After determining that your ancestor was a Mason, you will need to secure records pertaining to him. Lodges were formed on a local level with the charter issued by the Masonic state body, known as the Grand Lodge. To determine if the local lodge is still in existence, you will need to contact the Grand Lodge. An easy way to do this is to perform a Google search, http://www.google.com, on Internet using the complete phrase "Grand Masonic Lodge of ____." Where the blank is add the state.
Somewhere on the web page for the state Grand Masonic Lodge there will be contact information, usually a postal address. You can then write a letter requesting information on the local lodge, the address and/or phone number. At the same time ask should the lodge no longer exist, if the Grand Lodge will supply information as to where the records of members of that lodge are located.
Should there be nothing on Internet regarding the Grand Lodge in the specific state of interest, locate a Masonic Lodge in your own area and ask if they have a directory listing the Grand Masonic Lodges by state.
If you are uncertain as to which lodge your ancestor belonged, supply the state Grand Masonic Lodge with his information, such as full name, dates and town/city and county where he resided.
Once you obtain the mailing address of the lodge your ancestor attended, write to them requesting a photocopy or transcript of his file. Address the letter to the Lodge Secretary. Keep in mind these people volunteer their services, so may be slow responding.
The information you obtain will vary. In some cases there will be little available, particularly in older records. The records may not longer exist due to fires or transfer of records from one lodge secretary to another. Once you have established a connection with the lodge secretary, ask if your ancestor had an office and if there is a photograph of him in their archives.
Lodges that ceased to exist were often merged with another lodge in a neighboring community. You may need to contact more than one lodge to obtain the records you need. During the Great Depression memberships fell off and men were often suspended because of non payment of dues. Some of the records in a file may include:
- name (names of parents will not be included)
- initiated, passed, raised (refers to the three degrees or phases of
- affiliated (moving of membership from one lodge to another)
- dimitted (date a member withdrew membership in the lodge; dates
are noteworthy if your ancestor moved to a different location)
- reinstated (men dropped from membership could renew membership)
- died (date noted on the record for members)
- suspended (for violation of a minor Masonic law or code of conduct)
- suspended (for non payment of dues)
- expelled (dropped because of violation of major Masonic law or code
of conduct; criminal acts were also given a Masonic trial)
- official record (may not be of record; lists elected or appointed offices)
There may be other records that your ancestor left in the time period he was a member of the lodge. Family Tree Connection, which is a subscription service, has many transcribed lodge records. For more information pertaining to this go to http://www.familytreeconnection.com/.
Somewhere in your ancestor's records you may find reference to being a thirty-second or thirty-third degree Mason. This refers to the Masonic organization known as Scottish Rite. All who join are given the title of thirty-second degree mason, but few achieve the thirty-third degree. The degrees are not conferred by the Masonic Lodge, but by the Grand Scottish Rite bodies in the United States. There are two of these bodies in the United States:
Supreme Council Scottish Rite Northern Jurisdiction
PO Box 519
Lexington, MA 02173
(for states of Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut,
New York, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Illinois,
Indiana and Wisconsin)
Supreme Council Scottish Rite Southern Jurisdiction
1733 Sixteenth St., N.W.
Washington, DC 2009-3199
(for all other states)
When requesting information, do give identifying information, but not the complete family history of your ancestor. Enclose a self-addressed, stamped envelope and ask if there is a fee for photocopies and research. Your search may take more time and letter writing than first anticipated, but it is definitely worth it.
Source Information: Tracing Lines, New Providence, NJ, USA: Genealogy Today LLC, 2006.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Genealogy Today LLC.
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