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Tag Archives: immigration

- Vestiges of Vietnam: Gathering Stories of the Refugee Experience

Editor’s Note: The Library of Virginia, in partnership with Virginia Humanities, sponsors residential fellows during the academic year to conduct in-depth research in the Library’s collections. An independent scholar from Arlington, Kim O’Connell spent the spring working on a forthcoming project The Saving Grace of Spring Rolls: A Story of Food, Place, and Family.


The author's parents on their wedding day. Courtesy of Kim O'Connell.

“No single story can capture the diaspora’s experiences,” wrote the Vietnamese author and Pulitzer Prize winner Viet Thanh Nguyen, speaking of the mass exodus from Vietnam after the fall of Saigon in April 1975. This is one reason that, as a Virginia Humanities fellow, I’ve been gathering a range of stories about the Vietnamese immigrant and refugee experience here in Virginia.

Another reason involves my family. My mother, Huong, was born in Vietnam and met my father Dennis during the war. She had been hired by the U.S. Army to teach Vietnamese to American soldiers, and my father, then working in Army Intelligence with the U.S. Special Forces, was in her class. After a short courtship, they married on the military base in Okinawa, Japan, and he brought her back to America, where I was born. Immigrating via marriage, my mother was not a refugee, but in her own way she was driven by war from one life into another. By telling her story, I hope to better … read more »

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- Buying and Selling Servants


Indenture between Patrick Larkin and Thomas Blood, 17 August 1766, Virginia Miscellany Legal Papers, 1657-1791, Private Papers Collection, Library of Virginia (Accession 24715).

Two types of immigrants came to America without paying their own passage—indentured servants and redemptioners. Indentured servants would sign a contract, called an indenture, before they sailed agreeing to serve for a period of years in exchange for passage to America. The term of service was typically between four to seven years. Redemptioners were a similar type of immigrant; however they made their agreement with the shipping merchant to be transported without paid passage. Upon landing in America, they were given a short period of time to find family or friends willing to pay all or part of their passage. If funds could not be secured, they then signed on as servants and their indentures could be sold in order to satisfy the debt.

The practice of buying and selling redemptioners and indentured servants can be found in Augusta County Chancery Cause James Kelzo, etc. vs. Samuel McChesney, 1796-008.  James Kelzo (spelled frequently as Kelso) and James Wilson of Augusta County and Samuel McChesney of Culpeper County formed a partnership to purchase and sell indentured servants.  Wilson and McChesney were to make the arrangements for selling the servants, and the partners agreed to divide the net profits equally among them.

With three men responsible for reporting accounts and divvying up profits, it wasn’t long before accusations of withholding funds landed the business partnership … read more »