Scotch-Irish-L ArchivesArchiver > Scotch-Irish > 2006-09 > 1158444306
From: "John Polk" <>
Subject: Re: [S-I] Possible Break-thru (Scotsh Irish) Contracts of Bondage
Date: Sat, 16 Sep 2006 18:5:6 -0400
Maryland has a very complete record of immigrants or "transportees"
arriving through 1682. This was due to the proprietary land system that was
based on headrights. To incentivise settlement each person or "head" coming
into the Province was given the right to 50 acres of land for which patent
could be granted by the Proprietary Land Office. For indentured servants
these rights were usually assigned to the entrepreneur who arranged for the
servant's transportation. Headrights could be issued to any individual
regardless of age, sex, or reason for arrival, i.e. infants, criminals and
slaves counted just like a wealthy merchant.
Whenever application was made to the Proprietor for survey and patent of a
new tract of land the first step was to obtain a warrant for a specific
number of acres. The warrant had to be "proved" by identifying the
particular individuals whose headrights were being used as the basis for
the patent. If it was to be used for a 200 acre tract, for example, then
four people would have to be identified. There was a great incentive
therefore to get every possible transportee listed for headrights.
Unfortunately this system only existed until 1682 when it was changed to
simply paying a fee for the desired number of acres - the monied interests
got their way then just like they do now, which was a great lost to
genealogists. The Scotch-Irish immigration to Somerset County, for example,
began with Revs. Francis Makemie and William Trail in 1683, just one year
too late to make the cut. They may be found in other records, but not in
the warrants. The land records are also very complete and if they surveyed
or patented land or were subsequently involved as buyers or sellers, as
Scotch-Irish were wont to do, their names will pop up.
All the original land surveys and patents exist and are available at the
Maryland State Archives. They are on microfilm but it is also possible to
examine the actual original documents, which is a rare and special pleasure
in the world of archives. The surveys refer back to the original warrants
and the names of the transportees are specifically cited. The Land Office
developed an index for all of these names so you don't have to read all
through all the patents libers to find a person of interest. More to the
point, Gust Skordas published "Early Settlers of Maryland" in 1968 in which
all of the names found in Maryland these records are compiled. This has
recently been updated, with many new additions and correction, by Dr.
Carson Gibb, and is now available on line at the MSA website with a search
Just enter a surname of interest and see what turns up. Be aware of course
that spelling of names was not standardized back then so you need to try
all the variants.
Havre de Grace, MD
> [Original Message]
> From: <>
> To: <>; <>
> Date: 9/16/2006 2:54:23 PM
> Subject: Re: [S-I] Possible Break-thru (Scotsh Irish) Contracts of Bondage
> Hi Jeff,
> > They got here to the USA, by signing CONTRACTS OF BONDAGE, ofcoarse I
> > no idea what this, can anyone explain? What is it, it sounds bad? Do I
> > need to find other emigration or passenger listings? Where do I find
> > contracts of bondage.
> They were indentured servants. There were a few ways to finance a trip to
> 1. Guest of the Crown . Commit a crime and get your death sentence
transmuted to exile for life in America.
> 2. Cash. Sell, in Ulster, long term lease, deploy legacy, etc. and pay
your way over. Clearly a sign of relative wealth.
> 3. You have a marketable skill. You find someone to pay your way over.
You work off the indenture with several years of servitude. Due to the
nature of the American labor market, most indentured servants came in
through the Middle Atlantic ports. The key here is marketable skill. This
could include gentleman's servant, blacksmith, cabinet maker. Unskilled
laborers were not in high demand at all, which kept the poorer people in
Ireland. Many people came this way. Except early on, they were not often
used in the American south except for school masters and such because
British field workers died faster than Africans. In the very early days,
many criminals died in servitude in Virginia, etc.
> 4. Sign on as a sailor and go awol (I've heard of it)
> 5. Get a job -- say as a merchant in your uncle's business.
> 6. Get swept up as a vagrant in a London house cleaning. The right to
round up vagrants and transport them to America and the West Indies where
they might serve some use was a monopoly awarded to friends of the Crown to
whom the Crown either owed favors or needed more money from.
> Of course at the time of the Famine and during the Highland clearances
your landlord might be so glad to get rid of you he paid your way.
> I think that's about it. You can learn more from "The Peopling of North
America" and Bailyn's other books on American immigration "Voyagers to the
West". More on these books in our archives.
> However children were indentured in America to learn trades . You find
those in court records but it doesn't indicate they were immigrants.
Frequently orphans were indentured out by the parish (in Virginia) until
they were of age so the parish didn't have to feed them and they ended up
with a trade. This included female children.
> The hi jacking of subjects became so common that eventually a law was
passed in England requiring that they sign papers saying that they were
going willingly. This produced records of servants leaving London, maybe
Bristol too (as I recall). Many of these English records were published by
Coldham in a series of books such as "Emigrants in Chains". These are fried
into CD, indexed in Filby, and so on Filby CDs and in the collection at
ancestry. Ie...a 2 minute search.
> However these kind of records do not exist for Irish servants that I am
> We have very few colonial immigration records. It's true you can surf for
days on the Internet, but they represent probably 5% or so of incomers. The
ones that do survive were published. They were then indexed in Filby. So
you can search for days on the Internet or do a 2 minute search of Filby at
ancestry, your local library, or on the Filby CD you bought. Your choice!
> Very few records survive of indentured or bonded servants. You should
determine where they were bonded at and then use the LDS catalog and local
research aids to determine if any court records survive for these in the
area. You can also search colonial newspapers for missing servants, run
aways and the like.
> Best of luck!
> Linda Merle
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--- John Polk
--- Havre de Grace MD