The story of Methodism in the United States reflects the story of the nation itself. Many early colonists were transplanted British citizens, and Methodists started out here as transplanted Anglicans. After the Revolution, Methodism too broke free of mother England. The young American church spread rapidly, its lay leadership and community-building spirit pairing well with democratic ideals. If your ancestors were Methodists, a variety of church records and histories can reveal their lives: The church’s methodical record-keeping works to your benefit today.
Today, Methodist and Wesleyan churches claim more than 13 million adherents in the United States. The largest, with 8 million members, is the United Methodist Church (UMC), successor to the original MEC and the home of the former MEC South, the Methodist Protestant Church, the United Brethren in Christ and the Evangelical Church. The Wesleyan Church, which broke from the MEC in 1843, remains independent and claims about 122,000 members in the United States and Canada.
Annual conference archives maintain official records mentioned here (the term “annual conference” applies to both a regional body of congregations and its yearly business meetings). The General Commission on Archives and History (GCAH) is the central church repository for church materials and publications. It’s housed along with the Methodist Library in the United Methodist Archives Center at Drew University. In addition, regional historical societies and Methodist- affiliated universities and seminaries often have collections of regional interest. Find a list of all these libraries and archives at www.ghac.org (click Contact Directories).