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In 1654, the Quaker faith (Religious Society of Friends) began in Ireland. Its roots can be found among English soldiers, farmers, and merchants who arrived in Ireland after the English Civil War (1641-1651). These immigrants converted to the new religion from a variety of other nonconforming protestant faiths.
By 1750, there were 150 Quaker meetings across Ireland within the provinces of Ulster, Leinster, and Munster.
Around 1655 Quakers began keeping records of their meetings. Quakers held both weekly and monthly meetings. Records were not kept by parish but rather by 'monthly meetings.' Each monthly meeting attempted to create a record of its actions. Minute books were kept for both the men’s and women’s meetings, with most church matters appearing in the men’s meeting minutes.
Quaker Monthly Meetings
Births, marriages and deaths were recorded at monthly meetings. Records extend from the late 1600s to the present, with the earliest record from Cork in 1675. Today records exist for 16 Quaker monthly meetings.
In 1860, the Friends agreed to abstract their birth, marriage and death records from each monthly meeting. These 'monthly meeting registers' were created from the earliest records to 1859. An index, called the “Jones Index,” was later created. It lists birth, marriage and death records for about 2,250 Quaker surnames by monthly meeting. Those surnames are listed in Goodbody (1967) and the Jones Index is on film in the Family History Library (film 1559454 item 10).
Birth Records Since the Quaker faith does not believe in baptism, birth records are collected. Monthly meeting birth registers contain records up to 1859. They include the name of the child, date of birth, place of birth, name of parents, parents abode, and the book and page of the original record. One must take care when transcribing the date of the birth, since the Quaker registers record the date as year, month, and day. A collection of Quaker birth records throughout Ireland from 1859 to 1949 is also available.
Marriage Records Marriages were recorded by monthly meetings, with these events occasionally being recorded in the Provincial or Quarterly Meeting minutes. Monthly meeting marriage registers contain records up to 1859. They include the name, residence, description (occupation), name of parents, parents abode, to whom married, and date of marriage. The book and page of the original record is provided and the date is recorded as year, month, and day. A collection of Quaker marriage records throughout Ireland from 1859 to 1949 is also available.
Each monthly meeting also maintains a collection of marriage certificates. The certificate documents that the ceremony occurred in a public meeting place and describe what efforts were made to publicize the couple’s intention to marry. Quaker marriage certificates also contain a list of witnesses which were present at the ceremony.
Death records are collected in the Quaker faith. Monthly meeting death registers contain records up to 1859. They include the name, date of death, parents, age, residence, description (son or daughter of father and mother), date of burial, and the place of burial. The book and page of the original record is provided and dates are recorded as year, month, and day. A collection of Quaker death records throughout Ireland from 1859 to 1949 is also available.
Quaker Wills Like other Quaker records, wills were kept separate and apart from those required by the State, and avoided being destroyed in the Four Courts fire of 1922. Quaker wills were recorded by the monthly meeting. Eustace & Good body (1957) contains abstracts of 224 Quaker wills, while Goodbody (1967) contains an additional 50 wills. However, the number of records from Ulster is limited.
Quaker Biographies and Pedigrees In 1997, Harrison authored A Biographical Dictionary of Irish Quakers. In 2008, he produced a significantly expanded second edition which includes short sketches of about 650 Irish Quakers from the founding of the faith up to current times.
Some monthly meetings and some province or quarterly meetings collect ‘family lists’. In 1927, Thomas Henry Webb donated a collection of Irish Quaker pedigrees to the Dublin Friends Historical Library. The 232 surnames are listed in Ryan (2001). The Webb Collection provides detailed family records, but includes only about 10 percent of the Quaker surnames listed in the Jones Index.
Other Quaker Records
National or Half-Yearly Meeting
Records of the Quaker National or Half-Yearly Meeting date from 1671. There are also, early lists of sufferings and testimonies against tithes.
Province or Quarterly Meeting
Records of the provincial or quarterly meetings extend back to 1670 for Leinster, 1674 for Ulster, and 1694 for Munster. Marriages were sometimes recorded within the province or quarterly minute books.
Certificates of Removal
A unique type of Quaker record is the “Certificate of Removal”. Many monthly meetings organized these certificates in a separate register. They served a traveling Quaker much like a passport, and would be presented upon arriving at a new meeting. The certificate noted that the holder was debt free, his or her marital status, and that they were a member in good standing at that monthly meeting. When not organized separately, these certificates were recorded as a part of monthly meeting minutes.
Quaker Suffering Records
Throughout its early history, the Quaker faith has been forced to endure a number of injustices. These included imprisonment, corporal punishment, the paying of fines, and the collection of goods for not tithing to the Church of Ireland. As a result, Quakers began to records the types and severity of these injustices by monthly meetings. Later these were printed in a series of suffering books.
Although difficult to locate, these texts can provide a wealth of information about a Quaker’s location (by parish or townland), occupation, and their relative income (wealth) based on the size of their tithe. A majority of sufferings records were for failing to tithe.
- Holme, Thomas and Fuller, Abraham. ABrief Relation of Some Part of the Sufferings of the True Christians, the People of God, in scorn called Quakers, in Ireland, for these last Eleven Years, viz, from 1660 until 1671. Dublin. 1672.
- Stockdale, William. The Great Cry of Oppression: or a brief relation of some part of the sufferings of the people of God in scorn called Quakers, in Ireland, for these eleven years, viz from the beginning of 1671 until the end of 1681. Dublin. 1683.
- Fuller, Samuel. A Compendious View of Some Extraordinary Sufferings of the People Call’d Quakers. Dublin. 1731.
- Wight, Thomas and Rutty, John. A History of the Rise and Progress of the People called the Quakers in Ireland 1653-1750. Dublin. 1751.
- Besse, Joseph. ACollection of the Sufferings of the People called Quakers. London. 1753.
Quaker Terms and Meeting Maps
An explanation of Quaker terms can be found in Harrison (1997) & (2008), and Berry & Berry (1987). Butler (2004) provides a comprehensive overview of all the Quaker meetings in Ireland. It contains detailed maps of all the meetings by province, while Harrison (1997) & (2008) contains a replica of a 1794 Quaker meeting map. See the bibliography below.
Locating Quaker Records
The Dublin Friends Historical Library was created in 1908. It preserves the books, documents and other artifacts of the Quaker faith. In 2005, the library moved to a state-of-the-art facility in the south Dublin suburb of Rathfarnham.
In its collection are the original records for the national/half-yearly meetings, all the monthly meetings within Leinster and Munster, and these province/quarterly meeting minutes. It also maintains microfilm copies of the Ulster Province/Quarterly Meeting minutes and all of its monthly meetings.
Microfilm copies of the National/Half-Yearly Meetings, all the monthly meeting registers, the province or quarterly meeting minutes, and Quaker vital records from 1859 to 1949 are available at the National Library and National Archives of Ireland, both in Dublin.
Irish Quaker records are held in two regional Quaker repositories: the Dublin Friends Historical Library and the Religious Society of Friends. The Dublin Friends Historical Library only has records for the Republic of Ireland. The Religious Society of Friends, Ulster Quarterly Meeting mainly has records for Northern Ireland. Both repositories contain minutes of meetings; birth, marriage, and death records; diaries; pedigrees; wills; and other records. The addresses for these repositories are:
Dublin Friends Historical Library
Religious Society of Friends in Ireland
Records for the Ulster Province or Quarterly Meeting and all of its monthly meetings are located on the campus of the Quaker School in Lisburn, County Antrim, Northern Ireland. Microfilm copies of the Ulster Province or Quarterly Meeting minutes, and the monthly meeting registers within Ulster, are available at the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) in Belfast.
Religious Society of Friends
Ulster Quarterly Meeting Archives Committee
4 Magheralave Road
The National Library of Ireland in Dublin and the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland both have copies of some Quaker records.
Family History Library
The Family History Library also has some film copies of some Quaker records. Follow these steps to find them in the catalog.
- Go to the Family History Library Catalog.
- Click on Place Search.
- Type the name of a parish and click Search.
- Select on the name that matches your request.
- Scroll down and select the topic Church Records.
- Select a title.
- Click View Film Notes to find the film numbers.
- Butler, David M. The Quaker Meeting Houses of Ireland. Historical Committee of Friends in Ireland. Kelso Graphics, Scotland, UK. 2004.
- Eustace, P. Beryl & Goodbody, Olive C. Quaker Records Dublin - Abstract of Wills. (2 Vols, 1704-1785) Irish Manuscript Commission, Dublin, IRE. 1957. Reprint - Clearfield Company, Baltimore, MD. 1992.
- Goodbody, Olive C. Guide to Irish Quaker Records 1654-1860, with contribution on Northern Ireland records by B.G. Hutton. Irish Manuscript Commission, Dublin, IRE. 1967.
- Harrison, Richard S. A Biographical Dictionary of Irish Quakers. Four Courts Press, Dublin, IRE. 1997.
- Harrison, Richard S. A Biographical Dictionary of Irish Quakers. 2nd Edition. Four Courts Press, Dublin, IRE. 2008.
- Ryan, James G. Irish Church Records. 2nd Edition. Flyleaf Press, Dublin, IRE. 2001.
- Wigham, Maurice J. The Irish Quakers – A Short History of the Religious Society of Friends in Ireland. 2nd Edition. Historical Committee of Friends in Ireland, Dublin, IRE. 2003.
Irish Quakers to America
- Berry, Ellen T. & Berry, David A. Our Quaker Ancestors - Finding Them in Quaker Records. Genealogical Publishing Company, Baltimore, MD. 1987.
- Myers, Albert Cook. Immigration of the Irish Quakers into Pennsylvania 1682-1750; With Their Early History in Ireland. Swarthmore, PA. 1902 --- Reprint, Heritage Books, Westminster, MD. 2006 & 2009.
- Myers, Albert Cook. Quaker Arrivals at Philadelphia, 1682-1750: Being a List of Certificates of Removal Received at Philadelphia Monthly Meeting of Friends. Swarthmore, PA. 1902. --- Reprint, Genealogical Publishing Company, Baltimore, MD. 2007.
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