17c Puritan employment

May 2011
I do genealogy. An ancestor was incarcerated as a teenager for leaving her employer twice without permission. Her father was fined for harboring his daughter and keeping her whereabouts from the employer. Her reason was that 'her dame' struck her. The employer was recorded with less than a handful of law suits.

My question was, is this white servitude, an apprenticeship or something altogether different? Or is this just the developed state of employment in early 1670s Massachusetts? If it was indentured service, it was unlikely that it was to pay for ocean fare, the assumption being that that was decades earlier. I know it sounds like I am asking for witnesses to a car accident at the corner of Main and Elm 350 years ago, but can anyone refer me to a website or paper book on this particular topic (latter form preferred)? I was thinking more broadly of viewing the PBS series Colonial House, which I have never seen.


Ad Honorem
Aug 2013
Indenture was a contract between the employer and employee. It does not have to be connected to paying for an ocean passage.
Is the record from a court report or gaol delivery report or similar. What does the record say?


Ad Honorem
Aug 2016
It sounds like the employee violated a long-term employment contract, but I don't think it was indentured service for sea passage if her father was also in the New World and apparently not under indenture. The next most likely possibility is apprenticeship, but I don't know how many girls were apprenticed. It might be some form of debt slavery under which the girl had to work off a debt, possibly incurred by someone else in her family. It sounds like she is employed as a domestic servant. That's not a job normally assigned to a man, but if the debt was incurred by her father or brother, she might have to work it off, if that was the only work that the creditor wanted done. Exactly how many lawsuits was the employer involved in, and was the employer sued or the suer?
Nov 2011
The Dustbin, formerly, Garden of England
While Indentured Servitude was the most common form of "tied" employment in Colonial North America, the Colonies would have inherited English Law, that would have included a whole raft of statutes and edicts dating back to Medieval times that restricted employee (or "servant's" rights as most employees were referred to as "servants"), restrictions included movement from town to town, curfews and general discipline. If a servant was under 21 they could be subject to corporal punishment or other "reasonable" punishment from the employer or "master" and the employer took on the legal role of Guardian until the servant reached majority (which could also include the right to deny marriage). Of course Puritans being Puritans soon passed plenty of laws of their own putting the onus on "masters" to ensure that their charges did not play cards, carouse, went to church or received religious and moral instruction. An underage servant could not change employment without permission, which is where the "running away" may come in and their many archival court cases where plaintiffs claimed ill-treatment for such actions.
It was common in the 17th and 18th C for poor families to "give up" their children as servants or apprentices--while this sounds bad, many just became extensions to the family, Samuel Pepys describes some how they lived although he was a bit creepy about the large bosomed seventeen year old Debs Willet who was employed as his wife's companion.
May 2011
The source is a book about an unrelated individual (genealogical). The employer sued 5-7 people. Im rushed so cant pull up the original. I pretty much gave you the all of the info with the exception that the employer was riends with the capt of the colony and owned alot of land.