Rhode Island Archives and Libraries
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|Rhode Island Background|
|Local Research Resources|
These repositories preserve sources, maintain indexes, and provide services to help genealogists document their ancestors who lived in Rhode Island.
Wiki Articles on Major Repositories for Rhode Island
American Antiquarian Society (Worcester MA) · American-French Genealogical Society · Brown University Rockefeller Library · Connecticut State Library (Hartford CT) · Davisville Free Library · Department of Health Office of Vital Records · East Greenwich Free Library · Judicial Records Center · National Archives at Boston (Waltham MA) · New England Historic Genealogical Society (Boston MA) · Newport Historical Society · Providence City Hall · Providence Public Library · Rhode Island Black Heritage Society · Rhode Island Genealogical Society · Rhode Island Historical Society · Rhode Island Jewish Historical Association · Rhode Island State Archives · Rhode Island State Library · Roger William University Library · Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence · Tiverton Public Library · University of Rhode Island Carothers Library · Westerly Public Library
Online Records of Rhode Island
Links to online databases and indexes that may include vital records, biographies, cemeteries, censuses, histories, immigration records, land records, maps, military records, naturalizations, newspapers, obituaries, or probate records.
- The National Archives at Boston collects Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Rhode Island documents, photos, and maps of 80 federal agencies, War of 1812, fortifications, coastal facilities, World War II research at Harvard and MIT, federal bankruptcy courts, First Circuit Court of Appeals, Navy, Coast Guard, westward expansion, ethnology, genealogy, Revolutionary War, Civil War, captured German records, territorial papers, censuses, passenger arrival records for Boston and New England, and Canadian border crossings.
Department of Health Office of Vital Records
- Birth and marriage records 100 years or older and death records 50 years or older are considered public records and may be obtained from the city or town hall where the event happened or through the Rhode Island State Archives. City and town clerk offices have records for all the births, deaths, marriages, and civil unions that occur in those cities and towns. All 39 cities and towns can also provide copies of most birth certificates for anyone born in the state on or after January 1, 1960.
5 Hill Street
Pawtucket, Rhode Island 02860
Website: Judicial Records Center
- Rhode Island state and county civil, criminal, and divorce cases 1671-1900, and naturalizations 1671-1982.
Rhode Island Black Heritage Society
- As one of the oldest African Heritage organizations in the country, the Rhode Island Black Heritage Society has recorded, retained and interpreted historical facts and preserved the documents and artifacts of African-American and African descendant’s history and accomplishments in Rhode Island.
Rhode Island Genealogical Society
- Website provides some listings of holdings in Rhode Island libraries pertaining to RI genealogical and historical research. Some online resources available to members only.
Providence, RI 02906
Website: Rhode Island Historical Society
- Houses the state's largest genealogical collection including local histories, manuscripts, census, cemetery, military, economic, social, church records, family Bibles, family histories, newspapers, genealogy, women’s history, and business records.
Rhode Island Jewish Historical Association
- City directories, organization records, synagogues, publications such as Jewish Herald, Jewish Voice, and The Jewish Voice and Herald, material about individual members of the Rhode Island Jewish community, and many obituaries.
- The earliest town records collection from 1638 to the present, state censuses at ten year intervals between 1865-1935; state birth and marriage records for the years 1853-1897, state deaths for the years 1853-1947; and military records. The archives also maintains a large map collection.
Rhode Island State Library
82 Smith St
Providence, RI 02903
Website: Rhode Island State Library
- They have the largest book collection in the state, including almost all state and town histories, biographies, and genealogies.
Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence
- Miscellaneous collection of papers, manuscripts, correspondence, books, diocesan newspapers and directories, photographs and memorabilia. Few items predate 1872. Please note: sacramental records (i.e., baptismal and marriage certificates) are maintained at the individual parishes, and not in the Archives.
- Has collections pertaining to cultural, genealogical, historical and biographical matter relating to Americans of French and French Canadian descent. Collections include databases, cemetery, headstone and obituary records, as well as French-American marriage records for Rhode Island (see The Forget Files). The website has genealogy links and includes a section on Acadian heritage.
- Virtually a second state archives with a huge book collection, manuscripts regarding New England settlers, biographies, and genealogies.
Davisville Free Library
North Kingstown, RI 02852
Website: Davisville Free Library
- This a good book collection with good genealogical reference works. It includes genealogical periodicals and family folders.
East Greenwich Free Library
- Researchers will find town histories, digital RI newspaper archives, and the RI Sanborn map collection online (this last requires user ID and password). Also, they have a good collection of genealogical reference books periodicals, and family folders.
- The Library dates to the founding of the Newport Historical Society in 1854 and includes works on the history of Newport County and the surrounding area. The collection contains approximately 12,000 volumes reflecting the settlement and development of Newport County. Because Rhode Island was established by settlers and refugees from other colonies, the collection includes works on early Southeastern New England families and governments that contributed to the history of Rhode Island and the Providence Plantations. Also included are general reference works.
Providence City Archives
- Holdings include early town records, vital records (including indexes to births, marriages, and deaths 1636 to mid-20th century - some restrictions may apply), tax records, probate records and indices, various property records, records of government proceedings, etc. For additional information, see Basic Holdings and Research.
- This is a very good collection of published genealogies, biographies, periodicals and family folders.
Roger Williams University Library
Bristol, RI 02809
Telephone: 800-458-7144, or 401-253-1040
Website: RWU University Libraries
- Their huge book selection includes periodicals, newspapers, biography indexes, genealogies, family folders and histories, indexes and the largest Baptist collection in New England.
Tiverton Public Library
- They have a good collection of published genealogies.
University of Rhode Island Carothers Library
- This collection has books, maps, biographies, and histories about Rhode Island residents.
Westerly Public Library
Westerly, RI 02981
Telephone: 401-596-2877 x3
Website: Westerly Library and Wilcox Park
- There large genealogical book collection includes family folders, family histories, and indexes regarding Rhode Island families.
Outside of Rhode Island Repositories
Worcester, Massachusetts 01609-1634
Website: American Antiquarian Society
- The AAS is best known for its U.S. newspaper collection of over 18,000 bound volumes 1704-1820, history, genealogy, Bibles, maps, biography, directories, Native Americans, women, canals, railroads, photos, manuscripts. They have Rhode Island vital records, newspapers, and town histories. One of the best genealogy centers in America.
Hartford, Connecticut 06106
Telephone: 860-757-6500 or toll free: 866-886-4478
E-mail: E-mail Us form
Website: Connecticut State Library
Website: History and Genealogy Home
- Has the Barbour Collection, Bibles, census, church, Hale Collection newspaper marriages and deaths, cemeteries, probates, vital records, directories, land, local histories, military, naturalization, passenger arrivals, and e-mail questions. Large genealogy collection of newspapers, books manuscripts, town histories, maps and lots of genealogies. Holdings include the collection, "Connecticut Archives," 1629–1820. Many Rhode Island residents eventually settled in Connecticut. A helpful inventory of this collection is:
- Best overall collection for New England (and Rhode Island) vital records and probates, and excellent collection for Canada, Great Britain, Ireland, and Europe. The manuscript collection for members-only has diaries, letters, account books, business papers, church and town records, sermons, maps, wills, deeds, unpublished town and family genealogies, photos, and papers of the region's best genealogists since 1850.  
Family History Centers
- Giving you limited, personal, one-on-one research suggestions (but they do not do research for you)
- Providing access to genealogical records through the premium online Internet FHC Portal for free.
- Offering free how-to classes (varies by location)
- Fostering contact between genealogical enthusiasts
There are several centers located in Rhode Island, for example:
- Providence Rhode Island Family History Center
1000 Narragansett Pkwy
Warwick, RI 02888 USA
- Each center is staffed by volunteers and has varying hours and services. Telephone in advance to verify their hours.
- Providence Rhode Island Family History Center
To locate one of these 4,500 centers in your own neighborhood, see Find a Family History Center.
For Further Reading
- Clarence S. Brigham, Annual Report of the American Historical Association for the Year 1903, Volume 1 (Washington, D.C.: American Historical Association, 1904) WorldCat 1150082; FHL film 896553 item 2; book 973 C4ah. An important inventory of manuscript records including Rhode Island state, county, and town archives.
- William Dollarhide and Ronald A. Bremer. America's Best Genealogy Resource Centers (Bountiful, Utah: Heritage Quest, 1998), 124. WorldCat 39493985; FHL Ref Book 973 J54d.
- How To Get a Copy of Vital Records in State of Rhode Island Department of Health (accessed 11 March 2017).
- Archives-Research in Judicial Records Center (accessed 11 April 2015).
- Preserving Our History, Ensuring Our Future in Rhode Island Black Heritage Society (accessed 11 March 2017).
- Dollarhide and Bremer, 99.
- Genealogy in Rhode Island Jewish Historical Society (accessed 11 March 2017).
- Archivist in Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence (accessed 11 March 2017).
- Dollarhide and Bremer, 59.
- Dollarhide and Bremer, 53.
- History and Genealogy Home in CT State Library (accessed 21 September 2015).
- Dollarhide and Bremer, 25.
- New England Historic Genealogical Society in Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia (accessed 30 August 2010).
- Using the NEHGS Library in American Ancestors (accessed 21 September 2015).
- Dollarhide and Bremer, 5, 57, and 59.