Rhode Island Emigration and Immigration

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Rhode Island Wiki Topics
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Beginning Research
Record Types
Rhode Island Background
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How to Find the Records[edit | edit source]

Online Resources[edit | edit source]

Cultural Groups[edit | edit source]

Passport Records Online[edit | edit source]

Offices to Contact[edit | edit source]

Although many records are included in the online records listed above, there are other records available through these archives and offices. For example, there are many minor ports that have not yet been digitized. There are also records for more recent time periods. For privacy reasons, some records can only be accessed after providing proof that your ancestor is now deceased.

National Archives and Records Administration[edit | edit source]

  • You may do research in immigration records in person at the National Archives Building, 700 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20408-0001.
Rhode Islands Ports in NARA Records[edit | edit source]

U.S. Citizenship and and Immigration Services Genealogy Program[edit | edit source]

The USCIS Genealogy Program is a fee-for-service program that provides researchers with timely access to historical immigration and naturalization records of deceased immigrants. If the immigrant was born less than 100 years ago, you will also need to provide proof of his/her death.

Immigration Records Available[edit | edit source]
  • A-Files: Immigrant Files, (A-Files) are the individual alien case files, which became the official file for all immigration records created or consolidated since April 1, 1944.
  • Alien Registration Forms (AR-2s): Alien Registration Forms (Form AR-2) are copies of approximately 5.5 million Alien Registration Forms completed by all aliens age 14 and older, residing in or entering the United States between August 1, 1940 and March 31, 1944.
  • Registry Files: Registry Files are records, which document the creation of immigrant arrival records for persons who entered the United States prior to July 1, 1924, and for whom no arrival record could later be found.
  • Visa Files: Visa Files are original arrival records of immigrants admitted for permanent residence under provisions of the Immigration Act of 1924.[1]
Requesting a Record[edit | edit source]

Finding Town of Origin[edit | edit source]

Records in the countries emigrated from are kept on the local level. You must first identify the name of the town where your ancestors lived to access those records. If you do not yet know the name of the town of your ancestor's birth, there are well-known strategies for a thorough hunt for it.

Background[edit | edit source]

  • Pre-statehood settlers of Rhode Island generally were English Protestants, but liberal policies attracted French Huguenots, Blacks, Jews, and other minorities.
  • Heavy Irish immigration began about 1830 and continued through the rest of the nineteenth century.
  • A great influx of French Canadians began after the Civil War and continued to the turn of the century.
  • The 50 years following the Civil War were a time of prosperity and affluence. This was a time of growth in textile mills and manufacturing. Thousands of French-Canadian, Italian, Irish, and Portuguese immigrants arrived to fill jobs in the textile and manufacturing mills in Providence, Pawtucket, Central Falls, and Woonsocket.
  • Beginning about 1880, overseas emigration shifted from northern Europe to southern and eastern Europe. The Italians were the largest ethnic group to arrive at this time. Other groups who arrived in Rhode Island between 1880 and 1915 include the Portuguese colonials, Poles, and Jews from Russia.
  • According to the 2010–2015 American Community Survey, the largest ancestry groups were Irish (18.3%), Italian (18.0%), English (10.5%), French (10.4%), and Portuguese (9.3%).
  • Rhode Island has a higher percentage of Americans of Portuguese ancestry, including Portuguese Americans and Cape Verdean Americans than any other state in the nation.
  • Additionally, the state also has the highest percentage of Liberian immigrants, with more than 15,000 residing in the state.
  • Italian Americans make up a plurality in central and southern Providence County.
  • French-Canadian Americans form a large part of northern Providence County.
  • Irish Americans have a strong presence in Newport and Kent counties.
  • Americans of English ancestry still have a presence in the state as well, especially in Washington County, and are often referred to as "Swamp Yankees." [2]

African Americans[edit | edit source]

  • Slaves were introduced in Rhode Island in 1688, although there is no record of any law legalizing slave-holding. The colony later prospered under the slave trade, distilling rum to sell in Africa as part of a profitable triangular trade in slaves and sugar with the Caribbean.
  • Rhode Island's legislative body passed an act in 1652 abolishing the holding of slaves (the first British colony to do so), but this edict was never enforced and Rhode Island continued to be heavily involved in the slave trade during the post-revolution era.
  • In 1774, the slave population of Rhode Island was 6.3% of the total (nearly twice the ratio of other New England colonies).
  • African immigrants, including Cape Verdean Americans, Liberian Americans, Nigerian Americans and Ghanaian Americans, form significant and growing communities in Rhode Island.[2]

For Further Reading[edit | edit source]

Immigration Records[edit | edit source]

Immigration refers to people coming into a country. Emigration refers to people leaving a country to go to another. Immigration records usually take the form of ship's passenger lists collected at the port of entry. See Online Databases and Resources.

What can I find in them?[edit | edit source]

Information in Passenger Lists[edit | edit source]

  • Before 1820 - Passenger lists before 1820 included name, departure information and arrival details. The names of wives and children were often not included.
  • 1820-1891 - Customs Passenger Lists between 1820 and 1891 asked for each immigrant’s name, their age, their sex, their occupation, and their country of origin, but not the city or town of origin.
  • 1891-1954 - Information given on passenger lists from 1891 to 1954 included:
    • name, age, sex,
    • nationality, occupation, marital status,
    • last residence, final destination in the U.S.,
    • whether they had been to the U.S. before (and if so, when, where and how long),
    • if joining a relative, who this person was, where they lived, and their relationship,
    • whether able to read and write,
    • whether in possession of a train ticket to their final destination, who paid for the passage,
    • amount of money the immigrant had in their possession,
    • whether the passenger had ever been in prison, a poorhouse, or in an institution for the insane,
    • whether the passenger was a polygamist,
    • and immigrant's state of health.
  • 1906-- - In 1906, the physical description and place of birth were included, and a year later, the name and address of the passenger’s closest living relative in the country of origin was included.

Information in Passports[edit | edit source]

Over the years, passports and passport applications contained different amounts of information about the passport applicant. The first passports that are available begin in 1795. These usually contained the individual's name, description of individual, and age. More information was required on later passport applications, such as:

  • Birthplace
  • Birth date
  • Naturalization information
  • Arrival information, if foreign born

In-country Migration[edit | edit source]

Rhode Islanders leaving the state often went to areas such as Vermont and Nova Scotia.[2]

Rhode Island Migration Routes[edit | edit source]

Atlantic Coast Ports · Long Island Sound · Narragansett Bay · Taunton River · Blackstone Valley · King's Highway · Old Roebuck Road · Pequot Path

For Further Reading[edit | edit source]

The FamilySearch Library has additional sources listed in their catalog:

References[edit | edit source]

  1. "Genealogy", at USCIS, https://www.uscis.gov/records/genealogy, accessed 26 March 2021.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 "Rhode Island", in Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhode_Island, 1 April 2021.