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Friday, July 19, 2019

Forced Immigration to Colonial Virginia and Maryland: The Indentured Servitude of Children Part 3


George Brassfield – Cheshire County, England to Essex County, Virginia
Georgius Brasfeild [sic], son of Thomas, was baptized at the Parish of Macclesfield, Cheshire County, England on 17 June 1688 in St. Michael’s Church.[1]  The Brassfield families in the records of the Cheshire Records Office are few and most likely interconnected.[2] Researchers feel George’s mother was a woman named Abigail, who married Thomas.[3] 

Images: Photograph. St. Michael's Church and side of Town Hall. 15 Jan 2005. Peter Hitchmough. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Macc_StMichaels.jpg


Abigail, the wife of Thomas Brassfield, was buried in 1696.[4] One theory Brassfield researchers have is that Thomas was unable to care for George and any other children from this marriage. Perhaps that led to George’s servitude in Virginia.

George Brassfield sailed from Liverpool to Virginia on 19 October 1698 onboard the Loyalty.[5] George was to serve 11 years, [6] allowing us to estimate his age at approximately 11 years old as most children were freed on their 21st birthday.

The records of the Corporation of Liverpool verified George was on a list of 37 servants to go to Virginia.[7] From 1697 to 1698 the Corporation of Liverpool record showed 1,300 individuals sent to Virginia.[8]

Bernard Gaines, a prominent planter and judge in Essex County, Virginia became George’s master. In the court case to legalize the indenture, the court of Essex County determined George to be nine years of age.[9] If George was 11, based on the passenger list and baptism record, this meant Bernard Gaines potentially added two more years to his servitude. On 12 February 1703, Bernard Gaines was granted 400 acres for paying the passage of eight persons, one of whom was George, to Virginia.[10]

We do not see George in the records again until 16 May 1721. On this date, he purchased 300 acres of land from Richard and Anne Carver in Essex County, Virginia.[11]  The purchase price was 1,500 pounds of tobacco,[12] an incredible amount of money at the time. How he came into such a large quantity of tobacco is unknown.  Researchers feel he learned how to farm tobacco working on the Gaines plantation.  Tobacco was the cash crop for the Virginia Colony, and this knowledge could make anyone willing to put in the large amount of labour it required a very wealthy person.

The land he purchased later became part of Caroline County, Virginia. This county had a significant loss in bound and loose court records due to the Civil War.[13] Due to the loss, researchers are unable to trace the land George held for the next century. Also, without probate records, we do not know when he died.

Brassfield researchers feel that he had two sons, George and Michael.[14]  These men relocated to North Carolina and their descendants spread across the United States.   According to James Horn, Historian of Indentured Servitude Research at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, all Brassfields in the United States are descended from this man.

But.... something does not add up.


County Formation Timeline

Boundary of Essex County, Virginia (circled and highlighted) from 30 April 1721 - 29 April 1728. Image: Digital. Newberry Library. Atlas of Historical County Boundaries. http://publications.newberry.org/ahcbp/map/map.html#VA 

As the land was settled, and the population grew, the large counties originally formed in the Virginia Colony were carved into smaller ones.  For the purposes of this case study it is important to understand how the land changed around those living there.  Particularly as record loss in Virginia is a concern.  The land George Brassfield was indentured on, as well as lived and died on, changed names several times over his lifetime.  He landed in Essex County and it was presumed he died in Caroline County, however, he only moved a few miles at any given time that we can tell.  Data taken from Virginia: Consolidated Chronology of State and County Boundaries by the Newberry Library.[1]




Research Discoveries

As mentioned in this article the genealogy of George Brassfield was part of the Reba McEntire episode of the American version of Who Do You Think You Are? in 2012.  I, however, knew about him for several years before that as the potential immigrant ancestor for my own Brassfield line.

In 1959 Annabelle and Edward McAllister wrote Brasfield-Brassfield Genealogies which is considered the authority on the history of this family within the United States.  Further research was conducted over the next few decades culminating in the website Brasfield-Brassfield Genealogies maintained by Michael D. Brasfield.[1]   When the website became too cumbersome, he moved the whole tree to Ancestry[2] where he also manages two message boards[3] on the subject.  As for my research, everyone pointed back to these sources as the de facto authority on the subject. 

The researcher in me was not satisfied with using someone else’s research 100% of the time.  Over the years I have researched this line one and off, collecting records as I found them and entering them into my database.  This research project seemed like an opportunity to dust off my research.  Unfortunately, the more documents I uncovered, the more questions I had.

Primarily, I questioned the assumption that George Brassfield was the only George Brassfield transported to the Virginia Colony.  Second, I wondered why Bernard Gaines applied for his headright acreage three years after he purchased George’s indenture. An action typically completed within months of purchase.

Research into Cavaliers and Pioneers: Abstracts of Virginia Land Patents by Nugent[4] further reinforced my scepticism that George was the only one brought to the Virginia Colony.  There were two abstracts which also claimed headrights on persons named George Brassfield.

  • Thomas Merriwether received 364 acres in Essex County, Virginia on 20 October 1704 for transporting eight people (one was a Geo. Brasfeild).
  • John Jones received 75 acres in St. Pauls’ Parish, New Kent County, Virginia on 11 July 1719 for importing two persons (one was a George Brasfield).

As for Bernard Gaines, a correction came via Carol Brassfield.  Mrs. Brassfield lives in England and runs the Brassfield one-name study which she started for her late husband.  Carol stated in an email to me[5] that Bernard was not George’s first owner.  A man named Carver held his indenture first and then sold him to Gaines.  Unfortunately, I was not able to locate this information myself, and she did not send me the documents to show this before the paper was submitted.  Even if Bernard was his second owner, why did he apply for the headright?  Was this a case of gaming the system?  I found no acreage given to a man named Carver in Cavaliers and Pioneers.

These questions need further research and analysis. As it stands now, I only feel comfortable stating a person named George Brassfield was on The Loyalty in 1698.  He was most likely a 10-11-year-old boy based on the number of years he was slated to serve. Beyond that, researchers must locate new records to determine how many George's where in Virginia during the early 1700s. 

So, do you think James Horn may come to regret that statement on national television during his big reveal to Reba McEntire? Only time and more research will tell.


[1] Brasfield, Michael. (21017) Brassfield-Brasfield Genealogieshttp://brasfield.net/ : accessed 1 April 2018.
[2] Brasfield, Michael. Online Ancestry Family Tree.
[3] Brasfield, Michael. Brassfield-Brasfield Ancestry Message Board.
[4] Nugent, Nell Marion. (2004) Cavaliers and Pioneers: Abstracts of Virginia Land Patents Volume III 1666 – 1695.  Richmond: The Library of Virginia.
[5] Brassfield, Carol. Op. Cit.

[1] Newberry Library. (2006) Virginia: Consolidated Chronology of State and County Boundaries. Virginia Atlas of Historical County Boundaries. http://publications.newberry.org/ahcbp/documents/VA_Consolidated_Chronology.htm#Consolidated_Chronology : accessed  1 April 2018.


[1] Baptisms (OPR) England. St. Michael’s Church, Parish of Macclesfield, Cheshire County. 17 June 1688. BRASFEILD, George. http://cprdb.csc.liv.ac.uk/ : 15 March 2018.
[2] Brassfield, Carol. (2018) RE: Contact from the Guild Website regarding your Brassfield study. Email to Shannon Combs-Bennett, 6 April, 17:34.
[3] Who Do You Think You Are? (2012) Reba McEntire. Television Program. National Broadcasting Company (NBC), New York City, 12 March.
[4] Ibid.
[5] New England Historic and Genealogical Society. (1913) List of Emigrants to America From Liverpool 1697 – 1707. Boston: New England Historic and Genealogical Society. https://archive.org/details/listofemigrantst00bost : accessed 15 March 2018.
[6] Ibid.
[7] McAllister, Annabelle C. and McAllister, Edward N. (1959) Brasfield-Brassfield Genealogies. Ann Arbor, Michigan: Edward Brothers, Inc.
[8] Ibid.
[9] Who Do You Think You Are? Op. Cit.
[10] McAllister. Op. Cit. Who Do You Think You Are? Op. Cit.
[11] Dorman, John Frederick. (1959) Essex County, Virginia Records, 1717 – 1722. Deeds, Etc., No. 16, 1718 – 1721. Wills, Inventories and Settlements of Estates No. 3, 1717 – 1722. Deed Book 16. p. 259 Washington, D.C.: Dorman.
[12] Ibid.
[13] Library of Virginia. (2017) Lost Records Localities: Counties and Cities with Missing Records. Research Notes Number 30. https://www.lva.virginia.gov/public/guides/rn30_lostrecords.pdf : accessed 20 March 2018.
[14] McAllister. Op. Cit.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Forced Immigration to Colonial Virginia and Maryland: The Indentured Servitude of Children Part 2


Historical Background 

Jamestown was founded in 1607 and was the first permanent English colony in North America. From the beginning of the Virginia Colony venture, there was a need for people to settle and work the land. The constant threat of death from starvation, disease, or Indian attack meant the population was always in decline.


 Archaeological dig within the walls of the original Jamestown fort. The image was taken by the author, April 2014.



In 1617 the Lord Mayor of London was asked by the Virginia Company to send poor children to the colony. Under the terms reached, these children were to be apprenticed in Virginia until the age of 21 and then given 50 acres of land for their use.[1] The Virginia company asked for 100 children in 1619 and again in 1622 under the same terms due to loss of colonists from the 1622 Indian massacre.[2] As the need for settlers, and people to work the land, grew kidnapping became the easiest way to meet the needs of the colonies.

A "Kidnapper" was slang of the period for "one that Decoys or Spirts Children away and sold them for the Plantations."[3] A Letter from King James I to Sir Thomas Smythe, Governor of the East India Company dated 13 January 1618 permitted Sir Smythe to collect "idle young people having no employment" and send them to work in Virginia.[4] This directive made unscrupulous men bolder in whom they took from the streets and ports.

Persons who paid for the transportation of another, with or without an indenture, were rewarded with land.  In both Maryland and Virginia, a person who paid the passage for another person was given 50 acres of land for each person, called a “headright.[5] In addition to the land, an Indentured person was considered the property of the person who held their indenture.  If the person who paid for the transportation died, the indenture was inherited or sold to another person.[6]


Sir Thomas Smythe. 
Images: Woodcut. Sir Thomas Smythe. (1558-1624 ) NPG D26047, National Portrait Gallery, London. https://www.npg.org.uk


 In extant Court Order Books from Maryland and Virginia, 124 ships were identified as transporting unindentured children to the American colonies.[7] Manifests and records from these ships give researchers information on departure and port of call information. From that data, the possible origins of these children can be surmised, and, in some cases, who took them.

Cromwell’s invasion of Ireland saw Irish children kidnapped and sent to America. In September 1653 the Council of State sent 400 Irish children to New England and Virginia. Another 1,000 Irish girls “of 14 years or under” were shipped to Jamaica in October 1655.[8]  These events lead to a general law allowing kidnapping of idle children dated 1659.[9]

The following chart shows numbers of children sent to the colonies without Indentures taken from extant court records in Virginia and Maryland. In the documents, the child identified themselves as spirited or kidnapped, or another person brought them forward and stated such. When compared to dates, the laws were passed, allowing the kidnapping of children, a spike in numbers is noticeable.

Number of Children Sent to Colonies Without Indentures[10]
Year
Number
Year
Number
Year
Number
Year
Number
1657
0
1673
105
1689
41
1705
25
1658
2
1674
161
1690
20
1706
41
1659
5
1675
194
1691
24
1707
14
1660
33
1676
226
1692
53
1708
34
1661
44
1677
146
1693
53
1709
7
1662
61
1678
175
1694
65
1710
34
1663
76
1679
215
1695
36
1711
8
1664
102
1680
140
1696
61
1712
17
1665
82
1681
76
1697
67
1713
8
1666
9
1682
106
1698
235
1714
18
1667
84
1683
63
1699
677
1715
10
1668
138
1684
52
1700
204
1716
5
1669
158
1685
150
1701
105
1717
8
1670
128
1686
145
1702
49
1718
25
1671
68
1687
74
1703
38
1719
45
1672
95
1688
58
1704
21
1720
16

Children who arrived with "irregular" indentures went before the court of the colony when they arrived. The indentures needed to be verified, or created, for the service to be legal. The court then set the time for the length of indenture, even if the child stated they did not willingly come to the colony.[11] Often the ages for younger children were adjusted on the boat, at purchase, or at court to show them to be younger than they were.[12] That practice resulted in many younger children serving longer terms.

Known Ages of Persons Without Indentures from Court Records[13]
Age
Number
Age
Number
Age
Number
1
1
10
198
19
125
2
0
11
253
20
141
3
3
12
439
21
73
4
4
13
528
22
38
5
4
14
623
23
3
6
13
15
546
24
6
7
23
16
506
25
2
8
41
17
416
26
0
9
98
18
335
27
0

The numbers of African and Indian children imported as slaves did not outnumber those of white children until the early 1700s.[14] Some researchers feel this trend was because it was harder for African and Indian children to run away. White children who ran away could easily blend into society since they knew the customs and spoke the language.  Virginia added two days of additional servitude, and Maryland added ten days of additional servitude for each day a runaway child was missing.[15] Despite the penalty, children often ran away since it only took one successful escape to be free.


Virginia Gazette. (1736) Advertisements. Virginia Gazette. 12 November. Collection: Virtual Jamestown. http://www2.vcdh.virginia.edu/gos/imagesAds/v1288.jpg : accessed 6 April 2018.


 
Indentured servitude in the American colonies declined sharply with the increase of slaves from the Caribbean and Africa.  These people were a significant portion of the population who founded the United States, and their labour built the colonies.  Many families who trace their genealogy to the colonial era can claim one, if not more, of their immigrant ancestors among those who were indentured.


[1] Mason, Mary Ann. Op. Cit.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Bodleian Library. (2010) The first Dictionary of English Slang, BE Gent c. 1699. Bodleian Library: University of Oxford.
[4] Phillips, Richard Hayes. Without Indentures. Op. Cit.
[5] Library of Virginia. (2018) Headrights (VA-Notes). Guides. http://www.lva.virginia.gov/public/guides/va4_headrights.htm : accessed 8 March 2018. 
[6] Stratford Hall. Indentured Servants.  Stratford Hall: Home of the Lees of Virginia. http://www.stratfordhall.org : accessed 8 March 2018. 
[7] Phillips, Richard Hayes. (2015) White Slave Children of Colonial Maryland and Virginia: Birth and Shipping Records. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company.
[8] Phillips, Richard Hayes. Without Indentures. Op. Cit.
[9] Henings, William Waller. (1819-1823) Statutes at Large: Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia from the First Session of the Legislature in the Year 1619. 13 Volumes. http://vagenweb.org/hening/ : accessed 15 March 2018.
[10] Henings, William Waller. (1819-1823) Statutes at Large: Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia from the First Session of the Legislature in the Year 1619. 13 Volumes. http://vagenweb.org/hening/ : accessed 15 March 2018.
[11] Mason, Mary Ann. Op. Cit.
[12] Phillips, Richard Hayes. Without Indentures. Op. Cit.
[13] Ibid.
[14] Ibid.
[15] Ibid.