Friday, October 22, 2004

Average Time of Indenturship

Today I had to find out approximately how long one could expect an ancestor to work as an indentured servant. I had heard an average of 7 years, but could I find a source for that information? Anthing that explained it in more detail? I did a quick and dirty search of my reference books and found nothing, so I turned to the web. I googled the word and found a helpful defintion on a Houghton-Mifflin site, "The Great American History Fact Finder" Here is the definition given there:

" a person who worked without wages, usually for a period of five to seven years, in exchange for payment of the person's passage to the American colonies. The contract, called an "indenture," entitled the servant to food, clothing, shelter, and medical attention. Devised by the Virginia Company in the late 1610s, the system provided cheap labor. It is estimated that one-half to two-thirds of all European immigrants to the colonies participated in the system, some voluntarily, some as victims of penal servitude. The practice disappeared after 1800."

An entry at Wikipedia / The Free makes this note, indicating an indenturship of ten years was not uncommon.

"Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons".