Monday, December 14, 2009

Wesleyan Methodist Baptismal Register

An important source for information on baptisms in Ontario is Wesleyan Methodist Baptismal Register, which is a searchable database for many of the residents of Ontario, Canada in the 19th century. The Register is a record of Ontario baptisms in the period 1825-1910, predominantly in the years 1840-1873.

In 1996, a dedicated family historian, Ida Reed, took 2 years and began transcribing over 100,000 baptismal records for Wesleyan Methodists of Ontario from four reels of microfilm that are housed at The United Church of Canada - Victoria University Archives. With the help of Bill Martin, she made these records available to researchers online.

The names are listed alphabetically, with approximately 55 entries per page, organized by the district and/or county that the baptism took place, the township, the parents' names when given, the child's name, the place of birth, the minister's name, the date of the baptism and in some cases, the date of the child's birth. Of course, not all parents had their child's baptism recorded and records have been misplaced or lost over the years, but this is a very good place to check. Many of my own ancestors are listed as children and parents as well as their aunts and uncles and associated families.

One point is to watch for misspellings of names and surnames, as is a good suggestion when researching any through records. I've seen common surnames such as Webster listed as "Wepster" and Smith listed as Smyth, Smythe, Smithe or even as Smit. That Smit surname could be Schmidt, or Smidt or Scmit. As literacy was not as common as it is today, many names could easily be missed, so a thorough study of the Register may be required.

Also, even though you own ancestors may not have been Methodists, it would be a good idea to check any way. Many areas of 19th century Ontario were poorly served by other religions and Methodism grew quickly among the pioneers in these somewhat isolated areas. Methodism is a Protestant denomination which started in 18th century England and was based on the teachings of evangelical Anglican priest John Wesley, and focused on a methodical approach to Bible study and Christian living.

Methodism eventually split into two different branches: followers of John Wesley, and Calvinistic Methodists. Wesleyan Methodists eventually spread throughout the British Empire, with followers located in Britain, Canada, and the United States as well as Australia, New Zealand, and India.

There was a merger of the British Wesleyans with the Methodist Episcopal Church of Canada in 1833, resulting in the formation of the Wesleyan Methodist Church. In 1925, the Methodists, Congregationalists and many Presbyterians combined in The United Church of Canada.

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