Thursday, May 17, 2018

The Quakers: a very short introduction

When researching family history recently I discovered that one line of my family became Quakers in northern England at the commencement of the Quaker movement in the seventeenth century. Consequently I looked for some books that may provide background information and also found a FutureLearn online course on the establishment of the Quaker movement in England - Radical Spirituality: the early history of the Quakers - which I have just completed.

The author of the book, The Quakers: a very short introduction is Pink Dandelion (a name he has chosen though during the online course he included Ben (his given name) in this name). As the title suggests this is a small book but it does provide a good introduction to the Quaker movement. The book is only 143 pages including index, a glossary of terms, references and further reading list. Topics include who are the Quakers, the history of Quakerism, worship, belief theology and language, ecumenism and the future of Quakerism.

George Fox was the founder of the Quaker movement in 1652 and the original stronghold for the new faith was northern England, particularly Yorkshire and Lancashire, where my ancestors lived. Living in small isolated communities many of the people in this area, including some members of my family, welcomed this new form of worship focusing on the individual's direct contact with God, with the emphasis on the 'inner voice', without the need for priests and sermons. Initially the Quakers met in the homes of fellow Quakers and later established meeting houses for worship.  Initially many of the Quakers were persecuted included being fined and or gaoled for not observing customs of the time, especially in relation to the established church. Life improved for the Quakers after the passing of the Toleration Act in 1689 allowing freedom of worship for nonconformists.

Tracing your Nonconformist Ancestors: a guide for family and local historians by Stuart A Raymond includes a chapter on the Quakers as well sections on Presbyterians and Unitarians, Congregationalists / Independents, Baptists, Methodists, Calvinistic Methodists, Inghamites, Moravians and the Salvation Army. Other denominations and sects included are Catholic Apostolic Church, Christadelpians, Christian Brethren, Churches of Christ, Mormons, Church of the Nazarene, Family of Love, Glasites, Jehovah's Witnesses, Muggletonians, Pentecostalists, Sandemanians, Seventh Day Adventists and Swedenborgians. It also includes a short history of nonconformity plus sources for nonconformity.

The chapter on the Quakers provides a brief introduction followed by suggestions of resources useful when researching family members who were Quakers.

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