How to tell if there is a princess in your past. Thanks to the release of the new Disney movie, Pocahontas has become a hot property, and lots of people now would like to claim that they are her descendants. Not many are likely to be able to do so legitimately, however.
Although the Disney film portrays Pocahontas as a seductive 18-year-old maiden fascinated with John Smith, the truth is that she was an 11- or 12-year-old girl when she met the English captain. It was only when she turned 18 that she became involved with a white man, marrying John Rolfe, an Englishman and a Virginia colonist, in April 1614.
After their marriage, Pocahontas and her new husband traveled to England, where the Powhatan princess was entertained by nobles and royalty. In 1615, she gave birth to a son, Thomas; two years later, she died at Gravesend, England.
The simple fact is that if people cannot trace their ancestry to Thomas Rolfe of Virginia, they are not her descendants. We know that Thomas Rolfe inherited his father's Virginia holdings and that he fathered only one child himself, a daughter, Jane Rolfe.
In 1675, that daughter married Col. Robert Bolling; again the marriage produced only one child, this time a son, John Bolling of Cobbs plantation. He was a member of the House of Burgesses, Virginia's colonial legislature.
John Bolling married Mary Kennon, and their issue was one son and five daughters.
This fourth generation is what genealogists call the "gateway" key to descent from Pocahontas. If you cannot prove your descent from one of these children, you aren't related.
The children were:
Maj. John Bolling, who married Elizabeth Blair, niece of James Blair, founder of William and Mary College.
Jane Bolling, who married Col. Richard Randolph of Curles. One of their descendants was Thomas Mann Randolph, of Edge Hill, governor of Virginia and husband of Thomas Jefferson's daughter, Martha.
Mary Bolling, who married Col. John Fleming of Mount Pleasant, the great-grandson of Sir John Fleming, first earl of Wigton, Scotland.
Elizabeth Bolling, who married Dr. William Gay.
Martha Bolling, who married Thomas Eldridge.
Anne Bolling married James Murray, of the ancient clan of that name.
Legitimate descendants of Pocahontas include Harry Flood Byrd, a U.S. senator and governor of Virginia, and his brother, Richard Evelyn Byrd, discoverer of the South Pole.
Mary Anne Harrison, wife of former New York City mayor John Lindsay, is a descendant as is Anne Cary Randolph, who married diplomat and U.S. senator Gouvernor Morris. Robert E. Lee's wife, Mary Anne Randolph Custis, also could claim Pocahontas as a forbear.
The only descendant of Pocahontas to occupy the White House was Edith Bolling Gait Wilson, the second wife of Woodrow Wilson. She descended from the marriage of John Bolling III and Mary Jefferson, the sister of President Thomas Jefferson. -- Geraldine Hartshorn Wheeler