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Freemason Records

Nature of Source

Records of the men that joined the fraternal society of Freemasons. Modern freemasonry began in the late 17th century with adherents often subjected to hostility and suspicion. The origins of the society were probably connected to the craft guilds of medieval times. The United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE) was established in 1717 and is the governing body of Freemasonry in England, Wales and the Channel Islands and some former colonial countries. European groups emerged separately including Scotland and Ireland. In Scotland, the Grand Lodge of Scotland oversees and administers Scottish freemasonry including provincial and district grand lodges and local lodges. In Ireland, the Grand Lodge of Ireland acts as the governing body for lodges covering the north and south. The U.S. broke away from UGLE forming their own structure.

The persecution of freemasonry resulted in the Unlawful Societies Act effective from 1799 to 1965, although in later years the Act fell into disuse. The Act forced freemasons to register organisations and the names of members with the Clerk of the Peace and local Quarter Sessions. These returns can now be found at County Record Offices.

In theory membership was open any man regardless of creed, class or race and by the 20th century a number of mixed sex lodges had been established. Finally, the Order of Women Freemasons was founded in 1935. The names of individuals can be found amongst the annual returns sent from local lodges to the Grand Lodge. Staff at the Library and Museum of Freemasonry of the United Grand Lodge can search for a name if one is known for free but make a charge for a speculative search. Fully searchable Membership registers from 1751-1921 are available in the Library via Ancestry co.uk (See below for more details). Most registers cover England but some are available for Wales and Northern Ireland as well overseas territories such as Canada, Australia, India and South Africa. For some records a 70-year restricted access rule applies. The library contains many lodge histories and other information.

The Quatuor Coronati Lodge which conducts research into the history freemasonry publishes research material under the name of Ars Quatuor Coronatorum (AQC). Indices to papers and other articles, authors and subjects is available at their website with other research material available to download at the Internet Archive or view online at Google Books. A number of freemasonry journals have been published over the years and collections of these journals can be viewed at the Library and Museum of Freemasonry.

Consider researching the records of non-Masonic friendly and fraternal societies such as The Ancient Order of Foresters now Foresters Friendly Society, the Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes, the Oddfellows or The Loyal Order of Ancient Shepherds now a traditional mutual insurance provider called the Shepherds Friendly.

Where Found

County Record Offices (Records include the names of members registered with the Clerk of the Peace following the Unlawful Societies Act, 1799-1965. Other lodge records may have been deposited at the local record office)
The Library and Museum of Freemasonry (United Grand Lodge of England: The library houses a collection of printed books and manuscripts on Freemasonry including the Annual Returns of members compiled by individual lodges, lodge histories, journals and magazines and an online catalogue. The names of individuals can be found amongst the annual returns sent from local lodges to the Grand Lodge. Staff at the Library and Museum of Freemasonry of the United Grand Lodge can search for a name if one is known for free but make a charge for a speculative search. Fully searchable Membership registers from 1751-1921 are available in the Library via Ancestry co.uk, See below for more details)

Period Covered

1717 - Onwards

Genealogical Value

Registers contain: Names, ages, addresses, occupations and age and date of joining the lodge and sometimes date of leaving.

Further References

Draffen, George. List of Scottish Masonic Records, 1736-1950: A List of all the Lodges at Home and Abroad Chartered by the Grand Lodge of Scotland: William Culross and Son, 1950 (Available to view at the Library and Museum of Freemasonry)  

Gould, Robert Freke. The History of Freemasonry (3 vols): London 1887 (Available on CD from Archive CD Books or to download at the Internet Archive)


Gould, Robert Freke. The Concise History of Freemasonry: London, 1903 (Available to view online at Google Books or to download from the Internet Archive)


Hodapp, Christopher. Freemasons for Dummies: John Wiley and Sons, 2005


Jones, Bernard. Freemasons' Guide and Compendium: George Harrap & Co, 1956


Lane, John. Masonic records 1717-1894: Being Lists of all The Lodges at Home and Abroad Warranted by the Four Grand Lodges: London, 1895 (Available to read online or download from the Internet Archive or search online at Lane's Masonic Records, see below for more details)  

Lewis, Pat. My Ancestor was a Freemason: Society of Genealogists, 2005

 

Prescott, Andrew. A History of British Freemasonry 1425-2000: University of Sheffield Centre for Research into Freemasonry and Fraternalism, 2008 (Available online)

 

Ridley, Jasper. A Brief History of the Freemasons: Robinson Publishing, 2008

 

Ridley, Jasper. The Freemasons: A History of the World's Most Powerful Secret Society: Constable, 1999

 

Websites

www.ugle.org.uk (United Grand Lodge of England. The Lodge is the governing body of Freemasonry in England, Wales and the Channel Islands)
www.grandlodgescotland.com (Grand Lodge of Scotland. The Lodge of Scotland represents Freemasons working under the Scottish Constitution since 1736)
http://freemason.ie (Grand Lodge of Ireland. The Lodge of Ireland is the second most senior Grand Lodge in the world and the oldest in continuous existence)
www.freemasonry.london.museum (United Grand Lodge of England: The Library and Museum of Freemasonry. The site includes a section on family history research and a number of information leaflets including one on Masonic abbreviations and Records relating to freemasonry in Quarter Sessions Records. The Lodge Family Tree Charts allows users to search the histories of individual lodges. The main library catalogue has been computerised and is available here)
www.freemasonrytoday.com (The official journal of the United Grand Lodge of England)
http://freemason.ie/museum-library-archive (Grand Lodge of Ireland. Museum, Library & Archive. Researchers use these facilities for genealogical purposes when looking up distant relatives to discover the details of their membership or for researching the Masonic Fraternity in general)
http://internet.lodge.org.uk (Internet Lodge 9659: Useful information on freemasonry)
www.freemasons-freemasonry.com (Pietre Stones Review of Freemasonry: Numerous articles about freemasonry)

Online Databases

www.ancestry.co.uk (United Grand Lodge of England Freemason Membership Registers, 1751-1921. This collection contains membership registers listing men who belonged to the United Grand Lodge of England. A Masonic Grand Lodge has existed in England since 1717. A rival Grand Lodge was established in London in 1751 and the two came together to form the UGLE in 1813)
www.dhi.ac.uk/lane (University of Sheffield: Lane's Masonic Records, 1717-1894. Listing of all the lodges established by the English Grand Lodges from the foundation of the first Grand Lodge in 1717 up until 1894. Since 2008 the Library and Museum of Freemasonry has been adding lodges that came into existence after 1894 to the database)
www.masonicperiodicals.org (Masonic Periodicals Online: Searchable digital copies of the major English Masonic publications held at the Library and Museum of Freemasonry, London from the late 18th to the early 20th centuries. Publications include The Freemasons' Quarterly Review, 1834-1849; The Freemasons' Magazine And Masonic Mirror, 1856-1871; The Freemason 1869-1901; The Freemason's chronicle, 1875-1901)
www.thegenealogist.co.uk (Who's Who in Freemasonry, 1913-1914)
www.ancestry.co.uk (Warwickshire Quarter Session Records: Lists of freemasons, 1799-1857 produced in association with Warwickshire County Record Office)

CD Roms

Archive CD Books (Gould, Robert Freke. The History of Freemasonry, 3 vols: London 1887)