"Stiles himself a Prize fighter": New-York Runaways, 1706-1768


Joseph Lee Boyle has heretofore faithfully transcribed runaway servant ads placed in the colonial newspapers for the Middle Atlantic colonies of Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. With this book, he picks up the trail of servants who ran away from a New York master or servants having another connection to New York.

From the genealogist’s standpoint, the runaway poses a methodological problem, since it was in the runaway’s best interest to conceal his/her identity after making a successful getaway. In other words, even if the runaway kept the same name, it is quite likely that the link to his original residence in America and to his country of origin was lost–lost, that is, unless his/her identity was uncovered in the thousands of, often very detailed, runaway ads placed in colonial newspapers by the disgruntled “owners.” And this is precisely where the research and publications of Joseph Lee Boyle come in.

Mr. Boyle assembled this list of New York runaways for the period 1706-1768 from The New-York Gazette, The New-York Weekly Journal, The New-York Chronicle, and 27 other papers published from New England south through Maryland. Among those are the Boston Gazette, The Connecticut Gazette, The Maryland Gazette, and The American Weekly Mercury. Although we will never know precisely how many New York indentured servants and other runaways fled their masters–the first New York newspaper did not commence until 1726–Mr. Boyle has transcribed upwards of 1,500 ads for missing persons, referencing more than 3,000 persons with New York connections.

Mr. Boyle’s fascinating Introduction to this volume not only explains his methodology but also provides fascinating glimpses of the runaways and their motivations. Here is a sampling: “J. Sebastian Stephany recorded his ‘Negro Fellow’ Pompey ran away, though his left Legg is a wooden one. . . . A Negro man named Scipio ran away though he ‘had his arms pinioned behind him.’ Eva Hukel, a runaway German servant girl was only twelve years old. . . . Alexander McCormack, a Ditcher was advertised in New Jersey but ‘has a Wife in New York, named Mary, with a Son about 18 Months old.'”

Besides white male and female runaways, this work cites a number of runaway apprentices, both men and women, military deserters, horse thieves, burglars, jailbreakers, and perpetrators of serious offenses.

Joseph Lee Boyle

2020, paper, 442 pp.

ISBN: 9780806359038