A major Irish record source has now come online at Ancestry.com. It is titled “Ireland, Grand Lodge of Freemasons of Ireland Membership Registers, 1733-1923,” and consists of 24 volumes of scanned and indexed records. The originals are housed at the Grand Lodge of Ireland (GLI) library in Dublin.
I have used these records for many years, and now having them online is a dream come true. The GLI is the second oldest in the world, founded in 1725. It serves individual lodges throughout the 32 counties of Ireland and, today, Northern Ireland. In addition, many lodges outside of Ireland would have warrants through the GLI, which makes this more than an Irish resource. This also includes militia units and British Army regiments.
While the records themselves may be somewhat basic, especially in the early volumes, information will include name and lodge number. Later records will include advancement information, resignation, transfers, occupation, and personal notes such as deaths. Regardless of what personal information is provided, the lodge number, such as Lodge #18 (Newry, County Down) may be the most valuable. The individual lodge covered a geographic area. If you do not know where in Ireland your ancestor lived, then the lodge location narrows your search considerably.
There are some quirks to this source. For example, after the 1830s, it was mainly, although not exclusively, a Protestant source. Prior to the Papal Bulls being published in Ireland in 1826 condemning the Freemasons, lodges were mixed Catholic and Protestant. Also, the class of people who were Freemasons were not the poor. Consider that a man had to have enough money to at least pay the dues! It was very common for the middle-class and upper-class segment of Irish society to be Freemasons.
A final word. These are only membership records. Once you have identified a lodge number, then the GLI library will have correspondence involving that individual lodge. These “Deputy Grand Secretary Correspondence Files (1820-1880)” may provide some additional details on members. This makes the Ancestry.com database your key into other records still held with the GLI.
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