Despite the hostility of many of the clergy of the Church of
Ireland, the Methodist movement remained unequivocally a part
of the Established Church from the date of its beginnings in
1747, when John Wesley first came to Ireland, until 1816, when
the movement split. Between 1747 and 1816, therefore, records
of Methodist baptisms, marriages and burials will be found in
the registers of the Church of Ireland.
The split in 1816 took place over the question of the authority
of Methodist ministers to administer sacraments, and resulted
in the Primitive Methodists remaining within the Church of Ireland,
and the Wesleyan Methodists authorising their ministers to perform
baptisms and communions. (In theory at least, up to 1844 only
marriages carried out by a minister of the Church of Ireland
were legally valid). The split continued until 1878, when the
Primitive Methodists united with the Wesleyan Methodists, outside
the Church of Ireland. What this means is that the earliest
surviving registers which are specifically Methodist date from
1815-16, and relate only to the Wesleyan Methodists. The information
recorded in these is identical to that given in the Church of
There are a number of problems in locating Methodist records
which are specific to that Church. First, the origins of Methodism,
as a movement rather than a Church, gave its members a great
deal of latitude in their attitude to Church membership, so
that records of the baptisms, marriages and burials of Methodists
may also be found in Quaker and Presbyterian registers, as well
as the registers of the Church of Ireland. In addition, the
ministers of the church were preachers on a circuit, rather
than administrators of a particular area, and were moved frequently
from one circuit to another. Quite often, the records moved
with them. For the nine historic counties of Ulster, the Public
Record Office of Northern Ireland have produced a county by
county listing of the surviving registers, their dates and locations,
appended to their Parish Register Index.
No such listing exists for the rest of the country. Again, Pettigrew
and Oulton's Dublin Almanac and General Register of Ireland
of 1835 and subsequent years, provides a list of Methodist
preachers and their stations, which will give an indication
of the relevant localities. The next step is to identify the
closest surviving Methodist centre, and enquire about surviving
records. Many of the local county heritage centres also hold
indexed copies of surviving Methodist records.
Online, at Google Books, Hill's An alphabetical arrangement of all the weslyan-methodist ministers [..] gives the postings of ministers in 1857.
The Methodist Historical Society of Ireland also holds a large number of historic registers and has an excellent online catalog (methodisthistoryireland.org), and a list of all Methodist preaching houses and chapels.
Fully comprehensive listings of the dates and locations of all
known copies of Church records, cross-linked to the areas they
cover, can be found through the Ancestor
Search or the Parishes source lists.
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