Best websites

This guide was last updated in 2009

Methodist Research Centre

The bias of this website is towards academic study rather than family history, but there are many pages that will help you learn more about your Methodist ancestors, whether lay preachers or members of the congregation.

Manchester University’s Methodist Archives and Research Centre (MARC) was first established in 1961 at John Wesley’s Chapel in London, before being transferred to the John Rylands University Library in 1977.

The archive itself houses an enormous collection of material relating to the early days of the denomination, and key figures in its foundation and consolidation. Ironically, the highlight of the site for the casual browser is not the archival holdings at all, but an exhaustive series of links to primary and secondary sources posted on websites around the world. From the above address, click on ‘Virtual Library’ on the left-hand menu bar. You will be presented with a series of hyperlinked subject headings that lead you to articles on famous members of the church, related evangelical movements, famous Methodist women, the ‘Black Methodist Experience’ and transcribed or original documents.

The archive holds over 1,300 items relating to John Wesley, plus the combined personal libraries of Charles Wesley and John Fletcher, which comprise a further 600 volumes, alongside letters, more than 10,000 circuit plans, notebooks, tracts, pamphlets and papers. If your ancestor was a minister or lay-Methodist, it is certainly worth searching the archival catalogue as it stores the personal papers of approximately 4,000 such individuals from the 18th century to the present. It also holds Methodist newspapers and periodicals, which can be useful for tracking down ministers’ obituaries.

This website would be improved by some original documents and images, but as a gateway to understanding the denomination and finding further information, it is unsurpassed.

Methodist Registers

A large collection of Methodist registers was deposited with the Registrar General in 1837. The material is now with the National Archives and can be searched at, alongside other non-parochial BMD data. Many are from the Wesleyan Methodist registry opened in Paternoster Row, London, in 1818. The entries include name and sex of the child, name and address of the father, name of the mother and of both her parents, plus the name of the Wesleyan circuit, with signatures of parents, witnesses to the birth, and the baptising minister. Thus, if your ancestor appears in the records, it should reveal details of three generations of the family. A standard search of the data is free, while a full download costs 5 credits (£2.50). 

Manx Methodists

This excellent site has lots of information relating to the development of Methodism on the island, but the undoubted highlight is a series of transcriptions from John Wesley’s own journal recording visits in 1777 and 1781. In the summer of 1781, for example, he wrote, “Between six and seven I preached on the sea-shore at Peel, to the largest congregation I have seen in the island: even the society nearly filled the house. I soon found what spirit they were of. Hardly in England (unless perhaps at Bolton) have I found so plain, so earnest, so simple people”. 

The Historical Roll

The Methodist Westminster Central Hall is home to much archival material, including the unique Wesleyan Methodist Historic Roll. It is a set of 50 leather bound volumes, containing the names of over one million people who donated a guinea to the Wesleyan Methodist Twentieth Century Fund between 1899 and 1904. This eventually paid for the design and construction of the Hall. Although you cannot search the names online, the site includes a free master index of all the Wesleyan Chapels listed in the Historic Roll. Some entries are accompanied by addresses, and brief comments giving dates of birth and positions held within the chapel or circuit. Visitors can search microfilm and obtain photocopies of pages for 50p per page. Many family history societies have published indexes or transcriptions for their area of interest. The Leicestershire & Rutland Family History Society, for example, has transcribed and indexed all the Leicestershire and Rutland circuits in the Historic Roll; and three volumes have been published on CD by the Cornwall and Devon Family History Societies.

Dundee Baptisms

The Friends of Dundee City Archives is a busy group of researchers and volunteers who seek
to highlight and preserve the city’s archival holdings. Alongside research guides, databases of poor registers and burial records, this simple site includes a complete transcription of the Wesleyan register of baptisms, Dundee 1785-1898. The information includes birth and baptism dates, plus the name, address and sometimes occupation of parents. 


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