Quakers of South Carolina
Encyclopedia of American Quaker Genealogy
By William Wade Hinshaw, Volume I, about 1936
Contribued by D. Whitesell for  South Carolina Genealogy Trails

Bush River Quakers Cane Creek Quakers Charleston Quakers
Piney Grove Quakers Wrightsborough Quakers

Quaker Monthly Meeting - An Introduction

The records kept by Friends Monthly Meetings during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries usually consisted of a record of births and deaths, a record of
marriage certificates, and minutes covering all proceedings and discussions coming before the monthly sessions of the meeting.   As the men and women met separately, two sets of minutes were kept.   In some meetings the marriage records were kept in the same book with the birth and death records; in others they were kept in a separate book.   The birth and death records are never complete.   In some cases whole families are omitted; sometimes the older children of a family are recorded and the younger ones omitted.   The percentage of births recorded appears to be considerably higher than that of deaths.   In only a few meetings was it the practice to record the birth dates and parentage of the father and mother of a family.  Place of birth was not usually recorded, for either parents or children.

None of the earlier meeting records contains a list of the membership. When a monthly meeting was divided, to establish a new one, all members of the old meeting who lived within the verge of the new automatically became members of the new meeting without any list of their names being entered in the records of either meeting.   A person who became a member in this way, unless he took some active part in the affairs of the meeting, was married, or was complained of for some breach of discipline, might continue in membership until the end of his life without his name ever appearing in the records.

The records of marriage certificates are much more complete than the birth and death records.   In a few meetings every marriage accomplished in the meeting is fully recorded.   Others are nearly complete, with only a few carriages missing.

Since the regular procedure in marriage involved two appearances of the couple before both men's and women's meetings prior to marriage and subsequent reports of the committees appointed to attend the marriage ceremony, there is ample record of each marriage in the minutes even though recording of the marriage certificate may have been overlooked.   The record in the minutes, however, does not give the names of the parents of the persons married nor the exact date of marriage.    The report of the committee that the marriage had been accomplished was made at the next succeeding meeting, thus fixing the date within a month.

The minutes of sessions of the monthly meetings cover many subjects, but only those having genealogical interest have been incorporated in this book.   During the periods of migration the minutes relating to certificates of membership received and issued are the most numerous and have the greatest interest.   Records of disciplinary action against members for violation of the rules of the Society occupy much space.

Members were ,"dealt with" on a great variety of complaints, including fiddling and dancing, drinking intoxicating liquor to excess, serving in the militia or other armed forces, using profane language, fighting, failure to meet financial obligations, marrying contrary to the order used by Friends, deviation from plainness in apparel or speech, joining another religious society, etc.   Unless the offending member expressed sorrow for his misconduct and brought a signed paper condemning the same, he was usually disowned.   The number so disowned runs into thousands.   Many of them, after a shorter or longer time, produced the necessary paper of condemnation and were reinstated in membership.   A minute showing that a person presented a satisfactory paper condemning his misconduct, implies that he was retained or reinstated in membership, as the case might be, whether that fact is specifically stated or not.   Often, following the disownment of a member (perhaps many years later) the minutes may record a request for membership coming from a person of the same name, but with no reference to previous membership or disownment.   In such cases it is usually impossible to tell whether the two minutes refer to the same person or to two individuals with the same name. A great many of those who were disowned never asked to be reinstated but remained outside the Society for the rest of their lives.   The names of these persons never appear in the records again.

When Individual members or families removed from one monthly meeting to another they were furnished removal certificates setting forth the fact of their membership in good standing and recommending them to the fellowship of the monthly meeting to which they were removing.   In the earlier days these certificates were usually prepared and signed in advance and carried by the members to their new place of abode.

Later, it appears to have become more the custom to wait until the new home had been established and then send back a request that the certificate be forwarded. A condition to the granting of a certificate was that the member's "outward affairs" be satisfactorily settled.   The certificate usually stated that this had been done.

When a certificate was issued to a family the fact was generally recorded in the men's minutes so far as it applied to the husband and sons, and in the women's minutes as it applied to the mother and daughters.   The names of children were frequently omitted in the minutes of the issuing meeting but were usually recorded by the receiving meeting.   The fact that John Jones and family (men's minutes) and Mary Jones and daughters (women's minutes) were granted certificates to the same meeting on the same day does not guarantee that John and Mary were husband and wife.

Such an assumption would be correct in the majority of cases but would sometimes be erroneous.   Confirmatory evidence should always be sought.
If a man and woman contemplating marriage were members of different monthly meetings they made their declarations of intention in the meeting of which the woman was a member.   The man was required to bring a certificate from his meeting stating that he was a member in good standing and free from marriage engagements with others.

This certificate did not transfer his membership to the woman's meeting, but only made it possible for him to marry there.   After marriage, the wife usually obtained a certificate, issued in her married name, transferring her membership to her husband's meeting.  Marriage contrary to the Friends' order, variously referred to in the minutes as "marriage by a priest," "outgoing in marriage," "marriage contrary to good order," "marriage out of unity," "marriage contrary to discipline," etc., and spoken of in every day speech as "marriage out of meeting," was the cause of more complaints and disownments than any other single offense.   Because of the value of a record of all marriages in tracing family history, these complaints and disownments have been fully reported In the preparation of this volume.   Unfortunately the minutes rarely give the name of the person to whom the offending member was married.   The record
relating to a woman usually refers to her as Mary Jones, formerly Brown, thus giving a clue which is not available in the case of a man.   In a large percentage of cases of marriage contrary to Friends' order, only one of the parties was a member.

When both parties to a marriage engagement were members in good standing,  there was usually no reason why they might not apply to the meeting, and receive permission to marry under its authority, but there were some exceptions.   Marriage between first cousins or others of close relationship was forbidden by the rules of the Society.

Parental objection may have been a bar to marriage in meeting in some cases. In other cases the couple married out of meeting for no other reason than to accomplish their purpose more quickly and without the formality which was necessary to a marriage In meeting.

Complaints for most causes other than marriage contrary to Friends" order, having little historical or genealogical interest, have been ignored unless they result ed in disownraent.   When they did result in disownment, that fact has been noted.

In arranging the records for publication, all birth and death records of each meeting have been grouped together, by families, in alphabetical order.   Some of the meetings kept their birth and death records in family groups, recording all the children of a father and mother on one page.   In other meetings the items seem to have been written into the record book in the order in which they were received by the recorder, with no attempt at family grouping.   In such cases the various children of a single father and mother may have been recorded on several different pages. Considerable difficulty has been experienced in the attempt which has been made to collect these scattered records and group together all the children of the same parents It is possible that, because of duplication of names, some errors have been made, although great care has been taken to identify all persons so far as the information in the original Records makes possible.    In a few cases the children of the same father and mother may have divided into two groups because of lack of evidence to prove the identical parentage of the two groups.    It is also possible that there may be cases in which a number of children have been placed in a single family group
when they should have been divided into two groups.   In some cases the father may have been the same man with two wives of the same name; in other cases both father and mother may have been different, but with identical names.

The minutes and marriage records have been combined in a single section for each meeting and arranged alphabetically by family names.   Marriages have been recorded, under both family names, but names of the woman's parents are omitted in the record under the man's family name, and vice versa.   Other items containing two or more names have also been repeated under each name.   The items relating to each family name have been arranged chronologically.
Almost every meeting in North Carolina Yearly Meeting has lost one or more of its books of records.   Some are known to have been destroyed by fire; others have disappeared from view no one knowing what became of them.   The complete records of at least two monthly meetings are gone.   These are Fredericksburg Monthly Meeting, South Carolina, about 1750 to 1782, and Trent Monthly Meeting, North Carolina, 1792 to 1800.   Both were important meetings and much valuable information has been lost in the disappearance of their records.   Center Monthly Meeting, one of the most important of all the North Carolina meetings in the historical value of its records, has lost the early minutes of both men's and women's meeting the men's minutes
prior to 1835 and the women's minutes prior to 1835.   The women's minutes of New Garden Monthly Meeting were destroyed by fire in 1790, but this loss was not so serious as the cases just mentioned, since the men's minutes have been preserved in full.

One of the earliest record books of Perquimans Monthly Meeting was found early this year in an abandoned house in Perquimans County.   This discovery gives rise to the hope that other missing books may be found.  With a few exceptions, all the record books which have been abstracted in the preparation of this volume are in the custody of North Carolina Yearly Meeting in the Guilford College Library, Guilford College, N. C.   The exceptions are noted in
the historical sketches of the various meetings.

Washington, D. C.
November 4, 1936.

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