Quaker Records

By Lisa South - Certified Genealogist

Before I studied genealogy, all I knew about the Quakers was from the book, Friendly Persuasion by Jessamyn West. I knew Quakers believed in plain dress and used the beautiful "Thee and "Thou" instead of "you" and "your" - but there is so much more to know!

The Society of Friends or Quakers is a religion sect that was founded in England in 1652 by George Fox. The Quakers sent missionaries to the US in 1656 and after some initial persecution the religion began to grow. A large number of Quakers went with William Penn and helped settle Pennsylvania, but Quakers lived in all of the early states.

Accurate record keeping has always been very important to the Quakers. Minute books of the monthly, quarterly and yearly meetings were kept, but the ones of most value to the genealogist are the monthly meeting minute books. These books include birth, marriage and burial records. They also contained "removals" (members wanting permission to move to another location.) These help us establish our ancestor's migration pattern. The women and men had an equal place in worship, and from 1670 until 1890 separate men's and women's business meetings were held and minutes were kept by both groups. If one record was lost or destroyed the other usually survived. The men's minutes were referred to as "The Minutes".

A large number of Quaker records have been transcribed and are in print. The best known collection is Encyclopedia of American Quaker Genealogy by William Wade Hinshaw; Genealogical Publishing Co., Baltimore. These books can be found in many genealogical collections.

Many records have been microfilmed by the LDS Church and are available at their branch libraries through inter-library loan.

The two major repositories for Quaker Records in the U.S. are:

Haverford College Library
Quaker and Special Collections
370 Lancaster Ave.
Haverford, PA 19041

Friends Historical Library
500 College Ave.
Swathmore, PA 19081

Both of these libraries have good internet sites that tell us about their collections, hours, etc.

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