Author Topic: Presbytarian Mystery  (Read 330 times)

Offline MattD30

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Presbytarian Mystery
« on: Tuesday 09 March 21 00:55 GMT (UK) »
I wonder if anyone here can shed some light on a mystery I have recently uncovered surrounding the family of my great grandmother Mary Ann Gray.

I know when and exactly where Mary Ann was born as I have her birth certificate. I also have her on the census in all the years prior to her marriage. As well as this I have the dates of birth for her and all her siblings taken from a family bible.

Until now I had not found any christenings for any of them which I always thought odd. Also there has always been mention of a link to Scotland. My nan used to say the Grays came from Scotland but Mary Ann and her siblings were born in Lambeth so that seemed to poo poo that theory.

However, I have now found Mary Ann, all her siblings, and also their father William Thomas Pearce baptised at the Camden Road Presbytarian Church much later than I expected. William was baptised there on 21 March 1886 as an adult and five of his children were done on exactly the same day.

Mary Ann was baptised in April 1891 the year after her birth [1890].

On Ancestry [where I found these] the records are listed as being the "United Reform Church" but on the top of the register pages it says "Camden Road Presbytarian Church". I don't know if they are the same.

As far as I know the Presbytarian church is Scottish so could the theory about a link to Scotland be correct?

Can anyone say why all the children and their father were baptised on the same day? Were mass baptisms a thing for the Presbytrian church?

Thanks for any suggestions and ideas.


Offline phenolphthalein

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Re: Presbytarian Mystery
« Reply #1 on: Tuesday 09 March 21 02:40 GMT (UK) »
Hi Matt D
This page of the National Archives of Britain and Wales may explain the name discrepancy.
"Functions of the URC History Society include archival responsibilities particularly for the Presbyterian Church of England, which in 1956 asked its History Society to care for pre-1900 records."

In particular there is this about records
"Camden Road Presbyterian Church, Holloway
1868-1942: roll books, register of baptisms, minute books, annual reports   
London Metropolitan Archives: City of London
NRA 7562 GLRO misc" 

And this about the body producing those records
"Date: 1868-1942
Places: Holloway, Middlesex
 Functions, occupations and activities:
Christian denominations > Methodists
Name authority reference:
GB/NNAF/C12629 (Former ISAAR ref: GB/NNAF/O99629 ) "

If you check in discovery on the National Archives (and you should)
you often find where to find records other than on the commercial sites.
It may be that the other records of this church held by
London Metropolitan Archives explain why your folk were baptised together.

A couple of thoughts come to mind.
They were perhaps recent converts to faith and so were baptised as a family.
Maybe the father was not baptised as a child and decided to be baptised
or perhaps rebaptised with all his children when his family was complete.
Many non-conformist faiths did not believe in baptism --
maybe they moved from one of those churches to the Presbyterian church.
Maybe there had been no previous minister empowered to baptise.

I had an ancestor who was a psalter in the free church of Scotland
-- they did not sing hymns but rather only the psalms.
Other churches only celebrated communion once a year.
Some churches may have rebaptised new members
rather than confirmed them in the way the Church of England did.

I do not think you need to be Scottish or have Scottish heritage
in order to be Presbyterian just as you do not need to be English to be an Anglican.

Also a nice postcard view on-line


Offline Rena

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Re: Presbytarian Mystery
« Reply #2 on: Tuesday 09 March 21 03:30 GMT (UK) »
I have a similar mass family christening where the parents and children  travelled several miles in the early 1800s to a church of their denomination.  The children ranged from baby to a ten year old. They were Catholics and all the surrounding churches where the parents lived and worked, were Ev. Lutheran.

As to why the family were baptised, we have to remember that there was no welfare state, no free medical care, no state pensions and most times the only thing that would look after a family who fell on hard times was parish relief from the local parish church.

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Offline MattD30

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Re: Presbytarian Mystery
« Reply #3 on: Wednesday 10 March 21 00:01 GMT (UK) »
Thanks phenolphthalein and Rena for those interesting and helpful replies. Also thanks to phenolphthalein for the picture of the church in question.

William Thomas Gray, the father of the children, was born in about 1840. He married Mary Ann Pearce in Kennington, Surrey in 1863. William had an older brother named John James Gray who was born 3 March 1839 in Lambeth. Their father was named John Gray but that's where we get stuck, whether he has links back to Scotland we don't know as we haven't found his birth yet. He was alive at the time of the 1841 census [he died in 1843] but all we can tell is that he was not born in Surrey.

Anyhow thanks for the info which is great to have.

Time to do more digging....


Offline Gibel

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Re: Presbytarian Mystery
« Reply #4 on: Thursday 11 March 21 14:59 GMT (UK) »
Camden Road Presbyterian Church became Camden Road United Reform Church in 1972.

Taken from the National Archives Discovery but records are at the London Metropolitan Archives

Camden Road United Reformed Church in Holloway, formerly Camden Road Presbyterian Church, now in the London Borough of Camden was formed in 1802. The origins of the Presbyterian Church can be traced back to the integration of Calvinist theology into England and Scotland in the 16th Century through George Wishart and John Knox.
The United Reformed Church (URC) formed in 1972 following the union of the Presbyterian Church of England and the Congregational Church of England and Wales. It is a part of the historic Reformed tradition, whose member denominations make up one of the largest single strands of Protestantism with more than 70 million members world-wide. The Re-formed Churches of Christ joined the Union in 1981, followed by the Congregational Union of Scotland in April 2000. The URC also has over 400 local churches united with other denominations.

This collection was deposited by the United Reformed Church (URC) History Society in 2001.

Functions of the URC History Society include archival responsibilities particularly for the Presbyterian Church of England, which in 1956 asked its History Society to care for pre-1900 records. Following Resolution passed at the General Assembly in 1997 it undertakes to maintain a central record of material placed on permanent loan and the location as well as providing guidelines on retention, location, dispersal etc. for records of the URC at all levels