I found a new UK genealogy magazine at Barnes and Noble, called “Discover Your Ancestors". It is really an annual publication of TheGenealogist.co.uk. The good article that caught my eye was by Luke Mouland, a Dorset-based genealogist. In “Preaching to the People,” Mouland puts the relationship of the non-anglicans to the state-run church into historical context.For example in 1662, the Act of Uniformity was passed calling for all ministers to be ordained in the COE. Over 2000 Puritan ministers broke away. The government wanted to discourage any further dissent and imposed fines on anyone worshiping anywhere other than a parish church so the 1670 Conventicles Act was enacted. (Mouland defines a conventicle as “any religious assembly outside the Church of England.”) The people who attended these services were fined between five and ten shillings. A much greater fine of 20 or 40 shillings was levied on a person who allowed their home to be used for a service.
Mouland’s article is accompanied by a timeline with ten important dates from the time of Henry the eighth’s founding of the COE and 1902 when some form of equality of religions was agreed to in the country.
1662 – Act of Uniformity required ordination of clergy within the COE and 2000 minsters left the church, mostly to become Puritans. Laws to punish non-conformists were enacted.1672 – Declaration of Indulgence – an attempt by Charles II to give religious freedom to dissenters.
1689 – Toleration Act – religious freedom given to those willing to take oaths of allegiance.1714 – Schism Act – People must be a member of the COE if they wanted to found a public or private school or act as a tutor.
1753 – Marriage Act – marriages must be performed according to the rites of the Church of England. See 1836.1812 – Relief Act – repealed most of the 1670 Conventicle Act and generally made concessions on dissenters’ places of worship
1828 – Prohibitions against holding political offices by non-Anglicans were removed.1836 – Marriage Act – changed 1753 law and non-Anglican churches were given the right to marry people; civil marriage allowed.
1868 – Abolished payment of church rates for non-members.1902 - Education Act – parochial schools integrated into the government school system and begin to be supported by taxes.
None of the equality of religion we know in this country came easily in Britain. For example, in the early 19th century, three acts gave different rights to three separate religious groups: 1813, the Unitarian Relief Act; 1818, the Wesleyan Methodist Metropolitan Registry Act; and 1829, the Catholic Emancipation Act. I recommend consulting a lot of experts, if you need to search in the early records of any non-conformist religion.Resources:
Mouland, Luke. Discover Your Ancestor, Issue No. 2, “Preaching to the People” Tring, Herts: Discovery Media Group, 2013.Christensen, Dr. Penelope. Researching Non-Anglican Records. Toronto: Heritage Productions, 2003.