We’re delighted to announce that Non Conformist Registers, 1694-1921 are now online for the first time ever. These records from the London Metropolitan Archives detail over 224,000 Londoners who refused to conform to the doctrine of the established Anglican Church including Methodists, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Baptists and Quakers.
The records span over 225 years and include baptism and marriage registers and burial inscriptions, dating from the late 17th century when the roots of non conformism were laid. As our non conformist ancestors were not recorded by the state until 1837, these documents are, for the most part, the only records of these non conformists in existence.
Seen as the intellectuals and free-thinkers, non conformists advanced the progressive causes which formed the bedrock of the modern civil liberties. For example, the Quakers were the first religious group to denounce slavery, Unitarians campaigned for better conditions for factory workers and Methodists were great advocates of women’s rights.
In fact, today’s Liberal Democrat party can trace its origins to these religious dissenters, who supported the Whig politicians in the 18th and 19th centuries in their push for greater civil and religious rights. It was the coalition of Whigs and free trade radicals who later founded the Liberal Party.
Early non conformists were known to suffer terribly at the hands of the powerful Church of England, through laws enacted by an Anglican Parliament. These laws, collectively known as the Clarendon Code, restricted the civil rights of those not professing allegiance to the Church of England and remained in effect until 1828.
Such restrictions prevented non conformists from working for the state or holding a position of public office. They were also prevented from studying at English universities before University College London was founded, compelling non conformists to fund their own Dissenting Academies.
Official restrictions frequently led to severe social exclusion, with minority religious groups often suffering from discrimination, intimidation and even physical violence. This persecution led many non conformists to leave Britain during the 18th century and head for America - a nation built on the principles of religious and civil freedom.
The diverse and rich culture that presides in Britain today owes a lot to the people listed in these records – people who fought for what they believed in and weren’t afraid to stand up for what they thought was right.
Start searching the records now and if you find an ancestor within these records we would love to hear from you!
Other London historical records spanning from the 1500s to the 1900s, can be accessed at www.ancestry.co.uk/LMA.