Monday, May 28, 2012

Was your ancestor a Rechabite?

The Independent Order of Rechabites started out in the early 19th c as a Friendly Society promoting temperance i.e. abstinence from alcohol.

Friendly Societies had been set up in Britain as a form of relief association for working class people - offering help with funeral and medical expenses etc: a form of insurance. Meetings of these Societies, when members would attend to pay their dues, were generally held in local pubs. This began to be seen, especially by the Methodist Church, as a bad influence encouraging men to drink.

Therefore a new Friendly Society was formed: The Independent Order of Rechabites, taking its name from the biblical nomads, descendants of Rechab who abstained from alcohol. Because this nomadic tribe lived in tents, a branch of the Independent Order of Rechabites was known as a 'Tent'. Members had to take The Pledge - swear not to drink any alcoholic beverages.

So if you find a photo of your ancestor wearing an apron, sash and other accoutrements which could be mistaken for Masonic regalia, he may have been a Rechabite. And if the initials IOR appear on his gravestone he was without doubt a member of the Independent Order of Rechabites.

The Order flourished in South Africa as well as in other colonies.

Independent Order of Rechabites: members listed in
 the Natal Almanac & Yearly Directory 1898


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