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Finding a Cousin and Fellow Noble

three shriners

From left to right: John Sullivan (Past Potentate Oasis Shriners), Gordon Brook (Rameses Shriners), and Philip Sullivan (John's son and fellow Oasis Shriner)


When researching your family history, there can be many surprises. Fortunately, for Oasis Past Potentate John Sullivan, his family’s genealogy yielded a pleasant surprise.

John had been researching the family tree for years, and in 2020, his wife gifted him a DNA kit. His research, and eventually that DNA kit, led him to a previously unknown branch of his family tree, and a serendipitous discovery.

In 1905, John’s grandmother, then in her 20s, and her parents and siblings left England for Montreal, Canada. Somehow, one of the siblings — a sister — became separated from the family and was never heard from again. With his grandmother’s death in 1960, knowledge of the sister was lost – until a message John posted to a genealogy message board caught the attention of Gordon Brook, member of Rameses Shriners in Canada. A few more messages, comparing of notes and phone calls later, they determined that there was a connection.

It took a little more digging to verify the exact relationship between the cousins, which was confirmed through a ship’s manifest that revealed the names of all four siblings on board, including Mary, Gordon’s mother, the long-lost sister.

Gordon and his daughter traveled from Ontario to North Carolina to meet John and his family. “Gordon and I told each other our life stories,” John said. “When I mentioned the Shrine he immediately told me that he, too, was proud to be a Shriner.” Imagine discovering a long-lost cousin and learning he’s also a Brother and fellow noble!

Gordon, now 81 years old, shared that he has been a Shriner for 50 years. Gordon was surprised and delighted at the fraternal connection. He said he only has one other relative who is a Freemason.

“I’ve been a proud Shriner for 50 years,” Gordon said. “I love the friendships, camaraderie and the great, great cause [Shriners Children’s]."

The Shriner legacy doesn’t stop with John and Gordon. John’s son, Philip, is also a Shriner and member of Oasis Shriners.

After that first visit, a trip to Canada followed, where John met more members of the family. It was an emotional visit for the two cousins. “We all stay in touch and promise that we will get together again,” John said.

We’re honored so many families choose to make Shriners membership a family tradition, and we’re happy to see John and Gordon connect and find not only a family bond, but a Masonic bond.