20 October 2013

Curiosity is Allowed to Take Over

What's the deal with Fraternal Societies? 

One of my favorite areas of research lies in fraternal societies. These organizations played such an important role in the lives of our ancestors, and simply should not be overlooked in genealogy. Over the past few months, I have been focusing part of my self-education time to this venture, hoping to gain a much better understanding of these organizations, their role in society, how they affected the country as a whole, and what they really stood for. There is much to learn!

I have carried this goal into my social media, creating the Fraternal Organizations for Genealogists group on Facebook and the Fraternal Organizations for Genealogists community on G+. I follow several chapters and lodges on Twitter, and engage them when I can.

The sharing within these communities has been wonderful to see, and even just being more aware of the idea of the societies has taught me a thing or two. I've been able to identify more fraternal symbols on headstones, and realized that all of the elementary schools in my county have Masonic cornerstones. Perhaps I would have noticed this before, perhaps not. Either way, my eyes are wide open now.

As we quickly progress into winter (it's snowing as I write this post at my Colorado high country home...), I feel it is time, and it is necessary, to be more intentional with my self-education, as well as sharing what I discover with my genealogy friends and colleagues. With that in mind, I am planning a long term series of blog posts, all about fraternal societies and the various aspects of them. I plan on asking a lot of questions over the next few months, and doing my best to find and share the answers.

Let us begin! 

W.W. Brown
From personal collection of Jen Baldwin.
My first experience with fraternal societies was when I realized, several years ago, that my great grandfather, William Warner Brown (or W.W. as we like to call him), was an active member of the International Order of Odd Fellows (I.O.O.F.) in Orting, Pierce County, Washington. As a family, we knew this to be true. Getting confirmation and any any available records from the organization itself was a much more significant challenge. It took me six years, uncounted letters and phone calls, but I was finally able to get something out of them. It wasn't much, just a few copies of meeting notes that included the date and his name listed as "present."

It was, however, the beginning of a decade long curiosity. And the process taught me quite a bit when it came to researching these groups. There is always more to learn, though, and so I am taking the opportunity to let my curiosity take over... and I hope you will join in on the journey. If you have a genuine interest, feel free to ask to join the two communities listed above, we'd be happy to have you engage in the conversation. If not, that's ok, too. We can read, discuss, and engage right here.

It does make me wonder.... what organizations do you have a connection to? Leave a comment, and hopefully sometime in the near future, we can explore it together.

 (Selly sell : I wrote a Legacy QuickGuide on the subject. You can find it via my website.)

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