Genealogy Services

The Methodist Historical Society of Ireland now have a new web site where you can find information on their geneological service. Go to http://methodisthistoryireland.org/

Those wishing to discover family records within the Methodist traditions in Ireland are faced with special difficulties.

Although there have been Methodists in Ireland since the 1740s, for the first 70 years Methodists usually Genealogyhad dual membership as both Methodists and also members of the parish church. In terms of births, marriages and death the place to look for these will normally be in the local Church of Ireland parish register.

The first tentative step in breaking the sacramental link with the Established Church was taken at the Methodist Conference of 1816 but not finally authorised until 1818 when for the first time Methodist societies and preachers were permitted to have the sacraments of baptism and Holy Communion in their own preaching houses. Societies in the north of Ireland were quicker to avail of this facility than those in the south but by the 1830s most societies were recording baptisms in their local chapel or in central ‘circuit' registers.

Marriages in Methodist preaching houses or chapels came later. Methodist preaching houses were not licensed for marriage until 1863 and it is from this time the earliest Methodist marriage registers become available. Prior to that, from 1845, it was possible to have a marriage conducted in a Methodist chapel but it had to be in the presence of the District Registrar who also retained the record and details.

The search for Methodist records is further complicated because there were four smaller branches of Methodism in Ireland. The most important in terms of size was the Primitive Wesleyan Methodist Connexion. This group of some 8,000 members broke from the main body over the decision to allow Methodist sacramental practice. In protest they set up a parallel movement with their own chapels and preachers throughout Ireland while remaining strictly loyal to the Established Church. The disadvantage from the point of view of the family researcher is that during this period there are no baptismal or marriage records for Primitive Methodists as their personal details are recorded in the parish Church with no indication of who on their records were also Methodist. After 1871 following Church Disestablishment the Primitive Wesleyans began to allow baptism and marriage in their own buildings and in 1878 they reunited with the main Methodist Connexion. The PWMs however did have a magazine (1823-1878) which records obituaries of their leading members and records of chapel openings etc. There is a hand index to these at the Methodist Historical Society of Ireland (MHSI) archives.

The three remaining and smaller branches of Methodism which had work in Ireland are:

The Methodist New Connexion (1789-1905)

The Primitive Methodist Connexion (1823-1910)

The Wesleyan Methodist Association (1832-1872)

Genealogical Sources

Methodist Preachers

A complete index for every Methodist preacher of all the traditions is held at the MHSI archives.

Graveyards

Few Methodist churches have graveyards attached and so it is rare to have a list giving details of the death of members. However, from 1859 when the main body of Methodists started their own periodical, The Irish Evangelist, which was succeeded by the Christian Advocate and latterly the Methodist Newsletter there is a wealth of personal information to be found in 150 years of recorded history. Preliminary indexes are available at the WHS archives.

Registers

The vast majority of Methodist registers including baptism and marriage are still held by local Methodist churches and may be consulted by getting in touch with the minister of the congregation concerned.

The largest collection of Methodist registers is held at the Methodist Historical Society of Ireland (MHSI) archives at Edgehill College, Belfast. These are in some cases held in microfilm format (copies of the PRONI collection) and in addition a large collection of original registers.

There are substantial holdings of both microfilm records and hard copy registers at the Methodist Historical Society of Ireland archives at Edgehill College, Belfast.

The Dublin District has a large collection of registers held at Christ Church, Sandymount, Dublin.

Initial enquiries may be made to the Archivist, Methodist Historical Society of Ireland (MHSI), Edgehill College, Belfast. The Society does not however provide a genealogical search service.