Finding Freemasons

A digitisation project between the Library and Museum and Ancestry will make searching for masons from the past much easier

The world’s largest online family history resource, Ancestry has transcribed over two million records of Freemasons in the English and Irish Constitutions using the membership registers of the United Grand Lodge of England and the Grand Lodge of Ireland. 

The names have created a searchable online database of Freemasons from the 1750s to the early 1920s. The database and images from the Grand Lodge registers are being made available via Ancestry’s website. This will provide information about individual lodge affiliation, as well as address and occupation details. 

It has often been difficult to track down the names of individual Freemasons if there were no details of their lodge. Grand Lodge’s main communication was with lodge secretaries and there was no reason for the organisation itself to create an alphabetical index of members. 

It will now be much easier for family historians, researchers and those writing their lodge histories to access this information. 

Ancestry provides a pay-per-view or subscription service and free access will also be available in the Library and Museum. Further details are available on the Library and Museum’s website and at www.ancestry.co.uk

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR - NO. 38 SUMMER 2017

Masonic ancestry

Sir,

What a great article you wrote in Freemasonry Today, Issue 32, called ‘Finding Freemasons’. My mother enjoys her family history research and through the Ancestry connection she discovered that my great, great, great, great grandfather Abraham Keyzor and his cousin Abraham Murray were both initiated into Robert Burns Lodge, No. 25, on 6 December 1858. 

One hundred and fifty-seven years later, I was delighted to see the lodge going strong and they very kindly allowed me to visit at their installation night on 6 February 2016.

What a night! The whole lodge made me feel very welcome and the Festive Board included a bagpipe player escorting in the Worshipful Master. There was an ‘address to the haggis’ before we tucked into a starter of haggis, and after dessert we had great entertainment with musical songs before a raffle, where I was lucky enough to win a bottle of Rabbie Burns beer.

Having the opportunity of visiting the lodge of an ancestor is something truly special and I intend to visit again in future. Hopefully, other brethren may find similar connections with older lodges.

David Bywater, Cantuarian Lodge, No. 5733, London

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Two million historic Freemason records published online

Newly digitised collection offers fascinating insight into one of world’s most intriguing organisations 

More than two million historic Freemason membership records have been published online for the first time, revealing the names of some of the most famous and well-connected men in British history. 

Digitised by Ancestry, the world’s largest family history resource, the UK and Ireland Freemason Membership Registers 1733-1923 span 190 years and offer fascinating insight into the inner workings of one of the world’s most intriguing organisations.

Rich in detail, each record reveals the Freemason’s name, profession, residence, date of initiation or date that they joined the organisation, age at initiation and lodge location. Accordingly, this collection will be of vital significance for anybody looking to locate, or find out more about, a Freemason ancestor.

The records also feature numerous famous Freemasons, including: 

Oscar Wilde – Following his initiation on the 23 February 1875, Irish-born Wilde is listed as a member of the Apollo University Lodge, Cambridge. A novelist, essayist, and one of the most popular playwrights of his time, his novels The Picture of Dorian Gray and The Importance of Being Earnest remain popular today. 

Sir Henry Wellcome – Scientist, businessman, philanthropist, archaeologist and collector, Wellcome is best known for his pioneering approach to medical research. His legacy, the Wellcome Trust, continues to provide grants to pharmacology departments to educate and train young researchers.

Winston Churchill – Appearing in the records at the age of 26, Churchill was initiated into Studholme Lodge on the 26 May 1901. He went on to become a British statesman, orator, author and eventually prime minister across the years 1940–45 and 1951–55. Many credit ‘British Bulldog’ Churchill for leading the country to victory in World War II.

Joseph Rudyard Kipling – Writer, poet, and novelist, Kipling's works of fiction include children’s favourite The Jungle Book and Kim. Born in Bombay, Kipling was initiated in the Lodge of Hope and Perseverance No 782, in Lahore in 1886. 

Novelists and scientists aside, further analysis of the records reveals that engineers, merchants and clerks were the most common professions of English Freemasons. Similarly, in Ireland, farmers, clerks and engineers make up the top three most frequently occurring member roles. A plethora of other professions also appear, not least 14,882 ‘Gentleman’, and even a solitary ‘Cloth Shrinker’. 

'As freemasonry approaches its 300th birthday in 2017, we are pleased to be able to provide access to details of past members. The records demonstrate the extensive involvement which Freemasons have had in British society at national and local level and I hope that they will provide a fascinating insight.' - Diane Clements, Director of the Library and Museum of Freemasonry

Miriam Silverman, Senior UK Content Manager from Ancestry comments: 'We’re delighted to be able to offer people an online window into a relatively unknown organisation. Whilst we can’t reveal the inner workings of Freemason ceremonies, what we can tell you is the details of over two million historic members. So, if you want to find out more about a Freemason ancestor or locate a famous member, now is the perfect time to get online and start your search.'

To search the UK and Ireland Freemason Membership Registers 1733-1923 and more than 16 billion historical records worldwide, visit www.ancestry.co.uk 

A part of the launch, Sir Tony Robinson took a tour of Freemasons' Hall with Dr James Campbell who was able to debunk some of the common myths surrounding Freemasonry

 

 

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