Freemasonry in its present form dates from the late sixteenth to early seventeenth centuries, with modern beginnings in 1717. The Grand Lodge of Ireland (GLI) in Dublin was established in 1725, making it the second oldest. In Ireland it is an all-male organization. The GLI has lodges throughout the island. Its records are an important resource for tracing middle and upper class society. The GLI governs local or subordinate lodge which must receive a warrant/charter by the GLI to operate.
Prior to 1826 the GLI had a mixture of Catholic and Protestant members. That year, the Roman Catholic Church strongly condemned lodge membership, which transformed the GLI into a mainly Protestant membership.
Freemasonry is not a religion, but it is religious. It is not political, although some of its members have been powerful reformers. It is also not a charity, but it operates charity programs. It can be thought of as a secret society, or “A society with secrets.” In essence, Freemasons are a men’s society whose philosophy is concerned with moral and spiritual values. These values are taught through allegory, symbol, oaths, mythology, secrecy, and this is accomplished by progressing through three degrees. The Freemason interprets the symbols and lessons for himself.
The GLI has a library in Dublin, which houses membership lists and the “Deputy Grand
Secretary Correspondence Files (1820-1880).” The Files are correspondence of the individual lodge with the GLI. Since much of the material in the library is filed by lodge number it is essential to know which lodges operated in the area where your ancestors lived. An indispensable tool for determining this is Keith Cochrane’s Irish Masonic Records on CD. This is an important compilation. Ordering information about this CD can be found on the GLI website: www.irish-freemasons.org/Mr. Cochran has provided me with a copy of his CD, and I absolutely love it! On this disk is an 1804 list of lodges divided by county and civil parish. This and the other material on the disk will help guide you through Irish masonic research.