Child Apprentices in America from Christ’s Hospital, London, 1617-1778


Author: Coldham, Peter Wilson
Publication Date: 1990
Pages: 164 pp.


Christ’s Hospital (not a hospital in the contemporary sense) was established in 1553 for the benefit of orphaned children or those made homeless by impecunious parents. If they were legitimate children of free men of the City of London, over four years of age and free from obvious infirmity, they were to be educated and prepared either for entrance to a university or apprenticeship to a trade.

From the late 17th century, up to 150 children were admitted annually to “Bluecoat School” on recommendation of their parishes, and a further ninety or so under the terms of charitable endowments. But as early as 1617 large numbers of these scholars took “articles” and left England to serve apprenticeships in America. Beginning with those children apprenticed to the Virginia Company in 1617, about 1,000 Christ’s Hospital students left England to take up such apprenticeships.

The “Children’s Registers” are housed in the manuscript department of the London Guildhall, and it is from these that Mr. Coldham has extracted data on child emigrants. The entries are in chronological order and in a slightly abbreviated form. Given are the name of the child, his date of birth or baptism, date of admission, native parish, the name and occupation of his father, date of discharge, the name of the person to whom he was apprenticed, and the place in America where he was to serve his apprenticeship. This is the first time all of this information has been made available to the genealogist.

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