Often overlooked by amateur family history researchers, non-conformist records can prove to be a vital element of genealogical research. A nonconformist is anyone not belonging to the state church. In the UK, the state church is the Church of England.
Non-Conformists and records are readily available online, but how comprehensive and accessible they are differs according to the religion, and the time period being searched.
Search England and Wales non-conformists records here:
Non-conformists may belong (or may have belonged) to any of the following religious groups:
The largest Christian church claiming over one billion members. Roman Catholics believe in one God existing as God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit (the Trinity).
A protestant movement originating in France and opposed to the Roman Catholic church. Depending on which sources you reference, they either attacked the Catholics and destroyed churches, altars and images, or they were viciously persecuted by the Catholics and the Inquisition and had to flee to other protestant countries. Or maybe to some of both?
The Weslyans (largest of the Methodist movement)
John Weslyan was attributed to be co-founder of the Methodist movement (along with his brother Charles Wesley). Highly influential in the abolition of slavery. Believed the bible to be the only source of theological reference. Opposed to the doctrines of Calvinism.
Methodist records are available at the National Archives (UK).
The Quakers (Society of Friends)
Originated in England in 1650s. Rooted in Christianity, the Quakers believe that God is in everyone. Known for their tolerance.
Rooted in the theology of 16 century French reformer John Calvin, developed by John Knox, a former Catholic priest in 1560
A form of Protestant Christianity that believes in the autonomy of local congregations without the authoritative interference of any regional or national administrative hierarchy.
Believe that the bible is the only guide for faith and practice and that their church should comprise only of believers and be without religious hierarchy.
Any Protestant religious group that refuses/refused to conform to the Church of England.
Originated in Poland and Transylvania in the 16th century and became established in the UK in London in 1774. Monotheists, they believe in God as one entity and reject the concept of the trinity.
Note that it wasn’t unusual for people to change their religious allegiances during their lifetime, so if you know or suspect that an ancestor was a non-conformist or a dissenter, it might be worth checking by searching the non-conformist records available.