What’s available online and in the archives
Baptism, marriage and burial registers
Although some registers are held in county record offices, churches, or in private hands, they are mainly deposited with TNA. To locate records, you can search for the name of the church at discovery. nationalarchives.gov.uk. Scans and transcripts are available to view on ancestry. co.uk, thegenealogist.co.uk and bmdregisters.co.uk, while a free index can be found at bit.ly/1Mkdnl3.
Clandestine marriage records
Records of both Fleet Prison Baptisms and Marriages and Gretna Green Marriages are available on Ancestry at bit.ly/1UIt8In and bit. ly/1UItdvQ respectively.
These deeds for nonconformist churches will record land purchase, trustees and transfer of ownership. There were dedicated Deeds Registries for Middlesex ( bit.ly/1ftCojR) and the three Ridings of Yorkshire ( North: bit.ly/1ftDD2f, East: bit.ly/1ftDYC4, West: bit. ly/1ftDGuU). Elsewhere it will be a case of checking archive catalogues for relevant deposits – perhaps from local solicitors.
Grave records and Monumental Inscriptions
Archives, libraries and family history societies often have transcribed lists of grave records and Monumental Inscriptions. It is also worth consulting the Federation of Family History Societies’ National Burial Index, at ffhs.org.uk/burials/nbioverview.php. Much of the content itself is available at findmypast.co.uk.
british newspaperarchive.co.uk or findmypast.co.uk) often record trustees and mention dedicated and long-serving supporters by name. Remember that some denominations had their own independent publications – The Methodist Recorder was established in 1861. Ask your local archive if it holds copies.
At some points in history nonconformists could face execution, imprisonment and transportation, or have land, titles and money confiscated for their beliefs. Details can be found in records for civil and church courts, Petty Sessions, Quarter Sessions and assize courts at local archives. Details of proceedings at the Old Bailey are online at oldbailey online.org, while substantial Diocese of York Cause Papers from 1300-1858 are indexed at hrionline.ac.uk/causepapers.
1851 Religious Census
The 1851 Religious Census identified churches by place and denomination, giving details of capacity, frequency of services and sometimes the date of the building’s construction. The nonconformist signatories will often be local businessmen who were able to spare time to serve their church. The census is browsable by region via TNA’s catalogue at bit.ly/1UIuRNQ. A useful article about the records by Edward Higgs is at bit.ly/1LqdVso.
Types of documents often yet to be digitised can include confirmations, cradle rolls, diaries, donation lists, members’ rolls, pew rents, preachers’ lists, subscription books and Sunday School registers. Local archives will advise what records they hold for different denominations.
Collection guides and catalogues
Don’t forget to keep up to date with collection guides and catalogues on archive websites, as many old paper indexes are now being scanned to make them digitally searchable. Archives may also operate a research service, which could save you time and money. Additionally, use the card catalogues on the major commercial websites to check for new releases, or sign up to receive their email updates.
Old Bailey records can reveal people punished for adhering to their beliefs – perhaps refusing to pay tithes to the Church of England