Each record contains both an image and a transcript of the original register. The amount of information varies considerably but you could find out the following about your ancestor:
Year of birth
Year of death
Date of burial
Place of burial
Name of spouse
There are 603,680 records.
Non-conformist is a very broad term covering churches of widely differing beliefs that did not follow the teachings of the Church of England. The term can be used to describe Roman Catholics, Jews, Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists, members of the Society of Friends and other denominations.
The term Non-conformist also refers to members of English Protestant denominations, who did not follow the established Anglican church. Also known as radicals or religious dissenters, they risked persecution by refusing to conform.
Before the introduction of state registration in 1837 most people were baptised, married and buried in the local Church of England Parish regardless of their beliefs. Historically, many Non-conformists used their local parish church for registration purposes, even after the Toleration Act of 1689 granted the freedom to worship, despite their differences in belief.
However, some Non-conformists did keep their own registers, particularly for baptisms and burials in the period between 1689 and 1837, and it is these that you can find here.
There are a wide variety of denominations covered in the records. Some existed only briefly and no longer practise today. An example would be the Catholic Apostolic Church, also known as Irvingism, which was a religious movement that originated in England in 1831 before moving to Germany and the United States. An ecumenical prayer based movement, it was organised around leaders the congregation called apostles. After the last apostle died in 1901, membership declined.
There is a significant number of French Protestant or Huguenot records within the collection. The Huguenot group began in France but spread to England as its members fled persecution. Huguenots began keeping records as early as 1567, although very few of these early records survive. Most records date between 1684 and 1754. Bear in mind that many Huguenot’s anglicised their names on arrival in England – Le Blanc would become White for example.
Roman Catholic registers were generally not kept before 1778 and many of them are written in Latin. Baptism registers will usually show the names of the godparents. The RC registers for England and Wales, unlike those in Scotland and those for most other denominations, have never been centrally located.
Between 1754 and 1837 it was illegal to marry anywhere except in a Church of England parish Church unless you were a member of the Society of Friends (Quakers) or Jewish. In both cases members were exempt from the Act and allowed to keep their own records.
After 1837, while people were now allowed to marry in the church of their choice, some organisations still did not keep their own records.
These records come from a variety of collections. They contain the birth, marriage and death records from the Presbyterian, Baptist and Independent churches, the Wesleyan Methodist Metropolitan registry and the extensive collection of Non-conformist records in the Dr Williams’ Library in London.
There are also records from the Royal Hospital in Chelsea and the Royal Hospital Greenwich as well as burials in a variety of burial grounds:
Bunhill Fields Burial Ground in Hackney in London
The South London Burial Ground in Walworth
The Necropolis Burial Ground in Everton, Liverpool