Pocahontas Family Tree
Here is a graphic chart of Pocahontas' family and descendants.
It shows the first five generations in their entirety,
and generations six to twelve of my branch of the family.
The people shown in the first five generations are the ones
usually listed in contemporary Pocahontas genealogies. This chart features "red", "white", and "blue" Bollings! "Red" Bollings are Pocahontas descendants. "White" Bollings are the non-Pocahontas descendants of Col. Robert Bolling and Anne Stith, also called the Stith-Bollings. "Blue" Bollings are dubiously claimed to be the children of Maj. John Bolling and Elizabeth Bland Blair. (More on them below.)
You have three choices of size.
Small is best for those with small screens and slow Internet connections.
Large is best for printing.
How to print the charts.
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Plain Text Descendants Chart
I have made another Pocahontas family tree of descent that has more information in it, but is not presented as nicely. This is a plain text outline of Pocahontas Descendants. It includes all of the first six generations, plus some of the seventh and my own branch of the family. Unlike the chart above, names for the first seven generations are limited to those appearing in the 1887 book, Pocahontas and Her Descendants. Dates are included. I added my own reference numbering system. The plain text can be searched with any text editor.
My Descent from Pocahontas
I have received several emails asking about my own descent from Pocahontas.
You can see it in the charts above, and here it is in plain old text. I am 11 generations from Pocahontas...
MATOAKA "POCAHONTAS" 1595?-1616
m. John Rolfe 1585-1622
1. Thomas Rolfe 1615-16??
m. Jane Poythress
2. Jane Rolfe 16??-1676
m. Col. Robert Bolling 1646-1709
3. Col. John Bolling 1676-1729
m. Mary Kennon
4. Elizabeth Bolling 1709-?
m. Dr. William Gay
5. William Gay
m. Judith Scott
6. Neil Buchanan Gay, M.H.Delegates 9/3/1791-6/25/1864
m. Martha "Patsy" Talley 11/27/1795-4/28/1864
7. Neil Buchanan Gay, Jr. MD 2/6/1827-7/16/1906
m. Mary Bunn 8/15/1834-5/12/1921
8. William Bunn Gay 1858-12/24/1921
m. Georgie Lee Perkins
9. Mary (Constance) Gay 2/12/1895-8/28/1985
m. Richard Thomas Morenus 1893-1975
10. Richard Cousins Morenus 1929-
m. Marjorie Rose Rutherford 3/21/1925-2/25/2010
11. DAVID RUTHERFORD MORENUS 1957-
m. Linda Sue Stiber 1956-
12. Bennett Miles Morenus 1998-
Find Your Own Descent from Pocahontas
There are over 100,000 Pocahontas descendants today, thanks to the prodigious generations of
the 18th and 19th centuries. You may suspect that a drop of Pocahontas' blood courses through your veins. Perhaps you have been told the family
legend that your great-grandmother is descended from Pocahontas, and you want to find out more.
First, trace your ancestry back as far as you can, especially that great-grandmother you heard about.
Then, the easiest thing is to get the book Pocahontas' Descendants by Stuart Brown et al (1995).
It corrects, expands, and updates an earlier book called Pocahontas and Her Descendants
by Wyndham Robertson (1887). Addenda continue to be pubblished as more descendants are recorded.
My late grandmother (Constance Gay Morenus) looked up her grandfather
(Neil Buchanan Gay, Jr.) in the original 1887 book, and that was all there was to it!
Dubious Pocahontas Descendants
Every now and then, for whatever reason, someone decides that they want to be a Pocahontas descendant. They have a legitimate ancestor of unknown parents on the one hand, and a Pocahontas descendant with a similar family name on the other hand. Perhaps impelled by a family legend, they just assume a connection and now their family tree goes back that much farther. They might even create a "missing" ancestor to fill a generation gap. Then they publish it, and afterwards, others researching the legitimate ancestor find his bogus pedigree and add it to their own family tree. Over time, enough cross-citations accumulate that it looks like a solid fact. But it's not a fact, just a false hope. A list of dubious Pocahontas descendants, in chronological order:
- Jane Rolfe, sister of Thomas Rolfe and daughter of Pocahontas. No such person. Pocahontas had one son, Thomas Rolfe, and no daughters. The only Jane Rolfe was the daughter of Thomas. John Rolfe did have a couple of daughters by other wives. His first wife bore him Bermuda Rolfe, who died in infancy. His third wife bore him Elizabeth Rolfe; knowledge of Elizabeth after the age of four was lost with the destruction of early Henrico County records. Neither daughter was a Pocahontas descendant – it was John Rolfe's second wife who was Pocahontas.
- Extra children of Thomas Rolfe? Actually, there could have been. These stories are intriguing, and plausible to varying degrees. Only his daughter Jane Rolfe is undisputed, and there is very little documentation on her. There are proponents of a second daughter, Anne Rolfe, by what would have been Thomas' first wife in England, who 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 years. That claim has been accepted by the Pocahontas Foundation.
- Jane Bolling, daughter of Jane Rolfe and Col. Robert Bolling, sister of Col. John Bolling, and later wife of Rev. James
Clack. Sorry. There are plenty of Jane Bollings, but Col. John Bolling was the only child of Jane Rolfe. Rev. Clack certainly married someone who had his three children, but she wasn't the daughter of Col. Robert Bolling and Jane Rolfe.
Here is a reasoned argument to the contrary though.
- The "mysterious" Bollings a.k.a. "blue" Bollings, twelve extra children of Maj. John Bolling and Elizabeth Blair. Alas! A most numerous and enthusiastic contingent, but actually no relation. Maj. John Bolling and Elizabeth Blair had seven children who survived to adulthood, and another eleven who died as infants. The "blue" Bollings are yet another twelve children. That claim has been rejected by the Pocahontas Foundation, using standard genealogical methods. Paternal DNA tests concur that they are not Pocahontas descendants, and also show that they are several distinct, unrelated familes.
This is also shown in the graphic charts (see top of page). The "blue" Bollings are so called because they appeared "out of the blue" in 1963, in the book Of Whom I Came, From Whence I Came, by Judge Zelma Wells Price. The sources she used ultimately traced back to a family tree made by John Tarpley Bolling/Bolding in the 19th century. This family tree made both of his parents Pocahontas descendants, via the Bollings and the Randolphs, and created the "blue" Bollings as a side effect.
|Their seven actual children who had descendants:
- Thomas 1735-1804
- John 1737-179?
- Robert 1738-1769
- Mary 1744-?
- Sarah 1748-?
- Archibald 1750-?
- Anne 1752-?
|Eleven more children who died without issue:
- John 1
- Archibald 1
- Robert 1
- Elizabeth 1
- Sarah 1
- Anne 1
- Elizabeth 2
- Elizabeth 3
|The twelve "blue" Bollings are not considered their children:
- Benjamin 1734-1832
- Powhatan 1754-?
- James c. 1756-?
If the "blue" Bollings are not descendants, then who are they? The
Bolling Family Association
has undertaken a
to shed light on the ancestry of all Bollings in America. They coordinated DNA testing of men with the Bolling surname (including spelling variants), who trace their ancestry to various Bolling/Bowling/Bolen/Bouldin immigrants to the US. The test results show that the early Bollings divide into different family groups. Here are some groups important to the "blue" Bolling question:
- Group 1. "Red" and "white" descendants of Robert Bolling (1646-1709). All Pocahontas descendants are in this group.
- Group 3. Descendants of Benjamin Bolling (1734-1832), in multiple lines, through his sons Jesse, Jeremiah, and Delaney.
- Group 5. Descendants of James Bowling (arr. 1700-1729). This group includes:
- James (c. 1756-?)
- John (c. 1756-?) m. Mary Tarpley
- John Tarpley Bolling/Bolding (1778-1849)
- Group 6. The common ancestor for this group is undetermined. If you descend from one of the "Benjamin Bowlings" below, they are no relation to Benjamin Bolling (1734-1832), and not descended from Pocahontas. This group includes:
- Benjamin Bowling (1754- post 1820) Family String S
- Benjamin Bowling (1696-1767) Family String A
- Benjamin Bowling (1765-1838) Family String M18
My conclusion: DNA evidence indicates that the "blue" Bollings were not Pocahontas descendants. Also, they were not all related to each other.
A word about Benjamin Bolling (1734-1823) in particular. On the family tree he was a "blue" Bolling, but in life he was a
real pioneer who left numerous proud descendants.
His original tombstone was made by his son, Jeremiah, and inscribed: "B. Bolling, b. 1734, d. 1832". The grave originally was surrounded by rocks with a huge flat rock covering it. Many graves in the cemetery were similar, and known as "Indian graves".
a monument was erected on his gravesite in Flat Gap, VA, by some of his proud descendants. It does little to dispel the myth that he was the child of John Bolling and Elizabeth Blair -- quite the reverse! Note, however, that it shows his birthplace as Wilkes County, North Carolina. Maj. John Bolling and Elizabeth Bland Blair lived nowhere near there. Barb Blair and Don Chesnut investigated Benjamin Bolling's genealogy.
At least one of the other "blue" Bollings, Powhatan Bolling (b. 1754), probably existed only on paper. He is occasionally confused with a real Powhatan Bolling (1767-1803), a legitimate grandson of Maj. John and Elizabeth Bolling. This might be how he got on the chart in the first place, or he could just be there because his name is suggestive (along with Meotaka, obviously a misspelling of Matoaka, Pocahontas' name). Fred Hof looked into this.
- A few years ago, Las Vegas entertainer
led a small movement to exhume Pocahontas' body from England, and bring it back to America, to be returned to her ancestral tribal lands for a proper Indian burial, because he is her descendant. There are some problems with that.
- Pocahontas died a Christian Englishwoman, Lady Rebecca Rolfe, and so received the burial she wanted. Before colonization, the Powhatan Indians did not bury their dead,
per se. Their modern descendants are mainly
Baptist. Pocahontas (as Rebecca) was Anglican. She was baptised as an adult believer, but by Anglican rite, not by full immersion.
- Pocahontas' remains are no longer intact or identifiable. She was buried in a place of honor under the church floor, but when the church burned down and was rebuilt, all the bones that were under the floor were gathered together, and reburied in a single large grave, in the church cemetery. This grave contains a jumble of bones from many different people. An earlier effort failed to identify which skull was that of Pocahontas.
- Wayne Newton is not a Pocahontas descendant, although he is related. According to his official website, he was born in 1942 in Norfolk, VA, to a Powhatan Indian/Irish father, and a Cherokee Indian/German mother. Thus, he is probably not descended from Pocahontas, as her descendants did not marry back into the tribe, but married English colonists. Mr. Newton is probably a descendant of her father, the great chief Powhatan. Mr. Newton is far more Native American than most Pocahontas descendants, and has a close relationship with the Pamunkey tribe. His aunt lived on the reservation and could recite his descent from Powhatan.
A legitimate claim should be backed up with original source material, such as legal documents, or mention by a contemporary historic source. Examples of original sources are county records, including birth certificates, marriage licences, death certifiates, wills, deeds, or court orders, military commissions, census records, or church baptismal records. Also, there may be contemporary letters to, from, or about the person in question, or journal entries, etc.. For example, in his letter to Queen Anne, Captain John Smith spoke of Nantaquas and Pocahontas as the son and daughter of Powhatan. This is the only mention I have ever found of Nantaquas, but it is much stronger proof than an entry in a family tree database, or even a published genealogy book that uses shaky sources.
The field of Pocahontas genealogy is pocketed with many little mysteries. There are several cases where original sources are missing, probably destroyed. That does not mean that any old story has equal merit, or the more it is repeated, the truer it becomes. Careful scrutiny of secondary sources can firm up or discredit many a theory.
Links for Pocahontas descendants and Virginia genealogy.
Links for genealogy of related families.
Links for general genealogy resources.