Methodism has its roots in a group organized in 1729 by brothers John and Charles Wesley at Oxford, known as the Holy Club. Members of the group pledged to be disciplined about their spiritual lives and also to perform works of social service such as visiting prisons and the poor. Because they were so methodical in how they went about these activities, other students called them “Methodists” as an insult. However, they soon adopted this term as a badge of honor, and used it to describe the wider spiritual movement which they founded after having transforming religious experiences in 1738.
The Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States was founded in December 1784 at a meeting in Baltimore, Maryland known as the “Christmas Conference.” In 1884, Methodists North and South split over the twin issues of slavery and episcopacy. The Methodist Episcopal Church, South was organized at that time. 1939 saw the formation of the Methodist Church from the union of the Methodist Episcopal Churches, North and South, and the Methodist Protestant Church. In 1968 the United Methodist Church was formed from the union of the Methodist Church and Evangelical United Brethren Church. Other divisions include Primitive Methodists and Wesleyan Methodists.
This collection includes baptism, marriage, burial, and membership records from churches in the Greater New Jersey United Methodist Church Commission on Archives and History. Most records are from churches that have been closed.
Baptisms (sometimes listed as christenings) typically include the name of the child, parents’ names, baptism date, mode of baptism, and by whom baptized. In some cases the birth date is noted as well. In some registers of children baptized, you may find family groups being baptized together. An infant baptism can be a clue that a member had been in the congregation for all of his or her life, whereas christenings done later in life could indicate the family had more recently joined the congregation.
Marriage records include the marriage date, the couple’s names, residences, and the name of the officiant. Ages and remarks were sometimes recorded as well.
Burial records typically included the name of the deceased, date of death, date and place of the funeral, and officiating minister. Some funeral records may include the cause of death and date and place of burial as well.
Membership records often list the names of family members, as well as the dates of admission and how the member was received into the church (e.g., baptism, certificate/transfer from another church, or other, which could indicate a conversion from another denomination). Also included are lists of probationers, school lists, and registers of church officials.
Baptism records are available only for individuals born before 1994.
For more information about United Methodist church records in New Jersey, visit the United Methodist Church of Greater New Jersey website.