The Encyclopedia of American Quaker Genealogy is an absolute must-find if you’re trying to find Quaker ancestors – or any ancestors in Colonial America. Allow me to tell you about it.
But First….About the Quakers & Their Records
The Quakers or more formally called, the Society of Friends, are a religious group that initially settled in Rhode Island and Pennsylvania in Colonial times. However, they migrated West and South and created a presence throughout the Colonies and beyond.
Notable among early American religious groups for their records, the Quakers held monthly meetings and kept the most amazing, detailed, records of member activities you’d ever hope to find as a genealogist. These archives are identified by the town or community in which the members lived and by the title “monthly meetings.” You will find Philadelphia Monthly Meetings, Darby Monthly Meetings, Gwynedd Monthly Meetings, and on and on. Every town and hamlet with a Quaker population had a monthly meeting. Every monthly meeting had records!
The monthly meeting records document births, marriages, and deaths of community members as you might expect. But wait! There’s more. Important to the community was a clear record of the comings and goings of their members in and out of their community. I’m not a church historian, but it seems that they needed to get permission from the church to leave a “monthly meeting” and join another “monthly meeting” in another town. So you will find requests for a certificate for removal (leaving a community) and a certificate of arrival (joining a community). What genealogist wouldn’t want this paper trail of migration! Huge. It gets better. Further, you will find notations for when a community member was in disfavor or, shall we say, kicked out. They call it “disowned.” And there are several reasons for disowning including marrying outside of the Church. All noted in scrupulous detail for your genealogical enjoyment. Right there in black & white you’ll know that your ancestor left the Quakers because he married a Baptist and on what date and in what location.
The activities are all logged by date within the records of each monthly meeting. It is important, however, to know what the abbreviations mean. Every event is abbreviated. You can easily identify “b,” “m,” and “d” as birth, marriage, and death. But it gets much trickier when you get into the comings and goings and disownings mentioned above. Lucky for us, in the front of the Encyclopedia and most free-standing meeting records is a guide to the abbreviations. You can always refer to the one here.
As for the Encyclopedia
William Wade Hinshaw (1867 – 1947) must have realized the tremendous historic and genealogical treasure inside these monthly meeting records. Further, he must have realized the nearly insurmountable task of culling through mountains of individual meeting notes looking for your ancestor. So he created the Encyclopedia as a compilation of records and a finding aid extraordinaire for genealogists and historians alike. It is a seven volume series of transcribed monthly meeting records of hundreds of monthly meetings.
Fast forward to the 21st Century and the age of the Internet, and we find that many of the volumes of the Encyclopedia have been digitize and put online for your research ease and delight. You can find them on HathiTrust here:
- Volume 1 – full text – North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee Meetings
- Volume 2 – Pennsylvania and New Jersey
- Volume 3 – full text – New York City and Long Island
- Volume 4 pt 1 – Southwestern Pennsylvania, Ohio, and one meeting in Michigan
- Volume 4 pt 2 – a continuation of pt 1
- Volume 5 – a continuation of Volume 4
- Volume 6 – full text – Virginia
- (Volume 7 documents are located on www.familysearch.org)
- Volume 7 pt 1 – full text – Wayne and Union Counties, Indiana
- Volume 7 pt 2 – full text – Wayne, Randolph, and Jay Counties, Indiana
- Volume 7 pt 3 – full text – Grant, Howard, Hunt, Miami and Wabash Counties, Indiana
- Volume 7 pt 4 – full text – Wayne, Henry and Rush Counties, Indiana
- Volume 7 pt 5 – full text – Orange, Washington, Sullivan, Parke, Morgan, Montgomery, Boone, Tippecanoe, Vermillion Counties, Indiana, and Vermilion County, Illinois
- Volume 7 pt 6 – full text – Hendrix, Morgan, Marion, Hamilton Counties, Indiana
- Volume 7 pt 7 – full text – Index to Volume 7
BEFORE You Start Searching –
There are a few things you need to know to make the most of your time and efforts.
- There is a table of contents at the front of each volume. It will tell you which monthly meetings are contained in that volume.
- There is an index at the end of each volume. You can use that, too.
- Because these are on HathiTrust, each digitized document is fully text searchable. In the upper right corner of the page you can type in “George Foulk,” and it will return links to every incidence of “George Foulk” in the book.
- Limited Search – Not all of the volumes are fully uploaded on the HathiTrust site. Some of them are “limited search” documents. (Why? I don’t know.) But don’t despair! You can still make good use of them. Use the search box you’re given on the linked page above and search for your ancestor’s name, i.e. “George Foulk.” It will return a number. That number is how many times “George Foulk” appears in the document!!! Heck of a clue. Know also, this isn’t a broad search. If your ancestor’s name could be spelled differently, i.e. “George FoulkE,” you need to do a second, third, or twelfth search. Now, assuming you want to see the full volume because you have found your ancestor’s name in the search, you can click on “Find a library,” which will deliver the WorldCat (a library search engine for 10,000 libraries worldwide) result with where you can find a hard copy. Note: Be sure to put your zip code in the zip code box on the results page. That will tell WorldCat where you are and to find libraries near you with the book. No need to fly off to Paris to get the book. Too cool.
- Comprehensive as it is, the Encyclopedia makes no claims to having records of every monthly meeting. But it is the best place to start when doing Quaker research.
Before I sign off, I should tell you about the Index. Years after Mr. Hinshaw created the Encyclopedia, he created an every name index for the Encyclopedia called, Index to the Encyclopedia of American Quaker Genealogy. This book is not yet out of copyright, so you won’t find it digitized on the Internet. However, you can find it at many libraries including the Midwest Genealogy Center. Here is yet another way to make full use of this genealogy treasure.
Finally, if you want to learn more about Quaker research, there is an absolutely wonderful, easy-to-read, practical guide in, Our Quaker Ancestors by Ellen Thomas Berry and David Allen Berry, published by Genealogical Publishing Co. 1987. Go to WorldCat and find it in a library near you today!