Both before and after the death of John Wesley in 1791, there were a number of divisions amongst those who followed his lead. The differences were less about theology and belief and much more about who did what and who made the decisions. There’s a very helpful Methodist family tree on the Methodist Heritage website here.
In 1907, three main nineteenth century Methodist movements came together to form the United Methodists – the Methodist New Connexion (1797-1907), the Bible Christians (1815-1907) and the United Methodist Free Churches (1857-1907).
- The Methodist New Connexion was the oldest of the three groups, dating back to the first of the major secessions with British Methodism in 1797. It was strongest in the north of England and the Midlands.
- The Bible Christians were initially concentrated in Cornwall and Devon and many of the early converts were Cornish miners, whose skills were in demand worldwide. When they moved to find work in other parts of Britain and abroad, they took their evangelical Christian faith (and Cornish pasties) with them
- The United Methodist Free Churches were the largest of the three denominations, and were themselves the result of an amalgamation in 1857 of various small branches of Methodism which had broken away from the Wesleyan Methodist Church. Most of the United Methodist Free Churches were found in the north of England and the West Country
Many people have ancestors who were United Methodists or from their various component parts. In 1907 there were 165,000 members, over 7,000 preachers and ministers and 2,673 chapels. As well as the UK membership, there were missions to China, East and West Africa, and Jamaica and Bocas. Throughout the nineteenth century, as members emigrated to find work, they took their evangelical Christian faith with them. As a result, you may find you have ancestors abroad including in Canada, Australia, and the United States.
In 1932, the United Methodists joined with the Primitive Methodists – who were much larger – and the Wesleyan Methodists, who were largest of all, to form the Methodist Church of Great Britain we know today. It is quite likely you will have Methodists of one sort or another in your family tree.