I’ve found lots of references to various ancestors being masons, but it never dawned on me that lodge the ancestor belonged to may have information on him. A distant cousin suggested this to me and it was like a new door opened.
I went back to my records for one particular ancestor—I had found him in google books and other places as being a member of a particular lodge. I was pleasantly surprised to find this lodge still exists and sent off an email. I heard back quickly, although the research took a bit of time. They weren’t able to produce a photo (which the may have for those higher up in the organization, depending on the time period and the lodge’s record keeping), but they were able to tell me the date he joined and the dates he achieved different ranks.
It doesn’t seem like a lot of information, but it does place this ancestor in a particular place at particular times, which is nice information to flesh out the experiences of someone’s life.