How to Trace Your Freemason Ancestors in the UK
Freemasonry is a fraternal organisation that has been around for centuries. In the UK, there are over 200,000 Freemasons, and many people are interested in tracing their Freemason ancestors.
There are a number of resources available to help you trace them. The most comprehensive resource is the membership registers of the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE). These registers list the names of all Freemasons who have been members of UGLE since 1751. The registers are available online at www.ancestry.co.uk.
The Museum of Freemasonry / United Grand Lodge of England partnered with Ancestry a few years ago to make around 1.7 million names of Freemasons available online for research. If you are interested in family history, this resource can help you to find out about a Freemason alongside other personal information. You can access Grand Lodge membership registers covering the period 1751 to 1921.
Ancestry.co.uk is a subscription-based service so you will need to pay for it, but the Museum of Freemasonry provides free access to these when they are open (please go to their website for details). If you don’t have a subscription, and you can’t get to the Museum, look out for one of the free trials on offer to get you started. You can see the Museum’s website here https://museumfreemasonry.org.uk/ additionally some local libraries have access to Ancestry so pop along and ask your local Librarian if they can help.
To find the records on Ancestry, search for ‘Grand Lodge England’ in the Card Catalogue. You can look for Freemasons, and find out about Lodge(s) they joined and how long they were a member. Some entries include details about a member’s age, occupation, and address.
Additionally, there is John Lane’s Masonic Records 1717-1894. It is an authoritative listing of all the Lodges established by the English Grand Lodges from the foundation of the first Grand Lodge in 1717 up until 1894. It was published by the United Grand Lodge of England in 1895 and proved to be a very useful reference book for anyone with an interest in Freemasonry under any of the English Grand Lodges. Masonic Records enable the early history of Freemasonry in a particular place to be readily traced and provide information about individual lodges.
In 2003, The Centre for Research into Freemasonry and Fraternalism under the Directorship of Professor Andrew Prescott in collaboration with the Museum of Freemasonry, London produced an electronic version of Lane’s book. Since 2008, the Museum of Freemasonry has been adding Lodges that came into existence after 1894 to the database and eventually hopes to edit the records of pre-1894 Lodges to include meeting places after that date.
This new version of Masonic Records is a joint venture between the Museum of Freemasonry and the Digital Humanities Institute at the University of Sheffield. The website is here https://www.dhi.ac.uk/lane/index.php
In addition to the UGLE membership registers, there are a number of other resources that can be helpful in tracing your Freemason ancestors. These include:
- Lodge records: Each Lodge keeps its own records, which may include membership lists, minutes of meetings, and other documents. These records can be helpful in tracing the history of a Lodge and the members who belonged to it. You should contact the Secretary in the first instance.
- Masonic publications: There have been a number of Masonic publications published over the years, which may contain information about Freemasons, including their names, Lodges, and dates of membership. A trip to your local Library might also prove beneficial as they will be able to assist in finding local records.
- Subject matter books such as ‘My Ancestor Was a Freemason: A Guide to Sources for Family Historians’ Society of Genealogists, Paperback, Author: Pat Lewis. It is available via the National Archives here https://shop.nationalarchives.gov.uk/products/my-ancestor-was-a-freemason
- Tracing Your Freemason, Friendly Society & Trade Union Ancestors: A Guide for Family Historians (Tracing Your Ancestors) by Daniel Weinbren available at Amazon https://amzn.eu/d/j1zV5fE
If you are interested in tracing your Freemason ancestors, there are a number of steps you can take. First, you should gather as much information as you can about your ancestors, such as their names, dates of birth, and places of residence. Once you have this information, you can start searching the resources listed above.
If you are unable to find any information about your ancestors in the resources listed above, you may want to contact The Museum of Freemasonry or a local Masonic Lodge. These organisations may be able to help you find additional information about your ancestors’ involvement in Freemasonry.
- England, United Grand Lodge of England Freemason Membership Registers, 1751-1921: https://www.ancestry.co.uk/search/collections/60620/
- How to Trace Your Freemason Ancestors: https://www.family-tree.co.uk/useful-genealogy-websites/4-free-websites-to-trace-freemason-ancestors/
- The History of Freemasonry: https://www.ugle.org.uk/discover-freemasonry/history-freemasonry