A non-conformist church is any church that does not conform to the 39 Articles of Religion published in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer or does not recognize the Church of England as its parent body. This includes all the variants of Methodism, the Catholic Church (after the restoration of the Crown), Jewish synagogues, Baptists, Quakers, etc. Members of these faiths were also called "dissenters".
Each religious entity kept their own records and operated, for the most part, outside of the English parish in terms of borders. Some individuals of non-conformist faiths would marry in both their non-conformist chapel and the Church of England chapel to ensure the legality of their offspring in matters of inheritance. Also, most non-conformist clergy could not legally perform marriages until the 1800s.
Many non-conformist ministers worked a "circuit", where they traveled about a region providing church services, marriages, etc. The Quakers called these Meetings. For these, you will need to find where the circuit (meetings) records were filed or archived. The number of chapels in a circuit varies enormously. Circuits are then formed into Districts and the Districts form what is called the Connexion (for Methodists).
Baptists were much less common than Methodists or Quakers, so their Circuits would have been larger.
In the 1600's Alford was a centre of Puritanism and many Alfordians would travel to Boston to hear John COTTON preach. In nearby Bilsby, John WHEELWRIGHT developed non-conformist doctrines and following the persecution of Puritans by the established church, he and a disillusioned band of Alfordians set sail aboard the Griffin for Boston, Massachusetts, in 1634. We have a list of those who sailed as the original Puritan emigrants in 1620.
Anne HUTCHINSON, America's first woman preacher, was born in Alford in 1591. Anne was dismayed when John Cotton fled to New England and decided to follow him to America. Anne and her husband John, sailed for the New World aboard the Griffin from London in 1634. In 1638 serious disagreements with established Puritans forced Anne and her family to leave Boston, Massachusetts, for New Hampshire where they founded the town of Portsmouth.
By 1676 there were twenty dissenters in Goulceby.
In 1689, Non-conformists gained the freedom to worship, but not to legally marry.
Between 1754 and 1836, ALL marriages, exept those for Quakers and Jews, had to be celebrated by the Church of England in order to be considered valid. Many 'dissenters" would marry in their local chapel or house of worship, then marry in the Church of England to establish legal rights.
It was not the wish of John WESLEY (1703-1791) to separate from the Church of England and during his lifetime Methodist Chapels were called "Preaching Houses", the Parish church being used for baptisms, marriages and burials. The earliest registers date from 1795 when baptisms commenced in some chapels and burial grounds were also established.
In the early days of Methodism there were many different Methodist denominations, but the title ranter was generally, although not exclusively, used by the Primitive Methodist Church as the term given to Methodist local (lay and non-ordained) Preachers.
All non-conformist records had to be deposited with the Public Records Office in 1837. Records after 1837 may still be with the Circuit preachers.
To be buried "under Burial Laws Amendment Act 1880" means that the person buried was a non-conformist; the burial service was performed by a Non-Conformist minister, but in a Church of England church as the burial was going to take place in the churchyard (consecrated ground). Many non-conformist church members had to be buried in unconsecrated ground, as their religion was not recognised as such by the established church.
Until 1932 there were several Methodist denominations, some of which were established only in particular parts of the country. Those which were significant in Lincolnshire were:
- Wesleyan Methodists, founded in mid 18th century by John Wesley
- Methodist New Connexion, founded in 1797
- Primitive Methodists, founded in 1807
- Wesleyan Reformers, founded in 1849
In 1932, the United Methodist Church was formed from the Wesleyan Methodist Church and The Primitive Methodist Church.
Much more can be learned from the excellent "Understanding the History and Records of Nonconformity" by Patrick Palgrave-Moore, ISBN 0 9506290 4 9, (£1.80 excluding p&p), available from the Federation of Family History Societies or from most Lincolnshire Family History Society Branch bookstalls if you are in Lincolnshire.
The Society of Genealogists publishes various booklets ("My Ancestors were Baptists," "My Ancestors were Methodists," etc.) which list the main sources for particular denominations.
The Society of Genealogists have published the National Index of Parish Registers, with a separate volume covering non-conformist churches.
You should contact the local County Record Office or Archive, which should know where most of the local records are if they don't have them in their own safe-keeping. Some non-conformist records covered areas that included three or four English shires, so check neighboring Record Offices. In Lincolnshire, contact the Lincolnshire Archives.
The Lincolnshire Family History Society publishes (available from the Federation of Family History Societies Bookstore via credit card) "Non-conformist Marriages", containing:
- Quaker marriages from the Quaker Digest for Lincolnshire.
- General Baptist Church Killingholme 1686-1847 - 7 marriages.
- Roman Catholic marriages from Boston St Mary, Irnham/Corby Glen and Lincoln St Hugh.
- "Unofficial Wesleyan Methodist Register for Saltfleet 1801-1856" with some earlier entries 1770-1800. Book of births, marriages and deaths with notes.
Indexes and general holdings:
- Stuart A. Raymond's "Lincolnshire: A Genealogical Bibliography" (FFHS) mentions the holdings at the Lincolnshire Archives.
- Johnson, C.P.C. "Nonconformist registers at the Public Record Office", S.L.H.A.F.H.S.N. 3(3), 1984, 11-13. List.
- Johnson, C.P.C. "Methodist registers at Lincolnshire Archives Office", S.L.H.A.F.H.S.N. 10, 1981, 4-6, 12, 1981, 7-9. List.
- Visit the Methodist Archives and Research Centre website.
- Purchase a copy of "Some Lincolnshire Methodist Membership Lists - Horncastle and Grimsby areas, 1769 to 1823" from the LFHS via the Federation of Family History Societies Bookstore, 5 fiche for £4.35.
- Leary, William, "Lincolnshire Methodism", Barracuda, 1988. William Leary has several other small pamphlets published on Methodism in Lincolnshire.
- And consider the "Lincolnshire Nonconformists Vol 1" CD-ROM from the LFHS via the Federation of Family History Societies Bookstore.
For Walloon records:
The Walloon people are often confused with the Huguenots (see below) and some of their records appear in Huguenot collections. The Walloons (from the same root word as Wales) were/are of Celtic stock and lived in the area which became Flanders. Although they fought against French rule for 300 years, their country was handed over to the French royal house in a marriage settlement in about 1389. They speak their own language which is supposed to be older than French and is called Romand by them. The Walloons became French Calvinists - Jean Calvin was one of them - and were among the first exiled when the Spanish Inquisition came into France in 1558. They fled to the Netherlands, Germany and England. The Walloon weavers went to Norfolk, Kent and London and those trained in drainage went to the Netherlands and later were employed in England to help drain the Fens starting around 1628. The Huguenot weavers went to Norfolk, too, which is why there has been some confusion. The Huguenot and Walloon Research Association started in 1985 and is located at Malmaison, Church Street, Great Bedwyn, Wiltshire, 5N8 3PE, ENGLAND. Their focus of interest is on migration into the British Isles for the period 1550-1790 only. When researching your own Walloon ancestors, focus on southern Lincolnshire and the Fens area of Cambridgeshire and northwestern Norfolk.
For Huguenot records:
Huguenots were French Protestants who followed the beliefs of Calvin. By 1561 there were 2,000 Calvinist churches in France and the Huguenots had become a political faction. Persecution followed and large numbers fled to England as refugees in Tudor times. Those who remained fought as many as eight civil wars against the Catholic establishment. Their numbers grew until they were again persecuted. In 1685 many thousands of Huguenots fled to England and other parts of the world, some settling as far away as North America and South Africa.
- There is a website for the Huguenot faith at NetNation.
- Olive Tree Genealogy has a Huguenot and Walloon section where several resources are listed.
- The Huguenot Society of Great Britain and Ireland is located at: Huguenot Library, University College, Gower Street, London, WC1E 6BT, ENGLAND; telephone: 0171-380. Their website is at University College London.
- The Huguenot Society of Great Britain and Ireland also have their own website at Huguenot Society.
- See also the BritGenWeb Cambridgeshire web page on Huguenots.
For Jewish records:
- There is a mailing list where questions about Jewish ancestry can be posted. Go to the British Jewry mailing list page for information on subscribing.
- Visit the website for the Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain at JGSGB or send them an e-mail at: Enquiries at JGSGB.
- I have no additional sources for Baptist records in Lincolnshire (see above), but there were Baptist Chapels at Alford, Aslackby, Asterby, Bicker, Billingborough, Billinghay, Boston Ebenezer, Boston New Connections - High Street, Boston - Salem, Liquorond St., Boston - Withgren, Bourne (Calvinist), Bourne - General Baptist, Burgh le Marsh, Butterwick East, Butterwick West, Carlton le Moorland, Cleethorpes, Coningsby, Corby, Crowle, Deeping St. James, Donington on Bain, Donington in Holland, Dyke, Epworth, Fleet, Gedney, Gedney Hill, Gosberton (General Baptist), Gosberton (Particular Baptist), Grantham, Grantham Little Gonesby, Grimsby Freeman St., Grimsby Laceby Road, Grimsby Stanley Street, New Clee, Grimsby Stanley Tabernacle, Grimsby Victoria St., Grimsby Zion, Hacconby, Haxey, Newbigg, Heckington, Holbeach, Holbeach Fen North, Holbeach Forty Foot Bank, Horncastle, Killingholme South, Kirby Underwood, Kirmington, Kirton Lindsey, Lincoln Chapel Lane, Lincoln Croft Street, Lincoln Mint St., Lincoln Monks Rd., Lincoln Orchard St., Lincoln St. Benedicts Square, Lincoln Thomas Cooper Memorial?, Louth Eastgate, Louth Northgate, Lutton, Mablethorpe, Maltby-le-Marsh, Monksthorpe, Morton-by-Bourne, Partney, Pinchbeck, Quadring, Scunthorpe, Skegness, Sleaford, Sleaford Old, Spalding Common, Spalding Ebenezer, Spalding Enon, and Stamford.
- I have no source for Calvinist records in Lincolnshire, but there were Calvinist Churches at Everby, Grantham, Castlegate, Hough on the Hill, Ropsley, and Spalding.
For Congregational Methodist records:
- For background on the history and growth of Congregational Methodism, visit The Victorian Web.
- The Congregational Federation (Offices at Nottingham) - tel: 0115 911 1460.
For Connexion Methodist records:
- See Wesleyan Methodist, below. Lady Huntingdon, wife of the Earl, was very devout and an early supporter of John and Charles Wesley. She devoted her long life to righteous works, founding Lady Huntingdon's Connexion with chapels throughout the land, and fearlessly spread the gospel to the aristocracy. (From: The Kirkland Papers, 1753-1869)
For Primitive Methodist records:
- The John Rylands University Library, 150 Deansgate, Manchester, M3 3EH, Tel: 0161 834 5343/6765, web site: Rylands University.
- Leary, William, "Directory of Primitive Methodist Ministers", 1990.
For Wesleyan or Union Methodist records:
- For background on the history of Methodism, visit The Victorian Web.
- To learn more about modern Methodism, visit The Methodist Church web site.
- Visit the Methodist Archives and Research Centre (John Rylands Library, Manchester). The Centre houses the largest collection of manuscripts relating to the founders of Methodism. The web site includes guides to the collections, an online exhibition, and a selection of manuscript images.
- In 1896, and for more than 20 years thereafter, there was a periodical called the "Alford Wesleyan Methodist Circuit Magazine". It is not known if copies still exist.
- Wesleyan Methodist ministers on the Alford Circuit:
James Waller, 1837
Thomas Skelton, 1837 - 1838
Martin Jubb, 1838 - 1840
Moses Dunn, 1838 - 1840
John Vine, 1840
Thomas Brown, 1840 - 1841
James Jones, 1841 - 1842
Thomas Padman, 1843 - 1844
Harry Pedley (?), 1843 - 1844
James Lemmon, 1844 - 1846
Robert Bryant, 1844 - 1850
Edward Jones, 1845
John Watherston (?), 1846 - 1848
Nathaniel Alston, 1848 - 1850
John Brown, 1848 - 1850
? Austin (?), 1850 - 1851
Thos. Eckersley, 1851
- There was an active Methodist presence in Cambridgeshire (to the south of Lincolnshire). You might want to take a look at Cambridge Methodism.
For Quaker records (the Society of Friends was founded in 1640):
- The Quakers produced the "Quaker Digests" which are alphabetical, by surname, lists of births, marriages and deaths by county. These have been filmed and may be available at your local Family History Centre. [Anne Cole]
- Amongst the other Quaker records are the "Minutes" - minutes of their monthly and quarterly meetings, and the "Sufferings" - accounts literally of the sufferings of Quakers who were persecuted because of their religion. [Anne Cole]
- There is a "Quaker Index" on cards at the Lincolnshire Archives. Someone has indexed most, if not all, of the Lincolnshire Quaker material. [Anne Cole]
- The Society of Genealogists has published "My Ancestor was a Quaker - how can I find out more about him".
- Information of the location of Quaker Records in Lincolnshire is provided by the Quaker FHS.
- Once you've got proof of Quaker origins, check out the Yorkshire Quaker Heritage Project, Brynmor Jones Library, University of Hull, Hull, HU6 7RX, ENGLAND; Tel: 01482 465265.
There are three Roman Catholic parishes in the city of Lincoln, and five in their Deanery. These are St. Hugh of Lincoln in the city centre, Our Lady of Lincoln on the Ermine Estate (northern suburbs) and Saints Peter and Paul in Boultham (southern suburbs). The other two parishes are Holy Rood at Market Rasen and Our Lady & St. Peter at Woodhall Spa. In Lincoln there is a Convent of the Sisters of Providence and a residential University Avalon Chaplaincy Centre. Outside of the City of Lincoln there are Catholic Chapels at Bardney, Osgodby, Spilsby, Caistor and Hainton.
For Roman Catholic records:
- Roman Catholic records do not fall into the public domain unless the Church wishes to turn them over to public archives. But some records are available at the archives maintained by the Catholic Diocese.
- Lincolnshire is in the Roman Catholic diocese of Nottingham. Records are held at Nottingham Diocesan Archives, Willson House, Derby Road, Nottingham, NG1 5AW, United Kingdom. Records are primarily 19th century with some as recent as 1904. They used to have a website, but in 2005 that became unavailable.
- Roman Catholic records are a more difficult area to research. There are some fiche at Lincolnshire Archives but you are not allowed to take a print out of it because they were produced by the Nottingham repository who hold the copyright.
- There is a Roman Catholic church at Market Rasen and the records for 1797-1840 have been deposited at Lincolnshire Archives.
- The Society of Genealogists in London, have a transcription of the Irnham Catholic Chapel records: Christenings - 1765-1784 and 1797-1845, Marriages - 1765-1800 and 1824-1855, Deaths - 1765-1784 and 1824-1859.
- We also have a list of Roman Catholic Non-Jurors of 1715.