England Quaker Records (National Institute)

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The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in June 2012. It is an excerpt from their course English: Non-Anglican Church Records  by Dr. Penelope Christensen. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).

Quaker Records[edit | edit source]

The Society of Friends has kept its own distinctive and detailed records since 1669, with an earlier system from 1656 but there are very few records surviving from those early years. They were the first Nonconformist group to keep systematic records and the survival rate for their registers is higher than for the three major Old Dissent denominations (Baptist, Presbyterian and Independent/Congregational). Milligan and Thomas should be consulted for a detailed discussion on Quaker records and further references. Quakers used their own system of dating described in the next section.

Quaker Dates[edit | edit source]

Quakers objected to the use of names of days and months which were derived from pagan gods, thus always used numbers, for example Saturday 27th of March 1789 would be spoken as 27th 3rd month 1789. To distinguish the two numbers in writing, Quakers often used Arabic numerals for the day and roman numerals for the month, so this would become 27.iii.1789. A complication arises prior to 1752 when the English year began, not on January 1st but, on March 25th. In early records March was the 1st month but from 1752 March became the 3rd month (see chart below). This system explains why September/October/November/December are not the 7th/8th/9th/10th months, respectively, now as their names would imply!

When transcribing from early records the researcher needs to remember to double date (which occur in the period January to March 24), which effectively lap over into what we call the next year. This is done by using the format: 24 Jan 1721/22, meaning, ‘It is written as 1721 but we would call it 1722’. When we now apply the Quaker numbers instead of names, 24 Jan 1721 would have been written 24.xi.1721 in Quaker records.

Chart: Numbers of Quaker Months

UP TO 1751 QUAKER # 1752
March 1st January
April 2nd February
May 3rd March
June 4th April
July 5th May
August 6th June
September 7th July
October 8th August
November 9th September
December 10th October
January 11th November
February 12th December

Note that not all countries made this change from the Julian to the Gregorian Calendar in 1752. Catholic countries of southern Europe changed in 1582, Scotland in 1600, and others at various times up to the 20th century (Webb 1989).

Quaker Registers[edit | edit source]

Quaker registers were the responsibility of the Monthly Meeting and are a joy to the genealogist as they are so detailed. They did not have to use the formats provided by Hardwicke’s Marriage Act (1754) or George Rose’s Act (1812). All known registers dating from the 1650s were deposited with the Registrar General in the mid-19th century, and summaries called Digests were made. These nearly 1500 registers contain about 260,000 births (not baptisms), 40,000 marriages and 310,000 deaths/burials. One copy of each Digest was sent to its local congregation, which may now be at the county archives, and another to the Friends House Library. To access them on film do a keyword search for QUAKER DIGEST ENGLAND.

The original registers, which contain more information as well as a few entries missing from the Digests, are in PRO series RG 6 (with four latecomers in RG 8). Most have been filmed and can be found under FamilySearch Catalog - ENGLAND - COUNTY - CHURCH RECORDS with indexes under CHURCH RECORDS - INDEXES. However some random checks indicate that the RG6 Quaker registers are not included in the IGI.

Other registers which have come to light since 1857 have found their way into Friends House Library or county archives and some remain in private hands. Quakers continued to record births until 1959, deaths until 1961 and they still record marriages, and many of these later registers are also held by the PRO and may be an easier source to use than civil registration.

Quaker Births[edit | edit source]

Quakers do not practice baptism and their birth registers were similar to post 1813 Anglican baptismal ones but with birth instead of baptismal dates, and can have more information such as witnesses names. There is individual variation both within and between registers in what extra information is given and how it is written up, and many of the early registers contain retrospective entries dating back into the 16th century (Chart 61).

Chart: Quaker Births

Lewes Meeting, Sussex                                          FHL Film 0811737
1682     28th day 5th Month Sarah VERRALL the first daughter
            and child of Richard Verrall (and Sarah his wife) was
            born at Hove
1682     5th day 11th month Sarah CHISMAN the daughter of John
            Chisman (and Sibilla his wife) was born at Shoreham
1683     20th day 3rd month Frances BEARD the daughter of
            William Beard (and Frances his wife) was born at Brighthelmstone
1685     15th day 4th month Nicholas BEARD the son of William
            Beard (and Frances his wife) was born at Brighthelmstone

                                                A separate list is headed

A Register of Several Children Born before their Parents were Convinced of the TRUTH
Children of Nicholas BEARD
Sarah BEARD the first daughter of Nicholas and Susanna Beard
          was born at Rottingdean the 24th day of 12th month 1650.
Nicholas BEARD the second son of Nicholas and Susanna Beard
          was born at Rottingdean the 17th day of 4th month 1652
Hannah BEARD the third daughter of Nicholas and Susanna Beard
          was born the 14th day of 8th month 1654
George BEARD the third son of Nicholas and Susanna Beard
          was born at Rottingdean the 17th day of 8th month 1655
A child of Rich d BEARD
Persis BEARD the daughter of Richard and Ann Beard was born at
          Rottingdean the 8th day of 9th month 1655

Colchester, Essex RG6/999 on FHL film 0812204
These few retrospective birth records occupy the first page in the book and are clearly of the adult members of the congregation born well before the Society of Friends was started in 1647.
Thomas CHITTAM born in ye 12 mo. 1613
Stephen CRISP senior born ye - 1616
John Furly (junior crossed through) born 8th 7 mo 1618
George Weatherby senior sonn of Richard Weatherby born the 8th day of the 7 mo 1624 in a villadg cald Ruslip in the Countey of Midellsex.

Gainsborough, Lincolnshire                     RG6/1538 on FHL film 0817375
The register books starting in 1700 are handwritten, later some have individually printed certificates with spaces for filling in details, and later still they are printed in columns. These show When and Where born, Name, Son or Daughter, Names of Parents, Residents, description of the Father. In the last column there are three types of entries:
Simon Mow BROWN father of Abigail born 1804 is described as Grocer and Chandler.
George BLAKEY father of Mary born 1805 has Watchmaker NB The Parents not members at the Birth of the Child.
Samuel COOK father of Sarah born 1806 has Linen Weaver NB The Child has not a right of Membership by Birth.

Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online course English: Non-Anglican Church Records offered by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. To learn more about this course or other courses available from the Institute, see our website. We can be contacted at wiki@genealogicalstudies.com

We welcome updates and additions to this Wiki page.