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Non-Anglican Family History

This includes Catholics, Jewish, Non-conformists, Dissenters (have a belief in the ability of the individual to communicate with God without the benefit of a clergyman.)

Act of Supremacy 1559 - 'Act of Supremacy' includes two acts of the English Parliament, one 1534, the other 1559. Both with the same purpose - to establish the English monarch as the official head of the Church of England, supplanting the power of the Catholic pope in Rome. It effectively made it treasonable to support the authority of the Pope over the Church of England. By tying the church and monarch so closely together, support for Catholicism became not simply a statement of personal religious conviction, but a repudiation of the authority of the monarch, and as such, an act of treason punishable by death. (Source: British Denied religious freedoms and imposed new practices. Many changes and for eg: by 1600 36% of East Anglian parishes were without a minister.

The Act didn't get rid of dissernters. c.1530-1780 the Penal Laws were in place. Laws passed against Roman Catholics in Britain and Ireland that penalized the practice of the Roman Catholic religion and imposed civil disabilities on Catholics. Other laws barred Catholics from voting, holding public office, owning land, bringing religious items from Rome into Britain, publishing or selling Catholic primers, or teaching. Sporadically enforced in the 17th century and largely ignored in the 18th, the Penal Laws were almost completely nullified by the Roman Catholic Relief Act (1791), the Catholic Emancipation Act (1829), the Roman Catholic Charities Act (1832), and the Roman Catholic Relief Act (1926). (Source: Britannica.)

1676 The Compton Census was a census of the population of England and Wales held in 1676 to determine their religious affiliation. After Compton received the results, he estimated the proportion of Anglicans to Nonconformists as 23 to 1; Anglicans to Roman Catholics 179 to 1; Anglicans and Nonconformists to Roman Catholics 187 to 1. (Source: Wikipedia).

c. 1689 dissenters were allowed to practice (not Catholics) and this included Baptists, Independents/Congregationalists, Presbyterians and Quakers.

The requirment to provide evidence of birth that led to Dissenting Deputies establishing birth registers in 1743, as CoE baptism certificate was the only available proof before civil registrations.

Act of Toleration exc. Catholics so most were bap/buried in CoE. Wealthy Catholics could marry by license and avoid the banns.

1852 Catholic burial grounds became legal. London - St Giles in the Fields for poor Catholics, Old St Pancras churchyard (The Hardy Tree), Savoy Chapel inc. a burial ground.

Quakers kept good records. Marriage certificates included a list of relations and listed men and women present at the ceremony. Meeting books could note births/marriages or burials (SoG on film and at Friends House). Many Quaker meeting houses used their grounds for burials as couldn't use CoE cemeteries.

Other denominations include: Sandemanians / Campbellites / Inghamites / Swedenborgians / Universalists / Plymouth Brethren / Irvingites / Muggletonians (1652-1979, British Library holds a register) / Anabaptists / Brownists / Family of Love / Gerald Winstanley and the Diggers / True Levellers / Ranters (associated with nudity) / Levellers / Fifth Monarchists / John Wroe and the Christian Israelists / The 6th Messenger / The Peculiar People / The Cokelars (SoG has some registers) / The Shakers / The Abode of Love / Theosophical Society / Salvation Army / Moravians / Scientology / Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster / other modern sects / Jedi (noted in modern census).


There are few pre-1700, Non-conformists regaisters. Post 1837 records are mainly in record offices, some in private hands. Start with TNA catalogue - series RG4 and RG8.

Quakers and Baptists dont do baptisms, so look for birth records instead. Need to check dates pre/post 1752 as Quakers used different dates.

Methodists regsiters are at TNA and all copied at SoG, many at local record offices. Index of burials from Spa Fields burial ground is on FMP.

FMP also has records for the Tindals Burial Ground, for dissenters.

Huguenot pedigiress in the Wagner collection are in Lower Library SoG.

Moravians kept good regsiters for baptisms and burials. Burial grounds at Chelsea, Fetter Lane (1741+), Fulneck and Bedford. They also used double dating, German/English.

Recusant Rolls - those refusing to conform to the Anglican doctrine. After 1581, recusancy became an indictable offence, so recusants often appear in Quarter Session records and Assize Courts records. Any fines levied were recorded in the Pipe Rolls. Quarter Sessions also registered the chapels of dissenters.

1696-1706 can find non-conformists in parish regsiters. As not baptised were listed as 'born'. So if no baptism date they may be a dissenter.


  • SoG has Catholic records in the Upper Library. Note that Catholic records often in Latin.
  • Ancestory has records from Liverpool. Irish Catholics often ended up in Liverpool.
  • Ancestry and FMP have the most Catholic records online.


  • SoG has Jewish records in the Upper Library.
  • Other MS collections include Sir Tho. Colyer-Ferguson, Albert Montefiore Hyamson, Isobel Mordy, R. James D'Arcy Hart.
  • Few pre-civil registration records survive. Usual to pay local CoE clergy for entry into the bap. register of the local church, to prove who they were for issues of legitimate descent.
  • Jewish records are not found in centrally housed places. Records tend to be dispersed amongst various libraries, museums and local synagogues.
  • Look in Gent's Magazine for marriages, London Magazine, papers and parish registers for burials
  • Look for wills, immigration records, insurance policies, school records, tax records

Unitarian ancestors:

Firstly, identify where your Unitarian ancestors lived. Using a contemporary map, you should be able to work out which congregation(s) your ancestors attended. It is possible that they did not attend the nearest congregation, however. Be openminded and check family papers for any further clues.

Bearing this in mind, search the online Unitarian Society guide to the records of archives of most congregations in Great Britain -

Alan Ruston’s Index and Synopsis for Unitarian Ministers, 1800-1899 (and for other years by following the link) can be accessed at:

Details concerning individual congregations in the British Isles can be found on the websites of the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches and the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church of Ireland

Check local and national newspapers for references to the congregation, ministers, and church events.


Online non-conformist records at FamilySearch wiki.

TNA GRO Society of Friends' Registers, Notes and Certificates of Births, Marriages and Burials.

Dr William's Libary. The Library was established by the will of Dr Daniel Williams, the leading London nonconformist minister of his day, who died in January 1716. He left instructions for his trustees to house his collection as a public library and to make it available to nonconformist ministers, tutors and students in the City of London.

The Surman Index. A biographical index of dissenting ministers.

BMD Regsiters. Indexed by year but searches over a complete series. Ancestry has similar records. Also go here for reserach guides.

Non-conformist records at FamilySearch wiki. Covers Presbyterians, Baptists, and Independents / Catholics / Methodists / Mormons / Huguenots / Society of Friends / Anglican records that include Nonconformists.


Catholic Records Society.

TNA guide to Catholic records.

FamilySearch Wiki for Catholics.

GenGuide for Catholics.

Durham University, Ushaw Collection. For recusant studies and the history of 18th-19th century Catholicism in England, especially in the North.


GenGuide for Jewish records.

Synagogue Scribes for Jewish information.

TNA guide to Jewish records.


'The Compton Census of 1676: A Critical Edition', 1986, by Anne Whiteman (ed.), Oxford University Press.

'National Index of Parish Registers: Vol III' published by the Society of Genealogists. OOP but availalbe on SoG website to members.

Google Books has a number of books on the topic.

'Tracing your non-conformist ancestors' by Stuart Raymond.