Quaker Abbreviations

Many our ancestors were members of the Religious Society of Friends, commonly known as Quakers. That provides some advantages in tracing a lineage, as the Quakers kept detailed minutes in which they recorded all of the “vital statistics” of their membership, including birth, marriage and death information. However, there are some pitfalls. This is especially problematic if one's information is minimal outside of the records, and first names were used many times within two or three generations.

One must also be wary of the locations often provided for events such as marriages. These will generally take place at a Friends meeting, or in the confines of a Friends congegration. This will be noted by using the "MM" abbreviation (see the list below). For example, "Philadelphia MM" or "New Garden MM". Unfortunately, it is possible for the meeting place to move. Because of this uncertainty, references on this site tend to use a notation such as "Philadelphia MM, Philadelphia County, Province of Pennsylvania." However, be aware that this rule may not always be followed on this site, and if a fixed location can be determined, it will be used in preference to the MM notation. Even Quaker references may explicitly refer to a meeting house and a city.

For some information on Quaker foundations there are numerous web sites that may prove useful. Search for “Religious Society of Friends” in your favorite search engine.

This page contains a list of abbreviations commonly found in Quaker documents. While many may be obvious from their context in a record of a meeting (such as b for born, or dt for daughter), others are not as familar to non-practitioners. I've included a large number of abbreviations to assist others who, like us, have tried to interpret Quaker records.

altm (at liberty to marry)
att (attached to, attended)
b (born)
bef (before)
BG (burial grounds)
bur (buried)
cd (contrary to the Discipline)
If a Friend acted contrary to discipline, it means they violated some standard of conduct within the Society. This might include marrying a non-Quaker, dressing in clothes that were not sufficiently plain, taking part in a war, intemperance, owning slaves, failure to attend meetings regularly, or some other infraction. The actual list would vary from group to group, and certain acts would be more serious than others. Presumably, very serious crimes such as homicide would have been contrary to discipline, but I don't know if any stronger language would have been used.
cert (certificate)
ch (child, children)
chm (condemned his/her misconduct)
This indicates contrition on the part of a Friend, and repentence for whatever breach took place.
chr (charter)
co (chosen overseer or overseers)
The overseer is a member was has been selected see to the needs of the membership, and to be especially vigilant for adherance to the Discipline.
com (complained, complained of)
When a member acts in a way that is contrary to what is outlined in the Discipline, they could be “complained of.” If that member can't satisfy the meeting of his or her innocence or repentance, it is possible (common?) for them to be disowned by the meeting. (see dis)
con (condemned)
An act of contrition by a member, they can condemn their own misconduct, providing a means for the meeting to restore them to membership in the meeting.
d (died)
dec (deceased)
dis (disowned, disowned for)
More serious than a complaint (see com), a disownment means a removal of the member from the meeting membership for violation of the Discipline. This does not imply exclusion from worship, only that the member no longer has any right to participate in decision making. Since the member is no longer in the membership, they would not be mentioned again in the minutes unless they later condemned their actions (see con) and were reinstated (see rst) back into the membership.
div (divorced)
dp (dropped plain dress and/or speech)
dr (drinking spiritous liquor to excess)
dt (daughter, daughters)
dtd (dated)
end (endorsed)
fam (family)
FBG (Friends burial grounds)
form (formerly)
Frds (Friends)
gc (granted certificate)
gct (granted certificate to)
A member who is granted a certificate has permission to move their membership to another meeting. Using gc is non-specific, gct indicates a specific meeting.
gl (granted letter)
glt (granted letter to)
A letter permits a member to move their membership to a church of another denomination. Using gl is non-specific, glt indicates a specific church.
h (husband)
jas (joined another religious society denomination)
JP (justice of the peace)
ltm (liberated to marry, left at liberty to marry)
m (marry, married, marrying, marriage)
A marriage is most commonly shown in the bride's meeting.
mbr (member)
mbrp (membership)
mcd (married contrary to discipline)
This denotes a marriage of the member to another member, but not in the proper way at meeting. Often it means the wedding was through a civil ceremony, and usually results in disownment. (see also dis, mos and mou)
MG (minister of the Gospel)
MH (meetinghouse)
The church building.
MM (monthly meeting)
This is the basic administrative unit of Friends, originally composed of congregations (non-administrative meetings) that would meet every month to transact church business. It can also refer to the building itself (see MH).
mos (married out of society)
mou (married out of unity)
The member married a non-Friend, and is usually disowned (see dis). (see also mcd)
mtg (meeting)
Refers to a religious service, an administrative meeting (“monthly meeting”), or to the congregation itself.
neg att (neglecting attendance)
ou (out of unity)
PM (preparative meeting)
This is a non-administrative meeting.
prc (produced a certificate)
prcf (produced a certificate from)
This indicates that the individual transferred membership from one meeting to another. Using prc is non-specific, prcf indicates a specific meeting.
QM (quarterly meeting)
This is the second administrative level of Friends (see MM) and comprises several monthly meetings that meet quarterly.
rcd (recorded)
rec (receive, received)
recrq (received by request)
Indicates the individual was received into membership of a particular meeting. Using rec implies the transfer of a membership, recrq indicates a request to enter membership directly.
relfc (released from care for)
This term is used when a member has been acquitted of an offense (see com) or is otherwise no longer under consideration for that offense.
relrq (released by request)
Records a request to withdraw from membership in the Society of Friends. This person will no longer be mentioned in the minutes unless reinstated. (see rst)
rem (remove, removed)
Indicates the member moved to another location and/or meeting.
ret mbrp (retained membership)
rm (reported married)
rmt (reported married to)
Records the fact that a marriage took place and the partner's name was recorded. However, the marriage certificate was not included in the minutes.
roc (received on certificate)
rocf (received on certificate from)
Indicates a member who has transferred their membership from another meeting. Using roc is non-specific, rocf indicate a specific other meeting.
rol (received on letter)
rolf (received on letter from)
Indicates a member who has transferred their membership a church of another denomination. Using rol is non-specific, rolf indicates a particular church.
rpd (reported)
Same as complained. (see com)
rq (request, requests, requested)
rqc (requested certificate)
rqct (requested certificate to)
The member has requested a transfer of membership to another meeting. Using rqc is non-specific, rqct indicates a particular meeting.
rqcuc (requested to come under care)
This records the request of a member to be considered for membership in a meeting.
rst (reinstate, reinstated)
Indicates the member has been reinstated in the meeting.
s (son, sons)
unm (unmarried)
upl (using profane language)
w (wife)
w/c (with consent of)
YM (Yearly Meeting)
This is the third and highest administrative level of Friends, and consists of several quarterly meetings (see QM) that meet together annually.