Fraternal Societies

**** The Portuguese Fraternal Society of America, or PFSA,  is now the 'parent' company for all of the Portuguese Fraternal organizations. Their new address and contact info is:   1100 14th St. Suite E Modesto, CA. Phone number:  1-866-687-7372. PFSA website:

****See examples of records at the bottom of this page****


NEW!!! In 1898, a group of Portuguese women founded a society called "Sociedade Portuguesa Rainha Santa Isabel.”  It’s commonly referred to as the S.P.R.S.I. The membership book shared here by Susan Vargas Murphy is from S.P.R.S.I Council #84 started in 1910 in Warm Springs (now a part of Fremont, CA). The remaining members gave her the books for safe keeping before the council disbanded in recent years. As in the men’s organizations, they are valuable in giving relationships of their beneficiaries and sometimes death dates and places of residence. Susan donated the original book along with the books containing the minutes and the treasury accounts, and scrapbooks, club banner and regalia to the Museum of Local History located in the Mission San Jose area of Fremont in 2020. They should be available for viewing there via appointment. 


NEW!!! We are excited to post these records for the very first council of the IDES which started in 1889 in Mission San Jose, California. While most of the records are for men who lived in Washington Township, now Fremont, there are some members from other areas. Rose Zbyzenski, has kept and protected these two membership books for over 20 years and very generously allowed us to copy them. Their value, as with other fraternal books, are with the fact that they usually give island of origin and occasionally the village. The beneficiary column gives usually wife or parents names. These books are unique in that they are so early in time. You will notice that the list of names will repeat from time to time so be sure to check all of the pages as the entries may vary over the years, especially with their choice of beneficiaries. Another bonus is that dates of death are often noted. This project was a joint effort between Rose Zbyzenski, Susan Vargas Murphy, and Kathy Andrade Cardoza who hope very much that these books will unlock the doors to their ancestry for many researchers.

U.P.P.E.C. Death Records Database

The U.P.P.E.C. was a fraternal society founded in the late 1800s. The complete name is União Portuguesa Protectora do Estado da California. Like other fraternal societies, it was started to provide benefits upon a member’s death as well as social activities for its members and their families. View the U.P.P.E.C. Death Records Database


View and download the UPEC Membership Records that have been microfilmed

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 haven’t 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!

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
        1-2 22 Hanford   1 51 Antioch
Film # 1577855   3 23 Fresno   1 52 Modesto
Item Council Location   4 24 Stockton   1 53 Martinez
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 6 Mendocino   9 28 Santa Clara   2 57 Madera
6 8 Pleasanton   10-11 29 Merced Co.   3 50 Sonora
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
7 1 San Leandro   15 33 Danville   4 60 Morro/Cayucos
8 2 Hollister   16 34 Yreka   5-6 53 Crockett/Valona
8   Stockton   17 35 Pescadero   7 61 Decoto/Niles
8 2 Hollister   18 36 Freeport   7 62 Gilroy
9 3 Hayward   19 37 Monterey   7 63 East Oakland
10 1 Petaluma   20 38 Sebastopol   8 64 Chico
11 2 Centerville/MSJ   21 39 Salinas   9 65 Palo Alto, Mt. View
        22 40 Sacramento   10 66 Santa Maria
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
3 7 Oakland   26 45 Novato   15 71 Livermore
4 8 Pleasanton   26 46 Mt. View   16 72 Vacaville
5 9 Milpitas   27 47 Rio Vista   17 73 Vallejo
6 10 Mission San Jose   27 48 Fairfield   18 74 Los Banos
7 11 Sacramento   27 49 San Mateo   19 75 Turlock
7 25 Oakland (within #11 above)   28 48 Fairfield   20 76 Lincoln
7 11 Sacramento, cont.           21 77 Castroville
8-9 12 Castroville/ Watsonville           22 78 Atwater
10 13 West Oakland           23 79 Irvington
11 14 Sausalito           24 80 Fort Bragg
12 15 San Francisco           25 81 Felton
13 16 Alvarado           26 82 Oakland
14 17 Half Moon Bay           27 83 Oakley
15 18 Vallejo/Solano Co/ Benicia           28 84 S. San Francisco
16 19 San Rafael           29 85 Greenview/Etna
17 20 Concord           30-31 86 Rodeo
18 21 Selma           32 87 Elmhurst
19 22 Hanford           33 88 E. San Jose
                34-35 89 San Luis Obispo
c:\UPEC files-excel             36 92 Martinez
last update - 6/23/09     Compiled by Patty Milich   37 93 Napa
                38 8 Pleasanton

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, don’t overlook this valuable resource!

Examples of Records

In the interests of this page loading more quickly, I only put the images here as smaller versions (thumbnails). To see the full-size image, just click on its thumbnail below. It will open up in its own window. After you view the image and wish to return to this page, just click the back button or arrow in your Browser.

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 the second of the two images that shows the right side of the membership record book. It gives such information as the beneficiary of their insurance policy.

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.

© Kathy Andrade Cardoza 2022