More German Redemptioners in Pennsylvania

Awhile back I wrote an introductory blog post on German Redemptioners – a unique twist on the indentured servant immigration model.  And as with all of my favorite research subjects, I’m constantly on the lookout for new sources.

I just found a book published in 1994 – so it isn’t “new” on the market, but “new” to me – on German Redemptioners.  The book is German Immigrant Servant Contracts  Registered at the Port of Philadelphia 1817-1831 by Farley Grubb and published by Genealogical Publishing Company.

You may notice immediately from the title that this book records indentures well after the Revolution and well into the 19th Century – far later than the other sources documented in my previous blog. So even if you’re looking for German immigrants in the early 19th Century, you may find them in this log.

Also noteworthy is the extended Introduction Mr. Grubb offers his readers. He reaches out to his readers on two main points.

  1. A general introduction to the nature of German Redemption in America – who was indentured, what the process was like, who were the “masters,” and what the contractual agreement was about.  As an economist and an academic, he underlines his points with references to statistical analysis and further research studies the reader can investigate.
  2. Uniquely from my perspective, he conducts a quantitative summary of the register offering some interesting numbers.  There were 1,035 servants in the register, 192 of whom were married, and 407 dependent children.  There were documented 60 immigrant servants that were resold from one master to another.  The average length of service for a single adult male was 2.7 years; married 2.9 years.  And he goes on…

The bulk of the book is the transcription of the register.  The vast majority of the immigrants – save 73 – came between November 1817 and 1820.  It is a contract register for redemption contracts.  In lieu of an actual contract, you can’t get much better documentation.

Samples of the Register

  • Verona Seggeser with her father’s consent bound herself servant to Benjamin Fogel of Makunsky township Lehigh county farmer to serve him three years.  And at the expiration of her term to have two complete suits of clothes, one thereof to be new.  Consideration : $66.30.
  • George Arnold with his wife’s consent bound himself servant to the above Woodbridge Odlin, to serve him three years.  And at the expiration of his term to have two complete suits of clothes, on thereof to be new.  And twenty dollars in cash.  Consideration = $56.30.
  • Agatha Burkhart with consent of her father, to Jacob S. Otto of Philadelphia merchant for six years eight months and eight days, to have six weeks schooling for every year of her term & at the end thereof two complete suits of clothes one whereof to be new.  Consideration $50.50.
  • Elisabeth Mantoft, willing to go to South Carolina, to Joseph Madia, of Charleston, South Carolina, merchant, for four years, to have at the end of the term two complete suits of clothes, one of which to be new, & paid fifteen dollars.  Consideration = $50.00.

The book is organized in chronological order of date of contract and every name indexed. It is also worth remembering that this is not only a record of those indentured, but those who were masters.  Your ancestor may be in either category.

It’s a great archive and window into this time in our history.  Well worth checking out.

Happy Researching.


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