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Researching George [Phelps?] of the Ship Recovery

Written by John Plummer, transcribed by David Phelps.

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.

David Phelps Phelps Family Research
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