Rhode Island is a gold mine for genealogical research. Records date back to 1636, with most material located in two major repositories — the Rhode Island State Archives and the Rhode Island Historical Society.
Town governments maintained town meeting minutes, vital records, land transactions, and probate and tax valuations. Originals are located in town clerk’s offices, but researchers also can find vital records on microfilm, transcribed in print, or online. Civil registration occurred in 1853, but discrepancies exist between those kept by the town and those submitted to the state. Prior to total compliance, coverage is spotty in the rural parts of the state, but you can fill the gaps with other types of documents.
You’ll find a wealth of census material in print for the colonial period. Check out Rhode Island Freemen, 1747-1755: A Census of Registered Voters edited by Bruce C. MacGunnigle (Genealogical Publishing Co., 1977), and the other books listed in the Census Records section of this guie. State censuses were taken every 10 years from 1865 to 1935 and are available at the state archives. These can supplement US population and special schedules — except for the 1890 census, for which only the veterans schedule exists.
Volunteers for the Rhode Island Cemetery Transcription Project have created a database http://ricemeteries.tripod.com of all known stones. They’re looking for transcriptions and additional cemeteries.
The Rhode Island Historical Society http://www.rihs.org holds the largest manuscript, map, and photograph collections in the state. The library also contains unpublished manuscripts and all newspapers published in the state.
Church records are spread throughout the state in archives and churches. The records of the Episcopal Diocese are at the University of Rhode Island. The Rhode Island Historical Society has the New England Yearly Meeting collection of Quaker records. The manuscript department also contains church registers for miscellaneous denominations.
Rhode Islanders participated in every military conflict, with record coverage varying depending on the war. Original military records are at the Rhode Island State Archives and the Rhode Island Historical Society, as well as the National Archives. For the American Revolution, muster rolls, pay rosters and hospital records are available but not indexed. The State Archives Civil War materials include enlistment rosters. It also has records relating to colonial militia and the National Guard.
Court records — civil and criminal — are stored in the Judicial Records Center in Pawtucket. A guide to its holdings and the accessibility of those materials is online at http://www.judicial-records.state.ri.us.
- Atlas of the State of Rhode and Providence Plantations by Daniel G. Beers (Pomeroy & Beers, 1870)
- Census of the Inhabitants of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, 1774 compiled by John R. Bartlett (Genealogical Publishing Co., 1969)
- The Rhode Island 1777 Military Census by Mildred M. Chamberlain (Genealogical Publishing Co., 1985)
- Rhode Island 1782 Census edited by Jay Mack Holbrook (Holbrook Research Institute, 1979)
- Rhode Island Freemen, 1747-1755: A Census of Registered Voters edited by Bruce C. MacGunnigle (Genealogical Publishing Co., 1985)
- Immigrants to New England, 1700-1775 by Ethel Stanwood Bolton (The Essex Institute, 1931)
- Rhode Island Passenger Lists: Port of Providence 1798-1808: 1820-1872 and Port of Bristol and Warren 1820-1871 by Maureen A. Taylor (Genealogical Publishing Co., 1993)
- The Records of the Properties of the Narragansett, Otherwise Called the Fones Record by James N. Arnold (Narragansett Historical Publishing, 1894)
- Rhode Island Land Evidences, vol. I, 1648-96, compiled by Dorothy Worthington (Rhode Island Historical Society, 1921; Genealogical Publishing Co., 1970)
- Rhode Island Miscellaneous Records, ca. 1600-1900 (filmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah, 1992)
- Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Atlas of Historical County Boundaries by John H. Long (Simon & Schuster, 1994)
- A Gazetteer of the State of Connecticut and Rhode Island by John Chauncey Pease and John M. Niles (Heritage Books, 1991)
- A Geographic Dictionary of Connecticut and Rhode Island by Henry Gannett (1894; Genealogical Publishing Co., 1978)
- The Post Offices of Rhode Island by Johns S. Gallagher (The Depot, 1977)
- Rhode Island — A Guide to the Smallest State (Houghton Mifflin Co., 1937)
- Rhode Island Atlas by Marion I. Wright and Robert J. Sullivan (Rhode Island Publications Society, 1982)
- Rhode Island Boundaries, 1636-1936 by John H. Cady (State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, 1936)
- Rhode Island Postal History: The Post Office by Lawrence M. Merolla, et al. (Rhode Island Postal History Society, 1977)
- Civil and Military List of Rhode Island, 1647-1800, 3 vols., by Joseph J. Smith (Preston and Rounds, 1901)
- Rhode Island in the Colonial Wars: A List of Rhode Island Soldiers and Sailors in King George’s War, 1740-1748 by Howard Miller Chapin (Rhode Island Historical Society, 1920)
- Rhode Island in the Colonial Wars: A List of Rhode Island Soldiers and Sailors in the Old French and Indian Wars, 1755-1762 by Howard Miller Chapin (Rhode Island Historical Society, 1918)
- So Few the Brave: Rhode Island Continentals, 1775-1783 by Anthony Walker (Seafield, 1981)
- Spirit of ’76 in Rhode Island by Benjamin Cowell (A.J. Wright, 1850)
- Index of Wills, 1636-1850 by Nellie M.C. Beaman (Rhode Island Families Association, 1992)
- Index to the Probate Records of the Municipal Court of the City of Providence, Rhode Island: From 1646 to and Including the Year 1899 edited by Edward Field (Providence Press, 1902)
- Index to Wills in Rhode Island Genealogical Register, 4 vols., by Robert S. Wakefield (Plymouth Colony Research Group, 1982)
- The Providence Probate Records to 1775 With Index by Frank T. Calef (filmed by the Family History Library, 1950)
- Records of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations in New England, 10 vols., by John R. Bartlett (A.C. Green, 1856-1865)
- Records of the Vice-Admiralty Court of Rhode Island: 1716-1752 (Kraus Reprint, 1975)
- Rhode Island Court Records: Records of the Court of Trails of the Colony of Providence Plantations, 1647-1670, 2 vols. (Rhode Island Historical Society, 1920-1922)
- Rhode Island General Court of Trials, 1671-1704 (J.F. Fiske, 1998)
- Coventry R.I. Headstone Inscriptions by James N. Arnold (filmed by the Family History Library, 1950)
- Guide to the Public Vital Statistics Records (Births, Marriages, Deaths) in the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations from the Rhode Island Department of State (Historical Records Survey, 1941)
- Miscellaneous Vital Records, 1700-1850 From Records in James Arnold’s Family Notes (filmed by the Family History Library, 1992)
- New England Marriages Prior to 1700 by Clarence Almon Torrey (Genealogical Publishing Co., 1985)
- Rhode Island Burial Grounds by Nellie Brownell Potter (filmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah, 1950)
- Vital Records of Rhode Island, 1636-1850, 20 vols., by James N. Arnold (Narragansett Historical Publishing Co., 1891-1912)
- Vital Records of Rhode Island, New Series, 13 vols., compiled by Alden G. Beaman (Alden G. Beaman, 1975-87)