[Square & Compasses]

Please note: A Page About Freemasonry does not have maintain or have special access to any genealogical resources. If you have questions about a Masonic ancestor or relative, try contacting his lodge. If you don't know his lodge, his state's grand lodge may be able to direct you to the lodge.

In addition, there are numerous specialized genealogy web-sites unaffiliated with Masonry. The Church of Latter-Day Saints (Mormon) has a vast database of genealogical data which may be useful to you. There is also Ancestry.com which bills itself as "The No. 1 Source for Family History Online"

Letter of the month: September 1997

Date: Mon, 08 Sep 1997 17:11:08 -0400
From: Glenn or Bj Stockton <bjstock@iag.net>
To: dryfoo@MIT.EDU
Subject: Question on early Masons

I have discovered that my ggggrandfather, John Barney, was "made a Master Mason in Friendship Lodge No. 20, Charlotte, VT in 1810" and was "considered to be the father of Freemasonry in Ohio" and was the "Grand Lecturer Of Ohio" in 1843. He died in Peoria IL in 1846, where he was still obviously very active in the organization.

Would there be more information about him in materials on Masonic history? How could I contact a historian -- or current folks in VT, OH or IL who might have information on him in historical files?

Would you point me in the right direction? Thanks.

Betty Jo

From: dryfoo@MIT.EDU
To: bjstock@iag.net (Bj Stockton)
Subject: Re: Question on early Masons 
Date: Tue, 09 Sep 1997 16:24:54 EDT

Dear Ms Stockton,

This is an interesting variation on a very common question. In the last couple of years, I would estimate that almost one hundred people have written to ask me how they could find information about a Masonic ancestor or other relative. In fact, posting this answer prominently on my web-site will probably cut my Masonic mail questions by half.

Usually folks aren't asking about someone as distinguished as "the father of Freemasonry in Ohio," but even when relatives write to ask about someone with a less notable Masonic career, the answer is the same: You can contact the Office of the Grand Secretary for the member's Grand Lodge.

As you may already know, in the USA, there is one Grand Lodge in each state, with jurisdiction for all regular lodges within that state. In this case, the relevant Grand Lodges are

The Grand Lodge F&AM of Ohio
634 High Street
Worthington, OH 43085-4116
or P.O. Box 629
Worthington, OH 43085-0629
phone: 614.885-5318
URL: www.freemason.com

The Grand Lodge of Vermont F&AM
East Road
Box 6742B
Barre, VT 05641-8611
phone: 802.223-1883
fax: 802.223-2187

The Grand Lodge AF&AM of Illinois
2866 Via Verde Street
Springfield, IL 62703-4325
P.O. Box 4147
Springfield, IL 62708-4147
phone: 217.529-8900
URL: www.ilmasons.org

In almost all cases, the Grand Secretary's office should have records of the lodge in which a Mason was initiated ("made a Mason"), other lodges he may have affiliated with, perhaps important dates in his Masonic career, and date of his death.

In this particular case, I am sure there should be significantly more information in the archive and library of the Ohio Grand Lodge. Someone there may be able to recommend books about the history of Ohio Masonry -- there may even be biographies of him.

Good luck. Please let me know if you are successful in finding what you are looking for. Thanks for writing.

Here's an additional note I received on this topic from Raymond Whiting Ryan, Jr., Senior Warden, Powhatan Masonic Lodge #295, Powhatan, VA 23139:

Enjoyed your pages but would like to add something that may help anyone who is researching a particular individual's past with Masonry. In your area of "frequently asked questions" you advise one to query the grand lodge of a particular state in which they are seeking membership information.

I have found that this is not, necessarily, a primary source. The reasoning is that, in the 1700s and 1800s, individual lodges did not provide full membership information to the grand lodges of their respective states. Another reason is that the grand lodges of most states (at least those with whom I have made inquiries) are not staffed to handle the many inquiries that they receive. The advice I have received from the grand lodges is for one to place their inquiry with the particular lodge in which the member was affiliated.

So, apparently, if you know the lodge(s) of your relatives/ancestors, try contacting those first. If you know the name and city of the lodge, you can possibly find it in the phone listings, if it's still in existence. (Lodges occasionally close or merge with others.) If the lodge is not listed, or if you don't know where it is, then you can get that info from the relevant Grand Lodge.

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