Faculty of Social Sciences
The Friendly Societies Research Group was established in March 1999. Since then we have enjoyed considerable achievement and growth. In our constitution, drawn up after the first meeting, we outlined our five aims.
We have members and contacts in four continents. This network has enabled us to put people interested in similar topics in touch with one another. People from Phoenix Arizona, Stevenage and Edinburgh interested in the Free Gardeners have been linked as have a number of people interested in the friendly societies of Norfolk.
Curators across the British Isle have kept us informed about that which they have in their collections and researchers have exchanged information.
In March 1999 we held our inaugural conference in Milton Keynes, courtesy of The Open University. Since then we have held conferences hosted by Simplyhealth in Hertford, the Rechabite Friendly Society in Manchester,Tunstall Assurance at Port Vale FC, Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent and the Library and Museum of Freemasonry, London. We have also held an international conference on ‘Mutuality, survival strategies and the friendly society’at The Open University.
The FSRG Newsletter has carried articles by the Chief Executive of Manor House Friendly Society and correspondence from the General Secretary of the Association of Friendly Societies, listed publications in the field over the course of the last decade, provided space in which researchers have described their current research and offered special discounts on books.
People have been able to learn of the Group through articles in Association of Friendly Societies Yearbook, (where the work of the group was said to be 'almost beyond price'), Family and Community History, Family History Monthly,Friendly Face, History Workshop Journal, Independent, La lettre de L'institut d'etudes et de recherches Maconnique, Open House, Oral History, Social History Curators Group Newsletter, Society for the Study of Labour History Newsletter, Society of Archivists Newsletter and UKCC Network. We have also received publicity through the Masonic Quatuor Coronati Lodge No 2076, in Roger Logan's book, 'An introduction to Friendly Society Records (Bury, 2000), October 2001.
We are ensuring that records are preserved on microfilm through a series produced by Microform. We have advised a number of friendly societies about their historic documentation and artifacts, assessed their records and recommended how they might be preserved.
A grant from the Open University enabled us to conduct a survey of records in the public domain. In co-operation with the Association of Friendly Societies, we arranged a pilot survey of friendly societies in order to establish the location and nature of records and then conducted a larger survey. A summary of the results appears in the FSRG Newsletter Issue 6 (PDF document).