The Religious Society of Friends
(Quakers) is a Christian religious denomination, founded by
George Fox (born at Fenny Drayton, Leicestershire in 1624
and died in London in 1691). He first started preaching in
the mid 1640s.
If you wish to learn more about Quaker
beliefs and history, the following links will contain more
Society of Friends in Britain
The Society of Friends was also
established in North America, notably in Pennsylvania
(William Penn was a prominent English Quaker, and Friends
dominated the Pennsylvania Government until 1756). American Quakerism
developed rather differently from British Quakerism in the
19th and 20th centuries.
The following aspects of Quaker belief
and practice are, however, important for understanding both
the documentation that Quakers themselves produced, and the
circumstances in which they are likely to feature in
Government and Anglican Church records:
- Christ is ". . . the True Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world" [John i.
9]. Central to the Quaker message is the notion that the
Light is within each of us, and will, if we let it, guide
us directly to the Truth. There is no need for God to use
intermediaries such as priests or ministers to speak to
us, or for us to use liturgies or sacraments to approach
- Quakers do not have priests or
(traditionally) a professional ministry. Any Friend
can bear witness to God's Truth. But see below as to
the use of the word 'Minister' by Friends.
- The traditional form of Quaker
worship is silent worship, in which Friends meet and
sit in silence unless the Spirit moves one of them to
- The light is within women as well
as men. So women have always played a prominent part
in the Society of Friends. Until the end of the 19th
century there were separate Men's and Women's
Meetings in most areas. Since then they have met
- Quakers reject the outward forms
of sacraments, including baptism. Baptism is a
spiritual event, that needs no external
- Accordingly, Quakers record
births, not baptisms; and an individual leaving the
Society of Friends for the Church of England may
undertake an adult baptism
- Quakers were the only group
apart from the Jews to be exempted from the legal
requirement to marry in the parish church between
1754 and 1837 (in England & Wales).
- Quakers historically refused to
pay tithes to the Established Church.
- Quakers refuse to swear oaths. This
caused considerable difficulty with the legal system
until 1696, when an Act of Parliament permitted them to
affirm using a special form of words.
- Quakers reject war and refuse to take
part in it. It is perhaps for this reason that they are
best known in the 20th century; but it also led to
conflict with the authorities under the 18th century