NonConformist in my English Family Tree | The Nosey Genealogist's: Help Me With My Family Tree
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NonConformist in my English Family Tree

by Nick Thorne, The Nosey Genealogist on March 18th, 2012

Like me you may have gone back up the branches of your English Family Tree to find that some of your ancestors became nonconformists, that is they didn’t worship in the Established Church of England or have their children baptised within it and when it came to being buried they chose to have a ceremony conducted in a different Christian tradition.

This week I have been using the resources of TheGenealogist.co.uk’s BMD Registers to look at images taken from RG4 at the National Archives. These are registers (authenticated by the Non-Parochial Registers Commissioners) of births, baptisms, deaths, burials and marriages. They cover the period from 1567 to 1858. To find out more about them have a look on TNA’s website, but suffice to say that I have been able to use them effectively to fill in gaps when my forebears didn’t appear in the C of E parish registers.

One way of being alerted to possible non-conformity in a line is where you can only find your ancestor’s marriage in the Parish church. From 1754, and the introduction of Lord Hadwicke’s Marriage Act, most of the people of England & Wales were required to marry in the Church of England. For this reason you may discover that your ancestor’s wedding is in the parish church’s registers, but theirs and their children’s baptisms and burials are not. If this is the case then you should make a search of the non-conformist’s records for the area.

A difficulty can often arise when the chapel in question did not have its own register. This could occur when the chapel was served by an itinerant minister, responsible for a circuit of chapels in the area. In this case you would need to try and find out the name of the minister and the other chapels in his care.

Most of the surviving Congregationalist registers up to 1837, and some for the Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians and Unitarians were surrendered to the government in 1840 or 1857. These are now held at The National Archives in mircofilm series RG 4, 5, & 8, and it was the first of those that I had been looking at on TheGenealogist.co.uk site.

I have written a short book, How to Search for Your English & Welsh Family History, that is available as a Kindle download from Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com, in which I delve further into the subject of nonconformist, in chapter 10.

If you don’t have a Kindle then you can get a free application to read it on your PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad, or Android device. Simply click on the order button in the image below to buy yourself a copy now.

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One Comment
  1. From 1754, and the introduction of Lord Hadwicke’s Marriage Act, the people of England & Wales were required to marry in the Church of England.

    I think I’m right in saying that two communities – Quakers and Jews – were exempted from this requirement altogether.

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