An unusual source for genealogical records are memberships and other records of lodges and secret societies.  During the 19th and early 20th century, these organizations were quite popular.

Do not let “secret” mislead you. Lodges and other exclusive groups have always tried to keep secret their initiation rites, their membership (at times) and their rituals. Other that, they are no more secretive than the Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts. It was always an open secret as to who was a member of the various lodges, as they usually gathered in bodies for such events, as parades, funerals, and other public functions.

The following addresses are for possible help in finding the records of your appropriate local chapter in which your ancestor belonged:

Fraternal Order of the Eagles (FOE)
2401 West Wisconsin Ave.
Milwaukee, WI 53233 (organized in 1898)

Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks (BPOE)
2750 Lake View Dr.
Chicago, IL 60614 (founded in 1868)

Knights of Columbus (KofC)
Columbus Plaza (founded in 1882)
New Haven, CT 06507 (for Catholic men over 18)

Supreme Lodge, Knights of Pythias
Room 201, Pythias Building
47 North Grant St.
Stockton, CA 95202 (founded in 1864)

Lexington, MA 02173 (founded in 1813)

Loyal Order of Moose
Mooseheart, IL 60539 (founded in 1888)

Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF)
Sovereign Grand Lodge IOOF
16 West Chase St.
Baltimore, MD 21201 (founded in 1819)

Improved Order of Red Men
Box 683
Waco, TX 76703

Imperial Council of the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine for North America “Shriners”
2900 Rocky Point Dr.
Tampa. FL 33607 (founded in 1872)

Patriotic Order, Sons of America (POSofA)
P.0. Box 1847
Valley Forge, PA 19481 (founded in 1847)

The above men’s lodges all have auxiliary groups and they too have their headquarters, membership lists, rituals and meeting places, etc.