Mason

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Mason Surname Genealogy

The surname Mason derives from the occupation of stonemason (the word
itself coming from the Old Central French word macon or masson).
The trade was a skilled and highly regarded one in medieval
England.  A mason was generally recognized as someone who had
already served his time as an apprentice to a master craftsman.
Mason craft guilds may have been the origin of the freemasonry which
began in Scotland in the early 18th century, but there is no strong
evidence that this was the case.

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England.  The Mason name
started to appear in the 13th century and had
become quite widespread
by the 14th century,
although with many different spellings.  Mason came to
predominate.  But the Norman form of Machin persisted, notably in
Gloucestershire and later in Nottinghamshire.  Machins accounted
for 7% of the Masons in England by the time of the 1881 census.

There were some early
Masons in south and eastern England:  

  • a
    Mason family resided at Necton Hall near
    Swaffham in Norfolk from the late 15th to the early 20th century.  Captain Arthur Mason of this family died in
    tragic circumstances at Gallipoli in 1915.  
  • Sir
    John Mason, the Tudor diplomat, was the son of a cow-herd in
    Abingdon in Berkshire.  John Mason School
    in Abingdon was named after him.  
  • while
    Thomas
    Mason at this time was a yeoman farmer at Monkton in Kent.
    He bequeathed to his son William 100 pounds
    with the instructions that he should educate himself.
    He did so and became a lawyer and an MP in 1626.   

Generally,
however, Mason developed more as a
surname in the north of England.

Anthony
Mason was born at Dent in the Yorkshire Dales in 1620 and his
descendants
became prosperous landowners there in the 18th century.
From these roots came Miles Mason, the
forebear of the famous Mason family of potters in
Staffordshire.

Hugh Mason, one of the prominent early 19th
century Lancashire mill owners, was the son of a family that had moved
north
from Derbyshire.

Ireland.
Christopher Mason from Sion
in Middlesex arrived in Waterford in 1627 and settled there.  His grandson John was four times mayor of
Waterford between 1696 and 1712.  Another
line via Robert Mason came to Galway in the 1690’s.  Their home
was Masonbrook.  This line became
the Monck Masons
and they made their mark as writers.

Scotland.  The Sinclairs of Rosslyn
laid claim to be the hereditary Grand Master Masons of Scotland,
although Sir
James of that family did resign his position there in 1736.
Masons in
Scotland have sometimes been thought of as a sub-sect of the Sinclair
clan.

One
Mason family line has been traced back to 1750 in Troqueer parish in
Ayrshire.  The Masons of Moredon in
Edinburgh were granted a coat of arms in 1795.

America.  The first Mason with connections to America
was
undoubtedly Captain John Mason, even though he
never set foot in New Hampshire.  But from his land grants came the Mason claim
to the state. 

New England.
Another Captain John Mason did come to Massachusetts
in 1632.  He later settled in Windsor,
Connecticut
and served as Deputy Governor of Connecticut.
He was the forebear of a large number of Mason descendants in
America,
including Jeremiah Mason, the US Senator for New Hampshire, and John S.
Mason, a Union general during the Civil War.
There is a statue of him on the Palisado Green in Windsor.

Sampson Mason,
a Puritan caught up in the English Civil War in Lancashire made his
escape to
America in the late 1640’s and settled in Rehoboth,
Massachusetts.  He too
had many Mason descendants in America.

A notable 19th century Mason family in Massachusetts
included Lowell Mason, a leading figure in American church music, and
his sons
Henry and William and grandson Daniel, all involved in music in
different
capacities
.


Virginia.  George
Mason, a Royalist captain, fled
England after their defeat at Worcester and came to Virginia in 1652.  He was the progenitor of a powerful
landowning and political family in Virginia.
Their base was the family
plantation at Chopawamsic in Stafford county.

This line led to great grandson George Masonknown as “Father of
the Bill of Rights” and one of the “founding fathers of the United
States.”  His home was Gunston Hall in Virginia.
The Mason line then went via: 

  • his eldest son George who, however, died only
    three years after his father in 1795.   
  • his
    son John, the father of James Murray Mason, US Senator for Virginia
    from 1847
    to 1861 and a fervent supporter of the South during the Civil War.
  • and younger son Stevens, the US Senator for Virginia from 1794 to 1803.  Stevens’ two sons were also distinguished –
    Armistead as US Senator for Virginia (later killed in a duel) and John,
    an
    important figure in the early history of Texas.  John’s
    son Stevens, known as the “Boy Governor,” became
    Governor of
    Michigan in 1835 at the age of 23.  Mason county in Michigan
    was
    named after him

St. Helena.
Richard Mason arrived on the Atlantic island of
St. Helena sometime in the early 1700’s.
A later Richard Mason met Captain Cook when he visited the
island in
1775.  And William Mason was a British
officer guarding Napoleon at St. Helena after his defeat at Waterloo in
1815.  William then migrated back and
forth between St. Helena and South Africa before settling in Cape Town
in the
1850’s.  The main line of descent in South
Africa then was
via his eldest son Edwin.  A younger son
Richard died at sea in the 1860’s while en-route for Australia.

New Zealand.  George Mason from
Gloucestershire came on a
whaler to Kapiti island on North Island in 1837.
He married twice in New Zealand – first to Hemi Hamaka in 1842
and then to
Elizabeth Rix in 1854.  In total, there
were 21 children born to these two marriages.

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Mason Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for
further stories and accounts:



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Mason Names

Sir
John Mason
was a  prominent diplomat and councillor for
four Tudor monarchs in the 16th century.
George Mason through his
drafting of the Declaration of Independence is considered one of the
founding fathers of the United States.
Perry Mason was the fictional
lawyer in the TV series based on the books of Erle Stanley Gardner.
James Mason was a well-known
British actor of the 1940’s and 1950’s.
Jackie Mason, born Yacov Moshe
Maza, has been an American stand-up comedian for over forty years.


Select Masons Today

  • 74,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in London)
  • 60,000 in America (most numerous in Texas)
  • 45,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Canada)

 


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