You may find among your North Carolina ancestors members of the Religious Friends of the Society also known as the Quakers or Friends. Growing up in North Carolina, I was familiar with the Quakers who settled in Guilford County, at least on the surface. Coming across an unexpected ancestor in the Quaker church sparked my interest in learning more about those in the Quaker church and the records they left generated.
Just as other churches and denominations recorded events in their religious life, the Quakers did as well. Friends were thorough record keepers and their records date back into the 1600’s.
Types of Quaker Records
Meeting Minute Records – A Quaker congregation is called a meeting. Meetings are often named for the general location where the members lived and met for worship. The congregation would meet for both worship and congregation business at appointed times. Minutes exist for monthly, quarterly and the yearly meetings. The minutes from these meetings are rich with genealogical information such as church membership, disciplinary actions, apologies and marriage requests.
Vital Records – The Friends kept records of births, deaths and marriages like many other churches. Birth records can often be found in the minutes of the monthly meeting. Deaths can be found in death registers. The marriage records can also be found in the minutes. A lovely practice occurs at the Quaker wedding. Every guest in attendance signs the marriage certificate. Should you come across one of these, keep in mind that even non-Quaker guests signed the certificate. Not all signatures are for those of the Quaker faith. Regardless, the marriage certificate contains vital genealogical information.
Index to Hinshaw’s Encyclopedia of American Quaker Genealogy
is a multi-volume set that includes minute extracts, family records, and histories of individual meetings. Information on North Carolina ancestors can be found in Volume 1.
Where To Find Quaker Records
The Guildford College Hege Library in Greensboro, North Carolina – Features the Friends Historical Collection including many of the records mentioned above. The collection certainly includes North Carolina Quaker records, but also has many outside the region as well.
The Swarthmore College Friends Historical Library in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania – An excellent source of Quaker records and Quaker history. (Remember – to understand your Quaker ancestors you need to understand the history of the Quakers themselves.) Just like Guilford College Hege Library, Swarthmore College’s Friends Historical Library houses Quaker records from outside their general area.
Dates and the Quaker Church
The early Quaker church used will look a little different from the usual dates we see in our research. The Friends would not use names for the days of the week or month that derived from pagan names. Also, the Quaker Church used the Julian calendar prior to 1752 when they switched to the Gregorian calendar. See The Quaker Calendar for an excellent explanation of the dates used by the Quakers.
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