I've been increasingly interested in freemasonry, and I'm curious if one of my great grandfathers was a member.
Is there any way to determine this? I'm relatively sure if I have any, it dates back to the 1800s.
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A lot of what I have been able to determine can be eloborated on this page.
Note: I will add the caveat that I personally am not a Mason, but several generations of my ancestors, including living, are known to be Masons but my interaction with the organization so far has been limited.
The answer is not straight forward, but my summation is the following:
So summary: Yes, but you need to know a lot more detail to pursue a local lodge, if still active their numbers are half they were 100 years ago and it will be a lot of effort. If you have family memorabilia I'd look for those. Especially pictures where members are wearing rings and Masonic Family Bibles (which may also denote who was) , which I know many of my family have and or appear with.
As a follow-up to your question, I did a quick search to see what I could discover about my own grandfather's Freemason affiliation. Previously I found a report within the Internet Archive where he was listed as a lodge member. This is in fact where I first learned of his affiliation.
In addition to the Internet Archive, there are some Lodge bulletins or other publications that have been reprinted on Google Books. These may contain the name of your ancestors.
And I searched on an Ancestry.com message board which is local to where many of my ancestors are from. In this case I searched on the Cook County message board. There was a message from someone who responded with the dates that The Grand Lodge of Illinois has card files on members, mid to late 1920's early 1930's, and Annual Reports on most of their lodges starting at 1871 depending on when the lodge chartered.
I responded to an old message from Cook County IL. I did not know if I would receive a response and learned something lodges in IL. In fact I received a reply with a brief note and a copy of his card. I knew about one lodge affiliation from the Internet Archive material. There were a few snippets of genealogical information on the card or in the note including that he had been a member at different times of two lodges, and that he was suspended for non-payment of dues in 1930 which was around the time he filed for bankruptcy as a result of the depression.
Further research on specific lodge membership may yield member lists or community and service activities.