University Archives & Special Collections in the Joseph P. Healey Library at UMass Boston acquired the historical organizational records of the Catholic Association of Foresters in 2012, thanks to the efforts of members of The Irish Ancestral Research Association (TIARA). TIARA rescued the records from consignment to the dumpster and served as able custodian of this collection from 2005 – 2011.
The following notes were provided courtesy of TIARA. Please visit TIARA’s website for a list of Foresters Courts and locations.
Who were the Foresters?
The Massachusetts Catholic Order of Foresters was founded in 1879 by a group of Irish immigrants 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. The Irish Ancestral Research Association (TIARA) rescued the archival Foresters records from consignment to the dumpster, and in 2011 transferred ownership of the Massachusetts Catholic Order of Foresters (MCOF) records to the University of Massachusetts Boston for the purpose of preserving and making available to researchers the records of the organization.
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.
How Do I Request a Copy of a Record?
Requests for mortuary records between 1880 and 1950 will be fulfilled by the University Archives & Special Collections staff at UMass Boston. To make a request:
- Search the Index 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, send us the following information from the index listing: the person’s Name, Date of Death and Death Claim Number from the Index.
- Send your request with your name, telephone number, postal address, email address and the relevant names, dates of death and claim numbers to firstname.lastname@example.org or to:
University Archives & 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 email address.
Questions may be sent to email@example.com.
All requests will be answered on a “first come, first served” basis as staff time permits. Turnaround is usually less than three weeks.
Please note: Although we can provide access to Foresters records through 1950, our online index currently only lists records through 1935. We are adding more recent records to that index, but if you would like to search for a record between 1936-1950, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will assist you with your search.