Explore this immense collection of over three million British trade union records from the Modern Records Centre, University of Warwick including digitised images of the original record books from 26 unions. Discover your ancestor in the thousands of admission books, annual reports and membership lists. By searching the records you may find whether your relative was married or single at registration, whether he/she applied for funeral benefit for a family member and if your ancestor transferred to a new branch, moving your family to a new town or country. Many trade unions included international branches from Ireland to Australia to Spain and Belgium. Included in the collection are 28,271 records from Australia and New Zealand.
Each record will include an image of the original document and a transcript for the individual. The amount of detail in each transcript can vary depending on the record type and what the union chose to record. Many will include a combination of the following:
Age at admission
Branch transferred to
Use the arrows to the left or the right of the image to read through the documents to find out even more about the trade union.
It is always valuable to view the image of the document. The images will often include more details about your ancestor and you can read more from the document and understand the context of the report.
There are a variety of record types available within this collection and each one will hold its own valuable information. Below we have included a list of the document types and what further information is available in the images. This list is not totally inclusive and there are more record types and further details to be found in these documents.
Quarterly Membership Returns
Amount each member contributed to the union
Amount in arrears
Amount of out of work benefit paid to members
Amount of sick benefit paid to members
Amount paid for superannuation (retirement)
Additional remarks or notes
Number of years at trade
Marital status when admitted
Nomination for Funeral Benefit, name and address
Date of receiving wife’s Funeral Benefit
Date superannuated (retired)
Cause of exclusion
Lists of members transferred during the year
Marital status when admitted
Ordinary, trade or junior section
If member received Funeral Benefit on the death of his wife and date paid.
Nomination for Funeral Benefit
Cause of exclusion
Members excluded – amount of arrears, date excluded and cause.
Transfers from junior section to adult section
Obituary including registration number, death date, age, cause of death. The obituaries also include the names of wives of members.
Half Year Report
Recent members admitted
Members who received sick benefit
Expenditures – president, treasurer, secretary salaries, room rent, postage, etc.
Branch income – contributions, fines, levies, etc.
Full list of members in all branches
Obituary lists of members and wives
Lists of new members
Recipients of unemployed and sick benefits
Recipients of travelling benefits
Directory of secretaries
List of excluded members
Lists of members transferring between branches
Lists of superannuated members
Lists of employers by town
Lists of candidates for election to General Council
Through this collection you can discover your ancestor’s trade union records. It was vital for trade unions to keep accurate records of all their members and proceedings. The documents include details about individual members such as payments made, benefits received, name of spouse, etc. Some of the unions published profiles about their members or those who held offices. Further you can follow your ancestor’s progress within the union through his/her membership details. Many unions kept detailed records for when a member joined, paid their subscription, applied for funeral benefits or superannuation (retirement). The documents also include details about the trade unions such as directories of secretaries, meeting dates and times and items of trade union business.
Trade unions have played a prominent role in British society for centuries and even more so since the development of modern capitalism. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century Britain, trade unions grew, especially since the repeal of the Combination Acts in 1824. The Acts had made it illegal for workers to join together to demand better wages or working conditions. Since the repeal the unions expanded their memberships and won political and legal recognition. Trade unions were a way to create a united front for workers to improve their harsh working conditions and established a voice for many of those who were disenfranchised. In the years leading up to the First World War Britain saw a rise in trade union activity and large scale demonstrations and strikes. Women began to organise themselves into trade unions and associations and many pushed for the unions to support the fight for women’s suffrage. However, once the war broke out strikes were made illegal, and activity and the militancy of the unions declined as many joined the war effort.
After the First World War ideals of Socialism and Communism spread in the trade unions especially after the Russian revolution. Post war Britain began to feel the effects of the depression and trade unions continued their fight for wages and better working conditions by holding strikes and demonstrations. In May 1926 there was a general strike which lasted for ten days. During the Second World War the country was again part of a total war effort and the vital role of the workers was recognised through joint production committees and representative bodies. Activism in trade unions has continued through the twentieth century until today.
United Society of Boilermakers & Iron Shipbuilders, 1871-1947
The United Society of Boilermakers and Iron Shipbuilders was formed by the amalgamation of several smaller unions in 1852. It was renamed the United Society of Boilermakers and Iron and Steel Shipbuilders in 1941 and the United Society of Boilermakers, Shipbuilders and Structural Workers in 1953. After a series of amalgamations and name changes, it finally became the General, Municipal, Boilermakers and Allied Trades Union (GMB) in 1982.
There appear to be two separate series of registration books: MSS.192/BM/2/1/1-2 (the other volumes in the series are missing) may have been originally compiled in 1873-1881; MSS.192/BM/2/2/1-22 and MSS.192/BM/2/1/3 were probably compiled from c.1911 and include all current members (including those in MSS.192/BM/2/1/1-2 who were still members) as well as new members joining after the series began. Note that this union reused membership numbers - as members died or left their numbers were assigned to new members.
Carpenters & joiners 1886-1931
General Union of Carpenters & Joiners, 1886-1920
The General Union of Carpenters and Joiners was formed in 1827 by the amalgamation of several small trade clubs. It had branches throughout the British Isles. In 1921, it merged with the Amalgamated Society of Carpenters, Joiners and Cabinetmakers to form the Amalgamated Society of Woodworkers.
The quarterly membership returns (1886-1920) list every member by lodge (branch).
Amalgamated Society of Carpenters & Joiners, 1886-1920
The Amalgamated Society of Carpenters and Joiners was formed in 1860 by the amalgamation of several small London trade clubs. It merged with the Amalgamated Union of Cabinet Makers in 1918 to form the Amalgamated Society of Carpenters, Cabinetmakers and Joiners. As well as branches throughout the British Isles, it also had many branches in the United States, Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Southern Rhodesia. In 1921, it merged with the General Union of Carpenters and Joiners merged to form the Amalgamated Society of Woodworkers.
The admissions books (1895-1920) are organised by branch and list new members of the union joining the branch and existing members transferring away from the branch to other branches. The registration books were compiled every ten years (1901, 1911 and 1921) and list every current member by current branch. The reference books were also compiled every ten years and list members who have transferred from one branch to another in the last decade.
Amalgamated Society of Carpenters, Cabinetmakers & Joiners, 1918-1921
Formed in 1918 when ‘Cabinet Makers’ merged with the Amalgamated Society of Carpenter and Joiners. Amalgamated Union of Cabinet Makers, renamed from the Friendly Society of Operative Cabinet and Chair Makers, Carvers and Wood Turners of Great Britain and Ireland, created in 1833, renamed in 1885
Amalgamated Society of Woodworkers, 1921-1931
In 1921, the Amalgamated Society of Carpenters, Joiners and Cabinetmakers and the General Union of Carpenters and Joiners merged to form the Amalgamated Society of Woodworkers (ASW). From 1925, the overseas branches of the former Amalgamated Society of Carpenters, Joiners and Cabinetmakers seem to have no longer been affiliated to the British union and cease to be listed in the membership registers. The union was one of those which amalgamated in 1971 to form the Union of Construction, Allied Trades and Technicians (UCATT).
The ASW maintained a series of admissions books (1921-1930) identical to those of the Amalgamated Society of Carpenters and Joiners, listing new members of the union joining the branch and members transferring away from the branch to other branches.
Amalgamated Society of Lithographic Artists, Designers, Engravers & Process Workers, 1885-1919
The National Society of Lithographic Artists, Designers and Writers, Copperplate and Wood Engravers was founded in 1885 and renamed the Amalgamated Society of Lithographic Artists, Designers and Writers, Copperplate and Wood Engravers in 1887 and the Amalgamated Society of Lithographic Artists, Designers, Engravers and Process Workers in 1903. Renamed the Society of Lithographic Artists, Designers, Engravers and Process Workers (SLADE) in 1922, it existed under this name until it amalgamated with the National Graphical Association in 1982.
The general register lists every new member from 1885 to 1919.
Amalgamated Society of Lithographic Printers, 1880-1932
The Amalgamated Society of Lithographic Printers was formed in 1880. It existed under the same name until it merged with the National Graphical Association in 1969.
The half-yearly and quarterly reports (1880-1930) list every current member by branch. They also list new members, deceased members and members' wives, recipients of unemployed and sick benefits, members transferring between branches, excluded members, recipients of travelling benefit (1880-1918 only) and superannuated members (1890-1930 only). The wartime registers also list members on active service, killed and decorated for gallantry.
Railway workers 1872-1928
Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants, 1872-1913
The Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants (ASRS) was formed in 1872 and became the principal union for blue-collar railway employees throughout the United Kingdom (white-collar workers belonging to the Railway Clerks' Association, later the Transport Salaried Staffs' Association). It absorbed the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants for Scotland in 1892. National Union of Railwaymen, 1913-1928
In March 1913, it amalgamated with the much smaller United Pointsmen’s and Signalmen’s Society (UPSS) and General Railway Workers’ Union (GRWU) to form the National Union of Railwaymen (NUR). Only the Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen (ASLEF) remained aloof from this merger, and continues to do so, although many drivers and firemen actually belonged to the ASRS/NUR instead. The NUR amalgamated with the National Union of Seamen in 1990 to form the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT).
In 1897, the ASRS began a new series of membership registers, which was continued by the NUR. The first three list all existing members, and subsequent registers (January 1897-August 1919, October 1924-March 1928) list new members. All members of the UPSS and GRWU transferring to the new union are listed in 1913. There is a large gap in the series between 1919 and 1924, as these registers (and those from March 1928 onwards) were not accepted for deposit by the MRC due to space restrictions.
Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company, 1872-1928
In July 1847 the Manchester & Leeds Railway absorbed a number of earlier local railways and then took on the title Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway.
Operative Bricklayers' Society, 1914-1920
The Society was created in the later 1820s or early 1830s. During the 1840s the organisation split into the London Order of Operative Bricklayers’ Society and the Manchester Unity of Operative Bricklayers’ Society. The two reunited in 1921 when they merged with another society and became the Amalgamated Union of Building Trade Workers.
Calico printers 1914-1918
Union of Engravers to Calico Printers & Paper Stainers, 1914-1918
The union originated from Manchester in 1889. Then in 1909 it merged with a Scottish union and created the Amalgamated Union. Then in 1920 it changed its name to the United Society of Engravers of Great Britain and Ireland. Finally, in 1973, the union merged with the Society of Lithographic Artists, Designers, Engravers and Process Workers.
London Society of Compositors, 1915-1919
The London General Trade Society of Compositors was established in 1826 and adopted the name London Society of Compositors in 1848. In March 1955 it formed the London Typographical Society after it merged with the Printing Machine Managers' Trade Society.
Correctors of the press 1907-1920
Association of Correctors of the Press
The association was created in 1854. It served the correctors of the press (newspaper proofreaders). In 1965 it merged with the National Graphical Association.
General workers 1913-1920
Workers' Union, 1913-1920
The union was founded in 1898 and in 1919 it joined the National Amalgamated Workers’ Union, but it dissolved by 1922.
Insurance workers 1915-1919
Liverpool Victoria Employees' Union, 1915-1919
The Liverpool Victoria Employees' Union was formed in or before 1910 to promote the interests of employees of the Liverpool Victoria Legal Friendly Society. The society was founded in 1843 initially as a burial society and then expanded into savings and insurance. In 1965 it became a part of the National Union of Insurance Workers Liverpool Victoria Section.
Local government officers 1916-1920
National Association of Local Government Officers, 1916-1920
The association formed in 1914 representing local government workers.
Paper makers 1914-1918
Amalgamated Society of Paper Makers, 1914-1918
The society was formed in 1894. During World War One the society established a close relationship with the National Union of Printing and Paper Workers. Then in 1937 the two merged.
National Society of Operative Printers & Assistants, 1914-1915
The society was formed in 1889 as the National Society of Operative Printers, Graphical and Media Personnel. In 1904 the society renamed itself the National Society of Operative Printer’ Assistants. Then in 1912 it changed again to the National Society of Operative Printers and Assistants (NATSOPA). Over the decades the society continued to grow and amalgamate with other groups.
National Union of Printing & Paper Workers, 1914-1919
The union was created in 1914. It was a merging of the National Amalgamated Society of Printers’ Warehousemen and Cutters and the National Union of Paper Mill Workers. Then in 1921 it merged again with the National Union of Bookbinders and Machine Rulers to become the National Union of Printing, Bookbinding, Machine Ruling and Paper Workers.
Printing Machine Managers' Trade Society, 1913-1919
The society was established in 1839 for those who operated the presses in London’s printing works. In 1955 in merged with a compositors association and became the London Typographical Society.
Northern Association of Publishers' Educational Representatives, 1914-1919
In 1906 this Northern association was formed after it had split away from the Association of Publishers’ Educational Representatives. The two groups re-joined in 1945, but the association ended in 1998.
Incorporated Association of Assistant Masters in Secondary School, 1919
The association was establish in 1891 with the name the Assistant Masters’ Association, it added ‘Incorporated’ to its title in 1901, but was still known by its original name. In 1978 it merged with the Assistant Mistresses to become the Assistant Masters’ and Mistresses’ Association then later in 1993 it became the Association of Teachers and Lecturers.
National Union of Teachers, 1914-1920
In June 1870 the National Union of Elementary Teachers was formed in London. They changed the name to the National Union of Teachers in 1889 because of the term ‘elementary’ was thought to be demeaning. The union is still the largest body representing teachers in England and Wales.
Typographical Association, 1915-1919
The Provincial Typographical Association was created in 1849. It dropped ‘Provincial’ from its title in 1877. In 1963 it merged with the London Typographical Society (see above) to form the National Graphical Association.
Watermen & lightermen 1916
Amalgamated Society of Watermen, Lightermen & Bargemen, 1916
The Amalgamated Society of Watermen and Lightermen of the River Thames was established in 1872. In 1901 it changed its name to the Amalgamated Society of Watermen, Lightermen and Watchmen of the River Thames. In 1912 the name was changed to the Amalgamated Society of Watermen, Lightermen and Bargemen. On 1 January 1922 it merged with thirteen other unions to form the Transport and General Workers' Union.
Isle of Man
U S A
This collection has been made available through Findmypast’s partnership with the University of Warwick’s Modern Records Centre.
The Modern Records Centre
The Modern Records Centre was established at the University of Warwick in 1973 with the objective of collecting primary sources for British social, political and economic history, especially in the fields of industrial relations, labour history and industrial politics. It now holds a large collection of material in these fields, including the archives of many trades unions and professional associations and employers' and trade associations, as well as extensive collections relating to pressure and campaigning groups, radical politics and the history of cycling and the motor industry.