Rhode Island History

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Online Resources[edit | edit source]

Brief History[edit | edit source]

The following important events in the history of Rhode Island affected political jurisdictions, family movements, and record keeping.

  • 1636: Religious dissenters from Massachusetts, United States Genealogy founded Providence. Settlements soon followed at Portsmouth, Newport, and Warwick. Each town kept deed, probate, and vital records.
  • 1663: A royal charter created the United Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.
  • 1747: Rhode Island gained the towns of Bristol, Little Compton, Tiverton, and Warren from Massachusetts.
  • 1790: Rhode Island was the last of the original thirteen colonies to ratify the Constitution and become a state.
  • 1830s-1840s: As the factory system developed, thousands of foreign laborers began moving into Rhode Island.
  • 1861-1865: During the Civil War, 25,000 men from Rhode Island served in the Union armed forces.
  • 1862: Rhode Island gained the town of East Providence and part of the town of Pawtucket from Massachusetts. Massachusetts received Fall River, which earlier had been the northern part of Tiverton.
  • 1898: Over 300,000 men were involved in the Spanish-American War which was fought mainly in Cuba and the Philippines.
  • 1917–1918: More than 26 million men from the United States ages 18 through 45 registered with the Selective Service. World War I over 4.7 million American men and women served during the war.
  • 1930s: The Great Depression closed many factories and mills. Many small farms were abandoned, and many families moved to cities.
  • 1940–1945: Over 50.6 million men ages 18 to 65 registered with the Selective Service. Over 16.3 million American men and women served in the armed forces during World War II.
  • 1950–1953: Over 5.7 million American men and women served in the Korean War.
  • 1950s–1960s: The building of interstate highways made it easier for people to move long distances.
  • 1964–1972: U.S. Military Fatal Casualties of the Vietnam War for Home-State-of-Record Rhode Island

Historical Content[edit | edit source]

Histories are great sources of genealogical information. Many contain biographical information about individuals who lived in the area, including:

  • Parents' names
  • Maiden names of women
  • Place of birth, death, or marriage
  • Occupation
  • Migration
  • Military service
  • Descendants

Local Histories[edit | edit source]

Some of the most valuable sources for family history research are local histories. Published histories of towns, counties, and states usually contain accounts of families. They describe the settlement of the area and the founding of churches, schools, and businesses. You can also find lists of pioneers, soldiers, and civil officials. Even if your ancestor is not listed, information on other relatives may be included that will provide important clues for locating your ancestor. A local history may also suggest other records to search. Local histories are extensively collected by the Family History Library, public and university libraries, and state and local historical societies. The United States Research "History" page cites nationwide bibliographies of local histories which include histories Rhode Island.

  • Roger Parks, ed., Rhode Island: A Bibliography of Its History (Hanover, New Hampshire: University Press of New England, 1983) FHL book 974.5 H23

State Histories Useful to Genealogists[edit | edit source]

Good genealogists strive to understand the life and times of their ancestors. In this sense, any history is useful. But certain kinds of state, county, and local histories, especially older histories published between 1845 and 1945, often include biographical sketches of prominent individuals. The sketches usually tend toward the laudatory, but may include some genealogical details. If these histories are indexed or alphabetical, check for an ancestor's name. One example of this follows:

  • Edward Field, ed., State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations at the End of the Century, Three Volumes. (Boston, Massachusetts: Mason Publishing Co, 1902) FHL film 1033776; fiche 6046716; book 974.5 H2f A helpful source for studying the history of Rhode Island.

United States History[edit | edit source]

The following are only a few of the many sources that are available:

  • Schlesinger, Jr., Arthur M. The Almanac of American History. (Greenwich, Conn.: Bison Books, 1983.) At various libraries (WorldCat), FHL book 973 H2almThis book provides brief historical essays and chronological descriptions of thousands of key events in United States history.
  • Dictionary of American History, Revised ed., 8 vols. (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1976.) At various libraries (WorldCat), FHL book 973 H2adIncludes historical sketches on various topics in U.S. history, such as wars, people, laws, and organizations.
  • Van Doren, Charles Lincoln; Robert McHenry, Webster's Guide to American History: A Chronological, Geographical, and Biographical Survey and Compendium. (Springfield, Mass.: G and C Merriam, 1971.) At various libraries (WorldCat); FHL book 973 H2v Includes a history, some maps, tables, and other historical information.

Family History Library[edit | edit source]

To access histories available through the FamilySearch Catalog, use the Place-names Search for: