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.1
Major collections of U.S. Quaker archives:
Following are some of the major collections of the records of U.S. Friends meetings. It would be helpful and appreciated if you would review the web pages of these collections before making inquiries to them:
- 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: email@example.com (See the link for "genealogy.") Quaker Collection: http://www.haverford.edu/library/special/collections/quaker/index.php Haverford College Phone: 610-896-1161 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Archives for North Carolina and the southeastern U.S. are stored at: Friends Historical Collection: Guilford College Phone: (336) 316-2264 Email: email@example.com
- Archives for Indiana and Western and Northern Yearly Meetings are housed at: Friends Collection: www.earlham.edu/library/content/friends/ Earlham College See: Genealogy at Earlham Phone: 765 983-1743 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Archives of New England Yearly Meeting are deposited with: The Rhode Island Historical Society See Religious Records. For all distance patrons they provide a 15-minute free look-up service via email@example.com and the phone number is 401-273-8107 x410. It is extremely helpful to be able to provide in which Meeting in New England an ancestor was a member.
- Archives of Ohio Yearly Meeting (Conservative branch) are in the Center for Archival Collections:
Often, the librarians can advise you where to look, if the records you are seeking are not in one of these collections.
Britain Yearly Meeting has links to libraries and other resources posted at Genealogy.
Dates in the 17th and 18th Centuries:
The calendar change (from Julian to Gregorian) was instituted in different countries at different times, and the process of actually putting it into practice was inconsistent. For one explanation, see the "Quaker Dating" section and other material at www.ancestry.com/learn/library/article.aspx?article=3358.
A publication worth noting is: Encyclopedia of American Quaker Genealogy by William Wade Hinshaw, published by Genealogical Publishing Company, Baltimore, MD 21202. Most volumes are currently not in print, but they should be available through libraries or secondhand. They can also be purchased on CD-ROM from www.genealogical.com (note system requirements).
In addition, there are various independent internet sources on Quaker genealogy. The Quaker Information Center can make no recommendations about which ones are the most complete or the most reliable. Some examples include:
- Friendly Research: http://www.mlcook.lib.oh.us/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=74 (This site has helpful guidance about how to do your research.)
- Quaker Records for Genealogists: http://c.mfcreative.com/mars/landing/quaker/quaker-guide.pdf. Ancestry.com now has many Quaker records available for search for those who subscribe.
- The Quaker Corner: www.rootsweb.com/~quakers/index.htm.
1. NOTE: the names of yearly meetings suggest a geographic area, but are not precise. For example, Philadelphia YM covers parts of four different states, while the state of Indiana contains monthly meetings belonging to at least five separate yearly meetings.