Exploring the Origin of William Rookins

This surname was not only unique in Virginia, but quite rare in England as well.

In searching for his origins, we have plausible reasons to believe that William Rookins was from London or its vicinity.

He arrived in Virginia on the Bona Nova in November 1619.  We know that the Bona Nova had sailed from London, whose port at Gravesend accommodated residents of eastern England.  It actually left London in June 1619 but was disabled and returned to port after offloading a few of its passengers bound for Bermuda who, according to their affidavits, were predominantly from London.1  It left London again in August, sailing via the West Indies,  and arrived in Jamestown on 4 November 1619. 2

We also know from three separate depositions that William Rookins was born in or about the year 1598.  For instance, the 23 January 1624/25 muster of Virginia inhabitants listed him as “William Rookines [age] 26”.

It is therefore intriguing to discover that a William Rookins (Rookyns) was baptized in London on 18 January 1598/9.  The parish register of St. Helens, Bishopsgate in the City of London contains an entry for the baptism thus:3

William, s. of James Rookyns, Cooke, and Johanne his wyfe.

The only other entry in the parish register is for the burial of “a crysome childe of James Rookyns” on 3 February 1594/5.4

There are no other entries for Rookins, suggesting that the parents may have moved to a different parish.  To date I have been unable to track them down.


  1. Peter Wilson Coldham, English Adventurers and Emigrants, 1609-1660: Abstracts of Examinations in the High Court of Admiralty with Reference to Colonial America, (Genealogical Publishing Co., 1984), page 6. []
  2. Sara Myra Kingsbury, editor, Records of The Virginia Company, Vol. III, pages 115 and 245. []
  3. W. Bruce Bannerman, ed., The Registers of St. Helen’s, Bishopgate, London, (London, 1904), page 8.  The original register page is also viewable at ancestry.com. []
  4. Bannerman, page 260. []