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Archiver > Scotch-Irish > 1999-10 > 0939417314

From: Steven Hiatt <>
Subject: Re: Quakers
Date: Fri, 08 Oct 1999 13:15:14 -0800

I have a number of Quaker lines in addition to my S-I ancestors, so I'll take a
shot at answering Dick's questions (asking others to correct me where I'm
wrong). It's important to note that there were c. 100,000 Quakers in the US at
the time of the first Census in 1790, so they were considerably more central to
US society than today (when there are c. 100,000 in a population of 255
million). Many colonial family trees will therefore have Quaker branches.

Dick wrote:

> Hi All,
> In reading about the Quakers with great interest, since some of my
> Scotch-Irish ancestors eventually got involved with Quakerism, I wanted to
> ask if any of the rest of you encountered the Quaker tradition of divorcing
> from one's family of origin and taking on a new spiritual family? Isn't this
> practice common amongst members of the sect? If so, it would certainly be an
> impediment to genealogical research.


I have not run across this practice, nor seen it mentioned anywhere else. One
became a Quaker (ie, a members of the Society of Friends) by being "convinced"
of the truth of Quaker teachings and practice via experience of the inner
light. In common with other early Protestant millennarian groups (like the
Massachusetts Puritans), Quakers faced the problem of how to spiritually
classify the children of parents who had had a conversion experience, but who
themselves had not (yet) had such a religious experience. Among Quakers, this
was solved by the children being classified as "birthright" Friends. Since the
Quakers tried to maintain a separatist social/religious practice of being in
but not of the world, they carefully monitored the behavior of members, and
carefully recorded weddings, births, and disciplinary actions. Thus, tracing
Quaker ancestors is usually easier than almost any other colonial American
group, except of course where records have been lost over the years, though in
general the various meeting records are in pretty good shape.

> Also, I recall that the Quakers
> didn't call themselves "Quakers" and that they were The Society of Friends,
> referring to themselves and one another as "friend." Was this true from the
> inception of the sect?

The Quakers emerged from a welter of radical millennarian Protestant groups
that appeared before and during the English Civil War and Commonwealth period
(1630s-1660s) (radical in both a religious and social/political sense). They
became known as Quakers I believe in the 1670s after their practice of refusing
to acknowledge their social/governmental superiors with the customary hat
service, bowing, etc. One of them is reputed to have said that he "quaked in
front of the Lord [ie, God]" but not in front of the power of aristocrats,
gentry and officials--thus the name. It's useful to understand that they did
not generally become pacifists until after the dissolution of the Commonwealth
in 1660, although this had been a trend in the 1650s. A number of soldiers in
Cromwell's army in Ireland became Quakers, and there were Quaker meetings in
Ireland from the 1650s, including Dublin, Carrickfergus, and Greenage. Many of
these Irish Quakers emigrated to America in 1680-1720. Like other Irish
Prostestants, many of them found their way to the frontier, where numbers of
them left the Society and intermarried with other families on the
frontier--S-I, English, Welsh, Pennsylvania Dutch, etc. [Note that it was
breach of discipline for Friends to marry outside the Society, or, indeed,
without the consent of the meeting of which they were members.]

> I've also read that they were extremely egalitarian
> regarding gender, and that although men and women were segregated during
> "meeting" they had equal voice. Am I correct? Is it also true that they
> did not have ordained ministers?

Like some other radical English Prostestant groups, Quakers were for their time
quite egalitarian. Although they did not have an ordained clergy, there were
both elders and inspirational preachers among them who traveled widely; a
number of these leaders of the Society were women.

> If anyone knows of these matters I would
> much appreciate a reply. As it stands, I have only conjecture.
> Thank you,
> Dick Hudson

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