Besse Index QS Comments
Discussion Besse Index and More
Linda Sparks Starr July 2003
Several members have commented on this part of a recently circulated message to the group:
Suzanne sent the following message a couple weeks ago, telling of her recent find of "an index to the 1753 book of Joseph Besse's Collection of Quaker Sufferings, 1650-1689. It includes those who were Quakers in all of the English counties, as well as America, and other countries. I thought it might shed some further light on who was and who wasn't a Quaker in those early days.
Here are some interesting results:
There are no Moorman's listed.
There is only one Christopher Clark - from Lincolnshire.
There are John Johnson's from Lancashire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, London, Worcestershire, Yorkshire, and Amsterdam. (None from Scotland)
There is an Arthur Johnson from Ireland.
Benjamin Johnson from Yorkshire.
James Johnson from Yorkshire.
Nicholas Johnson from Lincolnshire.
In other words, the story told by Lorand of Quaker Merchant James and his three sons in Aberdeenshire, couldn't have been right. Also, the story of the Moorman's being Quakers couldn't have been right. If I were looking for them all to have been Quakers before Virginia, I would be looking in Lincolnshire or Yorkshire, those seem to be the places where the names are most prominent."
After learning more about the index, I have to agree with Cleve Weathers that I did overstate the case a bit:
"… your statement 'couldn't have been right' seems to suggest a certainty that no Johnsons were omitted from Besse's book. Not considering error, lack of information … there would have been good reasons for at least some Quakers not to stand up and be counted when a head count of Quakers was occurring. I would think omission would be good circumstantial evidence that Lorand was wrong, but not clear proof."
Michael Harlan, Doug Tucker and Suzanne Johnston provided more information about the list, e.g. how he obtained the names, thus who were included and excluded. I begin this section with Michael's comments:
"List for Quaker sufferings only indicates a very small portion of total Quaker membership. In such a list are those who were documented as having suffered (imprisonment, fines, etc.) due to religious persecution. The fact that no Moormans were on the list in no way indicates there were no Moorman Quakers at that time. Those listed in "sufferings" also do not indicate the leadership
elite (so to speak) of Quakers. In other words, to be a leader, you did not necessarily have to have suffered. Quite a few of the most important Quaker leaders in the 17th century are not on the Besse List. Most listed in Besse were humble folk."
To this, Doug adds the following:
"… Another note states that the county recorded is the county of arrest (which makes sense as Besse did his research from county arrest records). Furthermore, only a select number of English
counties (less than half) are included in Besse's list."
So I think we can all agree that the list is only those who were arrested for their beliefs and activities and not a general listing of all known Quakers at the time, as I originally assumed. Doug goes on with the following statement:
"Also, my copy of Besse's list includes both George Johnston (son of Dr. Arthur Johnston) and Elizabeth Johnston (daughter of Dr. William Johnston) as well as Barbara Forbes Johnston (wife of Dr. William Johnston and mother of Elizabeth) and George Keith (who later married Elizabeth Johnston), all of whom were arrested in Scotland. There are other published records of the arrest of Scot Quakers which confirm the names offered by Besse and provide additional information including family background."
Actually the book doesn't specifically identify anyone. According to Suzanne:
"It is just names, all in a row, with no identification at all. I agree that it is only a partial list of those who were Quakers, because everyone didn't get noted as a Quaker, but if FAMILIES are supposed to have been Quakers, and there are none of them there, I think that says something."
My question is -- just how MANY George and Elizabeth Johnstons were there in the British Isles -- or Scotland -- or even Aberdeenshire between 1650 and 1689? How did Lorand KNOW the George Johnston and the Elizabeth Johnston on the Besse Index are who he says they are? For much too long, people have accepted Dr. Lorand's statements as pure fact; I'm now asking where the documentation is? And I'm not trying to re-invent the wheel all over again. I'm just trying to establish the truth, once and for all.
Interestingly, Dr. Lorand Johnson had a hand in the Besse Index. From Suzanne:
" … in the small print, I discovered that the original index to these volumes was done by Lorand V. Johnson who donated it to Broward County Genealogical Association. According to the forward, it has been gone over with a fine toothed comb, and corrected, but credit is given to him.
… the introduction ends with this quote from Lorand, "Many who accepted Quakerism during the 'killing times' came to America, but in a generation or two married or returned to their former religious doctrines, and the Quaker experience was soon forgotten. Reference to the Encyclopedia of Quaker Genealogy by Hinshaw, and to the location of arrest from Besse, can positively establish the origin of the family in the British Isles. …"
Suzanne adds: " If that is true, why are there no Johnson's listed at all from the area where he says they existed (Aberdeen), and only 2 Johnston's at all from Scotland, named George and Elizabeth."
Dr. Lorand Johnson erred when he said Lucretia was the wife of the Quaker John Johnson.
Hinshaw's transcriptions of the Quaker records also err, for the original records show beyond a doubt that John Johnson's wife was an Elizabeth. In fact, there is no "Lucretia Johnson" in the microfilmed copies of the original Quaker records. Hinshaw credits Dr. Johnson with helping with the transcriptions, so Dr. Lorand had access to these records. Unlike so much of Lorand's work, one doesn't have to take just our word for this. LDS has microfilmed the original Quaker records located at Swathmore College. Anyone can order the microfilm from a nearby Family History Center -- specifics in the above report.
Dr. Lorand Johnson is also the source for a controversial letter written by Elizabeth Johnston Keith to Quaker missionary Mary Harris. The letter purports to say Elizabeth's step-daughter, Ann Keith, will be accompanied on her trip to Virginia by "my cousin Edward". Dr. Lorand goes on to report there is only ONE Edward in all of the family who fits this description. And for once, he even cites a specific source and the library where it is located. Efforts by one of our group members to locate the library and book are found in this report:
After searching, two members located copies of the book in the U.S. One of them hired a researcher and the other asked her son to check the copy located at the Library of Congress. This second member later studied that or another copy of the same book -- none of the THREE people could find the letter in the book. [ I'm still hoping for a report from one of them giving specifics to circulate among the members.]
With this tract record, why are we still accepting Dr. Lorand's statements without question? Everyone makes mistakes / every genealogy has an error in it. For those who accuse me of being a "Lorand basher", I'm not. I understand his early work sorting out the entangled Johnsons 'this side of the ocean' is regarded as a significant work. The truth is, I admire everyone who managed large family groups in the days before computerized genealogy programs, xerox copiers and transcriptions of court records. Indeed, from what I've heard, I think he deserves the reputation he earned with this first work.
My problem with Lorand is his: statements without supporting documentation; citing sources that don't exist; citing obscure sources for items NOT found within the source. And his continued support for his theory Dr. Arthur had a son Edward, even after years without success of finding even one clue that Dr. Arthur did. My problem with the "Lorand supporters" is their acceptance of such theories without question. I feel that now is the time to sort through everything, keep what can be independently documented, and toss out everything else! I'm sure we will find some things I've questioned that Dr. Lorand stated are indeed factual; but I'm equally sure we will find other things we can't corroborate.
Meanwhile, Michael Harlan mentions another British source for list of Qaukers in the British Isles:
"The Quaker petition from '8,000 Handmaidens of the Lord' was circulated in the Monthly Meetings in Britain. As a result, the names are under the names of the Meetings across the nation. This really helps when identifying the existence of names like Clarke or Johnson."
He is searching for his copy of the petition, so more will be forthcoming.