If you want to research freemasonry in other countries, this short guide is a good place to begin. Here you’ll find information about the records we hold and how we can help your research.
The spread of freemasonry
The spread of English freemasonry to other countries was driven mainly by members of the armed forces who were posted overseas. Thanks to so-called ‘travelling warrants’, they were able to establish lodges that moved as they did. Military personnel also founded lodges in ports and camps around the world. In time, overseas lodges sought independence and set up their own Grand Lodges. Many lodges chose to join whichever Grand Lodge had been formed in their part of the world, while others remained connected to the United Grand Lodge of England.
What we have in our collection
Our library and archives hold a file for most countries and Grand Lodges overseas. These contain meetings summonses, letters and other items. Details of these are available in our online catalogue. We also have the published histories of freemasonry of many individual countries and states. Sometimes there are other related items (e.g. lodge histories and jewels) in the collection, too. Most Grand Lodges overseas (and Districts under the United Grand Lodge of England) produce a Year Book containing the meeting details of their constituent lodges and the Proceedings of the Grand Lodge. A number of jurisdictions also regularly publish magazines or other periodicals. You can find details of these items in our online catalogue.
Material in our archives
We have some archive material relating to overseas lodges that are part of the United Grand Lodge of England (or used to be). The materials available for research include:
- Petitions to form new lodges or chapters (for information on the founders)
- Letter books (copies of letters sent by Grand Lodge administration)
- Minute books or proceedings of meetings of the Grand Lodge or Provincial District Grand Lodge
- Correspondence arranged by province or district
- Annual returns (sent to Grand Lodge/Chapter to compile membership records; these sometimes include additional details about members)
- Certificates and documents issued by other Grand Lodges
Photographs and engravings
In our print collection we have some photographs and engravings of members, meeting places and lodges. Only a small part of the collection has been catalogued, so please get in touch and tell us what you’re looking for.
Lane’s List of Lodges
Lane’s List of Lodges contains details of all lodges warranted by the United Grand Lodge of England and its predecessor bodies up to 2010. It also includes details of their dates of warrants and consecration, meeting places and changes of name and number. You can search the list by lodge name, number or location. Find the list on our research resources page.
Accessing the library and archives
To access anything listed above, you need to register as a researcher. Find out how to make a research visit.