Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Freemasonry

Continuing with Question number 4-f.) of the Interview Question Form " Do you know of any organizations that our family has been affiliated with, such as the D.A.R. [Daughters of the American Revolution], Mayflower Society, Any Fraternal Organization, such as the Masons? Freemason? [These will end up giving you another avenue of research if there are any]" 

Freemasonry is the most ancient of all fraternities in the world.  Freemasonry as we know it today has been in existence since 1717.  Defined as a fraternity, it is therefore only open to the male population. It is believed that this tradition finds its roots in the historical male membership of stonemasons guilds during the Middle Ages.  Men would travel very far from their homes to acquire masonry work and while doing so would live in lodges during the construction of great cathedrals throughout Europe.  No one knows for sure, but the language and symbols used in the rituals of the fraternity come from this era.  Masons are referred to in the Regius Poem printed in 1390.  Four lodges in London formed the first Grand Lodge of England and that is where records of this fraternity become more available.

Freemasonry was popular in Colonial America and included; George Washington, Ben Franklin, Paul Revere, John Hancock, so on and so forth.  It supported the first public schools in both Europe and America, the formation of democratic governments, orphanages, homes for widows and the aged.  Today it is a fraternity that encourages self-improvement, social involvement and philanthropy. 

Almost every lodge is chartered by a Grand Lodge, one in each state. Although open to all men, their membership is mainly Caucasian.   In the U.S. and elsewhere, there are also 45 "Prince Hall" Grand Lodges whose memberships mainly consist of African American men.  Each of these Grand Lodges also charters individual lodges.  You can find a list of all Grand Lodges in the world at wonderful website authored by Paul M. Bessel  http://www.bessel.org/gls.htm 

Women would eventually be included as an extension of the founding fraternity during the 1800s, so they could share in the Masonic fraternalism.  The Order of the Eastern Star is the largest of the Masonic-related groups.  It was first conceptualized in 1850, and was followed by the Order of the Amaranth was officially organized in 1873 and the White Shrine of Jerusalem was organized in 1894.  Eventually there would develop women only organizations; Ladies Oriental Shrine of North America, Daughters of the Nile, Daugthers of Mokanna and the Social Order of Beauceant

In the 1920s Masonic-related youth organizations for young women were formed; 1920 the International Order of Job's Daughters, and in 1922 the International Order of Rainbow for Girls.  These organizations promote local charities, community services and educational programs. 

 If a male ancestor was a member in your family, it was because he petitioned to join.  There is no solicitation for membership.  Potential members agree to have their morals and character investigated at the time of petition for membership.  They must be living a life that reflects the high standards of the this fraternal organization. 

If you are looking for information on a Mason, you must go to his Grand Lodge or Lodge.  There isn't a main location to access all information on Masons.  There never has been.  You can access Masonic genealogy by one of two avenues.

1.)  The Grand Lodge annually published 'PROCEEDINGS.'  This is equivalent to minutes, so to speak of the activities that occured during the year and may include the names of officials who held office or members.  Some Grand Lodges publish histories and you may find information in those publications.  Both these types of publications are available in Masonic Libraries.  You can find a list of Masonic Libraries at  http://www.bessel.org/maslibs.htm

2.)  You can contact the Grand Lodge in the state of interest for your ancestor.  They may or may not be able to help you.  You can also find a list of notable freemasons at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Freemasonshttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Freemasons

There is no guarantee that you will find information on your ancestor, but it is another avenue to pursue. 
 

No comments: