American Quaker references -- Society of Friends

A Short History of the Quakers

Founded in England in 1652 by George Fox, the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) did not (and do not) believe in organized religion as was practiced in the Church of England and other churches. Quakers believed that individuals could worship God directly and that members had an “inner light” (an inner capacity to understand God); they rejected a formal clergy or creed.

Known for their plainness in dress, large numbers of Quakers followed William Penn and settled in Pennsylvania. Many Quakers also settled in Rhode Island and other New England states, but also in New Jersey, North and South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, New York (especially New York City and Long Island), Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and elsewhere. Many Quakers also immigrated to the Philadelphia area beginning in the 1660s to the 1680s and formed the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting.

Hicksite Quakers -- separate records in 1828-1955

Elias Hicks (1748 NY-1830 NY) was an itinerant Quaker preadher from Long Island, NY. His parents were not Friends; he took up the religion about age 20. He was an outspoken abolitionist, and considered "obedience to the light within" the primary tenet and founding principle of faith; he reputedly denied the virgin birth, divinity of Christ and the existence of Satan, and taught that the inner light was more authoritative than the bible. These views were consistent with the American Freethought tradition, particularly among Quaker deists such as Thomas Paine. The split was not purely doctrinal; it reflected tensions that had been growing between the elders (who were mostly from the cities) and Friends who lived farther away from major communities and Meetings. Hicksite Friends were mostly country Friends who perceived urban Friends as worldly. Many of the Philadelphia Friends were wealthy businessmen, and many of the country Friends kept less peculiar in matters of "plain speech" and "plain dress", which by this point in time had become a sort of jargon and a sort of uniform, respectively.

Orthodox and Hicksite Records: By the opening of the 19th century, two divergent tendencies became apparent among American Friends -- the Hicksite increased emphasis on the Inward Light versus the Orthodox increased emphasis on the life and teaching of Christ. Both these trends, the liberal and the evangelical, reflected influences dominant in contemporary Christian thought, and the chasm between the two Quaker groups grew wider until in 1827 a separation took place at the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, followed by similar separations in Baltimore, New York, Ohio and Indiana. "During the 150 years prior to the 'separation' which in 1827-1828 divided the Society of Friends into two groups commonly known as Orthodox and Hicksite Friends, respectively, the intermarriage among the three and four generations of young people belonging to each meeting, as well as between the young people of neighboring meetings, wove a network of heredity which linked with its silken threads of kinship almost all families living in neighboring counties, thus causing the generations born after 1828, whether Hicksite or Orthodox, to have common genealogical ancestral root stems in a large percentage of all earlier families of those meetings. Also in the 'separation' many families were so divided that they had members in both groups. Altho this great 'family tree' branched into two huge limbs of foliage, each limb still drew its life from the same trunk. Since genealogy cannot distinguish between Orthodox and Hicksite, and must trace ancestral lines to whatever they may lead, the logical thing is to compile the two sets of records kept since 1828 side by side in the same volume of genealogical data. This we have done in compiling the genealogy in ..." (the encyclopedias) -- quotation of William Wade Hinshaw. In 1955 the two Yearly Meetings reunited.

Quaker Research

Quaker Record Groups -- Quakers kept some of the best church records of any church in England or America. Of particular interest to genealogists are the records of monthly meetings (MM), at which births, marriages, and deaths were recorded. Also important are minutes, marriage intentions, letters of transfer, and actions regarding church members. (It is interesting to note for genealogists that marriage certificates were often signed by all persons present at the marriage ceremony.) One should remember that many Quakers refused to serve in the military, so it is less likely to find military service or pension records for them. But Quakers did keep records of transfers and removals of individuals from one meeting to another. Quarterly and yearly minutes of meetings were also kept, but they are not as valuable genealogically as the monthly meetings.

Unlike some other religious denominations, Friends have not traditionally maintained centralized records of our membership.
• However, individual monthly meetings (congregations) generally kept good records of their members' vital statistics (births, deaths, marriages, changes in membership). It is important that the ancestor you are researching formally joined the meeting. Such records were usually not maintained for non-members, even if they attended Friends worship.
• The vast majority of such records are not online and are not entered into computer databases, so a researcher will need to examine the records directly. <
• If you know the name of the monthly meeting in question, and the dates you are interested in, you can usually find out where those archives are kept.
• If you only know the approximate location, and not the name of the meeting, your search may be more complicated, depending on whether there were multiple meetings that could have been involved.
• Monthly meetings usually belong to a larger group of meetings in the same general vicinity, called quarterly meetings, and those quarters, in turn, belong to even larger regional bodies called yearly meetings. Frequently, the records of these bodies are archived together.

Printed Sources -- The most valuable printed source for researchers—and the first place to begin research—is William Wade Hinshaw’s Encyclopedia of American Quaker Genealogy (Genealogical Publishing Co., Baltimore). Hinshaw’s reference is arranged by monthly meeting, and the work is separately indexed. The volumes and index may be found in many large libraries. Descriptions of Quaker meetings are included, and there are several supplements to this multi-volume work.

hinshaw's index in book form at LARFHC. Look to see if they have the cd-roms too -- 1. Encyclopedia of American Quaker Genealogy, Vol. I of the Carolinas & Tennessee which were part of the N Carolina Yearly Meetings, by William Wade Hinshaw 2. Encyclopedia of American Quaker Genealogy, Vol. II New Jersey and Pennsylvania, by William Wade Hinshaw 3. Encyclopedia of American Quaker Genealogy, Vol. III New York City and Long Island 1657 - 1940 by William Wade Hinshaw 4. Encyclopedia of American Quaker Genealogy, Vol. IV & V (one CD) of the Ohio Yearly Meetings by William Wade Hinshaw 5. Encyclopedia of American Quaker Genealogy, Vol. VI Virginia Yearly Meetings, by William Wade Hinshaw

It is thought that all our Quaker ancestors started in Pennsylvania, probably in the Philadelphia area:
• 1682 emigration -- Cananuiel Britton emigrated as part of the "William Penn" immigration of the 1680s -- on ship #4 "Society of Bristol" landing in August, 1682 from England; descendants are eligible as members of the "Welcome Society" (see full source). It is known that Cananuiel was in Philadelphia, and died in 1682 in Chester,PA -- his known children have Philadelphia, Chester and Bucks ties, and one grandson Samuel moved to Oppeckon (Hopewell in Frederick), Viriginia in 1837. I (DLH) think that Jesse Britton and his father Joseph fit in this part of the Britton tree.
• 1680s? emigration from Wales? -- Frost (in Frederick by 1735, no confirmed Quaker records found for him, but records for his children and his brother)
• 1600s Scotland? or 1700s Ireland? -- Gibson (in Bucks by 1769, no confirmed Quaker records found, but records for his children)

Most archives of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting and Baltimore Yearly Meeting are stored with one or both of the two libraries listed below. The records of New York Yearly Meeting are deposited in the Friends Historical Library at Swarthmore College. Friends Historical Library Swarthmore College Phone: 610-328-8496 Email: (See the link for "genealogy.") Quaker Collection: Haverford College Phone: 610-896-1161 Email:

Hinshaw Quaker books for PA:
• PA (Volumes 2 & 4 as follows; Volume 4 is "Ohio" and the western PA meetings are in that volume): Falls MM (Vol. II); Philadelphia MM (Vol. II); Providence (Vol. IV); Redstone (Vol. IV); Sewickley (Vol. IV); Westland (Vol. IV)
-----Note: Hinshaw does not include Merion (Radnor) (Welsh) and the only Bucks is Falls -- He does not have Buckingham, Bucks, Makefield, Middletown, Richland, Solebury or Wrightsown which were all in Bucks County. There is no Chester county either.
Other sources:
• Abington, Montgomery, PA -- ?
• Birmingham (PA) - Three hundred years of Quakerism - BX7649 .B62 1990
• Bradford (Chester,PA-) - Early church records (ChesCo. v.1) - F157.C4 R32
• Buckingham (Bucks, PA-1720) - Bucks County church records (Bucks, v.3) and Temple University, 1994 and Bucks County Historical Society, 1971 - F157.B8 W2 and BX7611.B83 B4 1994 and BX7611.B83 M2 -- Births, marriages, burials 1693-1832 (photocopy of original records in the Collection of the Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania ; Bu 10F-11F) FHL US/CAN Film 387851 Items 1-2 -- in LA -- The Buckingham Meetinghouse is located outside Lahaska in Buckingham Township. In the denominational split of 1827, the meetinghouse, school, cemetery and records were kept by the Hicksites.
Bucks Quarterly Meeting (PA) - PYM - BX7611.B87 B4 1994
• Byberry (Philadelphia/Montgomery, PA-1805) -- ??
• Cain (Chester,PA) -- ??
• Center (Center,PA) -- ??
• Center (Chester,PA) -- ??
• Chester (Franklin,PA) -- ??
• Chester (Chichester/Upland)(Delaware,PA-1675) - Hinshaw card catalogue; Early church records (DelCo., v.1) - F157.D3 L38
• Concord (Chester,Pa) - Hinshaw card catalogue; Early church records (Delco,v.2); and Temple University and Quaker marriage certificates - F157.D3 L38 ; BX7611.C65 B4 1994; and BX7611.C65 B5 1991
• Darby Creek (Philadelphia,PA-1682) - Hinshaw card catalogue, Early church records (Delco, v.3) - F157.D3 L38
• Duck Creek (Lancaster,PA) -- ??
• Dunnings Creek (Bedford,PA) - Heiss, Baltimore YM
• Exeter (Berks,PA) - Hinshaw card catalogue, Berks County church records (Berks, v.2) and McNeill, Ruby Simonson (3 vols.)f - F157.B3 W73 1993 and BX7611.E93 M2b 1984
• Falls (Bucks,PA-1683) - Hinshaw Vol. II (PA); Bucks County church records (Bucks, v.2) - F157.B8 W2 1994
• Frankford (Pa.) - Hinshaw card catalogue
• Goshen (Chester,PA) - Hinshaw card catalogue; Early church records (ChesCo., v.2) - F157.C4 R32
• Gwynedd (Montgomer,PA) - Hinshaw card catalogue - F157.C4 R32br> • Hopewell MM, (Frederick,VA-1735)(also called Opeckan) - Hinshaw Vol. VI (VA) and Hopewell Friends history, 1734-1934 - BX7649 .H75 1936
• Horsham (Montgomery,PA) -- ??
• Kennett (Chester,Pa)(also Newark/New Castle) - Hinshaw card catalogue; Early church records. (ChesCo., v.3); and ?Old Kennett? cemetery - F157.C4 R32 and BX7649.K36 S6 1995
• Little Britain (Lancaster,PA) - Heiss: Baltimore YM
• Little Creek (Lancaster,PA) -- ??
• London Grove (Chester, PA) -- ??
• Maiden Creek (Berks,PA) -- ??
• Makefield (PA) - Bucks County church records (Bucks, v.3) - F157.B8 W2
• Menallen (Adams,PA) - Adams County church records and Heritage Books, c1992 - F157.A2 A3 and BX7611.M35 W2 1992
• Merion, PA -- see Radnor (aka Old Haverford)
• Middletown (Bucks Co., PA) - Bucks County church records (Bucks, v.2) and Grundy, Martha Paxson (Women's minutes) - F157.B8 W2 and BX7611 .M4 1985
• Monongahela (Washington,PA) -- ??
• Muncy (Columbia,Pa)(also called Rishing Creek) - Hinshaw card catalogue
• New Garden (Chester,PA) - Hinshaw card catalogue; Early church records (ChesCo., v.2); index to the minutes; and Heritage Books, 1990 - F157.C4 R32; BX7611.N38 B45 1994; and BX7611.N38 B5 1990
• Philadelphia, PA - Hinshaw Vol. II (PA); Temple University, 1994; and Family Line - BX7611.P55 B4 1994 and BX7611.P55 W37 1997
• North District (Philadelphia,PA) -- see Philadelphia Northern District
• Philadelphia Northern District - Hinshaw card catalogue
• Philadelphia Southern District - Hinshaw card catalogue
• Philadelphia Quarterly Meeting - Temple University, 1994 - BX7611.P53 B4 1994
• Philadelphia Yearly Meeting - Temple University, 1994 - BX7611.P49 B4 1994
• Providence (Fayette,PA-1789) - Hinshaw Vol. IV (OH)
• Providence (Montgomery,PA) -- ??
Radnor (Delaware,PA) - Early church records (DelCo.,3) - F157.D3 L38 -- Merion (Radnor or Old Haverford) -- on microfilm in LA -- Births 1682-1806; Births and burials 1759-1865 -- FHL US/CAN Film 20480 Items 2-3
• Redstone (Fayette,PA-1793) - Hinshaw Vol. IV (OH)
• Richland (Bucks,PA-1742) - Bucks County church records (Bucks, v.3) and Index, Minutes, 1742-1764 - F157.B8 W2 and Shelf 19 BX7611.R33 M3
• Sadsbury (Lancaster,PA) - Lancaster Co, Pa, church records, Vol. 3 and Temple University, 1994 - F157.L2 W73 and BX7611.S23 B4 1994
• Sewickley (Westmoreland,PA-1799) - Hinshaw Vol. IV (OH)
• Solebury (Bucks,PA) - Bucks County church? records (Bucks, v.3) - F157.B8 W2
• Springfield (Delaware,PA) -- ??
• Stroudsberg (Pa.) - Hinshaw card catalogue
• Upland (Delaware,PA)(Also called Chester) -- ??
• Uwchlan (PA) - Early church records (ChesCo,, v. 2) - F157.C4 R32
• Warrington (York,PA-1747) - York Co, Pa. church records, Vol 3; Temple University, 1999; and 100 years at Warrington - F157.Y6 B27; BX7611.W29 W25 1999f; and BX7649.W335 W2 1989
• West Branch (PA) - Heiss, Baltimore YM
• West Grove (Chester,PA) -- ??
• Western Quarterly (PA) - Temple University, 1994 - BX7611.W37 B4 1994
• Westland (Washington,Pa) - Hinshaw Vol. IV (OH)
• Wrightstown (Bucks,PA) - Bucks County church records (Bucks, v.3) and Temple University, 1994; and Wrightstown Women's minutes, 1792-1816 - F157.B8 W2; BX7611.W75 B4 1994; and BX7611.W75 W6 1816a -- Births, deaths, and burials transcribed from the records of Wrightstown Monthly Meeting of Friends, Bucks County, Pennsylvania FHL US/CAN Film 172927 Item 7 (not in LA); Certificates of removal, 1682-1777; births, 1680-1711, 1782; burials at Bristol, 1760- 1792; list of Friends FHL US/CAN (not in LA)
• York (York,PA) - York Co, Pa. church records, Vol 2 and marriage certificates, 1786-1826 - F157.Y6 B27a and + BX7611.Y67 M2

Common terms:

altm = at liberty to marry apd = attending places of diversion apd = appointed, appealed apt = appointed att = attached to, attended b = born BG = burial grounds btw = between bur = buried bef = before c = circa, about cem = cemetery cert = certificate cd = contrary to the Discipline ch = child, children, church chm = condemned his/her misconduct chr = charter co = chosen overseer (s), county com = complained, complained of comm = committee comp = complained, complained of con = condemned ct = certificate, certificate to d = died, day dau = daughter dec = deceased dis = disowned, disowned for div = divorced dp = dropped plain dress and/or speech dr = drinking spiritous liquor to excess drpd = dropped dt = daughter, daughters dtd = dated e = east end = endorsed FBG = Friends burial grounds fam = family form = formerly fr = from Frds = Friends gc = granted certificate gct = granted certificate to gl = granted letter glt = granted letter to gr dau = grand daughter gr s = grand son Gr Yd = grave yard h or hus = husband j = joined jas = joined another society JP = justice of the peace ltm = liberated to marry, left at liberty to marry lvd = lived lvg = living m = marry, married, marrying, marriage, month mbr = member mbrp = membership mcd = married contrary to Discipline MG = minister of the Gospel MH = meeting house, church mi = miles MM = monthly meeting mos = married out of society mou = married out of unity mt = married to mtg = meeting mvd = moved n = north na = not attending meeting neg att = neglecting attendance nmn = no middle name NW Terr = Northwest Territory O = Orthodox, Ohio ou = out of unity PM = preparative meeting PO = post office address prc = produced a certificate prcf = produced a certificate from prob = probably Qkr = Quaker QM = quarterly meeting rcd = recorded rec/rcd = receive, received recrq = received by request relfc = released from care for relrq = released by request rem = remove, removed ret = returned, retired (rarely used) ret mbrp = retained membership rev = reversed rm = reported married rmt = reported married to roc = received on certificate rocf = received on certificate from rol = received on letter rolf = received on letter from rpd = reported rrq = request, requests, requested rqc = requested certificate rqct = requested certificate to rqcuc = requested to come under care (of mtg.) rst = reinstate, reinstated s = son, south sep = separated sis = sister temp = temporarily transfrd = transferred twp = township uc = under care (of mtg) unm = unmarried upl = using profane language w = wife, west w/c = with consent of wid = widow w/pwr = with power wrkd = worked y = year YM = yearly meeting

Disciplinary complaints consisted of: fiddling, dancing, drinking intoxicating liquor to excess, serving in the militia or other armed forces, using profane language, fighting, failure to meet financial obligations, marrying contrary to the order used by Friends, deviation from plainness in apparel or speech, joining another religious society, etc. Unless the offending member expressed sorrow for his misconduct and brought a signed paper condemning the same, he was usually disowned.

Disownment: When a member of the Society of Friends acted in a manner contrary to discipline, that member was visited by a committee appointed by the meeting. If the member failed to acknowledge fault after visitation by the committee, then the member was disowned by the Society and could not be reinstated until acknowledgement of fault was made. Members of the Society of Friends could be disowned for a variety of reasons. If you are reading Hinshaw's Encyclopedia, you will often see the notation that someone was "dis mou" or "dis mcd." "Mou" meant that they had married out unity to someone who was not a member of the Society. Marriage contrary to discipline sometimes meant that the couple, both Quakers, chose to be married by the Justice of the Peace or a clergy from another religion thereby "by-passing meeting." To be married within the Society, the couple had to declare intentions before both the prospective bride's and groom's to insure that they both had no other obligations which would prevent their marrying. A committee would be appointed to look into the character of both and then report back to the meeting. If they were found free to marry, they were granted permission to marry at the next meeting. This often took two to three months and sometimes couples were not willing to wait this long to marry. When they were disowned, it was was a forever thing =unless= they admitted their wrongdoing usually through a written petition to the meeting and then the meeting would decide whether or not to readmit the disowned member(s). In this case, you will see notations in Hinshaw indicating that a person "con their mou" or "con their mcd" indicating that they had condemned their own misbehavior. Unless they were specifically denied readmission you can assume that they were accepted back. Often a couple who had mou or mcd would seek readmission just prior to requesting a certificate of transfer in order to move to a new meeting. This could be some years after their marriage in which case any children born prior to their readmission will not have their births recorded in the monthly meeting records. If you are tracking a couple be sure to record when they requested certificates to leave a meeting and when they were received at the new meeting. Members could also be disowned for any number of other reasons such as attending a wedding of a sibling who mcd, marrying too close of a relative, dancing, not dressing plain, striking another, playing cards or taking up arms. Be aware of the dates when a man was disowned which might suggest that he had participated in a war.