Sometimes our genealogical findings help advance a larger understanding.
In Quaker history, with its emphasis on lay ministry (there was no paid clergy), some individuals were encouraged to travel as ministers throughout the Society of Friends. These journeys could take up to two-and-a-half years, spanning both sides of the Atlantic.
In my research, Robert Hodgson of the Woodhouse was prominent among them. Traditionally, they were housed, fed, and transported by the Meetings they visited, and it’s assumed that their focus was entirely on the religious and family life of the Friends they visited. More recently, there have been suggestions that they may have also been important conduits for the emergence of Quaker secular business – trusted envoys to convey letters or even payments (in an era before banking), suggest business partnerships, or align manufacturing to retailing arrangements.
In Robert’s case, he may have been exporting beef and leather to England, along with his religious calling. We do know he was respectable enough to attend William Penn’s second marriage and to obtain (was it a gift or a purchase) nearly a square mile of land in Pennsylvania.
The activities of traveling ministers do need a fuller understanding than we currently have.
As genealogists, we can also look to the journals of many of these ministers, men and women, published after their deaths, for details about our own families. Some of the ministers visited every Quaker community in the world – perhaps even every family – and if your family was part of a Friends Meeting, you just might find them mentioned by name, along with an impression of their community at the time.
Has your own research touched on points that might illuminate a larger history? Or has the larger history informed your own genealogical comprehension?
While I focus on traveling ministry in my illustration, are there other activities that have opened your family vision?