Generally these include the Catholics (Recusants), Jews, Quakers, Methodists and Baptists all known as dissenters. Traditionally Quakers and Jews were allowed to marry within their respective churches and to held their own records. As people wanted to ensure that they had legal marriages they would sometimes carry out the marriage or baptism twice. It should be remembered that forms of common-law marriage were allowed before 1754. Until the Act of Uniformity in 1662 there was a large Puritan group within the Church of England and that was incorporated within the Church if the members agreed to 36 of the 39 articles. Seventeenth Century saw a gradual increase in the numbers of dissenters with new groups like the Baptists and the Quakers being formed. The Toleration Act of 1689 allowed Protestant Dissenters to worship on Licensed premises and their rights increased in the Act of 1812.
In 1836 (and again in 1857) the Government invited Non-Conformist groups to send their registers to the Registrar General. They are now with the PRO. Many Catholics and Jews did not submit their registers. Some of these are in local Record Offices or Non-Conformist libraries or with the local Minister. The 1836 Marriage Act also allowed marriages in licensed Non-Conformist chapels if the local registrar was present. The important source for the records of Non-Conformists must be clearly the PRO and the CRO's.
Roman Catholics, for Centuries repressed by Church and State even to the extent of being fined both for not attending Anglican Services and for attending Catholic ones formed an underground of secret baptisms and marriages. They had generally the good sense to repeat these in Anglican Churches to make these valid. Indeed from the Hardwick Act of 1754 to the 1791 Relief Act full worship (and consequently marriages) were not allowed in Catholic meeting places. In 1832 Catholics were allowed their own churches.
Baptist registers date from 1647 and these can be found at the Baptist Church House, Southampton Row, London, WC13 4AB or at Dr William's Library, 14 Gordon Square, London, WC1E OAG. Records for the Congregationalists can also be found in Dr William's Library, as can those of the Presbyterians. Wesleyan, Unitarian and Moravian Records can also be found in the PRO and CRO's.
The Huguenots, Protestants from France and the Low Countries deposited their records with the PRO after having copied and later printed those under the auspices of the Huguenot Society.
Quakers were exempt from the Hardwicks Marriage Act in 1754 and their records can date from 1650. Some transcribed registers are at the Society of Friends Library, Friends House, Euston Rd, London.
Jewish Records were also not deposited with the Registrar General. Jews were allowed to return to England in 1655. Records can be found with the Synagogues or in County Record Offices.
Society of Genealogist publications on Jewish, Catholic, Baptist and Quakers ancestors. Volumes of the Catholic Record Society. Patrick Palgrave-Moore's Understanding the History and Records of Non-conformity.
This page is compiled by Timothy J. Owston of York, England,
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