The records of religious dissenters, including William Blake, Daniel Defoe and JS Mill, have been published online for the first time.
The first tranche of the “Non Conformist Registers” has been put online detailing the hundreds of thousands of people who shook up the established order with alternative ideas over the past 225 years.
The database, which goes live on Wednesday, discloses those who refused to conform to the doctrine of the established Anglican Church including Methodists, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Baptists and Quakers.
The Quakers were the first religious group to denounce slavery while Methodists were great advocates of women’s rights.
More than 224,000 names are included in the register, which dates from the late 17th century, which also detail baptisms, marriages and burial inscriptions.
The digitised papers originally come from the London Metropolitan Archives, which is run by the City of London authority and were compiled by Ancestry.co.uk, a family history website.
Some of those who feature in the archive include George Fox (1624-1691), founder of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), Daniel Defoe (1659-1731), the author of Robinson Crusoe who was the son of Presbyterian nonconformists, William Blake (1757-1827), one of Britain’s greatest artists, and John Stuart Mill (1806-1873), the British philosopher and politician.
As British non conformists were not recorded by the state until 1837, these documents are, for the most part, the only records of these non conformists in existence. They also form part of the London Historical Records.
Experts say non conformists, who were simply labelled if they listed themselves as being part of “dissenting organisations”, were often intellectuals and freethinkers, who can largely be credited with being behind modern civil liberties. …