Was Your Ancestor An Indentured Servant? Search It!

It was an accepted payment for transportation in the 17th to 19th century - indenturing oneself to another in order to pay for the journey.

However, the payment was steep - 7 to 14 years of hard work at another's home, with conditions (i.e. if a female became pregnant, years could be added to the indenture for a few months off). Rules weren't always clear and the servant didn't always have the money to fight unfairness in Court.

It is believed by genealogists that over 75% of Virginia's Pre-Revolutionary War settlers financed their voyage in this manner. But not everyone who arrived in the Colonies was a servant. So how can you find out if your ancestor was indentured?

Though there are only a limited amount of indentured documents surviving, it's worth a try using the search engines at Virtual Jamestown (virtualjamestown.org), Labor Contracts. I've discovered that less information is more when searching their files and just because you don't get a response, doesn't mean they arrived as free-persons. As stated above, documentation is limited.



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Member of the New Mexico Genealogical Society 2018