Unity 'Urusla' Pawomeke Powhatan (1610-1645)

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Native American genealogy is not easy, and it is made more difficult because of all the blatantly false information that has been published on the web. Some of this false genealogy has been written by shysters out to make a buck, some of it is written by people desperate to make a connection to an Indian Tribe, a lot of it is garbled copies of these genealogies bent and twisted to make ends meet. I see this stuff on ancestry, on wikitree, on message boards, Facebook. and other blogs. All I can offer in the form of advice is to proceed with caution and ask for documented proof of any of these claims. Because after all, genealogy is based on documents and artifacts which can substantiate the claim. Genealogy without proof is called fiction. 

ursuala 'unity' powhatan
I first saw this name on a Facebook pages forum. Someone was trying to trace her ancestry back to Wahunsenacawh Powhatan (the father of Pocahontas). A helpful person produced the lineage for her, as follows:

Ursula Unity Pawomeke Powhatan (1610 - 1646)
daughter of Japasaw Oppasus The Great Chief Patawomeke Powhatan
Unity Croshaw (1632 - 1689)
daughter of Ursula Unity Pawomeke Powhatan
Anne West (1660 - 1708)
daughter of Unity Croshaw
Jane Fox (1675 - 1750)
daughter of Anne West
Jane Tunstall
daughter of Jane Fox 
etc. etc. 

This style of lineage is difficult to follow at first but basically the oldest person is the second one, Japasaw. He was the father of Ursula. She had a daughter named Unity Crowshaw, who had a daughter named Anne West....and so on. So, the question is, can this be true. Was there really an Indian girl, born in Virginia in 1610, who was given the name Ursula Unity?

When the English arrived in Virginia in 1607 they immediately set out to explore the area and encountered many Indian tribes. Most of the tribes in the around Jamestown were part of a confederacy under the control of the paramount chief known as Powhatan. Each tribe, though, had it's own leader or werowance. One of these tribes was called the Patawomeck, which the English pronounced Potomac. They called the leader "the Great Chief of the Patawomeck." The Chief had a older brother named Japasaw who the English called "The lessor Chief of Passapatanzy." His name is also spelled Iopassus. Japasaw is also said to have had a younger brother named Kocoum who married Pocahontas.

Japasaw was first recorded by by the English when he described his religion and gods to Samuel Argyll. What Japasaw is best known for was his part in the kidnapping of Pocahontas by the English in 1613. Japasaw was said to be married to one of Pocahontas' sisters. She, Pocahontas, was visiting the village on a trade mission, sent by her father, Chief Powhatan. Japasaw and his wife lured Pocahontas aboard an English ship and the rest is history. 

Japasaw is said to have had two wives. Neither can be positively identified. One is said to be Kaokee, a daughter of Powhatan. The other is thought to be Paupauwiske. His only child that can be identified, Wahanganoche, would eventually assume leadership of the Patawomeck people. No mention is made in any contemporary record of Japasaw having a daughter named Ursula Unity born about 1610. Any why would he? There is no record of Powhatan Indians giving their children English names. 

Japasaw, the lesser chief of the Patawomeck may not have had a daughter named Ursula, but there was a woman in Virginia with the name Unity who is also known as Ursula. She was the daughter of Joseph Crowshaw of Bruton Parish. Joseph was the son of Raleigh Croshaw, a member of the London Company, who arrived in Virginia in the second supply ship, The Mary Margaret, in 1608. In 1623 the London Company was dissolved and Virginia fell under the control of the Crown. 

Raleigh was issued a patent for his land by the new Crown government. He was called an ancient planter who had been in Virginia for 15 years. The patent also said that he had brought over his wife, a servant, and had put twenty five pounds into the venture of the London Company. Raleigh's name, in it's various spellings, is found in the early records of Jamestown and the colony. You know whose name is never mentioned, his wife's. As far as I know, the name of Mrs. Raleigh Croshaw is unknown. 

joseph crowshaw
I'll start first with what we do not know about Joseph. We don't know his birth year, we don't know his birthplace and we do not know when he arrived in Virginia, if he was not born in the colony. His father, who is only assumed but not proved to be his father, was dead by the end of 1624. On 24 January 1624/25 the Colony leaders took a census of every living soul in their jurisdiction. No Croshaw was recorded in Virginia at that time. So, where was Joseph?

On most internet sites Joseph is said to have been born in 1610 in Elizabeth City. This seems highly unlikely to me. I think, and this in only my guess among many, is that he was born in England prior to his father's coming to Virginia. He may have come over with his mother or possibly after his father's death in 1624. Joseph was recorded as receiving his first land grant in 1638. He married multiple times. The name of his first wife is unknown; she is said to be the mother of all/most of his children.

Just as we have no idea the birth date of Joseph, we have no idea when Unity was born. Usually in this case, we can estimate her birth year by the date of her marriage. In around 1664 she married John West, so she could have been born anytime after 1646. But, other researchers contend that she was first married to Robert Blackwell in 1645. This would put her birth around 1627 or earlier, pushing back the birth of her father in the bargain.

The information on which these first marriage is made is a deed dated 10 December 1668. The grantees are James and Robert Blackwell and the grantor was Major Croshaw. The belief is that he was deeding some of his land to his grandsons. 

what about ursula
Other than other researchers claiming her name was Ursula, I can find no mention of that name. In fact most of what is written about her says that her name was Unity. In fact she jointly issued a deed of land using the name Unity.

back to the top
So having scoured records looking for any sign of an Indian liaison, I can find nothing. Did Raleigh Croshaw have an Indian wife? How could he when he had an English one in England who came over in 1620. Could Joseph Croshaw have been bi-racial? I doubt it. We all know about the public relations marriage of Pocohantas and John Rolfe, but there were relatively few mixed marriages. The Indian women, it seems, were disinclined to marry white men. 

In the end, though, basic genealogy calls for proof. We can't even prove Joseph was son of Raleigh Croshaw, never mind that he was the son of an Indian woman. I think Unity Ursula Pawomeke Powhatan is a fantasy on the grandest scale. 

questions/ comments welcome
be polite and cite your sources


Kenneth Vance Graves, "Thomas Graves of Virginia," The Graves Family Newsletter by the Graves Family Association, Vol. 18 no. 105 (June 1995); 52, digital images, The Graves Family Association (https:www.gravesfa.org : accessed 6 March 2016).

"Jamestown 1624/5 Muster Records," database, Virtual Jamestown (www.virtualjamestown.org/Muster/muster24.html : accessed 5 March 2016), no entry found for Croshaw.

Mark Mondt, "Blackwell-Mondt Ancestry: Information about Ursula Unity (Croshaw) Crenshaw," Blackwell-Mondt Ancestry 

Nell Marion Nugent, "Cavaliers and pioneers; abstracts of Virginia land patents and grants, 1623-1800," (Richmond: Press of the Dietz Print Co., 1934) 2.

Catherine Clinton, Michele Gillespie, The Devil's Lane: Sex and Race in the Early South, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997) 125.

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