Gilbert Cope's Collection of Family Data
Early Quaker Sources

From: (Stewart Baldwin)
To: QUAKER genealogy list
Date: Sat, 8 Feb 1997 18:17:08 -0500 (EST)
I have seen a number of people on this mailing list ask how to get access to early Quaker records, so I will describe some of the ways of doing this, based on my own experience. In general, you will need to have access to an LDS (Mormon) Family History Center in order to take advantage of the microfilms I will describe. If you live in a large city, one of the local Mormon churches will almost certainly have such a center. If there is not one in your town, any Mormon church should be able to tell you where the closest one is. You do not have to be a Mormon to use these facilities. Of course, the best option, if you get the chance, is to go the the magnificent Family History Library ("FHL") in Salt Lake City. The FHL has microfilmed a vast number of records, including family histories, government records, county probate, land, court, etc. records, parish registers, and many others, including many Quaker records. Their collection of early Pennsylvania Quaker records and English Quaker records is particularly good. With a few exceptions (due to copyright or other restrictions), most records which have been filmed by the FHL can be ordered at the local Family History Centers for a nominal fee.

The FHL catalog is the source you use to find out if the FHL has the record you need. The catalog comes in four parts: the locality catalog (yellow microfiche), the author-title catalog (green microfiche), the subject catalog (blue fiche), and the surname catalog (pink fiche). Of these, the locality catalog and the surname catalog are also available on CD-ROM on the computers at the Family History Centers. Although you want to make sure to check the other catalogs for other items of interest, the main catalog to consult for Quaker records is the AUTHOR-TITLE catalog (available only on fiche). Under "Society of Friends", you will find a list of most of the microfilmed Quaker records which are available from the FHL. The cataloguing of records has not always been uniform, so it might be that the record is available, but was catalogued in a different way. One tip is to look under "Society of Friends - Monthly Meeting of _____" if you don't find the records you are looking for under "Society of Friends - _____ Monthly Meeting". Another place you should look in the author-title catalog is under the name of the eminent Quaker genealogist Gilbert Cope, who did abstract of nearly all early English Quaker records up to the year 1725. Some of these abstracts, and some other Quaker records, appear in the FHL catalog only under his name, and not under "Society of Friends".

Since Pennsylvania was the starting point for the majority of early Quaker families, most people with Quaker ancestry will eventually find themselves researching Pennsylvania Quakers, and you should not overlook the large manuscript collections of previous Pennsylvania researchers. Gilbert Cope's great manuscript collection is available on microfilm from the FHL on 75 reels of microfilm. Other manuscript collections which have a large amount of Quaker material on them are the Warren S. Ely collection (46 reels), the Alfred R. Justice collection (16 reels), Albert Cook Myers's notes on immigrants to PA (14 reels), the family files of the Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania (in two series, one of 360 reels, and one of 53 reels), and miscellaneous church and genealogical records in the Chester County Historical Society (162 reels), among others. In general, the families are arranged in files in alphabetical order by surname (with occasional lapses due to careless alphabetization), and you can find the film number which has the part of the alphabet you want by checking the FHL catalog. The above collections can be found in the FHL locality catalog under "Pennsylvania - Genealogy" (or under the author's name in the author-title catalog for the Cope, Ely, Justice, and Myers collections). A word of caution is needed with regard to the use of these collections. They are not primary sources (except for the rare cases where an original document actually appears in the collection), and data from these collections need to be verified. A. R. Justice in particular was guilty of careless work, but he also did much work in English records, and the clues he gives can often save valuable time. It is good to remember that even the great Gilbert Cope made mistakes from time to time. Also, these collections contain all sorts of miscellaneous material which was sent to them by others, so that just because an item comes from the Cope collection does not necessarily mean that he wrote it. Checking these large manuscript collections is something that can turn out anywhere from a complete bust to a fantastic gold mine of information, but they are good places to check for that missing piece that has been plaguing you.

Stewart Baldwin

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