Do you want to research the masonic past of an individual in your family or in someone else’s family? If so, we’ve written this guide to help. It covers the records we hold and the services we offer. It’s a great place to start before arranging a research visit to the Museum of Freemasonry.
The Museum of Freemasonry holds the archives of:
- The United Grand Lodge of England (including predecessor bodies)
- The Supreme Grand Chapter of England (including predecessor bodies
- Buildings and sites associated with the Grand Lodge
- Charitable bodies associated with freemasonry
- Individual freemasons
- Many lodges and chapters that are now closed
Information about individual members
The information we hold about individual freemasons is based on the Annual Returns of members created by lodges and sent to Grand Lodge. The earliest Annual Returns date from the 1760s and were used to create registers of members. Members are listed in the registers under their lodge by initiation or joining date.
The type of information normally recorded in the membership registers includes age, address, occupation and date of joining the lodge. Unfortunately the records don’t contain any personal details like date of birth or marriage, details of family members or change of address.
The records cover lodges meeting in England and Wales and overseas areas where English freemasons established lodges.
Because we need to preserve the original registers, you can’t access them directly, but there are two ways you can get the information you need.
1. Search the records yourself
Over 1.7 million names of freemasons listed in the registers from 1751-1921 are now available on ancestry.co.uk. These records are fully searchable by individual names. You can access the records from anywhere in the world by subscribing to Ancestry, or you can use them for free in the museum during our opening hours. You can also use Ancestry at many local record offices and some libraries.
2. Get our team to search the records for you
Alternatively, our library team can search the digitised records for you. We can also search for members before the 1750s and after 1921. We charge a fee for this service (whether the search is successful or not). The fee is £31 per name (£16.50 per name for members of the United Grand Lodge of England). You can find out more here.
There are lists of some members active from 1723-1730s in the minute books of Grand Lodge. These are transcribed and indexed in Volume X of Ars Quatuor Coronatorum Antigrapha (Class Mark: A31 QUA fol.) and available to access in our library.
Other catalogued archives which may be useful for family history include the records of the children supported by the Royal Masonic Institution for Girls and the Royal Masonic Institution for Boys. We can search these records for you.
Freemasonry in other countries
Freemasonry is organised into independent Grand Lodges around the world. There are separate Grand Lodges for Scotland, Ireland, France and other European countries. In the USA each state has a separate Grand Lodge. We can give you the contact details for masonic organisations in other countries.
Find out more about researching freemasonry overseas.
We have more than 2,500 photographs of individual freemasons in our collection. They have all been catalogued with biographical information and a description of the photograph.
If you have a photograph of a family member wearing masonic regalia, please let us know when you make your search request. It may help us find out if they were a member of any other masonic or fraternal orders.
Lodge and Chapter Records
It’s also worth checking with individual lodges and chapters (if you know which ones the family member belonged to). We can put you in touch with them if you like. Some lodges have websites with historical information, too.
We also have the records of some lodges and chapters that have closed. If you’d like to see these, they are listed in our online catalogue and you can arrange to view them for a fee of £15 (they’re stored offsite and can take up to 48 hours to arrive at the museum). Contact us for more information.