I found two opportunities recently to access the Rhode Island State Census records of 1865 and 1875: the State Archives, and through my subscription at Ancestry.com.
A Visit to the Rhode Island State Archives
I visited the Rhode Island State Archives recently, at 337 Westminster Street in Providence. I parked on the street at a meter, but it turned out I could have parked in the valet lot next door and had my parking ticket validated (for up to two hours only) at the archive. The web site is not extensive, but once you get there, staff are helpful and available.
The Archives is a good place to access both the Rhode Island State Census of 1865 and 1875. The 1875 State Census has a large card file index; the 1865 census has an index housed on 16 mm microfilm. Once you find an entry, the actual census record can be viewed on microfilm. You just never know how things will be in an archive, but using these census records was very easy. I printed out 27 pages at a cost of 15 cents per page.
The 1865 R.I. state census and 1875 R.I. state census
First of all let me say these are very detailed census sheets, including all household members, street name and number, place of birth, parentage (nationality), occupation, and, if in school, a code for the school. There is a compiled census report at the archive which may give the school names, I haven’t checked.
There were some huge surprises in the 1865 & 1875 state census for me:
- My grandfather’s Aunt Jennie (Anna Jean Bennett; a story I started two years ago) had moved to Providence by 1875 and was living on Broadway with her first husband, a druggist. That explains how Aunt Jennie made it to Providence from Newton, Massachusetts, something I never understood before, and will help me uncover the rest of her fascinating story (she has no descendants).
- Looking at the 1865 census record for Maggie Lawrence and her parents (James and Annie Lawrence), I was surprised to see a baby “Lewis” living with them, who seems to0 young to belong to Maggie’s parents (and, indeed, is gone from the parents’ household by 1870). This was shortly before Maggie’s second marriage, and the baby could have been hers, but that’s not clear on the census and Lewis was enveloped in the “Lawrence” last name. Could my adopted gg-grandfather Louis actually have been his mother’s son? or his mother’s nephew? I have never found an adoption record for him, his birth around 1863 falls before the court mandated an adoption record. I may never know more than this, although it did give me some new names to try in the birth records, but I found nothing. I don’t yet know the name of Maggie’s first husband, and I suspect she did not marry him in Rhode Island.
- In 1875 my ggg-grandparents William Murdock and Maggie (Lawrence) Murdock were living with several children after 10 years of marriage (they had both been married previously). Their son William was 8, and the other children were Lewis 11, Jessie 15 and Annie 19. Jessie and Annie were born in Nova Scotia, as was the father, William Murdock, but Lewis was listed as born in Providence. I already knew about Lewis and Annie, who were supposed to be adopted, but the name Jessie really threw me and made me wonder if she could perhaps be my gg-grandmother with the mysterious parentage, arriving in the U.S. as a teenaged relative of some sort. Now after viewing more vital records I think Jessie and Annie may both be William’s children from the first marriage in Nova Scotia. I am now busy finding out what happened to them; the vital records are suggesting the first wife may have been named Eliza, and died in 1864.
- In the 1875 census, Russell and Hannah Lamphere had moved back north from Alabama and were living in Johnston, R.I., where Russell was a “Manufr of Cotton Goods”. I assume he was trying to start a mill operation of his own, although I know by 1880 he was in Providence, working as a supervisor in one of the larger cotton mills there. I think I might find more information in Johnston, perhaps in tax records, about that business.
- As I suspected, my gg-grandfather Addison Darling, age 19, was in Providence in 1875, working as a “Designer in Silver” and living with his sister Sarah and her husband, the silversmith William H. H. Swan. Previously, that idea had been based on indirect evidence.
NEW THIS WEEK – It’s also on Ancestry.com
Since I found these census entries I have realized that they are now on Ancestry.com, with full pictures of the census records — newly arrived this week, I think. These include the 1865 census, the 1875 census, as well as the 1885, 1905, 1915, 1925 and 1935 which were already on FamilySearch.org. In future I will be careful to always check out that possibility on the Ancestry site (although I am already noticing the indexing is not as good as the state archives version).
What else is at the State Archives
I plan to explore the state archives more in the future. They have a convenient index of Rhode Island vital records from 1853-1900, as well as hard-to-find 1850-1853 records. The index volumes lead to the microfilm of the state copy of the records, which would have been gathered from the towns.
I plan to explore their resources more in the future, for instances where my ancestors’ lives would have intersected with state government, for instance, through a state legislature bill, or a job, etc. The staff were helpful and I can’t wait to go back with more questions.
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