Rhode Island Roots is the journal of the Rhode Island Genealogical Society. It is published four times per year and in the last decade, an extra volume of record transcriptions has also been made available annually to RIGS members. Edited by Cherry Fletcher Bamburg, FASG, with Michael F. Dwyer currently serving as Assistant Editor, Linda Mathew editing the special records volumes, and Geri Clarke producing an annual index of names, Rhode Island Roots is a high quality journal that targets a compact location. We who are researching are extremely lucky to have it.
I tried something recently that worked out quite well. Knowing I would be on an airplane all day, I took with me, instead of my usual paperbacks, only several genealogy journals. These included Rhode Island Roots and a few other journals. With nothing else to do, I read every word, from cover to cover. I thought I had been reading them previously, but from editor’s introductions to lists, articles, footnotes and book reviews, it was Rhode Island Roots that surprised me the most. I had been missing a lot.
Why I think Rhode Island Roots is important
In my opinion there are three reasons to carefully read each issue of Rhode Island Roots from cover to cover:
- There may be some direct evidence related to your ancestors, for instance they could be mentioned by name in a transcribed list, as a relative of a family being studied, or involved in an event or story under discussion. I think everyone understands this. Rhode Island Roots provides an index at the end of each year. I suspect this is the most common use of journals, and that’s unfortunate.
- Reading well-edited genealogical journals is the best way to learn. How did the researcher find evidence? What were the sources? How did the argument progress, and was it convincing? Did the writer rely on vital records (hardly likely in early Rhode Island!) or did he or she assemble other direct and indirect evidence into a solid case? To what extent would you agree that a reasonably exhaustive search was done, and how was possible counter-evidence treated? It would take me several readings of an article to really know any of these answers. And then, I often find myself wondering how I could assemble clues to solve my own research problems. What I am writing here is not new, it is standard advice that any aspiring genealogist will hear often.
- Every step taken by the writer is a lesson in local research. For Rhode Island Roots in particular, there is not an article or item that is worth skipping, because the state is too small for that. Where did the writer turn for evidence? What repositories? What books, databases, records, manuscripts, and journals? How did they seem to evaluate the content they were finding? What migration patterns are seen? What laws or local events impacted lives? What evidence was found for various types of activities – seafaring, farming, trades, adoption, immigration, holidays, divorce, crime, education, burial? What type of evidence was available for each town, and where was it found?
5 things I learned from reading Rhode Island Roots
- East Greenwich soldier Phillip Andrew (potentially my 5th great-grandfather if I ever get this solved) appears in a list of French and Indian War soldiers at Fort Stanwix in Rome, New York, recorded in a journal by Beriah Hopkins in 1762. Most likely, this manuscript was not available to Howard M. Chapin when he compiled Rhode Island in the Colonial Wars (1918; reprinted Clearfield, 2010), so it’s interesting to have another source of information about the local soldiers in Philip’s unit, and some of their experiences. ( — Ensign Beriah Hopkins His Book by Rachel Peirce, Rhode Island Roots, 40:1, March, 2014, p. 24-35).
- In a story about Warwick families, while examining footnotes, I learned that, in addition to the cemetery office records I’ve already used, one can find deeds for North Burial Ground plots recorded at the Providence City Archives. ( — A Line of Descent from Ambrose Taylor, Chairmaker of Warwick, Rhode Island by Cherry Fletcher Bamburg, FASG, Rhode Island Roots, 40:1, September, 2013, p. 113-133.)
- We always think of finding records and reports on our ancestors, but all of our hard work is for nothing if we don’t know how to analyze what we find. I wish every aspiring genealogist who has ever uncovered a compiled genealogy book or article mentioning their ancestor could read Notes on Thomas Ward of Newport by Cherry Fletcher Bamburg, FASG. Put the webinars away for a bit and focus on this amazing analysis of research on the well-known Ward family of Newport by leading genealogists over the last 200 years. It is helping me be a more critical reader. ( — Notes on Thomas Ward of Newport by Cherry Fletcher Bamburg, FASG, Rhode Island Roots, 38:3, September, 2012, p. 148-164.)
- An excellent overview of all Warwick, Rhode Island records by Cherry Fletcher Bamburg is very useful. She talks about the existence of various types of early records, what has been complied and published, and where they can be found. ( — Warwick, Rhode Island Records in 1776 by Cherry Fletcher Bamburg, FASG, Rhode Island Roots, 39:4, December, 2013, p. 203-205).
- If you haven’t read “Aunt Hat” and the Bigamy King by Rachel Peirce, run, don’t walk, to find it. It’s a thoughtful retelling of a difficult story, and while I’m not sure most of us will find a story quite this sensational in our own families, every genealogist struggles with how to tell difficult truths. ( — “Aunt Hat” and the Bigamy King by Rachel Peirce, Rhode Island Roots, 39:3, September, 2013, p. 135-150).
How to subscribe
Membership for the Rhode Island Genealogical Society runs on a calendar year system, January – December.
How to access older issues
Older issues of the journal are accessible from the New England Historic Genealogical Society website. This page on the RIGS website leads to that.
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