Introduction, Free African Americans of Colonial Maryland and Delaware







This is the history of the free African American communities of Maryland and Delaware during the colonial period as told through their family histories.


During the colonial period in Maryland and Delaware:

Descendants of White Women in Maryland

Over 600 mixed-race children were born to white women in Maryland and Delaware during the colonial period. There had been a number of marriages between white women and slaves by 1664 when Maryland passed a law which made them and their mixed-race children slaves for life, noting that


divers freeborne English women forgettfull of their free Condicon and to the disgrace of our Nation doe intermarry with Negro Slaves [Archives of Maryland, 1:533-34].


One such marriage took place in August 1681 between Nell Butler and "Negro Charles," the slave of Major William Boarman of St. Mary's County. The ceremony was conducted by a Catholic priest on the Boarman plantation. Lord Baltimore was said to have been present on the day of the marriage and to have warned Nell of the consequences.


About a month after the wedding Maryland passed a law which released white servant women and their mixed-race children from slavery if the marriage was permitted or encouraged by their master [Archives of Maryland, 7:203-5; Hodes, White Women, Black Men, 19-29].


In 1692 Maryland enacted a law which punished white women who had children by slaves by selling them as servants for seven years and binding their children to serve until the age of twenty-one if they were married to the slave, and till thirty-one if they were not married [Archives of Maryland, 13:546-49]. The court records and Prerogative Inventories include twelve white women who were married to slaves about 1680 to 1700.


The families in this history descend from 277 white women who had 364 mixed-race children. Another 103 white women had 111 mixed-race children who were not traced to any family. Prerogative Inventories indicate that at least another sixty mixed-race children were born to white women in Calvert and Saint Mary's counties which do not have surviving colonial court records.

  • Mary Davis of Calvert County married a slave named Domingo about 1677 and had two children.

  • English servant Martha was married to Boatswain in St. Mary's County in 1682 when they were listed in the inventory of the estate of Robert Ridgely [Prerogative Inventories & Accounts, 8:300].

  • an unidentified English woman was the wife of a "Negro" in St. Mary's County listed in the 8 August 1691 inventory of Cuthbert Scott (whose widow married Mr. John Baptista Carberry by 5 June 1697 [Prerogative Inventories & Accounts, 15:38-9].

  • Mr. Robert Mason sold a "Negro man slave," a white woman and a "Mulatto Child" to Mr. Henry Denton, Clerk of the Council, before 29 August 1698 when the ministry of King William and Queen Mary Parish in St. Mary's County bound the child to the age of thirty-one and threatened to sue Denton's widow Mary Denton [Proceedings of the Council of Maryland, 1696/7-8, Liber X:128 by Archives of Maryland Online, 23:508-9].

  • An unidentified English woman was married to a "Negro" in Talbot County in 1692 [Prerogative Inventories & Accounts, 10:256-8].

  • Catherine Simiter was married to a "Negro" in Queen Anne's County about 1700-1710.

  • Grace MacDonald was married to a "Negro" man in Charles County in 1714.

  • "Negro" Grinedge was married to Jane Shoare in Talbot County in 1698.

  • Mary Liles was married to Jack, a slave of Hugh Redgely, by Rev. Jacob Henderson about 1712 in Baltimore County and had five children by 1728 [Court Proceedings, 1728-1730, Liber HWS#6, 28-30].

  • Elizabeth Proctor of Charles County had two children between 1705 and 1709.

  • Martha Beddo of Charles County had three children between 1711 and 1735.

  • Elizabeth Norman had three children in Prince George's County between 1715 and 1722.

  • Margaret Madden had six children in Talbot County between 1725 and 1742.

  • Mary Wedge of Prince George's County had at least five children between 1727 and 1738.


Free mixed-race children of white women were so common that when accountants listed slaves in colonial inventories under the heading "Slaves," some would add "a slave for life" after anyone identified as "Mulatto" [Prerogative Inventories & Accounts 30:60; Inventories 20:9-10].


The inventories indicate that the births of many free, mixed-race children were not recorded by the court--perhaps handled by the churchwardens. Winifred Jones, servant of Thomas Sheredine of Baltimore County, was prosecuted for having a total of three children by a "Negro," but the inventory of Sheredine's estate indicates that she had five mixed-race children bound to him until the age of thirty-one in 1753 [Prerogative Inventories 50:174]. "Mulatto" Ann Parker's son Robert was bound to Thomas Stockett of Anne Arundel County in 1751, but there is no record of her indenture to Stockett. And the inventory of Stockett's estate in 1763 indicates that she had a sister Susan and six other children bound to Stockett until the age of thirty-one [Prerogative Inventories 15:397; 20:54-9; 48:210].


Some inventories failed to note that a child was free. John Wright of Prince George's County purchased Daniel Lee for thirty-one years in 1717, but Daniel was listed in the inventory of Wright's estate in 1729 as "Mullatto Boy named Daniel Lee 18 pounds." Priscilla Gray ("Molattoe woman Priss") and her two children were not identified as being free in the Prince George's county inventory of Sarah Magruder in 1734. Margaret Cannon's daughter was bound to Isaac Smoot of Charles County for thirty-one years in 1743, but there were two of her children bound to him until thirty-one in the inventory of his estate in 1751. The 3 February 1755 Dorchester County will of Edward Trippe mentions his "mulatto servants," but his inventory merely lists them among the slaves as "1 Mollatto wench, 1 do Girl Jealica, 1 do Boy Robin, 1 do girl Sarah, 1 do girl Rachel, 1 Do Boy Harry and 1 Do boy Charles [; Prerogative Court (Wills), 30:9; (Inventories), 63:465-9].


In 1715 and 1728 the Maryland General Assembly made the mixed-race descendants of white women who had children by slaves subject to the same punishments as white women. They were sold as servants for seven year terms, and their children were bound until the age of thirty-one. However, if they had a child by a free person, they were usually charged with fornication and received the same sentence as if both partners had been white: a fine or lashes, and their children were bound until the age of twenty-one (for boys) and sixteen (for girls) [Archives of Maryland, 30:289-90; 36:275-76; Laws of Maryland, 1715, chapter 44, section 25, cited by Wright, The Free Negro in Maryland, 27-8].


Elizabeth Grimes, a mixed-race woman, had six children, four by a free person. In June 1721 the Prince George's County court ordered her sold for seven years and sold her child which she had by a slave for 1,000 pounds of tobacco to serve until the age of thirty-one. But the court called her other child her "white" daughter when it bound her until the age of sixteen. Between 1727 and 1750 Priscilla Gray had four children, three bound until the age of thirty-one and one bound until the age of twenty-one.


Many of the prosecutions for bastardy in Delaware are either missing or were not recorded. However, in Kent County there were six recorded cases of white women begetting mixed-race children before 1721: one in 1699, 1703, 1704, two in 1707, and one in 1720. None were recorded in Sussex County, but in 1699 the grand jury presented Adam Johnson's servant woman (Rebecca Saunders) or "lyeing commonly with his Nigroe man as man and wife." Between 1720 and 1751 there were no cases of "Mulatto Bastardy" recorded in Delaware. White women apparently continued to have children by African Americans during this period because in 1726 Delaware passed a law similar to the one in Maryland whereby white women were sold for up to five years and their children by a "Negro or Mulatto" were sold for thirty-one years. In October 1740 the Delaware government found that many such children were being held past their term of service (perhaps because there was no written court record for these cases?) and passed a law allowing them to bring suit in court for their freedom [Laws of Delaware, 1:105-9, 380 cited by Barnes, Laws of Delaware, Free Blacks & Mulattos, 7-8, 14-5].


There is a great disparity between the court records of Maryland and those for Delaware. Maryland counties kept a Judicial Record or Judicial Proceedings which consist of almost verbatim minutes of all that occurred at the county court: cases brought by the county against individuals as well as cases between individuals. They involve bastardy, assault, adultery, slander, public drunkedness, petty theft, failure to pay debts, land disputes, failure to attend church, failure to pay taxes, petitions for relief from taxation, indentures of apprentices, etc., and read almost like a newspaper account of the day-to-day happenings in the county. It is in the Judgment Records of Queen Anne's County that we learn that a white woman named Catherine Simiter was the wife of "Negroe John" and unlawfully dealt with white servants in 1731. Joseph Guy, "begot by a Negro man on a white woman," was sold for seven years for marrying a white woman and Thomas Perlott, a white man, and his wife Sarah, "begot by a Negro man on a white woman," were also sold for seven years in 1735 [Judgment Records 1730-2, 329-30; 1732-5, part 2, 503-4, 535].


In the middle of the eighteenth century some Maryland counties reported the criminal court cases in separate volumes called Criminal Records: Baltimore County: 1757-1759, Caroline County: 1774-1784, Cecil County: 1728-1741, Kent County: 1724-1772, Queen Anne's County: 1751-1766, Talbot County: 1747-1775, and these contain the cases of white and mixed-race women having children by slaves during those periods as well as cases such as the one in Kent County where the rector of Shrewsbury Parish was fined for marrying Negro Dick, slave of Richard Bennett, Esq., and Amy Nabb [Criminal Record 1728-34, 551-2].


When Mary Consellah confessed to bastardy in Kent County, Delaware in 1728, the clerk wrote in the docket, "Entered in the Criminal Dogget," but there are no surviving colonial court records for Delaware that contain only criminal cases [Delaware Archives RG 3815.031, dockets 1722-32, frames 229, 235].


For Kent County, Delaware, after 1725 and Sussex County after 1709, we have only the dockets and whatever case files have survived. The Kent County court dockets record that Hannah Hutt received twenty-one lashes in November 1724 for having an illegitimate child and that the child was bound to Charles Hillyard. However, there is a 1758 Kent County deed in which John Hutt petitioned the court saying he was bound to Charles Hillyard for thirty-one years and never received his freedom dues, and the Levy Court records indicate that John Hutt's "Mulatto" child was supported by the county in 1766 [DSA, RG 3815.031, 1722-1732, frames 65, 153, 206].


In Kent County a white woman named Elizabeth Sheldon had an illegitimate daughter named Rachel by "Negro Phill" in 1743 but received punishment of only twenty-nine lashes. However, white women Martha Clark (in 1751) and Margery Patterson (in 1753) were convicted under the 1726 law, and on 8 January 1773 "Negro" Jacob was found guilty of begetting a "Male Mulato Bastard" by Hannah Shannon, given thirty-nine lashes and made to stand in the pillory two hours with his ear nailed thereunto and ripped off. But Hannah Shannon's trial was not recorded in the Quarter Sessions dockets [RG 3805.002, 1734-1779, frames 81, 84, 186, 197; RG 3811, Court for the Trial of Negro Slaves, 1764-1773]. The only case recorded in Sussex County was in May 1794 when the court indicted and convicted John Harmon "free Mulatto" and white woman Ann Jones for having two illegitimate children [RG 4805, General Court Sessions 1767-94, frames 561-2]. This case received some notoriety because Ann Jones's lawyer objected to the state's witness Rebecca West because she had been convicted of the same offense, but Rebecca's case was not recorded in the Quarter Sessions dockets [Boorstein, Delaware Cases, 1792-1830, 1:33-4]. The Harmon-Jones case probably influenced the legislature to reconsider the 1726 law which ordered mixed-race children of white women to be bound out until the age of thirty-one. On 23 January 1795 the legislature voided the law of 1726 and ordered the children bound until the same age as white children, it being "unjust and inhuman to punish the child for the offense of the parents" [Laws of Delaware, 2:1201 cited by Barnes].


Maryland Descendants of Manumitted Slaves

Slaves who were manumitted during the colonial period included a member of the Guy family who was free in Talbot County in 1690, a member of the Grinnage family who was free on Kent Island before 1698, William Barton who was free when he was baptized in Anne Arundel County in 1699, Henry Quander who was free and married to his wife Margaret in Charles County by August 1702, Mingo Savoy who was free in Anne Arundel County in 1705, and Robert Perle of Prince George's County who was free in 1720. Seventeen members of the Gibbs family were freed in Queen Anne's County in 1747.


Maryland Landowners

Free African Americans were drawn to Somerset County as early as 1666 when Anthony Johnson moved there from the Eastern Shore of Virginia and leased 300 acres in Wicomico Hundred for 200 years. Others from the Eastern Shore followed. The Driggers and George families were there by 1688. Devorax1 Driggers leased 300 acres in Bogerternorten Hundred in 1707, William Driggers owned 100 acres in Baltimore Hundred when he made his will in 1720, and Devorax2 Driggers purchased 75 acres there in 1731. Other Eastern Shore free African American families followed in the early eighteenth century: Francisco, Harman, Longo, and Malavery.


Thomas Davidson traced the development of the free African Americans who owned land in Somerset County, including Johnson, Driggers, Collick, Cambridge, Dutton, Game, Mungar and Puckham, but observed that it was not a large enough group to form a community [Davidson, Free Blacks on the Lower Eastern Shore of Maryland; "Free Blacks in Old Somerset County," Maryland Historical Magazine 71:155]. Most moved on to Delaware.


"Molatto" Robert Perle owned land in Prince George's County before 1735, partnered with whites in putting up security for the executors of estates, and was overseer of the highways in 1748. The Proctor family owned land in Charles County before 1762. Jonathan Curtis probably owned or leased land in St. Mary's or Charles County in 1746 when he had an account with William Hunter & Company of Spotsylvania County for over twenty-nine pounds Maryland currency. Thomas Thompson probably leased or owned land in Charles County in 1774 since he was called a "Mulatto Planter" when he provided security for his daughter's appearance in court. William Barton purchased 177 acres in Anne Arundel County in 1711, and Benjamin Banneker's father purchased 100 acres in Baltimore County in 1737.


The Gibbs family were left 444 acres in Queen Anne's County by the will of their master in 1747. Two members of the family remained in the county and still owned fifty acres each in 1783, but the others sold their land and moved to Delaware.


However, in most areas of Maryland free African Americans had little opportunity to own land.


The land of opportunity for free African Americans lay in some areas of Delaware, North Carolina, and the Virginia Southside which were anxious to attract settlers of any complexion.


Relations with Slave and White Communities

Free African American families in Maryland appear to have had closer relations with the slave population than their counterparts had in other colonies or states, particularly North Carolina and Delaware. Children of white women had difficulty leaving the servant class because they were bound out until the age of thirty-one. If a female child of a white woman indentured until thirty-one had a child by a slave, she was sold for another seven years.


Many early nineteenth-century certificates of freedom describe Maryland descendants as being dark-skinned. Nathaniel Allen, great-grandson of a white woman, received a Prince George's County certificate of freedom on 11 September 1810 which described him as "a black man." Charles Allen's 23 June 1818 Prince George's County certificate described him as, "a Negro boy, tolerably black."


Some free families had relatives who were slaves. Margaret Ruston, a white woman, had a child by her master's slave in Charles County in 1691. Her child was probably Thomas Rustin who was free in 1750 when he petitioned the Charles County court to declare his wife Lucy levy-free for the future. But it appears that Margaret Ruston also had slave descendants, possibly Thomas' children by a slave.


Thomas Rustin, Jr., Robert Rustin, and George Rustin, slaves of William Neale of Charles County, were allowed by their master to keep horses as their own property. They were often in trouble with the authorities, perhaps because they "did not know their place."


A slave named Thomas Rustin was indicted by the Charles County court in November 1749 for taking someone's horse. The jury found him guilty, and the court ordered that he be hung. However, he apparently received a pardon because Thomas Rustin, the slave of William Neale, was given thirty-nine lashes seven years later in June 1756 for taking someone's hat. He was called "Thomas Rustain, Junior" in August 1756 when he was indicted for stealing a saddle and called "Molatto Thomas Rustain" in November 1756 when he was acquitted of the charge. In November 1757 he was charged with striking a white man [Court Record 1690-3, 334; 1693-4, 9; 1749-50, 724; 1750, 140; 1756-7, 2, 3, 117-8, 144, 201; 1757-8, 566; 1758-60, 177].


There were also slave and free members of the Dove family. John Dove was a "Mulatto" slave charged with felony in Charles County court in November 1727, and free members of the Dove family had moved to North Carolina by September 1749 when the Craven County court sent someone to Maryland to confirm that they were free [Charles County Court Record 1727-31, 42; Haun, Craven County, Court Minutes IV:11-12, 366]. A member of the Dove family owned 75 acres in Craven County in 1775.


Perhaps the principal determinant of relations with slave versus white communities was land ownership. Most free African American families in North Carolina, for example, had at least one member of the family who owned land. Land ownership made for closer relations between free African Americans and whites and less social relations with slaves.



Free African American families from Somerset County moved north to Delaware where they formed the mixed-race communities of Sussex and Kent Counties. John Johnson, son of Anthony Johnson of Accomack County, patented 400 acres in Rehoboth Bay, Sussex County, Delaware, in 1677.


Aminadab Hanser of Accomack County, the son of a white woman and a slave, purchased 200 acres in Rehoboth Bay, Sussex County, in September 1685. Daniel Francisco (Sisco), son or grandson of John Francisco, a slave freed in Northampton County, Virginia, in 1647, lived in Somerset County between 1707 and 1713 and left an estate in Kent County, Delaware, in 1732.


Other families from the Eastern Shore of Virginia and Somerset County, Maryland, who settled in Delaware included: Bass, Beckett, Driggers, Game, Hitchens, Hodgskin, Jacobs, Magee, Morris, Perkins, Press, Puckham, Sammons, Sockem, Shaver, Sparksman, and Wright.


The Butcher family of Dorchester County, Maryland, was in Kent County, Delaware, by 1693. Settlers from other areas of Maryland included Fountain, Gibbs, Grinnage, Lacount, Norman, Parsons, Plummer, Poulson, Proctor, Roach, Saunders, and Toogood.


Before coal came into general use, "the Durhams, Harmons, Clarks, Perkins and Sockums--mostly all related and originally from Delaware"--owned nearly all the horses and carts hauling wood in Philadelphia [Minton, Early History of Negroes in Business in Philadelphia (1913):18]. Henry Harmon, John Durham and Francis Perkins were heads of "other free" households in Philadelphia in 1810.



Aminadab Hanser probably spoke like his mother and dressed and behaved like his white brother. He and his descendants could not have been successful planters in Sussex County unless they were accepted by the white community. Planters need loans and the cooperation of other planters to succeed.


White communities in Sussex and Kent counties--as well as in many counties in Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina--developed a culture of acceptance of these free, mixed-race families that had nothing to do with their ideas about slavery. They treated their slaves as property but were good neighbors to free African American landowners. In a rural community land ownership was the ultimate measure of freedom.



During the colonial period there were seven free African American births or marriages recorded in All Hallows Parish, Anne Arundel County, for the Barton, Kashier, Lewis, Newman, Oliver, Puckham, Savoy, and Williams families; ten births or marriages recorded in Stepney Parish, Somerset County for the Dutton, Game and Magee families, and the marriage of Jonas Hodgskin and Rhoda Driggers and the birth of their two children were recorded in Coventry Parish in Somerset County [Wright, Anne Arundel County Church Records, 3, 9, 17, 30-1. 45-7, 51, 86, 105, 155, 200]. However, the births, baptisms and marriages of "Melatos" recorded in Sussex County, Delaware, exceeded all those recorded throughout colonial Maryland, Virginia, North and South Carolina. There were seventy-four marriages, births or baptisms recorded in Sussex County for the Barton, Beckett, Clark, Cornish, Driggers, Esaw, Friend, Game, Hanser, Harmon, Jackson, Jacobs, Johnson, Morris, Mosely, Norman, Norwood, Okey, Parsons, Parkinson, Ridgeway, Sammons, Street, Verdin and Wright families--the earliest in 1746 [Records of the United Presbyterian Churches of Lewes, Indian River and Cool Spring, Delaware 1756-1855 (transcript at Pennsylvania Historical Society), pp. 274, 279, 282, 284, 286, 288, 294, 298, 302, 304-5, 310-1, 314-6, 318-20, 322-3, 325, 327, 391, 399, 403; Wright, Vital Records of Kent and Sussex County, 91-6, 98-104, 106, 109-11, 124, 131].


This was due to the work started by the Reverend William Beckett, a missionary from the Society of the Propagatation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, whose mission at Lewes lasted from 1721 until his death in 1743. Although the society's main mission was to the white residents of the county, it also included the evangelization of slaves [Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, Transcripts of Letters Relating to Delaware, University of Delaware Special Collections Department, Manuscript no. 462].


In the early nineteenth century the mixed-race families formed their own churches. Eli Harmon left a Sussex County will in 1818 by which he left $10 to the trustees of Harmony Meeting House, and on 13 March 1819 Eli Norwood and his wife Ellen gave a half acre of land in Indian River Hundred, Sussex County, for the building of a Methodist Episcopal Church. The church became known as the Harmony Methodist Episcopal Church. Purnall Johnson, Burton Johnson, William Hayes, John Cornish and Mitchell Johnson were named trustees for the building of a house of worship for the use of the members of the Methodist Episcopal Church [DB 45:124-6].


In the late 1870s a new preacher, a "Negro," advocated that the church members mingle with the former slaves and include them in their religious services. Part of the congregation was willing to go along with this, but another group was bitterly opposed and withdrew from the church [Zebley, The Churches of Delaware, 297-8; Weslager, Delaware's Forgotten Folk, 88-9].



After the Civil War, light-skinned African Americans who owned land in the Southeast did not fit into the new society where churches and schools were either white or former slave. Many could vote by the grandfather clause. They had developed a culture very similar to whites because they had gone to school and church with whites since the colonial period and had become part of the local white farming communities.


In 1875 the Democrats in Delaware enacted a law that required all "Colored Persons" to pay a tax of 30 cents on every $100 of property for the erection of separate schools for "Negroes." The families that had been free since the colonial period in Indian River, Sussex County, organized as a "certain class of Colored Persons" and pressured the legislature to allow them to have their own schools so they would not have to attend with the former slaves. In 1881 the legislature permitted them to form an "Incorporated Body" under which they would be allowed to construct their own separate schools. They included members of the Johnson, Norwood, Wright, Harmon, Street, Clark and Drain families. They built Warwick School on land donated by the Harmon family and Holleyville School on land donated by Samuel Norwood [State Laws of Delaware XVI, Chapter 364, p. 378 cited by Weslager, Delaware's Forgotten Folk, 112-117].


In 1885 Hamilton McMillan of Robeson County, North Carolina's Democratic (Jim Crow) Party wrote and helped pass a law creating separate school districts for the former free persons of color of the county in an effort to win their votes in a county and state that were about equally divided between Republicans and Democrats. McMillan invented the name "Croatan Indians" and theorized that they had descended from a friendly tribe of Indians on the Roanoke River in eastern North Carolina who had mixed with the whites in Sir Walter Raleigh's lost colony in 1587 and had settled in Robeson County during the colonial period. The law created three castes: white, Negro and Indian and prohibited marriage between them. Later, there would be three sets of water fountains, seating areas, rest rooms, etc. [Blu, The Lumbee Problem, 23, 62-3].


This influenced Anthropologist James Moody of the Smithsonian to study other possible Indian groups in Maryland, Delaware, Virginia and North Carolina in 1889. Moody visited the mixed-race community in Charles and Prince George's counties made up of members of the Proctor, Butler, Newman, Savoy, Swann, and Thompson families which has come to be called "Piscataway Indians" or "Wesorts" [Porter, Quest for Identity, 99-100; Gilberts, Surviving Indian Groups of the Eastern United States] (all families clearly identified in the colonial court records as having descended from white women who had children by men of African descent, convicted of "Mulatto bastardy" and sold as servants for seven years.)


In 1898 William H. Babcock visited the Delaware "Nanticoke Indian" community and observed that

they have near as many white attributes of mind and body, habit, and temper [Babcock, American Anthropologist, 1 (1899): 277-82].


A study of the mixed-race communities of North Carolina in 1886 reached a similar conclusion,

In their habits, manner, and dress, the free negroes still resemble, as they always did, the poorest class of whites much closer than they do the freedman [Dodge, "Free Negroes of North Carolina," Atlantic Monthly 57 (January 1886):20-30].


In 1903 the "Incorporated Body" of Sussex County petitioned the legislature to change their name from "a certain class of Colored Persons" to the "Offspring of the Nanticoke Indians," and the legislature complied [State Laws of Delaware XXII, Chapter 470, 986 cited by Weslager, Delaware's Forgotten Folk, 117].


Anthropologist Frank G. Speck visited the Indian River, Sussex County community in 1911, 1922 and 1942. In 1922 he helped the community to incorporate as the Nanticoke Indian Association. He taught them Indian dances and songs and taught them to prepare costumes, strings of beads and feather headdresses, subjecting them to the ridicule of whites in the area [Porter, Quest for Identity, 103, 108-9, 111].


Indian Indentured Servants

The indenture of Indians as servants was not common in Maryland. The Governor and his Council were not familiar with the practice on 18 July 1722 when they heard the case of Marcus Andrews who was charged with indenting an Indian boy named James in Somerset County and selling the indenture to someone in Philadelphia. Andrews explained that it was a "Customary thing in Ackamack in Virginia to indent with them for a Time or Term of years" and that he had indented with the boy in Virginia, not in Maryland [Archives of Maryland 25:390-1]. Other cases of Indian indentures which appear in the county courts include:

$ James Boarman, an Indian servant indentured in Charles County in August 1691 [Court Record 1690-2, 237].

$ Joan Kennedy, a two-year-old Indian servant bound until the age of twenty-one in Prince George's County in November 1718 [Judgment Record 1715-20, 719a].


Women convicted of having children by native Indians were prosecuted for the lesser offense of fornication and had to pay a fine or suffer corporal punishment.


$ In March 1711/2 Elizabeth Sparkman received 20 lashes and was ordered to serve her master another two years for the trouble of his house and court fees for having a child by Indian Robin in Somerset County.

$ In June 1721 Eliza Lester named an Indian called Sackelah as the father of her child and received a fine or corporal punishment from the Baltimore County court [Proceedings 1718-21, 498, 507].

$ In March 1732 Mary Ockeley was indicted by the Prince George's County court for "Malatto Bastardy," but she was punished for fornication when it was found that the child was "begot by an Indian" [Court Record 1730-2, 402].

$ In August 1736 Catherine Adams of Anne Arundel County was fined for having a child by an Indian [Judgment Record 1736-8, 22].

$ In November 1741 Dorothy Smith of Anne Arundel County received corporal punishment for having a child by an Indian [Judgment Record 1740-3, 328].

$ In November 1745 Catherine Parsons received ten lashes by the Talbot County court for having an illegitimate child by an Indian named William Asquash [Judgment Record 1745-6, 246-7]. (A William Asquash was one of the Choptank Indians who sold land in Dorchester County in 1727 [Land Records 1720-32, Liber old 8, 153]).


The indenture of East Indian servants was more common:

$ an unnamed East India servant boy was valued at 2,500 pounds of tobacco in the 3 July 1676 inventory of the Talbot County estate of Captain Edward Roe [Prerogative Inventories 2:177-8].

$ Michael Miller of Kent County, Maryland, purchased an unnamed East Indian from Captain James Mitchel "but for five years" on 28 June 1698 [Proceedings 1676-98, 911].

$ East Indian Thomas Mayhew was free from his indenture in Prince George's County [Judgment Record 1728-9, 413]. (He was called "An Indian man named Tom" in the inventory of the Prince George's County estate of Thomas Addison in 1727 [Prerogative Inventories 12:295-313].

$ An East Indian named Hayfield was free from his indenture in Prince George's County in March 1781 [Judgment Record 1777-82, 671, 712-3].

$ East Indian John Williams was free from his indenture in Charles County in January 1706/7 [Court Record 1704-10, 272, 288].

$ East Indian William Creek was free from his indenture to Samuel Chew in Anne Arundel County in March 1736/7 [Court Record 1736-8, 126]. And three members of the Creek family were listed in the inventory of another member of the Chew family in 1737.

$ An East Indian named Juba was free from his indenture in Anne Arundel County in 1763 [Judgment Record 1760-2, 166].

$ East Indian Aron Johnson still had two and a half years to serve when he was listed in the 1 June 1729 inventory of the Anne Arundel County estate of Elizabeth Duhadway [Prerogative Inventories 15:251].

$ An unnamed East Indian had about 16 months to serve when he was listed in the 22 January 1732 inventory of the Baltimore County estate of John Stokes [Prerogative Inventories, 18:310].

$ East Indian George Nulla was 20 years old and valued at 30 pounds in 1759 when he was listed in the Anne Arundel County estate of John Raitt [Prerogative Inventories 69:1-3].


East Indians apparently blended into the free African American population. Peter, an East Indian who was one of the ancestors of the Fisher family, had a child by a white woman named Mary Molloyd about 1680 and "became a free Molato after serving some time to Major Beale of St. Mary's County" [Anne Arundel County Judgment Record 1734-6, 83; 1743-4, 11].


Oral History

The origin of mixed-race families has survived in only a very few family oral histories, and those few have been modified. The nineteenth-century biographer of Benjamin Banneker reported that Benjamin's grandmother (Mary Welch) purchased two slaves and married one of them who was an African prince [Bedini, The Life of Benjamin Banneker, 19]. John Harmon's family was one of the first African American families free in Northampton County, Virginia (in 1667), but his and other Sussex County, Delaware families came to be known as Moors or Indians during the Jim Crow Period.


In 1855 the Ridgeway family of Delaware was said to have descended from a white woman who purchased and later married a "very tall, shapely and muscular young fellow of dark ginger-bread color." The story was modified in the twentieth century to say that he was an African Prince [Fisher, The So-called Moors of Delaware].


Some in Virginia and North Carolina tell of a white woman running away with a slave and drinking a drop of blood from a small cut in his finger, so that she could honestly swear to the Justice of the Peace that she had "Negro" blood in her [Writers' Program, Works Projects Administration, Slave Narratives, Project Vol. XI, part 2, pp. 106-8; Taylor, The Free Negro in North Carolina (James Sprunt Historical Publications) v. 17, no.1, p.21].


Descendants of families who have believed for generations that they are Indians have an Indian identity no different than if they had Indian ancestors. But the mixed-race families who lived in Indian River Hundred have no connection to the Indians who were described by the Reverend David Humphreys of the Society for the Propogation of the Gospel in 1730: "a small settlement on the utmost Border of the Parish, where it adjoins to Maryland; they were extremely barbarous and obstinately ignorant" [Humpreys, An Historical Account of the Incorporated Society for the Propogation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, 159-168]. By 1748 most of the Nanticokes had moved to Pennsylvania and New York [Porter, Quest for Identity, 42].


Migration Between Maryland and Other colonies

A member of the Hubbard family, a descendant of a white woman who had a mixed-race child in Westmoreland County in 1705, married a sister of Benjamin Banneker in Baltimore County about 1760. Their children obtained certificates of freedom in Loudoun County, Virginia, in 1795. Families who originated in Maryland but were counted in the 1810 census for Virginia included: Bates, Chambers, Dawson, Dutton, Easter, Fortune, Grace, Graham, Grimes, Grinnage, Lamb, Lett, Nelson, Nichols, Norman, Osborne, Pickett, Ridgeway, Strickland, Trout, Walker, Webster, and Welch.









  Anne Arundel

Annis/ Ennis, Bentley, Boston, Brown (3 children), Brumejum, Butcher, Butler, Cook (3 children), Davis (2 children), Evans (3 children), Fisher, Hall, Harwood, Haws, Hicks, Howard, Howe(2 children), Impey (2 children), Jones, Kelly (2 children), Knight, Lee, Lewis (3 children), Parker (2 children), Phillips (2 children), Plummer, Nelson, Nichols, Oliver, Rhoads, Ross, Smither, Watson, Wilkinson, Williams, Wright. 50 children. Also: Alvery, Bellows, Dimant, Dorson, Fenton (2 children), Hardy, Hurd, Kashier, Moals, Purrey. Total: 61 children.

28 children listed in inventories.


Boon, Bond, Bone, Butcher, Holmes, Jones (2 families), Lett, Poulson, Rogers, Shaw, Stewart, Welch (4 children), Wilson (2 children). 18 children. Also: Costos, Humphreys, Liles (5 children), Rye, Strutt, Warburton, Wenham. Total: 29 children. 

19 children listed in inventories including Myer (1 child) not listed in court records.


No surviving colonial court records.

from Anne Arundel County  records: Davis (2 children)

Estimate 60 children based on comparison with the inventories of estates of the other western shore counties. 

22 children listed in inventories, including Sampson (2 children) 2 children


Farrell. Total: 1 child


Fletcher, Gale, Thompson (2 children). 4 children. Also: Foggett (2 children). Total: 6 children 8 children listed in inventories.


Anderson, Atkins (2 children?), Bates, Beddo (2 children),  Booth,   Burke, Cannon (2 children), Clark, Cox, Cunningham, Dawson, Day (2 children), Easter, Fitzgerald, Ford, Fountain, Gannon, Grace (3 children), Grant, Hamilton, Harris (2 children), Harrison, Hughes, Jackson, McDaniel, McDonald (3 children), Newman, Osborn, Overton, Penny, Proctor (2 children), Ray (4 children), Russell, Rustin, Scarlet (5 children), Scott, Smith, Strickland, Thomas, Upton, Willis. 58 children. Also: Acron, Addison, Baggot, Bedworth, Caine, Dick, Donalson, Edelin, Fugate, Garner, Gibbeth, Haslewood, Lands, Langsdale, Love, McFarthing, McPherson, mother of Lewis Mingo, Napier, Parrat, Repworth (2 children), Robison, Reyny (2 children), Smith. Total: 84 children.    31 children in inventories including Neale (1 child) not listed in court records.


Cook, Fitzgerald, Hughes, Johnson, Lee, McDaniel, Price, Reardon, Skinner, Stanley. 10 children. Also: Cobham. Total: 11 children.

Only 15 years of colonial court records survive.

18 children listed in inventories, including Cox (1 child)
  Frederick Cromwell, Dalton, Devan, Hilton. 4 children. Also: mother of Fanny Dreadan.Total: 5 children. 5 children listed in inventories.


Alexander, Anderson, Banks, Bowen, Brenning, Brown (2 children), Bryan (2 children), Buckwell, Butler, Carr (2 children), Chambers (3 children), Clark (2 children), Cox, Ellis, England, English (3 children), Farthing, Graves (2 children), Lawder, Moody, Murray (3 children), Norris, Oliver, Sheldon, Snow, Spearman, Spencer, Summers, Tippett, Ward, Wilkinson, Wood. 43 children. Also: Cannah, Coram, Gear, Jane's mother, Knock (2 children), Wade. Total: 50 children. 16 children listed in inventories, including Cannon (1 child)


Hodney (2 children, born 1774 and 1776) Total: 2 children.

  Prince George's

Allen (4 children), Bryant, Burgess, Chuck (2 children), Churb, Collins, Edmunds, Graham, Gray, Grayson, Grimes (2 children), Harris, Hill, Hodgkin, Holland, Jones, King, Lee, Mallory, Mortis, Myers, Norman (3 children), Parsons (2 children), Peck (2 children), Pickett, Rollins, Shepherd, Taylor (3 children), Thomas, Tills, Turner, Wedge (5 children), Wilkins, Williams, Wise. 50 children; Also: Amos, Banninger, Crass (2 children), Davison, Demsey, Dunstan (2 children), Duxberry (2 children), Guttery (2 children), Hockerty, Hyde, Mackett, Maney, Milner, Moy, Obryan, Phillmore (2 children), Tacker. Total: 72 children. 26 children listed in inventories.

  Queen  Anne's

Aldridge, Campbell, Cornish, Davis (2 children), Flamer, Gibson, Green, Hall (2 children), Harding, Hawkins, Hopkins (2 children), McDaniel (2 children), Miller, Morgan, Natt (2 children), Nicholson, Pritchett, Reed, Roberts (2 children), Robinson (2 children), Scott, Simiter (2 children), Southwood, Stewart, Suitor, Webber, Whittam. 35 children. Also: unnamed child left at Benjamin Denny's, Chance, Dazey, Hoy, Lang, Lewellin, Neuth, Sarah, Sheahea. Total: 44 children. 

Court records before 1709 and 1720-1727 did not survive.

  28 children listed in inventories, including Dyer (1 child) not listed in court records.
  Somerset Armwood, Barton, Bass, Buley, Butler, Cambridge, Conner, Dogan, Donaldson (2 children), Downs, Duffy, Frost, Hodgskin, Jervice (2 children), Johnson, Magee, Miller, Nutt, Redding, Richards, Roach, Roberts, Shaver, Walker, Winslow. 32 children. Also: Blackbourne, Gloster, Heather, Jones (2 children), Leopard, Logan (2 families), Smith, Tiror. Total: 37 children 14 children listed in inventories, inlcuding Read (1 child) not listed in court records.

  St. Mary's

No surviving colonial court records.

Estimate 60 children based on comparison with the inventories of estates of the other western shore counties.

23 children in inventories, including Adams (4 children), Butler (4 children), Cole, Colllins, Shorter (3 children).  13 children.



Barber, Barrett, Bond, Caldwell, Carty, Dobson (3 children), Grinnage (4 children), Guy, Harding, Heath, Johnson, Jones, Kersey, Littlejohn (2 children), Madden (6 children), Mitchell (3 children), Munts (6 children), Peck (3 children), Phillips (3 children), Proctor, Sampson (5 children), Smith (2 children), Tunks (3 children), Turner (3 children), Williams. 53 children. Also: Gorman, Heath, Hudleston, Knowlman, Ladley, Mane, Nuttle, Porter, Vincent, Yates. Total: 64. 32 children listed in inventories, including Songo family (3 children) 3 children not listed in court records


Court records to 1768 did not survive. 4 children in inventories.


Total in court records: 466

24 other children in inventories

Estimate another 120 children for Calvert and Saint Mary's counties which do not have court surviving colonial court records.

466 + 24+ 120 = 610 children

There were also six East Indians, six Indian servants and twenty-four "free Negroes" who still had time to serve.

And there were twenty-four Indian slaves who were listed along with the African slaves.







Brown, Bryan, Burke (2 children), Clark, Coe (1720), Hutt, Patterson (2 children), Plowman (1704), Price, Shannon, Sheldon. Total: 13 children Ridgeway family identified as descendants of a white woman in 1852.


Jones (2 children about 1794),  

Total Maryland and Delaware: 616 children

Children born to white women in Virginia that lived in Maryland or Delaware:

Beckett - Northampton County, Case - Accomack County, Fletcher - Prince William County, Hanser - Accomack, Hitchens - Northampton, Hubbard - Westmoreland, Sammons - Accomack.

Total 7 children


There were at least another 97 white women who had 111 children by African Americans in colonial Maryland:


$ Jane Acron in 1757 [Charles County Court Record 1757-8, 1].

$ Adam a "Mulatto" child left at the house of Benjamin Denny in Queen Anne's County in February 1760 [Judgments 1759-62, image 102].

$ Jane Addison in 1710 [Charles County Court Record D-2:136, 196, 198].

$ Mary Alvery in 1706 [Anne Arundel County Judgment Record 1705-6, 378; 1707-8, 568].

$ Thomasin Amos in 1722 [Prince George's County Court Record 1720-2, 648, 653, 659, 661].

$ Monica Baggot in 1749 [Charles County Court Record 1748-50, 351, 549, 726; 1750, 59].

$ Ursula Banninger in 1768 [Prince George's County Court Record 1766-8, 574; 1768-70, 477].

$ Ann Bellows 1734 [Anne Arundel County Judgment Record 1734-6, 3-4].

$ Martha Bedworth in 1707 [Charles County Court Record 1704-10, 301].

$ Elizabeth Blackbourne in 1705 [Somerset County Liber G-I:251.

$ Mary Bowsley in 1742 [Prince George's County Court Proceedings 1742-3, 112; 1743-4, 168].

$ Margaret Caine in 1763 [Charles County Court Records 1762-4, 352, 475].

$ Elizabeth Cannah in 1753 [Kent County, Maryland Criminal Proceedings 1748-60, 119].

$ Chance a "Mulatto" child found at the door of John Faulkner in Queen Anne's County in 1761 [Judgments 1759-62, image 85].

$ Ann Christian in 1713 [Somerset County Judicial Record 1713-15, 74, 212].

$ Elizabeth Cobham in 1690/1 [Dorchester Judgment Record 1690-2, 176, 157, 156].

$ Hannah Coe in 1720 [Kent County, Delaware General Court Record 1718-22, 105].

$ Elizabeth Coram in 1750 [Kent County, Maryland Criminal Proceedings 1748-60, 48-9].

$ Mary Costos in 1743 [Baltimore County Proceedings 1743-6, 71, 88, 155, 163].

$ Margaret Crass in 1746 and 1748 [Prince George's County Court Record 1743-6, 532; 1747-8, 331; 1748-9, 44].

$ Grace Davison in 1756 [Prince George's County Court Record 1754-8, 218].

$ Ann Dazey in 1718 [Queen Anne's County Judgment Record 1718-9, 5].

$ Elizabeth Demsey in 1742 [Prince George's County Judicial Record 1742-3, Liber AA:1].

$ Ann Dick in 1771 [Charles County Court Records 1770-2, 491; 1772-3, 9, 31].

$ Dorothy Dorson in 1736 [Anne Arundel County Judgment Record 1736-8, 18, 36].

$ the mother of Fanny Dreaden about 1760 [Frederick County Judgment Records 1780-1, 53-4].

$ Ann Dunstan in 1746 and 1748 [Prince George's County Court Record 1746-7, 20; 1748-9, 47-8].

$ Jane Duxberry in 1714 and 1720 [Prince George's County Court Record 1710-5, 605, 632; 1720-2, 17, 18].

$ Sarah Dyamond/ Dimant in 1703 [Anne Arundel County Judgment Record 1703-5, 3, 323].

$ Elizabeth Edelin before 1708 [Charles County Court Records B-2:433].

$ Margaret Fenton in 1746 and 1748 [Anne Arundel County Court Record 1748-51, 65].

$ Mary Foggett in Cecil County two before November 1734 [Criminal Records 1733-41, 58].

$ Eleanor Fugate in 1734 [Charles County Court Records 1735-9, T-2:6].

$ Sarah Garner in 1760 [Charles County Court Records 1759-60, 425; 1760-2, 99-100].

$ Katherine Gear in 1715 [Kent County, Maryland Proceedings 1714-6, 84].

$ Elizabeth Gibbeth in 1770 [Charles County Court Records 1770-2, 128, 254].

$ Mary Gorman in 1707 [Talbot County Judgment Record 1706-8, 266-7].

$ Sarah Gloster in 1738 [Somerset County Judicial Record 1738-40, 13].

$ Isabella Guttery in 1762 and 1767 [Prince George's County Court Record 1761-3, 237; 1766-8, 229].

$ Ann Hardy in 1746 [Anne Arundel County Judgment Record 1746-8, 293].

$ Ann Haslewood in 1693 [Charles County Court Record 1693-4, 2, 116-7].

$ Ann Heather in Somerset County in 1728 [Judicial Record 1727-30, 120].

$ Hannah Hockerty in 1770 [Prince George's County Court Record 1768-70, 654].

$ mother of Dinah and Dick Hodney in 1774 and 1776 [Montgomery County Proceedings 1777-81, 8].

$ Mary Hoy in 1728 [Queen Anne's County Judgment Record 1728-1730, 37].

$ Jane Hudleston in 1682 [Talbot County Court Judgments 1682-5, 22].

$ Frances Humphreys in 1744 [Baltimore County Proceedings 1743-6, 471, 481-2].

$ Martha Hurd in 1739 [Anne Arundel County Judgment Record 1739-40, 11].

$ Ann Hyde in 1753 [Prince George's County Court 1751-4, 496, 509].

$ the mother of Jane, "Mollatto" servant of Thomas Crow, in 1739 [Kent County, Maryland Criminal Record 1738-9, 226, 230].

$ Keturah Jones in 1757 and 1761 [Somerset County Judicial Records 1757-60, 76-7; 1760-3, 76a].

$ Joanna Kashier in 1704 [Wright, Anne Arundel County Church Records, 155].

$ Jane Knock in 1743 and 1747 [Kent County, Maryland Criminal Proceedings 1742-7, 180, 377].

$ Sarah Knowlman in 1742 [Talbot County Judgment Record 1742, 171].

$ Ann Ladley in 1732 [Talbot County Judgment Record 1731-3, 550].

$ Catherine Lands in 1766 [Charles County Court Records 1764-6, 772].

$ Margaret Lang in 1731 [Queen Anne's County Judgment Record 1730-2, 162-3; 1735-9, 419].

$ Catherine Langsdale in 1761 [Charles County Court Record 1760-2, 229, 275].

$ Mary Lavender in 1717 [Kent County, Maryland Proceedings 1716-8, 247, 284-5].

$ Sarah Leopard in 1716 [Somerset County Judicial Records 1715-17, 145].

$ Frances Lewellin in Queen Anne's County in 1771, 1772, and 1774 [Judgments 1771-80, images 46-7, 67, 136-7, 174-5].

$ Elizabeth Logan in 1718 [Somerset County Judicial Records EF:17].

$ Ann Logan in 1757 [Somerset County Judicial Records 1757-61, 41a].

$ Elizabeth Love in 1755 [Charles County Court Record 1755-6, 127].

$ Ann McFarthing in 1749 [Charles County Court Record 1748-50, 351, 539, 720].

$ Margaret McPherson in 1767 [Charles County Court Records 1766-7, 262].

$ Eleanor Mackett in 1723 [Prince George's County Court Record 1723-6, 12].

$ Elizabeth Mane in 1716 [Talbot County Judgment Record 1714-7, 147].

$ Amis Maney in 1747 [Prince George's County Court Record 1747-8, 258].

$ Mary Milner in 1726 [Prince George's County Court Records 1726-7, 4, 10].

$ the mother of Lewis Mingo about 1682 [Charles County Court Records 1711-15, 307; Provincial Court 1713-16, 150-2].

$ Sarah Moals, alias Grimm, in 1753 [Anne Arundel County Judgment Record 1751-4, 510, 518].

$ Elizabeth Moy in 1727 [Prince George's County Court Record 1727-8, 345-6].

$ Jane Napier in 1721 [Charles County Court Records 1720-2, 127, 128-9].

$ Sarah Neuth in 1749 [Queen Anne's County Judgments 1750, images 45, 49].

$ Jane Nuttle in 1741 [Talbot County Judgment Record 1740-1, 259, 272].

$ Sarah Obryan in 1762 [Prince George's County Court Record 1761-3, 181].

$ Ann Parrat in 1742 [Charles County Court Records 39:450].

$ mother of Sarah who married Thomas Perlott in 1734 [Queen Anne's County Judgments 1732-5, 535].

$ Sarah Phillmore in 1705 and 1717 [Prince George's County Court Record 1699-1705, 440; 1715-20, 185].

$ Sarah Porter in 1729 [Talbot County Judgment Record 1728-31, 126].

$ Sarah Purrey in 1705 [Anne Arundel County Judgment Record 1705-6, 51, 116].

$ Jane Repwith/ Rapworth in 1753 and 1763 [Charles County Court Record 1753-4, 149, 221; 1762-4, 351].

$ Ann Reyny in 1719 and 1721 [Charles County Court Record 1717-20, 188, 311; 1720-2, 201].

$ Christian Robison in 1735 [Charles County Court Record 1734-9, 45-6].

$ Mary Rye in 1711 [Baltimore County Liber IS#B, 245].

$ Eleanor Shehea in Queen Anne's County in 1775 [Surles, and they Appeared in Court, 1774-1777, 57].

$ Elizabeth Smith in 1718 [Somerset County Liber EF:170].

$ Sarah Smith (mother of John Glover) in 1681 [Charles County Court Records A-2:182, 251].

$ Elizabeth Strutt in 1743 [Baltimore County Proceedings 1743-6, 20, 82].

$ Grace Tacker in 1768 [Prince George's County Court Record 1766-8, 573, 581].

$ Martildo Tiror in 1726 [Somerset County Judicial Record 1725-7, 132]

$ Elizabeth Vincent in 1686 [Talbot County Judgment Record 1686-9, 68, 173].

$ Ann Wade in 1704 [Kent County, Delaware Court Records 1703-17, 5b].

$ Susannah Warburton in 1757 [Baltimore County Criminal Record 1757-9, 32].

$ Dinah Wenham in 1714 [Baltimore County Liber IS#B, 505].

$ Mary Yates about 1767 [Talbot County Criminal Record 1767-74, n.p.].


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