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Bragging rights? Perhaps not.

Disproving a claim to Pocahontas

I slew another family legend today: that we are descendants of Pocahontas. I first learned about this when I came across multiple sources that stated that my twice great-grandmother Elizabeth Woodson Allison was the oldest living descendant of Pocahontas, with my ancestor as the likely source for this detail (one was a newspaper article that interviewed her just before her 98th birthday). My dad had told me that he thought we might have Native American blood in us. He didn’t know any details but it got me wondering if this connection could be true. 

Hours of research later, I strongly doubt it is. I’ve traced Elizabeth Woodson Allison’s line back many generations and I’ve yet to find any lineage that ties us to John Rolfe (Pocahontas’ husband), to Col Robert Bolling, who married John Rolfe’s daughter, Jane Rolf, or to her descendants.

It’s true that both Pocahontas and my 9th great-grandfather, John Woodson, Sr, both lived in Jamestown in the early 1600s. However, their paths never crossed. Pocahontas died in 1617, two years before our ancestor John Woodson Sr and his wife arrived in Jamestown.

I did, however, discover that we have an in-law connection to Pocahontas’ 3rd great-granddaughter Jane Bolling. She married my 6th great-grandfather, Isham Randolph’s brother Richard Randolph. So our ancestor likely danced at the wedding of a descendant of Pocahontas and toasted her good fortune.

The above wasn’t the first marriage between the Randolphs and Bollings. I found a reference to marriages between Mary Jefferson, granddaughter of Isham Randolph, and John Bolling, 3rd great-grandson of Pocahontas, and between Mary Randolph and Col. William Bunn Bolling (haven’t figured out the familial connections yet).

I also found an April 9, 1828 entry in the diary of Col. William Bolling (quite possibly the same Col William Bolling who married Mary Randolph) that confirms that the Woodsons socialized with the Bollings; “Mr. and Mrs. Payne, Henry Dandridge and Deborah Woodson came to dinner and staid all night."

A footnote adds that Deborah Woodson is the daughter of Robert H. Woodson, and granddaughter of Samuel Woodson. This Robert Woodson isn't our Robert Woodson; his dad was Dr. John Woodson not Samuel Woodson. Deborah Woodson is likely a cousin but I’d need to do additional research to determine how we’re connected to her.

Did our ancestors hobnob with Pocahontas’ descendants? Absolutely, and I suppose you could claim that as a bragging right. But is there a direct blood line from Pocahontas to us? Not a drop.

- Lisa Allison Albert

Diary entry source: The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography Vol. 46, No. 3 (Jul 1938), pp 234-239, published by Virginia Historical Society.

Pocahontas portrait engraving (Home page); Simon de Passe, 1616.

Linked toElizabeth Mosby Woodson

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