Jan 14, 2010
ISOGG (International Society of Genetic Genealogists) recently had quite a discussion going on about the subject of indentured servants.
It would seem that the idea of indentured servants is not very well understood. At least one individual thought indentured servants were criminals. Another thought there was that indentured servants would never own their own land upon gaining their freedom.
Carol McGinnis writes in "Viginia Genealogy Sources & Resources" that the first African colonists from the West Indies are sold into indentured service in 1619.
Does that mean an indentured servant was a slave? Was an indentured servant a criminal? Would an indentured servant own land when they gained their freedom?
Finally, why should we even care if we know what an indentured servant is?
For me, the answer is simple. The first HAM to arrive on this continent was an indentured servant.
Joseph HAM arrived in 1621 as an indentured servant to Lt. Albiano Lupo. Transported by the ship Warwick. The Warwick probably set sail from Middlesex or London, England. He arrived in Elizabeth City, Virginia (now the city of Hampton, Virginia).
Joseph was 16 years old at the time. Joseph HAM would gain his freedom, live in York County, and marry Mary PEAD, the widow of John PEAD. Mary had two children by John PEAD, John PEAD and Catharine PEAD.
Joseph files his will on March 3, 1638 which is subsequently probated on July 10, 1638. Among his most valuable possessions are 2,000 pounds of tobacco, 20 young goats, what appears to be a maid servant, and a part of a plantation.
Nora Probasco has sent an email to notify folks that an excellent article about indentured servants is now available on line. An article by Nathan W. Murphy “Origins of Colonial Chesapeake Indentured Servants: American And English Sources.” National Genealogical Society Quarterly, 93, no.1 (March, 2005), 5–24 is now on line:
If you know a little about researching early documents, then it helps to understand exactly what an indentured servant was. Or conversely, if you know how to research an indentured servant, then it could possibly help you to understand more about the times of your immigrant ancestor.
An interesting article. For folks that have not researched early documents, it gives a visual of an old printed document, so you can compare with today's writing to see how the handwriting has changed over time. Also, there is an extensive list of reference sources for help in researching early immigrants.
Further reading about Joseph HAM:
Peter W. Coldham, "The Complete Book of Immigrants 1607-1660"
Carol McGinnis, "Virginia Genealogy Sources & Resources."
P. William Filby, "Passenger and Immigration Lists Index"
John Camden Hotten, "Original Lists of Persons of Quality 1600-1700"
R. F. Walker article entitled "Lists of the Living and the Dead in Virginia Feb 16, 1623" from the "Colonial Records of Virginia," Richmond, 1874
Library of Virginia, York County microfilm "Deeds, Orders, Wills, etc.," page 11, Richmond, VA
"A Short History of the HAM Surname in Virginia & NC"