As of Monday 23 November, the records of over two million practising Freemasons dating back to the 18th century have been uploaded to Ancestry.co.uk. Spanning 1751-1921, the larger of the two datasets names men that belonged to the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE), which still acts as the governing body for Freemasonry in England, Wales and several countries overseas. The second collection covers 1733-1923 and provides details of Freemasons belonging to masonic lodges across the 32 historic counties of Ireland, including those that were attached to British Army Regiments in the country.
The UGLE is the governing body for Freemasonry in England, Wales and some countries overseas. Each Masonic lodge anually returns to the Grand Lodge a list of its members which are used to compile the membership registers, described as Contribution Books, which are reproduced in this collection. While the majority of the registers available theough Ancestry 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.
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. It is worth noting that man was not confined to membership of one lodge and thus may appear on several registers. When he passed the three degrees and became a Master Mason, he could join as many lodges as he wished. The date that he joined a new lodge is recorded by his name in the register. The registers also record when membership ceased, 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.