Most of what we know about George comes from this document written by his sons. I don't know the whereabouts of the original document, but the library at Haverford College has a few transcriptions of it, including this one done by Dillwyn Wistar (George —> George —> George —> Caleb —> Sarah Emlen & Caleb Cresson —> Annabella Cresson & Bartholomew Wyatt Wistar) in 1903 (from the "Morris Wistar Wood Collection, 1716-1942", MC# 1140, Box 1: "Miscellaneous letters, etc., A-E, Folder 5": "D-E", Quaker & Special Collections, Haverford College):
He was born in a Town called Shepton Mallet in Summersetshire [Somerset], was Apprenticed a Vinter in London, & his Parents having Dyed when he was Young, he was put under the Care & tuition of an Aunt who was Presbyterian, he was one of that people till he arrived at mature age, when on his embracing the Principles of Truth as we believe, or turning a friend, he was deprived of his Aunts favor, or any expectations from her, who was a Person of considerable substance in the World, when meeting her displeasure he was necessiated to provide for himself. He came over Sea with Wm. Pen, & after living with him some time,- Married & fell into keeping a Public House at the Three Tuns in Chestnut Street, having been skill'd in Liquors from his Apprentiship: In which condition of Life he conducted with honour and good repute to the cause of Truth & to himself, being very careful to avoid the allowance of the least degree of that Excess, too prevalent in the generality of Houses of that sort of later Days, which renders the occupation far less respectable than it otherwise would be, as for the sake of Gain, too many become subservient to the passions, Freaks, & Follies of Lordly & impertinent Customers; & by not keeping in the Power & Spirit of Truth, they become trampled on by such Spirits, & not only degrade themselves & their employment, but do their own and other Souls Great injury by countenancing too much, Vice & Impiety.
His first Wife was Sister to Nehemia Allen, by whom he had three children that Died. His Second Wife, who was my Mother, was the Daughter of Wm. Garret, of the Township of Darby, she was religiously inclined, by whom he had Eight Children, viz; George, Samuel, Caleb, & Joshua; Hannah, Ann, Mary & Sarah.
About the Year 1710, he was taken ill, selected his affairs, & expressed much satisfaction at his approaching Dissolution, saying his peace was made, and as to the calling he had followed for a livelyhood, there was a doing well in it, & they had done well in it. The Evening after he had settled his Worldly Affairs & made his Will, he called for his four Sons, & his Wife being present, he addressed himself to them after the following manner, "Children I have been appointing somewhat for you, & do now advise you, to live in the fear of the Lord, & be dutiful & Obedient to your Mother, & keep to Truth & Plainness; be Loving & kind to your Sisters; with divers other weighty Expressions." And the next Morning, quietly departed this life, being on Christmas Day so called & 7th of the Week, & the day following decently intered in Friends burying Ground, after the Afternoon Meeting, the Corpse being first carried to the Meeting House & from thence to the Burying Ground, accompanyed by a large number of friends and others. And we have no doubt but that he is entered into the Kingdom of peace & blessedness; being One when on Earth that sought those things that made for peace, & hath left a good name behind him: As he lived, so he Died, a meek, pious peacable Christian.
A few lines in Memory of my Mother Hannah Tidmarsh, late Emlen, deceased: Who departed out of time into Eternity, in peace with her God, & her memory will remain sweet and precious to her offspring, as well as to her Friends & Acquaintance.
She was the Daughter of William Garratt & Ann his Wife, & was born in a Town called Derby in Lecestershire, in that part of Great Britain called England on the 23rd Day of the 4th Month 1674, and came into Pennsylvania with her Parents, about the 10th year of her age. She was Married to my Father George Emlen at about the 20th year of her Age, & had by him Issue George, Samuel, Caleb, Joshua, Ann, Mary and Sarah -#(It is here worthy of note, that Hannah dyed about 7 Years of Age, who being a fine, sensible & hopeful Girl, was so afflicted at seeing her tender Mother in great Pain with sore brests a great degree some time after her Husbands Death; that wringing her hands with great lamentation, she bewailed her Mother, & on their trying to quiet her, she again burst out that she must cry for her Mother, & lying down on the Bed, was never taken thence till a Corpse.-) Hannah dyed in her Childhood, the rest all survived their Mother. My Father deceased in the Year 1710 and Mother remained a Widow several Years, & brought up her Children with the utmost care & industry- and was a noble Example to them in all that was good & laudable, very constant in advice to them to love & fear the Lord. She was afterwards Married to Wm. Tidmarsh, was a tender Wife to him & loving Mother to his Children for several Years; and departed this life on the 24th 6th mo. 1738.
She was a dutiful Child to her Parents, and excellent Wife to her Husband, a Loving Mother to her Children, an entire friend to the Poor & Distressed,- Undaunted in Danger-Religious & Ingenious:- an easy Mistress & good Neighbor, neither Lavish nor Penurious, but an Example of Industry as well to her own Children as Servants - her precepts to Virtue were pressing and ernest- her advice was to live in the fear of the Lord & to follow peace with all Men, to keep to truth & Plainness- to frequent religious Meetings with great Industry - to Act or do nothing but what became the followers of the meek & humble Jesus. She was well beloved by most that knew her & hath left a good Name & dyed in peace & I have no doubt hath received a Crown of Life & resteth from her labour-- she was a darling favorite of both her Parents & well she might, for her chearful obedience to them was with alacrity and delight- Disobedience to Parents was by her counted a Capital Offence.
Happy are the Children who follow the advice & Example of such a Parent.
(The original of the above was found, among some other old papers belonging to Sarah Emlen Cresson, by Charles Caleb Cresson, her son, and by him left to her grand-son: -Copied 6/4/1903. - Dillwyn Wistar.)
We read above in the account of George's life by his sons that he was apprenticed as a vintner in London. We can find record of George in the Vintners' Company apprentice binding book (held at the Guildhall Library in London, call # Ms 15220/2):
George Emblen, son of Richard, Compton Dando, Somerset, blacksmith, deceased,
to Henry Chittie, 5 Sep 1671, Vintners' Company
We also find George in the Vintners' Company freedom register (held at the Guildhall Library in London, call # Ms 15212/1):
From the above, we learn that George's father was Richard, a blacksmith from Compton Dando, about 20 miles north of Shepton Mallot. We can also estimate George's birth year: if George was the average age for an apprentice, about 14 years old, when he started in 1671, we can estimate his year of birth to be around 1657. And he was probably about 23 years old when freed in 1680, just a year or two before he left for America.
The location of Richard is given as Compton Dando and not Shepton Mallot. Possibly the family moved to Compton Dando after George was born? Or maybe Richard was born in Compton Dando and then later moved to Shepton Mallot where George was born? Someone named Richard Emblen was buried in the St. Mary's churchyard in Compton Dando on 26 Oct 1667. I still haven't found any record of George, son of Richard, in the Somerset parish birth registers.
We can confirm that the George Emblen from above London Vintner Company records is "our" George Emlen by this passage from a letter sent by George Emlen in Philadelphia to a Matthew Chitty in London, in 1688 (from the "American Friends Letters Collection, Ca. 1682-1986", MC# 851, Box 4: "D-Em", Quaker & Special Collections, Haverford College):
I cannot forget that good Education I had of my master, thy father, of excellent memory which now through mercy stands me in good stead in getting my living comfortable, & am now in a better way than I have been since I came to America. I retaile syder [cider] & beare [beer] & some wine.
The spelling of George's last name varies from source to source. Some examples:
It's unclear if George conciously changed the spelling of his last name and dropped the 'b' after he arrived in America, or if he had always spelled it without the 'b' and other people mistakenly added it when spelling his name. But the Y-DNA test I took matched me with someone in England who spells his name "Emblin", so there definitely is an Emblen/Emlen connection from around George's time or slightly earlier.