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Jamestown Terms

Penny, Shilling, Pound, Pennies, Shillings

These were the primary English monetary units used during the seventeenth century. There were 12 pennies in a shilling and 20 shillings in a pound.

House Of Burgesses

Established in 1619, this was the first elected assembly in America. The burgesses, or freemen, in each borough, or county, were allowed to select two representatives. The House of Burgesses had the authority to initiate and pass legislation, pending the governor's approval, and it served as the colony's highest court of appeals.

This refers to was the lower house of Virginia's legislative assembly. Established in 1619, it was initially perceived as a largely consultative body that met irregularly. But by the second half of the seventeenth century, the House had established itself as a more regular and essential part of Virginia's government. During the colonial period the members of the House of Burgesses were the only popularly elected officials in the colony.

Indenture, Indentured, Indentured Servants, Indentured Servant

An indenture is a contract between two parties. In Jamestown the term was most commonly used to describe a labor contract in which one party agreed to work for a specified period of time, usually four or five years, in return for some form of compensation, usually passage to the colony, room and board, and 'freedom dues' (three barrels of corn and a suit of clothes) upon completion of the indenture.

Navigation Act, Navigation Acts

These were a series of laws passed by British Parliament, beginning in 1650, designed to implement the theories of mercantilism. According to these theories, Britain would be strengthened by building a self-sufficient economy. To achieve this, England, the 'mother country,' should establish colonies to provide raw materials that it lacked and markets for the manufactured goods that it produced. Navigation acts, which regulated trade between the colonies and the mother country, ensured that the mother country received the benefits of the goods and materials produced by the colony.

The navigation acts aimed at Virginia during the seventeenth century forbade trade with the Dutch and required that all tobacco be shipped directly to England or one of its colonies. Parliament also required that the tobacco be transported on British ships manned by crews that were at least three-quarters British.


The militia was the citizen-army raised to provide defense against Indian attack and foreign invasion. By law, all free adult men were required to serve in the militia when called into service by the governor.

Tribute Tribe

This label was applied to the Indians living on the edges of the Jamestown settlement with which Governor William Berkeley negotiated a peace agreement after the war of 1644. Through this agreement the Indians were allowed to remain on territories relatively close to the English settlement in return for an annual tribute paid to the governor. Berkeley believed that these 'tribute tribes' would serve as a buffer between the English colony and less friendly Indians deeper in the interior.


This is a potentially deadly illness, usually caused by bacterial infection, causing stomach pain and diarrhea.


A werowance was a 'sub-chief' or village leader within the confederation of Indians surrounding the Chesapeake led by Powhatan.

Chesapeake, The Chesapeake, Chesapeake Bay

This refers to the coastal regions of Virginia and Maryland surrounding the Chesapeake Bay—the 200-mile long inlet stretching between the Atlantic Ocean and the Susquehanna River.

Tenant Farmer, Tenant Farmers

Tenant farmers were farmers that did not own their own land—instead they worked land owned by others on some sort of contractual basis. In seventeenth-century Virginia, most tenant farmers paid the landowner a pre-determined percentage of their crop (often as much as twenty-five percent) as compensation for the use of their land.

Virginia Company, The Virginia Company

The Virginia Company was a joint stock company chartered by England's King James I in 1606 to establish a settlement on the coast of Virginia. In 1607 the Virginia Company planted a colony in the Chesapeake and named it Jamestown. Economic problems, high mortality rates, and Indian attacks led the British Crown to revoke the Company's charter in 1624 and to convert Virginia into a Crown colony directly governed by the King.

Seasoning, "Seasoning"

This term referred to the period of time Virginia's newcomers needed to adjust to the colony's climate and health conditions. An immigrant that survived his or her first couple of years in the colony was 'seasoned.'


This is the legal process of implementing a person's will or settling his or her estate upon their death.

An officially proven and certified will

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