Rhode Island History

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

1636:Religious dissenters from Massachusetts 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.

A helpful source for studying the history of Rhode Island is 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 book 974.5 H2f; film 1033776; fiche 6046716).

A bibliography of local histories for Rhode Island is in Roger Parks, ed., Rhode Island: A Bibliography of Its History (Hanover, New Hampshire: University Press of New England, 1983; FHL book 974.5 H23r).