The great strength of the index is Surman’s exhaustive searching of printed denominational sources (see List of Abbreviations). He noted changes in annual listings as well as abstracting details from obituaries published in the Congregational Year Books (1846-1972) and denominational periodicals, such as the Evangelical Magazine, the London Christian Instructor or Congregational Magazine, and the Christian Reformer, none of which is indexed comprehensively. He also searched denominational historical society journals, such as the Transactions of the Congregational Historical Society and the Unitarian Historical Society, as well as the many county histories of Congregationalism, such as Nightingale’s Lancashire Nonconformity, Browne’s Congregationalism in Norfolk and Suffolk, Miall’s Congregationalism in Yorkshire, Urwick’s Nonconformity in Cheshire and his later study of Hertfordshire, David’s Evangelical Nonconformity in Essex, Sibree’s Warwickshire, Coleman’s Northamptonshire, Densham and Ogle’s Dorset, and so on, many of them imperfectly indexed. A real strength of the index is the inclusion of data from the histories of individual congregations, many of them ephemeral. Surman included modern reference works such as the original Dictionary of National Biography, as well as more specialised works on religious dissent such as G. L. Turner’s Original Records, where he noted the references to ministers in the 1669 Conventicle Returns and the application for licences under Charles II’s Declaration of Indulgence (1672), Alexander Gordon’s Freedom After Ejection (1917) with its biographical index, and A. G. Matthews’s indispensable Calamy Revised (1934; 1988) and Walker Revised (1948; 1988).
Much could be added from local sources: Surman largely ignored county histories (including the Victoria County History), parish and local studies, and most importantly archival sources. A good deal more is available now than fifty and more years ago, particularly electronically. Many of the now rare nineteenth-century items, such as Walter Wilson’s The History and Antiquities of Dissenting Churches and Meeting Houses, in London, Westminster, and Southwark, 4 volumes (1808-14), have been reprinted, or are available on Google Books.