Finding the early Quaker vital records: Bucks and Philadelphia Counties

There are many sources for early Quaker vital records, sometimes overlapping, and some with more detail than others. Fortunately many of the best sources are available on Ancestry. This post will cover vital records to about 1700, but the principles will be the same even if you are searching for later records.

The vital records come in three varieties: images of pages, usually handwritten; manuscripts, and published books. There are arguments for using all of these.  It is much easier to read the typed or published copies. Someone else has already deciphered the early handwriting for you. But sometimes you want the scrawled originals —to see your ancestor’s signature or to get a more immediate feel for the event or because information there was not included in later copies.

In particular, for Quaker marriages you probably want to see the original certificate or a good abstract of it, because you want the list of people who witnessed the ceremony and signed the certificate.  The first witnesses to sign a marriage certificate were close family members, followed by friends and guests, so the list of witnesses can provide clues to family relationships. 1 The list also shows many of the members of the meeting at the time. 2

The images of many records are now available on Ancestry if you have a subscription, in the collection called Quaker Meeting Records 1681-1935. In that collection they are organized by state, county, and meeting. Sometimes the Ancestry files are placed under the wrong county or meeting. If you can’t find a file by browsing, and you suspect it should exist, use a technique of searching instead. Choose someone that should be in a record, preferably with an uncommon name, and use the search boxes on the opening page of the Quaker Records. This will give you a list of hits. View the image and see whether you spot any misfiled files. For example for Falls Monthly Meeting, one early file is under Philadelphia County, Arch Street Meeting and another one is under Berks County, Exeter Meeting.

Where to find the vital records on Ancestry for Bucks and Philadelphia Counties

Falls Meeting had three early documents: one of intermingled births and burials, one of marriage certificates (with witnesses), and one of births recorded by the Quarterly Meeting. These are scattered around on Ancestry, along with a 1898 copy that included later records. The 1898 copy is easiest to read.

MeetingVital recordAncestry file
Falls Monthly MtgBirths & burials, 1699-1788"Record of births and burials" (under Phila Arch St Meeting);
also in "Marriages, births and deaths 1699-1788" (under Berks County: Exeter Meeting)
Falls Monthly MtgMarriage certificates 1699-1759"Marriages, births and deaths 1699-1788", (Berks County: Exeter Mtg);
also in "Falls Copy Births Deaths Marriages" (under Bucks County: Falls) (the 1898 copy)
Falls Monthly MtgBirths 1680 on, recorded by Bucks Quarterly Meeting"Falls Copy Births Deaths Marriages" (Bucks County: Falls) (the 1898 copy)

Middletown Meeting had one early document, a collection of minutes, marriages, births and burials. There are two copies on Ancestry, differing mainly in the births and burials. The “Record of Commery” has the births in different order, and only a few burials. The mysterious “Commery” is someone’s error in reading the title page; it should actually be “Records commencing 1683”. 3

At first the responsibility of recording births and burials fell to the Bucks Quarterly Meeting. Their records can be found on Ancestry, listed under Philadelphia County, Arch Street Meeting. This is the only Ancestry file to show the early deaths. It is a mix of Falls and Middletown people, since in the earliest few years Middletown had not yet been split off as a monthly meeting. For example, the first birth is Mary, daughter of Lyonell and Elizabeth Britton of Falls; one of the first deaths is Thomas Walmsley, who owned land in Middletown.

MeetingVital recordAncestry file
MiddletownMarriages 1684-1699"Minutes, marriages, certificates of removal, condemnations, births and burials" (also in "Records of Commery 1683")
MiddletownBirths, beginning in 1677Same as above, except that the order is different, and "Record of Commery" may have fewer.
MiddletownBurials, starting about 1726.Same as above. "Record of Commery" is missing most of the burials.
MiddletownBirths & burials recorded by Bucks Quarterly meeting, starting 1677Phila County: Arch Street Meeting: "Record of certificates of removal"

Philadelphia Monthly Meeting has two original documents, one for marriages and one for births and burials, plus a transcription of the births and burials made in 1876 by Gilbert Cope. The 1876 copy has an index and the records have been changed from chronological order to alphabetical. There is an identical copy of the 1876 transcript filed under Philadelphia Meeting Arch Street.

MeetingVital recordAncestry file
Philadelphia Monthly MtgBirths and burials, roughly chronological"Births and burials, 1686-1807"
Philadelphia Monthly MeetingBirths and burials, A-Z order"Births deaths and burials, 1688-1826" (later copy with index)
Philadelphia Monthly MeetingList of marriages 1682-1769"Marriage certificates, 1682-1769" (a list, not certificates, taken from minutes)
Philadelphia Monthly MeetingMarriage certificates starting in 1672"Marriages, 1672-1759" (roughly chronological order) (certificates with witnesses)

There are two early documents for Abington Monthly Meeting, one of marriages and one of births and deaths. They are handwritten copies made in the 1700’s, so the signatures on the marriage certificates are not original. Ancestry places records of Abington Meeting under Montgomery County, which split off from Philadelphia County in 1784.

MeetingVital recordAncestry file
AbingtonBirths and deaths starting in 1682"Births and deaths, 1682-1809 vol. 1" (with an index, rough chronological order)
AbingtonMarriages starting in 1685"Marriages, 1685-1721" (copy of the certificates with witnesses)


  1. See Stewart Baldwin’s post on the Quaker-Roots Mailing List on Rootsweb, May 14, 2014.
  2. Non-Friends were allowed to attend marriage ceremonies and to sign the certificate as witnesses, although this was uncommon.
  3. Look carefully at Image 7 in the file.

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