Randy Saylor has supported CFHA in many ways. He initiated the CFHA website and served many years as webmaster. He also initiated in Canada collaborative internet transcription of Quaker minute books, a project he continues to administer. A Quaker descendant himself, Randy has spent decades researching and writing about diverse aspects of Quaker experience. To assist other researchers, some years ago Randy compiled a guide to understanding the structure and availability of Quaker records. Who better than to provide a virtual presentation on the subject to the Quinte branch of Ontario Ancestry this past weekend?

Over 80 participants logged in on June 20th to the presentation. Randy first acquainted the viewers with the hierarchal structure of Quaker meetings and the interlocking nature of their records which results. This provides viewers a good sense of how records of activity related to membership, marriage or disownment. For example, records can originate in a smaller local “Preparative” meeting and then advance upward to then also appear in subsequent records of the “Monthly’” meeting and on, in some cases, to the “Quarterly”, “Half-Yearly”, and Yearly meeting sessions respectively. Likewise, the written decisions, financial requirements, epistles, and amendments to the book of Discipline moved the other way through the successive superior meetings back down to the local Preparative meeting, being duly recorded at every stage. These records were supplemented by those of communications such as certificates of removal, that were exchanged directly between meetings. The net effect has been a boon to researchers as some aspects of the historical information may be preserved somewhere in the document chain even if a particular minute book may have been lost or destroyed.

Randy made use of various charts of the historical meetings under the care of New York Yearly Meeting and Philadelphia Yearly Meeting to show how extensive the Quaker presence had been in the 18th and 19th centuries. The Arthur Dorland charts of initial to early 20th century meetings in Canada were used to show the numerous meetings which existed in the greater Quinte area. These were in a band extending from Adolphustown in the east through Prince Edward County to Cold Creek meeting (present day Wooler Monthly Meeting), the only surviving meeting, in the west.

Randy was able to draw upon his own family history to illustrate some aspects of Quaker practice and principles. His Quaker ancestor Jemima Hubbs was disowned from her local meeting when she “married out” to captain Charles Saylor. Such “going out of the good order of our Society” could be remedied by providing the meeting with a written acknowledgement of error. Like many other Quaker women in like circumstances, Jemima provided the requisite letter and was restored into membership.

Randy provided a tour of the CFHA website, including the many searchable transcriptions of local Quaker minute books available on the site. Participants were also provided access to Randy’s recently updated Quaker research guide. This useful aid to researchers is available on the CFHA website.

The presentation was illustrated with some 20 slides in a PowerPoint format. The PowerPoint and text of the presentation has been posted on the Quinte branch website and can be accessed here: https://vimeo.com/431945751/f2828d0745

Also available on the CFHA website are two presentations Randy made at CFHA events in recent months: “Quaker to Slave Master”, and “Quakers Who Were United Empire Loyalists: An Exploration.” Both are well researched, detailed explorations which extend and clarify unexpected aspects of Quaker experience.

Anyone interested in joining the transcription group is invited to contact [email protected] for more information.

Comments on the webinar given by the Quinte Branch can be found here: https://quinte.ogs.on.ca/2020/06/22/early-quakers-in-upper-canada-notes-by-randy-saylor/

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A History of Society of Friends (Quakers) in Canada, A.G. Dorland, MacMillan, 1927


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