What does Indenture really mean?

Over the past several days, I have been talking about Capt. John Worthington (1650-1701) and have used the term Indentured Servant a number of times.

I went to the Maryland State Archives website and did a search for Indentured Servant. Knowing that I might find some results with either one of those two words, as I didn’t put them in quotes.

I found a result that had “John Worthington” and “indenture” in it. Reading the article, that was already transcribed AND the Image a click away, it had some information that fit with other information I already had. BUT, I couldn’t understand what it was really saying. I know it was a Legal Document and that it had something to do with a Land Record.

So, what do I do, I send an email to +Judy G. Russell, CG, CGL, The Legal Genealogist, to get some clarification on what I was looking at.

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Stepping back a minute, I had done research on that Indentured Servant topic before and found a Wikipedia Article on the topic.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indentured_servant

Oh, I am looking for a record like the one on the WikiPedia webpage for Capt. John.

That web page is what was in my mind when I read this article from the Archives and tried to share my question with The Legal Genealogist. I was expecting the usual “it depends” answer. Not this time.

Ahhh. No, the word had other meanings, and in particular:

In old conveyancing, if a deed was made by more parties than one, it was usual to make as many copies of it as there were parties, and each was cut or indented (either in acute angles, like the teeth of a saw, or in a waving line) at the top or side, to tally or correspond with the others, and the deed so made was called an “indenture.” Anciently, both parts were written on the same piece of parchment, with some word or letters written between them through which the parchment was cut, but afterwards, the word or letters being omitted, indenting came into use, the idea of which was that the genuineness of each part might be proved by its fitting into the angles cut in the other. But at length even this was discontinued, and at present the term serves only to give name to the species of deed executed by two or more parties…

Henry Campbell Black, A Dictionary of Law (St. Paul, Minn. : West, 1891), 614, “indent.”

The article that I found, isn’t what I was looking for, but I have added a few new names to my Capt. John FAN club (Friends or Family, And, Neighbors). One of the names I had seen before, the other two I hadn’t. One in England the other in Maryland.

AND it puts Capt. John still in England in 1676 or 1677, about where I expected to find him there, “of Manchester in the County of Lancaster in the Kingdome of England” and the property “neere” Ashton.

Lesson Learned: I need to keep remembering to put the terms that I might find in a document into historical context and don’t forget the Law at the time and place.

I just find it very interesting that a 17 year old lad, would be part of a Land Transaction.

My sincere thanks to Judy G. Russell for her awesome responses to my questions. And she was so kind to allow my to share this with you. Thank you!!!

Manchester_England

Manchester is where it is reported that he lived, Ashton-under-Lyne (current name) is where the property was, and Failsworth is where there is another reference to Capt. John and other Worthington’s. A whole book has been about that Worthington family.

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