More than forty percent of all German immigrants entering the port of Philadelphia in the early 19th century entered into servitude as a means of paying for their passage. After the servant contract was negotiated and the shipper paid, the contract was registered with the government. This register of servant contracts, one of the few existing documents that can be used to identify German immigrants for the period 1817-1831, contains a summary of the key elements in the actual contracts, including the servant’s name, buyer’s name, occupation, township, county and state of residence, length of servitude, and the amount paid to the shipper. Altogether nearly 1,200 of these contracts were registered in the years 1817-1819, with only 73 entries recorded between 1820 and 1831. Thus this is an indispensable finding aid for the period just prior to the keeping of official passenger arrival records in 1820.
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