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Friendly & Fraternal Society Records

Nature of Source

Membership records of non-political mutual societies established to assist members financially in time of illness, old age and hardship. They were funded and governed by their members and included friendly societies, building societies, loan societies, trade unions and industrial and provident societies.

By law society rulebooks had to be submitted to the Registrar and these are held by The National Archives. Earlier rulebooks were submitted to the Quarter Sessions. The annual reports produced by the Registrar from 1852 are found in the Parliamentary Papers. From the late 17th century many societies operated purely along fraternal social lines and as charitable institutions such as Freemasons and the Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes. Also consider looking for the women and juvenile branches of a friendly society. The name of the organisation did not necessarily indicate the occupation of its members.

See also
Business & Company Records
Freemason Records
Trade Union Records

Where Found

The National Archives (Series FS, Records of the Registry of Friendly Societies, relating to the regulation of friendly societies, building societies, loan societies, trade unions, and industrial and provident societies)
County Record Offices (Rulebooks submitted to the Quarter Sessions and surviving society records including minute books, accounts, rulebooks, registers and press cuttings)
British Library (Various records and ephemera)
Friendly Society Archives (Directories can be found here and here)
British Library Newspaper Collections (House journals)
Parliamentary Archives (Annual reports including statistics membership, income and national listings of friendly societies)
National Records of Scotland (Records of the Assistant Registrar of Friendly Societies for Scotland. The National Records of Scotland was created on 1 April 2011 by the amalgamation of the National Archives of Scotland [NAS] and General Register Office for Scotland [GROS])
The John Goodchild Collection (Includes material relating to friendly and fraternal societies)

Period Covered

1800 - Onwards

Genealogical Value

Name, occupation, place of birth, address, age, meeting places, date of death

Further References

Logan, Roger. An Introduction to Friendly Society Records: Federation of Family History Societies, 2000

Cordery, Simon. British Friendly Societies, 1750-1914: Palgrave, 2003

Gosden, P H J H. The Friendly Societies in England, 1815-1875: Manchester University Press, 1961

Dennis, Victoria Solt. Discovering Friendly and Fraternal Societies: : Their Badges and Regalia: Shire Publications, 2005

Websites (Friendly Societies Research Group. Archive website of the research group based at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at the Open University) (History and directory of Friendly Societies) (FSA Mutuals Public Register) (NAS Research Guide: Crafts and trades records) (Association of Financial Mutuals, incorporating the Association of Mutual Insurers and the Association of Friendly Societies) (What is a mutual?) (Tracing a society or mutual insurer including lists of current and former friendly societies) (The National Archives Podcast: Charities and their Records for Family Historians) (Ancient Order of Druids)

Online Databases

For the partial whereabouts of the records consult the following Online Catalogues:

Access to Archives (A2A)
National Register of Archives (NRA)
The National Archives catalogue
British Library catalogue
National Archives of Scotland catalogue

CD Roms

S & N Genealogy Supplies (Foresters' Directory)
Stepping Stones (The Foresters' Directory 1916)