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History of the Phelps Family in America

Two Phelps ancestors are known to have emigrated from England to America in the 1630s: William Phelps in 1630 aboard the Mary and John of Plymouth, England, and George Phelps aboard the Recovery of London in 1634.

As a result of the book The Great Migration Begins: Immigrants to New England 1620-1633, (available in hardbound or CD-ROM) by Robert Charles Anderson, it is accepted by a consensus of recognized genealogical scholars that William Phelps of Massachusetts and Connecticut is NOT the William Phelps of Tewkesbury records, but more likely from Crewkene. This book provides ample detail as to the Phelps found in early Connecticut and Massachusetts.(1) Furthermore, recent DNA testing of descendants of William and George Phelps has unequivocally proven that the two men are not related.

See The American Genealogist 65:161-166 (1990) for Myrtle Stevens Hyde's article which resolves the problem of the identity of the wives of William Phelps and contains all the Crewkerne records cited by Anderson.

Of special note is the omission of George Phelps as an immigrant on the Mary and John. Two George Phillips are identified as immigrating before 1633. The first was George Phillips, minister, from Boxted, Essex, who migrated in 1630 to Watertown.

The second is George Phillips, origins unknown, who migrated to Dorchester in 1632 and subsequently went to Windsor in 1635. This George was born by 1592 (estimated birth date based on the age of his wife) and died at Windsor, 9 Jul 1678. He had no children. Anderson comments that the earliest record that can be assigned to George Phelps with confidence is dated 6 May 1635 when he was admitted a freeman in Dorchester.

He also states that the town clerks in both Dorchester and Windsor seem to have been quite precise in distinguishing between George Phillips and George Phelps, and in no instance in those two towns has a record been noted Phelps was called Phillips or vice versa. Anderson also mentions that there may have been a relationship between William Phelps and George Phelps, but that it remains unestablished. [For more information, see Researching George [Phelps?] of the Ship Mary & John]

Perhaps the most important conclusion to come from this Great Migration Study is recognition by a consensus of recognized genealogical scholars that William Phelps of Massachusetts and Connecticut is NOT the William Phelps of Tewkesbury records. Their conclusions reinforce those reached through the research done by Burt Spear and [Opens external site in new window] The Mary and John Clearing House which some have refused to accept.

Several family genealogies were listed in the key to titles used in more than one biographical sketch. Where a title is used in only one sketch, the full bibliographic entry was contained in the sketch. The Phelps Family in America by Oliver Seymore Phelps and Andrew T. Servin was not identified as a source. This is only one more indication that any statement it contains needs careful verification from records which were not available to the authors one hundred years ago. Certainly errors it contains should not be perpetuated when those errors are identified and supported with evidence from primary sources.

Swanson, Margaret P., "Phelps Entries in The Great Migration Begins," Phelps Connections newsletter. Volume 6, No. 1, Winter 1997, Page 409. Margaret P. Swanson

Margaret Phelps Swanson was co-founder with Nancy Pennington of the Phelps Connections, the former family genealogy association, no longer in operation. Permission is granted to copy or reproduce information in "Phelps Connection" by any means with the following restriction:

  1. All sources must be fully acknowledged.
  2. Reproductions from this issue not to be sold for profit.
  3. If any article is reprinted or edited, please send a copy before publication to either PC Newsletter Editor or PC Genealogist for proofreading. Also send a copy of article after it is published to the same PC officer.
  4. A copy of these restrictions accompany each article copied.