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Alternatively named “Family of Love,” the sect was founded in Emden about 1540 by a prosperous businessman, Henry Nicholas (1501-80), as a result of a series of visions. Nicholas, who never left the Roman Catholic Church into which he was born, is said to have claimed to be an incarnation of the deity and to have taught a mystic pantheism. The Familists were much persecuted on the Continent, Nicholas himself being frequently imprisoned. The group later took root in England, but laws were enacted against it under Elizabeth I in 1580, though persecution was not intense. After the Restoration it ceased to exist, the remaining members joining the Quakers and Congregationalists.