Project: British Indentured Servitude

Categories: United Kingdom Project | British Projects | British Indentured Servitude Project

Welcome to
British Indentured Servitude Project

The British Indentured Servant Project gives recognition to our ancestors who were either by choice or by force bound to servitude (indenture) to work for a fixed period of time by adding their profiles to WikiTree.

Remembering the Sacrifices:

For many years, indentured servants were a forgotten part of American history. We are now beginning to understand and remember the sacrifices and triumphs of our indentured servant ancestors and the Making of America.

Proudly claim your Indentured Servitude heritage!!

* This Project is a sub-project of the UK Project.
* The Leaders are Maria Maxwell
* The project Coordinator is Grace McChesney.


Who Were They?

An indentured servant is someone who agreed (or was forced) to serve as a servant for a given amount of time in America in exchange for free passage to the Americas. According to Nathan Murphy’s lecture (see Noted Sources below this text), 3 out of 4 immigrants to colonial America were indentured servants.

From England, the major ports of departure were London, Bristol and Liverpool, with most going to Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Barbados.

A study of London records concluded that the top 3 reasons for choosing indentured servitude were: 1) fatherless (no inheritance), 2) friendless (no social contacts to obtain work), and 3) released from prison.

Not all were voluntary servants. Some were “Redemptioners.” These were more common amongst German colonists. Redemptioners were people who agreed to pay passage upon arrival (perhaps family in America had already paid). If they couldn’t come up with money, they were sold as indentured servants. Others may have been convicts who were exiled from the home country for crimes.

Like Redemptioners, some children were forced into Indentured Servitude. At this time child snatching was common practice because they were easy prey. The children often would be charged with trumped up crimes, and transported to the American Colonies, the "Spirits" (recruiting agents) making money on each child deported.

Indentured Servant Contracts
Indentured servants signed a contract (also known as an indenture or a covenant) by which they agreed to work for a certain number of years in exchange for transportation to British Colonies. Some of the conditions of the contract included:

  1. Once they arrived, they were to receive food, clothing, and shelter from the owner of the contract.
  2. Length of servitude: Adults usually served for four to seven years and children sometimes for much longer.
  3. If they violated the law or disobeyed the owner of the contract, their owner could add years on to the contract.
  4. If they ran away or became pregnant their terms could be extended.
  5. The owner of the contract retained the right to prohibit their servants from marrying.
  6. The owner of the contract could sell them at any time without their consent.
  7. Contracts might include education, but in most cases it did not.
  8. After their servitude expired, they were freed and allowed to buy land.
  9. Their children did not inherit the status of servitude.

Some contract records still survive in England, with the largest having been published on Filby's Passenger and Immigration Lists Index. See also National Archives and Records Administration. Other potential sources are the Immigrant Servants Database, and a surprisingly good site is Virtual Jamestown. See also Love to Know Indentured Servants Records.

Noted Sources:

  • Nathan Murphy MA, AG, of FamilySearch International. “My Ancestor Came to Colonial America as an Indentured Servant,” National Genealogical Society Conference held in Richmond, Virginia.
  • Skelton, Douglas. Indian Peter: The Extraordinary Life and Adventures of Peter Williamson.
  • Encyclopedia Virginia Indentured Servants in Colonial Virginia Contributed by Brendan Wolfe and Martha McCartney

How to Join the Project

  1. Add the line [[Category: British Indentured Servitude Project]] to the top of the text area of your profile page.
    This will add your profile to the list of participants on the Category page.

  2. Ask one of the UK project leaders Maria to award you the project badge.

  3. Add united_kingdom and British_Indentured_Servitude to to your list of followed tags. That way you'll see all our discussions in your G2G Feed.

Project Badge

Since this project is under the United Kindom Project Category, the badge is as follows: united_kingdom.gif


Resources and Graphics Available for You

Where do I find records genealogical records about them? The project maintains a Resource page for internet research links and for graphics you can add to profiles and to enhance your profile pages.

Other Activities Related to this Project:

  1. Join our Google+ discussion group.
  2. Check out the To-Do list below to find something to help us work on, and add yourself (or ask one of us to) to that task.


To Do List For each Profile:

  1. Check for duplicates. All duplicates merged into lowest number
  2. Pertaining categories added (How to Join #1 above)
  3. Biography cleaned up and written, using the WikiTree Style Guide (can work with |Profile Improvement Project -- Steps toward Improved Profiles for help)
  4. Attached family meets these goals, too
  5. Attached to the main WikiTree family tree

This page was last modified 10:47, 1 August 2019. This page has been accessed 5,547 times.