Honestly, I would have never thought to look for indentured servant records on a site called “Virtual Jamestown.” Further, assuming there were indentured servants at Jamestown, I wouldn’t think there would be much on this site for me had my pedigree not traced back to this famed location.
Just shows you how wrong I can be!
When listening to a lecture on indentured servants the speaker pointed his audience to this site. So, I went, and look what I found.
Virtual Jamestown and The Indentured Servant Records
The Virtual Jamestown site is exactly as its name implies, a website about Jamestown. It’s a must see website for Jamestown descendants. It contains a collection of maps, imagery, databases, scholarly articles, and transcribed and/or uploaded manuscripts. If your family is from Jamestown, it’s well worth your while to check this out.
If you’re not a descendant of Jamestown Pioneers, check it out anyway. The Virtual Jamestown website contains records abstracted from “County Deeds, Orders and Wills from York County, Virginia,” which include:
- Indentures 1685 – 1730
- Runaway Slaves & Servants 1645-1734
- Trade (buying and selling) of Servants 1688 – 1707
- Freedom Suits of Slaves & Servants 1685 -1715
- Labor Complaints 1685 – 1712
But, wait! There’s more.
The Geography of Slavery
There is a corollary website, The Geography of Slavery, where again the name is a bit of a misnomer. Quoting from the site, “The Geography of Slavery project contains more than 4,000 advertisements for runaway slaves and indentured servants, drawn from newspapers in Virginia and Maryland, covering the years from 1736 through 1803.”
When you dig a little deeper, you find that the information is not limited to Virginia and Maryland. The ads may have been placed in Virginia and Maryland newspapers, but the servants & slaves were from all over. The ads are both scanned and uploaded and transcribed.
Here’s an example:
RAN away, on the 17th of September last; from Mr. John Corries, of Piscataway, in Essex County, an English Servant Woman, named Anne Harmon, aged about 20, of a middle Stature, well featur’d, and has black Hair and Eyes: She had on, when she went away, a Cotton Gown and Petticoat, strip’d with red and Blue; and an English Straw Hat, lin’d with White Callico. There were stolen about the Time she went away, Eleven Yards of Fine Scotch Plad, 4 Dozen of Scotch Handkerchiefs, several Holland Shirts and Aprons, Three Pair of fine Worsted Stockings, and several Caps, lac’d and plain. And about 10 Days before, were stolen out of the Store, Eleven Dozen of Scotch Handkerchiefs, 1 Piece of fine Plad, some Nuns Thread, 4 Dozen of Cravats, and 2 Felt Hats: All which she is suspected to have stolen, or been accessory to it. These are therefore to request all Persons to aid and assist in apprehending the said Servant, and bringing her to Justice; and, for so doing, they shall be handsomely rewarded, besides what the Law allows, by John Corries.
If one of our goals as genealogists is to find the stories that give color and meaning to our ancestors’ lives, a runaway ad for a servant girl is a pretty darn good source.
Even if your ancestors don’t hail from servant or slave communities – are you sure they don’t? – I would encourage you to spend a few minutes on the site. It’s a fascinating chapter in our cumulative American History.