East India Indians in Early Colonial Records

Paul Heinegg, in his epic ongoing project documenting free people of color in the colonial US and early America recorded specifically and identified as such, East Indian Indians.  For purposes of clarification, these people were from what is now India today, a region then controlled by England. 

Over the years, there has been a great deal of speculation about “East Indians” and their exotic ancestry, especially in relationship to the identity and origins of some of the groups known as tri-racial isolates.  Some speculate that these East Indians as well as the isolate groups were really Portuguese, some speculate Jewish, some gypsy.  These East Indians weren’t anything other than what they were documented to be, they were simply indentured servants from India, pure and simple.

When I went through Paul’s work and extracted all of the Native American records for the Native Names project, I didn’t quite know what to do with the East Indians.  They weren’t Native Americans, but they surely were “of interest” as a group and could certainly potentially be mistaken for Native Americans by the use of the word Indian. They are not included in the Native Names project, but they are documented here, as a group, as well as on Paul’s website by family name.

Of course, the question arises of what happened to these people, most of whom were men.  We do find some answers, but the most likely scenario is that they married other “people of color” and were quickly assimilated.  We see some examples in the records included here.

Their blood may still run in the veins of their descendants today, 300-400 years later, some 12-16 generations removed from the immigrant ancestor.  This means that less than 1% of the DNA of this ancestor is found in their currently living descendants.  In fact, the percentage of DNA of that ancestor is less than 1% by the 8th generation.  By the 12th generation, it only 5/100th or five one hundredths of one percent.  An amount that would be entirely indistinguishable on any autosomal DNA test.  Autosomal DNA tests are only reliable above the 1% threshold, and generally not beyond 5 or 6 generations which translates to 6.25% (5 generations) or 3.12% (6 generations).  At that level, the DNA of our ancestors is still generally distinguishable.

Below are all of the East India Indians found by Paul in the original records.  Details for each person and situation are available on his website, www.africanamericans.com and http://www.freeafricanamericans.com/East_Indians.htm.

I want to thank Paul for his tireless work documenting early people of color.  I have summarized the entries below, but the research work is all Paul’s.

1.  Mary Dove, born about 1710, was a “Negro woman” slave listed in the Anne Arundel County, Maryland, inventory of the estate of Eleazer Birkhead on 28 April 1744 [Prerogative Court (inventories) 1744-5, 43].

A grandson of Mary Dove named William Dowry was still held in slavery in Anne Arundel County in 1791 when he sued for his freedom in the General Court of Maryland. In October 1791 a fifty-seven or fifty-eight-year-old woman named Ann Ridgely (born about 1734), who was the daughter-in-law of Leonard Thomas, testified in Anne Arundel County that Mary Dove was a tall, spare woman of brown complexion and was the granddaughter of a woman imported into the country by the deponent’s great grandfather. The deponent always understood that the grandmother of Mary Dove was a “Yellow Woman,” had long black hair, was reputed to be an East Indian or a Madagascarian, and was called “Malaga Moll.” Ridgely testified that Mary Dove had a daughter named Fanny who was the mother of William Dowry who petitioned for his freedom in the General Court of Maryland in 1791. She also testified that Mary Dove sued Leonard Thomas for freedom in Maryland, but before the suit was decided he moved with his family about twenty miles from Newbern, North Carolina, and took with him Mary, her three children, and her grandchildren Will and Sal. A certain Alexander Sands, commonly called Indian Sawony, was a witness for Mary Dove in her suit in Craven County, North Carolina, in 1749 and testified that her grandmother was an East Indian woman [Craven County Miscellaneous Records, C.R. 28.928.10, cited by Byrd, In Full Force and Virtue, 37-8].

2.  In Caroline County, Virginia, William Matthews, an East Indian, produced a warrant in Caroline County court on 13 February 1752 for taking up a runaway servant woman [Orders 1746-54, 296].

3.  Three members of the Weaver family, probably brothers, were called “East Indians” in Lancaster County between 1707 and 1711. They were John born about 1684, Richard born about 1675 and William born about 1686,

Lancaster Co., Va. – Richard Weaver, born say 1675, was called an East Indian by the Lancaster County court on 11 April 1711 when it granted him judgment against the estate of Andrew Jackson for 400 pounds of tobacco due by bill [Orders 1702-13, 262].

William Weaver, born about 1686, and Jack Weaver, “East Indy Indians,” sued Thomas Pinkard for their freedom in Lancaster County court on 13 August 1707. The court allowed them five days time to produce evidence relating to their freedom but ordered them not to depart the county to some remote county without giving security to return to their master within the time allowed. Neither party appeared for the trial on 10 March 1707/8 [Orders 1702-13, 183, 176, 185].

In Delaware, the indenture of East Indian servants was more common than of Indian slaves:

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

5.  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].

6.  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].

Thomas Mayhew, born about 1708, may have been identical to “1 Indian Man Named Tom” who was valued at 32 pounds and listed among the slaves of the Honorable Thomas Addison, Esquire, deceased, on 10 August 1727 when his widow Eleanor Addison brought the estate to an appraisement in Prince George’s County, Maryland [Prerogative Court Inventories 1727-9, 12:295-313]. Thomas India petitioned the Prince George’s County court in March 1729 stating that he was free born, baptized in England, and imported with his mother into Maryland under indenture. However, he was detained as a slave by Madam Eleanor Addison [Court Record 1728-9, 413]. He was probably the father of Thomas Mayhew, born about 1735, who escaped from the Prince George’s County jail according to the 29 May 1760 issue of the Maryland Gazette. He was described as “of a very dark Complexion, his Father being an East-India Indian … formerly lived in lower Prince George’s County” [Green, The Maryland Gazette, 1727-61, 246].

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

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

9.  East Indian William Creek petitioned and was successfully freed from his indenture to Samuel Chew in Anne Arundel County, MD in March 1736/7 [Court Record 1736-8, 126].  Three members of the Creek family were listed in the inventory of another member of the Chew family in 1737.

William Creek, born about 1710, or other members of his family were listed in the inventory of the Anne Arundel County estate of Samuel Chew on 6 January 1718: “2 East India Indians – 30 pounds” and the inventory of the Anne Arundel and Calvert County estate of another Samuel Chew on 15 October 1737: “Negroes Age: Peg Creek 40 – 54 pounds…Wm Creek 8 – 41 pounds, Ned Creek 6 – 30 pounds” [Prerogative Inventories 1718, 464-9; 1737-1739, 218-223]. He successfully petitioned the Anne Arundel County court for his freedom from his master Samuel Chew on 8 March 1736/7. He testified that he was born in the East Indies and carried as a young boy to England where he was apprenticed to an apothecary. Chew’s nephew testified that William played a prank by giving someone a love potion. This so offended the apothecary’s wife and daughter that the apothecary consigned William to the captain of a ship headed to Maryland [Judgment Record 1736-8, 126].

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

11.  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]. To one East India Indian named Aron Johnson having two years and a half to serve 7 pounds, 10 shillings.

12.  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].

13.  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].

14.  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].  

Mary Molloyd, born about 1660, was an Irish woman who came to Maryland as the indentured servant of Madam Vansweringen and was later the servant of Thomas Beale. According to the petition for freedom brought by her grandchildren in Anne Arundel County Court in June 1743, she had an illegitimate child named Mary by Peter, an East Indian servant who lived with Lord Baltimore in St. Mary’s County.

In Maryland, in estate records, there were six East Indians, six Indian servants and twenty-four “free Negroes” who still had time to serve.

15.  Rose Davis was born 11 August 1684 at the “Top of the Hill” plantation in St. Mary’s County, Maryland. She was baptized at Nottley Hall by a priest named Mr. Richard Hebert with Henry and Rose Wharton as godparents. Rose was thirty-one years old in August 1715 when she brought an unsuccessful suit for her freedom against Henry Darnall in Anne Arundel County Court [Court Judgments 1715-7, 93, 178, 244-6]. Rose was listed in the Anne Arundel County inventory of the estate of Henry Darnall (Sr.) in 1713:

In March 1779 her granddaughter Rosamond Bentley petitioned the Prince George’s County court for her freedom, and in August 1781 Rosamond and her brother William and sisters Mary, Eleanor and Margaret Bentley won their cases. In an apparent effort to minimize their African ancestry, Rose’s witnesses testified that the family descended from Mary Davis, a white English woman, and an East Indian man – instead of a “Negroe man” as stated in Mary Davis’s Bible. And her witnesses described Rose’s daughter as “Indian Polly” [Judgment Record 1777-82, 713-

16.  Maryland Prerogative Court (Inventories) Microfilm Roll 63, CD 1, ac 1238, Liber 2, 1676 –  pp.177-178 (CD pp.208-9) – Inventory of Capt Edward Roe 3rd day of July 1676 – 1 East India servant boy – 2500 pounds tobacco – (Talbot County)

17.  1732-1734, Volume 18,  p.310, Mr John Stokes of Baltimore Co, 22 January 1732 – 1 East India Indian about 16 mos to serve 2 pounds

18.  Windley, Runaway Slave Advertisements II: p.36-7, Annapolis Maryland Gazette, July 17, 1760, Upper Marlborough, July 15, 1760

Ran away from Mr. Hepburn’s Plantation, near Rock-Creek Bridge in Frederick County, on Saturday the 12th Instant, a Negro Man named Will, a little more than 5 feet high; he is of a yellow Complexion, being of a mix’d Breed, between an East-Indian and a Negro, has a large full Eyes, long Wool on his Head, and Lips.

19.  Windley, Runaway Slave Advertisements II, p.111, May 25, 1775

…living in Prince George’s County, near Upper Marlborough, on Sunday the 26 the of March, a negro man, named Sam, but generally called and known by the name of Sam Locker; between thirty and forty years of age, has rather long hair, being of the East-Indian breed; he formerly belonged to Mr. Isaac Simmons near Pig Point, in Anne Arundel County; the said Simmons now lives near Calvert County court house, and I suppose the fellow may endeavor to get down to his old master’s house.

20.  Accomack Co., Va., Orders 1697-1703, p.251, March 1699/1700,

Henry Trent brings his servant Nick an East Indian adjudged 11 years old.

21.  Richmond Co. Orders 1704-8, p.111, 6 February 1705/6, Petition of Sembo, an East India Indian Servant to Jno. Lloyd, Esq., for his freedom.

22.  Richmond Co., Va. Orders, p.156-9, Petition of Moota, an East India Indian, servant to Capt. Thomas Beale, surviving executor of Mr. William Colston, deced., for his freedom … ordered and judged that said Moota be free … ordered and adjudged that said Sembo be free.

23.  Richmond Co. Orders 1711-16, p.479, 2 May 1716, Anthony an Indian v. Long, The Order made last March Court for the Sheriff to summon Henry Long to answer what should be offered against him by Anthony, an East India Indian, is hereby discontinued.

24.  Spotsylvania Co., Orders 1735-38, p.440, Zachary Lewis, Churchwarden of St. George Parish, presents Ann Jones, a servant belonging to John West, who declared that Pompey an East Indian (slave) belonging to William Woodford, Gent., was the father of sd child which was adjudged of by the Court that she was not under the law having a Mullato child, that only relates to Negroes and Mullatoes and being Silent as to Indians, carry sd. Ann Jones to the whipping post.

25.  Stafford County, Va. – Martha Gamby, born about 1675, was an (East) Indian woman living in England on 5 January 1701/2 when Henry Conyers made an agreement with her that she would serve him in Virginia on condition that he would pay her passage back to England if she wished to return within the following four years. The agreement was recorded in Stafford County court about 1704 [WB, Liber Z:194].

26.  Westmoreland Co., Va. Orders 1705-21, p.59a, 25 June 1707, Ordered Mr. Daniel Neale be summoned to bee appear at the next Court held for the County aforesaid to answer the suit of William an East India Indian servant to the sd Neale relating to his freedom.

27.  Westmoreland Co., Va., Orders 1705-21, p.83, 30 March 1708, Will an East India Indian late a supposed slave to Mr. Danll Neale by his Petition to this Court setting forth that some tyme in yeare 1689 being fraudulently trappand out of his Native Country in the East Indies and thence transported to England and soon after brought into this Country and sold as a slave to Mr. Christopher Neale deceased father of his sd present Master And that hee had ever since faithfully served the sd Christopher and Daniel Notwithstanding which the sd Daniel though often demanded denied him his freedome And the sd Daniel being summoned to answer the sd complaint appeared and both parties Submitted the whole matter of the complaint to the Court All which being maturely & fully heard It is considered by the Court that the sd Will ought not to have been sold as a slave and that he is a freeman And doe therefore discharge him from all service due to the sd Christopher or Danll Neale.

28.  York Co., Va., Orders, Wills, Etc. no 14, 1709-1716, p.288, 16 November 1713, Joseph Walker, Gent., in open Court acknowledged his release & acquittance to Moll an East India Indian.

p.291, whereas an East India Indian woman named Moll (imported into this Colony by Joseph Walker, Gent., ye year 1700 & by him sold to Jno. Tullett, being desirous of freedom … acquit Moll from being a Slave. J. Walker

29.  York Co., Va. Orders, Wills, Etc. 15, 1716-20, p.82, 18 February 1716/7, Petition of Eliza Ives for service from her East Indian woman servt. for the trouble of her house in the time of her lying in is rejected.

30.  Bruton Parish Church, York and James City County:  p. 115, 12 August 1738, burial of ____ny a East Indian belonging to Honble William Gooch, Esq.

31.  Virginia Gazette: 15 April to 27 April 1737 – Ran away from Col. John Lewis’s in Gloucester … Mulatto Fellow named George … Ran away in Company with the above-mentioned was an East Indian, belonging to Mr. Heylin, Merchant, in Gloucester. John Lewis and John Heylyn.

36.  Virginia Gazette: 4 August 1768. Richmond County. Run away the 20th of May last, and East-India Indian, named Thomas Greenwich.

33.  Virginia Gazette:  7 March 1771. Run away from the sloop Betsy, Edward Massey commander, belonging to Mr. Thomas Hodge, out of Corotoman river, in Lancaster county, three servant men, viz., one named Samuel Tailer, and Englishman … One Virginia born Negro, named Alexander Richardson about 21 years old … The other an East Indian, upwards of 5 feet and a half high, about 22 years old, of a very dark complexion.

34.  Virginia Gazette:  John Newton, sevt, c. 20, an Asiatic Indian by birth [or mulatto according to another edition of the gazette] has been in Va. about 2 mos. but claims to have lived in England 10 years in the service of Sir Charles Whitworth; ran away from William Brown of Prince William County Virginia Gazette 13 July 1776 Virginia Gazette Purdie edition 19 July 1776, p.249 Headley

 35.  Craven County, NC Minutes 1772-1778, 12 September 1777, p.58c-d Peter Charles vs John Egge Tomlinson This Case being Ruled for Trial this Day the Court provided to hear the Parties upon the Examination of Witnesses The court was Unanimous of the opinion that the said Peter Charles is an East India Indian and justly Intitled to his Freedom. Therefore Ordered that he be Immediately Discharged and Set Free and the Defendant John Edge Tomlinson pay all costs.


About Roberta Estes

Scientist, author, genetic genealogist. Documenting Native Heritage through contemporaneous records and DNA.
This entry was posted in East Indians (from India). Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to East India Indians in Early Colonial Records

  1. stevie says:

    There is a considerable 5th and 6th generation east indian population if not future back that reside in the city of summerville sc under the name “muckenfuss.” they do not talk with a east indian dialect as there 1st generation brothers and sisters that usually run the local quicky marts. they mostly married within there own group or with whites as opposed to blacks. and are look upon as very well respected within the community.

  2. stevie says:

    does this include the so called “turks” of sc too?

    • No, it does not include South Carolina. I have info about them for a future post.

      • Bow says:

        South Carolina should be included. I am descended from a Scottish and East Indian woman, who happened to be my great grandparents. This was in Lancaster county.

        Her death certificate said Indian, but we assumed it was Native American.

        Dna test proved otherwise. The descendants are still alive and living in that community today and have no idea who they are.

        Eye witness accounts of her said she was olive skinned, long black hair and had a dot on her forehead, but they didn’t understand what she was and was labeled Mulatto, Black on the census and Cherokee in our family.

  3. Raymond says:

    Great article. Can’t wait to see the SC post. My family is from SC and the DNA test revealed some East Indian…..

    • refazenda2014 says:

      My SC family DNA also shows Asian Indian ancestry, but I’ve not been able to document or confirm this in my genealogical research. Were you able to find anything specific?

      • Raymond says:

        No, but it explained why my great-grandmother had fully decorated Hindu elephants. The one with its truck turned up faced the door for good luck. We were not allowed to touch them neither was my father and his siblings. They were held in a high esteem but we were never told why. Research showed that the East Indians were Hindu and practiced it here. I know it was Banjara from the Punjab, but I’m still look looking for the person(s).

      • refazenda2014 says:

        That’s amazing!
        In some of the research I did I found a possible connection based upon some of the trade routes that went from India, around Africa, and to the eastern U.S. and the Caribbean.

    • Jamal Weans says:

      Im from the low country of S.C. namely Colleton County, My great great grandmother said her mother was from India, but her father was a Dutch white man and family who she had a second set of children from, her own father in other words. Hereing this story from my grandmother and grandaunts made me laugh it off and settled in my mind that gggrandmother was some sort of triracial like a lot of families where Im from particuly white,native American and black. But after getting older and starting to realize all the Jamaicans,hatians,Puerto Rican’s that came to my area to do migrant work and mixing with the already gullah community anything was possible, and i know for sure that carribeans came over on the banana boat to Charleston and didn’t go back proof of a Jamaican who rental an apartment from my grandfather and told that’s how he got over here, by the way my grandfather built these apartments and nightclub for the tuskegee airman that came to my home town in ’43 to ’45 for advance training where they left scores of children behind,like my mother when the base closed for the airmen and they returned back to other bases. My mother is still alive as half of the others borne from this situation and my cousin now owns the apartments that’s still there and operating till this day. My cousin plays a part of this story because his grandfather killed and gypsy man in self defense and was cleared of all chargers and but had to move to another town south in the county. So trying to research my East Indian heritage I found out that the word gypsy was an derogatory name being used for people from India around that time and this is within a hundred years of history Im explaining to you, this is recent history in my family. Now the whole Barbados and connectivity to my county may have been stronger than the rest of the area that could of continued to bring in plantation workers well after the ending of slavery but there’s families in my area that said they trace their heritage back to china, and these people are me and my mothers age. I’ve reaserched everywhere about theses different peoples but have not found any records besides a bombshell about a gypsy family by the name of Cook that were in the same no red light town where my cousins grand father killed the so called gypsy man. That town and area has a lot of German and black mixed families and that’s where my fathers mother is from but check this out, her grandfather was said to come from the orient to that part of the country and indeed bout 100 acres of land and tried to build a town. He looked liked some sort of English east Indian guy with the long mustache and his wife my gggrandmother looked like a black Chinese! Unrelated to my gggrandmother on my mothers side who has been passed down that her mother was from India. My family history is so complicated and interesting that its troublesome that i haven’t sought outside help to document this for better record keeping or reaserched from some outside professional service. Ok now my grandfather (fathers side)who built the apartments and club for the tuskegee airman that came to town are not originally from colleton county they got there around 1910 from another county of northern S.C. were these brothers and sister packed up and dispersed to Colleton County, Lumberton, NC and York County SC. They claimed to be mulatto Indians and are as 1940 census recorded as mulatto and white, which can explain maybe my the relocation to Lumberton, NC(lumbee Indians )and Fort Mill S.C.(Catawba Indians) and Canadys S.C.(Edisto Indian family) area.
      That’s my family story. If anyone see this being interesting and can have any knowledge of there east Indian heritage or want to know more about my family feel free to contact me, and the great thing is that I now live in the washingto,DC area and have access to records at the National Archives.

      • Charles Arterburn says:

        Sounds like we have different origins, but here’s the link for my family’s story:


      • Bow says:

        Are family sounds very similar. My great grandfather was White and my great grandmother East Indian and wore a red dot on her forehead. They were from South Carolina and she also had an “interesting” marriage. Had a daughter brought with her into the marriage that my great grandfather had children with as well.

        The women of married White men and the sons married had children with Black and White women( I’m from the Black side).

  4. My ancestor, Peter Atterburn/Arterburn (1711-1803), originally came from Charles County, MD and was described in a court record (in TN) as “very dark” and that he “came from the East India.” In Charles County, one early court record (1736) there identifies him as “Peter Atterburn alias Williams.” I think he might have been the son of “John Williams,” an East Indian servant freed earlier in Charles County Court (1706/07). Are there any new leads on John Williams’ identity or ancestry or whereabouts after 1707?

  5. Alex says:

    Though I have a lot of mixture in my ancestry, most of it is African American. Our family has always had an tradition of East Indian ancestry on my father’s mother’s side and some in our family still look kind of like people from the Gujarat area. They appear to have been brought here at the turn of the 19th century, or late 1790s first as indentured people. I have been surprised to discover that some of the distant cousin matches I have on the dna site I’m on are people of Indian ancestry from India, Trinidad and Guyana. Interestingly one of these distant genetic cousins responded to my inquiry on one of the dna sites just recently. I found out she was born in India (Kolkata) with all 4 grandparents born there, but she thinks she may descend from British people as well and has an English surname that is still closely associated with the East Indian side of my family going back to the 1800s. This makes me think we might share both British and Indian ancestry. I think Americans who have an oral tradition of ancestry from people of various countries or native americans will be surprised to find in the future they can locate and confirm some of their oral traditions and relatives through dna testing.

  6. My 6th great-grandmother, Mary Weaver, was born in 1774 in Maryland. She was married to Archie Lindsey. They had a daughter named Letitia K. Lindsey (5th great-grandmother), who was born on August 10, 1793, in Virginia. I’m trying to prove if Mary was of East Indian ancestry.

  7. reginafenner says:

    My family come from the havelock newborn area and I believe I’m related to the Mary who lost that ring my gg gg gg gg gg gg grandmother Mary dove lived in that area at that time, I’m willing to take the dna or whatever is needed to trace the information contact me. We are still here strong .

  8. DaniE says:

    @sean morrissey I am also a Weaver descendant as well and my cousin got a percentage of East Indian DNA in her DNA test results so I believe that Paul Heinegg’s research on the Weavers is definitely correct!

Leave a Reply to Alex Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.