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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


David Phelps Phelps Family Research
304 Bridlewood North, Colleyville, Texas 76034