The Phippen chart

John Symonds, “Genealogical Register with Coat-of-Arms of the Phippen and the Smith families of Salem, Massachusetts,” 1808, detail. Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston: Anna Augusta Chapin Fund

When I compiled the Early New England Families Study Project sketch on Joseph Phippen a couple of years ago, I briefly mentioned that the identification of the maiden name of his wife Dorothy/Dorcas/Darcus as “Wood” depended on an “incomplete Phippen pedigree chart attributed to Joseph, which [Clarence Almon] Torrey noted was doubted; see description of the Chart [by Robert Charles Anderson in his sketch on David Phippen] in GM2, V:455-56 [who did not incorporate information from the chart, deeming it too far removed from the early generations]).” Not having the opportunity to see the chart in question, myself, I followed Bob Anderson’s caution and did not include any maiden name for Joseph’s wife.

The recent publication of John S. Fipphen and Richard C. Fipphen’s Phippen Genealogy, Ancestors and Descendants of David Phippen (c. 1585–1650) of Melcombe Regis, Dorset, and Hingham and Boston, Massachusetts,[1] and the article in the current issue of American Ancestors Magazine by Nathaniel Lane Taylor, “The Phippen Heraldic Pedigree,”[2] give us a wonderful opportunity to see what all the fuss is about.

“As a combination of both heraldry and genealogy, it is nearly unique.” – Nathaniel Lane Taylor

The chart, now in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, is described thus by Taylor: “As an example of either heraldic or genealogical art it is more ambitious than any other surviving specimen from colonial or early national New England. As a combination of both heraldry and genealogy, it is nearly unique.”

Still, “the chart is defective or unfinished in a genealogical sense and includes some apparently inauthentic heraldry,” such as a claim that the surname was originaly “Fitzpen,” and a “misappropriated” Smith coat of arms. The arrangement of names and relationships among individuals is not clearly stated. The New England progenitor, David Phippen, is not even on the extant chart made in 1808, copied from another chart done in 1768 with the reference that “This Genealogy was recorded by Joseph Phippen, who lived and died in New England, whose posterity were born there.”

Although some of the relationships have been confirmed through research, much remains undocumented, including the maiden name of Dorcas Wood, wife of Joseph Phippen.  However, neither is there any evidence at this point to prove that her name was not Wood. It is extremely dicey for a genealogist to seem to accept information from an undocumented, third-generation chart, but now with the publication of the chart and the explanations of its provenance and content, researchers will be able to judge for themselves. In the second version update to the Joseph Phippen Early Families sketch, I will be listing his wife as “Dorothy/Dorcas/Darcus [poss. Wood],” along with appropriate commentary and citations to the new sources.


[1] Boston: Newbury Street Press, 2017.

[2] 18: 3 [2017].

About Alicia Crane Williams

Alicia Crane Williams, FASG, Lead Genealogist of Early Families of New England Study Project, has compiled and edited numerous important genealogical publications including The Mayflower Descendant and the Alden Family “Silver Book” Five Generations project of the Mayflower Society. Most recently, she is the author of the 2017 edition of The Babson Genealogy, 1606-2017, Descendants of Thomas and Isabel Babson who first arrived in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1637. Alicia has served as Historian of the Massachusetts Society of Mayflower Descendants, Assistant Historian General at the General Society of Mayflower Descendants, and as Genealogist of the Alden Kindred of America. She earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Connecticut and a master’s degree in History from Northeastern University.

8 thoughts on “The Phippen chart

  1. For more information on the business/cultural background of pen-and-ink genealogical registers/art circa 1810, see D. Brenton Simons, “New England Family Record Broadsides and “The Letterpress Artist” of Connecticut,” Register 153 (1999), 387-406. Several examples are given. I’m not sure Nathaniel Taylor had this reference in his footnotes.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.