Ivan Hurst's exploration of Genealogy



Dissenter or a member of a non-established Church; a Nonconformist.


To be developed



Dissenters' registers

The earliest registers, which are of baptisms, start in 1642, the first year of the Civil War, but most commence after the Restoration. There was no legal requirement to keep them as there was with parish registers and it is highly probable that many Nonconformist registers were destroyed or lost. There have always been far more birth/baptism registers than burial registers, and they usually contain details of birth as well as baptism.

Restoration; On 14 May 1660 Charles II was formally restored to his kingdoms and proclaimed King of Great Britain and Ireland.

A Catholic king
In 1685 Charles II was succeeded by his brother - James II in England and James VII in Scotland. The new king was a devout and practising Catholic, who wanted to secure the toleration of Catholics throughout his kingdoms and the removal of laws that forbade their full participation in government and public life.

It was widely suspected that James' real objective was to make Catholicism the official church.

The Glorious Revolution
The attempt by James II and VII to establish absolutist rule in his kingdoms, and to turn them into a Catholic monarchy, led to the breakdown of his authority by November 1688.

Widespread alarm
The birth of a healthy boy to the King and Queen in June raised widespread alarm that the monarchy and its future now lay securely in Catholic, rather than Protestant hands.

Anxious to avoid the catastrophe to which they felt this would lead, the King's leading opponents invited Prince William of Orange - the husband (and cousin) of James's Protestant daughter Mary - to intervene and resolve the turmoil.

William landed a vast invasion force at Torbay in Devon early in November 1688, and a few weeks later James escaped to France.

Bill of Rights
The Crown was eventually offered to William - as William III - and Mary as joint Sovereigns and they were crowned in April 1689.

In December 1689 Parliament passed what became known as the Bill of Rights. It set out to redesign how the English monarchy should work in future.

Never again would it be possible for a monarch to govern independently without parliamentary consent, as both James II and Charles II had done.

Scottish crown
A formal offer of the Scottish crown was accepted by William and Mary on 11 May 1689. William become William II in Scotland.


Protestant Records

After centuries of persecution those who did not conform to the Church of England’s views found greater tolerance in the late 18th century. From then they were able to keep records more openly and much survives from the 1780s onwards. However, there were no overall rules for creation, retention and preservation of records and great differences appear between denominations and indeed between congregations. Some early attempts at standardization and preservation include the 18th century innovations at Dr. Williams’ Library, and the call-in of old registers in 1837 and 1858. But it wasn’t until the 20th century that Nonconformist historical societies were created to grapple with the issue of preservation.

The main (Protestant) Nonconformist groups that have surviving registers are Baptists, Bible Christians, Congregationalists (Independents), Latter-day Saints, Methodists (including Wesleyans, Countess of Huntingdon’s Connexion and others), Moravians, and Presbyterians. The smaller groups for which records survive at the PRO include Inghamites, Irvingites, New Jerusalemites and Swedenborgians.


Quaker marriages were also recorded, but no other Nonconformist marriages were legal between 1754 and 1837, although some were performed and a few records exist. Between 1660 and 1754 it is likely that most recorded marriages and burials took place in parish churches, and certainly in the earliest part of this period few Nonconformists dared to keep registers for fear of incriminating their members. Thus many Nonconformists births or baptisms went unrecorded. In addition, some groups did not believe in infant baptism, some did not baptize at all, and some did not recognize marriage or burial as religious events.




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