Rhode Island Probate Records
Probate matters were recorded by town councils until each town established a probate court. Many of the published town records include references to wills and estate matters.
An excellent index to a large number of Rhode Island wills to about 1850 is Robert S. Wakefield, Index to Wills in Rhode Island Genealogical Register, Volumes 1 through 4 (Warwick, Rhode Island: Plymouth Colony Research Group, 1982; FHL book 974.5 D2ri index). The Rhode Island Genealogical Register (see Rhode Island Periodicals) continues to publish abstracts of wills.
The probate records of Providence, 1670 to 1730, have been published (see Rhode Island Town Records). Also see Frank Calef's index to Providence probate records of 1663 to 1775 (FHL film 022385).
The general council, also known as the Council of Probate, kept minutes and documents dealing with probate appeals for the years 1667 to 1813 (FHL films 954936-37).
You can obtain copies of the original court records by contacting the town clerk. Addresses of the town clerks are listed in Genealogist's Handbook for New England Research. The Family History Library has microfilm copies of many of these records. They are listed in the Family History Library Catalog under RHODE ISLAND, [COUNTY], [TOWN] - PROBATE RECORDS. From the municipal courts of Providence, for example, the library has 39 films of probate proceedings (1798-1920), will books (1678-1899), and dockets and indexes (1646-1921).