Shaker Studies: Enfield Shaker Genealogy
“Shaker Genealogy”, at first thought, seems like a contradiction in terms. How could the Shakers, who lived in community together, were celibate, and did not marry, have descendants?
The first thing to consider is that every Shaker had a natural family–a mother and father, siblings, aunts and uncles, cousins, etc.–which means that every Shaker has ancestors.
Individuals came to the Shakers in several different ways: 1) Many individuals made the decision to leave their natural families because the Shaker beliefs and lifestyle appealed to them; 2) In the early years, if the father became interested, sometimes whole families joined the Shakers at the same time; 3) During the 19th century, if the father died by accident or illness, the choices for his widow and children were very difficult. Many families joined the Shakers in these circumstances; 4) On the other hand, if the mother died leaving children behind, fathers generally remarried within a few months. Quite often, children from the first marriage were sent to live with the Shakers; and 5) The Shakers readily accepted children whose parents had both died (orphans).
The second thing to know is that in the course of their lives, many Shakers left the church, sometimes moved great distances throughout the United States, married, and had children of their own. Occasionally, Shakers left as couples, perhaps several days or weeks apart, and were later married.
So the field of “Shaker Genealogy” can be very interesting!
Are you looking for an Enfield, NH Shaker ancestor?
Shaker scholars Mary Ann Haagen and Carolyn Smith have compiled a database that includes over 1,400 individuals who lived in the Enfield, NH Shaker Village. For every person, we have documentation that they lived for some portion of their life in Enfield. For many people, our information includes vital records, census records, primary Shaker sources, newspaper articles, reminiscences, obituaries, burial location, and in some cases, photographs.
We will be happy to assist you with your research on an Enfield Shaker ancestor. To get started, please complete this genealogy request form: