Methodist Church in Canada
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Historical Background[edit | edit source]
Methodism was an outgrowth of 18th century Anglicanism. It grew from the teachings and activities of John and Charles Wesley. It was not the Wesleys’ original intention to form a new denomination, but by the 1790s there was no doubt it was one. The Church of England’s attitude continued to be largely hostile to it throughout the nineteenth century. The opening of new land provided the Methodists with opportunities for their evangelism which they grasped eagerly. In the 1830s and 1840s they consciously decided to send as many missionaries as possible to Canada, with the hope of converting the pioneers to their views, and establishing churches in advance of the Church of England. Having won the settlers’ allegiance, they foresaw considerable growth for their movement. Many families who had been Church of England in the old country effortlessly changed to Methodist in Canada.
The nineteenth century was a time of religious controversy, however, and the Methodists suffered their own share of schisms. Various groups broke off from the central stem, which was eventually known as the Wesleyan Methodist Church. The Bible Christians, Primitive Methodists, New Connexion Methodists and Methodist Episcopal Church all had their adherents, and at times a great many churches, often small and far from financially viable.
As with the Scottish churches, the differences in England were imported to Canada. As an example, the Bible Christians were founded by William O’Bryan, a Wesleyan minister expelled by the Methodists in 1810. His central area of power, in north Devon and Cornwall, provided a great many immigrants who settled in Huron and Durham counties in Ontario. In both these areas the Bible Christians had considerable influence until they began to dwindle after 1870. One difficulty with Bible Christians is that they often appear in the census as ‘Christian’, a term which might lead us to think they are Disciples. Throughout the third quarter of the century, these various groups began to rejoin the Wesleyans until 1884, when there was once more only one group, the Methodist Church of Canada. In 1925 the Methodists joined the Congregationalists and most of the Presbyterians to form the United Church of Canada. Later the Evangelical United Brethren would join them also. A few Methodist churches did not join the United Church; they are known as The Free Methodist Church in Canada. 
Information Found in the Records[edit | edit source]
To effectively use church records, become familiar with their content. Click on these links to learn about a specific record type:
Finding the Records[edit | edit source]
Look for online records.[edit | edit source]
Online databases are incomplete. This can lead to two common errors:
- 1621-1968 - Quebec, Canada, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1968, index and images ($). Can be used free-of-charge at a Family History Center.
- 1642-1967 - Quebec index to civil copy of church records, 1642-1902, digitized, browsable index.
- 1763-1967 - Quebec, non-Catholic parish registers, 1763-1967, images only.
- 1661-1959 - Canada, Births and Baptisms, 1661-1959 Index only.
- 1661-1949 - Canada, Marriages, 1661-1949 Index only.
- 1664-1955 - Canada Deaths and Burials, 1664-1955 Index only.
Look for digital copies of church records listed in the FamilySearch Catalog.[edit | edit source]
- The Family History Library (FHL) has microfilmed and/or digitized records for churches in the Canada.
- Online church records can be listed in the FamilySearch Catalog under the province or a town.
- If you find a record that has not yet been digitized, see How do I request that a microfilm be digitized?
- Some records might have viewing restrictions, and can only be viewed at a Family History Center near you, and/or by members of supporting organizations.
- To find records:
- a. Click on the records of Canada.
- b. Click on Places within Canada and a list of provinces will appear.
- c. Click on your province.
- d. Click on the "Church records" topic. Click on the blue links to specific record titles.
- e. Or click on Places within Canada, [PROVINCE] and a list of towns will appear.
- f. Click on your town if it appears, or the location which you believe was the parish which served your town or village.
- g. Click on the "Church records" topic. Click on the blue links to specific record titles.
- h. Some combination of these icons will appear at the far right of the listing for the record. . The magnifying glass indicates that the record is indexed. Clicking on the magnifying glass will take you to the index. Clicking on the camera will take you to an online digital copy of the records.
Consult available finding aids.[edit | edit source]
- Holdings of the United Church of Canada Archives
- Guide to family history research in the archival repositories of the United Church of Canada--WorldCat The book provides an historical background for each of the four major components of the United Church (Methodist, Presbyterian, Congregational, EUB), a description of the archival arrangements, brief summaries of their services and major holdings, advice on conducting genealogical research in the United Church repositories and then a listing of the ten archives, their locations, hours and collections. One chapter covers the histories of The United Church of Canada and of the uniting denominations.
- Cyclopaedia of Methodism in Canada : containing historical, educational, and statistical information dating from the beginning of the work in the several provinces of the dominion of Canada and extending to the annual conferences of 1880
Correspond with or visit the actual churches.[edit | edit source]
Some records are still held in the local churches. Contact the current minister to find out what records are still available.
- Make an appointment to look at the records. Or ask the minister of the church to make a copy of the record for you.
- To find church staff available, you might have to visit on Sunday.
- Ask for small searches at a time, such as one birth record or a specific marriage. Never ask for "everything on a family or surname".
- A donation ($25-$40) for their time and effort to help you would be appropriate.
- If the church has a website, you may be able to e-mail a message.
- See the Letter Writing Guide for Genealogy for help with composing letters.
Check the church records collections in archives and libraries.[edit | edit source]
Some church records have been deposited for preservation in government archives or in libraries. Watch for links to digitized, online records offered by the archives. Some archives provide research services for a fee. For others, if you cannot visit in person, you might hire a researcher.
United Church of Canada Central Archives
73 Queen’s Park Crescent East
Toronto, ON M5S 1K7
Telephone: 613-996-5115 or 1-866-578-7777 (toll-free in Canada and the United States)
TTY: 613-992-6969 or 1-866-299-1699 (toll-free in Canada)
- Genealogy and Family History
- Aurora: Library Search
- Voilà: Library Search
- Archives Search Select "Textual material" to limit your search. Keywords: name of place or religious denomination with "church records," "registres de paroisses," "registers of births," "marriage records," "registers of marriages," "death registers," "burials," "baptisms," "baptêmes," "mariages," "sépultures".
Library and Archives Canada holds only a small collection of parish registers, none of which are comprehensive for any region. Most are transcripts rather than originals, available on microfilm and listed in our Checklist of Parish Registers (ISBN 0660538636). Due to the heavy volume of inquiries we receive, we are unable to conduct searches in parish registers.
Canadian Council of Archives / Conseil Canadien des archives
130 Albert Street, Suite 1201
Toll free 1-866-254-1403
Fax (613) 565-5445
- ArchivesCanada.ca Archive Search You can search the holdings of more than 800 archives across Canada through this portal, formerly known as CAIN (Canadian Archival Information Network).
In 2018, CRKN merged with Canadiana.org, an organization dedicated to the preservation and access of Canada’s documentary heritage since 1978.
Canadian Research Knowledge Network
411 - 11 Holland Avenue
Swenson Swedish Immigration Research Center
639 38th Street
Rock Island, Illinois, 61201
Toll-free phone:800-798-8100 Phone: 309-794-7000
Correspond with genealogical or historical societies.[edit | edit source]
Some church records have been given to historical societies. Also, historical societies may be able to tell you where the records are being held. To find a society near you, consult these lists:
Contact local libraries.[edit | edit source]
Churches sometimes donate their records to local libraries. Call or write to the libraries in the close vicinity of the church your ancestors might have attended and the towns where they resided.
Look for published books with transcripts of church records.[edit | edit source]
Many early records, especially from the 1600's and 1700's, have been transcribed and published in books.
These books can be digitized and available online. Check these online digital libraries:
- Google Books
- Internet Archive
- Digital Public Library of America
- HathiTrust Digital Library
- FamilySearch Digital Library
Consult the PERSI index for records published in journals.[edit | edit source]
- PERSI is the Periodical Source Index and is available at FindMyPast.com:PERSI., ($). It can be searched for free at any Family History Center. PERSI is an index to family and local history periodicals from 1847 to the present. Many of these periodicals publish church records. If you locate an index entry for a church, you will then need to find the periodical. Use the WorldCat.org search engine to find a library near you that carries the periodical. Library reference desks can be contacted to request a copy of articles, or you may need to hire a researcher.
Carefully compare any record you find to known facts about the ancestor[edit | edit source]
You will possibly find many different people with the same name as your ancestor, especially when a family stayed in a locality for several generations, and several children were named after the grandparents or aunts and uncles. Be prepared to find the correct church records by organizing in advance as many of these exact details about the ancestor as possible:
- name, including middle name and maiden name
- names of all spouses, including middle and maiden name
- exact or closely estimated dates of birth, marriage, and death
- names and approximate birthdates of children
- all known places of residence
- military service details
Carefully evaluate the church records you find to make sure you have really found records for your ancestor and not just a "near match". If one or more of the details do not line up, be careful about accepting the entry as your ancestor. There are guiding principles for deciding how to resolve discrepancies between records that are seemingly close. For more instruction in evaluating evidence, read the Wiki article, Evaluate the Evidence.
References[edit | edit source]
- Merriman, Brenda Dougall. "Canadian Denominational Background Presbyterian, Reformed, Society of Friends, Methodist, Evangelical, United Brethren in Christ (National Institute)," National Institute for Genealogical Studies (2012), https://familysearch.org/wiki/en/Canadian_Denominational_Background_Presbyterian,_Reformed,_Society_of_Friends,_Methodist,_Evangelical,_United_Brethren_in_Christ_%28National_Institute%29.