Tracking down a Mason
August 2, 2005 3:03 PM   Subscribe

Is there a way to find out if someone was a Freemason?

I have limited information, unfortunately. There were Mason-related items in my grandfather's personal items, but there aren't any family members who can fill me in about whether or not he actually was a Mason.

I'm not even sure about which state's or city's lodge he might have been associated with, since he lived in several different places. Even if I knew, I'm not sure how willing the lodge would be to answer this question.
posted by divka to Society & Culture (12 answers total)
I had the same experience with my deceased grandfather and the lodge folks I contacted over the web (I was directed to an email by a friendly Mason at a nearby hall after I just knocked on their door) were pretty helpful in figuring out if he was a member. Try contacting the national office, explain your situation, and they should be able to help you out. It doesn't help to include a message for his past Masonic brothers, too!
posted by robocop is bleeding at 3:15 PM on August 2, 2005

i think robo means doesn't hurt.

the problem is, a lot of lodges have consolidated and been absorbed into other lodges in the past 100 years. still, your best bet would probably to start at the city he lived in from the age of 21 to say, 30. that's probably where he was made a mason. what sort of items do you have?
posted by keswick at 3:38 PM on August 2, 2005

The items I have are all jewlery--tie tack, ring, some sort of pin. I'm sure there's more of his personal stuff around but my grandparents house is chaotic.

I probably won't find anything else until after my grandmother passes away and we clean out the house entirely. She's in hospice herself, and doesn't remember where anything is these days. So, I have to go with what little I have for right now.
posted by divka at 4:05 PM on August 2, 2005

is the ring engraved? they often engrave the rings with the date he became a master mason. also, trowels and aprons are commonly presented with relevant dates, as is a leather bible.

the united states doesn't have a national grand lodge. your best bet is to contact the grand lodge of the state he lived in from age 21-30 (and up)
posted by keswick at 4:16 PM on August 2, 2005

No. Records, if kept, are kept at local lodges. There is no central registry of Masons. You could maybe try to figure out what lodge he may have belonged to and write them a nice letter. But Masonry, unfortunately, has been in decline since the Enlightenment, and even if your letter was read, it is unlikely that there would be the manpower to go trawling through old records.
posted by yesno at 4:17 PM on August 2, 2005

FYI, The ring most likely has a number engraved on it which indicates his level in the freemasonry. There are 32 publicly known levels, 33 and beyond the super secret ones.
posted by rabbitsnake at 5:33 PM on August 2, 2005

are you a freemason, yesno?
posted by keswick at 6:29 PM on August 2, 2005

I used to work in an Odd Fellows hall and we regularly got phone calls from relatives of people trying to figure out if they had belonged to the Odd Fellows. I always referred them to the actual Odd Fellows, but this is the sort of thing they would do. Masons used to be more secretive but they definitely aren't now. You might want to try contacting your local Masonic chapter just to get advice on where to go next.

Other tip: if he's buried and has a headstone, many Masons have their freemasonry level on their headstone. This may be "duh" obvious, but it's another avenue to try. You can also get on to a genealogical database that has local history books scanned and accessible [Heritage Quest comes to mind, there may be others] and do a keyword search for his name to see what turns up. You could try this out at your local library.

A few more options:

- freemasons mailing list for genealogists
- more info and grand lodge addresses
- lots of fraternal organization genealogy links/tips including some information on abbreviations, symbols etc.
posted by jessamyn at 7:13 PM on August 2, 2005

My husband is a 32nd Degree Mason and serves on a commitee for the Grand Lodge of Oklahoma. Here's his advice to you:

Each lodge reports their membership annually to their state's Grand Lodge. Each Grand Lodge has a record of all Masons in the state in a given calendar year, and some records even go back to the inception of that state's Grand Lodge, depending on the state. (You can usually find the addresses with a Google search. Look for 'Grand Lodge of Oklahoma', in the case of my state. The Grand Lodge isn't necessarily in the state capital; Oklahoma's is in Guthrie.)

To find info on your grandfather's Masonic history, make a list of the states he lived in and write a letter to the Grand Secretary of each state's Grand Lodge. Include your grandfather's full name, city he lived in, the approximate time he lived in that city, and dates of birth and death, because each Mason's death (when discovered) is reported to the Grand Lodge also.

The information on your grandfather is NOT SECRET, and if you'll send a picture by email I'll try to identify each piece of jewelry for you.

I hope this is of help to you. You can use the email link to send pictures privately to me.
posted by lambchop1 at 7:22 PM on August 2, 2005

The National Heritage Museum (Lexington, Massachusetts) is an American history museum founded and supported by 32° Scottish Rite Freemasons in the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction of the United States of America.

Also - The Supreme Council, 33°, for the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction which sits next door to the National Heritage Museum.

Can they help?
posted by ericb at 8:26 PM on August 2, 2005

ericb has a very good point. I've been to the MONH Library and it's an impressive collection and the librarians are nice. I'd call them first. I found this coin with my grandfather's stuff and I've always been a little curious about it myself.
posted by jessamyn at 10:03 PM on August 2, 2005

Er, yeah. 13 hours later, it doesn't hurt.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 4:19 AM on August 3, 2005

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