Quakers kept records from their earliest days, and in compliance with the Non-Parochial Register Act of 1840, Quaker registers of births, marriages, and burials prior to 30 June 1837 were turned over to the Registrar General in London. This collection includes the registers and certificates that were surrendered to the Registrar General.
Quakers recorded births, marriages, deaths, and burials, as well as some other events at Monthly and Quarterly Meetings. These events have been indexed in this database and can be searched by name, parents’ names (where applicable), location, and event date. Images can also be browsed by county and Meeting.
Who Are the Quakers?
Founded by George Fox in the mid-17th century in England, the Religious Society of Friends, also known as Quakers, are a religious society who believe in a direct, personal experience with God. Their strict moral code that placed faith above country, refusal to participate in the state church or pay tithes, and an ethic of nonviolence that forbade military service left them subject to persecution. Despite this, Quakers, often called “Friends,” have made their mark in progressive social movements such as abolition, workers’ rights, women’s equality, and antiwar efforts.
What Can I Find in Quaker Records?
Weekly Meetings were for religious worship of a congregation. Representatives of the congregation (or multiple local congregations) conducted Monthly Meetings, where most Society business was conducted. Representatives from Monthly Meetings met with other regional (roughly along county lines) representatives in Quarterly Meetings. Quakers kept meticulous birth, marriage, and death records, which were recorded at Monthly and Quarterly Meetings.
While the content and format may vary from place to place and time to time, you will often find the following information in the records:
- child’s name
- father’s full name and mother’s given name
- date of birth
- witnesses (more often on certificates than in registers)
- name of groom and occupation
- groom’s parents’ names and father’s occupation
- name of bride
- bride’s parents’ names and father’s occupation
- marriage date
- names of witnesses and relations
- name of the deceased
- date of death
- parents’ names or spouse
- age at death
Beginning in 1776, you’ll find standardized forms for births and burials.
Using Quaker Dates
Quakers refrained from using traditional names for months and days, citing their typically pagan origins, and opted for numerical designations instead. In Quaker records First Day, Second Day, Third Day replaced Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, etc., and First Month, Second Month, Third Month, and so forth were used for months of the year.
It’s important to remember that prior to the change from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar in England in 1752, the year officially began in March. Thus, First Month 1751 is March, not January.
Since the English (and English colonists in America) were aware that many nations by this time used January 1 for the beginning of the new year, dates between January 1 and March 25 were sometimes double dated (e.g., January 12, 1740/1741, meaning that based on the Gregorian calendar, the year began in January, so the year was 1741; but if one was still using the official Julian calendar, the year did not begin until March, so the year was still 1740).
The charts below translate Quaker terminology for days of the week and months.
Days of the Week
|Quaker Day||Translated Day|
Julian Months (Pre-1752)
|Quaker Month||Translated Month|
Gregorian Months (Post-1752)
|Quaker Month||Translated Month|
Geographical Descriptions of Meetings
Quarterly Meeting boundaries loosely aligned with county lines in England, but they were not precise and changed at times. This collection also includes descriptions of Quarterly Meetings, with lists of the towns and parishes included and dates when applicable.