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Non-conformist Church Records
Nonconformist registers were recorded in volumes of varying size and format. Nonconformist church registers cover approximately 15 percent of England’s population and 80 percent of Wales’ population after 1850.
A Nonconformist church was one that disagreed with the Church of England (Anglican). They may have disagreed with its rites of worship, opposed its authority, or objected to it being heavily supported and subsidized by the government. The better-known Nonconformist groups were Independents (Congregationalists), Baptists, Presbyterians (including Scots Congregations), Methodists, Roman Catholics, Society of Friends (Quakers), Brethren Church, Jews, French Huguenots (Walloons), and Mormons (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). Roman Catholics and Jews trace their heritage back to earlier eras. Baptists, Presbyterians, Independents, and French Huguenots all had their beginnings in the 16th century. The others were established in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Few Nonconformist registers exist before 1700 because of persecution. By the late 1700s or early 1800s, many denominations had started keeping registers. Some were better at keeping records than others. The denominations usually did not have a formal hierarchy, so the records were kept on a local level. However, some denominations did form central registries. The Presbyterians, Baptists, and Independents (Congregationalists) established central birth registration in 1743; and the Methodists did so in 1773.
Some of the births, baptisms, marriages, and burials for Nonconformists were recorded in Anglican registers. Between 1695 and 1705, Anglican ministers were required to register the births of any children in their parish who were not baptized. Even though many Anglican ministers ignored this act, some Nonconformists’ births were recorded this way. Some Nonconformists’ children were even baptized in Anglican parishes. By law, marriages after 1754 were required to take place in Anglican parish churches and be recorded in their registers. Nonconformists were often buried in Anglican churchyards because there were no other burial grounds until the early 1850s, when civil cemeteries opened. Sometimes Nonconformists’ burials were recorded in both Anglican and Nonconformist registers. Huguenots often left their recording to the Church of England. Until the end of the 19th century, some Methodists let the Church of England record their baptisms and burials.
Many Nonconformist registers have been preserved. A law passed in 1836 required Nonconformist groups to send their registers through 1837 to the Registrar General’s Office. Many complied but not all. In 1857, additional records were turned over to the registrar general. The records that have survived are generally in good condition and are now held at the National Archives. More recent registers are held in county record offices, in local chapels, and in regional and central denominational archives. Most registers have been microfilmed, and some have been transcribed and published.
Nonconformist church registers began in the 1500s. Some registers continue to the present.
Nonconformist church registers were created to record births, baptisms, confirmations, marriages, and burials or deaths.
Nonconformist church registers are the most reliable and accurate family history source until 1837, when England’s civil registration began.
List of Non-conformist Churches
|Denomination||Name of Church||Nickname/s|
|General Baptist|| Armenian Baptist|
|General Baptist New Connexion|
|General Baptist Old Connexion|
|Particular Baptist||Calvinistic Baptist|
|Strict Baptist|| Earthen Vessel|
|Zion Particular Baptist|
|Calvinistic Methodist (in Wales see Presbyterian)|
|Countess of Huntingdon||Lady Huntingdon’s Connexion|
|Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints||Latter-day Saints||Mormons|
|Foreign Church||Dutch Church|
|French Protestant|| Huguenot|
|Church of Christ|
|Hearers and Followers of the Apostles|
|Independent Methodist|| Quaker Methodist|
United Church of Christ
United Free Gospel Church
|Methdodist New Connexion|
|Primitive Methodist Connexion|
|Catholic Apostolic Church||Irvingite|
|Protestant Dissenters||Free Thinkers|
|Presbyterian/Unitarian||Calvinistic Methodists (in Wales only)|
|Church of Scotland in England|
|United Brethren||United Dissenters|
|United Presbyterian Church of Scotland|| Scottish Secession|
|Society of Friends||Quaker|
|Wesleyan Methodist||Armenian Methodist|
|Bible Christian Methodists|| Bible Christians|
|United Methodist Free Church|
|Wesleyan Methodist Association||Protestant Methodist|
|Wesleyan Methodist Reformer|
|Wesleyan Reform|| Wesleyan Free|
Wesleyan Methodist Branch
|Wesleyan Reform Union|
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