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I know my grandfather was a Freemason, but I don't know which order/lodge he was associated with. Short of contacting every lodge in the state, how can I find out? Are there records of this sort of thing somewhere?

My grandfather was born 1928 in Michigan but he lived the latter half of his life (which ended in 2006) in Texas. So I imagine I'm looking for a Texas lodge.

  • I've modified my answer to include direct links to the Grand Lodge of Texas and to their request form for membership information. – Jan Murphy Jun 25 '14 at 23:05
  • I removed the grandfather's name because he was born less than 100 years ago - see privacy note at genealogy.stackexchange.com/help/on-topic. – PolyGeo Dec 26 '14 at 5:19
  • @PolyGeo: it says for those who are living or presumed deceased (not those you are certain are deceased). I am quite certain that my grandfather is deceased. – WendiKidd Dec 30 '14 at 7:00
  • This is a policy that we all struggle with but I'll draw your attention to "2.If you already know (or suspect) that your ancestor was born less than 100 years ago, and you know that they are dead, then you may include identification details such as name, date and place of birth, etc., but you must also provide evidence to us that they are dead." in meta.genealogy.stackexchange.com/a/1904 which goes on to describe what constitutes "Acceptable evidence of death". – PolyGeo Dec 30 '14 at 8:15
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Here are some things to consider when looking for membership information.

Structure of Masonic organizations and content of membership lists

Ancestry.com has a database of Mason Membership Cards from Massachusetts (Original data: Massachusetts Grand Lodge of Masons Membership Cards 1733–1990. New England Historic Genealogical Society, Boston, Massachusetts). (If you have access to Ancestry, you can view this database to see what a membership card looks like, and to see what information an index card search might reveal.)

The About this Database section says, in part:

Grand Lodges grant charters to smaller Masonic lodges, typically centered geographically, although the Massachusetts Grand Lodge at times included lodges in Panama, Chile, the People's Republic of China (meeting in Tokyo, Japan), and Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba.

While the Massachusetts Grand lodge created index cards, in other areas like England and Ireland, membership infomation was kept in register form and if someone is browsing the register, they'll be looking at the information chronologically, unless the register has a separate index or has been put into a database like Ancestry's.

Making Requests

Rather than asking each individual lodge in Texas, you could try contacting the Grand Lodge instead. And you're in luck -- The Grand Lodge of Texas' website has a link for Genealogy Requests. If you submit the request form by mail along with an SASE and fee, they will search their archival membership index file.

Note to Genealogists:

The Grand Lodge of Texas Library and Museum will conduct research of our membership records for you. Membership records contain the date that a person joined a Masonic Lodge and the name of the Lodge he joined; also included may be the following: degree dates, suspensions, dimits, offices held, and the date of death. Please complete this form, and mail to the address shown, along with your payment. No email inquiries are accepted.

The instructions on the form:

THE SOURCE OF THE RECORD SEARCH IS THE MASONIC GRAND LODGE OF TEXAS ARCHIVAL MEMBERSHIP INDEX FILE.

  • THERE IS A $10.00 CHARGE FOR EACH SEARCH.
  • USE A SEPARATE FORM FOR EACH INDIVIDUAL'S NAME.
  • A MANUAL SEARCH IS CONDUCTED AS TIME PERMITS. PLEASE ALLOW AT LEAST EIGHT WEEKS FOR A RESPONSE.
  • WE DO NOT HAVE MEMBERS' PETITIONS (APPLICATIONS) IN OUR FILES. THESE REMAIN WITH THE PARENT LODGE.
  • OUR RECORDS DO NOT PROVIDE BIOGRAPHICAL DATA SUCH AS NAMES OF FAMILY MEMBERS OR BURIAL INFORMATION.
  • PRIVACY IS AN ISSUE. WE DO NOT PROVIDE INFORMATION ABOUT LIVING MEMBERS.

Click on the link Masonic Record Request Form to print out the form and to see what information they need in order to search.

What to expect from a request

You may wonder why it takes so long to get a search result. The Library of the Grand Lodge of Scotland's page on Ancestral Research describes the conditions of their own records, and the difficulty of answering the question 'Was my Grandfather, Jock Campbell, from Glasgow, a Freemason?" without any other information:

... because of the way the membership records are kept this is not a straight forward task. The records are held on a Lodge by Lodge basis and are not computerised.

This means that at the very least we need to have a location ideally a specific address for the individual and the time period of spent living at that residence. From this we can examine the membership records of nearby Lodges. This works reasonabl[y] well in rural areas where there is usually only one or two Lodges in any given area. However, in large urban areas where there can be dozens of Lodges it is not possible to read through thousands of names in the hope of finding the one in particular.

They suggest assembling the following information:

When submitting an enquiry please therefore state the person's full name, address(es), DOB & DOD (or age at death) and occupation. Any other information that you have, particularly a Lodge name and number, details from Masonic paperwork (certificates, membership cards for example) or inscriptions on jewels would be very helpful. In other words please provide as much relevant information as possible!

If the records for the Grand Lodges in the USA are in the same condition, it might be easier to find out which Lodge your grandfather was a member of from other records, after which you could contact the Parent Lodge or Grand Lodge to see if they could provide the dates of his membership or other information.

Other avenues of research

Another possible source of information might be city directories and newspapers. Lodge members sometimes act as bearers at funerals of other members. If you find your grandfather's name in an associate's obituary, that person's obituary might mention the Lodge affiliation.

Look for records from your grandfather's immediate family as well. The Grand Lodge of Texas' website lists the names of Appendant Organizations and Youth Organizations which you could search for.

Once you reach the point where you know the Parent Lodge, if you contact them for more information, be prepared to show proof of your relationship, and proof that your grandfather is deceased. Otherwise they may not be able to release his records to you.

For further research, look for periodicals using Google, Google Books, the Internet Archive, Hathi Trust, and in libraries (check WorldCat, area public libraries, etc.) Search for articles on local fraternal organizations (that is, not by your relative's name) on PERSI (PERiodical Source Index). I've been able to turn up lists of members that way for Massachusetts; you might be able to find them for your area.

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    +1 Looking for obituaries sounds like a great idea - and come to think of it I think Australian funeral notices sometimes have lodge badges on them - maybe US is the same. – PolyGeo May 23 '14 at 6:44
  • Good point about the lodge badges -- they sometimes show up on gravestones. – Jan Murphy May 23 '14 at 12:27
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The Masonic Library & Museum Association (MLMA) looks like it could be a useful resource for anyone looking for membership records in past periods.

However, with your grandfather being so recently deceased, I am thinking that trying to locate any extant friends and business associates that he may have had, to ask them if they know, may be the best way to find this out.

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