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Archive for the ‘Rhode Island Stuff’ Category

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.

Rhode Island Roots, March, 2014

Rhode Island Roots, March, 2014

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.

New Englnad Historic Genealogical Society library oin Boston.  Photo by Diane Boumenot.

New England Historic Genealogical Society library in Boston. Photo by Diane Boumenot.

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.

The post you are reading is located at:  http://onerhodeislandfamily.com/2014/08/20/reading-rhode-island-roots/

cats-cups

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On a recent visit to the New England Historic Genealogical Society library in Boston I discovered a book of paintings of 1830’s Providence by Edward Lewis Peckham.  “A Painter of Old Providence” appeared in The Journal of American History, volume VI, No. IV, 1912, and included an article by Mr. Peckham’s nephew, Stephen Farnum Peckham.  This article (and additional material from two subsequent issues, volume VII, No. 1 & 2, 1913) were re-issued as a limited-printing booklet, and it is from that booklet that I photographed many of these paintings and drawings.  The remainder are clipped from the Internet Archives copies of the journals, linked above.

Clicking each image will show a larger version.

This beautiful view of Market Square was drawn in 1835, looking east.  In the foreground is the large bridge and one of the shops on it has a sign “Books.”  How I wish I could visit. You can see the First Baptist Church in America in the background.

Market Square

Market Square

View of Providence from the East Bank, 2 miles down the river around 1843.  On the right is Fox Point.

Providence from 2 miles down the bay

Providence from 2 miles down the bay

The Fox Point shore, 1832, a place famous for baptisms.  “On a calm Sabbath morning the gentlest splash of an oar could be heard; and at this distant day a favorite hymn of “Oh happy are they, who their Saviour obey,” sung as the newly-made converts walked slowly to the land, is still sounding in my ears.” — Edward Lewis Peckham

Fox Point shore

Fox Point shore

The Old Town House stood on the corner of College and Benefit Streets, and was torn down in 1860.  Built in 1723 as a place of worship for the Benevolent Congregational Society, who sold it to the city in 1795, the building saw many church services of all types, and civic activities from around the time of the American Revolution and Dorr’s Rebellion.  Later, it was used as a low-level court and police station.  Today the spot holds part of the sprawling Rhode Island state court house.

The Old Town House

The Old Town House

At one point, the long low building seen at India Point was used as a bowling alley.

India Point from Fort Hill

India Point from Fort Hill

The American House hotel, 77 North Main Street.

The American House, corner of North Main and Steeple Streets

The American House, corner of North Main and Steeple Streets

The view of the Cove is from 1846. On the right is Canal Street; Steeple Street enters it at the first brick building.  The cove, where the Woonasquetucket and Moshasuck Rivers converge on the harbor, and the tide flowed in and out, was a fixture of early Providence.  Today, the old Union Station buildings sit at the center of what, below, is water. Visible to the left is the outline of the old jail.

The Cove

The Cove

Red Bridge, looking east from below the bridge, 1832.

Red Bridge

Red Bridge

The south part of Benefit Street is the view from Thomas Peckham’s house, circa 1834, looking at the corner of Transit Street.

South Part of Benefit Street

South Part of Benefit Street

Heavy Snow, Dec. 27, 1838

Heavy Snow, Dec. 27, 1838

– Paintings and drawings by Edward Lewis Peckham

The post you are reading is located at:  http://onerhodeislandfamily.com/2014/08/11/painter-providence/

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Old Smithfield records

As many Rhode Island researchers know, the records of old Smithfield, Rhode Island are located in the Central Falls City Hall. Smithfield was a very early settlement, but grew into many towns, and at some point the early records were placed for permanent storage in Central Falls, and each town has their own more recent records.

I visited there recently, at 580 Broad Street in the tiny city of Central Falls.  It was a typical (for Rhode Island) turn-of-the-last-century city hall, and in fact it is on the same street as the nearby Cumberland Town Hall.

Central Falls City Hall, seen from the side.

Central Falls City Hall, seen from the side.

Like many city halls, it has no real parking, and also is in a popular and crowded neighborhood – in this case, it is next to a busy small park.  I was puzzled about parking but finally realized there were one or two unoccupied spots next to the building, on the street (that would be across the side street from the Dunkin Donuts … you will know you’ve reached Rhode Island if there’s a coffee shop on every corner).

The city clerk’s office was easy to find on the first floor and I thought the staff person who helped me was among the most professional and knowledgeable I have encountered.  I was quickly led into a room filled with the old books and records, with a couple of tables and chairs.  During my stay I encountered a few other visitors, but as in most town halls, they seemed to be strictly doing title or other legal research as quickly as possible, and moving on.

The room with the old records.  To one side, there are some tables and chairs.

The room with the old records. To one side, there are some tables and chairs.

The room was neat and spacious and well organized. I had seen many records on microfilm during a trip to the Family History Library in 2013, so I was there to get a sense of what records were available, to evaluate the indexing, and to do some specific lookups.  Handwritten index pages can be hard to read, so I wanted to photograph some pages and return another time with a list of records I wanted to find.

Vital records

Vital records are just inside the door.  Seeing these in person finally helped me to realize that since they start in 1730, and the information I am seeking (a family for Rachel Arnold) would be be from the 1730’s or earlier, I should also be be looking at the prior repository.  I think that would be Providence City Archives.

Index volumes to the vital records

Early vital records

What surprised me about the vital records was that some early pages were damaged or worn at some point in their history.  They are carefully encased now for protection, but it’s obvious that at some point they incurred some damage.

Some early vital records pages were damaged or worn at some point in their history

Some early vital records pages were damaged or worn at some point in their history

Probate records

I was very interested in finding probate records.  I have never found any death or probate information for Thomas Arnold.    I found the Probate volumes and was told the index to each volume could be found at the front.  For the early volumes I was using, that was not true, but eventually I found index pages towards the back – so scanty and mixed in with the final volume pages that I had missed them at first. The pages are safely bound now to prevent further damage.

A probate index page

A probate index page

I photographed the index pages for study at home.  Given the state of the index, without a page-by-page perusal, it would be hard to be absolutely sure what was in the probate records.  The only place I know of with a more recently compiled index to Smithfield Wills is the Rhode Island Genealogical Register, volume 16.  That has not helped me.

I did find the will, administration papers and inventory of Thomas Arnold’s father, Thomas Arnold Esq (1705-1765) on page 481-498 of volume 2 (1749-1768).  I learned something about my family that I did not know before; there will be a future blog post about The Peleg Arnold Tavern.

Grantor and Grantee index volumes

Grantor and Grantee index volumes

Deeds

There were index volumes for grantors and grantees.  I checked the index for the 1762 John & Mary Smith/Thomas Arnold Jr deed that I wanted to photograph.  I had to inquire where volume 6 of the Smithfield deeds were; turns out they were in the metal cupboard.

The metal cupboard.  Intriguing!

The metal cupboard. Intriguing!

I photographed the deed for careful study later.  I am hoping this John and Mary Smith could possibly be Rachel’s parents.  I had also photographed a probate record for the only possible John Smith I could find in the records.

Other records

I explored the cabinet a bit and found an old tax booklet (1803), and a neighborhood by neighborhood Surveyors List from 1814.

Tax booklet, 1803

Tax booklet, 1803

All in all, I enjoyed getting to know the old Smithfield records and I will be returning soon.  I haven’t yet looked at many town council records or recorded all the vital records I need.

The post you are reading is located at:  http://onerhodeislandfamily.com/2014/07/08/central-falls-city-hall/

This old postcard from 1906 makes it clear that City Hall was once a high school.

This old postcard from 1906 makes it clear that City Hall was once a high school.

 

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This is the first in an occasional series of articles transcribed directly from The Narragansett Historical Register, a Rhode Island treasure now mostly forgotten.  Published by James Newell Arnold between 1882 and 1891, the magazine was devoted to Rhode Island history and genealogy.  No longer under copyright, the articles can continue to enlighten us.  If the article below makes you curious, check out the full issues and index pages here.

Narragansett Historical Register logo

The Yellow Fever in Providence, 1800

by A.H.

[Transcribed here from The Narragansett Historical Register, Volume 3, No. 1, July, 1884 (Published by the Narragansett Historical Publishing Company, Hamilton, R.I.), p. 136-138.]

Dr. E. M. SNOW, in an elaborate article printed in the Providence Journal in June, 1857, and re-printed in the Journal of September 23d, 1878, after detailing incidents connected with the prevalence of the disease in 1779, at which time there were 36 deaths reported, most of which occurred at the south end of the town and all south of Williams street, goes on to say that ” in the summer of the year 1800 the yellow fever seemed to be confidently expected in Providence, and an order was issued by the Town Council respecting the removal of nuisances on the 12th of May. As early as the 22d of June a vessel arrived from Jamaica with cases of yellow fever on board, which were sent to the hospital. Other infected vessels arrived in June and July, but no case occurred among the inhabitants until the 15th of August. The first case was a Mrs. Taylor, who lived on the west side of Wickenden street, a little north of the present location of the Providence Tool Company. She died on the 20th of August.”

An old paper found among the effects of Joel Metcalf, Esq., who died November 26th, 1834, and who was a member of the Town Council in the year 1800, contains a list of the names of those who were attacked by the disease, noting the date of attack, date of removal to the hospital of those that were sent there, and date of the death of those who did not recover, which is here presented.     -A. H.

Names    /     Taken Sick    /   Removed to Hospital   /   Deaths and Recoveries

1 Mrs. Taylor                     August 15.            ………….             d. Aug. 21.

2 Elizabeth Whiting            ” 15                    .…………..            Rec.

3 Joseph Tillinghast, son of John    ” 16.      …………….         d. Aug.22.

4 Mrs, Luther                August 16.                 ……………         d. Aug 21

5 Joseph Cooke              ” 16.                      ……………..              Rec.

6 Mrs. Earle                       ” 17.                     ……………..             d. Aug 23

7 Sweet Luther                  ” 18.                  ……………..              Rec.

8 Miss Dunn, a child         ” 18.               ……………..              Rec.

9 Miss Warner                    “ 18.                ……………..               Rec.

10 Patrick Morriss             ” 18.                  ……………..            d. Aug 23

11 Jeremiah B. Howell        ” 19.              ……………..            Rec.

12 Rebekah Carr                  ” 19.                    ……………..            d. Aug 23

13 Jonathan Eddy               ” 19.                     ……………..           d. Aug 25

14 Jeremiah Whiting         ” 19.                   ……………..              Rec.

15 Mrs. Atkins                    ” 20.                   Aug 21                     Rec.

16 Charles Tillinghast            ” 21.                 ……………..          Rec.

17 Wife of Charles Tillinghast     ” 21.        …………….         d. Aug 26

18 Nancy Briggs                  ” 22.                       Aug. 22                   Rec.

19 Richard Hinman          ” 22.                          “ 23                     d. Aug 25

20 Lucretia Pearce             ” 22.                       “ 22                     d. “ 26

21 Mrs. Bogman                ” 26.                          “24                    d. Sept. 1

22 Mary Whiting                ” 26.                         “24                    Rec.

23 Patience Greatrix        ” 27.                       ” 28                     Rec.

24 Jos. Arnold                     ” 27.                        …………….       d. Aug. 31

25 Thos. Mitchell               ” 27.                          Aug. 29           Rec.

26 Mrs. Bird                        ” 27.                        ………………        Rec.

27 Amey Read                   ” 27.                          Aug. 23            d. Sept. 1

28 Lucy Libby                     ” 29.                          Sept. 3              Rec.

29 Hannah Fuller, wife of John    ” 29.          Sept. 3              Rec.

30 Mrs. Newell                   Sept. 1.                      ” 3                   Rec.

31 Mrs. Sheldon, wife of John    Aug. 31.      ……………..         d. Sept. 7

32 Betsey Stokes               Sept. 5.                     Sept. 7                 d. “ 11

33 Prince Burrill                      ” 5.                       Sept. 7                 d. “ 12

34 Wife of Prince Burrill         ” 5.                         Sept. 7               Rec.

35 Ruth Curtis                          “ 7.                           “ 8                 d. Sept. 11

36 Mrs. Warner, wife of John    ” 6.              …………….              d. “ 10

37 Stephen Ashton                 ” 6.                    …………….              d. “ 8

38 Amey Tillinghast               ” 4.                   …………….              Rec.

39 Mrs. Warner, wife of Samuel    ” 8.          Sept. 9                  d. Sept. 13

40 Nancy Blinn                    ” 4.                         …………….              Rec.

41 Edward Luther              …………..               …………….             d. Sept. 12

42 Edward Dickens               ” 8.                       Sept. 13                d. “ 15

43 Phebe Hull                        ” 8.                         …………….           d. “ 13

44 Mrs. Dickens                    ” 11.                       …………….            d. “ 16

45 William Olney, son of David   ” 11.          …………….            Rec.

46 Mrs. Pearce                     ” 13.                       …………….            d. Sept. 17

47 Mrs. Dickens, widow         ” 8.                   …………….            d. “ 14

48 Sally Hull                        ” 14.                      Sept. 14               d. “ 17

49 Polly Godfrey                 ” 12.                      …………….           d. “ 20

50 Eliza Dickens                  ” 15.                       Sept. 15               Rec.

51 Moses, negro                  ” 13.                      Sept. 13               Rec.

52 Mary Tillinghast             ” 13.                   …………….             d. Sept. 17

53 Sarah Gibbs, negro          ” 16.                   Sept. 16                Rec.

54 Mary Fields                     ” 17.                       Sept. 17               d. Sept. 20

55 Child of E. Congdon       ” 17.                   …………….             d. “ 21

56 Child ” ”                            ” 17.                       …………….             d. “ 23

57 Mrs. Brown, widow          ” 14.                   Sept. 18             d. “ 19

58 James Temple                    Sept 17         ……………..          d. Sept. 19

59 Daniel Bucklin                    ” 12                 ……………..           Rec.

60 Ephraim Congdon              ” 18              Sept 19                Rec.

61 Mrs. Mitchel                     ” 18                 Sept. 18              d. Sept. 20

62 Sally Howe                        ” 15                     “   17                Rec.

63 Jabez Bucklin                    ” 19                     “ 19                  d. Sept. 26

64 Provy Brown‘s wife          ” 16             ……………..          d. “ 19

65 Mrs. Davis, wife of John      ” 16         ……………..          d. “ 23

66 John Stokes                         ” 19              ……………..         d. “ 21

67 Lydia Eveleth                   ” 18                ……………..         d. “ 22

68 Betsey Huntington            ” 22              Sept. 22           Rec.

69 Rebecca Luther                ” 22                ……………..         d. Oct. 1

70 Amey Godfrey                  ” 22               ……………..     d. Sept. 27

71 John Warner                      ” 21              ……………..     d. “ 26

72 Mary Stokes                     ” 22                  Sept. 22           Rec.

73 Mrs. Tillinghast, wife of John     ” 22      ……………..     d. “ 26

74 Nancy Newfield                   ” 23                   Sept. 24         d. “ 27

75 Violet Cook                 ” 20                    ……………..     d. “ 28

76 John Sheldon                   ” 23                   Sept. 24         d. “ 27

77 Daniel Pearce                ” 24             ……………..     d. “ 25

78 Sally Waters                    ” 23                   Sept. 24         d. “ 28

79 Nancy Waters                  ” 23                 Sept. 24     Rec

80 Phoebe Sisco                    ”   25              Sept. 25       Rec.

81 Mrs. Congdon                   ”   26              Sept. 29       Rec.

82 Henry Faulknan                  Oct. 1         ……………..     Rec.

83 Joshua Harding                  ” 3.               ……………..     d. Oct.–

84 Piney                                 ” 7                        Oct. 8               Rec.

85 Thomas Savin                …………….         ……………..     d. Sept. 26

86 Joshua Penneman       …………….          ……………..     d. Oct. 20

 

Number of deaths …52         Recoveries…..34 – 36

Sick at hospital…….27       Out of do. …..49

Died at “ …………18         Out of do. ……34-52

The post you are reading is located at:  http://onerhodeislandfamily.com/2014/06/08/yellow-fever-providence/old tavern in Providence

 

 

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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.

1753 map from Plan for the British Dominions of New England and North America by William Douglas MD.

1753 map of Rhode Island from a larger map, Plan for the British Dominions of New England and North America by William Douglas MD.

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.

The 1790 and 1800 census books, as well as the 1747 booklet and Bartlett's 1774 version of the census returns were purchased used.  The "Military Census of 1777" was a recent purchase from Genealogical.com.

Some compiled census books.  The 1790 and 1800 federal census books, as well as the 1747 booklet and Bartlett’s version of the 1774 census were purchased used. The “Military Census of 1777″ was a recent purchase from Genealogical.com.

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.

The post you are reading is located at:  http://onerhodeislandfamily.com/2014/05/18/rhode-island-census-of-1782

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There is a new web site devoted to Rhode Island’s historical societies, collections, and sites.

Explore RHODI

RHODI, the Rhode Island History Online Directory Initiative is a new website from the Rhode Island Historical Society.  Explore it today to learn more about the organizations, museums, libraries and preservation sites that are dedicated to Rhode Island’s history.

If you are visiting Rhode Island, or looking for information from a distance, you can learn more about available resources by following the many links at the RHODI website.

Visiting the Roger Williams National Memorial

Speaking of historical sites, I recently visited Rhode Island’s only National Memorial (there are no National Parks in Rhode Island).

The sign at the south end of the tiny park.

The sign at the south end of the tiny park.  You can see some colorful flags in the background along Canal Street.

The Roger William National Memorial is located in Providence, to the north side of downtown, around the spot where Roger Williams first settled in Providence.  It consists of a tiny park and a welcome center, with a little parking along one side.  This picture, below, was in early morning, but by mid-day, in warm weather, there are usually people playing catch, parking their bikes, having a picnic, or exploring the memorial.

Some daffodils were blooming this week.

Some daffodils were blooming this week.  You can see some colorful flags in the background along Canal Street.

The rest of the pictures were taken last winter, obviously a quiet time at the park. The picture below shows the Hahn Memorial, built in the 1930’s to honor Isaac Hahn, “the first person of Jewish faith to be elected to public office from Providence”, according to the Roger Williams National Memorial website.

This picture, taken last winter, shows the picturesque entrance along North Main Street.

This photo, taken last winter, shows the picturesque entrance along North Main Street.

There is a welcome center at the north end of the memorial, in the Antram-Gray House.  Part of this building has survived since 1730, and has served many purposes over the years before it became the welcome center.  A spot next to it called “Bernon Grove” commemorates the founder of King’s Chapel (now St. John’s Episcopal Church, across the street).  As Roger Williams planned, those of many faiths found refuge in the colony of Rhode Island.

The Antram-Gray House welcomes visitors and provides park offices.

The Antram-Gray House welcomes visitors and provides park offices.

Inside the visitors center I was greeted by a very nice park ranger and we had a great chat about Roger Williams and Providence history.

Books are for sale in the welcome center.

Books are for sale in the welcome center.

I looked around at the exhibit inside.

Roger Williams is there to greet you at the Vistitors Center exhibit.  Occasionally when I drive by in the summer, he is on the sidewalk welcoming visitors.

Roger Williams is there to welcome you at the Visitors Center exhibit. Occasionally when I drive by in the summer, he is on the sidewalk greeting passersby with a silent “what cheer?”

One last thought

On North Main Street, just up the street from this memorial, is the First Baptist Church in America.  I took this picture, below, of the church and the sign out front during the celebration of the 350th Anniversary of Rhode Island’s 1663 Charter, last year.

The First Baptist Church in America, nearby.

The First Baptist Church in America, nearby.

The post you are reading is located at:  http://onerhodeislandfamily.com/2014/04/19/rhode-islands-historical-sites/

Photos by Diane Boumenot

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The Early Records of the Town of Providence is a set of 21 volumes that provides a transcription of many of the earliest record books of Providence, Rhode Island, over the period of 1636 to 1750.  The books were compiled in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.  They are short books, and fairly readable (although original spelling is maintained). They represent a unique and powerful glimpse into the lives of the early Providence settlers – their life events, businesses, laws, misdeeds, families, property, sense of community and ambitions.  The books are well worth perusing for more than just an index to our individual ancestors.

Volume 8

Volume 8

What can be found

Because of the separation of church and state when Providence was founded by Roger Williams and others, the early town records encompassed not only laws, taxation,  court cases, probate and deeds but also vital records, including marriage banns, and some cemetery records.  The uncertain early relationships between Providence, Newport, Portsmouth and Warwick are apparent in the pages, as well as the growth of the settlement in Providence and the tensions that arose in the distribution of land and resources.  In the earliest years, Providence encompassed what are now other towns in Providence County, so records could be in the books for those areas, such as Cranston and Smithfield.

The settlement at Providence was damaged during King Phillips War (1675-1676) and for this and many other reasons town records are incomplete and somewhat scattered. There is no clear progression of topics and dates from volume to volume.  Each book contains a thoughtful introduction to the status of the particular records found there and I would encourage people to examine those pages.  The latest record I saw was about 1750.

What follows is a brief overview of the contents of each volume, plus a link to where each one can be found and downloaded (in most cases, from Archive.org).  The links were provided to me by a blog reader in England, who knew that others would like to have easy access to them.  Thanks!

The entry, possibly for my 9th great grandfather Michael Phillips, from volume 5, page 151, indicates that he may have died before 1676.

This entry for my 9th great grandfather Michael Phillips, from volume 5, page 151, indicates that he may have died before 1676.  I did not know that.

The index

Each book is well indexed, but a compiled index of all 21 volumes was produced by Richard LeBaron Bowen and published in 1949 by the Rhode Island Historical Society.  The index book begins with a synopsis of the contents of each book (far more comprehensive than what you see below), followed by the index (with corrections from the original indexing) and an interesting analysis of how the indexed names compare to other compiled lists of early Rhode Island families, for instance, Austin’s Genealogical Dictionary of Rhode Island.

The index book is available online here, and can be downloaded from Archive.org directly through this link.

The volumes

Below are each of the 21 volumes and an indication of what is in them.

Volume 1 “Being the First Book of the Town of Providence otherwise called the Long Old Book with Parchment Cover.”  From the introduction:

The first volume of records selected for perpetuation in print is the earliest in date of the existing public records of the city, and has at different times been referred to in town documents as the ” First Book of the Town of Providence,” and “The Long old Book with Parchment Cover.” The original leaves of this book are now separately fastened to or inlaid in sheets of strong paper 11-3/4 by 19-1/2 inches in size, and the whole is substantially bound in green leather inscribed on the side with the words, ” First Book Town of Providence.”

Vol. 1 is available for browsing at this page, or download directly from Archive.org by clicking here.

Volume 2 “Being the Second Book of the Town of Providence otherwise called the Town Old Book The Short Old Book The Old Burnt Book and sometimes called The Book with Brass Clasps.”  From the introduction:

It will be observed that the book, analytically, is divided into two parts ; that is, that it has been used for two different and distinct purposes ; first, for recording evidences of land titles and other instruments ; and, secondly, for the minutes of meetings for town purposes. One end of the book was probably used for one of these purposes and the other end for the other.

Vol. 2 is available for browsing at this page, or download directly from Archive.org by clicking here.

Richard Pray, my 11th great grandfather "hath taken vp the Sahrpe peece of land lying neere the place where Rich watermans Great Cannoo was made."  From volume 2, page 17.

Richard Pray, my 11th great grandfather “hath taken vp the Sharpe peece of land lying neere the place where Rich watermans Great Cannoo was made.” From volume 2, page 17.

Volume 3 “Being part of the Third Book of the Town of Providence otherwise called the book with brass clasps.”

Vol. 3 is available for browsing at this page, or download directly from Archive.org by clicking here.

Volume 4 “Being part of the Third Book of the Town of Providence otherwise called the book with brass clasps.”    (a continuation of the previous volume)  From the introduction:

The records of the Town Meeting terminate at page 157 in the original, and at page 53 in this book; the remainder of the original containing enrollments of deeds, births, marriages and deaths, together with other miscellaneous records. … As will be noticed, the last date of a Town Meeting is on the 16th of February, 1675…

Vol. 4 is available for browsing at this page, or download directly from Archive.org by clicking here.

Volume 5 “Being part of the Third Book of the Town of Providence otherwise called the book with brass clasps.”    (the final installment of this set)

This printed volume completes the records contained in the third manuscript book, entitled “Third Book Town of Providence A and B,” otherwise called “The Book with Brass Clasps.” It also completes the series of books that were in use for the earliest records of the town.

Vol. 5 is available for browsing at this page, or download directly from Archive.org by clicking here.

Volume 6 “Being part of Will Book No. 1 otherwise called the first booke for Prouidence Towne Councill Perticulior Vse.”

This volume reproduces in type a portion of the records contained in the earliest book now in the possession of the city, mainly used for probate proceedings of the town. It is not, however, the first book so used, for in the schedule of the books and papers belonging to the town, which survived the effects of King Philip’s War, so called, and which schedule bears date June 4, 1677, there is inventoried among other records “A Small papor Book Containing the Enrolements of wills:”

Vol. 6 is available for browsing at this page, or download directly from Google.com by clicking here.

A 1691 warning that he will not pay the debts of his wife, from Ephraim Pierce.  The papers sometimes served purposes later served by newspapers.

A 1691 warning that he will not pay the debts of his wife, from Ephraim Pierce. The books sometimes served purposes later served by newspapers.  from volume 4, page 80.

Volume 7 “Being part of Will Book No. 1 otherwise called the first booke for Prouidence Towne Councill Perticulior Vse.” (The second and final section, including the probate record for my 9th great grandfather John Malavery, which begins on page 145.  There are a lot of inventory lists in this book – a fascinating glimpse into Providence life circa 1700.)

Vol. 7 is available for browsing at this page, or download directly from Archive.org by clicking here.

Volume 8 “Being part of the Book of Records of Town Meetings No. 3 1677 to 1750 and other papers.”

The period succeeding the time embraced in the last named volume was one of disaster to the town, for the Indian War which had raged with varying success throughout the New England Colonies was then brought within the confines of Rhode Island. During a part of this period, previous to March 28, 1676, and for some time thereafter the town was practically deserted, its business well nigh suspended and a portion of it destroyed by the ravages of the Indians. The townsmen however carried on such governmental affairs as were actually necessary, and during this time Roger Williams held the office of Town Clerk. Some of the records during his incumbency are now extant, but it is not thought that all have been preserved.

Vol. 8 is available for browsing at this page, or download directly from Archive.org by clicking here.

Volume 9 “Being part of the Book of Records of Town Meetings No. 3 1677 to 1750 and other papers.”  From the introduction:

The material contained in this volume consists largely of layouts of various highways in and around Providence. Through the courtesy of J. Herbert Shedd, City Engineer, the commissioners have been able to identify nearly every one of these highways, and foot notes are added to show the present street or highway intended by the crude and indefinite courses and boundaries given in the originals. The remaining entries consist of a few town meeting records, records of coroners’ inquests, indentures of apprenticeship and records of marriages, while a part of the book is taken up with entries relative to stray cattle, reports of wolf killers and other miscellaneous records.

Vol. 9 is available for browsing at this page, or download directly from Archive.org by clicking here.

Volume 10 “Being the book called Town Council No. 1 1692-1714 and containing the records of the Providence Town Council.”  From the introduction:

The proceedings recorded in this volume refer almost entirely to the administration of probate affairs, for little else was brought to the Town Council for consideration except occasional requests or liquor licenses and for permission to keep public houses of entertainment.

Vol. 10 is available for browsing at this page, or download directly from Archive.org by clicking here.

Volume 11 “Being the book of records designated as Town Meeting No. 1 1692-1715.”

Vol. 11 is available for browsing at this page, or download directly from Archive.org by clicking here.

 

My 10th great grandmother Mary (----) Pray was, with her husband Richard, was granted a public house license in Providence as early as 1655.  This license, in 1681, may  refer to Mary, who had separated from Richard in 1667.   It is from volume 6 page 29.

My 10th great grandmother Mary (—-) Pray was, with her husband Richard, granted a public house license in Providence as early as 1655. This license, in 1681, may refer to Mary, who had separated from Richard in 1667. It is from volume 6 page 29.

Volume 12 “Being the book called Town Council No. 2 1715 to 1752 and containing the records of the Providence Town Council.”    From the introduction:

This book contains the proceedings of the Town Council, sitting as a court of probate, and is devoted almost entirely to this class of records, although the granting of tavern licenses, with the attendant privilege of selling liquors, occupied some space.

Vol. 12 is available for browsing at this page, or download directly from Archive.org by clicking here.

Volume 13 “Being the book called Town Meeting No. 2 1716 to 1721 and containing the records of the Providence Town Meeting.”  From the introduction:

The record book known as “Town Meeting No 2 1716 1721″ which is here produced in type purports to contain the proceedings of the town meetings between those dates but in fact it also contains records for the years 1722, 1723, 1724 and 1725. A careful examination of it, leaves one somewhat in doubt as to just what this book was intended to be, for though it has many features about it to convey the impression that it is the original book of record there are likewise certain indications that it was used by the town clerk as a “Blotter” in which to make memoranda of the town proceedings previous to the more extended record. The perplexing irregularity of dates as shown in its present condition probably resulted from a lack of care in placing the sheets in proper order when the volume was bound up many years ago, and the incongruity of the title doubtless arose from the fact that, as bound, proceedings for the year 1721 come upon the last page of the manuscript book, thus misleading the person in charge of the binding into the belief that 1721 was the latest date referred to in the volume.

Vol. 13 is available for browsing at this page, or download directly from Archive.org by clicking here.

Volume 14 “Being the first book for the recording of deeds and called Deed Book No. 1.”  From the introduction:

It Is the first volume which was particularly used for the entry of land evidences and similar documents, and marks a period when the growth of the town demanded a more systematic method of keeping its records.

Vol. 14 is available for browsing at this page, or download directly from Google.com by clicking here.

Volume 15 “Being the Providence Town papers Vol. 1 1639-April 1682 Nos. 01-0367.”  From the introduction:

These papers are decidedly miscellaneous in character and include petitions, letters, reports, depositions, tax lists, and nearly every other kind of public document in use in the early days of the Providence settlement during the time they cover, which extends from 1639 to 1682. The Commissioners have reproduced these papers in type with all the imperfections of spelling and arrangement, believing that any editing or revising would detract from their value.

Vol. 15 is available for browsing at this page, or download directly from Archive.org by clicking here.

Volume 16 “Being the records contained in Will Book No. 2 from Sept. 12, 1716 to Jan 7, 1728-9.”

Vol. 16 is available for browsing at this page, or download directly from Archive.org by clicking here.

Volume 17 “Being the Providence Town Papers Vol. 2 April 1682 – March 1722, Nos. 0358-0717.”   From the introduction:

… these papers are of a miscellaneous character and include nearly every variety of documents of a public nature.

Vol. 17 is available for browsing at this page, or download directly from Archive.org by clicking here.

An example of a 1688 tax list that would show you that Mary Harris was a widow, and some indication of the death of Joseph Wise.  From volume 17, page 122.

An example of a 1688 tax list that would show you, for instance, that Mary Harris was a widow, that there were at least two adult John Thorntons, and some indication of the death of Joseph Wise. From volume 17, page 122.

Volume 18 “Being official records and documents of title and proceedings relative to the North Burial Ground.” Much of volumes 18 and 19 are simple payments for perpetual care of a certain plot, by the families.   From the introduction:

On January 25, 1894, the Joint Standing Committee of the City Council on the North Burial Ground requested the City Engineer to compile and prepare for the use of said committee all the material on record from the earliest period in the history of the town of Providence up to that date, relating to the North Burial Ground. The growth of that institution with its changes of boundaries and the acquisition of territory made it absolutely necessary that there should be readily at hand the various records and data relating to this burying ground under the management and control of the municipality.

Vol. 18 is available for browsing at this page, or download directly from Archive.org by clicking here.

Volume 19 “Being official records and documents of title and proceedings relative to the North Burial Ground.”   (continued from previous volume).

Vol. 19 is available for browsing at this page, or download directly from Archive.org by clicking here.

Volume 20 “Being  the first part of the Second Book for the Recording of Deeds and Called Deed Book No. 2.”  From the introduction:

The book, which is herewith presented in type, comprises the first two hundred and five pages, being nearly one-half, of what is designated as Deed Book No. 2.  It purports to be “Begun on June the Twentieth Anno: 1705″ and the date of the last record of this portion is “November ye 6th 1711.”

Vol. 20 is available for browsing only at this link on HathiTrust, and cannot be downloaded as a whole book.

Volume 21 “Being the beginning of the second part of the second book for the recording of deeds and called Deed Book 2.”      From the introduction:

“Second Part of the Second Book for the Recording of Deeds and called Deed Book No. 2″. The earliest date is 3 Feb. 1661 and the latest date is 12 Mar. 1712/13.

Vol. 21 is available for browsing at this page, or download directly from Archive.org by clicking here.

Also see

Tax Lists of the Town of Providence during the Administration of Sir Edmund Andros and his Council 1686-1689 on Archive.org:   http://archive.org/details/taxlistsoftownof00field

The Early Records of the Town of Portsmouth (1901) on Archive.org:    http://www.archive.org/details/earlyrecordsofto02port
The Early Records of the Town of Warwick (1926) on Archive.org:     http://archive.org/details/earlyrecordsofto00rhod

The Records of the Colony of Rhode Island.

Arnold’s Vital Records of Rhode Island.

In closing

For those with Ancestry.com subscriptions, an online index can also be found here.

The first 18 volumes were produced by record commissioners Horatio Rogers, George Moulton Carpenter, Edward Field, with volumes 19 and 20 being compiled by William E Clarke, Daniel F. Hayden, and William G. Brennen, and volume 21 by William C. Pelkey.

I enjoyed perusing these volumes, and I know I will continue to do so.

The post you are reading is located at:    http://onerhodeislandfamily.com/2014/03/28/early-records-providence

 

Judge Horatio Rogers, 1836 - 1904, one of the record commissioners who compiled the books.

Judge Horatio Rogers, 1836 – 1904, one of the record commissioners who compiled the books.  From frontispiece, volume 18.

 

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