Glossary of Quaker Terms

If you have found that you have Quaker ancestors, you are fortunate. They were very committed to their record keeping. Records of many Monthly Meetings, Quarterly Meetings and Yearly Meetings have been abstracted over the years by many noted genealogists and historians. Your first Quaker reference books should always be the "Encyclopedia of American Quaker Genealogy" by William Wade Hinshaw or Willard Heiss's Abstracts from the Records of the Society of Friends in Indiana. These volumes are available at most Genealogy libraries and LDS Family History Centers. There are several volumes and they have recently been reprinted and made available through various Genealogical book vendors.

Quaker records are sometimes difficult to interpret unless you
are familiar with some frequently used abbreviations, such as:

  • altm = at liberty to marry
  • apd = attending places of diversion
  • apd = appointed, appealed
  • apt = appointed
  • att = attached to, attended
  • b = born
  • BG = burial grounds
  • btw = between
  • bur = buried
  • bef = before
  • c = circa, about
  • cem = cemetery
  • cert = certificate
  • cd = contrary to the Discipline
  • ch = child, children, church
  • chm = condemned his/her misconduct
  • chr = charter
  • co = chosen overseer (s), county
  • com = complained, complained of
  • comm = committee
  • comp = complained, complained of
  • con = condemned
  • ct = certificate, certificate to
  • d = died, day
  • dau = daughter
  • dec = deceased
  • dis = disowned, disowned for
  • div = divorced
  • dp = dropped plain dress and/or speech
  • dr = drinking spiritous liquor to excess
  • drpd = dropped
  • dt = daughter, daughters
  • dtd = dated
  • e = east
  • end = endorsed
  • FBG = Friends burial grounds
  • fam = family
  • form = formerly
  • fr = from
  • Frds = Friends
  • gc = granted certificate
  • gct = granted certificate to
  • gl = granted letter
  • glt = granted letter to
  • gr dau = grand daughter
  • gr s = grand son
  • Gr Yd = grave yard
  • h or hus = husband
  • j = joined
  • jas = joined another society
  • JP = justice of the peace
  • ltm = liberated to marry, left at liberty to marry
  • lvd = lived
  • lvg = living
  • m = marry, married, marrying, marriage, month
  • mbr = member
  • mbrp = membership
  • mcd = married contrary to Discipline
  • MG = minister of the Gospel
  • MH = meeting house, church
  • mi = miles
  • MM = monthly meeting
  • mos = married out of society
  • mou = married out of unity
  • mt = married to
  • mtg = meeting
  • mvd = moved
  • n = north
  • na = not attending meeting
  • neg att = neglecting attendance
  • nmn = no middle name
  • NW Terr = Northwest Territory
  • O = Orthodox, Ohio
  • ou = out of unity
  • PM = preparative meeting
  • PO = post office address
  • prc = produced a certificate
  • prcf = produced a certificate from
  • prob = probably
  • Qkr = Quaker
  • QM = quarterly meeting
  • rcd = recorded
  • rec/rcd = receive, received
  • recrq = received by request
  • relfc = released from care for
  • relrq = released by request
  • rem = remove, removed
  • ret = returned, retired (rarely used)
  • ret mbrp = retained membership
  • rev = reversed
  • rm = reported married
  • rmt = reported married to
  • roc = received on certificate
  • rocf = received on certificate from
  • rol = received on letter
  • rolf = received on letter from
  • rpd = reported
  • rrq = request, requests, requested
  • rqc = requested certificate
  • rqct = requested certificate to
  • rqcuc = requested to come under care (of mtg.)
  • rst = reinstate, reinstated
  • s = son, south
  • sep = separated
  • sis = sister
  • temp = temporarily
  • transfrd = transferred
  • twp = township
  • uc = under care (of mtg)
  • unm = unmarried
  • upl = using profane language
  • w = wife, west
  • w/c = with consent of
  • wid = widow
  • w/pwr = with power
  • wrkd = worked
  • y = year
  • YM = yearly meeting

Disciplinary complaints consisted of: fiddling, dancing, drinking intoxicating liquor to excess, serving in the militia or other armed forces, using profane language, fighting, failure to meet financial obligations, marrying contrary to the order used by Friends, deviation from plainness in apparel or speech, joining another religious society, etc. Unless the offending member expressed sorrow for his misconduct and brought a signed paper condemning the same, he was usually disowned.


On Apr-14-95 Sharron Spencer asked Cheska Wheatley this question on the Fidonet Genealogy Conference:

I'm looking at the Encyclopedia of American Quaker Genealogy, and need to know what members were "disowned" for. Does that mean they were shunned for a period of time, or does it mean they were kicked out of the church, or something else?

When a member of the Society of Friends acted in a manner contrary to discipline, that member was visited by a committee appointed by the meeting. If the member failed to acknowledge fault after visitation by the committee, then the member was disowned by the Society and could not be reinstated until acknowledgement of fault was made.

Members of the Society of Friends could be disowned for a variety of reasons. If you are reading Hinshaw's Encyclopedia, you will often see the notation that someone was "dis mou" or "dis mcd." "Mou" meant that they had married out unity to someone who was not a member of the Society. Marriage contrary to discipline sometimes meant that the couple, both Quakers, chose to be married by the Justice of the Peace or a clergy from another religion thereby "by-passing meeting." To be married within the Society, the couple had to declare intentions before both the prospective bride's and groom's to insure that they both had no other obligations which would prevent their marrying. A committee would be appointed to look into the character of both and then report back to the meeting. If they were found free to marry, they were granted permission to marry at the next meeting. This often took two to three months and sometimes couples were not willing to wait this long to marry. When they were disowned, it was was a forever thing =unless= they admitted their wrongdoing usually through a written petition to the meeting and then the meeting would decide whether or not to readmit the disowned member(s). In this case, you will see notations in Hinshaw indicating that a person "con their mou" or "con their mcd" indicating that they had condemned their own misbehavior. Unless they were specifically denied readmission you can assume that they were accepted back.

Often a couple who had mou or mcd would seek readmission just prior to requesting a certificate of transfer in order to move to a new meeting. This could be some years after their marriage in which case any children born prior to their readmission will not have their births recorded in the monthly meeting records. If you are tracking a couple be sure to record when they requested certificates to leave a meeting and when they were received at the new meeting.

Members could also be disowned for any number of other reasons such as attending a wedding of a sibling who mcd, marrying too close of a relative, dancing, not dressing plain, striking another, playing cards or taking up arms. Be aware of the dates when a man was disowned which might suggest that he had participated in a war.


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