Every parent has the fear that their child might disappear. And I can tell you that grandparents also have the same fear. As a grandparent of 3 small children, when they are under my care, I watch them like the proverbial hawk.

Believe it or not, based on an English law passed in 1659, minor children could be kidnapped by justices of the peace if they happened to be begging, or just seemed to be vagrant. These children were shipped to the plantations as servants without indentures. According to the author of “Without Indentures: Index to White Slave Children in Colonial Court Records (Maryland and Viginia),” the younger the child, the longer the sentence, and the county courts were the judges of their ages. The judges decided their age – and many of the kids were placed in servitude to the very judges who sentenced them.

Over 5000 children were picked up in Ireland, Scotland, England and New England, and shipped to Virginia and Maryland between 1660 to 1720. The names of these kids, their assigned age, the owner, and the date they appeared in court are found in Richard Phillips brand new book, “Without Indentures: Index to White Slave Children in Colonial Court Records (Maryland and Virginia).” The book also contains an index to ships and their captains that imported the children. A surname index is included.

Without-Indentures

If you are wondering if your surnames of interest are included in the book, email me with the surname in the subject line of the email. Please – just the surname, no more. I will reply with just one word – yes or no. Send index checking requests to me at Lmeitzler@gmail.com .

I got really excited about the volume when, on page, 88, I found an entry for Charles County, Maryland that reads thus: Cornute, Hendrick, 14 June 1670, age 20, John Okeane. I’ve got to wonder, is this possibly a progenitor, sibling or cousin pertaining to my Cornute/Cornett family line? This Cornute is on of the earliest I’ve seen in America. This is a lead I didn’t have before.

Exacting information is given in the book as to where to locate digitized, microfilmed and in some cases original copies of the County Court books from where to the information for this book was taken. Now I can take the next step and view the original document. In my Cornute case mentioned above, the data is actually digitizing and available online!

The following is from the table of contents:

  • Preface
  • Guide to the Records
  • Guide to the Indexes
  • Northampton County, VA
  • Accomack County, VA
  • Somerset County, MD
  • Talbot County, MD
  • Queen Anne’s County, MD
  • Kent County, MD
  • Cecil and Dorchester Counties, MD
  • Baltimore County, MD
  • Anne Arundel County, MD
  • Prince George’s County, MD
  • Charles County, MD
  • Stafford County, VA
  • Westmoreland County, VA
  • Northumberland County, VA
  • Lancaster County, VA
  • Old Rappahannock County, VA
  • Richmond County, VA
  • Essex County, VA
  • Middlesex County, VA
  • York County, VA
  • Charles City County, VA
  • Henrico County, VA
  • Surry County, VA
  • Isle of Wight County, VA
  • Norfolk County, VA
  • Princess Anne County, VA
  • Index to Ship Captains
  • Index to Ship Arrivals
  • Surname Index
  • Appendix: Jacobite Rebels
  • I recommend this book to anyone researching early colonial American relatives, especially for those with New England, Maryland and Virginia ancestry.

    Without Indentures: Index to White Slave Children in Colonial Court Records (Maryland and Virginia); by Richard Hayes Phillips, Ph.D.; Baltimore MD; 2013; 320 pp, 5.5×8.5; Item #:GPC4606 $29.35.