News From Terre Haute, Indiana


February 17, 2013

GENEALOGY: Quaker settlements indicate path of migration

TERRE HAUTE — One of the great migrations from Britain to the American colonies involved the Quakers and occurred primarily from 1675 through 1725. Knowing where your Quaker ancestor settled is a key to knowing where he/she came from back in England.

The Quakers were concentrated in the North Midland area of England, an area which went northward from Stropshire on the border of Wales up to Durham in the north. The northernmost part of this region, in the Pennine uplands, was made up of Derbyshire, Nottinghampshire, Lancashire, Cheshire, Westmoreland and Yorkshire, and was an impoverished rural area with a history of division between the common people and those who governed.

When the Normans invaded England in 1066, they brought with them their traditions of large manors, a ruling elite, and a system tenant farming. While this system took firm root in the southern part of England, the people of the north Midlands resisted, and private ownership of some land continued. In addition, the North Midlanders had democratic ways, including freemen voting on local issues. They valued an independence of thought which gave rise to a number of religious sects, including Quakerism, which was the sect that survived over time. So by the 1600s, the ruling elite had remained Catholic while the rest of the area’s population was independently Protestant.

The Quakers were persecuted in the 1660s and into the mid 1670s for non-payment of taxes; they objected to their money going to the support the established Anglican churches. By 1675, however, most of the arrests had stopped but the Quakers wanted to leave England to pursue their egalitarian way of life elsewhere. The first groups of Quakers to arrive in the New World settled along the Delaware River, on the east side in what is now New Jersey, and on the west side in what is now Pennsylvania. About 2,000 Quaker settlers a year migrated to the New World.

Now for some statistics: 80 percent of the Quakers arriving in Philadelphia between 1682 and 1687 came from the five English counties of Cheshire, Lancashire, Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire. Two-thirds of the Quakers who settled in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, before the year 1687 came from the above five counties plus Staffordshire. The other third came from the cities of London and Bristol. Quakers coming from Dublin, Ireland, settled in Newton, N.J. Quakers from Wales settled in the so-called “Welsh Tract,” located west of the Schuykill River in Montgomery, Chester and Delaware counties in Pennsylvania.

Other Quakers settled in the costal areas of Nansemond County, Virginia, and Pasquotank and Perquimans counties, North Carolina. According to William Dollarhide, in British origins of American Colonists, these counties “were mostly inhabited by Quakers before 1700. Quakers became an important part of North Carolina’s population up to 1800 when most of them left because of their opposition to slavery. As a result, Quakers were to become early settlers of the new free states, such as Ohio and Indiana, created from the old Northwest Territory.”

The Quakers brought with them the customs and speech patterns of the Midlands of England. Their values were egalitarian. Clothing, homes, furnishings and food were simple. The informal “thee” and “thou” were used in that area long after the rest of England had adopted “you.” Their marriages were recorded separate from the state and must be sought among Quaker meeting records. Naming patterns included naming the first son after either grandfather and the first daughter after either grandmother. Inheritance patterns include a double parcel of land for the first son, smaller shares for the other sons, one-third to the widow, and personal property, but not land, to the daughters.


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