I suspect my great-grandmother may have arrived in South Carolina as an indentured servant early in the 19th century. I believe she was of Scotch/Irish origin. Any ideas where I might find evidence of her arrival and servitude?

I should have written that the person, whose name was Sarah Beckham, was my 3rd great grandmother. That she was of Scotch/Irish origin comes to me as undocumented oral history from another of her descendants and there is no information about when or from where she came. I have been unable to find her in any census or immigration records available through ancestry.com. The one solid piece of information I have is a newspaper report of her death in Camden, SC in 1894 at age 98. The possibility that she had been indentured is a wild guess on my part. I do know that she had a least two daughters, who used the surname Johnson. One of these was my 2nd great grandmother. There is strong evidence that their father was a black man. If Sarah was in an illicit interracial relationship she would have had ample reason to keep a low profile and avoid all contact with officialdom, including the federal marshals and their deputies who were the 19th century census takers.

  • 2
    Without a bit more detail- names, approx dates, etc. it is hard to know where to suggest you begin. The more detailed you question the better we can help. Commented Feb 10, 2013 at 6:04
  • 2
    Also, please include details about work you have already undertaken to find the solution to your question. Such information will keep people from treading on paths you have already been down...
    – fbrereto
    Commented Feb 10, 2013 at 8:24
  • 1
    I'd really like to help work on this one. A little more information, including how you identify her and how you discovered that identity, as far as you know it, would help us get a running start.
    – GeneJ
    Commented Feb 10, 2013 at 15:27

1 Answer 1


An indentured servant was a person, usually from England or Germany, who paid for their passage to the colonies by agreeing to be 'bound' into servitude for a period of time.

Most of the time this was a voluntary act of the individual, but there were occasions of kidnap and penal transportation. These occasions were often referred to as 'white slavery'.

According to this page on indentured servitude in Pennsylvania on en.wikipedia.org:

Once both parties agreed to a set of terms, the servant had to be "bound" before a magistrate or high official in Britain. Servants over twenty-one had to testify that the contract was voluntary; servants also had to testify that they had no obligations to other persons... Those under the age of twenty-one needed the consent of even higher officials, as well as the approval of his/her guardians.

Source for this section of the page - Smith, Colonists in Bondage, 78–79.

Therefore, it may be possible, if you can find out from what area of Scotland or Ireland your Great Grandmother was from, to gain access to the magistrate court register.

There is also this database of immigrant servents from pricegen.com.

They claim to have records of over 10,000 indentured servants from between 1607-1820. I seems most of the citations for their information comes from the FHL in Salt Lake City, Utah.

If you know any of her details, name, DOB, etc.., you could try your luck on there.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.