Tracing Hard-to-Find Ancestors in the British Isles by Religion
c 2007, Arlene H. Eakle, PhD
The principle is the same, only the religion has been changed to protect
the innocent—Non-Conformity. And the denominations that don't conform
will vary depending upon the time period and the place your ancestors come
from. Religion has defined the political squabbles and most of the wars since
time began. Local vestries and common councils re-live and re-fight these
squabbles regularly—then and now. So do American city councils.
What religious faith did your ancestors accept and where did they physically
go to church? If you don't know...
- · Check tombstones and pay special attention to the artwork. Where in the public cemetery
are they buried? Or what private graveyard do family members visit on special
occasions? Are they interred in a churchyard? See Brian Bailey, Churchyards
of England and Wales. 1987. Available Magna Books, Magna Road, Wigston,
Leicester, LE18 4ZH England. The Ulster Historical Foundation has published
more than 25 volumes of Monumental Inscriptions for Belfast, County Down
and County Antrim. These are available in many genealogy libraries or can
be ordered: Unit 7, Cotton Court, Waring Street, Belfast BT1 2ED Northern
Ireland UK. Surname-Given name Index to their online Gravestone Inscription
Database of more than 59,000 entries is available to members only. http://www.ancestryireland.com/database.php.
- · Is there a
clergyman in your ancestry? Consult Sheila Rowland's article (above) and http://www.theclergydatabase.org.uk, The
Clergy of the Church of England Database, 1540-1835. Indexed by persons,
locations, and bishops with upgrades every month. FREE. Also check Clive
Holmes, The Suffolk Committee for Scandalous Ministers,
Suffolk Records Society, Volume XIII. Available from Hon. Secretary, Westhorpe
Lodge, Westhorpe, Stowmarket, IP14 4TA England
- · How do your
ancestors spell their surnames in American records—Kelley is Protestant
and Kelly is Catholic in West Virginia court records. In Scotland and Ireland
Irish surnames are often spelled differently by religion—MacMaster
(S=Prot) and Masterson (I=Cath); Doyle (S=Prot) and O Toole (I=Cath); Swan
(S=Prot) and McSweeny (I=Cath); Graham (S=Prot) and McGrimes (I=Cath).
These same spellings will accompany them to Pennsylvania and into Ohio.
- · What given
names do they select for their children? Many kids are named for Saints.
Which names do you find on your family group sheets? Basil, Stephen, and
Agnes are Catholic. Check a good list of Saints at your public library
or at any major bookstore.
- · The importance
of non-conformity for Welsh genealogy is discussed in detail by Bert J.
Rawlins: 95% of the people in Methyr-Tydfil were non-conformist in the
Religious Census of 1851 and 75% of the people in the industrial coal areas
of South Wales were non-conformist.
See Bert J. Rawlins. The Parish Churches and
Non-Conformist Chapels of Wales: Their Records and Where to Find Them:
Carmarthen, Pembroke. 1997. Available Celtic Heritage Research, P.O. Box 510652, Salt
Lake City UT 84151-0652.
- · How to find
a non-conformist chapel in Wales. 1. Check the Religious Census Returns,
1851. 2 vols. FHL Fiche 6054483. Remember that the chapel may be built
in 1830; the congregation was established in 1750. 2. Consult the Royal
Commission on Religious Worship, Vol. 6. FHL film 0104427. This includes
a list of chapels, where located, and their date of establishment. 3. Trace
chapels. You want their boundaries, their dates, and their “mother” chapel
or church. Check into all of the chapels descending from the same “mother” church.
4. Locate local chapels within the Anglican parish. Use 6-inch Ordnance
Survey maps which include farms (often by name), chapels (usually named
for places in the Bible—Salem, Goshen, Horeb, Bethel, etc.) The 1st
edition maps will name the congregations. New online database for historical
place-names: http://www.e-gymraeg.co.uk/enwaulleoedd/amr/ Order
hard copy maps from National Library of Wales, Maps and Prints Department,
Aberystwyth, Ceredigion, SY23 3BU Wales. Or consult William Foot, Maps
for Family History: A Guide to Tithe, Valuation, Office, and National Farm
Surveys of England and Wales. 1994. Public Record Office Publications,
#9. Can be ordered online at http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk.
- · How to find
non-conformist records in Wales. In 1837, many congregations turned their
records into the PRO, now The National Archives, UK. The Baptists did not.
Many chapels are closed and their records are difficult to find. Check:
Chapel histories, Family History Society periodicals for the local area,
look for souvenir and centennial publications (often published with a local
newspaper). The Family History Library has a good collection of these.
- · Why Welsh
non-conformist records are important: they usually give the mother's
maiden name, the exact farm of residence, and include emigration
Identification of Roman Catholic background: The Elizabethan government
in 1577 ordered the bishops of each diocese to make a list of all recusants
(those who refused to take the oaths of allegiance and trans-substantiation)
and the value of their properties, lands, and goods. This census set the
pattern for later Catholic censuses and property registrations: 1676, 1715,
1717, 1722-23, 1730, 1733, 1735, 1738, 1743, 1767, 1780, 1789. Some of these
lists appear only in the Quarter Sessions records for each county or in the
bishops visitations. Some are printed. See E.S. Worrall, Returns
of Papists, 1767. Volume One: Diocese of Chester; Volume Two: Dioceses of
England and Wales, except Chester. 1980-89. Catholic Record Society, 12 Melbourne Place,
Wolsingham, County Durham, DL13 3EH England. The Society website http://www.catholic-history.org.uk lists
the titles of all their publications and includes a separate page for Recusant
Consult also, Arlene H. Eakle, “Treason
Demands Payment: The Systematic Rape of the English Catholics,” paper
presented to the Council on British Studies, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver
BC, 1977. (39 page article in pdf format - 8.8megs).
- · How much tax
did your ancestors pay in America? Hidden Catholic origins are buried in
the tax rolls—where they paid double, triple, and even quadruple
taxes depending upon the circumstances. In England, Catholics (called popish
recusants to distinguish them from Quakers and other non-conformists) were
double taxed in 1625 and from 1692-1794, when the double tax was abolished.
- · Was their
land confiscated? Did they change occupations frequently? Were they skilled
craftsmen by tradition? You will enjoy looking at “Miscellaneous
Forfeitures: English and Welsh Popish Recusants, 17th c.,” MS #17057E,
National Lib. of Wales. FHL 826554, it.1.
- · Did your surname
have an alias? Whitfield alias Blackett. Entries in the IGI preserve the
alias. Watch carefully. The first surname is the Catholic family, the second
is the nearest Protestant family who would inherit the land and estate
in the normal course of inheritance. That way the lands could be protected
and the Crown secure that the Protestant family was loyal. See also Forster
Papers on Catholic Recusancy in Northumberland and Durham, 16th-18thc.
13 microfilm reels, FHL. Filmed 1986. Includes pedigrees, tax rolls, court
affadavits, and other documents.