Member of the National Genealogical Society 2018
Member of the New Mexico Genealogical Society 2018

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 (, 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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