Irish Quaker Origins

The Settlement of Irish Quakers in Pennsylvania and across the river in New Jersey and Delaware came under the scrutiny of historians (not genealogists) some years ago.  And my notes on those studies have been tucked inside seminar presentations ever since.

Quaker Database by Dr. C.Vann Woodward:

  1. Study of Irish Quakers, 1665-1840.  Woodward tried matching Irish on both sides of the ocean–in Pennsylvania and Delaware with origins in London congregations.  Didn’t match.  These English Quakers, who were invited first to Ireland then fled to America to escape the enforcement of the penal laws aimed at non-conformists, originated in Northern England not London.
  2. These families were self-supporting “middle class:”  Less than 5% were found on the poor rolls and skilled occupations were listed for some 85%.  No dukes or squires.   Those found on the poor rolls were mostly widows.
  3. They married early and had more children than Church of England members–600/1000 or more than 1 child every 2 years.

David H. Fischer substantiated Woodward’s  stats in Albions Seed and in the article on his findings that appeared in the William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd S. Vol 68 (Apr 1991).  The Irish Quakers came from  the far North of England–Westmoreland, Cumberland, Durham, and Northumberland; the North Midlands–Yorkshire, Lancashire, Cheshire, Derbyshire, and Nottinghamshire; and the South Midlands–Rutland, Herefordshire, Staffordshire, Shropshire, Leicestershire, and Worcestershire.

Almost none came from the London area.  Fischer used “standard genealogical sources,” as he called them.

How do these facts affect your genealogy?

If you have Irish ancestors who come from Pennsylvania, Delaware, or New Jersey–whether they are Quakers when you discover them or not–consider that they will have  English origins!  They are not native Irish.  And they are not Scots Irish.  Many of them convert as Quakers in Yorkshire.  Then they take their Quaker beliefs to Ireland and  subsequently to America.

You can document these Quakers in the works of Gilbert Cope–who transcribed and indexed the Quaker churchbooks on both sides of the ocean.  His materials are available at the Pennsylvania Historical Society and on microfilm at the Family History Library  in Salt Lake City UT.  Your favorite genealogist,  Arlene Eakle

PS  Remove Irish Quakers from your checklist of Scots-Irish identities–Quakers, although Protestant, are non-jurors and non-fighters.  The Scots-Irish would rather fight than switch and they accepted their Protestant faith by covenant.


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