Rhode Island Vital Records
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Introduction to Vital Records
Vital Records consist of births, adoptions, marriages, divorces, and deaths recorded on registers, certificates, and documents. United States Vital Records has additional research guidance on researching and using vital records. A copy or an extract of most original records can be purchased from the Rhode Island Vital Records State Department of Health or the Town Clerk's office of the county where the event occurred.
Vital Records Reference Dates
Rhode Island vital records start the following years:
Rhode Island Birth, Marriage and Death Records Online
The following is a list of online resources useful for locating Rhode Island Vital Records which consist of births, adoptions, marriages, divorces, and deaths. Most online resources for Rhode Island Vital Records are indexes. After locating a person in an index always consult the original record to confirm the information in the index.
- Rhode Island Databases listed on Rootsweb.com
- USGenWeb.org Rhode Island Site
- Search for Rhode Island Collections on FamilySearch.org under United States
- The Vital Records Search and Information Directory for Rhode Island - Free/$
- Wee Monster Links for Rhode Island Island Birth and Marriage and Death Records - Free/$
- Linkpendium Links for Rhode Island Genealogy and History, including individual Counties - Free/$
- Search the Rhode Island Birth, Marriage & Death Records at Ancestry.com - $
- Order Rhode Island Certificates online - $
- Rhode Island Births and Christenings, 1600-1914, (FamilySearch, Free)
- Rhode Island Marriages, (FamilySearch, Free)
- United States Marriages – Rhode Island, 1522-1989 ($) index, some images
- U.S., New England Marriages Prior to 1700 index and images ($)
- Rhode Island Deaths and Burials, (FamilySearch, Free)
- Rhode Island, Vital records, 1846-1898, 1901-1953 at FamilySearch — index and images. Certificates and registers of births, 1846-1898, 1901-1903, marriages 1901-1903 and deaths, 1901-1953 acquired from the State Archives in Providence.
- 1899-2012 - United States, Obituaries, American Historical Society of Germans from Russia, 1899-2012 at FamilySearch — index and images
Wiki articles describing online collections are found at:
- Rhode Island Births and Christenings (FamilySearch Historical Records)
- Rhode Island Deaths and Burials (FamilySearch Historical Records)
- Rhode Island Marriages (FamilySearch Historical Records)
If you are aware of other online databases, please feel free to add them.
Town Records of Births, Marriages, and Deaths
Records of births, marriages, and deaths have been kept by town clerks since the 1630s. In 1700 the laws concerning vital records registration were made more specific, and the records after that time are more complete.
An index to many pre-1850 births and marriages in Rhode Island is the International Genealogical Index found at the Family History Library and Family History Centers. Also use compiled collections and indexes, such as Calef's and others described in Rhode Island Genealogy. Town minutes and land evidences sometimes also give vital statistics information.
The current fees for obtaining copies of the state's records are listed in Where to Write for Vital Records: Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Divorces. Hyattsville, Maryland: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, March 1993; Family History Library FHL Collection book 973 V24wv. Copies of this booklet are at the Family History Library and many Family History Centers. You can also write to the Division of Vital Statistics for current information. Members of an incorporated genealogical society may view and copy the records.
- Gretna Greens. When an eloping Rhode Island couple's marriage is not in their home town, search for it in alternate places like Elkton, Cecil, Maryland, or Prince William County, VA.
open / closed/ state statues
Early divorce records were recorded in the supreme court records. Divorce records 1905 to present are at:
Clerk of Family Court
1 Dorrance Plaza
Providence, RI 02903
Office of Vital Records
Inventory of Vital Records
The history and availability of vital records is described in Guide to the Public Vital Statistics Records: Births, Marriages, Deaths, in the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. Providence, Rhode Island: Historical Records Survey, 1941; At various libraries (WorldCat); FHL Collection book 974.5 V2h; film 982351; fiche 6046673
Family History Library Rhode Island Vital Records Collections
Many of the births, marriages, and deaths recorded in town records have been extracted and are part of the database that can be searched by name on the home page of FamilySearch. Formerly these records were a part of the International Genealogical Index (IGI). Also use compiled collections and indexes, such as Calef's and others described in Rhode Island Genealogy. Town minutes and land evidences sometimes also give vital statistics information.
Many vital records have been published in genealogical periodicals and other sources, including:
- Vital Records of Rhode Island 1636-1850: A Family Register for the People Arnold, James N. Vital Records of Rhode Island 1636-1850: A Family Register for the People. 21 Volumes. Providence, Rhode Island: Narragansett Historical Publishing, 1891-1912. At various libraries (WorldCat); FHL Collection book 974.5 V2a and available on microfilm. The town records that are indexed in this collection are listed in Genealogical Research in New England,. Crandall, Ralph J., ed. Genealogical Research in New England, p. 175-78. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1984. FHL Collection book 974 D27gr.
- Vital Records of Rhode Island, New Series This contains abstracts of probate, cemetery, marriage, death, and other records that give evidence of vital information for Kent, Newport and Washington counties.
- Alphabetical Index of the Births, Marriages and Deaths Recorded in Providence This includes records for 1636 to 1945. (The Family History Library has Volumes. 1-25, 27, 29-32. 
New England Marriages Prior to 1700 is a collection of pre-1700 marriage records compiled by Clarence Torrey. The New England Historic Genealogical Society has the original manuscript collection. The Family History Library has a film copy. An index to the marriages is Clarence Almon Torrey, New England Marriages Prior to 1700. Family History Library have Mr. Torrey's source notes. A supplement has been published, Melinda Lutz Sanborn, Supplement to Torrey's Marriages Prior to 1700 
The Family History Library has an extensive collection of pre-1900 Rhode Island town vital records. For example, 19 microfilms from the city registrar of Providence include birth, marriage, and death records (1698-1879) and indexes (1636-1900). These are listed in the FamilySearch Catalog under
- RHODE ISLAND, PROVIDENCE, PROVIDENCE - VITAL RECORDS.
You can also write to the town clerks for information.
State Records of Births, Marriages, and Deaths
Statewide registration of births, marriages, and deaths began in January 1853 and, by 1915, was generally complied with. The Family History Library has not obtained copies of the state records.
Copies of marriage and death records from 1853 to 1964 are available at the Rhode Island State Records Center. All birth, marriage, and death records since 1853 are at:
Rhode Island Department of Health
#3 Capitol Hill Room 101
Providence RI 02908-5097
Internet: Office of Vital Records
- Information listed on vital records is given by an informant. Learn the relationship of the informant to the subject(s) of the record. The closer the relationship of the informant to the subject(s) and whether or not the informant was present at the time of the event can help determine the accuracy of the information found on the record.
- If you are unable to locate vital records recorded by governmentts, search for church records of christening, marriage, death or burial. A family Bible may have been used to record births, marriages and deaths.
- Privacy laws may restrict your access to some vital records. Copies of some vital records recorded in the last 100 years may be unavailable to anyone except a direct relative.
- Search for Vital Records in the FamilySearch Catalog by using a Place Search and then choosing Vital Records. Search for Rhode Island to locate records filed by the State and then search the name of the county to locate records kept by the county.
Archives, Libraries and Societies
- Arlene H. Eakle, "Have you searched and searched for a marriage without finding it?" in Genealogy Blog at http://www.arleneeakle.com/wordpress/2007/02/19/have-you-searched-and-searched-for-the-marriage-without-finding-it/ (accessed 8 January 2011).
- Beaman, Alden G. Vital Records of Rhode Island, New Series. Volumes. 1-. Princeton, Massachusetts: publisher varies, 1975-. At various libraries (WorldCat); (Family History Library book 974.5 V2b.)
- Snow, Edwin M., and Charles V. Chapin. Alphabetical Index of the Births, Marriages and Deaths Recorded in Providence. 32 Volumes. Providence, Rhode Island: publisher varies, 1879-.
- At various libraries (WorldCat); Family History Library book 974.52 V2p; on films beginning with film 547197 item 3; fiche 6051317.)
- (Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1985; At various libraries (WorldCat); Family History Library book 974 V2t; film 1320548 item 14).
- films 929494-500
- Family History Library At various libraries (WorldCat); book 974 V2t supp.)