U.S. Quaker Research (Society of Friends)

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Quakerism in America was brought to Rhode Island in 1657 from and England. The earliest Quaker settlements were in New England, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. From these states Quakers migrated in the mid- to late- 1700s to Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia. Then in the 1800s they spread into the Midwest, Oregon, California, and Canada. Quakerism was founded in 1647 by George Fox, who also established a rich system of record keeping.

Quaker meetings were organized by geographic areas consisting mainly of Preparative Meetings (Particular Meetings), Monthly Meetings, Quarterly Meetings, and Yearly Meetings. Records of Monthly Meetings hold the most vital information for genealogists. They may contain a history of the meeting, lists of members, marriages, deaths, removals, and disownings. Quakers did not practice baptism.

In 1750 Quakerism was the third largest religion in the British colonies with about 250 monthly meetings. By 1775 it had slipped to fifth place with 320 meetings. There were several separations in Quakerism beginning with the Hicksites in 1828.

Clues a person was a Quaker[edit | edit source]

  • Months of the year are recorded as numbers rather than by their names in an ancestors' record.
  • Male ancestors do not appear in military records.
  • Your ancestors lived in an area where there was a high concentration of Quakers.

To learn more about the Quakers you may want to view the following book:

  • Our Quaker Ancestors: Finding Them in Quaker Records. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1987 by Ellen Thomas Berry and David Allen. FHL Collection Book 973 D27bq  Worldcat entry Free to view at books.google.com.

Identify their Monthly Meeting[edit | edit source]

If you are at the Family History Library you can search William Wade Hinshaw’s Index to Encyclopedia of American Quaker Genealogy, FHL book 973 D2he index At various libraries (WorldCat). This book is an every name index to the first six volumes of Monthly Meetings compiled by William Wade Hinshaw. It indexes many, but not all Monthly Meetings.

A compact disc version of the six-volume collection, Encyclopedia of American Quaker Genealogy, can be viewed at the Family History Library on compact disc no. 9, part 192 or in book form, Family History Library call number 973 D2he At various libraries (WorldCat) on the United States and Canada third floor. The collection is also available on microfiche beginning number 6051380. The volumes contain the following information:

  • Vol. 1: North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Tennessee
  • Vol. 2: Pennsylvania and New Jersey
  • Vol. 3: New York City and Long Island
  • Vols. 4-5: Southwestern Pennsylvania, Ohio, and one meeting in Michigan
  • Vol. 6: Virginia

For Quakers in Indiana, use the Family History Library book 977.2 K28h, containing vol. 7, Abstracts of the Records of the Society of Friends in Indiana, compiled by William Wade Hinshaw and Willard C. Heiss. The collection is divided into an index and six parts. This collection can be found at the Family History Library on the third floor and is available digitally here.

A card index of names intended for future volumes of this series is in The William Wade Hinshaw Index to Quaker Meeting Records in the Friends Library in Swarthmore College, Pennsylvania. It is on 73 Family History Library microfilms beginning with 2146 which is a list of abbreviations and meeting symbols used on the cards. This one item is also available on microfiche 6038227. The Cross Index to Quaker meeting records found on FHL microfilm 2148 is a list of surnames with the name of the monthly meetings where the surname occurs. The other microfilms contain alphabetical index cards for the monthly meetings in each of the U.S. states listed.

  • Choose the volume for your state and become familiar with the format of the book/microfilm. Read the introductory material to determine what records were extracted and what may be missing. There are several alphabetical sequences within each monthly meeting. Search them all for your family’s surname(s). Search all monthly meetings in the state if you are not sure which monthly meeting your ancestor belonged to.
  • If your ancestor is in these abstracts, copy the page containing the information because there may be many details you need to study. See the front of each volume for a list of abbreviations used.

Locate the Meeting's records[edit | edit source]

Use FHL book 973 K22h 1998 At various libraries (WorldCat), Monthly Meetings in North America: a Quaker Index, 4th ed., Rev. Thomas C. Hill. Cincinnati, Ohio: Thomas C. Hill, 1998, also available on FHL microfilm 1750867 item 12. This book can be found in the Churches section of the United States and Canada reference areas of the Family History Library. The book lists all known monthly meetings in alphabetical order, with their locations, dates of existence, known records, and location of the records. Use the Geographical Index on page 420 to see which Monthly Meetings were held in a specific state or county.

Example of an entry from Monthly Meetings in North America: a Quaker Index, 4th ed., page 221.
Monthly Meetings Quaker Index.jpg
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The usage of "Mormon" and "LDS" on this page is approved according to current policy.

Many Family History Library microfilm numbers are listed in Thomas Hill's book. They appear in the Where Records Kept field, preceded by "LDS". If microfilm numbers are listed, write them on your research log. If there are no FHL film numbers, skip to the section on contacting other repositories.

Obtain and search the records[edit | edit source]

  • If Thomas Hill’s book lists more than one Family History Library film number, use the FamilySearch Catalog Film/Fiche Numbers search to find the film number that includes the time period when your ancestor may have been listed. Write down the microfilm numbers you plan to search on your research log.
  • Find the microfilm, put it on a microfilm reader, and search the Monthly Meeting for your ancestor’s name.
  • If you did not find a film number for a particular location in the book above, you may find additional Quaker records by looking in the FamilySearch Catalog Place search under the name of the town and the topic Church Records.

Other repositories[edit | edit source]

The Family History Library does not have copies of all Quaker records. Many records are available only in selected archives, libraries, and other repositories. Use Thomas Hill’s book to determine where records for your ancestors might be. Some of those repositories are listed below.

  • Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College 500 College Ave. Swarthmore, PA 19081 Telephone: 610-328-8496 email contact: friends@swarthmore.edu  Website  The library has microfilms of monthly meetings, manuscript collections, and a searchable online catalog.
  • Friends Historical Collection, Hege Library, Guilford College 5800 W. Friendly Ave. Greensboro, NC 27410 Telephone 336-316-2450 email contact: archives@guilford.edu  Website Their collection includes written records of North Carolina Society of Friends from 1680 to the present, printed and microfilmed copies of other Friends records, personal and family papers, the college archives, printed materials by and about Quakers worldwide, and other sources for studying Quaker family history. Guilford College's yearbook, The Quaker is available digitally from 1911-2005.
  • For other repositories see chapter 8 of Our Quaker Ancestors below.

Search other sources and study the history of Quakerism and its separations to help in locating records. Look in the FamilySearch Catalog using the keyword or subject search for Quakers. For an overview of Quaker history and record keeping use the following book:

  • Our Quaker Ancestors: Finding Them in Quaker Records. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1987 by Ellen Thomas Berry and David Allen. FHL Collection Book 973 D27bq  Worldcat entry Free to view at books.google.com.

Online Help[edit | edit source]

The following Internet addresses provide links to other sites on the Internet with information on Quakers.

Quaker Project Resources on WikiTree at https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Space:Quaker_Project_Resources

For further information use these FamilySearch Wiki pages: