Compiler and editor:
Paul Lachance, Department of History, University of Ottawa, Canada
This index lists alphabetically all persons named in five indenture books from the Records of the Office of the Mayor of New Orleans. The first indenture in the collection was signed in July 1809, and the last in September 1843. An indenture is a formal contract specifying the responsibilities of a worker and his employer for a fixed period of time. Most of the documents were for the purpose of apprenticeship; but they also served a variety of other functions including labor agreements for entire families to reimburse the costs of transportation from Europe to Louisiana, temporary servitude to avoid imprisonment for debts, teaching a trade to a slave, and even adoption of orphaned children. Three categories of individuals are found in the documents: the indentured apprentice or servant, his or her sponsor in the case of minors, and the master or employer.
The indentures are an exceptionally rich source. The indentured apprentice or laborer is usually identified by age and place of birth. The relationship of the sponsor to the apprentice and the trade of the employer are cited. Race is mentioned if any of the parties to the contract is a free person of color or slave. When race is not mentioned, the person can usually be assumed to be white. Gender may be inferred from first names or use of pronouns. Signatures or marks in lieu of signatures reveal literacy. The documents spell out in detail the conditions of the contract: the years of service owed the employer and what the worker was promised in return: education in a trade, schooling, salary or other forms of compensation during or on completion of the contract. Some employers accepted total responsibility for the provision of food and lodging and medical care in case of sickness; others only partial responsibility; and others none at all. All this, and interesting details such as hours of work, the cost of basic necessities like meals and clothing, and night schools where apprentices were sent to learn to read and write and acquire basic mathematical skills, can be gleaned from the documents.
You can proceed directly to the reference in the index for an individual in whom you are interested by clicking in the alphabetical key below on the first letter of his or her surname, or first name when no family name was given. Be aware that last names longer than ten letters and first names longer than four letters have been truncated. Some of the employers are firms consisting of several names.
For each name in the index, you will find:
This is all the information you need to locate indentures in the manuscript volumes, on microfilm, or in the translation of French documents in Volume 1 into English by the WPA. Click here for the call number and description of the indenture collection in the catalogue of the Louisiana Division.
For individuals mentioned in more than one document, reference is made to each document in which they appear. Alternative spellings have been indicated for some names, but in other cases the same person may be mentioned under different spellings. Duplications are especially likely for employers who are cited both singly and with a business associate.
Click on highlighted references to names in the index for information that I have found in my research. If you write a summary of what you learn from an indenture on an individual or if you locate additional information, for example, where he or she fits in your family history, I invite you to send the results of your research to me by e-mail [email@example.com]. With your consent, I will transform your information into an HTML file and create a link in this index to it, for which I will assume full editorial responsibility. In this way, the index can be substantially enriched as time passes.
The following resources will help to put particular indentures in historical context:
Return to Archives/Special Collections.
Created 8/11/1998 pfl