This collection contains membership registers listing men who belonged to the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE). Freemasonry is a fraternal order that traces its roots back to the Middle Ages, and a Masonic Grand Lodge has existed in England since 1717. A rival Grand Lodge was established in London in 1751, and the two came together to form the UGLE in 1813.
The UGLE is the governing body for Freemasonry in England, Wales and certain countries overseas. Each Masonic lodge has been obliged since 1768 to return to the Grand Lodge, on an annual basis, a list of its members. These returns are used to compile the membership registers, described as Contribution Books, which are reproduced in this collection. While the majority of the registers in this collection are from lodges in England, registers are also available from lodges in Wales, Northern Ireland, and several countries overseas such as Canada, Australia, India and South Africa.
The registers record membership information within individual lodges. The lodges are listed in numerical order within a register and the registers are arranged in sequences or series relating to London lodges (including some in areas which are now part of provinces), country or provincial and foreign, and abroad or overseas. To trace membership over a number of years you may need to consult more than one register.
There are three degrees in Craft Freemasonry: Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft and Master Mason. A man will normally pass through these three degrees, known as initiation, passing and raising, and the date that he passes each degree is recorded in the register. A man is not confined to membership of one lodge. When he has passed the three degrees and becomes a Master Mason, he can join as many lodges as he wishes. The date that he joins a new lodge is recorded by his name in the register. The registers also record when membership ceases, and sometimes a reason is given. The majority of the entries also record the age, profession and brief address of a man when he became a Freemason.
Consulting the membership registers will enable you to trace the name, number and location of the lodge that a man joined. It will also tell you when he joined, how long he was a member, and in many cases, details of his age, address and profession on joining. If a man joined more than one lodge, the numbers of these additional lodges will be recorded in the far right-hand margin of the page. If the number has a 'C' in front of it, this indicates the chapter to which he belonged. After completing the three Craft degrees, a member may also choose to join a Royal Arch chapter. Other series of membership registers include details for those who joined chapters.