Genealogical Research

Genealogical Searches

Unlike some other religious denominations, Friends have not traditionally maintained centralized records of our membership.

However, individual monthly meetings (congregations) generally kept good records of their members' vital statistics (births, deaths, marriages, changes in membership). It is important that the ancestor you are researching formally joined the meeting. Such records were usually not maintained for non-members, even if they attended Friends worship.

The vast majority of such records are not online and are not entered into computer databases, so a researcher will need to examine the records directly.

If you know the name of the monthly meeting in question, and the dates you are interested in, you can usually find out where those archives are kept.

If you only know the approximate location, and not the name of the meeting, your search may be more complicated, depending on whether there were multiple meetings that could have been involved.

Monthly meetings usually belong to a larger group of meetings in the same general vicinity, called quarterly meetings, and those quarters, in turn, belong to even larger regional bodies called yearly meetings. Frequently, the records of these bodies are archived together.1

Major collections of U.S. Quaker archives:

Following are some of the major collections of the records of U.S. Friends meetings. It would be helpful and appreciated if you would review the web pages of these collections before making inquiries to them:

Center for Archival Collections: List of OYM contents:

Often, the librarians can advise you where to look, if the records you are seeking are not in one of these collections.

British resources:

Britain Yearly Meeting has links to libraries and other resources posted at Genealogy.

Dates in the 17th and 18th Centuries:

The calendar change (from Julian to Gregorian) was instituted in different countries at different times, and the process of actually putting it into practice was inconsistent. For one explanation, see the "Quaker Dating" section and other material at

Other resources:

A publication worth noting is: Encyclopedia of American Quaker Genealogy by William Wade Hinshaw, published by Genealogical Publishing Company, Baltimore, MD 21202. Most volumes are currently not in print, but they should be available through libraries or secondhand. They can also be purchased on CD-ROM from (note system requirements).

In addition, there are various independent internet sources on Quaker genealogy. The Quaker Information Center can make no recommendations about which ones are the most complete or the most reliable. Some examples include:

1. NOTE: the names of yearly meetings suggest a geographic area, but are not precise. For example, Philadelphia YM covers parts of four different states, while the state of Indiana contains monthly meetings belonging to at least five separate yearly meetings.