Zooey Deschanel on “Who Do You Think You Are?”: Quaker Genealogy Tips

By Diane Haddad

On last night’s “Who Do You Think You Are?” actress Zooey Deschanel traveled to Pennsylvania to learn more about her fourth-great-grandmother Sarah (Henderson) Pownall’s abolitionist activities.

Toward the beginning of the episode, Deschanel was presented with a long family tree of names and dates, perhaps to help viewers transition from the present back to a fourth-great-grandparent. Then the show turned its focus to Sarah Pownall.

My favorite quote from this episode is after Deschanel read an antislavery statement Sarah Pownall signed. Deschanel said “Yesterday all I had was a family tree. Now I have an identity for this woman.” Names and dates are nice, but the more you get to know about your ancestors’ lives, the more those names mean to you.

You’re lucky if you have Quaker roots—Quakers kept good records, and you’ll find plentiful printed and online information.

Once you know your Quaker ancestor’s name and location, a good resource to start is the Encyclopedia of American Quaker Genealogy by William Wade Hinshaw (Genealogical Publishing Co., available on CD and searchable on Ancestry.com), which abstracts monthly meeting records.

Also search the Quaker genealogy websites we list on FamilyTreeMagazine.com.

Our guide to researching Quaker ancestors, from our Religious Records series, is available in Family Tree Shop.

If you missed Zooey Deschanel’s episode of “Who Do You Think You Are?” it’s available for viewing on the show’s website.