Lt. Thomas Pepsironemeh Rolfe

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Thomas Pepsironemeh Rolfe

Birthplace: Varina Plantation, Smiths Fort, Henrico, Virginia
Death: Died in Richmond, Henrico, Virginia
Place of Burial: Hopewell, Virginia
Immediate Family:

Son of Captain John Rolfe, Ancient Planter and Pocahontas
Husband of Elizabeth Rolfe and Jane Rolfe
Father of Ann Elwin and Jane Bolling
Half brother of Ka Okee Pettus; Bermuda Rolfe; Ruth Green and Elizabeth Pierce Milner

Occupation: Lieutenant
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Lt. Thomas Pepsironemeh Rolfe

Thomas Pepsironemeh Rolfe was born in Virginia in 1615, the first recorded birth of a child born to a Virginia Indian princess and an English gentleman. The child was presumably named after the Governor, Sir Thomas Dale. His mother, Pocahontas, had converted to Christianity in 1614 and taken the name Rebecca before she married John Rolfe, an English gentleman planter in Virginia. He traveled to England as a small child. His mother died before the family could return to Virginia, and Thomas was left in England. He did not return to Virginia until he was 20 years old.

Thomas married Jane Poythress shortly after his return to Virginia. The date of the marriage is not known, but with land and a wife, Thomas Rolfe was established. Now, he looked to find his Powhatan relatives and establish family connections.

In 1622, John Rolfe died unexpectedly in Virginia. The explanation for his death is not fully known, although it may have been through sickness. Another prominent figure that died in these years of Thomas' absence was his grandfather, Powhatan. He was the chief of the Powhatan Indians and died of seemingly natural causes in 1618. At one point during Powhatan's sickness, it was rumored among the Indians that Thomas would be the heir to the Powhatan domain. Upon Powhatan's death, however, it was clear that this was not the case. Opechancanough, Thomas' uncle, took over in Powhatan's place. When Thomas returned to Virginia in 1635, he found that his grandfather did not forget him. Through John and Rebecca Rolfe, Powhatan left Thomas thousands of acres on the James River, some of which is directly across the James River from Jamestown Island. He was also left the plantation where he was born, Varina. John Rolfe had secured this land for Thomas by taking out a royal patent before his death in 1622.

In 1641, Thomas petitioned the Governor for permission to meet with his mother's people. The petition was accepted and Thomas met his uncle, Opechancanough. Unfortunately, there are no recordings of their meeting. Thomas evidently made the choice between his Powhatan and English heritages in 1646 when he became a lieutenant in the English military. The General Assembly in the colony granted Thomas the land called Fort James in return for his service. Thomas was now part of the English policy to dismantle and control the land of his Powhatan ancestors.

Around 1650, Thomas and Jane had their only child, Jane. Jane went on to marry Colonel Robert Bolling in 1675. The couple had one son, John, the third in line of descendants from Rebecca and John Rolfe, and from Bolling came seven children.

There are few documents that trace his life past the time of 1646, and records regarding his death are lacking. Most genealogists believe he died in Virginia, in either Richmond or at his plantation, Varina, where he had been born. It is clear that Thomas became a man of wealth, as can be seen through land patents and deeds. The last reference made to him is in a deed from 1698 by John Bolling. John inherited Fort James through his mother, Jane, and transferred the land to William Brown in this deed. Thomas' name was mentioned in the document as deceased, and it is the last known reference to him.

Although Thomas Rolfe's heritage was Powhatan and English, he lived as an Englishman. When Thomas cemented that by becoming a lieutenant for the colony, he decided the manner in which thousands of his descendants would live for years to come.

Other Wives and Children


There are unproven theories that , when Jane Poythress died, after bearing an only daughter, Thomas Rolfe left Virginia and moved to North Carolina, where he is also reputed to have married again. With the laws of North Carolina so strict, both then and during the next century or so, it is understandable that Thomas would never have mentioned the fact that he was half Indian, nor would that information have likely been passed down in the family tales. If, in fact, Thomas did leave Virginia, and, if in fact, he did remarry, he could have sired a number of male children. If those events happened, it would be reasonable to assume that one or more of them returned to England, particularly if they knew of their ancestor's ethnic background and were therefore nervous about remaining in the colonies. These are theories, with no proofs yet found. None of the proposed later wives have been accepted by the Pocahontas Society [see Dubious Pocahontas Descendants at].

There is a possible wife and child BEFORE Thomas Rolfe returned to Virginia. The Pocahontas Society has accepted this theory. [see again the link to Dubious Descendants, above]. The proponents of this theory claim the birth of a first daughter, Anne Rolfe, by what would have been Thomas' first wife in England. Recent discussion on this marriage claims that young Thomas could not inherit until age 21 UNLESS he was married. It is inferred that he married to obtain that inheritance.

The most likely candidate for the first wife is Elizabeth Washington. A church record shows the following: Thomas ROLFE married Elizabeth WASHINGTON in Sep 1632 at St.James Church, Clerkenwell, London, England. Thomas, son of Pocahontas, would have been 17 at marriage and Elizabeth would have been 18. Let us not forget that Thomas had been left in England to be raised by family. The Thomas who married Elizabeth could have been a cousin. The Elizabeth Washington who married a Thomas Rolfe died giving birth to a daughter Anne Rolfe. Some claim that there was also a son of this marriage. Anne Rolfe, daughter of Elizabeth Washington, married an Elwyn and had numerous descendants. Some items said to have belonged to Pocahontas, such as her earrings, were passed down in the family for generations.

Recently I have been pointed to another website ( that claims Rolfe must have had more wives/liaisons, as it was unusual to have a single child in colonial Virginia. This website asserts that Thomas Rolfe must have had several children, perhaps as many as twelve according to some reports, and they almost certainly issued from more than one wife or mistress. Specifically, it discusses the merits of one Ann/Anne/Anna Rolfe Barnett, born circa 1648, according to her family's oral tradition, and a specific reference to her in the bible of John Perry Barnett (1764-1828). The story is compelling but no documents are linked to the site, and one of the articles mentioned has since been debunked. See

Capt. John Smith

John Smith DID NOT not marry Pocahontas. John Rolfe did. Rolfe's descendents all come from the Bollings, the family into which Jane Rolfe, the only child of Pocahontas and John Rolfe's son Thomas "Pepsironemeh" Rolfe, married. There was no son to carry on the Rolfe name. Though other Rolfes who were related to the family may claim to be related to John Rolfe; they cannot, however, claim to be related "by blood" to Pocahontas and the Powhattan clan. And, although they are not properly kin of Pocahontas herself or her Native American forebears, they are kin to her child Thomas Rolfe and his daughter Jane Rolfe and to her Bolling descendants. 

Links to additional material:

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Lt. Thomas Pepsironemeh Rolfe's Timeline

January 30, 1615
Smiths Fort, Henrico, Virginia
Age 17
Norfolk, UK
October 10, 1650
Age 35
Varina, Henrico County, Virginia, Colonial America