Methodists in the family

A picture of the first Primitive Methodist chapel, Tunstall, 1811(Englesea Brook Museum)

People across the UK are being asked to look into their family trees and see if there are any Methodists among their ancestors.

A new website - My Primitive Methodist Ancestors - has been set up where people can share their stories and pictures.

Primitive Methodism was about returning to the roots of the early church. Its theology was inspired by John Wesley's open air preaching in the mid 18th century. In 1932 Primitive Methodism united with other branches to form the Methodist Church of today.

The Methodist Church and Englesea Brook Museum are supporting the heritage research project.

Historians and volunteers working on the site are asking people to help them build archives on Primitive Methodist chapels, places and people.

The free-to-use site will also help people researching their own family history.

Jill Barber, Project Director for the Englesea Brook Museum, said: "We get hundreds of enquiries every year, from all over the world, from people tracing their family history.

"Many have no experience of church, but are fascinated to find out more about the faith of their ancestors.

"Some discover their ancestors were put in prison for preaching in the open air, others became Chartists or trade union leaders, and transformed the lives of working people."

Jo Hibbard, Methodist Heritage Officer, expects this to be the first in a network of Methodist community history websites, where people can share their stories, research and images.

"We expect the sites to be particularly popular with family history researchers, but I would encourage all enthusiasts for Methodism's heritage across the world to browse, contribute and comment," she said.

"The potential of these websites to reach out beyond the pew is enormous. We already have contact with people from around the world who were previously unaware of their spiritual roots and certainly did not expect to find such committed faith and ministry in their family tree."

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