'My lot were all C of E'... or were they?


10 July 2023
The Methodist Church at Burton in Lonsdale, North Yorkshire
Struggling to find a particular record or get past a brick wall in your family history research? Stanley Merridew of Airedale & Wharfedale FHS asks us to consider the possibility of searching non-conformist records.

Stanley Merridew, of Airedale & Wharfedale Family History Society writes:

I recently came across an old notebook from 1973 with notes of my searches which led me to my grandmother’s baptism in a Methodist Chapel in North Norfolk. Previously, I had found her birth certificate and  had searched many, many parishes looking for her baptism.  This led me to never discount non-conformity. 

'My lot were all C of E' or were they...?

Over the years whenever an enquirer poses a research problem concerning missing baptisms or a marriage, I will often recommend looking at Methodist, Baptist or Congregational records.  Alas, the answer is invariably, 'My lot were all C of E'.  When you consider the number of Methodist chapels, often two or three to the one parish church, the likelihood is most families must have spent some time with one of the three denominations.

Methodism was all embracing, not just church on Sunday. They ran Bible classes, ladies’ clubs, men’s clubs, amateur dramatics, cubs, brownies, guides scouts, football & cricket teams etc, etc.  They certainly knew how to make use of their buildings and facilities.

Recently, the Airedale & Wharfedale FHS have been transcribing historical Methodist records in the parts of North Yorkshire within our area. It is interesting to note for every parish church there were usually two Methodist chapels and sometimes more. If you consider a family with young children, would they trudge the miles each way to the parish church when they were passing one or even two Methodist chapels? (See below). Judging by the number of baptisms and marriages we have transcribed, the answer is no!  In recent times many of these buildings are closing and it is to be hoped that their records do survive and end up in safe hands.

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Since our feature article in the July issue of Family Tree, which proved a useful prompt for new members, here are a selection of Methodist records we have added to our members database:

  • Austwick Wesleyan Methodist Baptisms 1852-1884 (Clapham parish)
  • Bentham Wesleyan Methodist Baptisms 1866-1884 (Low Bentham parish)
  • Bentham Wesleyan Methodist Marriages 1868-1878 (Low Bentham parish)
  • Bentham Mill Dam Wesleyan Methodist Baptisms 1853-1918 (Low Bentham parish)
  • Burton in Lonsdale Wesleyan Methodist Marriages 1919-1950
  • Giggleswick Wesleyan Methodist Baptisms 1847-1879
  • Langcliffe Wesleyan Methodist Marriages 1912-1949 (Giggleswick parish)
  • Newby in Craven Wesleyan Methodist Marriages 1923-1949 (Clapham parish)
  • Settle Wesleyan Methodist Marriages 1923-1949 (Giggleswick parish)
  • Westhouse Wesleyan Methodist Marriages 1929-1949 (Thornton in Lonsdale parish)

We have a further 2,000 baptisms and over 500 marriages from similar sources to add in the near future. A full list of those already included is shown in our Member’s Database at awfhs.org

Our success in continuing to record this amount of historical data is largely due to the commitment our members, many of whom live beyond these shores.

Image: The Methodist Church at Burton in Lonsdale, North Yorkshire © Bill Boaden, CCASA 2.0