Indentured Servants

The idea behind there being indentured servants in Colonial America was the need for cheap labor. By paying the passage for those who wanted to come to America, and agreed to work for a set period of time, they were known as indentured servants. It is estimated that between 1/2 to 2/3 of all immigrants during the colonial period arrived at the English colonies as indentured servants.

To payback for their passage, they would work between 4 and 7 years for the person who paid their passage. They would also get room and board. Some even got land that was theirs after their work contract expired. As more and more indentured came and got the privileges they did after their work experience, the landowners started using purchased African slaves to do the hard labor with a contract but rather for life.

Here is a listing of Indentured Servants, scroll down to the surname letters to see if an ancestor is on the list.

A similar group was apprentices, those who came over, expenses paid by a business owner who needed help and they were willing to teach the apprentice their trade – example, blacksmith, jewelry maker, candle-maker, etc.

It might be difficult to verify if you had an indentured servant on your family tree. If you think any ancestors during the 1700s may have been in the eastern Pennsylvania colony, then check the listings for Chester County, PA with a listing of indentured and apprentice servants. This listing is for those the owner had problems with… such as running away or breaking their contract. These are complaints filed to the Court of Quarter Sessions in Chester County between 1700 and 1855. For many of the female indentured servants, the complaints included having a ‘bastard child’.

The listing is by the servant’s surname and a separate listing of the master’s / owner’s surname. There are all types of reasons for complaints. Again just those servants with complaints by the owner were listed. You might have had an ancestor who fulfilled their contract with no problems.

The indentured servants mostly came from England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, and Germany and mostly worked in the colonies south of New York. One bad item was their contract could be sold and they would be working for someone else.

Photos: Kitchen workers-indentured servants; a contract for an indentured servant and a listing of complaints against indentured servants in Chester Co.

Related Blogs:

Database of Colonial Immigrant Servants

John Punch – Indentured Servant

Mail Order Brides of Jamestown Colony

< Return To Blog

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.