Methodist Church

The founder of the Methodist movement was John Wesley, who began a series of preaching tours in 1739. Methodist societies were formed almost at once, and many can trace an unbroken history from today back to an initiating visit from Wesley himself. Various secessions from the movement ensued over the years, largely from organisational differences. The Methodist new Connexion separated in 1797, the Independent Methodists in 1805, the Primitive Methodists in 1810, the Bible Christians in 1815, the Wesleyan Methodist Association in 1835 and the Wesleyan Reformers in 1849. The latter two became the United Methodist Free Church in 1857 and linked up with the New Connexion and Bible Christians in 1907 as the United Methodist Church. This body, together with the original Wesleyan Methodists and Primitive Methodists formed the Methodist Church of Great Britain in 1932.

Methodist churches are grouped into circuits with a superintendent minister and usually with a head church. Several circuits form a district and the district assemblies or synods send representatives to the annual conference, the final legislative assembly of the church.

Originally Methodists believed that their aim was to revitalise the Church of England from within. They did not regard themselves as dissenters and they continued to attend their local Anglican churches where their baptisms, marriages and burials were recorded. However, from the mid-1760s onwards, in response to the growing opposition of conventional Anglicans, Methodists gradually began to break away from the Church of England, gathering in their own chapels and meeting houses.

With few exceptions, the earliest Methodist registers date only from the 1790s. Most early registers begin between 1810 and 1820 and the majority are registers of baptisms only. Marriages of Methodists continued to take place in Anglican churches until 1837 and it is only after 1898 that the bulk of Methodist marriage registers begin.

Over 800 early Methodist registers were surrendered to the Registrar-General in the 19th century and are now deposited with the Public Record Office, but many more were retained by the churches that had produced them. Circuits and not individual churches usually kept registers and these circuit registers were normally to be found at the head church of the circuit. In recent years many circuits have deposited their records in local record offices.

Microform copies of many registers are available and, for conservation reasons, must be consulted in place of the originals.

Click on a link to browse the catalogue for records for a particular circuit (many circuits also contain individual chapel records).  You will also be able to see at which Archive Centre the original records are preserved. Please note these links do NOT provide images of original records and registers.