It’s easy for me to become tunnel-visioned and only look at American resources when doing immigrant research. I’m in America, they came to America, what better place to look for records of an immigration than in America?
The broader-minded researcher will soon realize that records of an immigrant’s travels will often exist on both sides (beginning and end) of the immigration trail. A record is often made of a departure as well as an arrival. Further, the ancestor created records throughout his life in his first home, that are very helpful.
For those interested in English records for indentured servants, there are great resources to tap..
Emigrant Records for Indentured Servants
Peter Wilson Coldham (1926-2012) was a pre-eminent British genealogist. Prior to his retirement he worked at the British Public Records Office, now the National Archives. In his work at the Public Records Office, he found many references to American Colonists among the records. He has published more than 26 books and numerous scholarly articles on the subject of indenture and British migration to America.
Drawing on his research and access to the records at the British Public Records Office, he has published the following authoritative books. Most of these are published in the 20th Century, which means they are not out of copyright and will not be accessible online. That said, check your local library, and if they don’t have it, inquire about WorldCat – an inter-library loan program that can bring a book from far away as close as your neighborhood library.
- The Complete Book of Emigrants, 1607-1660 This comprehensive four – volume work calls on about 20 prior works, including some of the author’s own, British Public Office Records, and Plantation Apprentice Bindings to be a “complete book” on emigrants from England. Coldham does include some transportation orders among his sources, implying convict records will be included as well as indenture and paid passengers. Organized by calendar date, the reader can find their ancestor by searching the calendar or using the every-name index for each book. see also:
- The Complete Book of Emigrants, 1661-1699
- The Complete Book of Emigrants, 1700-1750
- The Complete Book of Emigrants, 1751-1776
- Child Apprentices in America from Christ’s Hospital, London, 1617-1778 The hospital, est. 1553, was really an orphanage for children made homeless. The admitted children as young as four years old. And upon departure to a family, university or apprenticeship to America, the admissions register was annotated with the disposition of the child’s departure. This book abstracts those records where the child came to America. Record includes name, date of admission & departure, parents when known, and destination. Every name and a ship index.
- The Bristol Registers of Servants Sent to Foreign Plantations, 1654-1686. On September 29, 1654, the Council of the City of Bristol enacted an ordinance requiring the recording of all indentured servants bound for America. The goal was to control illegal trafficking. As a result, Coldham has transcribed the records for a compilation of 10,000 emigrants bound from Bristol, primarily from the West Country, the West Midlands, and Wales with some from Lancashire, Scotland, Ireland and France. Includes name, date of departure, destination, term of service and to whom the servant is indebted. Every name index.
- Emigrants from England to the American Colonies, 1773-1776 Coldham has re-transcribed the port registers previously complied by M. Ghirelli. for the port of London only. In doing so, he corrected errors, supplemented data and broadened the scope to include more ports. While not focused exclusively on indentured servants, it does offer an every name list of all emigrants with their occupation. Servants are called out by the occupation name of the same. About 6-7,000 names from about a dozen ports. Chronological order, organized by ship with destination included. Every name index.
- Lord Mayor’s Court in London: Dispositions relating to Americans 1641 -1735 A more broadly reaching collection of records than one focusing just on indenture, this compilation abstracts all manner of depositions in front of the Court of London. Included are indentures, but also, merchant disputes and land grants. Coldham attests that this is the first publication of these heretofore unknown documents. Every name index.
Other Work and Author of Note
- Emigrants from England to America by Michael Ghirelli. Ghirelli was the first to transcribe the names from manuscript volumes in the Record Office of the City of London, known as the “Lord Mayor’s Waiting Books,” reflecting emigrants departing from London, 1682 – 1692. The overwhelming majority of the entries are for indentured servants. Interestingly, often the name and sometimes the occupation of the parent is listed along with destination and term of service. Alphabetical order.
No doubt the British kept records of departures, because in part they were concerned about the depletion of the English population. No matter what the reason, we, genealogists, are most grateful for the access to the data for this most fascinating of periods in American – and British – history.