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  • Notable Kin: Some Descendants and Kinsmen of Descendants of Pocahontas: An Excursion into Southern Genealogy

    Gary Boyd Roberts

    Published Date : April 1986
    Southern ancestry, colonial southern families, and most local forebears of present-day southerners can be readily divided into Tidewater planters and migratory pioneers.  The coastal planters produced the Randolph-Carter-Lee aristocracy of post-1660 Virginia, the Virginia dynasty of early American presidents (Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, the Harrisons, Tyler, and Taylor), the Charleston patriciate that led the secession movement, such Maryland families as the Calverts, Carrolls, and Keys, and many early national statesmen, Confederate and later generals, and explorers.  Branches of this aristocracy also settled in Kentucky and parts of the Deep South.

    The migratory pioneer stocks included, among other groups, the Pennsylvania Germans of the Shenandoah Valley and western North Carolina, the Scots and Scots-lrish of the Carolinas and Tennessee especially, and the often English and sometimes Tidewater-derived lesser planters and small farmers of southside Virginia (below Richmond), central North Carolina, and “upcountry” South Carolina.  These groups moved heavily into the Deep South and border states after 1820.  Modern descendants have included our three recent southern-derived presidents - Harry Truman, Lyndon Johnson, and Jimmy Carter.

    Most Americans with southern ancestry descend largely from the migratory pioneers.  Most of us, however, also have a few links to the Tidewater aristocracy.  These observations are well exemplified in a study of the descendants — and kinsmen of descendants — of the Indian "princess" Pocahontas, Matoaka, or Rebecca, daughter of the Algonkian chief Powhatan, who in April 1614 married (a second time for each) the Englishman John Rolfe, and before leaving for England in 1616 (where she died in March 1617, aged 22 or 23) gave birth to a son, Thomas Rolfe, who eventually inherited much of his father’s Virginia land. The best modern biography of this “first American princess” is Frances Mossiker’s Pocahontas: The Life and the Legend (1976).  A superb new article by Elizabeth Vann Moore and Richard Slatton, “The Descendants of Pocahontas: An Unclosed Case” in Magazine of Virginia Genealogy 23 (1985): 3-16, suggests that Thomas Rolfe moved to North Carolina in 1663, where he was granted land on the Pasquotank River, and left two sons, Thomas, Jr. (aged about 68 in 1713), and William, the former of whom certainly left children and both of whom probably have descendants who figure among later migratory pioneers.  Pocahontas’s only other, and earlier known, descendants were those of Thomas Rolfe’s almost certain sole daughter, Jane Rolfe (whose mother, often called a daughter of Francis Poythress, is actually unknown and was probably Thomas’s second wife), who, according to Bolling and Randolph family traditions that are almost certainly accurate, married Col. Robert Bolling of Prince George County, Virginia, and left an only son, Col. John Bolling of Cobbs (1676-1729), member of the House of Burgesses, long thought to be Pocahontas’s sole great-grandchild, who married Mary Kennon.

    The progeny of Col. John Bolling and Mary Kennon, for probably a century at least, belonged almost exclusively to the Virginia planter aristocracy.  In 1796 Benjamin Henry Latrobe, the architect and engineer, charted four generations of their descendants — a pedigree published in The Virginia Journals of Benjamin Henry Latrobe (1972) 1:111-122.  The same number of generations were traced by Wyndham Robertson in Pocahontas, Alias Matoaka, and Her Descendants (1887; reprint, 1968), and much supplemental data appeared in William Glover Stanard’s “The Ancestors and Descendants of John Rolfe With Notices of Some Connected Families,” published [75] between 1913 and 1918 (see Genealogies of Virginia Families From the Virginia Magazine of History and Biography [1981] 5:200-55).

    Quite recently these works were vastly expanded, and updated in some lines to the present day, in Pocahontas’ Descendants: A Revision, Enlargement, and Extension of the List As Set Out by Wyndham Robertson in His Book Pocahontas and Her Descendants (1887), by Stuart E. Brown, Jr., Lorraine F. Myers, and Eileen M. Chappel (the Pocahontas Foundation, 1985).  The total living progeny — if all lines were traced — probably numbers tens, but not hundreds, of thousands, or not over 250,000 at most.  It includes, however, a section of the great Randolph clan (Jane Bolling, daughter of John and Mary, married Col. Richard Randolph, one of the eight children who left issue of the immigrant William Randolph of Turkey Island), both a brother-in-law and son-in-law of Thomas Jefferson, the Boston Coolidge family (descendants of Joseph Coolidge, 1798-1879, a nephew of architect Charles Bulfinch, and Ellen Wayles Randolph, 1796-1876, Jefferson’s granddaughter), the wives of Chicago mayor Carter Henry Harrison and IBM founder Herman Hollerith, and the first seven of the 10 figures (or their spouses) treated below.

    This Bolling progeny — the only known descendants of Pocahontas traced beyond the early 18th century — is also related to the descendants of the immigrant Col. Robert Bolling and his second wife, Anne Stith; to the descendants of Mary Kennon’s parents, the immigrant merchant and Henrico County Burgess Richard Kennon and Elizabeth Worsham; to the descendants of Mary Kennon’s maternal grandparents, early Henrico settlers William Worsham (there by 1640) and Elizabeth ____, and to the descendants of Mrs. Elizabeth Worsham and her second husband, Francis Epes, Jr.  The Bolling-Stith progeny also belonged largely to the planter aristocracy and the Epes descendants stayed for several generations in Charles City County, between Richmond and Williamsburg.  Various Kennon, Worsham and Ligon descendants — these last of Mary Worsham. William and Elizabeth’s second daughter, and Richard Ligon — moved slowly, however, over several generations, into various southside counties and North Carolina.

    Through these migratory pioneers the descendants of Pocahontas are related to a very large number of present-day southerners.  Lloyd DeWitt Bockstruck, head of the Genealogy Section of the Dallas Public Library, is a Worsham descendant and is collecting material for a major monograph on this family.  I am a Worsham and Ligon descendant, as were Governor Thomas Watkins Ligon of Maryland, Lt. Gov. Robert Fulwood Ligon of Alabama (two of whose great-grand-daughters married respectively Massachusetts Republican official Josiah Spaulding and Russell Errol Train, former Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency), Governor Benton McMillin of Tennessee, and Mrs. Preston Hopkins Leslie, wife of a governor of both Kentucky and the territory of Montana.  In addition, my own closest well-known kinsman, a twice-over fifth cousin and fifth cousin once removed and the last figure listed below, is Hamilton Jordan, President Carter’s White House Chief of Staff and a fitting symbol of the “New South” created in large part by descendants of 19th century migratory pioneers.

    For further data on these kinsmen of Pocahontas’s descendants, see, in addition to the numerous Bolling sources cited in the Virginia bibliographies by Robert A. Stewart and Stuart E. Brown, Jr., Genealogies of Virginia Families From the William and Mary College Quarterly Historical Magazine (1982) 3:265-77 (Kennon); Elizabeth J. Harrell, The Osbornes and Related Families: Jones, Worsham. Fowlkes, Robertson and Gayle (1983), 131-39, and Clara Lorene Cammack Park, Francis Moody (1769-1821), His Ancestors, Descendants, and Related Families (1984), 226-314 (Worsham); William Daniel Ligon, Jr., The Ligon Family and Connections, 2 vols. (1947-1957; a third volume was published by Earle Ligon Whittington in 1973) and Margaret Hardwick Miller, Ligons and Their Kin of Graves County, Kentucky (1978); and Eva Turner Clark, Frances Epes, His Ancestors and Descendants (1942).

    Outlined below, in the same manner as my “Additional Noted American Cousins of the Princess of Wales” (NEXUS 2 [1985]:125-27, 159-60) are seven major historical figures — or their spouses — descended from Pocahontas, plus one Bolling, one Kennon, and one Worsham descendant among their kinsmen. These last three — Mrs. Robert E. Lee, Mrs. J. J. Crittenden, and Hamilton Jordan — represent respectively the very apex of the Virginia aristocracy, its “Bluegrass” Kentucky cousin, and the pioneer-created “New South” of the last few decades.  Mrs. Lindsay and to some extent Mrs. Wilson are examples of 20th century southern connections to the North.

    For Pocahontas’s descendants I have outlined only the descent from John Bolling and Mary Kennon; for John Randolph of Roanoke I have also shown descent from Robert Bolling and Anne Stith.  For Mrs. Lindsay the recent book by Brown, Myers and Chappel lists only her father, Randolph (Carter) Harrison, #24246642.  He is, however, treated in various editions of Who’s Who in America. The 10 major notable descendants — or kinsmen of descendants — of Pocahontas:

    [76]

    1-2.  HARRY FLOOD BYRD, 1887-1966, newspaper publisher, U.S. Senator, and Governor of Virginia, and RICHARD EVELYN BYRD (JR.), 1888-1957, naval officer and explorer, discoverer of the South Pole, brothers; Richard Evelyn Byrd & Eleanor Bolling Flood; Joel Walker Flood & Ella Faulkner; Henry De la Warr Flood & Mary Elizabeth Trent; Joel Walker Flood & Elizabeth Bolling West; Thomas West & Elizabeth Blair Bolling; Robert Bolling & Susan Watson; John Bolling, Jr., & Elizabeth Blair; John Bolling & Mary Kennon.

    3.  JOHN VLIET LINDSAY, JR., b. 1921, congressman, mayor of New York City, 1965-1973 (wife, Mary Anne Harrison; Randolph Carter Harrison & Mary McCaw Hawes; John W. Harrison & May K. Willson; Carter Henry Harrison & Alice Burwell Williams; Carter Harrison & Janetta Fisher; Randolph Harrison & Mary Randolph; Thomas Randolph & Jane Cary; Archibald Cary & Mary Randolph, grandparents of Mrs. Gouverneur Morris, below).

    4.  GOUVERNEUR MORRIS, 1752-1816, revolutionary statesman, diplomat, and U.S. Senator (wife, Anne Cary Randolph; Thomas Mann Randolph & Anne Cary; Archibald Cary & Mary Randolph; Richard Randolph & Jane Bolling; John Bolling & Mary Kennon).

    5.  JOHN RANDOLPH (JR.) OF ROANOKE, 1773-1833, the congressman, U.S. Senator, and orator; John Randolph & Frances Bland; Richard Randolph & Jane Bolling, Theodoric Bland & Frances Bolling; John Bolling & Mary Kennon (parents of Jane), Drury Bolling & Elizabeth Meriwether (parents of Frances); Robert Bolling & Anne Stith (parents of Drury).

    6-7.  First Lady MRS. EDITH BOLLING GALT WILSON, 1872-1961, second wife of (THOMAS) WOODROW WILSON, 1856-1924, 28th U.S. President, Governor of New Jersey, and president of Princeton University; William Holcombe Bolling & Sallie Spiers White; Archibald Bolling, Jr., & Anne E. Wigginton; Archibald Bolling & Catherine Payne; John Bolling III & Mary Jefferson, sister of Thomas Jefferson; John Bolling, Jr., & Elizabeth Blair; John Bolling & Mary Kennon.

    8.  ROBERT EDWARD LEE, 1807-1870, the Confederate commander (wife, Mary Anne Randolph Custis; George Washington Parke Custis, step-grandson of George Washington, & Mary Lee Fitzhugh; William Fitzhugh & Anne Randolph; Peter Randolph & Lucy Bolling; Robert Bolling, Jr., & Anne Cocke; Robert Bolling & Anne Stith).

    9.  JOHN JORDAN CRITTENDEN, 1787-1863, congressman, U.S. Senator and Attorney General, Governor of Kentucky (third wife, Elizabeth Moss; James Wynn Moss & Mary Woodson; Josiah Woodson & Elizabeth Woodson; John Woodson & Dorothy Randolph [parents of Josiah]; Josiah Woodson & Mary Royall; Joseph Royall & Elizabeth Kennon; Richard Kennon & Elizabeth Worsham).

    10.  (WILLIAM) HAMILTON (MCWHORTER) JORDAN, known as HAMILTON JORDAN, b. 1944, White House Chief of Staff under Carter; Richard Lawton Jordan & Adelaide McWhorter; Hamilton McWhorter & Helen Gottheimer; Robert Ligon McWhorter, Jr., & Mary Elizabeth Boyd; Robert Ligon McWhorter & Winifred Jones, Hezekiah Boyd & Julia Tuggle; Hugh McWhorter & Helena Ligon (parents of R.L. & Mary Anne), Littleberry Tuggle & Mary Anne McWhorter; Joseph Ligon & Mary Church; Matthew Ligon & Elizabeth Anderson; Richard Ligon & Mary Worsham; William Worsham & Elizabeth ____.

    One final note: 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, and I am skeptical also.  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 (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).

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