New Discovery About John Rolfe’s Birth Date

Baptism record of John Rolfe from Heacham parish church held at Norfolk Record Office

All the sources on the birth of John Rolfe have said he was baptized, along with his twin brother Eustacius, in the village church in Heacham, county of Norfolk, England, on May 6, 1585. Now the Norfolk Record Office, county of Norfolk, England, has reviewed the records and found an error in the previous information.

The Norfolk Record Office has now reviewed the original Heacham parish register which is in their custody and determined that the correct date is May 3, 1585. John Rolfe’s birth date is not separately recorded, but is generally assumed to be the day before or the date of his baptism.

It’s my understanding that in those days baptism was held as close to the time of birth as possible so that those infants who died shortly after birth would be able, in the belief of the time, to go to heaven. So the date of baptism may have been the date of birth or the day after birth.

The Norfolk Record Office has posted this information, as well as an image of the record which is difficult to read, on their Facebook page. Here’s a link.

John Rolfe’s Family History

John Rolfe and a twin brother Eustacius were born and baptized in the parish church in the village of Heacham, county of Norfolk, England, about 110 miles north of London, on May 6, 1585, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. This was three years before the English navy under Sir Francis Drake defeated the Spanish Armada on August 8, 1588, and thus became the most powerful European nation. John’s twin brother Eustacius died 27 days after his birth, on June 2, 1585.

John Rolfe is named for his father John Rolfe. His father was born October 17, 1562. John Rolfe’s mother was Dorothea or Dorothy Mason, born in 1559. John Rolfe the father died when John Rolfe was eight years old, on November 29, 1593. John Rolfe’s grandfather died the same year. His mother Dorothy remarried on March 9, 1594, to Robert Redman. So we can assume John Rolfe’s childhood was difficult.