Kinsearching October 29, 2006




Marleta Childs
P. O. Box 6825
LUBBOCK, TX 79493-6825

      Since some Protestant churches did not keep very detailed records about their ministers or their members, genealogists have often ignored trying to locate data about their forebears in church materials. Some information may be available, however, if you know where to look. For example, if your ancestor was a traveling Methodist pastor in the U. S. or England, the information on page 672 of the CYCLOPAEDIA OF METHODISM EMBRACING SKETCHES OF ITS RISE, PROGRESS, AND PRESENT CONDITION, WITH BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES AND NUMEROUS ILLUSTRATIONS may be helpful. Edited by Matthew Simpson, one of the bishops of the Methodist Episcopal Church, the work was published in Philadelphia by Everts & Stewart in 1878. Since the material below is reproduced verbatim, quotation marks and other punctuation within the body are "as is." Surnames are placed in all-caps for emphasis.

     "Obituary Notices of itinerant ministers are contained in the Annual Minutes. The first references to the death of ministers was made by Mr. Wesley, in 1777, and are remarkable for their brevity. They are as follows: "John SLOCOMB, at Clones, an old laborer, worn out in the service. John HARRISON, near Lisburn, a promising youth, serious, modest, and much devoted to God. William LUMLEY, in Huxham, a blessed young man, a happy witness of the full liberty of the children of God. William MINETHROP, near Dunbar, an Israelite indeed, 'in whom there is no guile.'"

     In succeeding years these notices were somewhat longer. But when the sainted Fletcher deceased, who was so remarkable for his personal piety, his intellectual power, and his force as a writer, the only notice is, "John FLETCHER, a pattern of all holiness, scarce to be paralleled in the century." So fully had the example of Mr. Wesley influenced the preachers, that at the time of his death, in 1791, the only minute was the following: "It may be expected that the Conference make some observation on the death of Mr. WESLEY, but they find themselves utterly inadequate to express their ideas on this awful and affecting event. Our souls do truly mourn for their great loss, and they trust they shall give the most substantial proofs of their veneration for the memory of their most esteemed father and friend by endeavoring with great humility and diffidence to follow and imitate him in doctrine, discipline, and life."

     After that time these notes were considerably enlarged, but there is no reference to the date of either the birth, admission into Conference, or death of the ministers until 1798, when a few dates are given. After 1900 a marked change as to the length and character of the notices appears. In England, the manuscript is generally prepared by a colleague or personal friend of the deceased; the account is submitted to the district meeting, and is forwarded to be read in the Conference, being finally revised and passed before it appears in the minutes. The reading of these obituaries is always proceeded by singing and prayer.

     In the American minutes, the first obituary notices appear in 1785, and are patterned after the earlier notices of Mr. Wesley. The date of decease is first given in 1790, but only in a few cases, and after 1794 the notices increase in minuteness and length. More recently obituary notices of the wives of Methodist preachers are given in the Annual, but not in the General Minutes."

     If you have acquired information on more than ten generations of your progenitors, you may want to get a copy of the Seventeen Generation Ancestor Chart by Dana J. Martin. Now in its fifth printing, the 24 x 36 inch chart allows you to enter up to 500 years of family history on a single surface sheet. Ideal for handwritten information, the chart can easily be photocopied, laminated, and framed.

     These charts may be purchased for $12.00 each postpaid or 3 charts may be bought for $33.00 postpaid. Bulk discounts are available upon request. Checks or money orders may be sent to Mr. Dana J. Martin, P. O. Box 4382, Dept. NP6, Houma, LA 70361.