Research & Masonic Genealogy
Research & Masonic Genealogy -
Researching family Members who were Freemasons.
“My Great Grand Father was a Freemason in Victoria and lived in Bendigo between 1860-1870 and his name was John Smith, could you provide me some information about his Masonic membership?”
Many people seem to find lodgedevotion.net and inquire about relatives who have been Freemasons; the above is typical of questions I often get asked.
Our webmaster answers all such inquiries, but we can only access our own records – those of Lodge Devotion 723.
Detailed information on other Lodges needs to be obtained either from the particular lodge, or the Grand Lodge under which the Lodge operates or operated.
That said, I thought I should put some general information here for the public.
The “United Grand Lodge of Victoria” (UGLV) was founded in 1889 and exists today with over 300 lodges working under its authority in the State of Victoria in Australia.
Prior to the United Grand Lodge, there was the short lived “Grand Lodge of Victoria” was established in 1883 which was dissolved and superseded by UGLV .
Most Lodges have names and numbers. The same Lodge Name (i.e. "Lodge of St John") often get used more than once in a single country, but are generally only registered once under a specific Grand Lodge. The accompanying number is the record in chronological order in which they were added to the “roll” of the particular Grand Lodge under which they work. The lodge number can be important in identifying not just the lodge, but the Grand Lodge it was working under.
So “Lodge Devotion 723” is the seven hundred and twenty-third lodge on the register of the United Grand Lodge of Victoria. It was added (founded) to the roll in 1952.
Knowing the name and number of the Lodge your relative was a member of helps narrow things down.
If you have masonic documents and paraphernalia, the lodge name and number, and often the Grand Lodge under which that Lodge worked, will generally be recorded on it.
Likewise, if you have a medal or pin, it will sometimes have the lodge name, but almost always its number. Often it will have further detail inscribed on the rear of the medal.
As an example, you can zoom in on this image here and see it is a medal from “Lodge of Concern” and the lodge number is 852. The rear of that medal in part reads “Wor Bro W Mc Geoch WM 1984-85” and tells me Worshipful Brother W Mc Geoch was the Worshipful Master (the leader) of Lodge of Concern #852 for twelve months in 1984/85. Such information can be useful when obtaining records, because it gives you the Lodge name and number, but also some dates as a point of reference.
Lodge numbers also are sometimes accompanied by letters following the number like “EC” for “English Constitution or “UGLE” for United Grand Lodge of England which are one in the same.
Likewise “SC” stands for “Scottish Constitution” referring to the Grand Lodge of Scotland and “IC” stands for Irish Constitution, being the Grand Lodge of Ireland.
The acronyms, EC, IC, and SC are commonly found associated with Freemasons in Victoria when those Constitutions were extremely active here, prior to UGLV being formed in 1889. You see less of them in Victoria as you moved into the Twentieth Century. Early Lodges in Victoria often haev "VC" for Victorian Constitution, but that increasingly became replaced with UGLV for United Grand Lodge Victoria.
Prior to the Grand Lodge of Victoria being established, the Lodges working in Victoria worked essentially under license from overseas Grand Lodges. It can be hard to get information about particular members of those lodges in the 1800’s and before.
In order to be considered “Regular” and properly constituted, each lodge must have a “Warrant”.
These Warrants are issued by Grand Lodges.
Prior to there being a Grand Lodge in Victoria, Warrants for lodges working in Victoria were issued by authority of Grand Lodges from overseas.
The largest number of Warrants used in Victoria came from England, but there were also Warrants from the Grand Lodge of Ireland and the Grand Lodge of Scotland. When the United Grand Lodge of Victoria (UGLV) was founded, many lodges working under those three Grand Lodges progressively returned their Warrants to those overseas Grand Lodges, and got a new one from UGLV. When United Grand Lodge Victoria was founded, lodges were added to the roll essentially in order of their age, hence “Australia Felix No 1” is considered the oldest Lodge in Victoria. Lodges which were added after 1889 assumed the next available number on the roll.
With United Grand Lodge Victoria being founded in 1889, you will find most lodges working here posy 1889 worked under UGLV which was an amalgamation of Lodges born under the English, Scottish and Irish Constitutions. Not all lodges joined UGLV in 1889, two continued to work under their overseas Grand Lodge. Indeed, even today, there is a lodge meeting in Melbourne (Victoria, Australia) which never joined UGLV but continues to work under the United Grand Lodge of England. As an aside that lodge is Combermere Lodge No. 752, UGLE and they have a web site.
The operation of these three Constitutions in Victoria muddies the waters in researching the Masonic history of relatives in the Nineteenth Century.
Even today, members of other Grand Lodges who have fraternal relations with UGLV can visit our lodges. So while I see several brethren frequently in Victorian Lodges, they are not members of UGLV but other Grand Lodges like the Grand Lodge of Queensland and the Grand Lodge of the Philippines.
However, if your relative was a Freemason in Victoria in the Twentieth Century, it is most likely he was a member of a Lodge working under UGLV and UGLV will have some records about your family member, even if only some scant ones, but UGLV may be able to refer you to the particular lodge they were a member of and the Secretary of the Lodge might be able to do some digging in old records for further detail about your relative. Some lodges have very complete records, while others have been lost over time. Remember – all these records were, and are, in the hands of volunteers and over time it is only natural some will be lost to house fires, carelessness and simply to rationalize the amount of records on file.
If your relative was a Freemason in the 1800’s, especially prior to UGLV being formed, often records on their membership will be recorded from one of the Grand Lodges from Ireland, England or Scotland, and the focus of your research might have to move overseas. That said, if that lodge later moved under the UGLV, they might have some records on particular members, but more likely they will not unless he was notable for some reason.
If your relative came from the United States of America or another Country, your search becomes more difficult. For instance the Grand Lodge of Germany burnt all its records to protect members from Nazi persecution while just about every State in America has a Grand Lodge, and some have several! That said, don’t give up, you never know and your relative might have been a member of a lodge which has kept very good records or held an illustrious position like Grand Master or been of such merit that he is retained in the lodge folk law and history, and you might be pleasantly surprised on the details you obtain.
Mentioning “Grand Master” reminds me of another point. A “Grand Master” is the leader of a Grand Lodge, while a “Worshipful Master” is the leader of a subordinate lodge. So in Victoria today, there is one “Grand Master” leading Grand Lodge and over 300 “Worshipful Masters” leading subordinate lodges. Many people seem to mistake and describe deceased relatives as “Grand Masters” and given the figures I have just given, it is more likely your relative was a “Worshipful” rather than “Grand” Master, but you never know… if he was indeed a “Grand Master” there will always be some decent biographical information on him held by Grand Lodge. UGLV has paintings and/or photographs of all our Grand Masters.
You might also have Masonic looking documents and material with your relatives name on it which refers to groups such as
“Supreme Grand Chapter of Victoria” or
“Supreme Council of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite”,
“Royal Ark Mariners”, (RAM)
“Mark Master Masons”,(MMM)
“Allied Masonic Degrees”,(AMD)
“Order and of Secret Monitor (OSM)”,
“Royal and Select Masters” (RSM),
“Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia” (SIRA),
“Order of the Eastern Star” (OES)
“Royal Order of Scotland” (ROSC) and
“Royal Order of Eri” (ROEri)
and others. One I've been asked about recently is the Order of the Eastern Star (OES). One researcher was very confused because her mum had been a members. Yes, the Order of the Easter Star is one of several masonic groups which admit woman.
The above are all Masonic organizations which you have to have various “Masonic qualifications” to be a member.
Members of UGLV often join these groups, and the members will all be masons. There is a list of all these groups here and if your relative was a member of such a group, say in the 1960’s, our Grand Lodge might also have some record of their membership in the United Grand Lodge of Victoria as it is very likely they were a member of UGLV in order to qualify for membership in an “appendant body” like those listed above.
There are other completely unrelated fraternities though, some of which use Masonic looking motifs, but stand outside all of the above. The best known two examples might be the “International Order of Odd Fellows” and the “Order of Odd Fellows”.. and other groups like the “Free Gardeners” and “Loyal Orange Order”. These share common symbols with Freemasonry, but stand apart.
Another thing to remember is UGLV will only give information about deceased member, not living ones. That said, if you wrote to a member care of Grand Lodge, there is some hope they may receive your letter.
Grand Lodge contact details can be found on their web site here