Lifted from Roots-List
In Virginia, the vast majority of indentured servants were simply
immigrants. They signed articles of indenture with a ship's captain in
England, promising a certain number of years of work in exchange for passage
to Virginia. Some of those indentures still exist in Bristol, but that is
only a fraction. The ship's captain, of course, had no use for these
indentured servants himself. He was going to recover his expense by selling
the indenture in the colonies. Upon landing, the indentures were sold to the
colonists (in Virginia usually planters), who then had the use of the
servants' work for the term agreed upon. At the end of the indenture, the
servant was to be given a set of clothing, some utensils or equipment, etc.
In Maryland he also qualified for a grant of land. In Virginia, the land
grant went to planter who owned his indenture.
The planter who bought the indenture had the right to claim 50 acres of land
for each person he had paid for. He had a certificate giving their names,
which he presented to obtain a warrant to obtain a land grant. It wasn't
long before the certificate itself became a valuable commodity, and was
bought, sold, traded, and given as a gift of value. Many of the planters who
claimed land patents based on transportation never set eyes of the people
named in the certificate.
But whenever the 50 acres per person was claimed, this certificate was
included and the names were often written in the original land grant. This
is the primary source for the names of indentured servants in Virginia. The
land grant (or patent) books have been published in several volumes under
the title *Cavaliers and Pioneers: Abstracts of Virginia Land Patents and
Grants* by Nell Marion Nugent and others. After 1700, there were fewer and
fewer grants based on importation rights, and more that were based on
payment of a fee, so most of the indentured servants are in the first three
or four volumes of the series.
Criminals were also transported to Virginia, and they also served terms of
indenture. Look in PeterWilson Coldham's various titles, such as:
The Complete Book of Emigrants (4 vols.)
Emigrants from England to the American Colonies, 1773-1776
The Bristol Registers of Servants Sent to Foreign Plantations
Child Apprentices in America, From Christ's Hospital, London, 1617-1778
The Complete Book of Emigrants in Bondage, 1614-1775 (Revised edition of
Bonded Passengers to America)
The King's Passengers to Maryland and Virginia
Many indentures were entered into between private parties in the colonies.
Some were recorded in deed books, but most were not. Many were similar to
apprenticeships. Others were instances of bastard children, who were bound
out until adulthood.
Most of these names are lost to us.
Carol P. Martoccia
903 East Fifth Street
Greenville, NC 27858
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