Rhode Island Court Records

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Major Rhode Island courts that kept records of genealogical value were established as follows:

1647-1729: General Court was a statewide court with jurisdiction over civil and criminal matters. In 1671 it became the General Court of Trials. Many of the records of these courts are on microfilm at the Family History Library.

1730-present: Courts of common pleas were established in each county in 1730. They had jurisdiction over most local criminal and civil matters. The library has records of the court of common pleas for Newport and Washington counties.

1729-present: Superior Court of Judicature replaced the General Court of Trials. After 1747 several superior courts of judicature were established as county-wide courts. The Family History Library has some of these records from 1729 to 1884.

1798-present: Supreme Judicial Court was created from the Superior Court of Judicature. This court became the Supreme Court in 1843. Many of these records are at the Providence College Archives, Phillips Memorial Library, River Avenue and Eaton Street, Providence, Rhode Island 02918. This archives is gathering pre-1905 court records. The library has copies of some of these records.

1790s-present: District courts have county-wide jurisdiction over minor criminal cases. The court records for the counties before 1901 are now stored at the Rhode Island Supreme Court Judicial Records Center at 5 Hill St. Pawtucket, Rhode Island.

Family History Library Collection

The Family History Library has some colonial records from minor courts including court of admiralty, court of trials, court of vice-admiralty, justices' court, and the general council. The library has 78 microfilms of petitions to the general assembly, 1725 to 1867, when the assembly often served as a general court. The library also has many court records from Newport and Washington counties. You can obtain copies of other records by contacting the clerk's office in each county courthouse.

  • Bartlett, John R.John R. Bartlett, Records of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations in New England, Ten Volumes. (Providence: A. C. Green, 1856-1865) FHL films 496842 (first of 7); book 974.5 N29r. Digital version available through FamilySearch Catalog entry. Rhode Island court records for 1636 to 1670 were published with every-name indexes.