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Quaker Meetings + Meeting Records

Swarthmore Meeting

The Friends Historical Library is an official depository for the records of many North American yearly meetings of the Society of Friends and holds over 3700 linear feet of original archives including membership books, minutes, and other original records. The Library also holds over 2500 reels of microfilm of Friends' records from Canada, United States, Britain, and Ireland.

 

Identify a Meeting

Before searching for information about individual members of the Society of Friends, it is useful to know the name and history of the monthly meeting of which they may have been members. The best site for narrowing this search is Tom Hill's quakermeetings.com. It is particularly useful to search by state and county, keeping in mind that vital records of Friends were maintained by the monthly meeting -- which may have included persons who worshiped in a number of meeting houses in what may have been a large geographical area. Hill's database includes not only the dates of establishment and, if relevant, dates of the monthly meeting's laying-down, but also the names of its preparatives and useful information about the current location of records, if known.

Quaker Meeting Catalog

FHL and the Haverford College Quaker & Special Collections (the other major depository for Quaker records in the Philadelphia area) have collaborated to create a joint catalog describing their holdings. In some cases, a single meeting's records may be divided between Haverford and Swarthmore, but all the records are described in the Quaker Meeting Catalog 

How to Deposit Meeting Records

Meeting clerks should consult this two page overview [PDF] about depositing meeting records. It covers frequently asked questions about what to deposit in the archives, paper vs. electronic documents, ownership and access regulations, and more. We welcome further questions, as well as inquiries about arranging deposits to the Friends Historical Library, by email (friends@swarthmore.edu) or telephone (610-328-8496).

A few Yearly Meetings have developed guidelines for the maintenance and preservation of monthly meeting and committee records. Clerks and recorders are encouraged to consult these guidelines, even if their own Yearly Meeting has not developed specific instructions. A couple relevant, although somewhat dated, resources include the Records Committee of Baltimore Yearly Meeting's Handbook on Records: their Creation, Maintenance, and Preservation in the Meeting (1989), and Thomas C. Hill's survey of historical and current Discipline Provisions Regarding Records (1998, 2003).

Meeting Records Online

Many Quaker meeting records are online via Ancestry.com. On campus patrons may access the records here. Ancestry subscribers with individual accounts may access them here. Records of the Monthly Meeting of Friends of Philadelphia, Northern District, Southern District, and Philadelphia Quarterly Meeting - may be accessed through the Philadelphia Congregations Early Records Project.

Microfilm Access

The oldest meeting records in the Library date from 1665. To guard against damage to fragile originals, most of the records have been microfilmed. We also have microfilm for many domestic and foreign Quaker meetings for which we do not hold the originals. A comprehensive in-house card file to this extensive microfilm collection is maintained on-site. Researchers are encouraged to email FHL to learn whether particular  records are represented in the collection. This material is not available for inter-Library loan.

Meeting House Photograph Collection

Thousands of images of Friends’ meeting houses have been brought together digitally in this online collection. Photographs from both the Quaker Collection of Haverford College and Friends Historical Library at Swarthmore College are included.  Browse the Meeting House Photographs Collection