The British Register of Emigrants, 1773-1776

Bernard Bailyn, Voyagers to the West: A Passage in the Peopling of America on the Eve of the Revolution (with assistance of Barbara DeWolfe, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1986). carefully documented with matched documents and manuscript sources, full bibliography, and descriptive footnotes, The British Register of Emigrants, 1773-1776, Treasury Papers, T47/9-12 in the Public Record Office, London, England. Includes illustrations from the Register, maps showing where the emigrants came from and where they settled in America, and a “Sketchbook of Voyageurs in Flight”—artist’s renditions of examples taken from local newspapers.

Four categories of emigrants are identified in the Register of Emigrants:

  1. Indentured Servants–under contract to ship captains, British merchants, American merchants for full-time service 4-7 years for payment of passage to America and a new life in America.
  2. Redemptioners–emigrants shipped to America and given a specific time to arrange for payment of passage money or become indentured for labor. Contract sold on arrival at auction.
  3. Apprentices–nder contract to learn a trade. Passage usually paid by family or local welfare agency (including church/parish officials).
  4. Contract Laborers–xperienced artisans, specially selected with passage and salary pre-paid. Salaried indentures could include both workmen and their families.

English Origins
68.4% indentured
75% left from the Ports of London, Bristol
mostly male, mostly single
mostly artisans and craftsmen
Sent to Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia

Scottish Origins
18.4% indentured
33% came as families
“gentle” and commercial occupations
Sent to New York, North Carolina
Left from Ports of Greenock, Glasgow
Included families from Yorkshire, Scarborough

Bailyn, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, documents the powerful Buchanans of Glasgow, Greenock, Bristol, and London and their relatives. They had almost a monopoly on the tobacco trade between the American Colonies and Scotland before the American Revolution.They distributed indentured servants and their own factors inland. Their enterprises were headquartered in the West Indies, New York City, Snow Hill, Maryland; and several towns throughout Virginia. See Richard B. Morris, Government and Labor in Early America. New York: Columbia University Press, 1946. Morris identified and mapped the marketing loops for the sale of servants and redemptioners

See also Jacob M. Price, “Buchanan & Simpson, 1759-1763: A Different Kind of Glasgow Firm Trading to the Chesapeake,” William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd Ser., 40 (Jan 1983): 5-8; 31-41 for the genealogy of the Buchanans and their kinship networks in Virginia: Dumfries, Albemarle, Petersburg, Richmond. One of their large Scottish estates, in Scotland, was named Mount Vernon, like George Washington’s estate along the Potomac River.

Walter and Thomas Buchanan, uncle and nephew, operated the New York companies. Importers and distributors of goods arriving from Glasgow, Greenock, London, Liverpool, and Bristol, were consignees of immigrants from the Buchanans of Greenock—their ledgers recorded the arrival of 2,000 Scots in New York the first half of 1775. Scottish merchants usually hired only their own kinfolk—the ones they could control by family relationships, and those who had intermarried into the family network. Employees of the firm were called factors. See also Richard B. Morris, Government and Labor in Early America. New York: Columbia University Press, 1946. Morris identified and mapped the marketing loops for the sale of servants and redemptioners

Merchants engaged in cross-ocean trade in Colonial America were usually Scots. See Charles J. Farmer, In the Absence of Towns: Settlement and Country Trade in Southside Virginia, 1730-1800. (Roman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 1993). Chapter Four especially describes and names firm after firm and their Scottish owners and operators. These firms, outwardly supported the American Revolution—voting for local rebels, serving in rebel governments, paying taxes to support rebel armies, in which some of their own sons served. In reality, they were Tories who supported the British government like their families in Scotland.

Author Farmer names specific families who departed to the West Indies, South America, and even to the British Isles when the War was ended and the British withdrew from the Colonies. The majority, however, remained in America and migrated west as each new trading area opened up. Compare the 1770 list of Williamsburg Merchants published in the Virginia Gazette, 28 June 1770. Reprinted in Arlene Eakle’s Research Notebook: Virginia IV, pages 5-11, available from Family History World, P.O. Box 129, Tremonton UT 84337-0129; or, Your favorite genealogist, Arlene Eakle.

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