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Stonemason Records (Occupations)

Nature of Source

Records of those occupied as stonemasons and related trades such as marble masonry. Stone masonry was considered a skilled trade, higher in ranking than a wheelwright or carpenter for example. Many craftsmen were self-taught and some developed their skills and later became architects and civil engineers. Some learnt their craft through the apprenticeship system either at the parish level or through the guild system. Parish apprentices were, however, often only used as cheap labour for the more wealthy in society. If the mason received an apprenticeship as part of the guild system, the local record office should have records on individual guilds but the survival rates of the actual indenture is very low. By the 19th century the strict control over trade exercised by the guild had largely broken down.

Some stonemasons were organised into local trade associations who regulated the industry and operated their own apprenticeship system. Existing records of these associations will be found at local record offices.

Also look for the records of those that joined the Friendly Society of Operative Stone Masons with the admission registers and obituaries especially useful. The society was formed around 1831. The society underwent a number of name changes from its inception and in 1919 changed to the Operative Society of Masons, Quarrymen and Allied Trades of England and Wales and finally in 1921 joined the Amalgamated Union of Building Trade Workers. The Modern Records Centre located at the University of Warwick Library holds the records of the society along with the records of many other trade associations and trade unions. The National Archives also holds some documents relating to the society.

It is important to note that although stonemasons are associated with freemasonry, by the 19th century those connections were entirely historical and the two groups were no longer intricately linked. Although stonemasonry is an ancient craft, most records date from the 19th century. The work of a stonemason might be recorded in the parish surveyor's accounts as his skills were often called upon to oversee the repair of the highways. Check census returns and directories to track the career of a stonemason. Use newspapers and directories to look for stonemasons' advertisements.

Also see
Apprenticeship Agreements, Trade
Apprenticeship Indentures, Parish
Business & Company Records
Directories, Trade, Professional, Telephone & Street
Friendly & Fraternal Society Records
Occupational and Labour Records (Includes links and guidance on calculating historical wage rates and the cost of living)
Trade Union Records

Where Found

County Record Offices (Guild records, parish apprenticeship records, local trade associations)
The National Archives (Friendly Society of Operative Stone Masons records)
Modern Records Centre, University of Warwick (Includes the records of the Friendly Society of Operative Stonemasons of England, Ireland and Wales and subsequent society/union records such as the Operative Society of Masons, Quarrymen and Allied Trades of England and Wales)
Working Class Movement Library (Records of stonemasons and building trade workers unions)
Trades Union Congress Library Collections
People's History Museum
Labour History Archive & Study Centre (Archives of the Labour Party and the Communist Party of Great Britain, trade unions and other left wing political groups and movements)
British Library Newspaper Collections (Including the journal 'The Stonemason' published in the late 19th century and other trade journals)

Period Covered

1700 - Onwards

Genealogical Value

Names, ages, addresses, occupations, career and dates of birth and death. Children’s names and dates of death. Wife’s name.

Further References

Anonymous. The Reminiscences of a Stonemason. By a Working Man: John Murray, 1908 (Available online at the Internet Archive)

 

Hull, Robert. Medieval Lives: Stonemason: Franklin Watts, 2008

 

Waters, Colin. A Dictionary of Old Trades, Titles and Occupations: Countryside Books, 2002

 

Websites

www2.warwick.ac.uk/services/library/mrc/subject_guides/family_history/stone (Modern Records Centre Subject Guide: Stonemasons and Quarrymen)
www.unionancestors.co.uk/Stonemasons.htm (Trade Union Ancestors: Friendly Society of Operative Stonemasons of England, Ireland and Wales)
www.finestoneminiatures.com/dictionary.htm (A pocket dictionary of masonry terms, names and expressions)
www.scan.org.uk/researchrtools/james_smith_diary.htm (Memoirs of James Smith, Stonemason, Dundee, 1805-c1869)
www.workinglife.org.uk (Photos of people at work)
http://boards.ancestry.co.uk/topics.occupations/mb.ashx (Ancestry Message Boards: Occupations)

Online Databases

www2.warwick.ac.uk/services/library/mrc/subject_guides/family_history/stone/obituaries (Modern Records Centre: Index to the obituaries contained in the fortnightly returns of the Friendly Society of Operative Stonemasons of England, Ireland and Wales)
Online Catalogues (Listing of online catalogues for the partial whereabouts of records including Access to Archives [A2A])
http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~stonemen (Stone and Quarry Men of the West Country: Index of Masons, Quarrymen, Builders, Carpenters and all related Occupations in Devon and Cornwall)