During the 1600 and 1700's many poor people in Europe couldn't find work. They made the journey to America by signing themselves into contracts or Indentures.  As indentured servants they were owned and had no personal rights.

uA Brief Description
 of Indentures and 
 Apprenticeships u1818 Apprentice
 Indenture document
 for a Shoemaker l Forks of the Ohio