While doing research on my family, I came across this information on the Ancestry.com website. I thought it might be helpful for anyone researching their Quaker ancestors. The following text is copied verbatim from Ancestry.
This database contains Quaker monthly meeting records which are archived at the following Quaker colleges: Earlham (Indiana), Guilford (North Carolina), Haverford and Swarthmore (Pennsylvania). Quakers recorded a variety of details in their monthly meeting minutes which can be searched by name, location, and event date; or browsed by state, county, meeting, and record type. The format of meeting records varied from meeting to meeting and sometimes changed over time.
This collection marks the first time a major collection of Quaker meeting records has been made available online with a comprehensive index. Although the Quakers conducted meetings on four levels, the monthly meeting records hold the details of the most genealogical value for researchers. In order to best use this collection, you will want to understand the records and what you can expect to find in them.
Who are the Quakers?
Quakers are members of a religious group that began in England in the 1640s. The formal name is the ‘Religious Society of Friends’. Quakers did not separate religious life and secular life. They felt that all could live together in peace if they followed the Holy Spirit. Quakers, or Friends have been known for the religious testimonies against war and slavery, and in support of simplicity and social justice. Many early leaders of the anti-slavery, anti-war and woman’s rights movements have been Quakers.
What Can I Expect to Find in Quaker Records?
There are generally two types of monthly meeting records, minutes taken during the business meeting, and separate registers of births, marriages and burials. Later in the 19th century many meetings began to keep membership registers which incorporated more comprehensive information. Each meeting kept records for individuals and families as long as they remained faithful members of the meeting and within its geographical boundaries. When a family moved from one meeting to another, a letter (certificate of removal) was sent to the new monthly meeting they would be attending. Notice of the transfer was written into the minutes of the original meeting, and was also noted as received in the new meeting.
Meeting minutes contain a recording of all business conducted in the meeting. These include approvals of marriage intentions, records of discipline, disownment, requests for burial in the meeting burial grounds, and removal. Monthly meeting minutes rarely include information about births and deaths.
The Religious Society of Friends suffered a major schism in 1827, when the Society split into “Orthodox” and “Hicksite” branches. In many cases, two meetings then existed where there had originally been one, each using the same meeting name and each keeping records, as required. You may find your ancestor in either set of records, depending on where he and his family stood in the conflict at the time, so it is best to check both sets. The Hicksite-Orthodox separation, which lasted until 1955, was the largest of the splits, but was followed by a number of smaller and more regional splits. By the end of the 19th century, most American Friends were either Hicksite or Orthodox but there were also Wilburite, Conservative, Progressive, Primitive, Otisite, Kingite and other divisions for short periods of time. Records for these splinter groups did not survive in most cases.
Why does my ancestor’s name appear on an image, but is not part of the index?
It is possible that names of members which appear in various documents were not indexed. This occurs primarily when members were named to committees or attended weddings. Quaker marriage certificates were signed by all witnesses present at the time of the marriage. These names were only recorded in the minutes in the early years, and were not indexed. Non-Quakers were permitted to attend weddings and signed the marriage certificate, as a result some of the witnesses at a Quaker wedding were not members of the Society of Friends.
It is possible that during the time they attended a specific meeting, if a family or individual: did not serve on any committees, did not have children, was not married, did not move from, and was not buried, their names will not appear in the minutes.
Dates in many of the entries are recorded according to the Quakers’ system. Quakers found the use of traditional names for months and days against their Christian values since the names of the days of the weeks and most of the names of the months derived from “pagan” deities. So they devised a numerical system; First Day was Sunday, Second Day was Monday, Third Day for Tuesday, etc. First month, Second Month, Third Month substituted for the names of months.
Please keep in mind that before England changed from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar in 1752, the year officially began in March. Thus First month, 1751 is March, not January. Since the English and English colonists in America were aware that many nations by this time used January 1st for the beginning of the new year, dates in January and February were often written as 1740/1741, meaning if one assumed the year began in January, the year was 1741, but if one was using the official English system, the year did not begin until March, so the year was still 1740. Be careful in transcribing the dates you see. We have made every effort to provide both the Quaker terms and the traditional dates in the hopes of being clear on what was recorded at the time. The majority of the records should contain a Quaker date and a translated date.
About a week ago, I had a conversation with my father about our family history. I’ve known for a little over a decade that my father’s mother’s side of the family was Native American (Delaware Indian). I’ve known for about half that time, that my Grandmother’s Uncle was an Indian Chief. However, what my father told me last week really blew my mind and made me more determined to research our family history.
He told me that my Grandmother’s father had been sold into slavery as a child, at around the age of 5. Also, his siblings were sold into slavery. One of those siblings may or may not have been sold into slavery, and that was the one that eventually went on to become the last Chief of that particular tribe.
He told me that he remembers, as a boy, being visited by the Chief, and that he was terrified of him at first, because of all the time my father spent playing “Cowboys and Indians”. Apparently, he assumed he was going to be scalped! We had a good chuckle about that! 😀
We talked about his attempts at getting more information, when he and my Aunt went to a Pow-Wow in New Jersey in the early 80’s. He was told that the Delaware Indians weren’t acknowledged because they were “unsavory” people for selling their children into slavery. The first thing that came to my mind was that it was a horrible time in history for Native Americans, and who are they to judge what others may have done to survive?! Besides, refusing to acknowledge something doesn’t negate the fact that it happened. It’s part of my family history. Why would they deny us that information?
All of this has made me extremely determined to figure out what happened, and who my ancestors are, especially on my father’s maternal side.
I’ve long admired a friend of mine, Leah, for her expertise at genealogy research. I’m very good at researching politics, religion or scams/hoaxes, but when it comes to genealogy, I’m just mystified! She seems to think that with my researching skills in general, this should come naturally to me. I hope she’s right! And I hope she doesn’t mind me being a bug in her ear.
Leah has already given me a wealth of information about how to organize the things I find. She’s answered a ton of my questions, and is being very patient with me. She dug up a few census records for my G-Grandfather, to show me what was available on Ancestry.com, and I now have my own account. She blogs about her research and great finds, and has shown me by example how to make things as easy to understand as possible. I’m very grateful to have her as a friend. 🙂
So, I’ve spent the better part of my weekend readying myself for what I’m about to take on. I’ve created a space on my computer, and figured out how to file things digitally, that will make sense to me and anyone after me. I’ve acquired a 3-in-1 printer, so that I can scan pictures and make copies for my father, so he can pass information along to his and my extended family. (I do have to say here, that I’m worried about the cost of printing so much, but I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.) We bought a cheap plastic storage bin, perfect for hanging folders, so that I can have a paper – as well as digital – trail. I’ve started an Excel spreadsheet, so I can keep a master list of everything I find.
Now it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty, and do the research, and see what I come up with. I’m excited and nervous at the same time. I hope I can find everything I’m looking for, and that, in my excitement, I don’t forget to keep track of all the pertinent information. Most of all, I just hope to answer the question of why my G-G-Grandparents sold their children into slavery.
When it comes to history, I prefer cold, hard facts. I don’t want to hear what someone thinks other people thought. That’s not even hearsay! I receive emails all the time that are very badly researched pieces of collective rubbish. They’re probably added to over time through forward after forward to reflect some truth, but mostly to compound the fiction.
There is a disturbing, underlying theme these days, when it comes to just about everything; education, reporting, research, etc. It seems that people are using the short-attention-span and fast-food-delivery method of learning anything. If it’s not written in fun language, and under 2 paragraphs, people don’t bother. This is a major problem! Most people would say, “on quick glance … seems credible”. Hell, most people don’t even bother to read an entire news article; they think they’ve gotten the whole story from just the title.
Then — worse yet — people take something that is maybe 70 parts factual, with 20 parts conjecture and 10 parts outright stupidity, and forward it to everyone they know. 99% of the people that receive it, will take it all as fact, and pass it along. People don’t know, or don’t care, that they’re passing along lies and fiction.
Imagine, however, a teacher asks a student to do a paper about William Shakespeare. While reading, the teacher notices a small, seemingly insignificant reference to Shakespeare holding the remote control to his television, while on the phone with Albert Einstein. Just one sentence, no big deal – right? A little farther down the paper, another sentence talks about what Shakespeare was thinking while he wrote “Hamlet”, and how the whole story stems from his issues with his father. The entire paper is about 10 pages long, so these two small things aren’t a big deal. Other than those small problems, it’s a brilliant paper … the best the teacher has ever read. She passes it along to her peers. What kind of reaction do you suppose she’d receive from her peers? Now imagine she passes it along to a group of middle-school children, who have only heard of Shakespeare in passing; completely ignorant of the fact that he lived long before the time of televisions, telephones and Einstein.
That’s what I see happening all around me, and it’s infuriating! People who are ignorant of most history (because let’s face it, history is b-o-r-i-n-g when you’re in school, and even after graduation) will receive things — through email, news, and word-of-mouth — and not even realize they’re not learning the truth. Almost nobody bothers to fact-check things they see or hear, and they just keep passing it along. Then, when someone DOES tell them that there’s a problem with what was presented as fact, those people who have become so entrenched in the lies get defensive about it, usually belligerently defending the source of their information.
Again, this is a major problem! I deal with people like this on a daily basis. Passing along even a sliver of bad information (through apathy and negligence) is wrong. It’s irresponsible. And it’s contributing to the dumbing-down of America.
In this series of videos on YouTube, you’ll find alot of explanations about where we came from. Of particular interest to me were videos #8 and #9.
potholer54: “This series explains the scientific evidence for our origins, from the Big Bang to the human migration out of Africa, in a way that most 7th-graders would understand. It challenges people who believe we were created by a deity 6,000 years ago to confront the evidence instead of ignoring it. “
ERRATA (corrections of parts 1 and 2)