Don’t be surprised if your Colonial American ancestors were actually from India. The colonial vocabulary used the term “East Indies” to describe the Indian subcontinent.
So how did these people get to the New World in the 1600s? The records themselves provide answers, and are extracted by Paul Heinegg as “Free African Americans of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Maryland and Delaware”: www.freeafricanamericans.com/East_Indians.htm
Mr. Heinegg, notes that East Indians came in bondage as indentured servants and slaves
from England. He documents East Indians from the court records in Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina. He notes that although they tended to marry into the Free Black community, they also intermixed with the indentured white community, many of whom clearly had Irish surnames. The court records used often use the term “East India Indians.”
One very interesting case from the Spotsylvania County Order Books (1735-38) showed the distinction between the East Indians and African slaves (page 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.”
In this case, Ann Jones, a presumed white indentured servant, had a child by Pompey, an East Indian slave. The laws were already in place restricting white indentured servants having children with African slaves. Yet, it had not caught up with the East Indian issue. In the end, Ann’s sentence was the whipping post!
What a fascinating piece of history with records to back it up.