John Rolfe
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John Rolfe (bef. 1585 - abt. 1622)

Captain John Rolfe aka Rolph
Born before in Heacham, Norfolk, Englandmap
Son of [father unknown] and [mother unknown]
[sibling(s) unknown]
Husband of — married before 1610 in Heacham, Norfolk, Englandmap
Husband of — married about 5 Apr 1614 (to 21 Mar 1617) in Anglican Church, Jamestown, Virginia Colonymap
Husband of — married after 1619 (to 1622) in Colony of Virginiamap
Descendants descendants
Died about after about age 36 in Jamestown, James City , Colony of Virginiamap
Profile last modified | Created 30 Nov 2008 | Last significant change: 31 May 2023
01:49: J. West edited the Biography for John Rolfe (bef.1585-abt.1622). (Minor corrections. ) [Thank J. for this]
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US Southern Colonies.
John Rolfe resided in the Southern Colonies in North America before 1776.
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Jamestown Church Tower
John Rolfe was a Jamestown colonist.
flag of the Jamestowne Society

John Rolfe was born in Heacham, Norfolk, England. He was baptized on 6 May 1585.[citation needed][1]

NOTE: A 1990 article questions the claim that the John Rolfe baptized May 1585 was the same as the emigrant to Virginia. See the g2g thread attached to this profile for discussion.

John Rolfe came over in the famous "Sea Venture" in 1610 which was blown ashore at the Bermudas[2]; the passengers survived 10 months there, during which time Rolfe's wife gave birth to a baby girl, christened Bermuda 11 Feb 1610. Both the baby and his wife died shortly thereafter.[3][4]

He became a planter and is credited with the first successful cultivation of tobacco as an export crop in the Colony of Virginia and is known as the husband of Pocahontas, daughter of the chief of the Powhatan Confederacy."[5][4]

Rolfe was probably instrumental in importing tobacco seed from Trinidad in 1610 and 1611. He crossed the imported breed with indigenous tobacco to produce a plant well adapted to the local soil and reportedly of pleasant taste. When the English cargo vessel Elizabeth sailed from Virginia on June 28, 1613, it presumably carried Rolfe's first crop for export. In April of the following year, John Rolfe married Pocahontas in the Jamestown's Church. [4]He was killed when the natives massacred the colonists in 1622 but was survived by his and Pocahontas's son, Thomas Rolfe.[6]

Rolfe replaced Ralph Hamor as Secretary in 1614 (thus becoming a member of the Council) and held the post until 1619.[7]

In 1614 he married Pocahontas, a daughter of the American Indian Chief Powhatan.[8]

"John Rolfe was a very religious man who agonized for many weeks over the decision to marry Pocahontas after she had been converted to Christianity, "for the good of the plantation, the honor of our country, for the Glory of God, for mine own salvation..." "Pocahontas was baptized christened Rebecca, and later married Rolfe on April 5, 1614."
"A general peace and a spirit of good will between the English and the Indians resulted from this marriage.
"John Thompson (William John) the eldest son of Rev. William Thompson, born circa 1650, married Elizabeth the widow of John Salway the plantation called "Smith's Fort" on which Thomas Warren, father of Alice Mariott had build "ye fiftyfoot brick house". This property formerly belonged to the Indian King, Powhatan who gave it to John Rolfe when he married Pocahontas, daughter of Powhatan...[9]

Pocahontas gave birth to a son, Thomas Rolfe, in about 1615 (date unknown).

In 1616, John took Rebecca/Pocahontas and their son, Thomas, to England, where she died the following year. Thomas remained in England to be raised by relatives.

After Pocahontas' death, John returned to Virginia and married Jane Peirce 1619.[10]

Research Notes

Disputed Parents

A prior version of this profile attached John Rolfe and Dorothy Mason as his parents, without citing any source. There doesn't seem to be any evidence that they were his parents and there does seem to be evidence that they weren't. Dorman lists no parents and says: "there is no evidence that John and Dorothy Rolfe had a son Henry, known to be a son of John in Virginia. In the Heacham family there was a contemporary Henry Rolfe, Gent.... but he is not known to have had a brother John. "[11]


  1. Jamestowne Society: Rolfe, John - A6802; born 1585, died 1622; 1614-22 (Councillor); 1614-19 (Secretary of State): (Resident of Jamestowne). accessed 26 March 2019
  3. John Rolfe (profile), Jamestown Rediscovery. Accessed 2 Nov 2017.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Pocahontas and her descendants
  5. Wikipedia: John Rolfe
  6. Taken from the Association for the preservation of Virginia Antiquities web page, dated June 20, 1999, then taken from Vezey FTW files Oct 14, 2000
  7. Stanard, W.G, and Mary Newton Stanard (1902), Colonial Virginia Register, pp. 21, 28.
  8. Smithsonian Institution. Do All Indians Live in Tipis? Smithsonian Books, Washington, D.C. 2018. p75-77.
  9. The Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities: "Pocahontas"
  10. Colonial Surry, Other Early Worthies of Surry, p58-65
  11. Dorman, John, Adventurers of Purse and Person, 4th edition, 2007, Vol. III p. 23

See also:

  • Elizabeth Vann Moore and Richard Slatton, “The Descendants of Pocahontas: An Unclosed Case” in Magazine of Virginia Genealogy, 23 (1985): 3-16.
  • Microsoft Encarta 98, "Rolfe, John", (1998), "Electronic."
  • "Ancestors and Descendants of John Rolfe", in Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 21, No. 1 (Jan 1913), p. 105, No. 2 (Apr 1913), p. 208.
  • Stanard, W.G: "Virginia Land Patents", in Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 1 #4 (Apr 1894), p. 445.
  • Robertson, Wyndham: Pocahontas and her Descendants, p. 23.
  • Jennings, John Melville: "A Biographical Sketch", p. 11, prefaced to Taylor's edition of John Rolfe's True Relation, see next.
  • Rolfe, John: A True Relation of the State of Virginia in 1616, original version, ed. Henry C. Taylor, Yale Univ. Press (1951). Another version, in Southern Literary Messenger, Vol. 5 no 6 (Jun 1839), p. 401, reproduced in Virginia Historical Register, Vol. 1 no. 3 (Jul 1848), p. 101.
  • "Letter of John Rolfe to Sir Thomas Dale", in Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 22, No. 2 (Apr 1914), p. 150. Originally published in Ralph Hamor's True Discourse (1615)
  • Ralph Hamor's True Discourse (1615), reprint ed. Harwell (1957), p. 11. Hamor's own report of the wedding (gives the date as "about 5th April"). Also letter of Dale, p. 51, and letter of Whitaker, p. 59, reporting the marriage. Also Rolfe's letter to Dale, p. 61.
  • "Will of John Rolfe", ed. Carson, in Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 58, No. 1 (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)
  • Petition of Henry Rolfe to the Virginia Company, as recorded in the Court Book, in Kingsbury, S.M, Records of the Virginia Company of London, Vol. 2 (1906), p. 105 (7th Oct 1622).
  • Randolph, Richard (as "R.R"), "Varina", in Virginia Historical Register, Vol. 1, no. 4 (Oct 1848), p. 161. (Randolph is described by Stanard (1913) as the "once well-known Virginia antiquary".)
  • Randolph, Richard (as "R.R"), "Henrico County", in Southern Literary Messenger, Vol. 25, no. 1 (Jul 1857), p. 68.
  • Hotten, John Camden (1874), Original Lists, p. 270, land at Tappahanna; p. 271, land at Mulberry Island.
  • Stith, William: History of Virginia (1747), p. 129 (marriage, but gives the wrong date), p. 146 (descendants).
  • Robertson, Wyndham: "The Marriage of Pocahontas", in Southern Literary Messenger, Vol. 31, no. 2 (Aug 1860), p, 81. Explains and corrects the mistaken date of 1613 given by Stith and many other early writers. Also in Virginia Historical Reporter, Vol. 1 (1860), p. 65.
  • McCartney, Martha W. (2007). Virginia Immigrants and Adventurers, p. 606.

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Comments: 33

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As also noted in 2019, the sticker just before the Research Notes that says "John Rolfe is a descendant of Pocahontas" needs to be changed or removed. John was not her descendant. Also, shouldn't the text that is next to the sticker, along with the sticker if it is changed, be moved to the top of the bio ?
posted by J. West
Thank you J, I just removed that sticker. It can be applied on his descendants, but as you point out it is not appropriate for Pocahontas's spouse.
posted by Scott McClain
Rolfe-2619 and Rolfe-2 are not ready to be merged because: Duplication created of Pocahontas profiles. Please alert project
posted by Maggie N.
is he not the son of Rolfe-3? just wondering. thank you
posted by Wendy Browne
see the "Disputed Parents" section of the profile.
posted by Liz (Noland) Shifflett
Not sure if this is helpful.

Mercer, Julia E. Bermuda Settlers of the 17th Century: Genealogical Notes from Bermuda. Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Pub. Co., 1992. pp 166

‘Rolfe: By will of JOHN ROLFE, made in Virginia in 1631, it appears that he must have been on the “Sea Venture” with his first wife when that vessel was wrecked at Bermuda, 1609. While there his wife had a son who died there. A witness to his will was the Minister RICHARD BUCK who was also on the “Sea Venturer”’

If this helps to point in some directions for more research.

text that was once included in the ship category names that wife Sarah, but I'm not sure what the source for that text is/was (I adopted the space page when I found it orphaned).
posted by Liz (Noland) Shifflett
If he was a tobacco farmer nowhere do I see it stated that he also owned slaves which is essential for growing tobacco for export. A quick search turned up a link

"Rolfe’s plantation used African slave labor mainly to cultivate tobacco. Here is his first-hand account of this practice: “About the last of August [1619] came in a dutch man of warre that sold us twenty Negars [this was the first introduction of Negro slavery into Virginia]: " I think we need to be upfront and honest about what our ancestors did both laudatory and lamentable.

posted by Ingrid Buxton
edited by Ingrid Buxton
Should the parents currently attached to John Rolfe be detached? There doesn't seem to be any evidence that they were his parents and there does seem to be evidence that they weren't. Dorman lists no parents and says: "there is no evidence that John and Dorothy Rolfe had a son Henry, known to be a son of John in Virginia. In the Heacham family there was a contemporary Henry Rolfe, Gent.... but he is not known to have had a brother John. " Dorman, John, Adventurers of Purse and Person, 4th edition, 2007, Vol. III p. 23

The G2G post from 3-4 years ago seemed to conclude that they should be detached, but it never happened.

posted by Kathie (Parks) Forbes
edited by Kathie (Parks) Forbes
Excellent question. It does appear that they should be detached and the disputed claim about them explained in a Research Note. If anyone objects to this change, please speak up.
posted by Scott McClain
Hearing no objection, I have removed the disputed parents & added a Research Note.
posted by Scott McClain
John Rolfe did have a brother named Henry; in William Stith's book "The History of the First Discovery and Settlement of Virginia, page 146. he mentions "young Rolfe" (aka Thomas Rolfe) being his "Uncle Henry".
posted by Stephen Strauss
This profile needs a Notables sticker.
posted by Paula (Hawkins) Reinke
thanks RJ - I detached that image (a correctly named copy of the image is already attached to Smyth-536).
posted by Liz (Noland) Shifflett
LaQuita, you're creating duplicates. Remember that WikiTree is a one profile per person web site. Please pause in your efforts. We need to merge the duplicates.
posted on Rolfe-2025 (merged) by Jillaine Smith
Rolfe-2005 and Rolfe-2 appear to represent the same person because: Clearly meant to be the same man.
posted by Kathie (Parks) Forbes
That's a really good point. He was her husband, not her descendant. Problem is, that's the project box for the project that has primary interest in watching over this profile... which is named "Descendants of Pocahontas".
posted by Liz (Noland) Shifflett
Why does the sticker state John Rolfe is a descendant of Pocahontas? Wasn't he married to her?
posted by [Living Trogstad]
John rolf worked for miltiary and a warrior of battle and ships and He had one asian Spouse and Pocahontas durning after Pocahontas he had a secret spouse that was Asian durning the China war I believe. I thin John Rolfe traveld to china durning a ship and meet a Asian lady in China or something ... or Asia South.
posted by CameoNicole Blewett
Rolfe-1576 and Rolfe-2 appear to represent the same person because: the profile already exists, merge
What is the evidence for the "middle name" Thomas? (keeping in mind that middle names were not used in the 16th C, except among royalty). Thanks!
posted by Cynthia (Billups) B
As the profile manager of Rolfe-403, does not agree that the two daughters listed are duplicates, I leave it to the profile managers here to decide.
posted by Robin Lee
Caught this reference while researching.

"The children, a boy and a girl, received the names Bermudas and Bermuda, and Bermuda was the daughter of Mr. John Rolfe, who afterwards became the husband of Pocahontas."

Cooke, J. E. (1884). Virginia: A history of the people. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Co. [1] p.45

posted by Edwin Priest
Rolfe-751 and Rolfe-1 appear to be the same person. Maybe they should be merged.
Name: John Rolfe

Gender: Male Spouse Name: Pocahontas Marriage Year: 1614 Marriage State: Ja Number Pages: 1

Meanwhile, in Bermuda, one of the passengers of the Sea Venture, John Rolfe, built two ships from the wreckage of the ship Sea Venture. and the stranded passengers finally reached Jamestown 24 May 1610, including William Capps and his family. They were met by ghostly, gaunt figures, the 60 survivors of the winter's "Starving Time", 90% of the colony having perished. There was no food, no crops, no tools, no housing. Those left alive in Jamestown gathered a few belongings and put them on the ships and headed downriver, abandoning Jamestown. They were only ten miles from Jamestown when they met a boat telling them that the new governor of Virginia, Lord Delaware, was on his way with ships of supplies and