Family history: Finding your nonconformist ancestor

If your ancestor was a nonconformist and belonged to a church, there are numerous records for you to search. Nonconformity is the term for all non-Anglican protestant denominations such as Baptists, Methodists, Quakers and Presbyterians.

nonconformist

Farewell Sermons preached by nonconformist ministers ejected from their parishes in 1662

In English church history, a nonconformist was a protestant Christian who did not conform to the governance and usages of the Church of England. Broad use of the term was precipitated after the Restoration of the British monarchy in 1660 when the Act of Uniformity 1662 re-established the opponents of reform within the Church of England. This term specifically came to include the Reformed Christians such as the Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Calvinists, plus the Baptists, Methodists and Puritans. The Methodist Revival began as a movement within the Church of England in the 18th century, led by John Wesley [below]. It originated as a weekly club at the University of Oxford where the club’s members lived a ‘holy life’. Ridiculed as ‘Methodist’ by fellow students because of the way they used ‘rule’ and ‘method’ to go about their religious affairs, Wesley adopted the name.

nonconformist

John Wesley

By law and social custom, nonconformists were restricted from many parts of public life including access to public office, civil service careers and degrees at university.

A good place to start is an online reader’s guide at The National Archives [TNA].

At BMD Registers, the TNA also has birth, marriage and death records, for the nonconformist registers, available online.

Here are some other links to get you started:-
Baptists
Baptist Historical Society

Methodists
Methodist Heritage
My Methodist History
My Primitive Methodist Ancestors
My Wesleyan Methodist Ancestors

Quakers
The Society of Friends
Quaker collection at the Leeds University Library

Welsh Nonconformists
Welsh Chapels

Each of these websites is rich in information with further links to other archives.

This post is inspired by an article by Jonathan Scott in the April 2017 issue of ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ magazine. More details here.

If you want to read more about family history research, try these articles:-
Identifying headstones
Did your ancestor belong to a trade union?
20 top tips to find your missing ancestors

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Finding your nonconformist ancestor Article by @thejonoscott #familyhistory via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-2wn