“much given to Talk and bad Company”: New-England Runaways, 1704-1754


Author: Boyle, Joseph Lee
Publication Date: 2020
Pages: viii, 426 pp.
ISBN: 9780806359120

Item #: 8152 Categories: , , ,


Mr. Boyle, who has heretofore extracted the runaway servant newspaper ads for the Middle Atlantic colonies/states (MD, DE, NJ, PA & NY), now turns his attention to New England. The majority of the individuals in this compilation are runaway servants and slaves, but a number are runaway apprentices or military deserters, with horse thieves, counterfeiters, burglars, jail breakers, an occasional murderer, and other lowlifes represented as well as supposedly errant spouses.

The advertisers discovered that tracking an individual by name often led to a dead end, particularly since multiple names were common and middle names were not often used at this time. For example, one listing says that Jonathan Lawrence was the victim of a theft by a man who “calls himself by several Names, viz. John St. Ambrose, or John Ambrose, but changes his Name as suits him best.” Runaway ladies used multiple names, such as “a Woman who goes by the Name of Elizabeth Richardson, but her true Name is suppos’d to be Mary Rogers, and is a noted Thief, and was committed for several Thefts.” Researchers should also be prepared for phonetic spellings of people they are interested in, for example Wamscom/Wombscom, Bargary/Bargery and Jonson/Johnston/Johnson. This work also includes individuals with New England connections who did not run away from those colonies (e.g., Newal Coomes was advertised in New York as “an New-England man” who “pretends to be a Doctor.”).

This compilation lists all individuals mentioned in the advertisements. If an individual is listed with more than one name, all the names appear in the index. In compiling the work, Mr. Boyle examined 23 newspapers from New England to Maryland. Each ad conveys a number of details about the runaway and his/her master, including names and aliases of the runaway, physical description, personality quirks (if any), location in New England (including the future states of Vermont and Maine), and where to contact the advertiser. In all, this book contains about 1,500 runaway ads and names over 3,000 persons with connections to colonial New England.

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