Here are some resources that have been helpful to me. Please add your own ideas in the comments.
- Rhode Island State Census available on FamilySearch.org: 1885, 1905, 1915, 1925, 1935. The data collected varies year by year and can be very helpful. Be careful of the 1905 cards, though: FamilySearch indexes them incorrectly as front + back of the previous card, so never rely on the search result screen, go to the original. Find the front of the card then click to the next record for the back side.
- The Rhode Island Historical Cemeteries Transcription Project
- A large public library is likely to have the three-volume New England Marriages Prior to 1700 by Clarence Almon Torrey (Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2011). If you find the couple you are seeking, the sources listed will be very helpful, although locating those books and articles will require a little work, or a visit to a genealogical library. Likewise, the same is true for Robert Charles Anderson’s The Great Migration Begins and The Great Migration series. Many early Rhode Islanders started their American life in Massachusetts (and were thrown out!!)
- Rhode Island Newspapers on Chronicling America: U.S. Newspaper Directory – there are 742 different titles – click “Libraries that Have It” to see if you can find it at a nearby library. This is just a guide; there are no online R.I. newspapers at that site yet. The only old Rhode Island newspapers I have accessed online are at the paid GenealogyBank.com site. However, you could try a free trial membership there.
- Rhode Island Historical Society Finding Aids. While you would have to visit the RIHS Library to view the manuscripts and special collections, the finding aids themselves offer important glimpses into some Rhode Island stories and can help you prepare for a trip. Searching within the finding aids can happen here.
- Arnold’s Rhode Island Vital Records volumes (21 volumes) are available for download on my blog; but a few of the pdf’s are light and hard to read.
- Also visit FamilySearch.org to search Rhode Island vital record data. Be sure to specify a type of record in “Collections” on the side of the results screen, and then specify Collections further to access a Rhode Island record set.
- Read some guidance from the experts at The Rhode Island Genealogical Society. I especially like the explanation of Early R.I. Censuses and the R.I. Genealogy FAQ.
- The Providence City Directories that I have found so far are on this page. I hope to find more.