Kinsearching October 13, 2013




Marleta Childs
P. O. Box 6825
LUBBOCK, TX 79493-6825

     For a long time, genealogists have known that many of the early settlers in what is now the United States were indentured servants. These persons voluntarily agreed in an indenture—a written contract--to work without wages for a certain number of years in order to pay off the costs of their passage to the New World and their lodging. After they served their term, they were free to go and begin a new life.

     Overlooked has been the large number of white colonists who were brought over while still children (that is, under the age of twenty-one) as involuntary servants. Since many of them had been kidnapped, they did not consent to come to the New World nor did they agree to an indenture. In fact, they never had a written contract. Richard Hayes Phillips sheds light on this little known aspect of American history in WITHOUT INDENTURES: INDEX TO WHITE SLAVE CHILDREN IN COLONIAL COURT RECORDS.

     In his groundbreaking new book, Phillips uncovers material on approximately 5,000 children from Ireland, Scotland, and England, who were sold as servants in the New World in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Under English law, it was permissible to round up vagrant boys and girls and ship them involuntarily to Virginia. Child trafficking included transporting displaced children in Ireland to America.

     After their passage across the Atlantic, the children were taken to a county court where judges assigned them an age and sentenced them to servitude. (Family researchers should be aware that the assigned age was usually only an estimate.) Often, the children were bound to the justices. The younger the child was, the longer the sentence of servitude meted out. While some were treated well, others led a harsh life, causing many to run away.

     For most entries, the compiler furnishes the name of the unindentured white child, the name of his or her owner, the date they appeared in court, and the age assigned by the judges. Some entries may include additional facts, such as the length of servitude, date of arrival in the colonies, the name of the ship on which the individual was transported, or the name of the ship’s captain. Since WITHOUT INDENTURES: INDEX TO WHITE SLAVE CHILDREN IN COLONIAL COURT RECORDS contains a wealth of information, genealogists may be able to find clues to help fill in some of the missing links on their family trees.

     The 293-page book has soft covers, a preface with end notes, an acknowledgement of references, a guide to the records, a guide to the several indexes, a map, several illustrations of documents, an appendix of names of Scottish and English Jacobite rebels transported without indentures, and indexes to names of ship captains and ship arrivals. Although names of children appear alphabetically under the individual county, the compiler also provides a comprehensive surname index for each child and his or her owner. To the book's price of $29.95, buyers should add the cost for postage and handling charges. For U. S. postal mail, the cost is $5.50 for one book and $2.50 for each additional copy; for FedEx ground service, the cost is $7.50 for one copy and $2.50 for each additional book. The volume (item order #4606) may be purchased by check, money order, MasterCard, or Visa from Genealogical Publishing Company, 3600 Clipper Mill Rd., Suite 260, Baltimore, Maryland 21211-1953. For phone orders, call toll free 1-800-296-6687; fax 1-410-752-8492; website at

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