Find your ancestors in Montserrat, Methodist Marriages 1820-1841

What can these records tell me?

The records provide the following information about the couples who married:

  • Names of bride and groom
  • Occupation of groom
  • Residence
  • Date of marriage

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The first Wesleyan lay mission on Montserrat was set up by a female domestic slave (or freed slave), Kitty Dorset or Dorsette. She had been brought to Montserrat from another Caribbean island, St Bart's (Saint Barthélemy) by her slave master in 1810. She was instrumental in spreading Methodism among both freed and enslaved Black people on many estates (plantations) across the island. The present records, which start in 1820, relate to the earliest known Methodist marriages solemnised on Montserrat. Kitty died on 20 February 1827 at the age of about 60 years.

There were early Wesleyan congregations at Bethel and at Cavalla Hill but it seems that this single register contains all marriages on the island within this period. It is likely that these marriages were celebrated in a Wesleyan Methodist mission house or perhaps in some cases in more informal settings. Sources suggest that the first, wooden, chapel may not have been built until 1836, in Cavalla Hill.

All the couples are Black or mixed race. The majority of the brides and grooms were slaves in the period from 1820 to 1833, although a few are described as free. Following the Slavery Abolition Act 1833, from Aug 1834 to 1838 the former slaves would mostly have been free "apprentices" working on the same estates as before until the final abolition of slavery and emancipation of the enslaved in 1838.

The slave occupations of men are given (but not those of women). Male occupations include boiler, carpenter, cooper, distiller and watchman as well as field labourer. The boilers, coopers and distillers would have been working on those Montserrat sugar plantations producing rum.

Residence is given and, with the exception of dwellers in the island capital Plymouth, this is the name of a plantation (estate). In many cases, the surnames of the brides and grooms are those of the estates where those are the names of the then current or a previous owner. Examples of slaves named after planters/plantations include Dowdy, Furlonge, Semper, Shiell and Trant.