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                                                        QUAKER CUSTOMS AND QUAKER MEETINGS

For those unfamiliar with Quaker ways, here's a brief explanation.

The Society of Friends is organized in several layers of "meetings." A congregation which today may call itself a "church" has a Monthly Meeting to take care of its business. The term Monthly Meeting is used to refer to both the monthly event and the group that holds it. In the past there were also Preparative or Particular meetings which prepared matters for presentation at the Monthly Meeting. In addition small settlements of Friends were sometimes allowed to have their own Meeting for Worship or Indulged Meeting for Worship. These small groups were "under the care of" a Monthly Meeting.

Representatives of Monthly Meetings in the same general area joined together for Quarterly Meetings. Quarterly Meetings at one time had considerable authority and could overrule their Monthly Meetings on some matters, but Quarterly Meetings gradually became less significant as transportation improved.

The next level up is the Yearly Meeting. A Yearly Meeting may include Monthly Meetings located in several states. The Kansas YM, for example, at one time included meetings in Missouri, Nebraska, Colorado, Oklahoma and Texas as well as Kansas.

Because of the numerous schisms among Friends in the 19th century (the Hicksite controversy over the relative emphasis to be given the "Inner Light" and the Scripture; the Gurneyite?Wilburite division over the evangelical practices supplanting the traditional silent meeting; and the Anti?Slavery Friends split over the means permissible in opposing slavery), several different Yearly Meetings existed within some states. In Indiana, for example, there were the Indiana Yearly Meeting, the Indiana Yearly Meeting (Hicksite), the Western Yearly Meeting, the Western Yearly Meeting (Conservative) and the Indiana Yearly Meeting of Anti?Slavery Friends.

In the early days of this country, the development of new Friends meetings depended largely on size and distance. When a Monthly Meeting grew too large, or a sizable group of Friends lived too far from the Meeting House, a new meeting was "set up" or "set off from" the older meeting. If a meeting grew too small because of out?migration, or for other reasons, it was "laid down." When a meeting was laid down, its remaining members would be attached to another still existing Monthly Meeting. An individual who settled early in an area and then remained in the same place might over time have belonged to several different Monthly Meetings as participants in the westward migration approached, then overtook and went beyond him.

When a Quaker family decided to move elsewhere, they asked their Monthly Meeting for a certificate (a statement of membership) to a Monthly Meeting near their destination. Their Monthly Meeting then appointed a committee to determine that the family's affairs were properly settled. If so, a certificate was granted. The grantings of these removal certificates were duly recorded in the Monthly Meeting minutes. The dates of these minutes might precede or follow (by weeks, months or even years) the actual removals. It is through these records that the movements of Friends families can be traced. In this book the rather cumbersome phrase "was granted a certificate to" has not always been used. "Transferred" or "removed" or simply "moved" has been substituted. Incidentally, in the early days men and "equal" women held separate business meetings and kept separate minutes. Say a couple named John and Mary and their children moved, the men's minutes would report on John and family, or John and sons, and the women's minutes would mention Mary and daughters.

When a couple wished to marry, they announced their intentions at a Monthly Meeting. A committee was appointed to investigate whether they were "clear." If so, the two were "at liberty to marry." A committee then attended the wedding to make sure it was orderly, and reported back to the Monthly Meeting that the marriage was accomplished. A marriage certificate signed by the committee and all the witnesses (persons attending) was given to the couple. A copy, including some but not all of the witnesses, was entered in the meeting record.

The Friends discipline was strictly adhered to in some times and places and couples did not always receive, or for that matter apply for, liberty to marry. Some of them were married "by a hireling priest" or "contrary to the discipline." Others married "out of unity," that is, to a non?Friend. These errant members were usually "disowned." Sometimes all their family and friends also were disowned for "attending a marriage contrary to the discipline."

Other breaches of the discipline also brought disownments. Military service of any kind, drinking, gambling, departing from plainness in dress or address (using "you" instead of "thee"), the apparently all?purpose complaint of "disorderly walking" and a host of other offenses were grounds for disownment.

In these cases the procedure was for a committee to investigate a complaint or “condemnation," call upon the culprit and attempt to reason with him. The aim was to get him to "make satisfaction," that is, to say he was sorry. only after the committee had "labored" in vain was the disownment carried out. A disowned member could attend worship services, but could not take part in the Monthly Meeting. To be reinstated he was required to "condemn" at a Monthly Meeting whatever his wrong action had been, say he was sorry, and do it sincerely.

The Monthly Meeting minutes report on the processing of these disownments, but rarely provide details in regard to the offenses. There are exceptions, of course, as in the case of an ancestor of the writer with whom Goshen MM, PA, labored long and often. An entry in 1728/9 reported:

Uwchland (sic) condemned John Evan and Mary his wife who going to demand debt due them from one of another persuasion, who being not at home, they took as much effects with the consent of his wife (as they assert) as would answer the same debt, but he the said owner when he came home being dissatisfied therewith had the said John and Mary before a magistrate by warrant where they were advised to make it up which was done with some accommodation to the said plaintiff, which hath occasioned our profession to be evil spoken of, the said act of the said John and his wife being by some persons termed robbers.

Monthly Meetings also kept membership books which contained birth and death dates of members. The clerks were not always good spellers, and they undoubtedly made errors in transcribing and copying records. Names and dates found in the records cannot be taken as completely accurate.

On the matter of dates, the Friends rejected the pagan names of months and days of the week. They referred instead to Second Month or Fourth Day. Since up to 1751 their year began in March, Third Month would refer to what we call May, not to March. Many writers have mis?translated these dates to the "pagan" form. The names in this book have been copied as found. The shorter (and much easier to type) form of 8? 7?1735 (month first) has been used instead of the long form of 7th day of 8th month 1735.

Readers interested in a fuller discussion of Quaker beliefs and customs can easily find numerous books on the subject. The Quaker Hill Bookstore, 101 Quaker Hill Dr., Richmond, IN, 47374, has a list, available for the asking, of 400 some Friends titles. Those with North Carolina Quaker ancestry might be interested in Carolina Quakers, published on its tercentenary in 1972 by North Carolina Yearly Meeting.

Many of the early Quaker Monthly Meeting records have been abstracted and published. Hinshaw's six?volume Encyclopedia of American Quaker Genealogy includes some meetings in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Virginia, most of those in North Carolina and surviving records of meetings in Ohio. Many of the Indiana meetings are included in the six?part "Vol. 7" edited by Heiss and published by the Indiana Historical Society. The Hinshaw and Heiss volumes are available in many genealogical libraries.

original records are at Haverford College, the Friends Library at Swarthmore Collage and in the archives at Guilford College and Wilmington College (see Heiss, "Guide to Research in Quaker Records in the Midwest").

Friends record?keeping deteriorated after the Civil War and as Quakers migrated farther west. The records of Iowa and Kansas meetings offer little more than clues as to the whereabouts of some of the members some of the time.

Iowa records were abstracted for Hinshaw but never published. Hinshaw's card index file, now located at Swarthmore, includes these listings. There is also a severalvolume typescript of the Iowa card index. Most of the original Iowa records were at last count kept in the vault of the First Friends Church, Oskaloosa. Some of the Kansas meeting records are in the Quaker Room, Friends University Library, Wichita, KS.
Davis:  A Quaker Family,  Eleanor M. Davis, Gateway Press Inc., Baltimore 1985