by Sue Roe
REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION
A four-part series on the largest groups of emigrants from the British Isles to Colonial America.
They were: the PURITANS who came, primarily, from East Anglia to the
Massachusetts Bay Colony between 1629 and 1640; the CAVALIERS AND SERVANTS who
came, primarily, from the south of England to Virginia between 1642 and 1675; the QUAKERS who
came, primarily, from the English Midlands to Pennsylvania between 1675 and 1725; and the SCOTCH-IRISH who came, primarily, from the English/Scottish border counties (sometimes via northern Ireland) to Virginia (via Pennsylvania) between 1717 and 1775.
Between 1675 and 1725, the Quakers left the North Midlands of England in
great numbers and came to the Delaware River area of Pennsylvania and West
Jersey. Although there were some Quakers in New England earlier, they were
not Quakers when they arrived. They came as Puritans and were converted at
the hands of Quaker missionaries during the 1650's and 60's. When this
happened they were driven out of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and went to
Rhode Island and places beyond. The Quakers we are talking about here became
Quakers in England and then left, not so much because of persecution
(although they were persecuted), but because they felt called to a spiritual
It is estimated that about 23,000 Quakers left England in this migration,
about 80 percent of them from the North Midland counties of Cheshire,
Lancashire, Yorkshire, Derbyshire, Staffordshire, and Nottinghamshire. About
10 percent were from Wales and Ireland and the rest from scattered counties
in England. But it is interesting to note that there were none from East
Anglia (Puritan territory).
This was a Christian migration, but different than those of New England
Puritans and Virginia Anglicans. The Quaker view of the Bible was
different--with a great emphasis on the New Testament and no formal
doctrine, no formal worship service, no ordained ministers. They did,
however, have a highly organized system of meetings and record keeping.
Their doctrine might be described as one of love and light. The Quaker
migration was not as much a family affair as the Puritan migration, but much
more so than in Virginia. The Quakers came from the lower middle class of
English society. They were farmers, craftsmen, laborers, and servants.
The Quakers lived in nuclear family households--but had much emphasis on
extended family. All uncles, cousins, etc. were family--so were in-laws. In
fact, there were no in-law relationships. If someone married in they became
son or daughter or cousin. (So you may not find a distinction in records.)
The Quakers even extended this feeling of family to the family of God. The
whole community was family to them! Quaker families tended to be a bit
smaller than Puritan families, but a bit larger than those in Virginia.
There were fewer servants but, when there were servants, they were treated
as family. Quakers put a strong emphasis on love in all their
relationships--but they only seemed to love other Quakers. They lived in
communities unto themselves.
The Quakers had a strict set of marriage customs. A Quaker could not
marry a non-Quaker. If they did, they were disowned. For this reason, there
were more of them that did not marry than in other groups. But this was not
condemned as in other groups. First cousin marriages were not allowed--but
they often married relatives of a lesser degree of closeness. Marriage was a
community affair. Parental consent was required, but the marriage had to be
approved by the community as well. Quaker weddings had seven steps--most
involving the community. The wedding ceremony itself was very plain. Average
age at marriage was similar to the Puritans-- 26 for men, 22 for women. For
a Quaker, there was a sharp distinction between love and lust. They married
for Christian love, not for sexual attraction.
The Quakers believed that souls had no gender. Men and women were equal
and were to be helpmates for each other. So equal were they, that the
Quakers even allowed women to be preachers. Their households were less male
dominant, a folkway they brought from the North Midlands of England. They
believed that sex was to be confined to marriage and went to great pains in
their style of dress to keep it that way.
The Quakers did not believe in Christening babies, but names for babies
were very carefully selected by the parents and then approved by the
community. In keeping with their belief in equality, they named the first
son for the wife's father and the first daughter for the husband's mother,
then reversed the process on the next son and daughter. About 50 percent of
Quaker children were given Biblical names. The most common were John,
Joseph, Samuel, Mary, Elizabeth, Sarah, Anna/Hannah, Esther/Hester. They
also used Teutonic names such as George, Thomas, or William, and plain
English names such as Jane, Catherine, Margaret, or Phebe. "Grace names"
were popular with Quakers (i.e. Grace, Mercy, Chastity, Preserve, Restore,
The rearing of children was done in an atmosphere of loving, nurturing,
and sheltering. Children were thought to be incapable of sin before the age
of 11 or 12. Rewards were usually used rather than punishments and corporal
punishment was rare. There was a strict behavior code and the whole
community helped to instill it in their children. Children were never "sent
out" as in New England. They always lived at home until married. They were
encouraged to socialize, but only with other Quaker children.
The Quakers practiced something called "Eldering". The elder members of
the community were given a place of respect just as in the other groups of
immigrants, but it was not one of authority. They had more of a nurturing
role. They gave advice to the young, who were required to listen
respectfully, but not required to obey. Literacy was not as important to the
Quakers as it was to the Puritans and the Virginia elite. They were hostile
toward public schools and home schooled their children if they knew how.
They lived in neighborhoods of farms--none were ever isolated. There was a
village in the center of a group of farms--this constituted the township.
The best resource for genealogists is Quaker Meeting records. They kept
meticulous records and also had their own separate burial grounds.
<< Sue's Genealogy Recipes
If you would like to study these groups in more depth, I recommend that you read the book, ALBION'S SEED: FOUR BRITISH FOLKWAYS IN AMERICA by David Hackett Fischer, Oxford University Press, 1989.
Much (but not all) of the material in this "Recipe" is from that book.