Note: You can do a Google search for "A Family History Mission" to see all the previous posts in this ongoing series. You can also search for "James Tanner genealogy" and find them.
One of the sad things about preparing hundreds of documents for digitization is coming across these Indentured Servant Contracts. Here is the cover sheet for the above contract.
I will let you read the entire document so you can see what was done to this nine-year-old girl. Indentured servants were simply slaves for a term of years. In the case of this poor nine-year-old, she would be working for whatever the master decided to give her in the way of food, clothing, and shelter. In return, she learns to do housework for nine long years. Here is a description of Indentured Servitude from the Law Library of Congress:
Before the Civil War, slaves and indentured servants were considered personal property, and they or their descendants could be sold or inherited like any other personalty. Like other property, human chattel was governed largely by laws of individual states. Generally, these laws concerning indentured servants and slaves did not differentiate between the sexes. Some, however, addressed only women. Regardless of their country of origin, many early immigrants were indentured servants, people who sold their labor in exchange for passage to the New World and housing on their arrival. Initially, most laws passed concerned indentured servants, but around the middle of the seventeenth century, colonial laws began to reflect differences between indentured servants and slaves. More important, the laws began to differentiate between races: the association of “servitude for natural life” with people of African descent became common. Re Negro John Punch (1640) was one of the early cases that made a racial distinction among indentured servants.Here are three more contracts for you to try your skill in reading old handwriting from 1822 in Maryland. You can click on the images to enlarge them. You can also get some idea of the documents we are working with at the Maryland State Archives.