****See examples of records at the bottom of this page****
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Fraternal Societies are groups of people brought together either by common interests, or by a common ethnic background. In the case of Portuguese Fraternal Societies, they were designed to be a place where people could gather together and speak their native language and where they were also encouraged to practice and maintain their culture and traditions. These were sometimes known as Lodges.
Upon arriving in America, many Portuguese people would join a society where they could be among people from their native country. They spoke mostly Portuguese there, so speaking English was not the problem it was for them in much of the rest of their daily life. Also, they would find comfort in being around the culture they were used to, and support and encouragement from people who understood the problems that confronted them. In addition to this, Fraternal Societies offered insurance benefits to help provide for the family in case of a death.
My experience with Fraternal Societies is limited to those in California, so I can give you some information about those. The names of some of those Fraternal Societies in California are: União Portuguesa do Estado da California or The Portuguese Union of the State of California (U.P.E.C.) founded in 1880; Irmandade do Divono Espirito Santo (I.D.E.S.) founded in 1891; Sociedade do Espirito Santo (S.E.S.) founded in 1895; the União Portuguesa Protectora do Estado da California (U.P.P.E.C.) which is a mutual-aid society for women. In addition, there is a fraternal insurance organization for Madeirans, the A.P.U.M.E.C., 1275 A Street, Hayward, CA 94541-2925, phone (510) 582-9695.
Records were kept at these Fraternal Societies which can be very useful to a researcher. Most records are either Death Claim Registers or Membership Registers, but that can vary, depending on the group. Some of these records have been filmed by the Church of Latter Day Saints (Mormons) and are available at local Family History Centers (FHCs) for a small fee. If you are not familiar with FHCs, they are a wonderful research tool. Many Mormon Churches have a part of their facilities set aside for family research and these facilities are free and available to everyone. They typically contain computers that you can search the Family History Library Catalog for your areas of interest as well as the names of your ancestors that may have already been submitted by someone else. Also, you can send for microfilm and microfiche to view at the FHC for a small fee. Helpful volunteers staff these facilities. So, if you havent found your way to one yet, look under the Yellow Pages of your telephone book for Churches, then Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The U.P.E.C was founded in San Leandro on August 1, 1880 by founding members who were all Azorean, with the exception of one man from Coimbra, Portugal. Although it was founded to encourage Portuguese culture, anyone of any nationality could be admitted. As stated before, insurance benefits were part of the attraction in joining. Also, the peace of mind in knowing that when a member died, if there was no one to make funeral arrangements, the U.P.E.C. would see that there was a proper burial.
The records of the U.P.E.C. are some that have been filmed and are available at the FHC for viewing on microfilm. When you are at the FHC, search the Library Catalog on the computer under such heading as California Societies or something similar for another state you are researching. The Death Claim Registers include the name of the deceased, number in register, date of death, date admitted to the society, proof of death, policy value and beneficiaries, payments, and membership information. The Membership Registers include the date admitted to the society, name, age, marital status, occupation, current residence, place of origin (can sometimes be the village name as well as the island), name and residence of beneficiary, and often, notes of some kind.
There are many chapters of the U.P.E.C. and each one kept their own records. The chapter numbers and names, as well as the FHC microfilm number and film item that the records are on are listed in the following table. A word of caution, though, on using the table. Be aware that there are several chapters for some of the larger towns, such as San Leandro or Oakland. Be sure to check the entire list for your town. Also, be sure to look through the entire film, even after you find your council as there were sometimes more than one book found for some of the councils, each giving slightly different types of information because different forms were used. For instance, there are three different books for Council No. 5, each listing the same individuals, but with slightly different information given on each one.You may find an interesting tidbit on one of your ancestors in one book for your council that was not in the first book you found!
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The table below was compiled by Patty Milich and used with her permission.
Union Portuguesa do Estado California
Membership books noted) - a work in progress
Est. 1880 in San Leandro
|Film # 1577854||Film # 1578016||Film # 1578017|
|all||1937-1950||Death claim reg.||Item||Council||Location||Item||Council||Location|
|Film # 1577855||3||23||Fresno||1||52||Modesto|
|1-6||1949-1980||Death claim reg.||5-6||25||Oakland||2||54||Newark|
|6||1||San Leandro||7||26||Pinole||2||55||San Leandro|
|6||1||Oakland||8||27||San Pablo||2||56||E. Oakland|
|6||4||Sausalito||12||30||San Francisco/ Corte Real||4||53||Valona|
|6||3||Hayward||13||31||Santa Cruz||4||58||Newcastle/Folsom/ Roseville|
|7||5||Centerville/MSJ||14||32||San Jose||4||59||Guadalupe/Santa Maria|
|11||2||Centerville/MSJ||21||39||Salinas||9||65||Palo Alto, Mt. View|
|Film # 1577856||23||41||San Lorenzo||11||67||Warm Springs|
|Item||Council||Location||24||42||San Luis Obispo||12||68||Newman|
|1||1||San Leandro||25||43||Wilmington||13||69||Point Loma|
|2||6||Mendocino||25||44||Ventura/Oxnard||14||70||San Juan Bautista|
|6||10||Mission San Jose||27||48||Fairfield||18||74||Los Banos|
|7||25||Oakland (within #11 above)||28||48||Fairfield||20||76||Lincoln|
|14||17||Half Moon Bay||27||83||Oakley|
|15||18||Vallejo/Solano Co/ Benicia||28||84||S. San Francisco|
|19||22||Hanford||33||88||E. San Jose|
|34-35||89||San Luis Obispo|
|last update - 6/23/09||Compiled by Patty Milich firstname.lastname@example.org||37||93||Napa|
There is no Council No. 91 or 94 99, although they are listed as being included on film 1578017.
If you need to contact the U.P.E.C. directly, here is their address:
1120 E. 14th Street
San Leandro, CA 94577
Phone (510) 483-7676.
Many of our male ancestors joined one fraternal society or another. The records kept by most of these groups can be a wonderful resource for genealogists. They are readily available on microfilm and may point you in the right direction to begin your search, especially if you do not know the island your ancestor came from. You may even get lucky and find the village name listed as well! If your ancestor was not married, chances are very good that his beneficiary will be his mother. If he was married, it will be his wife, but the relationship will be indicated in the records, at any rate. If you are researching your ancestors, especially if you are just beginning your search, dont overlook this valuable resource!
This is image 1 of 2 for the membership record of my great grandfather, Joao Andrade Macedo. His is the last record at the bottom of this image. Although not easy to read, it tells the date he joined the UPEC, his name, age, marital status, occupation, current city of residence, and island where he came from.
This is another example, this one of another great grandfather of mine, Manuel Silveira Goularte. His record is at the bottom of the image. It gives the same information as the example above, but as an added bonus, it gives the village name as well as the island!
This is the second page of Manuel Silveira Goularte's record. It shows his wife, Filomena Pereira Goularte, as main beneficiary. After she died, her name was crossed out in the record and the names of his two children, Carolina (my grandmother) and her sister, Maria, and their ages, were added.