English residents who were unable to pay their debts usually ended up in prison, with no hope of release. It was the ultimate condemnation for poor people and generally accepted by society. James Edward Oglethorpe (before he colonized Georgia) was an avid supporter of prison reform, especially after an artist friend died in Newgate. The friend was a popular artist who lived large. Oglethorpe struggled to get him released, but the artist was put into a cell with a person having a contageous disease and the artist soon died. However, Oglethorpe made his views known by pushing pamphlets and articles in various London newspapers. Ultimately, prisoners were given the choice of indenturing themselves to American colonists. Peter Coffey was born in Ireland and was apparently one of the prisoners of debt in Newgate Prison given the choice of the prison cell or the opportunity to indenture himself in the colonies. He put himself in bondage to come to America in the shipForward Galley. The voyage was made in October of 1730 and 18 years later after being released from service, he was granted 220 acres of land on Vaughans Creek.
County and Probate Records to Help you Find your Virginia Ancestors