England Non-Conformist Churches

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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
Baptist Baptist
General Baptist Armenian Baptist
Unitarian Baptist
General Baptist New Connexion
General Baptist Old Connexion
Particular Baptist Calvinistic Baptist
Scotch Baptist McLeanist
Strict Baptist Earthen Vessel
Gospel Herald
Gospel Standard
Unitarian Baptist
Zion Particular Baptist
Calvinistic Methodist Calvinist
Calvinistic Methodist (in Wales see Presbyterian)
Countess of Huntingdon Lady Huntingdon’s Connexion
Congregational Congregational
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Latter-day Saints Mormons
Foreign Church Dutch Church
French Protestant Huguenot
French Church
Greek Orthodox
New Church Swedenborgian
New Jerusalemite Swedenborgian
New Jerusalemite Swedenborgian
Swiss Church
Methodist Christian Brethren Barkerite
Church of Christ
Free Gospel
Hearers and Followers of the Apostles
Independent Methodist Quaker Methodist
United Church of Christ
United Free Gospel Church
Methdodist New Connexion
Primitive Methodist Ranters
Primitive Methodist Connexion
Miscellaneous Anabaptist
Catholic Apostolic Church Irvingite
Gospel Pilgrim
Inghamite Daleite
Inghamite Brethren
Christian Brethren
Exclusive Brethren
Neutral Brethren
Protestant Dissenters Free Thinkers
Sandemanian Glasite
United Brethren Moravian
Presbyterian/Unitarian Calvinistic Methodists (in Wales only)
Church of Scotland in England
Presbyterian Unitarian
United Brethren United Dissenters
United Dissenters
United Secession
United Presbyterian Church of Scotland Scottish Secession
United Secession
Roman Catholic
Society of Friends Quaker
Wesleyan Methodist Armenian Methodist
Bible Christian Methodists Bible Christians
Free Wesleyan
Protestant Methodist
United Methodist Free Church
Wesleyan Free
Wesleyan Methodist Association Protestant Methodist
Wesleyan Methodist Reformer
Wesleyan Reform Wesleyan Free
Wesleyan Methodist Branch
Wesleyan Reform Union
Wesleyan Unitarian