Colonial Maryland was settled in large part by a process of headrights. The King encouraged settlers of means to transport servants (indentured servants) to Maryland by granting those settlers 50 acres for each person transported. The transported person then was obliged to serve on average 7 years in repayment for the passage to America. It was hard work on the cotton or tobacco plantations. The servant wasn’t allowed to marry, and should a woman have a child while indentured she had to work more years (for the child).
Fortunately, for the 21st Century genealogist there has been a notable body of scholarship and transcription of the records to make research in this area very accessible.
Indentured Servants in Maryland – Annotated Bibliography
- Colonial families of Maryland : bound and determined to succeed by Barnes, Robert William. The author has conducted extensive research on both indentured persons and transported convicts who settled in Maryland. Drawing on more than 100 primary sources and abstracts, he’s compiled genealogies and narratives for more than 100 families. Every name index.
White servitude in Maryland, 1634-1820 by McCormac, Eugene Irving. A tight and compact history of both indenture and convicts in Maryland is presented by this author. He explains how the endemic headrights system of land ownership and distribution, lent itself to an economy based on servitude. He introduces the subject of servant militia! While more a history than a genealogy reference, it is excellent socio-economic and historic background material.
“When drunk is very bold” White Maryland runaways 1763-1769 by Boyle, Joseph Lee. The author draws on 20 newspapers from five colonies to extract and abstract runaway notices for convicts and indentured servants. The ads are rather lengthy often including nativity, age, physical description, occupation, point of departure, and the owner’s name. Golden material to color and detail to an ancestor’s life. Every name index.
- “Drinks hard, and swears much” : white Maryland runaways, 1770-1774 by Boyle, Joseph Lee. The author continues the above work for the next four years mining 26 newspapers. Both books offer a very nice historical summary in the introduction. Every name index.
- Indentures, 1794-1808, Frederick County, Maryland, Liber RB 1 [from the] LDS Family History Library by Hageness, MariLee Beatty Hageness has abstracted wills for instances of indenture. Names, parents, ages, dates, trades to be learned, and term of service can be garnered.
- Bound to serve : the indentured children in Queen Anne’s County, Maryland, 1794-1851 by Trish Surles. Surles has abstracted indenture records from the Maryland State Archives. Names, ages, to whom bound, terms of the agreement, and occasionally parents are listed. Many are bound by the Trustees for the Poor of Queen Anne’s County. Black and white servants. Every name index.
- Bound to serve : the indentured children in Talbot County, Maryland, 1794-1920 by R. Bernice Leonard. Leonard has abstracted indenture records from the Maryland State Archives for Talbot County as Surles (above) has.
Orphans and indentured children of Baltimore County, Maryland, 1777-1797 by Peden, Henry C Peden has abstracted Orphan Court (court established to guard the interests of minors) and Indenture Book (Maryland State Archives) records. In his book the reader will find records of indentures where a child is “bound out to” an adult to learn a trade, and circumstances where a guardian was established to protect the interests of a minor. Names, dates, parents, occupations, locations can be found. Interestingly, he’s cross-referenced the names to avoid creating an index.
Children of Harford County, Maryland : indentures and guardianships, 1801-1830 by Peden, Henry C. See above description for Baltimore County.
- Children of Harford County, Maryland : indentures and guardianships, 1801-1830 by Peden, Henry C See above description for Baltimore County.
Indentures, 1794-1846, Allegany County, Maryland by Hageness, MariLee Beatty Hageness has abstracted Cumberland wills for instances of indenture. Names, parents, ages, dates, trades to be learned, and term of service can be garnered.
- Bastardy Cases in Baltimore County, Maryland 1673-1783 by Peden, Henry C. Getting married and having children as a servant was strictly forbidden. Therefore, it may not be a surprise that child bastards or illegitimate children were frequent, and the mothers prosecuted. Peden has documented and annotated with knowi information about the families in 865 court cases. Golden information to connect parent-child relationships, where birth records do not exist. Every name index.
And last but not least, The New Early Settlers of Maryland database on the Maryland Archives website, contains 34,326 entries of settlers arriving between 1634 and 1681 – most of whom were transported because of the headrights system of distributing land. In order to exercise the right to obtain the 50 acres of land promised for each immigrant transported the person transporting had to give the names of those whom he brought to Maryland. It is from these records that the database has been compiled.