Kinsearching October 6, 2013




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

     Many genealogists with colonial roots in what became the United States may not be aware that a large number of the early settlers arrived in the New World as forced laborers. Since estimates give the number of white colonists in the servitude category (which encompasses indentured servants, redemptioners, political exiles, and convicts) as being between 350,000 and 500,000, chances are good that some of your pre-Revolutionary War ancestors were among them. Colonial compulsory workers are again the focus of Joseph Lee Boyle’s third compilation, “GIVEN TO DRINKING AND WHORING”: WHITE MARYLAND RUNAWAYS, 1720-1762.

     Boyle’s interesting and informative six and a half-page introduction gives in detail the story of white forced laborers in early America. As he did in his previous volumes, the author explains the circumstances under which people (mostly males) were bound into service, the length of service, the conditions under which servants lived and were released, reasons why they ran away, and punishments received when they were caught. He points out that more than half of the whites who came to the colonies south of New England were servants. Their transportation, particularly into Maryland, reached its peak in the mid-eighteenth century. The number of convicts continued to increase until the onset of the American Revolution.

     Most colonial American newspapers regularly printed advertisements that offered rewards for the apprehension of runaways and/or notices about their capture. Boyle gleaned from nineteen New England and Mid-Atlantic newspapers all references pertaining to white escapees. (He did not include information from the Virginia Gazette since it is available online.) When information about whites and blacks appears together, he gives the names of the blacks but does not go into detail about them because runaway slave advertisements have already been compiled into book form by another author.

     Transcribing verbatim the ads for the years 1720 - 1762, Boyle identifies more than 4,000 persons. Although most of the fugitives resided in Maryland, the author includes all data about out-of-state escapees who were mentioned in the papers.

     Usually, the ads provide the names of runaways and of the person or persons offering the reward, the names of captured fugitives and who had them in custody, a location, and the name and date of the newspaper reference. Additional information—if any--about a runaway varies widely, ranging from only a couple of sentences to a long paragraph. Details may include the person’s age, occupation, country of origin or nationality, and a description of his or her physical appearance and the clothes worn at the time of the escape.

     The eighteenth-century newspaper notices and advertisements concerning white runaways in what is now the United States provide valuable information that may not be readily available elsewhere. Meant to be a companion piece to Boyle’s previous works, “DRINKS HARD, AND SWEARS MUCH”: WHITE MARYLAND RUNAWAYS, 1770-1774 (see review in Kinsearching column dated 9 January 2011) and “WHEN DRUNK IS VERY BOLD”: WHITE MARYLAND RUNAWAYS, 1763-1769 (see review in Kinsearching column dated 15 January 2012), his new publication, “GIVEN TO DRINKING AND WHORING”: WHITE MARYLAND RUNAWAYS, 1720-1762, furnishes research clues for many genealogists tracing their pre-Revolutionary War ancestors and fascinating reading for social historians seeking accounts of colonial life in America.

     The 590-page book has soft covers, an introduction, a bibliography for further reading, a list of the newspapers consulted by the author, and a full name index. To the book's price of $49.95, 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 #8070) may be purchased by check, money order, MasterCard, or Visa from Clearfield 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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