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Researching George [Phelps?] of the Ship Recovery

Written by John Plummer, transcribed by David Phelps.

Identifying George P[?] of the Recovery, 1633 or 1634

By John Plummer

The National Genealogical Society Quarterly in 1983 presented an important article by Peter Wilson Coldham, F.A.S.G., listing English shippers and goods transported by them between 1618 and 1688.1 Included among these lists are the names of some colonists of the 1630s. Under the date 31 March 1633 appears the Recovery of London, with Gabriel Cornish as its master, sailing from Weymouth in Dorsetshire to New England. The names of twenty-six passengers are given; but for one of these, George P-?-, the script is not fully readable.2 Meredith B. Colket Jr., F.A.S.G., in a subsequent publication, discusses one George Parkhurst of Massachusetts, whom he identifies as "perhaps the George P—- who came on the 'Recovery of London' 1633/34."3

The present paper addresses this subject in three regards. First, it can be shown that the Recovery passenger assuredly was not Parkhurst. Second, it is argued that the date attributed to the Recovery list is one year off—due to a clerical error—and that the clarification of this point contributes to the proper identity of the elusive George P-?- can be narrowed to that of one of two men who were in Dorchester, Massachusetts, in 1634/35: i.e., George Phelps or George Proctor, with the greatest weight in evidence favoring Phelps.


Clarification of the Identity of George Parkhurst

Several difficulties exist in reconciling George Parkhurst with the Recovery passenger. Parkhurst does not seem to have been in New England as early as 1633/34. Colket repeats a previously published statement placing him in Massachusetts "ca 1635."4 However, neither Colket nor prior writers have provided proof of this date; and the present writer has found none. The first documentable record of him in the New World is at Watertown, Massachusetts, in 1642.5

He probably followed his brother-in-law, the Reverend Timothy Dalton6, who emigrated from England to Dedham, Massachusetts. Dalton's arrival in the colony can be placed after his April 1636 suspension by his bishop and before 18 July 1637, when he was admitted as a proprietor of Dedham. Parkhurst's arrival was prior to the marriage of his daughter Mary, about 1639, to a man who moved from Dedham to Watertown in 1638, Reverend Thomas Carter.7

Since dissenting ministers who left a region often took relatives and flock with them, this appears to be a more logical time for Parkhurst to have come to the colonies. Finally, Parkhurst has been identified as being from the English county of Suffolk;8 and not one of the Recovery passengers appears to have come from Suffolk or it's neighboring shires.

Dating the Recovery's List

The date which appears on the Recovery's passenger roll, 31 March 1633, is misleading. The vessel had not left by 30 April 1633, when one of it's passengers witnessed a lease in England. 9 The subsequent voyage would have taken only two months or so; yet no reference has been found to any passengers in the New World until nearly a year and a half later.

On 1 September 1634, Mr. Thomas Newberry and Robert Elwell are both mentioned in records of colonial Dorchester.10 Two days later, three passengers (Newberry, John Hardy, and John Pope) were made freemen of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.11 Frequent mentions are made thereafter to Recovery passengers. It would seem that the clerk who entered the passenger list wrote 31 March 1633 in error for 31 March 1634. Under the Old Style dating then in effect, the year 1634 would have begun only one week earlier.

Correcting the date of the Recovery's voyage also helps to clarify two other records that have perplexed researchers.

First, Stephen Terry, another of the passengers, appears in a colonial Dorchester record 3 April 1633.12 This date can be reconciled with his appearance on the Recovery list only if the ship's roster was actually compiled on 31 March 1634; it would seem that he left the colony for England in the spring of late 1633 and returned on the Recovery the following year (early 1634).

Second, the "Recovery of London" is almost certainly the ship that Coldham places at London on 8 March 1633/34,13 a mere twenty-three days before the corrected date; and it is surely this voyage of the Recovery which is referred to in the diary of William Whiteway of old Dorchester in Dorsetshire, who wrote: "April 17, 1634, Mr. Newburgh [sic] of Marthwoodvale and many others set saile from Waimouth towards New England."14 Mr. "Newburgh" was more precisely, Mr. Thomas Newberry, whose name led the list of passengers aboard the Recovery.

Accepting the premise that the passenger list should have been dated 31 March 1634, then the ship sailed into Massachusetts Bay in late June or July 1634;15 and it was very likely one of the fourteen said to have arrived that June.16

Settlement Patterns of the "Recovery" Passengers

Town records of new Dorchester offer the earliest documentation of colonial residence for many Recovery passengers. 17 Not only do there appear the perviously mentioned Newberry, Elwell, and Terry; but there are also found a number of shipmates. John Pope appears in records of 3 November 1634;18 Thomas Swift and Thomas Bascomb in those of 22 November 1634;19

Jonathan Gillette, under 17 April 1635;20 and Robert Dibble, under 17 December 1635.21 Three female passengers also appear to be wives of Dorchester colonists who had come over earlier—Mary Cogam, wife of Mr. John Cogan;22 Sarah Hill, wife of Mr. William Hill;23 and Elizabeth Parkman, who appears in records of colonial Dorchester under age 5 August 1633.24 Dorchester is the place that most—perhaps all—of the Recovery passengers first resided in the New World.

However, five of them subsequently emerge in the records of nearby Hingham (then called Bear Cove). The first was John Elderman—who is surely the John Alderman mentioned on 30 September 1634 as having been lost25 and not the John Elderkin suggested by Colket.26 Three other passengers (Thomas Wakeley, Joseph Andrews, and David Phippen) are in the first record of Hingham proprietors dated 18 September 1635;27 and another, Thomas Shaw, was there in 1639.28 A sixth passenger, Anthony Eames, was a proprietor of Hingham in 1636, although he had appeared among the inhabitants of Charlestown two years earlier.29

Two other Massachusetts towns, Salem and Taunton, attracted a small number of Recovery passengers. John Alderman, mentioned above as a Hingham resident in 1634, subsequently was listed among land grantees at Salem in 1636—together with passenger John Hardy.30 Although the latter had been declared a freeman of Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1634, the record of that event does not indicate the town in which he lived at the time.31 William Bowne of the Recovery appears to be the William Bound named as a Salem church member in 1636.32 And Hezikiah Hoare appears on a list of men able to bear arms at Taunton in 1643.33

Passengers Daniel Norchat and John Wotts have not been placed, even tentatively, in New England.

Origins of the Recovery Passengers

Most, if not all, of the twenty-six passengers on the Recovery appear to have originated in England's contiguous counties of Dorsetshire, Somerset, and Devonshire. In fact, references to them are concentrated at the point where the three counties meet—as well as around the ports of Weymouth (from which they sailed) and Dorchester (eight miles inland from Weymouth). This area also had a concentration of Puritan ministers with connections to Massachusetts.

The Reverend William Walton, who witnessed English letters of administration on the estate of the father of one Recovery passenger, was curate of Seaton in Devonshire, five miles from the Dorsetshire border.34

The Reverend Joseph Hull was rector of Northleigh in Devonshire, five miles from Seaton, between 1621 and 1632. 35

The Reverend John Maverick's father had been a minister in Awliscombe, Devonshire, five miles from Northleigh.36 The Reverend John Warham was a vicar in Crewkerne, Somerset, just nine miles from the Devonshire border.37 Also from this tri-county area was the Reverend John White, whom history calls the Father of Massachusetts, even though he remained in old Dorchester.38 Noteworthy, too is the fact that the first minister of Taunton, William Hook, had been vicar of Axmouth, Devonshire, where Hezekiah Hoare's father held land.39

The religious body led by these Puritan ministers in England undoubtedly included a number of Recovery passengers. One of the men (Terry) and the husbands of two female passengers (Hill and Cogan) actually had been made freemen before the Recovery arrived in the New World; 40 and their family connections in the Old World were surely not coincidental. Terry's mother was a sister of the Reverend White;41 and the mother-in-law attributed to both Hill and Cogan was of Exeter in Devonshire,42 one of many places where Reverend Warham preached.43

Among the other passengers, Newberry was evidently well-known to the diarist of Dorchester who recorded his departure in April 1634;44 and Pope, prior to leaving England, had married a daughter of Nicholas Clap of Ottery Venn in Devonshire,45 whose brother was a Crewkerne parishioner of the Reverend Warham.46

A similar pattern appears when the Old World lives of several other Recovery passengers are examined. Parkman was of Sidmouth in Dorsetshire,47 the very place where passenger Hoare was baptized.48 Elwell is said to have been from Stoke Abbott, Dorsetshire.49 Dibble and David Phippen were both from Weymouth in the same shire;50 Swift came from nearby Dorchester;51 and Eames and Bascomb were both from Fordington, just outside Dorchester.52 Gillette, who apparently had made a prior voyage on the Mary and John, was from Colyton in Devonshire.53 Another passenger, Joseph Andrews, is said to have been from Devonshire also.54

Resolving the Identity of George P[?] of Dorchester

Considering the number of Recovery passengers with proved connections to Devonshire, Dorsetshire, and Somerset and the number of others for whom connections appear to exist—it would be reasonable to propose that George P[?] had similar origins. Admittedly, he could have died aboard ship or soon after landing, thereby leaving no New England records. But if he survived for even a few years, as most did, then it is reasonable to expect that he might also appearing the records of colonial Dorchester.

A study of these records reveals three men by the name of George P[?], one of whom is easily eliminated from serious consideration. Of the three-George Phillips, George Phelps, and George Proctor—the names borne by the first two are generally interchangeable in this era of lax spelling; but the Dorchester records appear to render their names with exceptional consistency. The most relevant information known for each of these can be summarized as:

George Phillips - can be reasonably eliminated. He was appointed fence viewer in Dorchester on 24 May 1634, at which time the Recovery was at sea.55 He is certainly the man of this name made freeman of Massachusetts Bay Colony on 18 May 1631 and had probably come the year before (1630) on the Mary and John.56 This George Phillips should not be confused with the Watertown minister of the same name.

George Phelps - declared a freeman of Massachusetts Bay Colony on 6 May 1635.57 He was surely of Dorchester at this time, as shortly thereafter he joined the mass migration from there to Windsor, Connecticut, along with a significant number of Recovery passengers.58 He appears to have been a single man until 1637,59 which would explain the lack of a land grant for him in Dorchester. Charles Edward Banks concluded from his own study that George Phelps of Dorchester was from Somerset.60 If correct, Banks places Phelps solidly amid the pattern of migration noted for other Recovery passengers.

George Proctor - named a proprietor of Dorchester on 10 February 1634/35.61 However, Proctor was not closely associated with the Recovery passengers; and he is strongly linked with a family from the area surrounding Bristol along the Glocestershire-Somerset line.62 In light of social patterns of that era, it is probable that he was from the environs of Bristol also—significantly north of the area to which the Recovery passengers have been traced.

In all of New England in the 1630s, there have been found no more than a dozen men with the given name George and a surname beginning with P. On one basis or another, most of these can be eliminated from further consideration as George P[?]of the Recovery. Of all the towns in New England, only Dorchester and Salem seem (this early) to have been populated predominantly by West Countrymen of Devonshire, Dorsetshire, and Somerset. Of the two colonial towns, Dorchester is the one to which the Recovery passengers have the strongest ties. Given the information provided by presently known records, the weight of the evidence supports a contention that the Recovery's unidentified George P[?] was either George Phelps or George Proctor of Dorchester—and probably Phelps.

Notes and References

^ By John Plummer, 148 Grand Street, Apartment 34; Waterbury, CT 06702. Mr. Plummer has conducted genealogical research in England and Scotland, as well as the United States, and has made extensive studies of historic buildings. He holds a B.A. in history from New England College.

  1. ^ Peter Wilson Coldham, F.A.S.G., "Genealogical Gleanings in England: Passengers and Ships to America, 1618-1668," National Genealogical Society Quarterly 71 (September 1983): 163-92.
  2. ^ Ibid, 171-72.
  3. ^ Meredith B. Colket, Jr., F.A.S.G., Founders of Early American Families (rev. ed.; Cleveland, Ohio: The General Court of the Order of Founders and Patriots of America, 1985), 231.
  4. ^ Ibid.
  5. ^ Edison Salisbury Jones, "The Family of George Parkhurst of Watertown and Boston, Mass.," New England Historical and Genealogical Register [NEHGR] 68 (October 1914): 370.
  6. ^ John B. Threlfall, "Phebe Leet, wife of George Parkhurst," The American Genealogist 52 (April 1976): 113.
  7. ^ Sibyl Noyes, Charles Thornton Libby, and Walter Goodwin Davis, Genealogical Dictionary of Maine and New Hampshire (1928-39; reprinted, Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1983), 180-81; Charles Henry Pope, The Pioneers of Massachusetts (1900, reprinted, Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1981): 90, 129.
  8. ^ Jones, "Family of George Parkhurst," 370-75.
  9. ^ Lyon J. Hoard, "The English Ancestry of Hezekiah Hoar of Taunton, Massachusetts," NEHGR 141 (January 1987): 33.
  10. ^ Fourth Report of the Record Commissioners: City Document No. 9: Dorchester Town Records (Boston: City of Boston, 1880): 7; this source is hereinafter cited as Dorchester Town Records.
  11. ^ Rev. Lucius R. Paige, "List of Freemen, "NEHGR 3 (January 1849):93.
  12. ^ Dorchester Town Records, 1.
  13. ^ Coldham, "Genealogical Gleanings in England," 172.
  14. ^ Quoted in J. Gardner Bartlett, Newberry Genealogy (Boston: The author, 1914), 35, and in Charles Henry Pope, A History of the Dorchester Pope Family (Boston: the author, 1888), 14. Both Bartlett and Pope are documented, but the Pope's documentation falls short of present-day standards. For example, Pope merely says that the original manuscript diary is in the British Museum. One has to turn to Bartlett to find the diary more specifically cited as part of Egerton Mss. 784. Pope also states that he examined only a copy of the diary made by Mr. James Phinney Baxter of Portland, Maine.
  15. ^ A comparative timetable can be reconstructed for a contemporary voyage; one ship, apparently the Neptune of Coldham's list, left Weymouth ten days after the Recovery and arrived in July 1634. See Coldham. "Genealogical Gleanings oin England," 172; Pope, History of the Dorchester Pope Family, 14; and John Winthrop, The History of New England from 1630 to 1649, James Savage, ed., 2 vols. (Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1853) 1:160.
  16. ^ Winthrop, History of New England, 1:160.
  17. ^ Dorchester Town Records
  18. ^ Ibid., 8.
  19. ^ Ibid.
  20. ^ Ibid., 11.
  21. ^ Ibid., 13.
  22. ^ George E. McCracken, F.A.S.G., "Early Cogans, English and American," NEGHR 111 (January 1957): 12.
  23. ^ Mrs. John E. Barclay, F.A.S.G., "Sarah (Jurdain) (Hill) (Bowther) Greenleaf," The American Genealogist 43 (January 1967): 14-18.
  24. ^ Dorchester Town Records, 2.
  25. ^ Winthrop, New England, 1:171-72.
  26. ^ Colket, Founders of Early American Families, 105.
  27. ^ George Lincoln, History of the Town of Hingham, Massachusetts, 3 vols. (1893; reprinted, Somerset, N.H.: New England History Press, 1982), 2:10; 3:112, 273.
  28. ^ Charles Henry Pope, The Pioneers of Massachusetts (1900; reprinted, Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1981), 410.
  29. ^ Lincoln, History of the Town of Hingham, 2:308; Thomas Bellows Wyman, The Genealogies and Estates of Charlestown, 2 vols. (Boston: David Clapp and Son, 1879), 1:316. As with most works of this period, Wyman's documentation does not meet present-day standards; his statements should be corroborated by other evidence.
  30. ^ Sidney Perley, The History of Salem, Massachusetts (Salem: The author, 1924), 455, 458.
  31. ^ Paige, "Lists of Freemen," 93.
  32. ^ Pope, Pioneers of Massachusetts, 59.
  33. ^ Nathaniel B. Shurtleff and David Pulsifer, eds., Records of the Colony of New Plymouth in New England, 2 vols. in 10 (Boston: William White, 1855-61), 8:195.
  34. ^ Hoard, "English Ancestry of Hezekiah Hoar." 30.
  35. ^ Noyes, Libby, and Davis, Genealogical Dictionary of Maine and New Hampshire, 357.
  36. ^ Burton W. Spear, Search for the Passengers of the Mary & John, 1830, 11 vols. (Toledo, Ohio: The compiler, 1895), 1:46.
  37. ^ Ibid., 1:2.
  38. ^ Ibid., 1:2-3.
  39. ^ Hoard, "English Ancestry of Hezekiah Hoar," 33.
  40. ^ Paige, "Lists of Freemen," 91-92.
  41. ^ Spear, Search for the Passengers of the Mary & John, 1:59.
  42. ^ Barclay, "Sarah (Jurdain) (Hill) (Bowther) Greenleaf," 14-18.
  43. ^ Pope, Pioneers of Massachusetts, 479.
  44. ^ Pope, Dorchester Pope Family, 14.
  45. ^ Pope, Pioneers of Massachusetts, 368.
  46. ^ Pope, Dorchester Pope Family, 39. The International Genealogical Index (IGI), compiled by the Genealogical Society of Utah, carries an entry (unverified by the present writer) for the baptism of Patience, daughter of John Pope, dated 13 May 1632 at Honiton on Otter, Devonshire.
  47. ^ William Blake Trask and Miss M. B. Fairbanks, "Captain William Traske and Some of His Descendants," NEHGR 55 (July 1901): 322.
  48. ^ Hoard, "English Ancestry of Hezekiah Hoar," 32.
  49. ^ Pope, Pioneers of Massachusetts, 128, 155.
  50. ^ Ibid., 138; Colket, Founders of Early American Families, 239.
  51. ^ Charles Edward Banks, Topographical Dictionary of 1885 English Emigrants (1937; reprinted, Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1981), 27.
  52. ^ Ibid., 94.
  53. ^ Colket, Founders of Early American Families, 130.
  54. ^ Lincoln, History of Hingham, 1:10.
  55. ^ Dorchester Town Records, 6.
  56. ^ Paige, "Lists of Freemen," 94.
  57. ^ Ibid., 94.
  58. ^ Kent C. L. Avery and Donna L. Siemiathoski, The Settlement of Windsor, Connecticut (Hartford: Aetna Life and Casualty, 1983): 10-11, 16-17.
  59. ^ Clarence Almon Torrey, "New England Marriages Prior to 1700" (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1985), 575.
  60. ^ Banks, Topographical Dictionary, 145.
  61. ^ Dorchester Town Records, 9.
  62. ^ Two of George Proctor's daughters married Lowells from Portbury in extreme northern Somerset, about seven miles from Bristol. See Pope, Pioneers of Massachusetts, 375; Colket, Founders of Early American Families, 197; and David H. Hoyt, The Old Families of Salisbury and Amesbury, Massachusetts (3 vols., 1897-1919; reprinted in 1 vol., Somersworth, N.H.: New England History Press, 1981), 233-34. Since Hoyt's documentation does not meet modern standards, information from this source should be supported by other evidence.

Courtesty of David Phelps 304 Bridlewood North, Colleyville, Texas 76034


^ 1 By John Plummer, 148 Grand Street, Apartment 34; Waterbury, CT 06702. Mr. Plummer has conducted genealogical research in England and Scotland, as well as the United States, and has made extensive studies of historic buildings. He holds a B.A. in history from New England College.