[google-site-verification=BUAlvMnZmaWmFqYUikfKRXtYJYxId8l6lrVnALp5aG0] Church Records: Quakers | HALIFAx GENEALOGICAL SOCIETY | Linda Vivian

Church Records: Quakers

So You Think You Know Your Ancestors?
By Linda Vivian
GenNews Vol. 19 No. 4
April 2011
Halifax Genealogy Society

Several years ago, I attended a session at the National Genealogical Society Family History Conference where the speaker said that you are so lucky if you have a Quaker ancestor because there are great records. I remember thinking, That’s too bad because I don’t have any Quakers in my family. So I thought. Later, I discovered quite by accident that I did, indeed, have ancestors who were Friends in North Carolina.

By searching online, I found that each Monthly Meeting (church) kept minutes. I further discovered that most were indexed and published by William Wade Hinshaw in several volumes as Encyclopedia of American Quaker Genealogy.

After consulting the index, I further located the North Carolina repository at Guilford College in Greensboro, North Carolina. For me, it is conveniently located about 30 minutes from my sister-in-law’s residence and 90 minutes from the North Carolina State Library and Archives. The college has all of the minutes on microfilm, but luckily had also photocopied the ones I needed from Cane Creek MM and filed them in folders.

What did I discover? That several of my Quaker ancestors were disowned, mostly for marrying “outside of unity” a common occurrence in rural less-populated colonial North Carolina. But my most recent find had historical significance about William Greaves, a fourth generation Quaker whose family had immigrated to Pennsylvania and lived next door to William Penn’s daughter. He relocated with his wife, brother, and sister to North Carolina about 1767. Quakers were pacifists and required to stay neutral and away from any political conflicts.

In 1766, the Regulator Movement began among rural North Carolinians, surprisingly led by two Quakers, Simon Dixon and Herman Husbands, to protest unfair governance by colonial government officials. They believed these officials were overcharging taxes, falsifying records, and corrupting the system. Since most of the officials were from eastern North Carolina, petitioners believed that there was a bias against residents in the colony’s central and western areas. By some estimates, 6,000 North Carolinian men supported this movement.

Found on the list of Regulator petitioners to the colonial government in May 1771, is the name Wm. Greaves, among several other Quakers from Cane Creek Monthly Meeting.

Lack of any positive response by the colonial government to their petitions and civil disobedience over five years finally lead to armed rebellion at the Battle of Alamance in May 1771, where 2000-3000 Regulators were soundly defeated by Governor William Tryon’s smaller but well-armed and trained colonial militia. This little known unrest in North Carolina preceded the Boston Tea Party by two years and sowed the seeds for continued discontent with the colonial government by many North Carolinians leading up to the Declaration of Independence on 4 July 1776.

Although supportive of the cause, there is nothing that links William Greaves to any violent acts. However, I came across an entry in the minutes dated the 1st day of the 6th month 1771 producing letters of denial to thirteen men, including William Graves [Greaves] and two Hinshaw men, ancestors of William Hinshaw, the aforementioned author. (John Hinshaw later produced an offering to the Meeting to be reinstated.) This made my additional find in the North Carolina Archives logical. William Greaves was listed in the Commissioners of Army Accounts records, indicating he was a soldier in the Third Chickamauga Expedition along with providing other services. I now have a new and unexpected Revolutionary War patriot.

The lessons I learned so dramatically are not to make assumptions and to conduct the exhaustive search -- not just on my indexed entries, but throughout the records, as it provided context. It also helped that I had studied the history of the colonial period in North Carolina so that I immediately recognized the 1771 date’s significance along with other names.

Why does this matter? It changes my family history. For you see, his daughter Hannah, my fourth great-grandmother, was disowned by Cane Creek Monthly Meeting at age 19 for consorting with Conner Dowd, who later became her husband. I assumed that her delayed marriage until age 22 was probably because her father, William Greaves, would not give consent to a non-Quaker. Obviously, this is not the case. Will I ever know what happened for sure? Probably not, but these recent facts impact what I thought I knew.

One last thing: I bless that speaker at the NGS conference for introducing new information that opened a research avenue when the time came. Conferences can literally change your family history.

HGS 2013