Navigating the Rich History and Records of New England Quakers: A Genealogist’s Guide

If you’re tracing your family tree and have discovered Quaker ancestors from New England, you’re in for a fascinating journey. The Religious Society of Friends, more commonly known as Quakers, has a rich history in New England, and their meticulous records can be a treasure trove for genealogists. This guide aims to simplify the process, offering insights into the administrative structure of the Quakers, highlighting the importance of their meetings, and providing practical advice on how to access and interpret their records.

Understanding Quaker Administrative Structure

At the heart of Quaker organization is the Monthly Meeting, the basic administrative unit where most membership information is recorded. These Monthly Meetings are part of Quarterly Meetings, which in turn are overseen by the Yearly Meeting, the largest body. For those researching New England Quaker ancestors, the New England Yearly Meeting, active since 1661, is of particular interest. It encompasses almost the entire region and has been composed of Quarterly Meetings since the early 18th century.

The Guide’s Structure and How to Use It

This guide is meticulously arranged by meeting, making it easier for researchers to find information. Entries for each meeting include the name (with references under all known names), place (offering a general idea of the meeting’s region), a brief history, and the records available. This structure requires a basic understanding of the Quaker administrative organization to navigate efficiently.

Key Tips for Genealogical Research

  1. Place and Time: Sketch out a chronology of your ancestor’s travels across New England. This will help narrow down which Monthly Meetings they might have belonged to.
  2. Monthly Meetings: Determine which Monthly Meeting your ancestor was associated with. This is crucial as all vital records are kept at this level.
  3. Consult Maps and Indexes: If the town isn’t directly indexed, use the guide’s maps and the index in the back to find nearby meetings your ancestor might have attended.
  4. Check for Records: Look at the meeting’s entry for any vital records that could include your ancestor’s birth, marriage, or death details.
  5. Microfilm Numbers: If records have been microfilmed, they’re accessible through specific libraries and the Family History Centers operated by the Latter-Day Saints.

Navigating Challenges

Genealogists might face challenges due to the absence of a comprehensive index for New England records, unlike those available for other regions through William W. Hinshaw’s “Encyclopedia of American Quaker Genealogy”. However, persistence and a methodical approach can unlock valuable information contained within these records, including vital records, minutes, and other documents.

Additional Resources and Considerations

  • Our Quaker Ancestors: For a deeper dive, this book offers comprehensive strategies for Quaker genealogy research.
  • Burial Practices: Understanding Quaker burial practices, which often involved unmarked fieldstones, can be crucial when examining ancestral graves.
  • Quaker Calendar: Be aware of the Quaker calendar’s unique dating system, which eschews traditional names for days and months, to avoid confusion when interpreting dates.


Exploring the records of New England Quakers can be a rewarding experience, offering unique insights into the lives of your ancestors. While the process may seem daunting at first, this guide, along with patience and careful research, can open up new avenues in your genealogical journey. Remember, the meticulous records kept by the Quakers not only reflect their commitment to their faith and community but also serve as an invaluable resource for those looking to connect with their past.