The Religious Society of Friends, better known as Quakers, consider the church to be made up of people, not buildings. Since they meet for worship once or twice a week and for business once a month, they call themselves a "meeting" and each officially recognized congregation is a "monthly meeting." They record business as "minutes." Quaker minutes can be a treasure trove for genealogists, because they often include membership transfers and requests for marriage.
A monthly meeting might include more than one meeting and those comprising the organizational structure of the full monthly meeting may include an "indulged meeting" or "preparative meeting." Membership matters pertaining to these groups are forwarded to the full monthly meeting and very few preparative meeting records are part of the archives. Sometimes one of these groups later became a separate monthly meeting as Friends became more established in that area.
When Friends began in the 1600s, governments didn't keep vital records such as births, deaths and marriages; they had been recorded by the Catholic and then the Anglican Church. Since Friends were Protestants who didn't believe in physical baptism and didn't use priests in marriage ceremonies, they were careful to record their own vital statistics.
Research Room Hours
Visitors are requested to contact us before arriving as building hours vary according to the academic schedule. Those wishing to meet with a staff member and/or make use of specific sources can make an appointment by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org in advance to guarantee availability.
Manuscripts, archival materials, and rare books, as well as most genealogical resources, are restricted to use during our weekday research room hours. A growing number of publications and records are available online and/or through public libraries. We are glad to help connect you to online sources and suggest other places where you may find more convenient access.
The Research Room (116) in Hege Library is the highlight for visiting genealogists. You may want to start with the treasure trove of Quaker record extracts, on the right near the computer desk. You'll find William Hinshaw's Encyclopedia of American Quaker Genealogy and cemetery books. Click on the 'Books' and 'Hinshaw' tabs in this guide to learn more.
Many researchers have already looked at extracts via Ancestry.com, but have questions about original sources or obscure meeting names. Click on the 'Ancestry' tab for a guide to finding original sources. Not all American Quaker records are online. You can look up monthly meetings by name or location and find out where their records are deposited in the handy red binder on the top shelf, Thomas Hill's guide to Monthly Meetings in North America: a Quaker Index. You can search this reference online at quakermeetings.com.
Some meetings never became official, but remained indulged, preparatory or "particular" meetings. You can find a list of these more obscure meeting names in Appendix III of Stephen Weeks' book, Southern Quakers and Slavery. Each particular meeting had a sponsor, or "mother" monthly meeting, and that is where to look for its members' records. Weeks also published a map showing the locations of older meetings - the framed copy on the wall is easiest to view.
To fill in more of the story about your Quaker ancestors, The Friends' Library, on the left wall, is a great resource for journals of traveling ministers who visited American Friends in colonial times. Start with the index. Monthly meeting (church) histories are on the dividing wall towards the back of the room.
An appointment is required for non-campus visitors. Let us know what you are researching and seeking in case it is useful for us to retrieve and make available to you particular published family histories or surname files from the closed stacks. Sufficient advanced notice is especially appreciated to access manuscript collections, which are stored in our separate archival closed stacks that are not as readily accessible.