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Our ancestors worked hard, cared for their families, and joined organizations. The organizations may have been fraternal, historical, military, or perhaps genealogical. We do the same thing today.
Veterans often joined a military organization based on their service. The Civil War Union veterans joined the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) in the location where they lived after the war. By 1890, the GAR had about 400,000 members and the veterans can be traced in the GAR annual reports and death rolls. St. Louis had about eight GAR posts, with approximately four hundred posts elsewhere in Missouri.
Fraternal organizations, such as the Odd Fellows, Masons, and Elks, were popular. Records for many of these organizations are available today. The parent organization probably has a website to help you find the records in your area of interest.
Benevolent organizations were coming into their own at the turn of the century. One such St. Louis organization was the Beer Bottlers Benevolent Organization formed by beer bottlers at a local brewery. The men paid their dues, which included a death benefit for their heirs. The records show the member; spouse or children; date of membership; and date of death. These records are stored in a variety of locations, including with the original organization, an archival facility, or in a private home.
Social organizations often maintained and published membership lists. Missouri Historical Society has numerous lists among their holdings. They have a Masonic Lodge roster from 1867, a Union baseball club roster dating 1869, and member information from the Wabash Club from 1911 to 1941. Many of these organizations also produced a history, which explains the purpose and mission of the organization. As an example, there is a History of the Scottish Rite, Valley of St. Louis dated 1950.
Genealogical and historical organizations often provide information on the history of their areas. The St. Louis Genealogical Society website is a good example of the work of a genealogical society.
Burkham, James C. The Racquet Club of St. Louis 1906–1956, The First Fifty Years. St. Louis: privately printed, No date.
Carlson, Avis D. The League of Women Voters in St. Louis: The First Forty Years, 1919–1959. St. Louis: League of Women Voters of St. Louis, 1959.
Cherry Diamond, Missouri Athletic Club Book and Roster. St. Louis: Missouri Athletic Club, 1978.
Concannon, Marie. Grand Army of Republic of Missouri Division, Index to Death Rolls 1882–1940.
Columbia, Missouri: State Historical Society of Missouri, 1995.
Rexford, Oscar Whitelaw. The History of the University Club of St. Louis: 1872–1990. St. Louis: University Club of St. Louis, 1990.
St. Louis Genealogical Society · #4 Sunnen Drive, Suite 140 · St. Louis, MO 63143 · 314-647-8547