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Archive for the ‘Rhode Island Stuff’ Category

Last November I visited the Providence Public Library.  The building, a jewel of Providence, has undergone some renovations and the collections are growing.  Help is available for you to navigate the materials held in the collections.

The Providence Journal Rhode Island Room at the Providence Public Library. Photo by Diane Boumenot.

The beautiful Providence Journal Rhode Island Room at the Providence Public Library. Photo by Diane Boumenot.

Special Collections

I had a chance recently to meet Rhode Island Collection Librarian Kate Wells of the Providence Public Library. Kate showed me around the various Rhode Island collections.  The library is a great place to visit for some genealogical research.  I noticed the following:

  • The Providence Journal Rhode Island Room was recently restored with plenty of room for researchers to sit at the large oak tables, lighted by brass lamps.  It’s a beautiful room and contains a decent Rhode Island genealogy collection in the bookcases that line the walls.
  • The Rhode Island Index and the Providence Journal Card Index are card files, arranged by subject, that help you find important Rhode Island stories from the 1900’s.  My ordinary ancestors are not in there, but my more illustrious ones (ok, there are one or two) are.  Newspapers are available on microfilm.  Kate pointed out that although obituaries are usually not in the Rhode Island Index, they may be in the Providence Journal Card Index for the first half of the 20th century.
Catalog of the Rhode Island Collection

Catalog of the Rhode Island Collection.  Photo by Diane Boumenot.

  • Manuscripts, Sanborn Maps, scrapbooks about Providence architecture, and some business materials, including some jewelry and textile periodicals are among the special collections.  Perhaps the most interesting to genealogists working remotely would be the new and growing digital image site as well as the older FLICKR set of Photograph and Image Collections.  I was also intrigued by the Fred A. Arnold Collection, donated at his death in 1924, since he was a major genealogist in the Pawtuxet Arnold line.
Kate recommended this book to me for my questions about Providence neighborhoods - Civic and Architectural Development of Providence by John Hutchins Cady. Although the book is too pricey in the used book market, I was able to order a reprint from Higginson Books, during their Christmas sale.

Kate recommended this book to me for my questions about Providence neighborhoods – Civic and Architectural Development of Providence by John Hutchins Cady. Although the book is too pricey in the used book market, I was able to order a reprint from Higginson Books, during their Christmas sale.

  • Ancestry.com and AmericanAncestors.org (NEHGS) are available in the building.  This would be a free opportunity to do a journal article search for your ancestors on the NEHGS website.  You can pull up the full articles through the search screen.

Kate and the other staff are happy to help researchers with their questions, and it’s advisable to consult them since not all the collections are on display.

A card from the Rhode Island Index.

A card from the Rhode Island Index.

Important recent developments

Kate told me that there is interest in finally getting the older issues of the Providence Journal online, something that is badly needed.  The Journal Company has chosen a vendor for the project and from what I understand, fundraising is the concern right now.  I’m glad that this is being seriously discussed.

The big news in Providence Public Library Special Collections is that the nearby Knight Library has generously donated the James N. Arnold Collection to the PPL.

Kate is the only person I’ve ever met who shares my curiosity about James Newell Arnold (1844-1927).  She repeated stories she had heard – through a lecture Providence archivist Paul Campbell has given from time to time, I think – about James Arnold’s poverty. Mr. Arnold’s zeal for collecting and organizing vital records and materials of historical and genealogical interest led him to publish and edit a magazine (“Narragansett Historical Register“) for nine years, publish the books of vital record abstracts still in use today, transcribe cemeteries, and amass a huge collection of ephemera, notes, records, and books. But none of this itinerant historical work was particularly lucrative.  It is said (this is the part I got from Kate) that he was so poor and ill-kempt that the librarians at the Rhode Island Historical Society looked down their noses at him; he resented their ill treatment and developed a passionate dislike for the society.  Thus, at death he willed his materials to the Knight Library in Providence.  He was such a hoarder that it was difficult to box and remove the mountains of paper from his home.  I have yet to find any picture of Mr. Arnold but from what I’ve read, I think he may have been disabled in some way, perhaps walked with a cane.

The James N. Arnold Collection was hard to access and use at the Knight Library, and expensive to catalog and maintain.  Recently an agreement was made with the Providence Public Library to take over the care and accessibility of the manuscript materials.  Kate said her first priority for cataloging was not any notes from the vital records, which have essentially been published, but the more obscure unpublished materials.  She hopes to make the first part of the materials available for use by researchers by, perhaps, this summer.

When I visited the PPL in November, the boxes had recently arrived and were sitting in storage.  Here are some pictures.

Boxes of materials in storage from the James N. Arnold Collection.

Boxes of materials in storage from the James N. Arnold Collection.

Yes, some materials were actually in their original 1920’s bakery boxes.

A pie box, used for storage of Arnold's papers.

A cake box, used for storage of Arnold’s papers.

When the materials start to become available to researchers, I will be most curious about any notes Arnold kept on the Pawtuxet Arnold family.  I am a little resentful that he never produced a book on them; I would like to see how far he got with the family.

I had a helpful and interesting visit with Kate Wells.  I encourage those with questions about their Rhode Island heritage to consider consulting the collections at the Providence Public Library.

The post you are reading is located at:  http://onerhodeislandfamily.com/2016/01/28/some-rhode-island-collections/

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State- and County-wide Genealogical Books and Resources

for Providence County, Rhode Island

Comprehensive overviews

Map of Providence County, 1936. From John Hutchins Cady, Rhode Island Boundaries 1636-1936 (Providence, Rhode Island Tercentenary Commission, 1936), p25.

Map of Providence County, 1936. From John Hutchins Cady, Rhode Island Boundaries 1636-1936 (Providence, Rhode Island Tercentenary Commission, 1936), p25.

Cemeteries

  • Sterling, John E. North Burial Ground, Providence, Rhode Island, Old Section 1700-1848. Greenville, Rhode Island: Rhode Island Genealogical Society, 2000.
  • Rhode Island Historical Cemetery Commission. Search Web Databases. Database. http://www.rihistoriccemeteries.org/ : 2015. [builds on more than a century of work by Rhode Islanders such as James N. Arnold and John Sterling to offer a compiled index to what were previously separate resources. Click on “details” for the entry to see further info and, sometimes, a picture.]
  • Rhode Island Historic Cemetery Commission. Map of Rhode Island Cemeteries: http://www.rihistoriccemeteries.org/cemmap.aspx [a very helpful map to many of the Rhode Island cemeteries – some are very tiny and away from the road. Clicking a location brings up the cemetery information.]

Census records

[In addition to the federal census 1790-1940, there are specific census collections for Rhode Island.]

  • Bamberg, Cherry Fletcher. “Early Rhode Island Censuses.Rhode Island Genealogical Society website. http://www.rigensoc.org/cpage.php?pt=32 : 2015.
  • Bartlett, John R., “arranged by.” Census of the Inhabitants of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations 1774. 1858. Reprint, Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co, 1969. [Access on Ancestry.com at http://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=3081 ]
  • Chamberlain, Mildred M. The Rhode Island 1777 Military Census. Baltimore: Clearfield, published under the direction of the R.I. Genealogical Society, 1985. [Access on Ancestry.com at http://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=49316 ]
  • Holbrook, Jay Mack. Rhode Island 1782 Census. Oxford, Mass.: Holbrook Research Institute, 1979.
  • MacGunnigle, Bruce C. Rhode Island Freemen, 1747-1755. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1982.
  • Rhode Island. “Rhode Island, State Censuses, 1865-1935.” Database with images. Ancestry.com. http://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=4721 : 2015 [no 1895 state census available. Be sure to check out the 1865 census whenever possible; it is incredibly thorough. When searching by time period on Ancestry.com know that all years are indexed under “1935.” When looking at the 1905 cards, go to the NEXT card to see the back of each card – 1905 collects some important data including birth date.]
`905 census for Catherine (Young) Ross, my gg-grandmother. The only record of her birth date.

1905 R.I. census for Catherine (Young) Ross, my gg-grandmother – the only record of her birth date.

  • Rhode Island. “Rhode Island, State Censuses, 1885-1935. Database with images. Familysearch.org. http://www.familysearch.org : 2015 [note: no 1895 state census available].
  • Waterman, Katherine U., transcriber. “The Rhode Island Census of 1782.” New England Historic Genealogical Register, volumes 127 (1) (January 1973) through 129 (4) (October 1975). [this is preferred to the Bartlett book, above, as explained in Cherry Fletcher Bamberg’s article at the top of this section.]

Church Records

Court records

  • Fiske, Jane Fletcher. Gleanings from Newport Court Files 1659-1783. Boxford, Massachusetts: 1998.
  • Fiske, Jane Fletcher, transcriber. Rhode Island General Court of Trials 1671-1704. Boxford, Massachusetts, 1998.
  • Rappaport, Diane. New England Court Records. Burlington, Mass.: Quill Pen Press, 2006. [a guide to finding records in the New England states]

Early settlements

  • Anderson, Robert Charles. The Great Migration Study Project, including The Great Migration Begins (3 volumes) and The Great Migration (7 volumes). Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1995-2011. [this is the most authoritative compiled source for the earliest New England settlers, arriving 1620-1640. Many original Rhode Island settlers first arrived in Massachusetts during those years. Try the master index: The Great Migration Directory to be sure you are seeing all entries.]
  • Austin, John Osborne. One Hundred and Sixty Allied Families. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 2009.
  • Austin, John Osborne. The Genealogical Dictionary of Rhode Island; Comprising Three Generations of Settlers who Came Before 1690. With Additions and Corrections. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1978. [The most important book in early Rhode Island genealogy. Always use a version with the additions and corrections; there are some notable mistakes in the 1885 original which is available online.]
  • Bartlett, John Russell. Records of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations in New England. Volumes 1 – 10. Reprint, New York: AMS Press, 1968. [contains many personal details including date of freeman status, military appointments, state purchases from residents, tensions between towns, roads, and criminal matters. Can be accessed online, see http://onerhodeislandfamily.com/records-of-the-colony-of-rhode-island/  ]
Title page from Records of the Colony of Rhode Island, volume 1.

Title page from Records of the Colony of Rhode Island, volume 1.

  • Bowen, Richard LeBaron. The Providence Oath of Allegiance and Its Signers 1651-2. Providence: Issued from the General Court of the Society of Colonial Wars in the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, 1943.
  • Field, Edward. Tax Lists of the Town of Providence During the Administration of Sir Edmund Andros and His Council 1686-1689. Providence: Howard W. Preston, 1895.
  • Godfrey Memorial Library, comp. “American Genealogical-Biographical Index (AGBI).” Database on-line. Ancestry.com. http://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=3599 Original data: Godfrey Memorial Library. American Genealogical-Biographical Index. Middletown, CT, USA: Godfrey Memorial Library. [A complied index to many of the holdings of the Godfrey Memorial Library (a genealogy library in Connecticut); an index of names. Also available at larger genealogy libraries in hard copy (over 200 volumes). Once a citation is found, Godfrey has a photocopy service where they will, for a fee, copy the particular item that was cited. Content includes the Genealogy Column of the Boston Transcript, which is likely to contain a reader query about an ancestor and, possibly, in a subsequent entry, an informed response from a genealogist.]
  • Rhode Island Land Evidences, Volume 1, 1648-1696. ABSTRACTS. Providence: 1921. [access online: https://dcms.lds.org/delivery/DeliveryManagerServlet?dps_pid=IE7738541 ]

History

  • Bayles, Richard Mather, ed. History of Providence County, Rhode Island. 2 volumes. New York, W. W. Preston, 1891. [access online at Hathitrust.org: http://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/009580123 ]
  • Parker, J. Carlyle, compiler. Rhode Island Biographical and Genealogical Sketch Index.   Turlock, CA, Marietta Publishing Co., 1991. [a handy guide to various “mug books” published in the late 1800’s, useful if your ancestor was prominent during that period. ]

Immigration

  • Taylor, Maureen A. Rhode Island Passenger ListsPort of Providence 1798-1808; 1820-1872 Port of Bristol and Warren 1820-1871; Compiled from United States Custom House Papers.  Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1995.
  • Ancestry.com. “Rhode Island, Indexes to Naturalization Records, 1890-1992.” Database on-line. Ancestry.com. http://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=2897

Manuscript and archival collections

Military

  • Ancestry.com. “U.S., Civil War Draft Registrations Records, 1863-1865”. Database on-line. Ancestry.com. http://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=1666
  • Chapin, Howard M. Rhode Island in the Colonial Wars: A List of Soldiers and Sailors in King George’s War 1740-1748 and A List of Rhode Island Soldiers and Sailors in the old French & Indian War 1755-1762. 1918 & 1920. Reprint, Genealogical Publishing Co, 2010. [access online: https://dcms.lds.org/delivery/DeliveryManagerServlet?dps_pid=IE3190801]
  • Cowell, Benjamin. Spirit of 76 in Rhode Island, or, Sketches of the Efforts of the Government and People in the War of the Revolution. 1850. Reprint, Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1973. [Cowell assisted many veterans with their pension applications in Rhode Island in the decades leading up to the publication of the book.]
  • Peirce, Ebenezer W. Peirce’s Colonial Lists: Civil, Military and Professional Lists of Plymouth and Rhode Island Colonies, 1621-1700. Reprint, Baltimore: Clearfield, 2001.
  • Rhode Island Historical Society. Register of Seamen’s Protection Certificates from the Providence, Rhode Island Custom District 1796-1870. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1995.
  • Rhode Island in the American Revolution: A Source Guide for Genealogists and Historians by Eric G. Grundset for the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR Source Guides on the American Revolution Series No. 4), 2014.  [An excellent bibliography – not limited to military – also covers any materials from that era]
Rhode Island in the American Revolution, A Source Guide for Genealogists and Historians

Rhode Island in the American Revolution, A Source Guide for Genealogists and Historians

  • Smith, Joseph Jencks. Civil and Military List of Rhode Island. 1647-1800. Providence: Preston and Rounds, 1900. [See also New Index to the Civil and Military Lists of Rhode Island by Joseph Jencks Smith, 1907.]

Newspapers

[The most needed newspaper resource for Providence County would be an indexed, digital archive of The Providence Journal since 1829. This does not yet exist.]

Probate

Vital Records

  • Arnold, James N. Vital Records of Rhode Island, 1636-1850. Volumes 1 – 21. [for a guide to all volumes, and links, see http://onerhodeislandfamily.com/free-r-i-vital-records/  ]
  • Beaman, Alden G. Rhode Island Vital Records, New Series. Volumes 1 – 13. [Some coverage in Newport, Washington, and Kent Counties only. Vital records often gleaned from other types of records, like gravestones or probate. May be useful as an index to seek out the original record to make your own interpretation. ]
  • “Rhode Island Births and Christenings, 1600-1914. “ Abstracts. org. https://familysearch.org/search/collection/1675525 : 2015. [“compiled from a variety of sources” “not complete for any region.”]
  • “Rhode Island, Deaths and Burials, 1802-1950. “ Abstracts. org. https://familysearch.org/search/collection/1675536 : 2015. [“compiled from a variety of sources” “not complete for any region.”]
  • “Rhode Island, Marriages, 1724-1916.” Abstracts. org. https://familysearch.org/search/collection/1675538 : 2015. [“compiled from a variety of sources” “not complete for any region.”]
  • Torrey, Clarence Almon. New England Marriages Prior to 1700. Volumes 1 – 3. Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2011.   [Torrey is essentially a bibliography of any mention of the married couple in various older sources. Consult the sources noted for specifics. Use the most recent edition of Torrey available to benefit from modern additions and corrections.]

Journals

The newly renamed Mary Elizabeth Robinson Research Center of the Rhode Island Historical Society, Hope Street, Providence.

The newly renamed Mary Elizabeth Robinson Research Center of the Rhode Island Historical Society, Hope Street, Providence.

[Additional note: Rhode Island families can be found in any of the major U.S. genealogy journals, or statewide journals. For instance, Vermont and New York State were common destinations for those who left Rhode Island around 1800. Try the journal search at the NEHGS AmericanAncestors.org site. ]

Local

Burrillville

  • Keach, Howard A. Burrillville: As It Was and Is. Providence: Knowles, Anthony & Co., printers, 1856.

Central Falls  

  • Haley, John Williams, Roscoe Morton Dexter, Mrs. Herbert Gould Beede. The lower Blackstone river valley; the story of Pawtucket, Central Falls, Lincoln, and Cumberland, Rhode Island; an historical narrative. Pawtucket, R.I.: E.L. Freeman Co., 1937.

Cranston

  • Clauson, J. Earl. Cranston: A Historical Sketch. Providence: T.S. Hammond, 1904.

Cumberland

  • Balfour, David W and Joyce Hindle Koutsogiane. Cumberland by the Blackstone: 250 Years of Heritage. Virginia Beach: The Donning Company: 1997.
  • Ray, Judith Jenckes. Founders and Patriots of the Town of Cumberland, Rhode Island.  Baltimore : Gateway Press, 1990. 
  • Rhode Island Historic Preservation Commission. Historical and Architectural Resources of Cumberland, Rhode Island. RIHPC: 1990.
  • Simpson, Robert. North Cumberland: A History.[Chelsea, Vt.] : [Acorn Press], [1975].
  • Sprague, Abigail A. (Field). “Abigail Sprague’s History of Cumberland.” Mss. 1023. The Rhode Island Historical Society Research Center, Providence, Rhode Island.

East Providence

  • Conforti, Joseph. Our Heritage: a history of East Providence. White Plains: Monarch, 1976.

Foster

  • Faig, Kenneth W, Charles C. Beaman, Casey B. Taylor. Early Historical Accounts of Foster, Rhode Island. Glenview, Ill.: Moshassuck Press, 1993.

Glocester

  • Fiske, Jane Fletcher, transcriber. Glocester 1778 Tax List: “A List of the Polls and Estates Real and Personal of the Proprietors and Inhabitants of the Town of Glocester in the State of Rhode Island.” Rhode Island Roots, volumes 19 (1993) through 20 (1994).
  • Perry, Elizabeth A. A Brief History of the Town of Glocester, Rhode Island. Providence: Providence Press Co, 1886.

Johnston

  • Nebiker, Walter, Russell Wright, and the Rhode Island Historical Preservation Commission. Preliminary survey Report: Town of Johnston. Providence, R.I.: Rhode Island Historical Preservation Commission, 1976.

Lincoln

  • Greene, Welcome A. Historical Sketch of the Town of Lincoln, in the State of Rhode Island. Central Falls, R.I.: E.L. Freeman, 1876.

North Providence

  • Angell, Frank C. Annals of Centerdale In the town of North Providence, Rhode Island Its Past and Present. 1636-1909. By author, 1909.

North Smithfield

  • Nebiker, Walter E. The History of North Smithfield. North Smithfield Bicentennial Commission, 1976.
  • Rhode Island Historic Preservation Commission. Historical and Architectural Resources of North Smithfield, Rhode Island: A Preliminary Report. Providence: RIHPC, 1980.

Pawtucket

  • Historical Sketch of the Town of Pawtucket, Rhode Island, prepared by Rev. Massena Goodrich. Originally Pawtucket, R.I., 1876, reprinted Heritage Books, 2012.

Providence

  • Bamberg, Cherry Fletcher. 1776 Census of Providence, Rhode Island. New England Historic Genealogical Register, 159 (Jan 2005): 12-24 and (April 2005) 141-154.
  • Hopkins, Charles Wyman. Home Lots of the Early Settlers of the Providence Plantations. 1886, reprinted Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co, 2007.
  • Lemons, J. Stanley. Baptists in Early North America: Volume II, First Baptist Church in Providence. Macon, Georgia: Mercer University Press, 2013.
  • Mayhew, Linda L. “Gleanings from Rhode Island Town Records: Providence Town Council Records, 1770-1788.” Rhode Island Roots. Special Bonus Issue 2006 (April 2006).
  • Mayhew, Linda L. “Gleanings from Rhode Island Town Records: Providence Town Council Records, 1789-1801.” Rhode Island Roots. Special Bonus Issue 2007 (April 2007).
"Gleanings" - special issues of Rhode Island Roots.

“Gleanings” – special issues of Rhode Island Roots.

Scituate

  • Grandchamp, Robert. “With Their Usual Ardor”: Scituate, Rhode Island and the American Revolution. Westminster, Maryland: Heritage Press, 2006.
  • Mayhew, Linda L. “Gleanings from Rhode Island Town Records: Scituate Town Council Records, 1731-1786.” Rhode Island Roots. Special Bonus Issue 2011 (April 2011).

Smithfield

  • [Fiske, Jane Fletcher, transcriber?] Smithfield 1778 Tax List: “A List of the Polls and Estates Real and Personal of the Proprietors and Inhabitants of the Town of Smithfield in the State of Rhode Island.” Rhode Island Roots, volumes 21 (1995) through 23 (1997).
  • Sanborn, Melinde Lutz. “Smithfield, Rhode Island Death Records Culled from Probates.” New England Historic Genealogical Register 146 (October 1992): 343-351.
  • Steere, Thomas. History of the Town of Smithfield from its Organization, in 1730-1, to its Division, in 1871. Providence: E.L. Freeman, 1881.

Woonsocket

[Additional note: various city directories are also available on Ancestry.com: http://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=8778 ]

The post you are reading is located at:  http://onerhodeislandfamily.com/2015/11/25/providence-county-ri-research/

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I recently visited the Portsmouth Free Public Library in Portsmouth, Rhode Island.  Like most native Rhode Islanders I seldom “cross the bridge” to East Bay so this was the first time I had been there, and the first time I had been to the charming town of Portsmouth in a long time.

Portsmouth Free Public Library

Portsmouth Free Public Library

I was invited by Library Director Carolyn Magnus to give a talk to their genealogy group.  That was a lot of fun; what a nice group of people.  A woman afterwards told me a fascinating story about tracing her ancestors.  I think we all enjoyed the evening very much.

Entrance to Portsmouth Library

Entrance to Portsmouth Library

Carolyn had promised me a tour of the library and it was impressive.

Interior, Portsmouth Library

Interior, Portsmouth Library. The tall case holds a single donation of local history books.

The library is one of three libraries around the state that hold a part of the Rhode Island Genealogical Society’s collection (also Greenville, R.I., which I have visited, and West Warwick, R.I.).  Their holdings were arranged in one aisle of shelves towards the back of the library.  They do not circulate, but are available for use.

Be still my heart, the RIGS collection includes an original calfskin 1888 copy of Ballous in America. I've never seen one not in library binding.

Be still my heart, the RIGS collection includes an original 1888 calfskin copy of Ballous in America. I’ve never seen one not in library binding.

The library holds other special collections, including an extensive local history collection.

Portsmouth History collection

Portsmouth History collection.  I always try to spot unique and self-published materials in a collection like this.

There were a lot of East Bay-oriented materials in the local history section.  Also, the local historical Society has a little exhibit featured in a case.

Portsmouth History collection

Portsmouth History collection.  The topic was local school history.

Between the RIGS volumes and the local history, I recommend this site for researchers – the town is cute and might be worth a detour if you are ever in the area and have local roots nearby.

The post you are reading is located at:  http://onerhodeislandfamily.com/2015/11/12/portsmouth-free-public-library/

 

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I had a request recently from a reader looking for help finding his ancestor in eighteenth century Rhode Island.  The name of this elusive ancestor?  Comfort Record.  My correspondent knows quite a bit about Comfort Record, except for his origins, which may have been in Rhode Island.

The following is just general advice, and some of these steps have already been used for Comfort Record.  Of course, there is no right answer until you account for all available information and weigh each piece of evidence, even contradictory evidence, to draw a reasoned conclusion.  Sometimes only a broader search will yield results (Searching Smarter).  If you are seeking advice about the time period 1650-1750, try this post also: A Research List for 1650-1750 in Rhode Island.

Hang on, because these are not simple suggestions, and many are not available online.

A timeline

I think it’s good to start out with a full timeline of everything that’s known (more exactly, every piece of evidence you’ve found, which of course may or may not be reliable).  Ideally this would be done in your genealogy records with full source citations to help you make judgments about the sources and compare your findings.  A method I use now is detailed here (The Research Notebook).

Vital records

  • First and foremost, try James Arnold‘s Vital Records.  This will take you to about 1850. These records can also be found on Ancestry.com. Remember that Arnold abstracted record books and newspapers from around the state.  Use it as an index to help you find the actual record, through requests at a town hall, microfilm at some repositories, or through renting familysearch.org microfilm. Many Rhode Island births, deaths and marriages went unrecorded, or perhaps the records did not survive.  A spotty collection of later records are also on FamilySearch.org and the NEHGS website (for members).
  • Try using Beaman‘s Rhode Island Vital Records New Series.  These volumes are under copyright and not online but can be found in many large genealogy collections, or in local Rhode Island libraries.  Some of Mr. Beaman’s work involved making assumptions about, say, a birth from another record, like a death.  So, I would want to then find that death record and evaluate it myself.
Beaman's Rhode Island Vital Records, New Series.

Beaman’s Rhode Island Vital Records, New Series.

Cemeteries

  • There are many tiny, obscure cemeteries scattered around the back roads of Rhode Island (and some large old cemeteries in cities like Newport).  Older graveyards can easily become overgrown and encroached upon by neighbors.  Without the amazing work of many dedicated volunteers, the situation would be far worse.  Check for graves at the Rhode Island Historic Cemetery Commission Database and FindAGrave.com.  Also check for published books of cemetery records.
  • For a burial more recent than 1800, where you know the cemetery, seek out manuscripts or files of original plot sales and maps.  Try to find everything that’s known about that cemetery’s records.

Census

  • Learn more about Rhode Island’s early census records in these notes by expert Cherry Fletcher Bamberg on the Rhode Island Genealogical Society website.
  • Some early census records, usually incomplete, have been compiled in book form.  Mrs. Bamberg (linked above) has an excellent analysis of these resources and points to some better alternatives in her article.
    •  Rhode Island Freemen, 1747-1755: A Census of Registered Voters compiled by Bruce MacGunnigle.  Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1982.
    • Census of the Inhabitants of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, taken by order of the General Assembly, in the year 1774, arranged by John R. Bartlett. Providence: Knowles, Anthony & Co, 1858.
    • The Rhode Island 1777 Military Census transcribed by Mildred M. Chamberlain. Baltimore: Clearfield (Published under the direction of the Rhode Island Genealogical Society), 1985.
    • Rhode Island 1782 Census by Jay Mack Holbrook.  Oxford, Mass.: Holbrook Research Institute, 1979 (and this preferred version, a transcription of the 1782 census).
    • The federal census, starting in 1790, can be accessed online at many sites.
    • Rhode Island has state census records for 1865, 1875 (both available to paid accounts on Ancestry.com or, locally, at the Rhode Island State Archives) as well as 1885, 1905, 1915, 1925, and 1935.  My favorite is the 1865 state census.  It includes street names, origins, occupations, and many other great details.  And in most cases the handwriting is fabulous.

Church records

  • Apparently Comfort Record was a Baptist minister.  The thing about Rhode Island churches is that they may have been small, and a certain church may have operated quite independently, and disappeared quickly.  Read what little I know about church records here.  Finding early church records is often impossible.  “Baptist” doesn’t narrow things down much around here – Six Principle Baptists are a possibility, as well as Seventh Day Baptists.
  • I tried Colonial Clergy of New England since I happen to own the book – no Record there.
Colonial Clergy of New England.

Colonial Clergy of New England.

Letters, diaries, notes

  • Try ArchiveGrid and NUCMC for any mention of Comfort Record, his wife, any known church, or other family members in a manuscript. Also see what is related to the possible town your ancestor is from. These sources will only tell you about a manuscript; you would still have to pursue how to access the manuscript.
  • Check the Rhode Island Historical Society Research Center catalog and also check for manuscripts there.

Know your names

  • My correspondent has some experience with Record being occasionally spelled Ricord, Ricard, or even Richard(s).  I think it’s so natural for us to really believe in the surviving form of the name and discount and not seek out other possible forms or spellings, even though, if we think about it, more often than not it wasn’t even our ancestor that was filling in the document we see.  I think spelling means very little before 1850, but I often have to remind myself to try the wide variety of possibilities.
  • If much is known about the wife, that is definitely a good line of research to follow.  What happened to each of her siblings?  There may have been other intermarriages between the two families.  The wife’s place of residence at the time of the marriage is the best clue you are likely to find.  Always pull up maps for as close to the time period as you can get.  If possible, check her father’s deeds for transactions with others having that last name.
  • Examine all the names given to the children of the person you are researching.  If the wife’s family is known, match those with her parents, grandparents and siblings.  What is left?  Those are clues.
  • I think New England researchers are used to looking for older out-of-copyright family genealogy books online.  But there could be better-documented, more recent books too.  Try the book tips in the next section for locating possible recent books, and it’s always good to look at the FamilySearch.org books – even recent books on that site can be opened from a computer at your local LDS Family History Center.
Colonial Records of Rhode Island, 10 volumes, by Bartlett.

Colonial Records of Rhode Island, 10 volumes, by Bartlett.

Know your town

  • One thing that really frustrates me in my own research is having to reach into a new geographic area and do something intelligent.  Because it’s hard. Look for books, and don’t overlook this step, even though you may be thinking, well, I don’t want to know the history of EVERYONE in town, just my ancestor. That really doesn’t work, especially when such an approach has already been unsuccessful. I usually read the history of the town, noting especially land settlement patterns, industries, villages, disasters, religions, and natural resources.  Also find studies that have been done on the particular Rhode Island village your ancestor was from.
  • Check the genealogical publishers (Heritage Press, Genealogical.com, Picton Press, NEHGS and the R.I. Genealogical Society, as well as Amazon and Alibris) for books related to the town you are researching.  For instance, Elder John Gorton and The Diary of Capt. Samuel Tillinghast 1757-1766, both edited by Cherry Fletcher Bamberg and published by RIGS, are extremely valuable for East Greenwich and Warwick research.
  • Learn what resources exist for town meetings and town government.  Learn what county court records may exist.  Sometimes, materials have been abstracted or summarized in a book still under copyright – that could be quite useful. Pre-1923 books are often found online at Google Books or Internet Archive, but don’t limit yourself to those. Try the card catalog of the Rhode Island Historical Society Research Center.  I would also recommend the card catalog of the Allen County Public Library (try limiting your search to materials located in the Genealogy Department).  Even if you can’t get to those libraries, it will help to know what books exist.  Maybe your library could try interlibrary loan for you.  I often find used books on Amazon.com.  I have occasionally gone page-to-page in the town hall through old town meeting books.  This might be useful if you have a specific year in mind.  Also, don’t miss back copies of R.I. Genealogical Society’s Gleanings, containing abstracted town records.
  • Almost anyone might be mentioned in state government records, for instance, petitions by groups of neighbors hoping for bridge construction, etc.  Try the Records of the Colony of Rhode Island or if you can get to the R.I. State Archives, try their index cards to state legislative business.

The places change

  • I think most people know that early New England settlements expanded and towns were often subdivided off from original, larger towns.  But it is no easy task to always incorporate this into research.  To suspect, for instance, that a 1725 East Greenwich deed may refer to property which became part of West Greenwich in 1741.  Bookmark this useful list and map from the Rhode Island Genealogical Society.

Massachusetts

  • Some areas of Rhode Island have a long and complicated relationship with Massachusetts.  Property and sometimes whole towns transferred between the two states.  This is especially a possible factor if your research area is north or east of Providence.  Also, some towns in Massachusetts border on Rhode Island towns.  See the link in the previous paragraph.

Connecticut

  • Eastern Connecticut became industrialized very early, around 1800 (particularly Norwich, Connecticut) and attracted southwestern Rhode Islanders, who left farm life and joined the booming industries.  Areas like western Coventry border eastern Connecticut towns.

Military records

  • For those who have access to the Rhode Island State Archives, the paper-only Revolutionary War index is very helpful for locating many records which are in Rhode Island repositories, not online.  Also try Fold3.com.
  • The most thorough guide to existing Rhode Island records of the Revolutionary War era is the bibliography Rhode Island in the American Revolution by Eric G. Grundset. It’s about anything from the era, not just military information.  One thing that’s so valuable about the book is that it refers to numerous articles and booklets that would be hard to know about otherwise. Your ancestor’s name is not in this book.  It’s about where your ancestor’s name might be found.
Rhode Island in the American Revolution, A Source Guide for Genealogists and Historians

Rhode Island in the American Revolution, A Source Guide for Genealogists and Historians

Journals and genealogical work

Probate

  • A good way to find evidence of a relationship to a possible father would be to examine that father’s probate record.  Some Rhode Island Probate records are newly online at Ancestry.com.  Try browsing the collection by county, although since probates are managed by town, it’s not very helpful that you then have to browse through generic titles for each county and click through to the first few pages to spot the name of the town.  Probate records are available in town halls if that’s an option, and some are on microfilm at the R.I. Historical Society Research Center or through FamilySearch.org.  Also try the final deeds for the possible father you’ve found; sometimes heirs, and their current residence, are mentioned.

Newspapers

  • There won’t be a lot of Rhode Island newspapers for the pre-1800 era, but you can try GenealogyBank.com.  The Rhode Island Historical Society Research Center has a wide collection of Rhode Island newspapers on microfilm, unindexed.  For very early papers, don’t hesitate to consult Newport papers even if your family lived far from Newport – it served as a state capital early on and was the center of a lot of Rhode Island interests.

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The newly renamed Mary Elizabeth Robinson Research Center of the Rhode Island Historical Society, Hope Street, Providence.

The newly renamed Mary Elizabeth Robinson Research Center of the Rhode Island Historical Society, Hope Street, Providence.

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I get a lot of questions here about church records.  And probably nothing in Rhode Island is more complicated and interesting than church history.

The first thing I think people have trouble realizing is that the church your ancestor belonged to prior to 1850 probably doesn’t exist anymore.  And if it does, it is focusing on its mission today and not necessarily devoted to looking up old records, or even in possession of old records.  I’ll bet there are some exceptions to that, but then again, I wouldn’t know, I’m embarrassed to say my New England ancestors barely darkened the door of a church between about 1700-1900 so I don’t have much to look for.

Location of the first Sunday School in America. The history of the state of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Volume 2, p. 577

Location of the first Sunday School in America. Pawtucket.  The history of the state of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Volume 2, p. 577

The other thing that’s important to understand is that since many of these churches were, in their time, new and unique, it’s important than do more than race around looking for vital records.  It’s important to understand what the church philosophy and principles were.  For instance, your ancestor from one part of the state may have found a bride from a completely different area of the state, or into Massachusetts, because marrying within the church was required.  Other rules may have impacted your ancestors’ lives:  refusal of military service, baptism of infants (or lack thereof), or consequences of non-attendance.  Knowing the story of the church will tell you something significant about your ancestors’ story.

I am no expert on this, so feel free to add, in the comments, your own favorite sources for church records.

First Congregational Meeting House, Providence. The history of the state of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Volume 2, p. 564.

First Congregational Meeting House, Providence. The history of the state of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Volume 2, p. 564.

Some published guides to churches

During the Depression, the Work Projects Administration (WPA) put some people to work compiling the locations of old church records as part of The Historical Records Survey.  These books will guide you to the LOCATION of church records in the 1930’s.  They do not contain the records themselves.  In many cases a name and address will be given for a person who was holding the old record volumes (around 1940).  Those would be useless today.  In some cases, a repository or association is mentioned as holding the records.  That might be something you could follow up on.

Inventory of the Church Archives of Rhode Island. Society of Friends.  Providence: Historical Records Survey, 1939.

Inventory of the Church Archives of Rhode Island. Baptist.   Providence: Historical Records Survey, 1941.

Other general works:

A view in 1827 of all the Six Principle Baptist Churches in Rhode Island is contained in History of the General or Six Principle Baptists in Europe and America by Richard Knight, p. 254-301, specifically.

Weis, Frederick Lewis.  Colonial Clergy of New England. Lancaster, Mass.: Society of the Descendants of the Colonial Clergy, 1936.

Jackson, Henry.  An Account of the Churches in Rhode Island (Baptist State Convention) (1853)

First Baptist Meeting House, Providence. The history of the state of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Volume 2, p. 564.

First Baptist Meeting House, Providence. The history of the state of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Volume 2, p. 564.

Some volumes that contain actual records

Updike, Wilkins.  A History of the Episcopal Church in Narragansett, Rhode Island (1907):  Volume 1.   Volume 2Volume 3.

Centennial sermon preached before the Beneficent Congregational Church and Society in Providence, R.I. March 19, 1843 : together with the articles of faith, covenant, & c. and a list of members of said church (1845)

Historical manual of the Central Congregational Church, Providence, R.I. 1852-1902 (1902)

Manual of the Union Congregational Church, in Providence, R.I (1894)

Arnold, James N.  Vital Records of the State of Rhode Island  v.7    (opens the pdf link to the Internet Archive download, or, browse book online and download from this page).

Volume 7 contains:

  • KINGSTOWN  Kings Towne Friends, p. 202
  • MARRIAGES, MISCELLANEOUS RECORDS. p. 330
  • NARRAGANSETT  Narragansett friends, p. 131
  • RHODE ISLAND FRIENDS records, p. 1
  • SMITHFIELD  Smithfield Friends, p. 160
  • SWANSEE  Swansey Friends record p. 277
Central Congregational Church. The history of the state of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Volume 2, p. 586.

Central Congregational Church. The history of the state of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Volume 2, p. 586.

Arnold, James N.  Vital Records of the State of Rhode Island  v.8   (opens the pdf link to the Google Books download, or, browse book online and download from this page).

Volume 8 contains:

  • BARRINGTON  Congregational Church records, p. 69
  • BRISTOL  Baptist Church records, p. 515
  • BRISTOL  Congregational Church records, p. 239
  • BRISTOL  Episcopal Church records, p. 145
  • BRISTOL  Methodist Church records, p. 565
  • BRISTOL  Dr. Shepard’s record of deaths, 1834-1857, p. 481
  • LITTLE COMPTON  Congregational Church records, p. 1
  • MARRIAGES, MISCELLANEOUS RECORDS.  p. 1, 270
  • NEWPORT  First Congregational Church records, p. 400
  • NEWPORT  Second Congregational Church records, p. 439
  • NORTH KINGSTOWN  Baptist Church records, p. 598
  • SOUTH KINGSTOWN  Baptist Church records, p. 616
  • TIVERTON  Baptist Church record, p. 495
  • TIVERTON  Congregational Church records, p. 49
  • WAKEFIELD  Records of the Church of the Ascension, p. 577
  • WARREN  Baptist Church records, p. 521
  • WARREN  Episcopal Church records, p. 95
  • WARREN  Methodist Church records, p. 559

Arnold, James N.  Vital Records of the State of Rhode Island  v.10   (opens the pdf link to Family History Books (familysearch.org) for immediate download download).

Volume 10 contains:

  • BARRINGTON  First Congregational Church records, 1728-1740, p. 231
  • COVENTRY  Maple Root Baptist Church record, p.  245
  • CRANSTON  Marriages performed by Rev. Otis W. Potter, 1833-1852, p. 299
  • EAST GREENWICH  Baptist Church records, p. 291
  • EAST PROVIDENCE  Baptist Church records, p. 117
  • EXETER  Baptist Church records, p. 399
  • HOPKINTON  First Sabbatarian Church to 1785. p. 93
  • MARRIAGES, MISCELLANEOUS RECORDS.  p. 299, 305, 310
  • NARRAGANSETT  St. Paul’s Church records, 1718-1075, p. 333
  • NEWPORT  Trinity Church records, p. 427
  • PAWTUCKET  Births, p. 61
  • PAWTUCKET  Marriages and intentions p. 1, 43
  • PAWTUCKET  Marriages performed by Rev. David Benedict, p. 310
  • PROVIDENCE  Congregational Church, west side, records, p. 197
  • PROVIDENCE  First Congregational Church records, p. 155
  • PROVIDENCE  King Church (now St. John’s) records, p. 135
  • PROVIDENCE  Westminster Congregational Church records, p. 185
  • RICHMOND  Marriages performed by Edward Perry-Justice of Peace, p. 305
  • SMITHFIELD  Second Freewill Baptist Church records, p. 297
  • SOUTH KINGSTOWN  Narragansett Baptist Church records, p. 545
  • SOUTH KINGSTOWN  Queen’s River Baptist Church records, p. 387
  • WEST GREENWICH  West Greenwich and Exeter Union Church, Baptist, p. 279
  • WESTPORT  Record of Friend3 Births and Deaths, p. 75
  • WESTPORT  Record of Friends Marriages, p. 63
  • WICKFORD  First Baptist Church records, p. 553

Arnold, James N.  Vital Records of the State of Rhode Island  v.11    (opens the pdf link to the Internet Archive download, or, browse book online and download from this page).

Volume 11 contains:

  • CROSS MILLS  First Baptist Church records, p. 261
  • EAST GREENWICH  Baptist Church records, p. 437
  • EAST GREENWICH  Methodist-Episcopal Church records, p. 457
  • EAST GREENWICH  St. Lake’s Church records, p. 517
  • HOPKINTON  Rookville Seventh Day Baptist Church records, p. 373
  • MARRIAGES, MISCELLANEOUS RECORDS. p. 339
  • NEWPORT  Sabbatarian Baptist Church records, p. 297
  • NORTH KINGSTOWN  Quidnessett Baptist Church records, p. 419
  • NORTH KINGSTOWN  Marriages performed by Joshua Babcock, Justice, p, 339
  • RICHMOND  First General Baptist Church records, p. 387
  • RICHMOND  Second Baptist Church records, p. 239
  • SOUTH KINGSTOWN  Second Baptist Church records, p. 265
  • STONINGTON  Pawcatuck Congregational Church records, p. 347
  • WESTERLY  Christ Church records, p. 1
  • WESTERLY  First Baptist Church records, p. 205
  • WESTERLY  First Christian Church records, p. 309
  • WESTERLY  Grace Church marriages, p, 145
  • WESTERLY  Pawcatuck Congregational Church records, p. 347
  • WESTERLY  Pawcatuck Sabbatarian Baptist Church records, p. 273
St. Peter's and St. Paul's Cathedral, Cathedral Square, Providence. The history of the state of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Volume 2, p. 616.

St. Peter’s and St. Paul’s Cathedral, Cathedral Square, Providence. The history of the state of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Volume 2, p. 616.

Other sources

The Rhode Island Historical Society does have some holdings of church records (not always member data, though) so check their card catalog as well as contacting them with questions.  I suspect the same is true for the Newport Historical Society Library.

Of special note at the Rhode Island Historical Society:

Probably the best sources of any new research that might come along on this topic from time to time would be Rhode Island Roots from the Rhode Island Genealogical Society and Rhode Island History from the Rhode Island Historical Society.  I enjoy belonging to both those organizations and receiving the subscriptions.

Also try:

Some other sources of Rhode Island information:

  • The Narragansett Historical Register seems to have articles about a few churches.
  • The Rhode Island Genealogical Register has a few church cemeteries, but a quick perusal shows no church records, which is just as well since this 20 volume periodical is hard to find.  Under copyright, so not online, but no longer for sale in print.  Available used and in libraries only.
  • Rhode Island: Volume 5 of Bibliographies of New England History shows church materials in just about every town list; often an anniversary souvenir booklet, not, usually, materials with member lists.  This book (University Press of New England, 1983) could be consulted in large genealogy libraries or at local libraries in Rhode Island.
  • Many of Rhode Island’s town histories will include the history of many of the local churches, for instance, Oliver P. Fuller’s 1875 History of Warwick, Rhode Island.
  • Likewise, the larger statewide histories like Thomas W. Bicknell’s History of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations include overviews of various churches and religious bodies (particularly Volume 2, p. 565-637).  Volume 1    Volume 2Volume 3Volume 4:BiographicalVolume 5: Biographical.
Academy of the Sacred Heart, Elmhurst, Providence. The history of the state of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Volume 2, p. 621.

Academy of the Sacred Heart, Elmhurst, Providence. The history of the state of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Volume 2, p. 621.

Some more recent books cannot be found online but can be found for sale and in genealogy libraries:

  • Bamberg, Cherry Fletcher.  Elder John Gorton and the Six Principle Baptist Church of East Greenwich, Rhode Island.  Greenville, Rhode Island: Rhode Island Genealogical Society (Special Publication No. 6), 2001.
  • For many years Rhode Island has had a large Catholic population.  Some Catholic Church records have been transcribed and published in book form.  Check out the American French Genealogical Society website (including the book sale and the library catalog) for many of these volumes.  The state Catholic Diocese is located at 1 Cathedral Square, Providence.
  • Two books have been released in the new series “Baptists in Early North America” – a volume on Swansea, Massachusetts, by William Brackney and Charles K. Hartman, and a volume on the First Baptist Church in Providence by J. Stanley Lemons.  Both contain some early records, some wonderful footnotes, and a complete index.
I spotted these recently at the New England Historic Genealogical Society Library.

I spotted these recently at the New England Historic Genealogical Society Library.

More sources will be added here from time to time.

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Thanks to my Rhode Island Genealogical Society membership, I learned about a new book, Rhode Island in the American Revolution when it was reviewed in the June, 2015 issue of Rhode Island Roots.  I now have my own copy.

Rhode Island in the American Revolution: A Source Guide for Genealogists and Historians by Eric G. Grundset for the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR Source Guides on the American Revolution Series No. 4), was published in 2014 by the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution.  I met Mr. Grundset in 2013 at the DAR Library (thanks to an introduction by my friend Barbara Poole, who worked there once upon a time) and he told me he was compiling this book.  I’ve been looking for it since then, but only found it when reading Rhode Island Roots.

Rhode Island in the American Revolution, A Source Guide for Genealogists and Historians

Rhode Island in the American Revolution, A Source Guide for Genealogists and Historians

This is not a book that will contain your ancestor’s name.  It is a source book; essentially a bibliography of sources for information about Rhode Island soldiers and sailors in the Revolutionary War and, indeed, just about ANY Rhode Island information from the Revolutionary War period.  Genealogy journal articles, historical journal articles, theses, manuscripts, books, laws, diaries, pamphlets, letters, records, military rolls, commemorative programs, old periodicals … this is an incredibly complete look at available sources for learning more about Rhode Island’s participation in the war.  For everything that MIGHT contain your ancestor’s name, you now have a way to locate those resources.

The book is available from the DAR online book store as a hardcover book or as a pdf download.  Either one is $25.  It was hard for me to decide, because if I bought it digitally, I could always have access to it through my tablet or even phone when at a repository that holds any of the items mentioned.  On the other hand, I knew I would peruse a real book more, and actually read more.  The DAR also offers a few similar books concerned with other states.

I am a long-time bibliography reader so it doesn’t surprise me that I have already read quite a bit of this.  I have only one Revolutionary War soldier from Rhode Island – Richard Ballou.  He is on a muster roll for the “Cumberland Rangers” – something I have never been able to pin down.  This book points to several articles that will help me, as well as the original law setting up the Cumberland Rangers.  But I have also noticed so many other interesting items I’ve never seen before, related to this time period, that might help me in other ways.  The materials date from the 1700’s through very recent articles or compilations.

For anyone interested in DAR membership, Mr. Grundset helpfully adds notes about certain record sets that the DAR will accept as proof of service.  He also points to locations for unique items, and occasionally those will include Family History Library microfilm – that will be reassuring for people who don’t live around Rhode Island.

The book divides the information in a variety of ways – geographically, by types of service, by type of item – government, social issues, religion, prominent citizens – and includes, at the beginning, an overview of Rhode Island repositories and guides helpful to this research.  An index at the end helps you find specific names, places, etc. that might appear as authors or in the titles of these cited works.

The best part, for me, is the price – $25.  This is a very valuable book and I’m glad it’s at an accessible price.  I would recommend it for any serious genealogist with roots in early Rhode Island. If purchasing this book is not an option, my guess is it will appear at all the major genealogy libraries and some local libraries.

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The siege of Rhode Island, taken from Mr. Brindley's house on the 25th of August, 1778 (digital file from b&w film copy neg.) cph 3a19034 http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3a19034 Reproduction Number: LC-USZ62-16834 (b&w film copy neg.) Repository: Library of Congress Rare Book and Special Collections Division Washington, D.C.

The siege of Rhode Island, taken from Mr. Brindley’s house on the 25th of August, 1778  –
Reproduction Number: LC-USZ62-16834 (b&w film copy neg.)
Repository: Library of Congress Rare Book and Special Collections Division Washington, D.C.

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Recently, I visited the Special Collections unit of the Carothers Library at the University of Rhode Island.  URI is situated in the picturesque village of Kingston, Rhode Island.  Like many east coast state universities, the campus is somewhat large and spread out.  Before you ask, let me say, yes, as on all college campuses, parking is a problem.  Going in June helped.

I called Special Collections in advance, as requested for summer visitors on the website.  They were very nice.  I felt badly that I arrived a bit later than my appointment time.  See the book shop notes at the bottom of this post. Next time, library first, book shop second.

I pulled up to the university Visitors Center and walked in.  They issued me a temporary parking pass and gave me a map so I could find the parking lot.  The lot was not all that close to the library, so there was a bit of walking to do after I parked.

Near the entrance of the Robert L. Carothers Library.  Photo by Diane Boumenot.

The Robert L. Carothers Library. Photo by Diane Boumenot.

Special Collections

The reading room for Special Collections was located on the second floor.  I went in and introduced myself.  The librarian asked me a few more questions about the records I wanted to look at, then went and retrieved the archival boxes.

My mission was to seek records for the Grace Church Cemetery in Providence (PV005 in the Rhode Island Historical Cemeteries Commission website). URI holds the archives of various Episcopal Churches of Rhode Island. According to their online catalog, there were records of Grace Church, as well as records specific to the Grace Church Cemetery, which is located just south of downtown Providence on Broad Street. These records are in the archives; none are online.

Grace Episcopal Church

I have noticed over the years that I have several ancestors buried in the Grace Church Cemetery, Providence:

  • my g-grandfather Miles E Baldwin Sr (1863-1926)
  • my ggg-grandmother Margaret (Lawrence) Murdock (1837-1921)
  • my gggg-grandparents James (1807-1882) and Ann (Shortridge) Lawrence (1810-1897)

as well as various sons and daughters of those ancestors.  I learned of this through death records.

If anyone were to read my blog often, they might realize this is one of the first times I’ve written about my ancestors having a connection to a church.  Prior to about 1900, I almost never find them getting married at a church, or appearing in any church activities.  If they did, it tended to be Methodist, Congregational, or Baptist, with a few Quakers in the distant past.  But Episcopalian?  The only one I can think of was my grandfather’s Aunt Jenny, who was, according to her obituary, a member of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Providence.

Grace Episcopal Church, still a landmark in downtown Providence.

Grace Episcopal Church, still a landmark on Mathewson Street in downtown Providence.

So I sat at the library and thought through the idea of the Episcopal Church.  It occurred to me that I might expect English immigrants to be affiliated with an Episcopal Church.  Aunt Jenny and my great grandfather, Miles E Baldwin Sr., were half siblings, and their mother was born in Surrey, England and came to the U.S. around 1843.  James and Ann (Shortridge) Lawrence were immigrants from two different places in England around 1833, and Margaret Lawrence was their daughter.  I went so far as to check out the church rolls and sacrament documentation in the special collections (in addition to the cemetery records) but no luck.  Probably, they were loyal to the church and turned there for burial, but apparently were not regular members. Possibly, a real church wedding or funeral was too costly.

There were numerous old parish registers for the Grace Church.

There were numerous old parish registers for the Grace Church.

Grace Church Cemetery records

The Grace Church Cemetery records were in boxes 45, 46 and 47 of Group #144, Series IV.  In the end I looked at all three boxes, and several mini-boxes of cards.  In Rhode Island, one gets used to a “cemetery” being a small group of ancient stones enclosed by rusting ironwork behind an old barn.  Records of any sort (other than later gravestone readings) are quite a luxury.  I haven’t gotten used to them, so I made sure I looked at everything.

The first item in the cemetery records is a compiled index (Group #144, Series IV, Box 45, folder 1).  All of the materials were appropriately archived.

The first item in the cemetery records is a compiled index (Group #144, Series IV, Box 45, folder 1). All of the materials were appropriately cataloged and archived.

I found what I was looking for, and I found a little more.  These are the family members that I found:

  • Lot #88
    • my g-grandfather Miles E Baldwin Sr (1863-1926)
    • Jennie Baldwin, dated 8 April 1908 (Lot 721) (29 November 1926 removed to Lot 88)
  • Lot #250
    • my ggggg-grandmother Margaret (Balmer) Shortridge (1781-1873)
    • possibly, my ggggg-grandfather John Shortridge (1786 – ?)
    • my gggg-grandfather James Lawrence (1807-1882)
    • my gggg-grandmother Annie (Shortridge) Lawrence (1810-1897)
    • four children of James and Annie Lawrence:
      • my ggg-grandmother Margaret (Lawrence) Murdock Knight (1837-1921)
      • John H Lawrence (1840-1862)
      • William J. Lawrence (1845-1865)
      • Elizabeth Jane (Lawrence) Scott (1849-1937) and her husband John Thayer Scott (1846-1921) and some of their children
The Plot Diagram for Lot 250.  This is the only reference I've ever seen to the death of John Shortridge, my gggg-grandfather.  Of course, it has a question mark.  The mystery continues.

The Plot Diagram for Lot 250. This is the only reference I’ve ever seen to the death of John Shortridge, my gggg-grandfather. Of course, it has a question mark. The mystery continues.

  • Lot 378
    • Hazel M Baldwin (1910-1931) – daughter of Miles, above
    • Jennie K. Robblee (1864-1944) – sister of Miles’ second wife Mabel Robblee
  • Lot 547
    • Mary (Shortridge) Bamford (1806-1883), daughter of John and Margaret Shortridge
    • her husband William Bamford and some of their children
  • Lot 215
    • Margaret (Shortridge) Hardman (1816-1892), daughter of John and Margaret Shortridge
    • her husband William Hardman and two of their children

I used the typed index (Box 45), the card index boxes (Box 47), “plot listings” showing – I think – ownership (Box 47) and the plot diagrams (Box 46).  In a few cases I learned a little more at the R.I. Historic Cemeteries Commission website.

Some of the cards were confusing - I know William Lawrence died in 1865 of Typhoid Fever.  Was he also a soldier?

Some of the cards were confusing – I know William Lawrence died in 1865 of Typhoid Fever. Was he also a soldier?

A few surprises

I found some surprising things while researching this cemetery.

  • Jennie Baldwin in lot #88 – that is from the cemetery index in Box 45, folder 1, evidently taken from the plot diagram.  R.I. Historical Cemeteries Commission adds an entry in lot #88 for Myrtle Baldwin – that makes a lot more sense.  Miles and his daughter Myrtle are in one grave – the rest of #88 are strangers.  “Jennie Baldwin” is jotted sloppily next to Miles’ name on the plot diagram.  I suspect my Aunt Jenny paid for her brother’s burial, and the girl’s grave was moved at that time, and maybe the clerk got the names mixed up.  There is no Jennie Baldwin.  I think.
  • John Shortridge is mentioned in the plot diagram with a question mark.  I’ve never found any trace of him after the family’s 1832 arrival in New York, when he was 46 years old.  Sure wish I knew what this meant.  I don’t think anyone would buy a burial plot for someone who disappeared – he must have died.  Strange.
  • John Lawrence was killed at the Battle of Antietam.  I had lost track of John Lawrence, now I see why.  Researching this topic is going to be my next task. [Update – see further info on my subsequent blog post, A Death at Antietam]
  • John’s brother William Lawrence, who died of Typhoid Fever in 1865, may also have served in the Civil War.  Need to research.
  • Possibly, the two Civil War letters that are currently lost in my family were written by one of these two.  As I think about a mother saving such letters and passing them down to the child she lived with at the time of her death, I can see how these might have ended up with my grandmother.  Something to think about.

I had a good visit at the Carothers Library special collections unit, and pretty much just did what I came to do.  I can think of a few other topics to look up there, and that may happen another time. Some of my local genealogy friends say the library itself is a reasonable research spot; I didn’t look at the regular collections.  All in all, I got some valuable information and was able to share it with a cousin that I met through DNA testing.

The Grace Church Cemetery

I was able to copy the cemetery map at the archives.  It is below. Click here for a copy that can be clicked to enlarge.

Map of Grace Church Cemetery from Box 47.  Will open larger.

Map of Grace Church Cemetery from Box 47.

The Rhode Island Historical Cemeteries Commission website provides some details of many of the graves.  Using the “Search Web Database” link, I searched for various last names in this cemetery, PV005, over the years.  Now, in hindsight, I see that the information was really quite helpful.  The lot number is given, and other information, and John Sterling himself updated the listings in 2000.  Can’t get much better than that.

A bit broken and battered, Grace Church Cemetery stands at the intersection of Broad Street and

A bit broken and battered, Grace Church Cemetery stands at the intersection of Broad Street and Elmwood Ave, Providence.  Photo by Diane Boumenot.

The problem with Grace Church Cemetery is the location; it’s in a downtrodden neighborhood just south of downtown Providence and is a little the worse for wear.  In fairness, the neighborhood was nothing fancy when my ancestors were buried there.  I took some pictures for this post, but I expect to find my ancestors’ graves in the future, after I finish compiling what I know.

Another view of Grace Church Cemetery.  Photo by Diane Boumenot.

Another view of Grace Church Cemetery, Providence. Photo by Diane Boumenot.

A little detour

Across route 138 from the campus, I saw a used book shop as I was driving to the library and I had to stop.  It was Allison B. Goodsell, Rare Books, also called the Kingston Hill Store.  The shop had a great Rhode Island history collection, a small genealogy section, and, in back, some complete old sets of Rhode Island compiled books – Records of the Colony of Rhode Island, Early Records of the Town of Providence, etc. – the kind of thing I have used on Google Books or Internet Archive.

Part of the Rhode Island history books.

Part of the Rhode Island history books.

They even had two copies of Austin’s Genealogical Dictionary of Rhode Island.  And many other treasures. This may be my new favorite used book store in Rhode Island.  I bought a book that will be featured on the blog at a later date.

Kingston Hill Store, Rte. 138, Kingston, Rhode Island.

Kingston Hill Store, Rte. 138, Kingston, Rhode Island.

The post you are reading is located at:  http://onerhodeislandfamily.com/2015/06/18/a-visit-to-uri-library/

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Rhode Island researchers will look at the title of this story and say, that’s nice … wait … what?  Rhode Island really doesn’t have a State Library in quite the way that other states do.  If anything, the State Archives might come closer to what people expect from a state library.  But there is a state library located on the second floor of the Rhode Island State House, and I visited it yesterday.  This is the story (mostly in pictures) of my visit to the Rhode Island State House, Benefit Street, and the Licht Judicial Center where the Supreme Court is held.

The Rhode Island State House

Since the Rhode Island State Library is on the second floor of the State House, I traveled to Smith Street, found some metered parking well down the street, and entered the State House for the first time ever.  The State House, completed in 1902, is beautiful. I wandered around the first and second floors for quite a while.  Note for next time:  ABSOLUTELY do not miss the full length portrait of George Washington, painted by Rhode Island native Gilbert Stuart, in the Governor’s State Room.

What’s hard to portray here is the unique auditory experience of the State House.  There were school children visiting, but their voices and footsteps were heard only as a kind of whirring white noise.  It was a windy day, but still I’m not sure why I seemed to be hearing that inside, too.  At one point, a piano somewhere could be clearly heard; someone was playing well and loudly.  Somehow, the piano and the circulating noises seemed to add to the homey, unique experience of the State House – I couldn’t help but think, I doubt you would hear a piano wafting up the stairwells in the State House of a really large state.  But in Rhode Island, we are who we are.

The Independent Man stands atop the dome of the Rhode Island State House on Smith Street, Providence.

The Independent Man is barely visible atop the dome of the Rhode Island State House.  This is the back entrance, on Smith Street.  The formal entrance faces a large courtyard on the opposite side – I’m not sure whether that is in use.

Completed in 1902, the State House is filled with marble.

Completed in 1902, the interior is grand and spacious. There is marble everywhere.

The State House was filled with memorials to soldiers from many wars. This cannon was used at Gettysburg, with a ball still lodged in it that misfired during the battle.

The State House was filled with memorials to soldiers from many wars. This cannon was used at Gettysburg, with a ball still lodged in it that misfired during the battle.

Charter from King Charles II. I had no idea it was so big. What you see here is a temporary duplicate; the original is out being spruced up.

Rhode Island’s 1663 Charter from King Charles II. I had no idea it was so big. What you see here in the protective case is a temporary duplicate; the original is out being spruced up.

Then it was time to head upstairs.

Then it was time to head upstairs.

A beautiful state seal graced the landing.

A beautiful state seal graced the landing.

You can see how small the Senate Chamber is. It's a small state.

You can see how small the Senate Chamber is. It’s a small state.

I love this statue of Rhode Island's Thomas Dorr. He fought for an extension of voting rights in the early 1840's.

I love this statue of Rhode Island’s Thomas Dorr. He fought for an extension of voting rights in the early 1840’s.  I believe this statue is quite new.

I was fascinated by the hallways filled with portraits - mostly R.I. Governors.

I was fascinated by the hallways filled with portraits – mostly of R.I. Governors.

The Rhode Island State Library

The library itself is imposing and beautiful, with two balconies and a marvelous gilt and glass ceiling.   I looked over the local books and biographies.  This library serves lawmakers, primarily, although the public is welcome to visit.  If one were looking for specific records, or even  for older transactions of the General Assembly, the State Archives is a better place to visit.

The Library itself is rather amazing. a tall room with two balconies.

The Library itself is rather amazing. a tall room with two balconies.

The library is a repository for some federal documents, as well as a large collection of Rhode Island law books and books pertaining to things people might make laws about - health, environment, economics, educations, etc.

The library is a repository for some federal documents, as well as a large collection of Rhode Island law books and books pertaining to things people might make laws about – health, environment, economics, education, military, social services, etc.

The biographies and local histories were quite interesting.

The biographies and local histories were quite interesting.

Benefit Street

The beautiful portraits at the State House got me very curious about finding portraits related to my family.  Since two uncles had served as Chief Justice of the Rhode Island Supreme Court, I decided to head to the courthouse.  Knowing parking would be quite a problem, I drove down Benefit street until I found a spot, then had a pleasant walk over to the courthouse.

Benefit Street has cars and snow vying for curbside space.

Narrow, colonial Benefit Street has cars and snow vying for curbside space.

Historic Benefit Street boasts colonial charm and and some especially fabulous historic houses.

Benefit Street boasts colonial charm and some especially grand historic houses.

The Licht Judicial Complex

The Supreme Court is located in the Licht Judicial Complex, a landmark in Providence just to the east of downtown, completed in 1933 at significant expense.  The building is ornate and beautiful, with gilding everywhere.  A large law library is housed on the eighth floor, filled to the brim with law volumes.   There wasn’t a lot for me to do there, but the librarian suggested that any portraits of Supreme Court Justices should be in the seventh floor and I should talk to the guard there.

As it turned out, the guard was able to give me a complete guided tour of the whole Supreme Court area.  On this tour, I was able to take pictures in some areas (normally prohibited because the building is a working courthouse).  We talked a lot about Rhode Island’s unique place in history and about the portraits.  He had a lot of stories about the building and its history.  I did find the portrait of my grandfather’s uncle, William Douglas, and I found a copy of Peleg Arnold’s portrait (an uncle who was Chief Justice from 1795-1809 and 1810-1812) although the original is held at the John Hay Library at Brown University (their portrait collection is browsable online).

The Licht Judicial Complex, located between Benefit and South Main streets in Providence, houses the Rhode Island Supreme Court and the county Superior Court.

The Licht Judicial Complex, located between Benefit and South Main streets in Providence, houses the Rhode Island Supreme Court and the Providence County Superior Court.

One of the first portraits I found was my uncle's, Judge William Wilberforce Douglas.

One of the first portraits I came across was my gg-uncle’s, Judge William Wilberforce Douglas.  He served as Chief Justice from 1905-1908.

The Supreme Court

The Supreme Court – there are five seats. This beautiful room features carved Philippine mahogany.

Blind statue of Justice facing the judges in the courtroom.

Blind Statue of Justice facing the judges in the courtroom.

A judges waiting room adjacent to the courtroom. I really got the good tour!

A judges’ waiting room adjacent to the courtroom. I really got the good tour!

I was very happy to spend my afternoon exploring these two historic sites.  The State House, in particular, is a fun place to walk through or to take a tour.  There is a welcome room on the first floor, or the website, where one can get more information.

The post you are reading is located at: http://onerhodeislandfamily.com/2015/03/13/rhode-island-state-library/

— Photos by Diane Boumenot. 

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