In April 2014 it became much easier to find records of Quaker meetings. Before then, most minutes and vital records were accessible on microfilm at libraries such as Haverford and Swarthmore. When Ancestry posted its Quaker Collection, it made it possible to retrieve millions of records of meetings from 1681 to 1935.
Although the records on Ancestry are convenient, they can be difficult to use. It is possible to search for a name, but for the early records you cannot specify the date, so there are far too many hits. For example, Thomas Williams appears in the minutes of Burlington and Falls meetings around 1686 when he proposed to marry the widow Rebecca Bennett. If you search for Thomas Williams in the Quaker Collection, you get 19,471 hits, even if you specify an event in 1686. Needless to say, few if any of those are relevant. It is sometimes necessary to browse the minutes page by page to find events and stories.
To browse the records you need to find them. This can be hard because of the cryptic titles of records in the collection. For example, for Middletown Monthly Meeting in Bucks County, one of the files is called “Meeting Minutes”. This is actually certificates. For Concord Monthly Meeting in Delaware County, “Minutes 1680-1701” is actually birth records.
There were nine monthly meetings established in Pennsylvania before 1700. The table shows the filenames that Ancestry uses for the early minutes of these meetings. To get to these (with a subscription to Ancestry), search the Card Catalog with keyword Quaker. The Quaker Meeting Records will be the first result. Use the boxes on the right to choose a state (Pennsylvania), county and monthly meeting. (Note that Abington is listed under Montgomery County, and Radnor, Darby and Concord are listed under Delaware County. Newark/Kennett is listed under Chester County.) 1
|Monthly Meeting||Men's minutes||"Women's minutes|
|Falls||"Minutes 1683 to 1730"||"Women's minutes 1683-1774" (Under Phila Arch Street Meeting)|
|Middletown||"Minutes 1664-1807"; also "Record of Commery 1683" for the earliest minutes.||"Minutes 1683-1892"|
|Philadelphia||"Minutes 1682-1705"||"Women's minutes 1686-1728" (under Phila Arch St)|
|Abington||"Men's minutes 1682-1746"||(Nothing known before 1773)|
|Radnor||"Men's minutes 1684-86"; "...1693-99"||"Minutes 1685-1711"|
|Chester||"Men's Minutes 1681-1721"||"Women's minutes 1695-1733"|
|Concord||"Minutes 1683-1756"||(Nothing known before 1715)|
|Darby||"A few certificates and marriages, 1684-1763"||"Women's minutes 1684-1796"|
|Newark/Kennett||"Births and deaths 1686-1739", minutes start at Image 37.||"Women's minutes 1690-1789"|
To find what records exist for each meeting, and what years they cover, the ultimate source is the online catalog of the Friends Historical Library at Swarthmore College.
There are published abstracts of the minutes for seven of the earliest meetings, all except Abington. These do not include all of the minutes, focusing on genealogical events such as marriages. They are indexed, which makes them useful for seeing whether someone is named in the minutes. But they do not include most of the business of the meeting, and do not show who the leaders were.
|Philadelphia||Watring, Early Quaker Records of Philadelphia, vol. 1|
|Radnor||Launey, Early Church Records of Delaware County, vol. 3|
|Chester||Launey & Wright, Early Church Records of Delaware County, vol. 1|
|Concord||Peden & Launey, Early Church Records of Delaware County, vol. 2|
|Darby||Launey, Early Church Records of Delaware County, vol. 3|
|Falls and Middletown||Watring & Wright, Bucks County Church Records..., vol. 2|
|Newark/Kennett||On USGenWeb Archive under New Castle County, to 1693|
Transcripts of early minutes can save much time because they are easier to read than original handwriting, and sometimes include an index. The Historical Society of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia, has a collection of church records, originally held by the Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania — the “green books”. These include transcripts of some of the early minutes, especially the men’s minutes.
|Meeting||Call number (HSP)||Notes|
|Philadelphia||Ph 1F:7||Early men's minutes, typed|
|Abington||Mo 1F:2||Early men's minutes, neatly handwritten|
|Falls||Bu 7F:5||Photostat of men's minutes, with an index at Bu 7F:5a|
|Middletown||Bu 9F:4||Men's minutes, neatly handwritten, with an index|
|Darby||De 13F:2||Women's minutes, handwritten with an index|
|Radnor||DE 21F and De 15F:3||Men's minutes, 1684-86 and 1693-1704|
|Chester||De 2F:3 and De 2F:6||Men's minutes, women's minutes|
|Concord||De 9F:3||Men's and women's minutes, with index|
|Newark/Kennett||Ch 9F:3 and Ch 9F:6||Men's minutes, women's minutes|
- This meeting was originally called New Ark, later called Kennett. It was located in Chester County, near Kennett Square, and had no connection to a meeting later set up in Newark, Delaware. ↩