Researching Family History
For people with a Methodist ancestor there are a number of ways of researching your family tree using Methodist archives and records.
Local Church and Circuit Records
All local Methodist churches and chapels produce baptismal and marriage registers and minutes of church meetings.
A group of Methodist churches and chapels in a local area is called a Circuit, these produce Preaching plans (containing names of Methodist Local Preachers) and minutes of meetings held.
Church and Circuit records are usually deposited at local authority Archives and Record Offices. Record Offices also hold copies of Parish Records (Church of England), records from other non-conformist groups, wills, grants of probate, cemetery records and a range of other sources.
Please be aware that not all records from chapels and circuits have survived and that in some parts of the country Methodists were baptised, married and buried in Church of England Parish churches and cemeteries and will therefore appear in parish records.
Certificates of baptism
If you are looking for a copy of your own certificate of baptism the register may still be in the building in which the baptism took place. In this case, you should be able to contact the current minister and obtain a copy. Our Church Search, on this website at www.methodist.org.uk/links/find-a-church should help you with this.
If the building in which you have been baptised has been closed for worship, then you will need to try elsewhere.
When a church closes we are supposed to deposit the registers in the local record office, so your next step would be to contact the county, or district, record office for the county in which the church stood. Because Methodist churches are organised in circuits, and these don't always conform to local authority boundaries you might find that the register has gone to a neighbouring county, but the record office staff will be able to advise you about this. We can also help with telling you where a register should have been sent. There is a guide on this website.
If the church in which the baptism took place has been replaced by another, or merged with another, it is possible that the register will be in the new church. If you haven't been able to find the register in the record office you should contact the nearest church to the one in which you were baptised, using our Church Search. Somebody local should be able to advise you. We also have a network of our own district and circuit archivists, and if you contact us we will try to put you in touch with the right person.
There are occasions, unfortunately, when registers are mislaid - but we try to avoid that.
Please note that a fee may be payable for a copy certificate.
A Methodist in the Family?
A Methodist in the Family is a short book that answers the top ten most frequently asked Methodist family history questions. It translates the jargon of Methodism and explains how having a Methodist ancestor might affect the family records you can find today.
It also takes the rise of the internet into account and signposts useful resources available in print and electronically.
Full details of the book and how to obtain it may be found on the Methodist Publishing website.
Some online sources
Many Methodist baptismal registers have been transcribed, and available for purchase from various companies. Many more are now available online.
All Methodist registers dating from before 1837 are in the custody of the National Archives, and can be viewed online, for a fee, at www.bmdregisters.co.uk. The main genealogical sites include access to transcripts of a range of Methodist registers.
County record offices are entering into agreements to add more content to these sites. Many Methodist churches and local family history societies are also adding content to the internet. The best advice is go online and search. You may well find what you are looking for, although you should always remember that you are relying on other people's work, and transcription skills.
All Methodist ministers who died before 1963, whilst still serving as ministers, are listed on the My Methodist History, My Primitive Methodist Ancestors, My Wesleyan Methodist Ancestors and My Bible Christian Ancestors websites. These lists will be updated with details of ministers who have died since 1963, and My Primitive Methodist Ancestors, in particular, is a rich source of information about people www.myprimitivemethodists.org.uk/category_idtxt__people.aspx
An overview of Methodist ministers who died before 1963 can be found at www.library.manchester.ac.uk/searchresources/
All Methodist ministers have their obituaries printed as part of the Minutes of Conference. Most of the annual minutes of the Wesleyan Methodist Conference from before 1900 have been digitised.
If your ancestor held office in the Methodist church in 1912, you could try the Methodist Who's Who www.archive.org/details/themethodistwhos00unknuoft
SOAS have produced a nice guide to finding out about Missionaries in your family www.soas.ac.uk/library/archives/specialist-guides/subject/file76134.pdf