Over 1.5 million Irish Quaker records are now available online on the website Findmypast. This is the first phase of a major project to digitise all surviving Quaker records for Ireland.
The collection consists of both transcripts and scanned colour images of original births, marriages, burials, congregational records, school records and migration records held by the Historical Committee of the Religious Society of Friends in Ireland Archives.
Spanning over 350 years of Ireland’s history from 1654 to the present day, the collection contains over 1.5 million names and, when complete, will cover all 32 counties of Ireland.
The records form an invaluable resource for those with Quaker ancestors, allowing them to trace their family’s origins right back to the emergence of the faith in Ireland. Despite their relatively small size, the Quaker community left prolific information and have kept the most complete set of records of any denomination in Ireland from the 1660s to the present day.
The collection includes 232 Pedigrees documented by Thomas Henry Webb in the early 20th century to record of ancestry of 232 Irish Quaker families, applications for membership, Disownments, Removals and lists of those who refused to pay tithes to the established Church.
The origins of Quakerism in Ireland can be traced back to the early 1650s when English soldiers, farmers, and merchants who arrived in Ireland after the English Civil War (1641–1651) settled and established communities. These immigrants converted to the new religion from a variety of other nonconforming Protestant faiths and, by 1750, there were over 150 Quaker meetings being held across Ireland within the provinces of Ulster, Leinster, and Munster.
Large numbers of Irish Quakers fled to North America to escape religious persecution and today the region is home to 32% of all Quakers worldwide. The inclusion of the Irish Society of Friend’s migration records makes the collection of special significance to those looking to trace their families Quaker origins back across the Atlantic.
Noel Jenkins, Research Assistant at Friends’ Historical Library, Quaker House, Dublin, says:
“Quaker records are continuous, dating from 1654 to the present, and pre–date the Williamite wars of the late 17th century. They provide a rare snapshot of what Irish records could have been if they had not been destroyed in the Four Courts in 1922. This release is a momentous occasion as researchers from all over Ireland and beyond will now be able to readily access these records in their own homes.”
Brian Donovan, Irish records expert at Findmypast, says:
“The Quakers were a small, but very active community in Ireland from the 1650s. They were fiercely independent in religious and all other matters. They were also extraordinary record keepers documenting every aspect of their lives in meticulously kept minutes dating back to the 17th century. They emigrated in large numbers to north America and this migration is often documented. They also recorded their “sufferings” at the hands of the state, the expulsion of members who failed to follow their moral code, the monthly and annual meetings that governed their community, births, marriages, burials, schools, and much more besides.”