Over 584,000 Quaker birth, marriage and death records have just been added this Findmypast Friday.  The records are a particularly interesting addition as the nature of Quaker beliefs meant their records differed widely from Anglican Parish registers. They will also be a valuable resource to those with Quaker ancestors as the group was excluded from the Clandestine Marriage Act of 1753 which made the keeping of banns registers mandatory and instructed that all marriages must take place in a Church of England parish.

The Quaker movement arose in England in the mid-17th century among the dissenting protestant groups who broke from the Church of England. They were characterised by their belief in a doctrine of priesthood of all believers and their rejection of creeds and hierarchical structures. They were also known for their strict pacifism, plain dress, refusal to swear oaths, opposition to slavery, and teetotalism.

Many of the attributes valued by the Quakers helped excel in the world of business. Some of Britain’s best known brands and institutions were established by Quakers including Barclays and Llyods banks, Carr’s biscuits, Brant and May matches, Waterford Crystal, Greenpeace, Amnesty International, the RSPCA and Oxfam.

The Quaker Business method was based on how religious meetings were organised. As Quakers rejected religious hierarchies, it was important that when community decisions were made, everyone agreed and no one left feeling alienated. When Quakers went into business they tried to uphold these testimonies which often resulted in highly ethical businesses which looked after their workforce and developed a reputations for honesty and fair dealing.

Quakers also had a strong belief in self-reliance making them natural capitalists. The number of household business names established by Quakers is even more impressive considering that they were barred from Universities and made up less than 0.1% of the population in 1851.

Although broadly successful in many areas, there was one industry in particular in which the Quakers excelled; the confectionary industry.

In the 18th Century Quaker merchants and apothecaries began to produce chocolate.  At this time chocolate was used to make cocoa and was nothing like today’s chocolates. Cocoa production had a special appeal to the Quakers. As drinking water was still largely unsafe, many people relied on alcohol in its place. Cocoa was a safe substitute production was considered a morally sound, ‘innocent trade’ by the Quakers. Eventually three great family firms grew to dominate the industry – Frys, Cadburys and Rowntrees. Members of all these great Chocolate producing dynasties can be found in our new Society of Friends (Quaker) births, marriages and burials.

Richard Tapper Cadbury, a draper from Exeter, moved to Birmingham in 1794 to set up business. It was in this city that Richard’s son, John, whose birth record is one of that family's records found in the collection, would start a tea and coffee business which would later grow into the confectionery empire. John soon realised that cocoa and chocolate where his biggest selling items and began making his own in 1831. In 1847 his brother Benjamin joined the firm and in 1853 the Cadbury brothers received a royal warrant as official confectioners for Queen Victoria.

Cadbury was devoted to workers' rights. He paid his workers well and established work councils so they could air their grievances and kept a physician on staff to provide for workers' health care. He also campaigned to end child labour and was one of the founding members of the Animal Friends Society which would later become the RSPCA.

In 1795, Joseph Fry of the Bristol branch of the Quaker Fry family began making chocolate.  In 1847 the Fry family introduced the first mass produced chocolate bar to England.  The firm began producing their highly popular Fry's Chocolate Cream bar in 1866 and over 220 products were introduced in the following decades, including production of the first chocolate Easter egg in UK in 1873 and the Fry's Turkish Delight in 1914. It firm was run by the Fry family, with Joseph Storrs Fry II, great-grandson of the first Joseph Fry, as the chairman until it merged with Cadbury's in 1919.

In 1869 Joseph Rowntree (1836 – 1925) left his father’s grocery business in York to start a cocoa and chocolate business with his brother John. Rowntree’s grew into a highly successful brand, developing many new chocolate products including Fruit Pastilles in 1881 and Fruit Gums in 1893.

Like the Cadburys, the Rowntrees showed great concern for their workers. Cadbury’s built homes for workers near their factory at Bourneville and Rowntree founded the village of New Earswick for low income families in 1902 where education was provided for both children and adults. Joseph Rowntree is particularly remembered for his Adult Schools and philanthropy while Cadbury was the first firm to grant its workers a 5-day working week and to provide medical facilities, a canteen, leisure activities and community gardens.  The Rowntree family was close to the Cadbury’s and even took in some of Joseph’s grandchildren when their mother was killed in carriage accident.

Together, the Frys, Rowntrees and Cadbury’s held a monopoly over British Chocolate. Members of all three dynasties can be found within the new England & Wales, Society of Friends (Quaker) Birth, Marriage and Death records. Explore the collection today to uncover your Quaker ancestors.

In 1869 Joseph Rowntree (1836 – 1925) left his father’s grocery business in York to start a cocoa and chocolate business with his brother John. Rowntree’s grew into a highly successful brand, developing many new chocolate products including Fruit Pastilles in 1881 and Fruit Gums in 1893.

Like the Cadburys, the Rowntrees showed great concern for their workers. Cadbury’s built homes for workers near their factory at Bourneville and Rowntree founded the village of New Earswick for low income families in 1902 where education was provided for both children and adults. Joseph Rowntree is particularly remembered for his Adult Schools and philanthropy while Cadbury was the first firm to grant its workers a 5-day working week and to provide medical facilities, a canteen, leisure activities and community gardens.  The Rowntree family was close to the Cadbury’s and even took in some of Joseph’s grandchildren when their mother was killed in carriage accident.

Together, the Frys, Rowntrees and Cadbury’s held a monopoly over British Chocolate. Members of all three dynasties can be found within the new England & Wales, Society of Friends (Quaker) Birth, Marriage and Death records. Explore the collection today to uncover your Quaker ancestors.