Rhode Island Research
By Marie E. Daly
By Marie E. Daly
Although Rhode Island is the smallest state in the U.S., it holds a vast treasure trove of genealogical source material. Its four original towns—Newport, Portsmouth, Providence, and Warwick—started keeping records in the 1630s and much is now available online. This subject guide lists a small selection of important resources available online, at NEHGS, or at other repositories.To explore our resources in greater detail, search the NEHGS library catalog by town, family surname, or time period. Note: Because of shifting town and state boundaries, it's important to check surrounding towns when researching!
“A Guide to Genealogical Research in Rhode Island” by Maureen A. Taylor, and “Sources for Rhode Island Research in the NEHGS Collections” by Michael J. Leclerc in New England Ancestors: Newsmagazine of the New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2005, v. 6, no. 2.
NEHGS, 7th Floor Reference F1 .N49 v. 6, no. 2
The Genealogical Dictionary of Rhode Island; Comprising Three Generations of Settlers Who Came Before 1690… by John Osborne Austin
NEHGS, 7th Floor Reference F78 .A935 1887
Genealogies of Rhode Island Families from Rhode Island Periodicals
NEHGS, 5th Floor Stacks F78 .G46 1983
Genealogies of Rhode Island Families: from the New England Historical and Genealogical Register
NEHGS, 5th Floor Stacks F78.G462 1989
Representative Men and Old Families of Rhode Island
NEHGS, 5th Floor Stacks F78 .R422 1908 (also available online)
Runaways, Deserters, and Notorious Villains from Rhode Island Newspapers, by Maureen Alice Taylor
NEHGS, 5th Floor Stacks F78 .T37 1994
Census RecordsPre-1790 Census records
Rhode Island Freemen, 1747–1755, by Bruce MacGunnigle
NEHGS, 7th Floor Reference F78.M32 1877
Census of the Inhabitants of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations 1774, by John R. Bartlett
NEHGS, 5th Floor Stacks F78.A59 1969
The Rhode Island 1777 Military Census, by Mildred M. Chamberlain
NEHGS, 5th Floor Stacks E263.R4 C48 1985
Rhode Island 1782 Census, by Jay Mack Holbrook
NEHGS, 5th Floor Stacks F78.H47 1979
Rhode Island state census information was gathered beginning in 1865 and is available online on Ancestry.com and from 1885 forward on Familysearch.org. In addition, microfilms of the state censuses from 1865 are available at NEHGS, Microfilm F78 .R57 1865 Microfilm.
Before 1850, vital records were kept by individual towns. Two collections by James N. Arnold and Alden Gamaliel Beaman compiled vital records from a variety of town, probate, land records, etc. Statewide vital record collection began in 1853. Because Rhode Island borders were fluid, Massachusetts vital records should also be checked.Databases
- Births and Christenings, 1600–1914
- Marriages, 1724–1916
- Deaths and Burials, 1802–1950
- Vital Record of Rhode Island: 1636–1850, by James N. Arnold
- Providence, Rhode Island, Alphabetical Index of Births, Marriages and Deaths, 1636–1930
- Jamestown, Rhode Island, Vital Records, 1671–1800
- Rhode Island Historical Cemeteries Database Index
- Vital Record of Rhode Island: 1636–1850, 21 vols., by James N. Arnold
NEHGS, 7th Floor Reference F78.A75
- Rhode Island Vital Records, New Series, 13 vols., by Alden Gamaliel Beaman
NEHGS, 7th Floor Reference F78.B4
- Births 1853–1898; NEHGS, F78 .R55 1992
- Marriages 1853–1900; NEHGS, F78 .R551 1992
- Deaths 1853–1900, 1901–1943, index of deaths 1901–1920, death records and returns 1944–1945; NEHGS, F78 .R552 1992
Colonial and Court Records
Records of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations in New England, 10 vols.
NEHGS, 5th Floor Stacks F76.R29 1856 (also on CD)
Rhode Island Court Records
NEHGS, 5th Floor Stacks F82 .R4 1920
Supplement to the Rhode Island Colonial Records: Comprising a List of the Freemen Admitted 1747–1754
NEHGS, 5th Floor F76.R29 Suppl. 1875
Rhode Island General Court of Trials 1671–1704, by Jane Fletcher Fiske
NEHGS, 5th Floor Stacks F78 .F57 1998
Probate Records: 1779–1915
NEHGS, Microfilm Collection F89.N5 N49
Providence, RI: Index to Probate, 1646–1899
Database on AmericanAncestors.org
Gleanings from Newport Court Files 1659–1783, by Jane Fletcher Fiske
NEHGS, 5th Floor Stacks F78 .F565 1998
Most land records were kept by individual towns. NEHGS and the Family History Library have microfilms of Rhode Island town records, including the land records. See Town Records below.
Rhode Island Land Evidences, vol. I, 1648–1696, Abstracts
NEHGS, 5th Floor Stacks F82 .R5 1921
Civil and Military List of Rhode Island, 1647–1800, by Joseph Jencks Smith
NEHGS, 7th Floor Reference F78.S65 1900 (also available online)
Civil and Military List of Rhode Island, 1800–1850, by Joseph Jencks Smith
NEHGS, 7th Floor Reference F78.S66 1901
New Index to the Civil and Military Lists of Rhode Island, by Joseph Jencks Smith
NEHGS, 7th Floor Reference F78 .S65 1900 Index (also available online)
Rhode Island in the Colonial Wars: A List of Rhode Island Soldiers & Sailors in King George's War, 1740–1748, and a list of Rhode Island Soldiers & Sailors in the Old French & Indian War, 1755–1762, by Howard M. Chapin
NEHGS, 5th Floor Stacks E198 .C467 1994
Rhode Island Privateers in King George's War, 1739–1748, by Howard M. Chapin
NEHGS, 5th Floor Stacks F82 .C483 1926
So Few the Brave: Rhode Island Continentals, 1775–1783, by Anthony Walker
NEHGS, 5th Floor Stacks E263.R4 W34 1981
Town records include vital records, town meeting minutes, and other records. Most Rhode Island records were kept on the town level. The Family History Library and NEHGS have large collections of Rhode Island town records on microfilm. In addition, NEHGS has town records in its local-history book collections.RI Town Records in NEHGS Collections
Town records include town council minutes, probates, deeds and other records. NEHGS has microfilms for the following towns: Barrington, Bristol, Burrillville, Central Falls, Charlestown, Cranston, Cumberland, East Greenwich, Exeter, Foster, Glocester, Hopkinton, Jamestown, Johnston, Little Compton, Newport, North Providence, Pawtucket, Providence, Smithfield, and Woonsocket. For more information, see our Town Guide for Rhode Island.
Vital Record of Rhode Island: 1636–1850, vols. 6–8 and 10–11, by James N. Arnold
NEHGS, 7th Floor Reference F78 .A75 (also available as a database on AmericanAncestors.org)
- Foster: Records 1851–1871; NEHGS, Mss A 3788
- Providence: A list of members with the general rules and regulations of the First Baptist Church in Providence, Rhode Island; NEHGS, Rare Book Collection F89.P9 A1 no.4 1850
- Providence: Providence, RI: Catalog of the Members of the First Baptist Church; database on AmericanAncestors.org
- Narragansett: A History of the Episcopal Church in Narragansett, Rhode Island, including a History of other Episcopal Churches in the State, by Wilkins Updike; NEHGS, Rare Book Collection F89.N2 U63 1907
- Newport: List of persons married by Rev. Michael Eddy at the First Baptist Church, Newport, R.I., 1790–1835; NEHGS, Mss C 7
- Newport: Annals of Trinity Church, Newport, Rhode Island 1698–1821, by George C. Mason; NEHGS, 5th Floor Stacks F89.N5 M372 1890
- Newport: Annals of Trinity Church, Newport, Rhode Island, 1821–1892, Second Series, by George C. Mason and George J. Magill; NEHGS, 5th Floor Stacks F89.N5 M373 1894
- Newport: Society of Friends Monthly Meetings, 1638–1888; NEHGS, Microfilm BX7780.N48
NEHGS has a print collection of Catholic Church records of baptisms, marriages, and burials, published by the American-French Genealogical Society. Most records are post-1850.
Maps and Atlases
The Rhode Island Atlas, by Marion I. Wright and Robert J. Sullivan
NEHGS, 5th Floor Stacks F79 .W73 1982
Gazetteer of the States of Connecticut and Rhode Island, 1819, by John C. Pease NS John N. Miles
NEHGS, Rare Book Collection F92 .P36 1819
Official Gazetteer of Rhode Island
NEHGS, 5th Floor Stacks F77 .U53
A Geographic Dictionary of Connecticut and Rhode Island, by Henry Gannett
NEHGS, 7th Floor Reference F92 .G2 1978
Maps of Providence, R.I., 1650–1765–1770 by Henry R. Chase
NEHGS, 5th Floor Oversize F89.P9 C53 1914
Map of the Town of Providence: From Actual Survey, 1823, by Daniel Anthony
NEHGS, Technical Services Map Case G3774.P9 1823.A5
Owners and Occupants of the Lots, Houses and Shops of the Town of Providence, Rhode Island, in 1798, etc. by Henry R. Chace
NEHGS, 5th Floor Stacks F89.P9 C531 1914
NEHGS has over 100 manuscript family genealogies, cemetery transcriptions, and other materials pertaining to Rhode Island.
Vital Records of Newport, R.I.
NEHGS, Mss 805
Little Compton, R.I. Wills
NEHGS, Mss A 801
Abstracts and extracts copied from Smithfield, R.I., council books containing vital statistics, with inventories and probate records, 1733–1797, held by the city of Central Falls, R.I.
NEHGS, Mss C 3610
Rhode Island Genealogical Register
NEHGS, 7th Floor Reference F78 .R55
Rhode Island Historical Society Collections
NEHGS, 5th Floor Stacks F76 .R47 1918–1941
American-French Genealogical Society, Woonsocket, RI, afgs.org
Rhode Island Genealogical Society, rigensoc.org
Rhode Island Historical Society, rihs.org
State of Rhode Island Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission, preservation.ri.gov
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