George E. McCracken wrote a very interesting book entitled The Welcome Claimants Proved, Disproved and Doubtful with an account of some of their descendants (Genealogical Publishing Company, 1970). It is not simply a pedigree of the passengers of The Welcome – the ship upon which William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania, first came to America. It’s a much more ambitious scholarly study, and it’s all the more fruitful for the genealogist as a result.
Here’s an overview of what you’ll find in the book.
In July 1682 The Welcome departed from England with William Penn and about 100 others and arrived on October 27th 1862 in New Castle, Delaware. There are newspaper accounts documenting the departure and the arrival. There are a few extant documents that document the small pox breakout and deaths on board. Even a few hastily prepared wills from those who passed that survived. There are records of mid-voyage encounters with other ships and ports of call.
But what we don’t have is a definitive, all-inclusive passenger list for The Welcome’s Summer 1682 voyage. This missing critical link to history has documenting the descendents of those aboard this historic voyage far less clear than say a similarly noteworthy trip made aboard The Mayflower.
The lack of a definitive passenger list has not stopped genealogists and historians from trying. George McCraken counts no less than 26 attempts at recreating the passenger list of The Welcome.
Scope and Intent of The Welcome Claimants…
Now the modern genealogist is presented with quite a challenge. Which of the 26 lists is correct? Further, if my ancestor is on one of the lists, is that proof?
George McCracken in his book, attempts to answer these questions. He enumerates the lists, shifts through all of the claimants (those purported to be passengers on the ship), and breaks them into several categories (proved, highly probable, possible, possible but rather improbable, improbable, highly improbable, disproved, and mythical) based the evidence he’s found documenting the certainty of their claim. Then he breaks down each surname and by documenting their pedigree and history supports his claims as to the certainty of their passage on The Welcome. Exceptionally well sourced, it’s an extraordinary work of family history research, if I do say so myself.
That in and of itself would be impressive enough, but he created an every-name index in the back to make the research for the modern genealogist all the more easy.
Who Would Find This Book Helpful?
Before you dismiss this work saying, well, I know my ancestor didn’t come with William Penn to America, let’s look at some ways this book may still be very helpful.
- Did your ancestor come to Pennsylvania pre-1700? He may be on any one of the 26 lists and McCraken may have very valuable information on him – even if he wasn’t on The Welcome.
- Did your ancestor live in Delaware or Pennsylvania pre-1700? In documenting the claimants McCraken taps into lots of collateral lines and ancillary names on deeds, wills, and other records that reflect people who arrived before and after William Penn.
- Are you looking for conclusive evidence or even an indication that your ancestors were in the Colonies, Pennsylvania, or Philadelphia pre-1700? This could get you started.
- And, of course, if your ancestor did travel with Penn you’ve got a goldmine here of genealogy research to add to your own project.
Finding & Using the Book
The book isn’t out of copyright having been published in 1970, which means you won’t find a fully digitized book online. However, you can find the limited search version on HathiTrust here. (Be careful to search many spelling variations.) Further, you can use the “find in a library” link to get to the hard copy. A couple more notes about using the book, it’s worth your time to read the preface and introduction which explains his methodology for the book. Also, it’s helpful to understand how he built the index and accommodated the many spelling variations he encountered. One last note – you can also check out the book at the Midwest Genealogy Center.
If you’re doing early Pennsylvania, Delaware, or New Jersey research, whether you think you have a connection to Penn or not, this is a book worth looking into.