Book Review: White Pennsylvania Runaways, 1720-1749

The following book review was written by Bobbi King:

White_Pennsylvania_RunawaysWhite Pennsylvania Runaways, 1720-1749
Compiled by Joseph Lee Boyle. Genealogical Publishing Co. 2015. 478 pages.
“Lazy, loves strong Drink, and is a Glutton”

White Pennsylvania Runaways, 1750-1762
Compiled by Joseph Lee Boyle. Genealogical Publishing Co. 2015. 485 pages.
“Apt to get drunk at all Opportunities”

Little-known fact: in colonial America, indentured whites, comprised of convicts, vagabonds, exiles, redemptioners, the kidnapped, runaways, and the willing servants hoping for a better life by serving out a period of servitude being purchased by colonial masters than by remaining in their traditional European societies, preceded and exceeded the black slavery population in all the colonies up until the American Revolution.

For some, the risks were rewarded: one in ten took up land, and one in ten became artisans.

But for the other eight, the journey ended in death in servitude, a return to England, or life as a “poor white.”

With a substantial amount of capital invested in their vessels of cheap labor, few masters let runaways get by without public declaration. Conversely, some escapees had such little value or time left in indenture, no efforts were made to pay the reward to recover them. But the more valuable runaways were advertised, and when caught, paid in extended servitude time and penalty.

Mr. Boyle has compiled notices of white runaways from local newspapers of the day. None were in publication before 1720. Many newspapers were read through, some of which were The Boston Gazette, The Pennsylvania Gazette, The New-England Courant, and The New-York Evening Post, among several others. Also, a list of further reading is included for those who wish to research further.

The chapters are arranged by year, notices in chronological order, with citations. There is a name index. The introduction in each book explains the situation of indentured servitude in appropriate detail, and gives the reader a good understanding of the subject.

In White Pennsylvania Runaways, 1720-1749:
“Ran-away,…from George Sheed of Philadelphia, Barber and Perriwig-Maker, a Servant Man of the same Trade, named George Tanner, a short well-set Fellow with short Leggs, short clumsey Hands full of Warts, a pretty broad Face and pretty much Pockfretten, and waddles in his Gate; a very lying talkative Fellow, is sometimes English sometime Irish as it may suit his Purpose, & pretends to have been a great Traveller….”

In White Pennsylvania Runaways, 1750-1762:
“RUN away…A Dutch servant boy, called Frantz Strother, about 16 years of age, he is a small boy of his age, but very smart, and can speak English very well:…’Tis believed his father has taken him away with him, as he was seen going out of the town with him in the morning, and is uncertain whether he went for York, in this province, or New-York….”

Mr. Boyle has added to his long list of contributions to this genre of genealogy.

White Pennsylvania Runaways, 1720-1749 is available from the publisher, Genealogical Publishing Co., at as well as from Amazon at


I have used Farley Grubb’s, Pennsylvania Gazette abstracts of runaways, convicts and apprentices many times in my search for ancestors. Although I have never found any, I did relate to Bobbi King’s book review. Her opening comments reminded me of one of my ancestors—a success story of an indentured servant who served out his apprenticeship with Joseph Shippen, father of Peggy Shippen who was the wife of Benedict Arnold. Mr. Shippen in his published correspondence gave a description of his servant, both physically and mentally. This servant, one of my German ancestors, married a Scottish woman from a prominent Lancaster County, Pennsylvania family. Many genealogists have trouble believing this story of a cross-culture marriage but there is proof.


Has someone written something similar for Virginia?
Mark Aldridge


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