[Square & Compasses]

Letter of the month: July 2004

Date: Sat, 10 Jul 2004 22:54:06 -0700 (PDT)
From: Chris Stevens <lackzwit@yahoo.com>
Subject: Freemasonry

Mr. Dryfoos,

I came across your web page concerning Freemasonry this evening. It was very insightful! I was wondering if perchance you would know how one might go about finding out if any of one's ancestors/relatives were/are Masons.

I have of course asked relatives and I know there were some in the family. However I am unsure of who they were. Is there a membership list or something along those lines that is available to the public?

Any response would be appreciated!

Thank you,
Chris Stevens

Dear Mr. Stevens,

This is a type of question I receive frequently, and I appreciate your courteous letter and the opportunity to provide an answer.

In general, there is no reliable way of finding that information. While individual lodges do maintain their own records as best they can, there has not historically been any standardized method for doing so.

So these days, you have a situation where one lodge may have all of its records going back 100 years all nicely converted to computerized data files, while another lodge might still be using file cards or a ledger book, and may have lost many of their old records in a fire, or simply misplaced them when old Brother Joe retired as secretary 20 years ago.

If a researcher knows which lodge they need information from, and if that lodge is still in existence, then there's some chance the needed records may be available.

If the researcher doesn't even know which lodge to contact in a particular state, they could contact that state's grand lodge, to ask about which lodges are (or used to be) within or nearby some particular region of the state. So if you know that Great-grandpa lived all his life in Huggasnake County, and remained an active Mason til the end of his life, then you could ask the Grand Lodge of Whoosis about the lodges is Huggasnake County: which ones were in existence when Great-grandpa lived there and which of those have survived to the present, in their original form or as part of a merged lodge. The Grand Lodge can give you the name and address of the current lodge secretary, who should know as much as anyone about the state of their records.

In some cases, the grand lodges themselves will have some small information about a Mason from that jurisdiction -- but usually just the dates he joined, received the various degrees, and any special offices or honors he held in the lodge. But even there, some grand lodges have also had interruptions in their records and archives over the years.

In your case, where you don't even know for certain which family members you might be asking about, I'm not sure how you'd go about deciding where to look or who to contact.

I wish I could give you better news. There is no one supreme Masonic authority for the whole USA, and no one overall "membership list".

better luck in your search,

| Gary L. Dryfoos | Ocean Lodge AF&AM, Saugus, MA (PM)    
| P.O.Box 425400, Camb, MA 02142  | Mt. Scopus Lodge AF&AM, Malden, MA (PM) 
|                                 | Richard C. Maclaurin Lodge, MIT, MA   
|  "A Page About Freemasonry"     | Internet Lodge #9659, E. Lancs UGLE   
|  http://mit.edu/dryfoo/Masonry/ | 32; MPS; B'hood o/t Blue Forget-Me-Not 
|                                 | RWG Rep.GL Russia near GL Massachusetts 
| "...one sacred band, or society of Friends and Brothers, among
|  whom no contention should ever exist, save that noble contention,
|  or rather emulation, of who best can work and best agree."

Up to the Letters: Main page
All the way UP to A Page About Freemasonry main page.