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Digital Subscriptions > Family Tree > Family Tree July 2019 > Understanding freemason records

Understanding freemason records

Susan Snell details the resources available for tracing freemason ancestors using the records of the Museum and Library of Freemasonry, where she is archivist and records manager


Modern freemasonry began in the 18th century, when numerous clubs and fraternal organisations formed. By the end of the next century it is estimated that more than half the British population of men, women and children belonged to friendly and fraternal societies. e United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE), the administrative body for freemasonry in England and Wales, remains active while many other societies no longer exist.

Meeting initially in taverns and coff ee houses throughout Britain, freemasonry expanded to countries around the world and constructed purpose-built meeting places, masonic halls or temples. Unlike other clubs and societies centred on a common interest, freemasons share values formed through a unique experience of participating in ritual ceremonies using symbolism originating with medieval stonemasons. UGLE continues to attract men from all walks of life as members but there are branches of freemasonry that admit only women, or both men and women.

You may discover a link to a masonic ancestor by finding a gravestone with symbols such as a square and compass, an obituary, photographs of members wearing regalia, items mentioned in wills, or find medals, known as jewels.

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