If your ancestor was a lay person
Information about lay Methodists is primarily to be found in the archives of the chapels and circuits. These are preserved at the appropriate local authority record office or are kept by the local church.
However, if your ancestor was actively involved in the Methodist Church on either a local or national level, there are three major sources of information available at the Methodist Archive and Research Centre.
These individual collections contain letters and associated papers of many lay people from the eighteenth century to the present. It is important to remember that because of the very wide appeal of Methodism, your ancestor need not have been a prominent member of society to be mentioned in these collections.
Magazines and newspapers
Methodist periodicals since the first issue of the Arminian Magazine in 1778 have included obituaries of lay people. With the enormous increase in the range of Methodist publishing activities in the early nineteenth century, it became common for devout Methodists from all walks of life to have an obituary in the magazine of their particular Methodist denomination.
Trustees are empowered to hold in trust chapel property, and the office of trustee has been a very important one since the early days of the Methodist movement. Detailed lists of trustees have been preserved in the papers of the Methodist Church Property Division, and in many cases these lists go back to the early nineteenth century. The most comprehensive collection of trustees' papers was created by the Wesleyan Methodist Church, with smaller collections for the Primitive Methodist and other denominations.
Trustees were appointed from among the active members of a chapel congregation, and were not confined to a particular social class.