas married Jane Poythress, a daughter of Francis Poythress, a Virginia colonist. Scholars Elizabeth Vann Moore and Richard Slatten traced the suggestion that his wife was a Poythress back to a comment by W. G. Stanard in "Abstracts of Virginia Land Patents", in the Virginia Historical Magazine (I, 1894, 446-447). [28] :

"His wife is said to have been a Miss Poythress (if so, doubtless a daughter of Francis Poythress)."

According to Moore and Slatten, Stanard cited as evidence handwritten notes on the flyleaf of a copy of A Complete Collection of All the Laws of Virginia Now in Force Carefully Copied from the Assembled Records (London, 168?), now in the Library of Virginia. Moore and Slatten state:

"Interestingly, Thomas Rolfe here is recorded as married to a 'Miss Payers'. We recall that in John Rolfe's will the name of his third wife is spelt Pyers (Pierce) and that it was John who married a "Jane".

Here again, a Bolling descendant confused the son with his father. Not recognizing the name 'Payers' as another variant of Pierce, someone searched the records for a name beginning with 'P' and having a 'y' in the first syllable. Francis Poythress lived in adjacent Charles City County and his name also happened to end in 's'.

Wyndham Robertson, another Bolling descendant, wrote in Pocahontas, alias Matoaka, and Her Descendants . . . (Richmond, 1887):

"I adopt "Jane Poythress" (not "Poyers") whom he is stated in the Bolling Memoirs to have married in England."
He added in justification of his charming adoption of an ancestress, ' such name as "Poyers" is anywhere known ... the family of Poythress was already settled in Virginia.' [29]

The result has been the acceptance of a non-existent personage, 'Jane Poythress', in the Bibles of Virginia genealogy, as the bona fide ancestress of many illustrious Virginians. Who the wife (or wives) of Thomas Rolfe may have been remains an unanswered question.

Pocahontas' Descendants by Stuart Brown et al (1995), which is the most updated version of POCAHONTAS' DESCENDANTS: A Revision, Enlargement and Extension of the List as Set out by Wyndham Robertson in His Book Pocahontas and Her Descendants (1887) states that he was only married once "to possibly the daughter of Francis Poythress, a Virginia colonist".

If there was a first marriage in England before he moved to Virginia to claim his inheritance and land, the first wife was listed as "unknown". Some claim he married Elizabeth Washington in England.[citation needed]

Disputed Children

Thomas's alleged marriage to Elizabeth Washington in 1632 is claimed to have produced a child, Anne Rolfe.

The Elwyn family of Thurning, Norfolk, England, claims that Anne Rolfe, “cousin and adopted” daughter of Anthony Rolfe of Tuttington, Norfolk, and wife of Peter Elwyn of Thurning (1623-1695/6) was also a daughter of Thomas Rolfe, Pocahontas’s son, by an early English wife. Brown, Myers, and Chappel accept this claim; Moore and Slatton do not. Margaret Wake, a great-granddaughter of Peter and Anne, married William Tryon (1729-1788), colonial Governor of North Carolina and New York.

English sources for the Elwyn progeny include R. T. and A. Gunther, Rolfe Family Records, Vol. 2 (1914): 289-91, and Patrick Palgrave-Moore and Michael J. Sayer, "A Selection of Revised and Unpublished Norfolk Pedigrees," in Norfolk Genealogy, Vol. 6, 1974, published by the Norfolk and Norwich Genealogical Society), 56-59 (Elwyn); and The Ancestor, 2 (1902): 183-84 and 4 (1904): 256-57 (Wake, Tryon)."[30]

Wyndham Robertson in his preface (1887, p. iv) appears to accept the Elwyn claim, while perhaps not understanding the implications.

An independent and separate claim says that Thomas Rolfe had another undocumented daughter, also called Anne Rolfe, in Virginia in the 1640s. She married a William Barnett (from whose descendants this claim unsurprisingly originates).

The "Uncertain Existence" profile for Anthony Rolfe (1655-bef.1755) says his parents are Thomas and Jane (citing an online tree without a reliable source).


  1. Smithsonian Institution. Do All Indians Live in Tipis? Smithsonian Books, Washington, D.C. 2018. p75-77.
  2. Rolfe, Thomas- A9737: born 1615 Jamestown Resident, liv. 1670 accessed 22 October 2021
  3. Pocahontas: Her Life and Legend, US Parks Service
  4. Helen C. Rountree, "Pocahontas," in Encyclopedia Virginia, ( accessed 6 September 2017).
  5. Parish register burial entry for Rebecca Wroth [sic], 21 March 1616/7, Gravesend, Kent; citing St. George's Church. She is listed in the record as the "wife" of Thomas Wroth. Record accessed 23 May 2023, no image available
  6. "The Burial of Pocahontas", in Virginia Historical Register, Vol. 2, no. 4 (Oct 1849), p. 187
  7. Jamestowne Rediscovery website
  8. Letter of John Rolfe to Edwin Sandys, in Ferrar, M.E, "The Ferrar Papers", in V.M.H.B, Vol. 10 no. 2 (Oct 1902), p. 134.
  9. Dictionary of National Biography Lewis Stucley
  10. Kingsbury, Susan M (1906). Virginia Company Records, Vol. 2, 1906. page 105. Henry Rolfe's petition to the Virginia Company, as recorded in the Court Book, 7th October 1622,, for "the Child his said Brother had by Powhatan's Daughter".
  11. Mossiker, Frances (1976). Matoaka: The Life and Legend. New York: Da Capo Press, 1996. pp. 213–313.
  12. Salmon, Emily. Rolfe, John (d. 1622). (2021, February 12). In Encyclopedia Virginia.
  13. "Will of John Rolfe", ed. Carson, Jane, in Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 58, No. 1, 58–65, (Jan 1950), p. 61. From the probate copy (PCC 1630). The will had previously been abstracted by Waters, from the register copy (49 Scroope), in N.E.H.G.R, Vol. 38 no. 1 (Jan 1884), p. 68, with notes by Waters. (Note date is 1884, not 1844 as given by Carson)
  14. Cavaliers and pioneers; abstracts of Virginia land patents and grants, 1623-1800 by Nugent, Nell Marion, p 29
  15. Sponsor: William Pierce, Nugent: Virginia Land Patents; (spreadsheet: database online). Accessed 10 November 2018, amb
  16. McCartney, Martha W. "Thomas Rolfe". Virginia Immigrants and Adventurers, 1607–1635: A Biographical Dictionary. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 2007. p. 608. Print.
  17. Boddie, John Bennett (1974). Colonial Surry. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing.
  18. Boddie, John Bennett (1974). Colonial Surry. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing.
  19. Mossiker, Frances (1976). Matoaka: The Life and Legend. New York: Da Capo Press, 1996. pp. 213–313.
  20. Hening's Statutes, Vol. 1 (1809), p. 327. Grant of Fort James at Chickahominy to "Left. Thomas Rolfe", in 1646, by Act of Assembly.
  21. Barbour, Philip L. (1969). Matoaka and Her World. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. pp. 184, 214. Print.
  22. Hint: Wikipedia has source of "Land Office Patent Bk 7, p. 96"
  23. “The Ancestors and Descendants of John Rolfe with Notices of Some Connected Families (Continued).” The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 21, no. 2 (1913): p.211.
  24. “Historical and Genealogical Notes.” The William and Mary Quarterly 17, no. 1 (1908): p.68.
  25. Rolfe, Thomas- A9737: born 1615 Jamestown Resident, liv. 1670 accessed 22 October 2021
  26. Stanard, W.G: "Virginia Land Patents", in Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 1 #4 (Apr 1894) p. 446.
  27. Encyclopedia Virginia
  28. Elizabeth Vann Moore and Richard Slatten, "The Descendants of Pocahontas: An Unclosed Case," in Magazine of Virginia Genealogy, XXIII, no.3, pp.3-16, cited by John Frederick Dorman, in Adventurers of Purse and Person, 4th ed., Vol. 3, p.26, fn23-24.
  29. Robertson, Wyndham, Pocahontas, alias Matoaka, and Her Descendants . . . (Richmond, 1887) At
  30. Roberts, Gary Boyd. Notable Kin: Some Descendants and Kinsmen of Descendants of Pocahontas: An Excursion into Southern Genealogy, April 1986 at
  • Kingsbury, Susan M. Virginia Company Records, Vol. 2 (1906), p. 52. The Company write to Argall on 22 Aug 1618 in response to "a very straunge letter" from Argall, then Governor, in which he had apparently said that Opechankano and the Natives had given their country to Mr Rolfe's child and were reserving it for him. The Company suspected Argall was scheming to his own ends.
  • Nugent, Nell Marion, Cavaliers and Pioneers, Abstracts, Vol. 1, p. 28. William Pierse redeems a headright for transportation of Thomas Rolfe, 1635.
  • Nugent, Nell Marion, Cavaliers and Pioneers, Abstracts, Vol. 1, pp. 234, 328, 384. Patents taken out by Thomas Rolfe, total 875 acres, all adjacent at Chickahominy, including the Fort (400 acres) as granted in 1646, the rest for 10 headrights.
  • Randolph, Richard (as "R.R") (a descendant). "Henrico County", in Southern Literary Messenger, Vol. 25, no. 1 (Jul 1857), p, 68, says Rolfe arrived in Virginia in 1641, and visited his Indian relatives then. And many other things for which no source is indicated. Of course many records existed in Virginia in 1857 that didn't exist 10 years later.
  • Robertson, Wyndham (a descendant) (1887), Pocahontas and her Descendants, p. 30, calling this "one of the only two incidents of his life of which we have any record", mentions the granting "by the Governor, on his petition, of permission to visit his Indian kinsfolk". He doesn't give the date or the source. He writes as if a record of this permit has been found and published and will be known to his readers.
  • In V.M.H.B, Vol. 1, no. 4 (Apr 1894), p. 446, Stanard cites "Virginia Records, in Congressional library" for a statement corresponding to that made by Robertson. Citation is needed for "Virginia Records, in Congressional library". Thomas Jefferson's collection is online as scanned images, but untranscribed and unindexed.
  • From the Princess Nicketti camp: [1]. All over the net, but clearly bogus.
  • [citation needed] A patent dated 1663 (implied by Stanard ?in "Virginia Land Patents"). Could be in Vol. 2 of Cavaliers and Pioneers?
  • [citation needed] Conveyance of land to William Corker, 1673 ("the gift of the Indian King") -- mentioned by Stanard -- Different in McCartney, p. 112
  • [citation needed] Conveyance of Smith's Fort to Thomas Warren, mentioned by Stanard. I think there are only depositions in Surry Co records
  • [citation needed] Conveyance of Chickahominy to William Brown, abt ?1681
  • Randolph, Richard (as "R.R"): "Henrico County", in Southern Literary Messenger, Vol. 25 issue 1 (Jul 1857), p. 68. Richard Randolph's claim (as cited by Stanard) that Thomas Rolfe's wife was a Miss Poythress.
  • Randolph, Richard (as "R.R."): "Historical Memoranda", in Southern Literary Messenger, Vol. 25, issue 2 (Aug 1857), p. 123. Deed for the sale of the Fort at Chickahominy by grandson John Bolling. This deed identifies Robert Bolling's father-in-law as the same Thomas Rolfe who was earlier granted Fort James on the Chickahominy. The deed no longer exists and its genuineness has been questioned.
  • "Historical and Genealogical Notes", in William and Mary Quarterly, Vol. 5 no. 4 (Apr 1897), p. 275. The Bolling flyleaf. Names the immigrant Robert Bolling's father-in-law as Thomas Rolfe, gent. Doesn't explicitly make him the son of Pocahontas, though the "gent" is probably unique enough.
  • Stith, William: History of Virginia (1747), p. 146. Probably the first explanation in print that the red Bollings had the Pocahontas bloodline. It's not clear how well known this would have been.

See Also:

  • "Ancestors and Descendants of John Rolfe", in Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 21, No. 2 (Apr 1913), p. 209.
  • McCartney, Martha W (2007). Virginia Immigrants and Adventurers, p. 608.
  • David Morenus. Pocahontas Descendants. Accessed by Michael Boynton on December 22, 2015 at 3:30 PM. online
  • Pocahontas Descendants web page, (1998, online),
  • Article referring to the child of a theorized first marriage of Pocahontas: Farris, Phoebe. Pocahontas' First Marriage: The Powhatan Side of the Story. American Indian Magazine, Spring 2014, Vol. 15 #1. Smithsonian Institution. Pocahontas First Marriage
  • London Metropolitan Archives; London, England; Church of England Parish Registers, 1538-1812; Reference Number: DRO/040/A/01/002.
London, England, Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, 1538-1812. Online publication - Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010.Original data - Church of England Parish Registers, 1538-1812. London, England: London Metropolitan Archives. Images produced by permission of the City of London Corporation Libraries

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Comments: 34

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Hello, I do not see that anyone has reached out to the National Society Colonial Dames XVII Century. I know that they have had a Georgia Society Chapter in the Metro Atlanta area, by the name of Princess Hikitti Chapter. Several of their members are direct descendants of Pocahontas and/or

her sister Princess Hikitti. I suggest that you contact their national headquarters :1300 New Hampshire Ave, NW ; Washington DC, 20036-1595 for more information, and perhaps a project partnership with their current National President, and your US Southern Project Partnership. This Society has a treasure trove of detailed and reliable primary source information.

posted by Betty York
Since Thomas' birth location is unknown/disputed, shouldn't this profile just list say Colony of Virginia, not a specific location?
posted by Kathie (Parks) Forbes
Does anyone mind if I do some editing of this bio for clarity, consistency, etc. ?

Which of the listed sources are considered reliable, for consultation and citations ?

And which of the listed sources are less reliable, or really unreliable, and should perhaps be flagged as such in some way ?

posted by J. West
edited by J. West
The best resource is Dorman’s Adventurers of Purse and Person. He lists most, if not all, of the primary sources for Thomas. I agree this profile needs help, but since it is project protected any material changes should be addressed in comments here or on G2G.
posted by Kathie (Parks) Forbes
J. West, you did a really nice job cleaning up this profile; thank you.
posted by Jillaine Smith
Rolfe-2620 and Rolfe-1 appear to represent the same person because: Duplicate profiles for the same son -
Rolfe-2618 and Rolfe-1 are not ready to be merged because: Someone created duplicate profiles of the Project. Please report.
posted by Maggie N.
Please do not add wives with no proof. These are Project Protected profiles with set sources for these families already. If you have any questions, please contact the Native American Project.
posted on Rolfe-2618 (merged) by Maggie N.
Rolfe-2620 and Rolfe-2618 are not ready to be merged because: They have the same dates, places and people
posted on Rolfe-2618 (merged) by Katherine (Snyder) Randall
Please remove the magazine article as the profile photo for this profile. It's fine to keep as an image, but makes no sense as a profile picture - there are endless articles about Thomas and his family.
posted by Kathie (Parks) Forbes
I have removed it. Unfortunately, the default on WT is to make a new image the profile photo if there is no current profile photo, so this is usually an error - thanks for catching it & please go ahead and fix it if you see this happen on other project managed profiles.
posted by Scott McClain
Not Sure how accurate but states father of Jane Poythress is LT William Poyers

Millennium File Thomas Rolfe in theMillennium File Record details Name Thomas Rolfe Gender Male Birth Date 1615 Birth Place Richmond, Ind City, Virginia, USA Father John Rolfe Spouse Jane Poythress Children Jane Rolfe Spouse Father William (Lt ) Poyers

posted by Sherry Holston
Sherry, a millennium file is no better source than an unsourced family tree. In fact, it's the same thing. Zero reliability. Thanks, though.
Spot the family resemblance


posted by [Living Horace]
remarkable likeness - could be twins even :D

should we just detach the duplicate posted here as a portrait of Thomas or "save" it somewhere (once a picture isn't connected to a profile or space page, it's deleted).

update: I changed the title for the image (from Thomas Rolfe to Wyndham Robertson) & the only profile it's attached to now is his (Robertson-6654's). Even though the same image had been attached to Robertson's profile in 2015, I didn't want to lose the discussion of the picture that is with the image uploaded as Rolfe-744.jpg.

posted by Liz (Noland) Shifflett
edited by Liz (Noland) Shifflett
The information provided to me by my cousin, Patricia Gresham, says Thomas's middle name was Powhatten, and that he died in Richmond, Wise County, Virginia in 1675.
posted by Harry Carlson