Gloucester County, Virginia Methodist Records


A compilation of original records for the period 1799-1910 housed in the Special Collections of Swem Library, College of William & Mary, containing many records of interest to genealogists, especially deaths and marriages, for which there are no corresponding civic records and made all the more significant by the fact these kinds of records are rare for the Methodist Church.

A major reason for the lack of records in Methodist churches is that historically ministers have been assigned by the bishop of the governing conference for a term of 2 years with the possibility, when the same was requested, for an extension of a further 2 years. With many ministers either being circuit riders or working part-time because their congregations were too small, most record-keeping was done by the ministers and those records generally followed the minister when he moved on to his next assignment. Those instances where the records for a specific congregation extend for a longer period of time were likely to be instances where the congregation had what is known within the Methodist Church as a “local preacher”, i.e., a minister who was paid solely by his congregation, or in this specific instance, as the results of the efforts of such extraordinary individuals as Jefferson W. Stubbs, who served for 50 years as recording steward of the Gloucester Circuit of the Methodist Episcopal, South, Conference of Virginia. They survive because of the keen interest of his son William Carter Stubbs in both history and genealogy.

The detail of these records is all the more impressive when one realizes the extent of loss of records in both gloucester and the adjoining counties of mathews and king & queen. With these records beginning in 1815, and reference to still earlier years, specifically details as to when individual churches were founded/built and who was responsible for the same. They may help to serve as a substitute for at least some of the lost civil records. These collections have further significance due both to the fact that officials of the Virginia Conference of the United Methodist Church were not aware of the full extent of the collection.

While the majority of the detail comes from the membership rolls, by far the bulk of the records were minutes of quarterly conferences, attended by representatives of all churches in the “circuit”, which encompassed, in addition to Gloucester, and at different times, parts of King & Queen, Middlesex, and Mathews Counties, though there was no consistency in either identifying the church any given “delegate” in attendance represented or even the location of any given church, there being, for example, two distinctly different references in the conference minutes for 1826 to “Old Church”. These records span several different collections, some of which contain significant additional material for those other localities, Mathews County being the best “represented”. However, only material either specifically dealing with Gloucester or items contained within said material has been included in this work.

Michael Pollock