Digging Methodist history out of the attic

Historians are inviting people to dig up stories aboutMethodists in their family tree and share them on a new heritagewebsite.

My Primitive Methodist Ancestors provides a space wherepeople can share information about every aspect of PrimitiveMethodism. The easily-searchable site is part of a communityarchive network, supported by the Methodist Church and Englesea Brook Museum, and developed by volunteers.

Jill Barber, Project Director for the Englesea Brook Museum,said: "We get hundreds of enquiries every year, from all over theworld, from people tracing their family history. Many have noexperience of church, but are fascinated to find out more about thefaith of their ancestors. Some discover their ancestors were put inprison for preaching in the open air, others became Chartists ortrade union leaders, and transformed the lives of workingpeople."
My Primitive Methodist Ancestors is already popular. People havebegun sending in stories, memories, photos, research and commentsabout people, places and topics related to Methodism. Anyone canupload photos directly into the virtual archive after registering to the site, which is free to use. A message boardenables people to ask for help and share research interests.

The site is growing by the day, and by the end of October hadreached over 15,000 page views, and nearly 2,000 visits from over30 different countries.

Jo Hibbard, Methodist Heritage Officer, expects this to be thefirst in a network of Methodist community history websites, wherepeople can share their stories, research and images. "We expect thesites to be particularly popular with family history researchers,but I would encourage all enthusiasts for Methodism's heritageacross the world to browse, contribute and comment," she said. "Thepotential of these websites to reach out beyond the pew isenormous.  We already have contact with people from around theworld who were previously unaware of their spiritual roots andcertainly did not expect to find such committed faith and ministryin their family tree."

Primitive Methodism was about returning to the roots of theearly church. Its theology was inspired by John Wesley'sopen air preaching in the mid 18th century. In 1932 PrimitiveMethodism united with other branches to form the Methodist Churchof today. 

Screen shots of the website can be viewed and downloaded here.