Without Indentures: Index to White Slave Children in Colonial Court Records (Maryland and Virginia).
By Richard Hayes Phillips, Ph.D.
Published by Genealogical Publ. Co., 2013. 283 pages.
The title is a shocking one.
‘White slave children’?
Who would have thought such a heartbreaking list could exist?
Dr. Phillips prefaces an example:
“Your poor petitioner was spirited out of his native country, unknown to any of his friends, and shipped aboard for this country as a servant.” So begins the petition of John Lyme, presented to the County Court in Somerset County, Maryland on 15 January 1690.The children were kidnapped.
John Lyme was one of thousands of white children spirited out of their native countries, unknown to their families and friends, transported to America, and sold into slavery. The history books like to call them “indentured servants.” But this is not true. They had no indentures.
Indentures were contracts of servitude between a purchaser of ship’s passage for an immigrant who worked off the price with years of unpaid work duty, earning only freedom after a certain number of years. Children who arrived by ship into colonial ports alone and without indentures were brought into the courts and sentenced to years of bondage duty.
Dr. Phillips has compiled an index of over 5000 names of children collected from the Court Order Books of colonial Maryland and Virginia. These county courts, with their panels of appointed judges called “Worshippfull Commissioners” in Maryland and “Gentleman Justices” in Virginia, left behind alphabetized names of thousands of children without indentures, lists of the names of the judges who sentenced the children into slavery, and the lists of the ships upon which the children were transported along with the names of the captains who commanded the vessels. A significant percentage of Worshippfull Commissioners and Gentleman Justices assumed ownership of the children they sentenced into servitude.
Dr. Phillips provides a brief but thorough explanation of the statutes and customs that sanctioned state-sponsored kidnapping and subjugation of children in England and the practices that followed into the American colonies. Difficult as it is to comprehend, he explains these institutional practices with clarity and objectivity even as the shock of it all sets in.
This compilation does not contain names of confirmed indentured children, Negro or Indian children (they were slaves for life), orphan children (they were assigned guardians), nor children given up for adoption (parents affirmed their voluntary decisions to give the children).
Dr. Phillips describes his sources and repositories so well that a researcher in colonial records could find reason to consider looking at the same records for reasons aside from the indentured children cases.
This book brings to light another secret and unpleasant piece of American history. Thanks to Dr. Phillips these ancestors’ early and difficult lives will be secret no more.
Without Indentures: Index to White Slave Children in Colonial Court Records (Maryland and Virginia) is available from the publisher, Genealogical Publishing Company, at http://goo.gl/XPcu5O as well as from Amazon at http://goo.gl/5e1aPc and from other genealogy bookstores.