Ask DGS – Early Passenger Ships

“Ask DGS” is an occasional series featuring research questions from our members. This one concerns early immigration to Delaware from England.

Member ‘SS’ writes:

One of my ancestors was one of the first settlers in Pennsylvania. Eleanor Pierson married Thomas Watson and travelled to Pennsylvania with their two children in either 1701 or 1702.They settled in Honey Hill near Bristol and in 1704 to Buckingham. I have the Pierson history back to 1540 and the Watsons back to 1650. The only thing I don’t have is the name of the ship they travelled on.

As they went first to Bristol I would like to find the name of any ship from England docking on the Delaware between 1701 and 1702, could you help to point me in the right direction to find out this information. As a point of interest their grandson John Watson (1721) surveyed the Mason Dixon line between Pennsylvania and Maryland.

Thank you for your time

Dear ‘SS’,

This is a tough one. As you probably know, the U.S. government didn’t require passenger lists prior to 1820 and the earliest records I’ve seen in the Delaware Public Archives date to 1831. Specialized websites like The Ships List have a few ship records from the the 1700s, but not very many and none I’ve seen for Delaware.

I think your best bet will be looking through some of the compilations. One that seems particularly relevant is Ships passenger lists: Pennsylvania and Delaware (1641-1825), by Carl Boyer. I see that Delaware Public Archives has a copy of this it can be purchased from Amazon as well.

Here is one last link, which describes what the National Archives and Records Administration has available and identifies a number of other potential sources of information.

Good luck with your research! If you find any additional information about early ships arriving in Delaware, please let us know.

By William Monkhouse (1805?-1862) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By William Monkhouse (1805?-1862) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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3 Responses to Ask DGS – Early Passenger Ships

  1. Peg says:

    I’m really liking this Reese. Thanks! Peg

  2. I’m a member of DGS and learned about this blog in the recent newsletter. Please add my email address to your blog distribution. Thanks

    • Reese says:

      Hi James,

      We don’t automatically subscribe folks, but you can do it yourself. On the righthand side of the home page, there is a section that says “Delaware Families via Email”. If you add your email address in the space provided, you will be notified of any blog updates. Let me know if you need additional information.

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