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Registry of Friendly Societies Searches – An Ellis & Ellis Explainer

What is a Friendly Society?

Friendly Societies have been described as ‘mutual aid’ associations. At their outset, they were organised on a voluntary basis to ‘…protect members against debts incurred through illness, death, or old age’. Originating from deeper rooted burial societies and merchant guilds, many developed into insurance companies, trade unions, industrial and provident societies, and other groups that promote particular activities or interests.

Currently, the Registry of Friendly Societies provides oversight on the general regulation of the following three such classes of corporate bodies: –

  • Friendly societies 
  • Trade unions 
  • Industrial and provident societies  

It is against these registers that Registry of Friendly Society searches are conducted.


In 2014, for various reasons, the Irish state determine that this ‘…form of organisation had outlived its usefulness’ and introduced the Friendly Societies and Industrial and Provident Societies (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, which provided for ‘…the cessation of new friendly societies…’. However, under the forthcoming General Scheme of the Co-Operative Societies Bill 2022 it is anticipated that the bill will ensure a more effective legislative framework for those organisations using the co-operative model in Ireland and allow new bodies to be formed.

Why should the purchasing solicitor/conveyancer conduct a search against the Registry of Friendly Societies registers when investigating title in a property/right/interest purchase?

Not dissimilar to a company, all three corporate body formats have the right to acquire and own land and property. That is, under the Friendly Societies Act, 1896 Friendly Societieshave ‘…the legal right to own land and property in the name of their trustees and the ability to take out legal proceedings…’. Likewise, under the Industrial and Provident Societies Act 1893 such societies via its trustees can hold and dispose of lands and charges, while under the Trade Union Acts 1871-1990, all ‘real and personal estate … shall be vested in the trustees…’.

As such, a primary reason to conduct Registry of Friendly Societies searches against the above is to confirm whether the body still exists and has not ceased to trade. Secondly, the purchasing solicitor/ conveyancer should be determined whether the society’s members have issued any instruments of dissolution, orders for winding-up (either voluntary or involuntary) or if there are any transfer of engagements effecting the property/ right/ interest purchase. 

Fundamentally, does the corporate body (via its trustees/ members) own and control the assets for sale?

Note: The register does not retain details of any mortgages, charges or debentures, and societies are not obliged to provide this information to the Companies Registry Office (CRO). However, Ellis & Ellis do provide a search service where such financial records are recovered via enquiries with The Department of Agriculture.

What will the Ellis & Ellis Registry of Friendly Societies result show me?

Each register search will return a different set of results which have been detailed as follows: –

Register of Industrial and Provident Societies and Register of Friendly Societies 

A search against these registers will generally record the body’s name (previous names), number, address, entity type, date registered, last annual return year, and more important its current status.

Register of Trade Unions.

Searches reports on the Register of Trade Unions include such details as Registration Number, Registration Name, Type, Registration Dates, Next Annual Return Due Date, Address, and current status.

Note: Copies of Annual Returns for Trade Unions, Current Rules, Alteration of Rules, Partial Amendment of Rules, Cancelling of Certs of Registration by Registrar, etc or other such filed documents can be taken up upon request.

Choose a trusted Law Search provider.

Given the significant implications of conducting inadequate or erroneous Registry of Friendly Societies registers searches, it is imperative that purchasing solicitors/conveyancers use a trusted law search provider such as Ellis & Ellis.

With our blend of a quick and easy-to-use ordering platform at www.ellis.ie, over 130 years of professional know-how, and a quality after-sales experience, we provide clients with a superior searching service.

For added peace of mind, Ellis & Ellis provide Professional Indemnity Cover of €10 million.

Why not join the thousands of users who trust Ellis & Ellis to deliver them a competitive edge?

Did you find the above information to be of interest? Why not check out one of our other Ellis & Ellis explainers for some related searches below; – 

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