Recently, I realized that I have not been using the census taken in Rhode Island in 1782 very much. While records from a few towns did not survive, lists for most towns survive as a manuscript in the Rhode Island Historical Society Library and, I believe, on microfilm there. General categories for age, gender and race were included in the original records, and names for heads of households (only) were collected.
A transcription of the entries by Katharine U. Waterman appears in several volumes of the New England Historical and Genealogical Register from the 1970’s. Mrs. Waterman’s work, published after her death, appears in eleven issues between 1973 and 1975. The order of entries in each town follows the order of the original manuscripts – in some cases, alphabetical, in some cases, not alphabetical. Often, non-alphabetical census lists reflect neighborhoods and proximity in some way, but I have to admit these particular sets appear to be oddly jumbled, sometimes partly alphabetized, so you may see the people you are looking for in relation to their neighbors, but don’t count on that.
New England Historical and Genealogical Register
“The Rhode Island Census of 1782 transcribed by the late Katharine U. Waterman of North Scituate, Rhode Island”
- vol. 127, no. 1, January 1973:
- Introduction explaining the call by the Continental Congress for the information to be collected by the states, the resolution passed by the Rhode Island General Assembly, and Mrs. Waterman’s arrangements and symbols – page 3 – 5. The introduction explains that five of the lists are missing: Barrington, Johnston, North Providence, Richmond and Smithfield.
- Note especially the explanation of symbols on pages 4 – 5. The members of each household are broken down in categories by gender, age and race.
- Newport, page 5 – 17
- vol. 127, no. 2, April 1973:
- Newport cont., page 138 – 142
- Middletown, page 142 – 147
- Tiverton, page 142 – 150
- vol. 127, no. 3, July 1973:
- Tiverton cont., page 216 – 218
- Little Compton, page 218 – 222
- Providence, page 222 – 229
- vol. 127, no. 4, October 1973:
- Providence cont., page 302 – 312
- vol. 128, no. 1, January 1974:
- Providence cont., page 49 – 50
- Cranston, page 50 – 55
- Gloucester, page 55 – 63
- vol. 128, no. 2, April 1974:
- South Kingston, page 124 – 130
- North Kingstown, page 130 – 135
- vol. 128, no. 3, July 1974:
- North Kingston cont., page 215
- Charlestown, page 215 – 219
- Westerly, page 219 – 224
- Exeter, page 224
- vol. 128, no. 4, October 1974:
- Exeter cont., page 293 – 303
- East Greenwich, page 303 – 304
- vol. 129, no. 1, January 1975:
- East Greenwich cont., page 53 – 57
- West Greenwich, page 57 – 62
- Coventry, page 62 – 67
- vol. 129, no. 3, July 1975:
- Coventry cont., page 270
- Warwick, page 270 – 277
- vol. 129, no. 4, October 1975:
- Warwick cont., page 379 – 380
- Bristol, page 380 – 383
- Cumberland, page 383 – 387
How to see these articles
For New England Historic Genealogical Society members, each article can be viewed online at American Ancestors.org using the “Search” screen (selecting New England Historic and Genealogical Register from the “Database” field, and the Volume and Page). This will lead you to search results that can be clicked through to browse the articles. Of course, one could actually search for a name on that page, but beware not all names were recorded with the spelling we would expect today.
For others, the volumes should be found in genealogical libraries, or possibly through special arrangement with your local library.
More about Rhode Island census records
To learn more about early census records, a knowledgeable discussion of Rhode Island census records can be found in the article Early Rhode Island Censuses by Cherry Fletcher Bamburg, FASG, which is located on the Rhode Island Genealogical Society website.
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