Thursday, February 28, 2013

F is for Farmers and Fraternal Organizations - Family History Through the Alphabet

If my father had stayed put on the farm, I might have grown up a farm girl.  (I think I would have loved it!)  For a possible multitude of reasons, he moved from farm to small town and my future was forever changed.  But I have farmer ancestors as far back as I've been able to trace.  Some of them include
  • my father, Lee Doyle.  He lived on a farm from his birth in 1913 until the death of his father in 1933.
  • Gust Doyle, my paternal grandfather.  He worked a dairy farm until his death in 1933.
  • William Doyle, Gust's father, who was a farmer from his youth until near the time of his death.  Though he turned over the ownership of the farm to his son, he continued to work there regularly.
  • Fred Gerner, my father's grandfather, who owned several farms in succession. 
  • Dixon Bartley, my father's maternal great-grandfather.  He was a farmer in Butler County, Pennsylvania.
  • Thomas Smith, another Butler County, Pennsylvania, farmer ancestors.
  • Jacob Saylor of Mercer County, Ohio.
  • William Bickerstaff, one of maternal great-grandfathers, who was a farmer in Jefferson County, Ohio, during the 1800s.
  • Jacob Bell of Jefferson County, Ohio.
Farming in our family skipped a generation.  My daughter is now a farmer's wife.

If your ancestors farmed between 1850 and 1880, you may be able to learn more about them on agricultural censuses.

Fraternal Organizations
Do you have ancestors who were members of fraternal organizations?  Perhaps a Mason, a Rebekah, or an Odd Fellow?  Some fraternal organizations are commonly recognized by their acronyms; others we have to search to find what those letters mean.  I have ancestors who were members of the International Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF); Rebekahs, sister organization to the Odd Fellows; the Masons; Eastern Star, sister organization to the Masons; Loyal Order of Moose (LOOM); and Knights of the Golden Eagle (KGE).

I've been interested to learn more about these organizations because they help me put my ancestors in the society around them.  I also understand that it may be possible to obtain some genealogical information, especially for immigrant ancestors, from some of these organizations.  It may depend on the willingness of the individual with stewardship over the records.  (I've been unsuccessful in getting a response to my request for IOOF records.)  If you choose to search, you'll need to find the locality where your ancestor became a member and/or the headquarters of the organization.

Cyndi Howell of Cyndi's List wrote a blog post, The Age of Fraternal Organizations, in which she shared information about the purposes of fraternal organizations and ways to find more information.

If you'd like to learn a little more about the Masons, Diane Hewson wrote an excellent article, Friday's Family History Through the Alphabet Challenge - F for Freemasony, on her blog, Family Stories: Photographs and Memories.

Lastly, if you haven't a clue what those initials mean in that old newspaper article or obituary, they may refer to a fraternal organization.  Check Genealogy Research: Complete List of Fraternal Organizations: A-L or Genealogy Research: Complete List of Fraternal Organizations: M-Z.  I don't know if the list is really complete but since there are several hundred entries, there's a good possibility you might find what you're looking for.

This post is a contribution to the Family History Through the Alphabet challenge.  Go to the link and you can see other submissions for this meme.  Alona Tester of  Genealogy and History News is the creator and keeper of this meme.  Thank you, Alona! 

Thanks for stopping by.


  1. Great post, and who knew there were so many fraternal organisations?

    1. Thanks, Alona. I didn't realize there were so many. A LOT!

  2. That's a LOT of farmers. Nancy, now your daughter's a farmer's wife :-) ... fascinating. Enjoyed your post, thanks... Catherine.

    1. Hi, Catherine. I hadn't thought of it being a lot but yes, I guess I do have a lot of farmer ancestors. I guess I thought the proportion of farmers to non-farmers was greater a century or more ago. Thanks for visiting and commenting.

  3. Thank you very much, I have found this extremely useful!
    Freemasonry Fraternity


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