Genealogy Tips



enealogy (from Greek: γενεά genea, “generation”; and λόγος logos, “knowledge”), also known as family history, is the study of families and the tracing of their lineages and history. When genealogy is used with a masonic research project, it takes the skeleton facts and adds humanity to the subject.

Imagine it’s your first day on the job as the newly appointed Grand Historian for your Grand Lodge and your Grand Master summons you to his office and directs you to read the paragraph below out loud that gives excerpts on Reverend Moses Dickson. In your confusion and heightened nervousness, you comply and begin reading with your most polished diction and stately expression, then afterwards, while expecting to hear what a great job you did and how eloquently it sounded, the next directive make your knees bolt and your stomach churn as the Grand Master says ” Brother Historian, I want you to provide verification for every fact you just stated about Past Grand Master Rev. Moses Dickson.” The only sources you have been working with are the Grand Lodge’s proceedings, warrants and lodge’s rosters, so where does the Grand Master expect you to find any personal information?

The man pictured, was born free in Ohio in 1824 and was a Union soldier during the Civil War, and afterwards became a prominent clergyman in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. In 1846 he and others founded a society known as the Knights of Liberty, whose objective was to overthrow slavery. The group did not get beyond organizing stages. Dickson was also involved in Freemasonry and he created a fraternal organization known as International Order of Twelve Knights and Daughters of Tabor which accepted men and women on equal terms and functioned as an insurance company offering burial and disability policies to its members.

You rush back to your office and get on the internet to see what is available, but WAIT……. the internet does not provide sources! You think to yourself, doesn’t he know this is almost impossible, is he testing me? So many questions in your head and then the answer comes in an unexpected email, it’s the electronic copy of The Phylaxis Society Magazine and you find an interesting article on GENEALOGY and how it breathes life into masonic research. You lean back in your chair and chuckle to yourself on how proud the look will be on your Grand Master’s face as he reads your report on the life of one his favorite past Grand Masters.

Often our research of masonic icons is focused on the actions, accomplishments and contributions to freemasonry. Seldom is there need to humanize them with their family, religious, community and civic contributions. Rarely is there a need to correlate their vocation and educational training to their masonic office or other fraternal organizations with HIGH titles held. Surprisingly, if you make the time to include all the available information, the focus of the masonic icon can become clearer in the mannerism and strategies they used when dealing with moral issues affecting the craft and moreover, how they managed their power and successes over those who elected them or how poorly they followed those whom they were subordinate to. Some things uncovered have been parents dying early, being enslaved, limited educational resources available, traumatic experiences, etc.

There are numerous resources available to assist you in obtaining genealogical facts. In this article, one major source will be discussed and that is the U.S. Federal Census records. The census records give pertinent information such as place born, dates, occupation, education, marital status, property owned, etc. To the masonic researcher, it also provides a migration history that may explain why your subject was born in one state or jurisdiction and yet joined lodges in other states or regions.

One of my favorite freemason is Reverend Moses Dickson and I will use the “Genealogy Profile” I have created for him as our example. You will get re-acquainted with the “man, husband, father, son, brother and leader” he was as he developed his masonic resume.