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Was my ancestor a Freemason? Help needed.

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Was my ancestor a Freemason? Help needed.

Postby JaneyH » Sun Sep 01, 2019 8:43 pm

My ancestor William James (Bill) Denniss (1864-1928) lived nearly all of his life in Hitchin, Hertfordshire.

I have his life comprehensively documented through all the the Censuses, his two marriages and the births of his children. His father Charles Denniss (1826-1903) was a painter and decorator for much of his life, and Bill followed the family trade. Bill first married Mary Ann Triphook and they had three children: Catherine, Frederic and Marguerite. His wife Mary Ann died in 1901 and he later married a widow in 1903, Pamela Larkins (nee Brown). Together they had three children: Leslie, Madelaine and Barbara. Pamela also had two children from her first marriage, Evelyn and William Larkins (the latter of whom died as a young child).

Bill's business diversified from painting and decorating into plumbing, and - through his second wife Pamela - buying and selling a few properties as well. What I'm struggling with is to find any evidence to back up the family story that Bill was a Freemason. I've looked at the records on Ancestry but have been unable to establish any links. If anyone could help with this I'd be most grateful!

Any pointers would be gratefully received!
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Re: Was my ancestor a Freemason? Help needed.

Postby Artognou » Sun Sep 01, 2019 9:06 pm

Hi Janey,

There should be records for your ancestor on ancestry, regarding membership of the Freemasons, he is of the age where this information would now be available.
They are usually found at lodges fairly local to where they are at the time, my great grandfather was employed by the Royal Navy and was actually in the East Indies at the time one of his records shows.
The dates, etc, are usually narrowed down fairly accurately and should you find anything, there shouldn't be any problems with any information provided within the record(s).

My mother's paternal grandfather was a Freemason, as was his father and then his father-in-law (these were very surprising to us, as nobody within the family had a clue!) and then there was my father's maternal grandfather, who was from Ayrshire, was also one himself and we knew about him.

It could be worth applying for information directly from the website, just to see whether or not they might be able to find any information.

Both the English and Scottish masons are incredibly helpful when it comes to information, you will have to pay a fee, but it is worthwhile and they should be able to provide you with extra information, although I'm not sure just how much.
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Re: Was my ancestor a Freemason? Help needed.

Postby peter kent » Mon Sep 02, 2019 1:50 pm

Something you might like to think about...

I recall a case where someone was thought to have been a Freemason but on digging deeper it transpired that he was actually a member of a friendly society. Friendly Societies adopted some of the paraphernalia of masonry.
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Re: Was my ancestor a Freemason? Help needed.

Postby JaneyH » Mon Sep 02, 2019 2:21 pm

Thanks for that replies. I’ll redo my searching on Ancestry just to check I haven’t missed anything, then possibly contact the Freemasons directly.

Peter: the Friendly Society point did occur to me when my mason search was unsuccessful. I’ll do a newspaper search to establish which societies existed in the Hitchin area at this time and go from there.

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