Quaker Family History Society                   for family historians with Quaker ancestors from the British Isles

Quaker Records

The following is an introduction to the types of available . Choose a record type and click the link


Removals and Settlement:

On moving from one Monthly Meeting to another it was customary for Friends to take a certificate to the Monthly Meeting in the area to which they are moving . Although certificates had been in existence since the late 1650s it was not until the mid eighteenth century that the recording of these certificates became more commonplace. The conduct of the removing Friend was investigated by the issuing Monthly Meeting. If they were a ‘minister’ or an elder that was noted, as were a man’s wife and any children under 16 years of age. Certificates were not to be issued to :

  • insolvents,
  • those in receipt of poor relief within the last three months or
  • anyone who had been dissolved.The certificate was signed by three Friends and the clerk. On receipt an acknowledgement was to be sent to the issuing Monthly Meeting and several Friends were appointed to visit them. Records of certificates issued and received are mostly recorded in the Monthly Meeting minute books. In many cases certificates were kept on file and not minuted. Certificates would be issued following reinstatement if the individual had moved since disownment.

Disownment and reinstatemet

Disownable offences included:

  • habitually absenting oneself from meeting for worship
  • drinking to excess
  • commercial dishonesty, including bankruptcy
  • having an illegitimate child or child conceived out of wedlock
  • paying tithes
  • being concerned in war (i.e. having armed vessels, joining the army or hiring a substitute for the Militia)
  • marriage before a priest, or being present at such a marriage. Usually the Preparative Meeting reported the matter to the Monthly Meeting. The procedure, which was usually protracted, was to interview the ‘offender’, seek repentance and if not forthcoming, disown the individual. Continued attendance at meetings for worship was still possible and those who continued to attend were usually reinstated after a decent period.

Reinstatement was to be undertaken by the Monthly Meeting responsible for disownment. If the individual had moved to a new area enquiries would need to be made of the new Monthly Meeting. In such cases a certificate of removal may be issued following reinstatement, the date of this certificate would not reflect the actual date of removal.


Sufferings and Tithes

Quakers refusal to pay tithes led to them being subject to fines, distraint and imprisonment. They were anxious to record these hardships and persecutions. Locally these were copied into books of sufferings, which were kept by Monthly Meetings or Quarterly Meetings. These would be forwarded to London Yearly Meeting and recorded in the “great book of sufferings”. Friends House Library have a partial index up to 1791. The Meeting of Sufferings operated from London through a series of county correspondents .Friends House Library have a ‘working index’ to 1857.

Primary Sources:


Minute Books

Each Quaker Meeting produced large volumes of writings in the form of minutes, decisions and queries. It should be remembered that these records are not infallible. Some books may no longer exist and of course the amount of detail they contain is reliant upon the clerk.

The Minute books of the Monthly Meetings will be the most helpful, these will contain details of:

  • those appointed to attend the Quarterly Meeting
  • disownment procedure
  • marriage procedure
  • recording of sufferings
  • testimonies

An early example can be found thanks to Buckingham Record Socity Upperside Monthly Meeting 1669-1690 at http://www.bucksrecsoc.org.uk/BRS-VOLUMES/brs-vol-01.pdf


Membership Lists

Official lists of members are in general use from 1837, with the introduction of printed record books. Many Meetings started keeping regular lists after 1812. If extant they will be found with the Meeting records.



The Society of Friends has never supported a paid ministry, this has enabled it to form many small local Meetings. Vocal ministry may be given by any one of the worshipers present. However it was recognised that some were more moved to do so and these men and women became known as ‘publick’ Friends. Since the 18th century such individuals have recognised by the Monthly Meeting as ‘acknowledged’ or ‘recorded’ ministers. Following the Yearly Meeting of 1924 this practice was stopped.

A Friend wishing to travel ‘in the ministry’ was required to seek a certificate of liberation from their own Monthly Meeting. If they wished to travel abroad the Quarterly Meeting and Yearly Meeting or Second Day Meeting. Such certificates should be recorded in the relevant Minute books.

Primary Sources: 

  • local Monthly & Quarterly Meeting Minute Books