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Research: U.S. Fraternal Organizations
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Researching your ancestor’s involvement in fraternal organizations can be a very rewarding aspect of genealogy. You may learn a great deal about the individual, or you may learn a great deal about the community they resided in, or both. The research can lead you through a variety of different elements of their life, and add color to the basic timeline of an individual’s life span. During this course, we will discuss a variety of topics including the basics of this type of research, the social impacts of these organizations, and the hazards you may encounter along the way.

Their impact on the history of the United States, and truly across the globe, cannot be overlooked. The impact fraternal organizations have had on their individual members—our ancestors—must also not be overlooked in a thorough investigation of a family history.

Course Content

Module 1
Fraternal Organizations  
• Aren’t they all just Masons?
• How many organizations are there?
• How many people were really involved?
A Part of Your Genealogy Research
• How can this benefit your genealogy?
• Was my ancestor a member?
• Ethnic & Cultural Diversity
• What makes each group unique?
• Possible Records
Important Terminology 
Basic Historic Timelines 
• The Core of the Organization
Basic History of Fraternal Societies 
Politics & Fraternal Societies 
Dispelling Common Myths 
Recommended Reading & Resources 

Module 2
Types Of Organizations  
Society Style Differences
General Organization & Structure
• How do these organizations work?
Benevolent Organizations 
Secret Organizations 
Ethnic Organizations 
Women’s Organizations 
Recommended Reading & Resources 

Module 3
Types Of Organizations…Continued 
• Anti-Catholic
Work & Industry 
• Guilds
• Craft Guilds
• Occupation Specific Fraternal/Benevolent Societies
• Pre-Cursor to Life Insurance
• Others
• Symbols in Fraternal Societies

Module 4
Lineage Societies  
What Makes Lineage Societies Different?
Specific Resources 
• Resources about lineage societies
• Resources made available by lineage societies
• Daughters of the American Revolution
• Pre-Cursor to Life Insurance
Civil War Organizations
Surname Societies 

Module 5
Research Planning 
Clues to Fraternal Affiliation
Preparing for a Long Process
Putting the Clues Together 
Identifying Resources 
Ongoing Education 

Module 6
Research Resources  
Headstone Symbols
Local Archives 
Manuscript Collections 
Court Records 
Current Members 
Historic Research Field 
• Online Resources
• Online Directories
• Historical References
• Fraternal Websites & Materials
Family Heirlooms 
Regalia, Medallions, Aprons & Other Adornments 
• Aprons
Recommended Reading & Resources 

Module 7
Research Execution  
The Fraternal Society Today
Knowing When to Pull Back 
Controversial Organizations
• Ku Klux Klan
• The Mafia
Open & Receptive – The Attitude of the Genealogist 
Recommended Reading & Resources 

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