When the Irish Diaspora spread itself throughout the world it took its culture, music, and religion with it wherever it went. Since the mid-eighteenth century the followers of Rev. John Wesley have left Ireland in large numbers and established new communities and Methodist societies worldwide. Many of their descendents are now attempting to discover their geographical roots and Methodist links from those long ago days.
Genealogical research in Ireland is never easy because so many valuable records have been destroyed [in particular when the Public Records Office in Dublin was blown up in 1922]. Researchers, therefore, often need to access sources other than births, marriages and deaths to make any meaningful progress. The early Methodist societies maintained minimal records and almost none of their ‘class-books’ have survived, but because members initially attended their local parishes for the Sacraments, extant Church of Ireland records do remain an important primary source. As Methodism became more structured it also fractured, and was represented by a number of variants in Ireland during the nineteenth century, making access to information even more complicated. The Methodist Historical Society of Ireland has, thankfully, been able to preserve much source material for the benefit of future generations at its Belfast archive and research centre.
If you are seeking information about your Irish Methodist roots I may be able to assist you. I am an amateur historian of Irish Methodism, rather than a professional genealogist, but bring to this task over forty years of research and an intimate knowledge of available sources. I have provided material for numerous publications, together with several exhibitions and television programmes, and am also a contributor to the online Dictionary of Methodism in Britain and Ireland. Recent work includes biographies of James Kershaw, probably the pioneer preacher of Irish Methodism, and William Tucker, who accompanied John Wesley on his first visit to Dublin in August 1747, (his American descendents have continued an almost unbroken line of Methodist preaching to the present day) and an article examining the Irish roots of Robert Strawbridge, who founded Methodism in Maryland. My latest book ‘Through Changing Scenes’ the story of the first 125 years of the Belfast Central Mission (1889 – 2014) was published early in 2014.
Follow my blog (free) or find me on Twitter at JRWesleyan.