Rhode Island Town Records

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In New England, the town clerk is the local record keeper. The earliest records are called proprietors' records. Town records generally begin with the founding of a town and are kept to the present.

Town records may contain records of births, marriages, burials, cemeteries, appointments, earmarks, estrays (records of stray animals), freemen's oaths (men becoming eligible to vote), land records, mortgages, name changes, care of the poor, school records, surveys, tax lists, town meeting minutes, voter registrations, and "warnings out" (of town).

The Family History Library has microfilms of town council and town meeting records for most Rhode Island towns. These generally date from the settlement of the town to the 1880s. Some records have been transcribed and published, such as The Early Records of the Town of Providence, 21 Volumes. (Providence, Rhode Island: Snow and Farnham, City Printers, 1892-1915; Famiy History Library book 974.52 N2p; on 8 films beginning with film 418109).

Related sources are:

  • Certificates for Deputies and Freemen of Rhode Island Towns, 1663 to 1778 (Family History Library films 953922-24) and an index (Family History Library films 934806 item 2 and 934807-8) are listed in the Family History Library Catalog under RHODE ISLAND - OFFICIALS AND EMPLOYEES.
  • Pierce, Ebenezer Weaver. Civil, Military and Professional Lists of Plymouth and Rhode Island Colonies: Comprising Colonial, County, and Town Officers, Clergymen, Physicians and Lawyers. . . . 1881. Reprint. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1968. (Family History Library book 974 M2p; film 897454; fiche 6046832.)
  • Smith, Joseph Jencks. Civil and Military Lists of Rhode Island. Two Volumes. Providence, Rhode Island: Preston and Rounds, 1901. (Family History Library book 974.5 N2s; films 925437-38; fiche 6046905.)