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How do I determine the Religion of Ancestors

ProfilePosted byOptionsPost Date


JohnDoe Report 27 Jun 2013 15:55

90% of my ancestors were all baptised/christened. I would assume there religion would be part of the Church of England as my ancestors came from England. Also, my ancestors were Welsh. I go as far back to the 1500s so there may be different religions from protestant to Catholicism but just wondering if I can find our specifically.


DazedConfused Report 27 Jun 2013 16:02

Sometimes unless you can find the actual name of church you may never know. Especially as Baptism and Christening are interchangeable.

I was told all my fathers family (paternal and maternal) were all Protestants.

Yeah right, his paternal grandfather his family and all those still up in Liverpool are all Catholics..... How I wish there were some family members I could gloat about this to. Mum and I were treated like outcasts at times....

But with Welsh surely you have to think also of Chapel. Methodist and Quaker. And in UK pre dissolution of the monasteries (thanks Henry!) the main religion of the UK was Catholic.

Good Luck with your search.


Reggie Report 27 Jun 2013 16:02

Only by identifying the denomination of the Church/Chapel in which they were baptized, which will mean intensive research at the Records office(s)


DazedConfused Report 27 Jun 2013 16:08

Lancashire and London have extensive records on Ancestry, which is great for me with extensive family in both.

And I think Lancashire has its own website for parish records.

If any help I do have some Bristol Birth and Marriage CDs for the years 1813 - 1837.

Chris in Sussex

Chris in Sussex Report 27 Jun 2013 17:04

Something I have to keep remembering to bear in mind is that before 1828 nonconformists could not hold civil or military office, also they could not receive degrees from Oxford or Cambridge Universities. So if a family were nonconformists and were hoping, or expecting, sons to do so then they would have them baptised in the Church of England.

If I remember correctly the Darwin family did just that!

Another little thing that our ancestors can throw in to confuse us :-)



Andysmum Report 27 Jun 2013 17:05

My maternal grandparents were staunch supporters of the local Church of England. So when I started my research I visited the various village churchyards looking for graves, with no success.

I then discovered that grandmother came from a family that had been founder members of the local Methodist Church and 4xgt grandfather had even been stoned for his beliefs.

Grandfather's family were all buried in unconsecrated ground, which apparantly means they were some sort of non-conformists - probably Welsh Baptists.

Paternal grandparents, also members of the local village church, were one half Irish Catholic and the other Church of England.

Parish records are generally accessible at Records Offices, but a huge number of non-conformist records are still held by the individual churches, which makes life very difficult.


SylviaInCanada Report 27 Jun 2013 21:57

A large chunk of OH's ancestors were Quakers, they moved back and forth between Lancashire and Westmorland as needed to escape bigotry.

that family has been traced all the way back to 1620, when a member went on the 2nd sailing to Philadelphia ............. we're still working on connecting the families before that date. They all use the same 2 or 3 forenames

However, they also attended the Anglican church, were married, baptised, confirmed, and buried there ............... while also going to, and being well-regarded leaders and preachers at Meeting Houses in various areas

I've never been able to work out whether they migth also have been married by Quaker rites.

So .............................. NO, you cannot guarantee your ancestors were Anglican through and through!

and pre-1540 ............. the religion would have been Catholic .................. although Lutheran and other Protestant sects were around, they were usually persecuted.

In fact, I would point out to you, that it is very dangerous to make ANY assumptions about anything or anybody when you are doing family history ....... especially when attempting to go as far back as you are doing.


jax Report 27 Jun 2013 23:22

I was quite surprised to find so many baptisms on my maternal side...we thought they were probably Jewish


SylviaInCanada Report 28 Jun 2013 00:13

jax ............... love your new avatar :-D

Gwyn in Kent

Gwyn in Kent Report 28 Jun 2013 10:10

My great grandparents were baptised in different parish churches, but both Church of England so I was surprised to see on their marriage certificate that they married in a Zion chapel, which was Primitive Methodists, even though there was a large parish church in the same village.

Mum knew them well and told me how she was expected to accompany her grandmother to Church, when they moved to Wales... not the Chapel.... so for this family, I just don't know what religion to say.



Andysmum Report 28 Jun 2013 14:35

Attendance at Church of England Services was compulsory from Elizabethan times and everyone was baptised, married and buried according to the C of E rites, regardless of their personal beliefs.

I have heard that many Irish Catholics pretended to be Protestant in order to get jobs and many Jews passed themselves off as Christian to avoid persucution.

So, Jax, your relatives may well have been Jewish.

I found the following on Google.

>>The way mandatory attendance was enforced was by way of the Corporation Act 1661 and the Test Act 1673 (following earlier Elizabethan legislation). These made it next to impossible to hold any kind of office or be in business, or a member of trade guilds etc without taking the Anglican sacrament.

These Acts were eventually repealed in 1828 which helped non-Anglican protestants. Catholics benefited similarly by the Catholic Emancipation Act in 1829. Jewish emancipation took until 1890 to achieve.<<


+++DetEcTive+++ Report 29 Jun 2013 09:27

Something else to consider – and no, I don’t have the answer or dates!

For a long period of time prior to Civil Registration, CofE marriages in the main were the only ones recognised by the State for inheritance/legal purposes.

Consequently although the couple may have followed a different faith (eg RC or non-conformist) to have their marriage recognised by the State they would have had to have been married (prior to 1837) in a CofE Church or ‘Holy Ground’. RC marriages in an RC church had to have a Registrar present well into the 1970s.

I’d rejected the 1910 parish record transcription of a Salvation Army couple assuming that they would have married in a Reg Office. A direct descendent who had a copy of the MC said that they married in the Vestry by the parish priest


Andysmum Report 29 Jun 2013 11:58

All my methodists (27/6/13 17.05 post) were baptised etc in the local parish church until about 1840, when they all "vanish" from the parish records!!