Methodist ancestors

This guide was last updated in 2009

The Methodist Church was founded in the late 1730s as a new movement of evangelical preaching. There are many dedicated websites, but only a few offer to help family historians, writes Jonathan Warren.

Methodism originated in North Lincolnshire in the 1700s, through the work of John Wesley, his brother Charles and John Fletcher. Although its gestation was within the Anglican church, by the end of the century it had become a separate denomination.

Methodism was organised by chapels at the centre of large ‘circuits’, around which ministers would preach, perform baptisms and even marriages (before 1753). Luke Tyerman, biographer of early Methodism, wrote: “John Wesley travelled, formed societies, and governed them. Charles Wesley composed unequalled hymns for the Methodists to sing; and John Fletcher explained, elaborated and defended the doctrines they heartily believed.”

As with many nonconformist records, the survival of Methodist birth, marriage and death registers is patchy. Some pre-1837 registers are held at the National Archives, while later registers may be with local county record offices. Circuit records, also often held at local archives or chapel collections can also be useful.

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