Q: How do you find records on indentured servants? I have no idea what the name of the ship was. All I know is that John and William Nolan went on a ship somewhere in Ireland to sell boiled eggs and stowed away until the ship left port and then a tanner paid for their fare. Any help would be appreciated.
A: An indentured servant was a person headed to colonial America who contracted or was “bound,” before departure, to a property owner in order to work as a servant for a specified time (average seven years), usually in exchange for ship’s passage and for minimal shelter, food and clothing. A “redemptioner” was another type of indentured servant who had not contracted before departure, but whose servant contract was sold by the ship’s captain if he or she could not repay passage within a designated period (such as two weeks) after arrival in colonial America.
There are several published works that list arrivals of colonial indentured servants and redemptioners, such as Peter Wilson Coldham’s The Complete Book of Emigrants in Bondage, 1614-1775 and Emigrants in Chains, 1607-1776. Another would be Frances McDonnell’s Emigrants from Ireland to America, 1735-1743. Indentures were often recorded in official records of towns and county courthouses. There may be a separate volume for indentures, apprentices, and servants, or these records might be included within deed books.