Without Indentures: Index to White Slave Children in Colonial Court Records


Author: Phillips, Richard Hayes
Publication Date: 2013
Pages: 322 pp.
ISBN: 9780806319797


In this groundbreaking new work, Richard Hayes Phillips has collected the names of more than five thousand children kidnapped from Ireland, Scotland, England, and New England, and sold into slavery in Maryland and Virginia, c. 1660-1720. By English law dated 1659, it was lawful for justices of the peace to kidnap children found begging or vagrant and ship them to the plantations as servants without indentures. The younger the child, the longer the sentence, and the colonial county courts were the judges of their ages.

These five thousand names, culled from the Court Order Books, some of which have not been examined for centuries, have now been compiled into one genealogical index. In almost every case the entries provide the name of the child, the name of the owner, the date they appeared in court, and the age assigned by the judges, many of whom owned the very children they were sentencing to servitude. For ease of use, the volume contains an index to the ships–and their captains–that imported these kidnapped children, as well as a surname index to guide the researcher to alternate or incorrect spellings as found in the Court Order Books. The Introduction to Mr. Phillips’s book describes the history and conditions of white servitude in colonial Maryland and Virginia, along with an annotated list of the sources he consulted.

Families who have traced their ancestry back to a name that appears in this index will know for the first time how their progenitor got to Maryland or Virginia. In other cases the kidnapped child will be the sibling in the family chart for whom there is nothing but a birth record.

We have long known about indentured servants, who agreed in writing, by indenture, to work without wages for a number of years to pay off the cost of their passage and lodging, after which time they were free. We were never told–until now!–about white slaves, who did not consent and who never contracted in writing.

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