The Irish Ancestral Research Association|
Who Were the Foresters?
In 1879, a group of Irish immigrants founded the Massachusetts Catholic Order of Foresters to provide life insurance benefits for its members. The organization grew from one small group in Boston to branches in cities and towns throughout the state. By 1893, the ninety-five Forester Courts spread throughout Massachusetts included several German Courts. Women were admitted to the Foresters in 1894. By 1930, there were 60,000 members of the Foresters in Massachusetts. There was also at least one Court in Rhode Island. The Massachusetts Catholic Order of Foresters was renamed the Catholic Association of Foresters in 1960. The Foresters still exists as a fraternal life insurance society. TIARA has been granted ownership of Massachusetts Catholic Order of Foresters (MCOF) records for the purpose of preserving the history of this organization and making it available to researchers.
What Do the Foresters Records Contain?
Each prospective Forester applying for coverage completed an application. The application included personal data, family information and a physical examination. Subsequent death benefit disbursements named beneficiaries. Any additional correspondence regarding beneficiaries was also included in the Foresters Mortuary Record. This material reveals a wealth of information about family structure, health, mortality, mobility, and occupations of predominantly Irish immigrants and their descendants who settled in Massachusetts.
Do You Have A Forester in Your Family?
Obituaries often provide clues about Forester membership. Look for the letters "MCOF" or the word "Foresters." However, be warned that there were several other "Foresters" organizations operating in Massachusetts and other states during the late 1800s and well into the 1900s. Some other organizations were the Ancient Order of Foresters, the Independent Order of Foresters, and the Irish National Foresters. TIARA only holds the records of the Massachusetts Catholic Order of Foresters.
Will We Be Able to Locate All Foresters Records?
The Foresters Mortuary Records are numbered consecutively in the order that the death claim was paid out. Volunteers have discovered a few gaps in the numbers indicating that some Mortuary Records are missing. There are also two other categories of applications that will not appear in our death claim indexes. These categories are "Suspensions" and "Cash Surrenders." Some members were suspended when they were unable to make payments on their policies. Other members turned in their policies for the cash value before a death claim was made. We do have many of the applications of these members but have not reconstructed an index to these categories of policies as yet.
What Are the Future Plans for the Foresters Project?
Foresters Project volunteers have completed an index of over 27,000 entries that identifies MCOF members who died between 1880 and 1935. See drop-down menu item "Foresters Members". Digitization of the Mortuary Records was completed in July of 2011. Digital images will be available on familysearch.org at a future date.
In August 2011, the MCOF record collection was moved to the University Archives and Special Collections at the Joseph P. Healey Library, University of Massachusetts, Boston, Massachusetts. Library staff will continue to respond to requests for copies of Mortuary records.
As of August 13, 2011, requests for mortuary records between 1880 and 1935 will be fulfilled by the University Archives and Special Collections staff at UMass Boston. To make a request:
How Can You Request a Record?
All requests will be answered on a "first come, first served" basis as staff time permits. Thank You!
- Search the Index pages for your relatives. Be sure to try all possible spellings. Many women are listed under both their maiden names and their married names.
- For each person you are researching, you must supply the name, date of death and claim number from the Index.
- Charges are $10 per request; checks should be made out to "Healey Library"
- Send your check, along with your name, telephone number, postal address, e-mail address (if applicable) and the relevant names, dates of death and claim numbers to this address:
University Archives and Special Collections
Joseph P. Healey Library
University of Massachusetts Boston
100 Morrissey Boulevard
Boston, MA 02125
Attention: Foresters Search
If you prefer to receive the records as electronic PDF (scanned) files, indicate that in your request and be sure to include your e-mail address.
- Questions may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
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