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Archive for the ‘Rhode Island Stuff’ Category

I guess I have always wanted to know about the places my ancestors lived.  But finding the spot for that family farm, as New England genealogists know, is never easy.  Rhode Island land doesn’t come packaged in neat square lots (ever).  With an almost 400 year history, buildings come and go.  Towns and borders are rearranged.  Deeds are kept in 39 locations around the state, and seldom online.

So we learn to be curious about maps, guides, historic landmarks, place names, and history.  While prior to genealogy I would only have been marginally interested in a guide to a town’s historic structures and neighborhoods, I have gradually become obsessed with these things.  If you want to solve a brick wall, one best practice is to learn as much as possible about the nearest locations you can find.

Fortunately, the Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission has produced, over the last several decades, guides to historic architecture and resources around the state.  Focusing town by town on buildings and other structures such as bridges, the guides present a history of the landscape and neighborhoods, some details of evolving land use and industries, guides to local historic houses, and, at the end of the volumes, impressive bibliographies of books and maps for further research.

There are even some local maps here and there, which help you to sort through the historic neighborhood names.  And, plenty of pictures of historic houses and buildings.

All of these volumes are now available through their website, as free downloads.  Although I own several volumes already, having instant access to ALL volumes is a huge step forward.  The pdf copies can be downloaded from the RIHPHC website here.

I can’t reproduce their materials here, of course, so visit their website to access the books.  This is the list of books available on the website:

  • Barrington
  • Block Island
  • Bristol
  • Burrillville
  • Central Falls
  • Charlestown
  • Coventry
  • Cranston – also: Pawtuxet Village
  • Cumberland
  • East Greenwich
  • East Providence
  • Exeter
  • Foster
  • Glocester
  • Hopkinton
  • Jamestown
  • Johnston
  • Lincoln
  • Little Compton
  • Middletown
  • Narragansett – also: Narragansett Pier
  • Newport–see:
    •   African-Americans of Newport
    •   Kay-Catherine-Old Beach Rd
    •   Southern Thames Street
    •   West Broadway
  • North Kingstown
  • North Providence
  • North Smithfield
  • Pawtucket
  • Portsmouth
  • Providence (Citywide) also:
    •   Downtown
    •   East Side
    •   Elmwood
    •   Providence Industrial Sites
    •   Smith Hill
    •   South Providence
    •   West Side
  • Richmond
  • Scituate
  • Smithfield
  • South Kingstown
  • Tiverton
  • Warren
  • Warwick – also: Pawtuxet Village
  • West Greenwich
  • West Warwick
  • Westerly
  • Woonsocket

RI Statewide–see:

  •   Historic Highway Bridges of RI
  •   Historic Landscapes of RI
  •   Native American Archaeology
  •   Outdoor Sculpture of RI
  •   RI Engineering/Industrial Sites
  •   RI: State-Owned Hist. Properties
  •   State Houses of RI

I think exploring these books at the RIHPHC website would be a great way to learn more about your ancestors’ neighborhood.  They would help you understand the landmarks mentioned in deeds, and to understand how the landscape changed over the centuries, and what the local industries were.

What a goldmine!  Hope they help you.

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http://onerhodeislandfamily.com/2017/03/30/a-sense-of-place

 

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Today I am feeling thankful.  The story of these pictures, from 1912 Providence and surrounding towns, depict a kind of poverty that, thanks to my ancestors who moved themselves beyond this life, my siblings and I never saw.

My grandmother Edna Darling was born in Providence, Rhode Island in 1905.  During World War I, her mother found work at Gorham Manufacturing; I wonder if it was in silver manufacturing or perhaps some special war work.  Her father was a stone setter in the fine jewelry industry, but depending on the economy, was sometimes out of work. During World War I they lived at 52 Prairie Avenue, renting in a tenement building long since lost to urban renewal.

Grandma said that once her mother found work, she had to come straight home from school to do the cooking and cleaning; make the beds, wash dishes, start dinner.  There was little money; she felt threadbare and, at times, worried about her circumstances. Her parents never in their lives owned a vehicle of any sort, never owned a home; after the Depression began, her father never worked in the jewelry industry again, but found work as a night watchman.

But until I saw the pictures, below, by Lewis Hine for the National Child Labor Committee, taken in Providence around 1912-1913, I never realized how lucky my grandmother was, and how removed she was from the grinding poverty of newly immigrated families.  When she grew up, Grandma found a respectable job in the billing department of the phone company, and made sure to marry a successful businessman.  After seeing these pictures, I get a better idea of what she was so afraid of, and what she wanted to make sure never happened to her children.

It’s strange that I think of my grandmother when I see these pictures, because they depict, really, the lives of her grandfather’s people, who arrived in the U.S. from England around 1830.  I’m sure most or all of their existence was spent in conditions like this, near various cotton mills up and down the east coast.  While I’m quite sure their lives were no better in England, I am awed by their determination and courage, and awed that their children built better lives each generation.

They also make me think of my father, selling newspaper and magazines, and stoking furnaces as a boy in the 1930’s.  Although born in the U.S., his parents were from Canada and his father died when the four children were small.

The immigrant experience hasn’t changed much; people coming from desperate situations into what they think will be a life with choices and freedom, only to find themselves very poor and looked at with suspicion and fear.  And they carry on.  We are a nation of immigrants.  Because of them and their hard work, we are here today.

This Christmas season, I’m feeling grateful.

Photos by Lewis Hine (1874-1940) for the National Child Labor Committee (NCLC).  Pictures and captions from the Library of Congress.

From the Library of Congress’ website, Child Welfare Exhibit, 1912-1913

Cigar factory of F. Delloiacono [?], 205 Atwells Av., Providence, R.I. Eight year old boy and ten year old girl are stripping. This room is the living, -sleeping-and-working room and adjoins the store. Nov 23, 1912. Very dirty and ill-kept. Location: Providence, Rhode Island. LC-DIG-nclc-04797 (color digital file from b&w original print)

Cigar factory of F. Delloiacono [?], 205 Atwells Av., Providence, R.I. Eight year old boy and ten year old girl are stripping. This room is the living, -sleeping-and-working room and adjoins the store. Nov 23, 1912. Very dirty and ill-kept. Location: Providence, Rhode Island.   LC-DIG-nclc-04797 (color digital file from b&w original print)

A growing family and perhaps other relatives or associates. I can’t quite imagine how the photographer talked his way into this back room.  Was there a kitchen set up at the end of the room?  This is a troubling picture, but I am confident the children somehow did better.

Jimmie Rudgeway, 8 year old newsie, Providence,. Location: Providence, Rhode Island. LC-DIG-nclc-03807 (color digital file from b&w original print)

Jimmie Rudgeway, 8 year old newsie, Providence,. Location: Providence, Rhode Island.   LC-DIG-nclc-03807 (color digital file from b&w original print)

When I look at Jimmie, with his ragged pants and heavy load of newspapers, I worry about an 8 year old being so comfortable out in the streets.  The photographer’s notes make it clear many of these boys were out until midnight attempting to sell all the papers.

Back-yard, Spruce Street, Providence, R.I. Location: Providence, Rhode Island. LC-DIG-nclc-04798 (color digital file from b&w original print)

Back-yard, Spruce Street, Providence, R.I. Location: Providence, Rhode Island.   LC-DIG-nclc-04798 (color digital file from b&w original print)

A girl and her goat.  Of all the pictures, this is the only one I actually like.  I can’t tell what she is offering the goat; it does not look like food.  Like many back yards in the photographs, this one appears crowded and haphazardly full of stuff.  No place for children, or goats either. I had relatives on Spruce Street in the 1860’s.

Overcrowded home of workers in cotton mill, Olneyville, Providence. Eight persons live in these three small rooms, three of them are boarders. Inner bed-rooms are 9 x 8 feet, the largest room 12 x 12 feet. 23 Chaffee Street, Polish People. Property owned by the mill. Rent $4.50 a month. Location: Providence, Rhode Island. LC-DIG-nclc-02722 (color digital file from b&w original print)

Overcrowded home of workers in cotton mill, Olneyville, Providence. Eight persons live in these three small rooms, three of them are boarders. Inner bed-rooms are 9 x 8 feet, the largest room 12 x 12 feet. 23 Chaffee Street, Polish People. Property owned by the mill. Rent $4.50 a month. Location: Providence, Rhode Island.    LC-DIG-nclc-02722 (color digital file from b&w original print)

Reading the caption, knowing that eight people live in this space, this picture haunts me. I find the Polish wife so beautiful. Likely, the elaborate stove, probably a relic of decades earlier, comprised most of the kitchen facilities.  There is a black cord winding around the crib.  Could that have been to an electric light in the bedroom?

Housing conditions, Elm St., Pawtucket, R.I. Location: Pawtucket, Rhode Island. LC-DIG-nclc-02709 (color digital file from b&w original print)

Housing conditions, Elm St., Pawtucket, R.I. Location: Pawtucket, Rhode Island.  LC-DIG-nclc-02709 (color digital file from b&w original print)

It took me a minute to realize what I was looking at.  Of course every back yard had an outhouse.  New England has a way of looking barren like this in late fall or early spring, but still, this is a grim dirt yard full of trash.

Sewing class in Sprague House Settlement Providence, R.I. The Director is holding a newly-arrived deserted baby. Location: Providence, Rhode Island. LC-DIG-nclc-04795 (color digital file from b&w original print)

Sewing class in Sprague House Settlement Providence, R.I. The Director is holding a newly-arrived deserted baby. Location: Providence, Rhode Island.   LC-DIG-nclc-04795 (color digital file from b&w original print)

Given that many moms were working hard, it seems like a good idea for the Settlement House to teach girls to sew – it would help them clothe themselves and their children in the future.  My grandmother sewed for many decades, often clothing her children herself.  After looking at so many of these pictures, I can tell the Settlement House was a clean and ordered place.

Entrance to the crowded, dirty house of a Midwife, rear tenement on Spruce Street, Providence, R.I. Location: Providence, Rhode Island. LC-DIG-nclc-04793 (color digital file from b&w original print)

Entrance to the crowded, dirty house of a Midwife, rear tenement on Spruce Street, Providence, R.I. Location: Providence, Rhode Island.  LC-DIG-nclc-04793 (color digital file from b&w original print)

A couple of these pictures featured midwives’ homes, probably based on the photographer seeing shingles hanging out front.  Looking closely at the picture, an additional child appears in the lower, dark corner.  The children are so tiny. Wouldn’t midwives go out for births?  Would the women have come to them?  I can’t quite reason out why so many children would be in this unkempt yard.  Trash-burning was obviously taking place here, although the basement windows of the “rear tenement” seem mysterious and unexpected.

"Speed", one of the young W.U. Messengers. Location: Providence, Rhode Island. LC-DIG-nclc-03805 (color digital file from b&w original print)

“Speed”, one of the young W.U. Messengers. Location: Providence, Rhode Island.    LC-DIG-nclc-03805 (color digital file from b&w original print)

You’ve got to like this guy.  Working hard at age – 11 maybe?  He looks so capable.  I’m hoping Speed had a great future.

View in Lonsdale R.I. Mills. Location: Lonsdale, Rhode Island. LC-DIG-nclc-02704 (color digital file from b&w original print)

View in Lonsdale R.I. Mills. Location: Lonsdale, Rhode Island.  LC-DIG-nclc-02704 (color digital file from b&w original print)

In 1912 Rhode Island was still full of mills.  Lonsdale Mills in Smithfield were among the largest.  This is probably a cotton mill.  If you look at it for a while, with windows on all sides, you realize something’s missing – there is no artificial lighting.  How dark it must have been on cloudy days.  Were working hours shorter in winter, I wonder?

Peddling Bills, Atwells Ave., Providence, R.I. Location: Providence, Rhode Island. LC-DIG-nclc-03806 (color digital file from b&w original print)

Peddling Bills, Atwells Ave., Providence, R.I. Location: Providence, Rhode Island.
LC-DIG-nclc-03806 (color digital file from b&w original print)

This boy on Atwells Avenue is probably Italian, looking older than his years.  I don’t think the streetcars were exactly new in that era, but I know they continued for a few more decades.

View of warping room, Lonsdale, R.I. Mills. Location: Lonsdale, Rhode Island. LC-DIG-nclc-02701 (color digital file from b&w original print)

View of warping room, Lonsdale, R.I. Mills. Location: Lonsdale, Rhode Island.   LC-DIG-nclc-02701 (color digital file from b&w original print)

Another view of Lonsdale Mills, with girls running the machines.  I’m sure there were many dangers to working outside the home at a young age, but still, it seems more humane and social to me than life spent working in a crowded home.

Elvira Christofano, 110 Spruce [?] St., Providence, making chain-bags. Location: Providence, Rhode Island. LC-DIG-nclc-04299 (color digital file from b&w original print)

Elvira Christofano, 110 Spruce [?] St., Providence, making chain-bags. Location: Providence, Rhode Island.    LC-DIG-nclc-04299 (color digital file from b&w original print)

Looking closely, you can see Elvira is working on a chain-link fabric, with tiny metal pieces in front of her.  Is she creating the chain fabric?  or attaching it to something with the tiny links?  It’s unclear to me why she’s surrounded by fabric pieces.  She looks dedicated, and tired.

 Tiny girl with big bag she is carrying home, Spruce St., Providence, R.I. Location: Providence, Rhode Island. LC-DIG-nclc-04300 (color digital file from b&w original print)

Tiny girl with big bag she is carrying home, Spruce St., Providence, R.I. Location: Providence, Rhode Island.    LC-DIG-nclc-04300 (color digital file from b&w original print)

Of all the pictures, this one breaks your heart the most.  What can be in that bag?  It seems too big to contain something heavy like food or firewood … maybe laundry?  Or some materials for a home industry? The sign on the building says Do Not Spit.  The rest of the family must have been working very hard if this was the most practical way to transport goods.  Childhood?  I don’t think so.

Setting stones in cheap jewelry, Ernest Lonardo, 11 years old, Thomas, 14 years old, 6 Hewitt Street, Providence, R.I. Location: Providence, Rhode Island. LC-DIG-nclc-04298 (color digital file from b&w original print)

Setting stones in cheap jewelry, Ernest Lonardo, 11 years old, Thomas, 14 years old, 6 Hewitt Street, Providence, R.I. Location: Providence, Rhode Island.   LC-DIG-nclc-04298 (color digital file from b&w original print)

Knowing boys this age, the concentration here seems exceptional.  Imagine doing that all day.

 Crowded Italian home, 46 Crary St., Providence, R.I. Nov 26, 1912. Property owned by wealthy family. Location: Providence, Rhode Island. LC-DIG-nclc-02721 (color digital file from b&w original print)

Crowded Italian home, 46 Crary St., Providence, R.I. Nov 26, 1912. Property owned by wealthy family. Location: Providence, Rhode Island.    LC-DIG-nclc-02721 (color digital file from b&w original print)

The picture in the corner is of a king, perhaps, with his children.  I can’t imagine people ever forgot where they came from.  There are five children in this picture and, perhaps, another on the way.  When I look at this picture I think, they loved each other.  What a legacy.

The post you are reading is located at:  http://onerhodeislandfamily.com/2016/12/20/life-in-providence-1912/

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Recently, the Providence Public Library received the archival collections of noted Rhode Island genealogist James Newell Arnold (1844-1927) from the Knight Memorial Library in Providence, which had housed the papers since James Arnold’s death in 1927. The James N. Arnold Collection is now part of The Rhode Island Collection.

Providence Public Library. Always be sure to take a good look around; it's a lovely old place.

Stairwell, Providence Public Library. Always be sure to take a good look around; it’s a lovely old place.  Photo by Diane Boumenot.

Kate Wells of the Providence Public Library had clued me in to this last winter and recently let me know that the materials were now newly processed into an archival collection and were, essentially, open for business.  It’s not completely trivial to access the collection (for instance, the boxes are stored on another floor from the Rhode Island Collection office and reading room), so I made an appointment with Kate for my visit.

Here is the Finding Aid for the collection (it opens up as a pdf download).

James Newell Arnold as a young man. I love this picture, he's quite a handsome young man. Hard to imagine he was already suffering from the affliction that was noticeable later in life, something that caused him to rely on crutches. Whatever the affliction was, could it have started later?

James Newell Arnold as a young man. I love this picture, he’s quite a handsome young man. Was he already suffering from the affliction that was noticeable later in life, something that caused him to rely on crutches?  3-59, “Photographs, James N. Arnold”, James N. Arnold Collection, Rhode Island Collection, Providence Public Library.

In the course of a long life James N. Arnold followed his historical data collection interests with a passion.  Although the Narragansett Historical Register, his gravestone recordings, and the Vital Record of Rhode Island, 1636-1850 were his most visible projects, he spent a lifetime studying historical claims and events, arguing and sometimes feuding with other historians (most notably, a long standing feud with the Rhode Island Historical Society), collecting books, stories and ephemera, and never missing an opportunity to disparage Roger Williams.

One of the two card catalogs containing various indices to parts of the collection.

One of the two card catalogs containing various indices to parts of the collection.

I carefully studied the Finding Aid (see above) in advance and decided to focus on the records of the Arnold family.  James Arnold never produced the formal Arnold genealogy volume that he, no doubt, planned to finish someday, although late in life he seems to have collaborated a bit with other Arnold researchers who did produce manuscripts or books (more on published works here).   It was clear from my perusal that my particular problem has not been solved; time for me to figure it out myself.  But I was grateful for a chance to check that out.

These colorful gravestone collection index cards were, I think compiled after James Arnold's death by volunteers.

These colorful gravestone collection index cards were, I think, compiled after James Arnold’s death, by volunteers.

Kate Wells advised me that, with the vital records and gravestone work widely available elsewhere, the most likely source for some genealogy magic was one of the card catalogs that had accompanied the manuscripts, plus a set of genealogy correspondence folders that contained many inquiries, answers, and notes.  I attacked the card catalogs with a pre-determined list and didn’t turn up much. The only work of James Arnold that seemed to intersect significantly with my needs were some early Smithfield/Cumberland families.  But I would like to return and approach this again with more time to peruse the many letters on file.

Arnold's weather diaries, kept for many years, plus some farm accounts. Box 4,

Arnold’s weather diaries, kept for many years, plus some farm accounts. Box 4, “Weather journals”, James N. Arnold Collection, Rhode Island Collection, Providence Public Library.

The documents are ordered and filed in boxes.  Genealogy notes on many Rhode Island families, tombstone recordings, Arnold family notes, historical as well as fictional stories, clippings, correspondence, account books, annals of war — there are many possibilities for research here.

You just don't know what you're going to find among the many boxes and folders.

You just don’t know what you’re going to find among the many boxes and folders.

I enjoyed my journey into James Arnold’s world and intend to keep studying his work. I was thrilled to find the original newspaper clippings of Harriet James’ work on my Andrews family.  The genealogy work on Rhode Island families was a hodge podge of copied notes, essays, clippings and abstracts, but was definitely unique and valuable.  I will revisit those.

James Arnold, in early middle age perhaps, looking speculative and a little untidy. The well-known poverty of his later years may well have factored into all stages of his life.

James Arnold, in early middle age perhaps, looking speculative and a little untidy. The well-known poverty of his later years may well have factored into many stages of his life.  3-59, “Photographs, James N. Arnold”, James N. Arnold Collection, Rhode Island Collection, Providence Public Library.

A folder of photographs of James Arnold claimed my attention.  Never married, physically impaired,  determined, opinionated to a fault, Arnold was — from what little I know of him — incapable of the fawning demeanor of service that might have made him more valued and protected by Rhode Island’s wealthier classes, who relied on his work.

This fascinating photo shows Arnold leaning on the crutches that were his companion during, at least, his later life. One gets a cemetery feel from the picture but it could be a noted historical spot. 3-59,

This fascinating photo shows Arnold leaning on the crutches that were his companion during, at least, his later life. One gets an overgrown cemetery feel from the picture but it could be an ancient historical spot. 3-59, “Photographs, James N. Arnold”, James N. Arnold Collection, Rhode Island Collection, Providence Public Library.

As time went on, James Arnold found that his life’s work, including his two major publishing ventures, had not ensured a comfortable old age.  Late in life he was basically destitute, dependent on Providence’s Dexter Asylum.

Well into middle age, Arnold was sometimes photographed with his crutches. 3-59,

Well into middle age.  Note his possibly disfigured foot.  3-59, “Photographs, James N. Arnold”, James N. Arnold Collection, Rhode Island Collection, Providence Public Library.

A set of documents relating to James Arnold’s death make it clear that he tried, as an old man, to dispose of his massive collection of poorly arranged papers.  Several important repositories corresponded with him and would have been happy to take them. The choicest books might perhaps have been sold during his life but many books  as well as the papers were eventually donated to the library in Elmwood, Providence, that eventually became the Knight Memorial Library.  The books, according to Kate, were eventually dispersed among Providence’s library system.

James Arnold in 1925, two years before his death. 3-59,

James Arnold in 1925, two years before his death. 3-59, “Photographs, James N. Arnold”, James N. Arnold Collection, Rhode Island Collection, Providence Public Library.

No one’s work is perfect but it’s notable that no person, in the hundred years since his Vital Record of Rhode Island volumes were published, has systematically re-checked his work in its entirety.  No one has been willing to take on the project that he did, and so we all owe this man a great deal of gratitude for a lifetime spent saving our history.

The post you are reading is located at:

http://onerhodeislandfamily.com/2016/11/18/the-james-n-arnold-collection/

James Arnold, looking somewhat business-like, probably at the heyday of his publishing career. 3-59,

James Arnold, looking somewhat business-like, probably at the heyday of his publishing career. 3-59, “Photographs, James N. Arnold”, James N. Arnold Collection, Rhode Island Collection, Providence Public Library.

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Published compiled genealogies, whether they be books or journal articles, can move our genealogy forward by leaps and bounds.  If the material is of poor quality, though, and if we accept it at face value and don’t pursue the research ourselves, it can jeopardize all our future work, sending us down the wrong roads and setting us up to build tree sections that are completely false.  If you think about it, there is only one correct family tree for any of us; only one true sequence of events that led to the unique people we are.  There is no “close” in genealogy.  There is “correct” and “incorrect.”  Which is not to say we should or could expect to ever know the full truth, going back a dozen or more generations; there are so many reasons why some “truth” just will not be found by us. But for the parts of the tree we are able to build, we as genealogists want them to be correct.

Published family genealogies – Books

I think one of the first things New England genealogists find are those family genealogies published in the late 1800’s.  Googling the name, such as “Ballou genealogy” or “Ballou genealogy book” will usually pull up a pdf of the item, if it exists.  My advice would be to download and save such books in folders on your computer, if they relate to your family, and always use the “Comments” feature in Acrobat Reader to mark each page that is significant to you.  See more about searching for books on How to Build your Digital Library.

The quality of the genealogy in these books may be excellent, or very poor, and everything in between.  My own judgment is that reported events and relationships that occurred within about 60 – 70 years of the publication date have a good chance of being true (or as true as the family wanted to put out there).  Events farther back are often:

  • limited to well-documented, wealthier branches who left behind lots of records, such as vital records, probate, and large and informative gravestones
  • clustered mostly in the branch and geographic location that the author had access to, or had contacts in
  • dependent on the genealogical expertise of the author, so look around for evidence of that.

A good genealogist like Adin Ballou (An Elaborate History and Genealogy of the Ballou Family in America, 1888) may not have used proper footnotes (it was not the custom at the time) but he sprinkled every page with clues as to the sources of his information – deed books with page numbers, dates of probate documents, and many statements like “birth date not found.”  If you use data from these books in your tree, always follow up by checking for the records used.

When using these books, always check around for supplements, addenda, and later corrections.

QUICK FACT – When approaching an indexed family genealogy for the first time, seeking information about a couple, a good shortcut is to search for the last name of the spouse instead of the person who holds the name featured in the book (there will be too many of those). 

Wait, there are more books

Sadly, the search described above is where many genealogists leave off.  Therefore, they miss the thousands of genealogy books, also of varied quality, published since 1923 and, in some cases, still under copyright.  A book under copyright will seldom be found as a pdf online.  It might be for sale somewhere, it might show up as a Google Book in which only a bit of searching is possible (no pdf available), or, more likely, it is sitting on a few library shelves here and there.

I’m not going to provide a master list of books on Rhode Island families, much as I would like to, and I may try that someday. But here is how I approach this problem.

To compile a list of books that have been published on your family names, try the googling mentioned above, then try these steps:

  • Check out the online card catalog of the Rhode Island Historical Society’s Robinson Research Center.  They have lots of compiled genealogies there.  Try, for instance, Advanced Search for the subject “Ballou Family.”  This catalog does not cover everything at the library.
  • Try the card catalog of the New England Historic Genealogical Society.  They have a Search Databases function, for members, but anyone can use the “Library Catalog” under “Search.”
  • Always use WorldCat.org to search as well; each entry will come up with the libraries that hold the book, sorted by distance from you.
  • FamilySearch.org also has a “Books” search.
  • I like the card catalog of the Allen County Public Library in Ft. Wayne, Indiana.
  • Try the Ocean State Libraries catalog to find out what is in Rhode Island’s public libraries.
Searching for "Ballou family" in the public library catalog.

Searching for “Ballou family” in the Ocean State public library catalog.  The entry will tell you which Rhode Island libraries that hold the book.

My best advice for finding ALL the genealogies published on a certain Rhode Island family is to consult this book:

  • Guide to Published Genealogies in the Library of the New England Historic Genealogical Society (Boston: NEHGS, 2012).  I use this book a lot.  No doubt the NEHGS online catalog, linked above, would provide similar information, but I find the book format very easy to follow.
Guide to Published Genealogies has a large alphabetical guide to family history books as well as a guide to town and local histories.

Guide to Published Genealogies has a large alphabetical guide to family history books as well as a guide to town and local histories. Photo by Diane Boumenot.

Compiled genealogy sets covering many families

There are books which serve as guides to the literature of your family’s genealogy, or overviews of the genealogies of large areas.

  • The most important: John O. Austin’s The Genealogical Dictionary of Rhode Island; Comprising three generations of Settlers who came before 1690.  I strongly recommend NOT using an older version of this; you need the 1968 or later version with corrections, published by Genealogical Publishing Company.  This large black book is printed as a marked-up copy, providing references to all The American Genealogist articles correcting and expanding Austin’s work.
The Bennett entry in Austin's Genealogical Dictionary of Rhode Island. I know. It's weird.

The Bennett entry in Austin’s Genealogical Dictionary of Rhode Island. This is the way the book was printed. I know. It’s weird.

  • For the earliest settlers
    • It’s easy to forget that standard New England works will, of course, cover early Rhode Island families.  First and foremost, try your early families, arriving 1620-1640, in The Great Migration Study Project (by Robert Charles Anderson and others) including The Great Migration Begins (3 volumes) and The Great Migration (7 volumes) (Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1995-2011.)
    • For a reasonably priced way to access brief bibliographies of the settlers detailed in the 10 volumes of the Great Migration series, try The Great Migration Directory: Immigrants to New England, 1620-1640, A Concise Compendium by Robert Charles Anderson (Boston, NEHGS, 2015).   Another choice would be to access some of the material online through NEHGS membership – use Database Search – Category: Great Migration Study Project.
The Great Migration series and Directory. It's important to have regular access to this; it should be in any library with New England genealogy resources. Photo by Diane Boumenot.

The Great Migration series and Directory. Photo by Diane Boumenot.

  • Austin, John Osborne. One Hundred and Sixty Allied Families. Baltimore: reprinted Genealogical Publishing Co., 2009. [note: This was never that useful to me; it covers the author’s, and the author’s wife’s, families only.] 
  • Savage, James.  A Genealogical Dictionary of the First Settlers of New England, in four volumes.  Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, Inc., 1998 (orig. 1860-62).  The Great Migration is far superior to this source, and if you can use that, no need to consult Savage.
  • Cutter, William Richard.  Not much better than mug books, with lines of descent traced only to wealthy southern New Englanders, but still, I have a soft spot for Cutter.  The entries are always fun to read and very interesting, but unsubstantiated.
  • 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, corrections and proper indexing.]

Journals and periodicals

Have you ever thought, I wish I could hire one of the country’s top experts to find that elusive ancestor for me?  Have you ever considered that you could possibly get such work for free?  Here’s how.  Do a thorough search of all the genealogy journals that cover the area in question.  You need to be sure that your important question has not already been researched by someone really competent, complete with reasoned arguments and footnotes. Even finding an article in a quality journal about the county or town you are researching can be a treasure-trove of sources and strategies.  I always read the footnotes first.

Most organizations do not give their journal away online.  You need to belong to that society, or subscribe to something that will offer access, or seek out a library with subscriptions.  Likewise, just finding an index to each journal is not a trivial problem.

Suggestion 1:  If you want to try ONE thing with the biggest chance for success, go to the New England Historic Genealogical Society’s website AmericanAncestors.org and use Search — Databases — Category: Journals & Periodicals.  You will need to establish a free guest user account; for some of these, you will need to be an NEHGS member, or find a library with a subscription.  This allows you to search the following journals, among others (in many cases, only issues more than five years old are included, and many do not go as far back as the earliest issues.)

  • The American Genealogist
  • Boston Evening Transcript Genealogy Pages, 1911-1940 [note: seems not to have a working index, but you can get to the page you want if you know the date]
  • Connecticut Nutmegger
  • Essex Antiquarian & The Essex Genealogist
  • The Maine Genealogist
  • The Mayflower Descendant
  • New England Historical and Genealogical Register
  • New York Genealogical and Biographical Record
  • Rhode Island Roots

Of those, of course, Rhode Island Roots is the most important for Rhode Island research, however, there are some outstanding genealogists producing articles for all the prestigious journals concerning Rhode Island topics.  For additional journal suggestions, see this article.

Quality journals.

Quality journals.

Suggestion 2: The second easy way to access some quality pre-1990 articles is to locate in a library the four volumes of articles published by the Genealogical Publishing Company, below.  Each set contains a thorough index.

  • Genealogies of Rhode Island Families From the New England Historic Genealogical Register, 2 vols. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1989. Specifically, see Gary Boyd Roberts’ brief bibliographies of 100 Rhode Island families, page xix – xxxiv.  Remember, that was current in 1989. This set, and the set below, are very thoroughly indexed at the back of volume 2.
  • Genealogies of Rhode Island Families From Rhode Island Periodicals, 2 vols. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1983.
The two sets of Genealogies of Rhode Island Familes.

The two sets of Genealogies of Rhode Island Families.  Note there is a substantial index at the back of each.

Additional sources

  • A huge number of local history and genealogy journals are indexed through PERSI, a database available through your local library and/or FindMyPast.com  The indexing is not extensive; they are mostly indexed by general topic, but could be good if there was an article about your family or town. Once a citation is found, you will need to seek out the article itself.  I am not sure about the current status of PERSI; consult your local librarian for help.
  • 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 compiled 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.]
  • Narragansett Historical Register, 1-9, 1882-1891, published by James Newell Arnold.  Facsimile reprint published by Heritage Books. [See all original copies online here: https://onerhodeislandfamily.com/2012/05/28/the-narragansett-historical-register-free/ ]
  • Rhode Island Genealogical Register. Volumes 1 – 20, 1978-1996. Rhode Island Families Association (founded by Alden Beaman). [not available online. Contains vital record abstracts, articles, and brief genealogies. Volume 16 “Rhode Island Will Index” is a compiled index of will abstracts contained in volumes 1 – 15.]
  • Rhode Island History. Rhode Island Historical Society. [Search and access 1942-2010: Rhode Island History. http://www.rihs.org/publication_search.php ]
  • Check out family genealogical materials at the Newport Historical Society.
  • Index To Genealogical Periodicals, vol. I (1932) and vol. II (1948) , compiled by Donald Lines Jacobus.
  • Index to Early Records of the Town of Providence, by Richard leBaron Bowen (Oxford Press, 1949).  Mr. Bowen, a noted Rhode Island genealogist, realized the potential of the Early Records index to help descendants of early Providence families to trace their ancestors, even if they were otherwise poorly documented, so he added a list of families included in Austin’s Genealogical Dictionary of Rhode Island (listed above) on page 87-93, plus a brief bibliography of articles on Rhode Island families in the decades leading up to 1950, on pages 93-97.

My favorite 10 Rhode Island family genealogies

Of all the genealogies that actually have helped me, these are the ones I recommend most highly.  If I had different ancestors, the list would be different. These selections make it clear that helpful genealogies are not always online, and are not always found in book form.

  • ALDRICH The Aldrich Family Genealogy – Descendants of George Aldrich of Mendon, MA, a manuscript compiled by Ralph Ernest Aldrich (1902-1984) and his wife Pearl Lillian (Marquis) Aldrich. 18 volumes.
  • ANDREWS – Harriet Francis James had her untitled manuscript on the Kent/Washington County Andrews published as a newspaper column, later compiled in a three volume manuscript by Anthony Tarbox Briggs.
  • ARNOLD The Arnold Family of Smithfield, Rhode Island by Richard H. Benson.  Boston: Newbury Street Press, 2009.  For advice on finding this book and on the other Arnold lines in Rhode Island, see “Meet the Arnolds“.
  • BALLOU An Elaborate History and Genealogy of the Ballous in America by Adin Ballou. Providence: E.L. Freeman & Son, 1888.
  • BOWEN Richard Bowen (1594?-1675) of Rehoboth, Massachusetts and His Descendants by William B. Saxbe Jr. 3 volumes, Hope, Rhode Island: Rhode Island Genealogical Society, 2011-2015.  What I would say about this set is ALWAYS seek out the highest quality work in an area to see if it can help you. This one is exceptionally well done.  Another such example – Thomas Clemence of Providence, Rhode Island by Jane Fletcher Fiske and Roberta Stokes Smith.  Greenville, R.I.: Rhode Island Genealogical Society, 2007.
  • DARLINGDennis Darling of Braintree and Mendon, by William and Lou Martin, 2006. In addition to genealogical information on the Darlings, the book contains brief sections on the intermarried families of Cook, Southwick, Thayer, and Thompson.  There are about 5000 footnotes which will help you find specific records concerning your ancestors. This book can sometimes be accessed through FamilySearch.org – Search – Books.
  • LAMPHERE – a series of articles in New England Historical Genealogical Register:
    • Scott Andrew Bartley. “George Lanphear of Westerly, Rhode Island and his Descendants.”  New England Historic Genealogical Register 153 (April 1999): 131-140.
    • Scott Andrew Bartley. “George Lanphear of Westerly, Rhode Island and his Descendants, Part 2.”  New England Historic Genealogical Register 159 (October 2005): 333-340.
    • Scott Andrew Bartley. “George Lanphear of Westerly, Rhode Island and his Descendants, Part 3.”  New England Historic Genealogical Register 160 (January 2006): 47-59.
  • RICE – a series of articles in Rhode Island Roots:
    • Bamberg, Cherry Fletcher.  “Major Henry Rice of Warwick and His Family.”  Rhode Island Roots 24 (March/June 1998): 1 – 60.
    • Bamberg, Cherry Fletcher.  “John1 Rice of Warwick, Rhode Island.”  Rhode Island Roots 24 (September/December 1998): 153-168.
    • Bamberg, Cherry Fletcher.  “John2 Rice, Jr.,  of Warwick, Rhode Island.”  Rhode Island Roots 25 (September 1999): 81-118.
    • Bamberg, Cherry Fletcher.  “John2 Rice, Jr.,  of Warwick, Rhode Island.”  Rhode Island Roots 26 (September 2000): 57-84.
    • Bamberg, Cherry Fletcher.  “John2 Rice, Jr.,  of Warwick, Rhode Island (concluded).”  Rhode Island Roots 27 (March 2001): 1 – 26.
  • SMITH – Farnham, Charles William. “John Smith, The Miller, of Providence, Rhode Island – Some of His Descendants” in Genealogies of Rhode Island Families From Rhode Island Periodicals, volume II, p. 1 – 150.  Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1983 [originally appeared in the 1960’s as a series of articles in Rhode Island History, v. 20 – 24].  It’s not that this work is so superb, although maybe it is, it’s just that it’s so hard to work with the name Smith.
  • WILLIAMSDescendants of Roger Williams, Book 1 – Book 5.  The website of the Roger Williams Family Association allows you to peruse the first four generations of descent online.  After that, it’s necessary to consult the books.

Should you find a book that you would like to purchase, I usually try Higginson Books, Genealogical Publishing, and Heritage Books for reprints.  I also look on eBay.com and Amazon.com, although lately I find older books on Amazon to be overpriced, sometimes ridiculously so (often a more thorough search online for the tiny publisher’s website brings up a much more attractive price than anything you will find on Amazon.com.)  In a pinch, my best advice for a local Rhode Island used bookstore is Allison B. Goodsell, Rare Books, also called the Kingston Hill Store.

In closing

Be sure to check out the post about sources of local town records since some of those offer genealogical information about specific families.

There are eight weeks of helpful advice and links:
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A Providence Door-yard. From Sketches of Early American Architecture by O.R. Eggers, 1922.

A Providence Door-yard. From Sketches of Early American Architecture by O.R. Eggers, 1922.

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Welcome to 8 Weeks to Better Rhode Island Genealogy Research Week 5 – Town Records, Histories and Newspapers.  This covers location-specific books, town records, and newspapers.

Town records

Town records, published histories, and local newspapers are where the stories of our ancestors may be hiding.  To know that our ancestors spent one or more generations in a town, and yet know very little about that town, or even worse, to assume we know enough without research, is to ignore our role as family story-finders.

10 things you can find in town records (often called “Council Minutes” or “Town Council Records”)

  • (early records) vital records (and even, in early Providence records, marriage banns since the church was not allowed to provide any services like that)
  • (early records) probate
  • (early records) notes on real estate, for instance, swapping tracts of land.  Later, such functions would be assigned to, say, a town clerk and be recorded separately.
  • During war-time, filling allotments of soldiers, or provisions for certain soldiers
  • liquor (tavern) permits
  • warnings out of new residents that the town had no obligation to support if they fell on hard times, and support for the poor including purchases of room and board, clothing, coffins, or medical services from named town residents
  • jury duty
  • road clearing teams, assigned by neighborhood
  • collection of “rates” or taxes, sometimes based on data about property owned
  • sending representatives to the state government

Always check Rhode Island Roots for various town records and lists transcribed there, and Rhode Island History, published by the Rhode Island Historical Society.  Check the card catalog and manuscript finding aids at the Rhode Island Historical Society.  A call to the town library with specific content-related questions (e.g., do you know of any local shipbuilding records?  Do you have any diaries or old documents from a certain neighborhood?) as well as a search for a local historical house or society is always worth doing. And lastly, the Narragansett Historical Register should be searched.

The major state histories usually describe the development of each early town and the subsequent spun-off towns.  These books contain some great illustrations, that might work well in your own family history book if they are no longer under copyright.

MANY original town record books are now included in the new Ancestry.com probate record set for Rhode Island, but it will not be obvious how to find them and they are not likely to be indexed.  For a guide and key to navigating those record sets, visit the post on probate records.

Town records and published histories, by town

  • Barrington 
    • Adams, Virginia H. Historic and Architectural Resources of Barrington, Rhode Island. Providence, R.I. (150 Benefit St., Providence 02903) : Rhode Island Historical Preservation Commission, 1993.
    • Bicknell, Thomas Williams.
    • Erhardt, John G.
      • The History of Rehoboth, Seekonk, East Providence, Pawtucket & Barrington. Seekonk, Mass. : J. G Erhardt, n.d. (1982-1990?).
      • Rehoboth, Plymouth Colony, 1645-1692 : volume II: A History of Rehoboth, Seekonk, Swansey, Attleboro & No. Attleboro, Mass., East Providence, Barrington, & Pawtucket, R.I.  Seekonk, Mass. : J.G. Erhardt, 1983.
      • A History of Rehoboth, Seekonk, Mass. Pawtucket & East Providence, R.I.1692-1812. Volume III. Seekonk, Mass. : J.G. Erhardt, 1990.
    • Gizzarelli, Nicholas. The Revolutionary and Civil War Records. [Barrington, Rhode Island] : [Nicholas Gizzarelli], n.d.
  • Bristol
    • Cirillo, Susan E.  Bibliography of Materials Relating to the History of Bristol, Rhode Island.  [Kingston, R.I.], 1983.
    • Cirillo, Susan E. and John Pozzie Lombard.  Bristol: Three Hundred Years.  Providence: Franklin Graphics, 1980.
    • Howe, George Locke.  Mount Hope: A New England Chronicle.  New York, Viking Press, 1959.
    • Howe, M. A. DeWolf. Bristol, Rhode Island: A Town Biography.  Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1930.
    • Mathew, Linda L. Bristol, Rhode Island Town Council Records: 1760-1811.  Hope, R.I.; Rhode Island Genealogical Society, 2014.
    • Munro, Wilfred Harold.  The history of Bristol, R.I. : the story of the Mount Hope lands, from the visit of the Northmen to the present time.  Providence: J.A. & R.A. Reid, 1880.  See also his Tales of an Old Seaport, Princeton University Press, 1917.
    • Saunders, Dorothy C. Bristol, R.I.’s Early Settlers. Bowie, Md: Heritage Books, 1992.[thanks to Cherry Fletcher Bamberg’s 2006 article Comfort (Pearce) Coggeshall and her Children, The New England Historical Genealogical Register (2006), 160 : 85-98, 224-235, 297-310 ; footnote 2.]
    • Thompson, Charles O.F. Sketches of Old Bristol.  Providence: Roger Williams Press, 1942.
  • Burrillville
    • Keach, Horace A.  Burrillville; As It Was, and it is. Providence: Knowles, Anthony & Co, 1856.
    • Mehrtens, Patricia A.  One Hundred Years Ago in Burrillville: Selected Stories from Local Newspapers.  Bowie, Md: Heritage Books, 1992.
  • 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. Pawtucket, R.I.: E.L. Freeman Co., 1937.
  • Charlestown
    • The Charlestown Bicentennial Book Committee. Reflections of Charlestown, Rhode Island 1876-1976. Westerly, R.I.: The Utter Company, 1976. 
    • Crandall, Earl P.
      • Five Families of Charlestown, Rhode Island : Bliven, Crandall, Macomber, Money, Taylor.  Catskill, N.Y.: E.P. Crandall, 1993.
      • Charlestown in the Mid 19th Century, As Seen through the Eyes of “Uncle Phineas” (Nelson Byron Vars). 1992.
    • Fish, Joseph.  Old Light on Separate Ways: the Narragansett Diary of Joseph Fish, 1765-1776. Hanover, N.H., University Press of New England, 1982.
    • Mandeville, Frances W. The Historical Story of Charlestown, Rhode Island. Charlestown, R.I.: Charlestown Historical Society, 1979.
    • Tucker, William Franklin.  Historical Sketch of the Town of Charlestown in Rhode Island : from 1636 to 1876.  Westerly, R.I. : G.B. & J.H. Utter, steam printers, 1877.
    • See also Western Rhode Island Civic Historical Society periodicals: Hinterlander and Proceedings.
  • Coventry
    • Harpin, Mathias Peter and William Koji. Prophets in the Wilderness: A History of Coventry, Rhode Island.  Oneco, Conn.: Harpin’s Connecticut Almanac, 1974.
    • Hey, Catherine. “Gleanings from Rhode Island Town Records: Early Coventry Records.” Rhode Island Roots. Special Bonus Issue 2010 (April 2010).
    • Levesque, George A.  Coventry: The Colonial Years 1741-1783.  [Typescript, Master’s Thesis, Brown University], 1969.
    • Warnings out from Coventry Town Council Minutes transcr. by Linda L. Mathew.  Rhode Island Roots 29:1 (Mar 2003) p. 9-30.
    • See also Western Rhode Island Civic Historical Society periodicals: Hinterlander and Proceedings.
  • Cranston
    • Brayton, Gladys W and William M. Carpenter.  Other Ways and Other Days.  E. Providence: Globe Printing, 1975.
    • Clauson, J. Earl. Cranston: A Historical Sketch. Providence: T.S. Hammond, 1904.
    • See also Cranston Historical Society Newsletter
  • 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. 
    • 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.
This map of 1820 East Greenwich is provided as evidence that King Street, leading down to the bay, was the main thoroughfare of East Greenwich, not Main Street, where my ancestor had a house. That goes a long way to explain how my ancestor could afford such a classy address - maybe it wasn't - from The History of East Greenwich by McPartland, p. 51.

This map of 1820 East Greenwich is provided as evidence that King Street, leading down to the bay, was the main thoroughfare of East Greenwich, not Main Street, where my ancestor had a house. That goes a long way to explain how my ancestor could afford such a classy address in 1800 — maybe it wasn’t. Partial snapshot from The History of East Greenwich by McPartland, p. 51.

  • East Greenwich
    • Adamson, Thaire H. and Marion Fry.  A History of East Greenwich Rhode Island : as published in The East Greenwich Packet.  East Greenwich, R.I. : East Greenwich Preservation Society, 1996.
    • Bamberg, Cherry F. Elder John Gorton and the Six Principle Baptist Church of East Greenwich, Rhode Island. Greenville, R.I: Rhode Island Genealogical Society, 2001.
    • Bamberg, Cherry Fletcher. “Gleanings from Rhode Island Town Records: East Greenwich Town Council Records, 1734-1774.” Rhode Island Roots. Special Bonus Issue 2008 (April 2008).
    • Bamberg, Cherry Fletcher. “Gleanings from Rhode Island Town Records: East Greenwich Town Council Records, 1775-1800.” Rhode Island Roots. Special Bonus Issue 2009 (April 2009).
    • Eldridge, James H. and Daniel H Greene.  History of East Greenwich.  A series of articles published in the East Greenwich Weekly Pendulum, June 8 – Nov. 17, 1860.
    • Greene, D.H.  History of the Town of East Greenwich and adjacent Territory, from 1677 to 1877.  Providence: J.A. and R.A. Reid, 1877.
    • MacGunnigle, Bruce C. Strolling in Historic East Greenwich. Charleston, SC: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2014.
    • McPartland, Martha R. The History of East Greenwich, Rhode Island, 1677-1960: with related genealogy. East Greenwich, R.I.: East Greenwich Free Library Association, 1960.
    • Miller, William Davis.  Notes and Queries concerning the Early Bounds and Divisions of the Township of East Greenwich: as set forth in William Hall’s plat.  Providence: E.L. Freeman Co., [1937].
    • Potter, Elisha R. Memoir Concerning the French Settlements and French Settlers in the Colony of Rhode Island. Baltimore: Genealogical Pub. Co, 1968.
  • East Providence
  • Exeter
    • Simister, Florence P. A Short History of Exeter, Rhode Island. Exeter, R.I.: Exeter Bicentennial Commission, 1978.
  • Foster
    • Early Historical Accounts of Foster, Rhode Island. Glenview, Ill.: Moshassuck Press, 1993. Contains Charles C. Beaman’s “Sketches of Foster” and Casey B. Tyler’s “Historical Reminiscences of Foster.” Indexed by Kenneth W. Faig.
    • Ferraro, William Michael.  “Lives of quiet desperation : Community and polity in New England over four centuries : the cases of Portsmouth and Foster, Rhode Island.”  Dissertation:  Ph. D., Brown University 1991.
    • Matthews, Margery I.
      •  “First Tax List for Foster RI After Division from Scituate RI”  transc. by Margery I. Matthews.  Rhode Island Roots 12:2 (Jun 1986) p. 29-32.
      • [look for short works issued by the Foster Preservation Society in the 1980’s – 1990’s including “Tax Records 1781, 1787, 1798” and “Peleg’s Last Word: The Story of the Foster Woolen Manufactory.”]. 
    • Murray, Thomas Hamilton. “Sketch of an Early Irish Settlement in Rhode Island.”  American-Irish Historical Society, Journal, 2 (1899), 152-157.
  • 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.
    • Glocester, the way up country : a history, guide and directory compiled by The Heritage Division, Glocester Bicentennial Commission. Glocester, R.I. : Town of Glocester, 1976.
  • Hopkinton
    • Griswold, S.S. Historical sketch of the town of Hopkinton : from 1757 to 1876, comprising a period of one hundred and nineteen years. Hope Valley, R.I. : L.W.A. Cole, Job printer, 1877.
    • History of the town of Hopkinton, Rhode Island, 1757-1976 : historical facts compiled by Hopkinton Bicentennial Commission. Publication Committee.  Westerly, 1976.
    • “The Patriots of Hopkinton, Rhode Island, 1776.”  Narragansett Historical Register, 4:2 (1885).  Transcribed on USGenWeb thanks to Susan Irish Nahas.
    • See also Hopkinton Historical Association Hopkinton Notes  
  • Jamestown
    • Watson, Walter L. History of Jamestown on Conanicut Island in the State of Rhode Island. Providence, 1949.
    • [note – the Jamestown Historical Society has some manuscripts of unique sources such as newspaper indices.]
  • Johnston
    • McGowan, Louis and Virginia Brunelle. Johnston, Rhode Island ; 1759 to 2009 : 250th Anniversary. Johnston Historical Society. Johnston Historical Society : Printed by the Louis Press, 2009.
    • “A Valuation of the Rateable Property of the Town of Johnston.”  Rhode Island Roots 11:2 (Jun 1985) p. 35-37.
    • [note that some early Johnston town records are held at the Providence City Archives.]
  • Lincoln
  • Little Compton
    • Lisle, Janet Taylor. First light: Sakonnet, 1660-1820 : the history of Little Compton. Little Compton, R.I. : Little Compton Historical Society, 2010.
    • Pierre-Louis, Marion.  The stories houses tell : a collection of Little Compton house histories.  Little Compton, RI : Little Compton Historical Society, 2015.
    • Wilbour, Benjamin Franklin.
      • Little Compton families. Little Compton, R.I., Little Compton Historical Society, 1967.
      • and Carlton C Brownell. Notes on Little Compton : from records collected by Benjamin Franklin Wilbour. Little Compton, R.I. : Little Compton Historical Society, 1970.
  • Middletown
  • Narragansett

    • Arnold, James N. The Records of the Proprietors of the Narragansett: Otherwise Called the Fones Record ; Rhode Island Colonial Gleanings. Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1990.
    • Carpenter, Esther Bernon. South County Studies. Boston: D.B. Updike, 1924.
    • Hazard, Caroline (these books refer to the generic Narragansett area, not the town)
    • Views of Narragansett Pier. Tibbetts & Preston, 1884.
    • Updike, Wilkins.  History of the Episcopal Church in Narragansett, Rhode Island. New York, Henry M. Onderdonk, 1847.   [note: includes genealogical material].
  • New Shoreham (Block Island)
  • Newport (this is just a sampling – there are hundreds of books and articles available on Newport’s history)

    • Capron, John F.  III. “Genealogical Clues from Newport, R.I. Customs District Records.”  Rhode Island Roots 38:1 (Mar 2012) p. 33-54.
    • Coughtry, Jay, and Daniel Lewis. Papers of the American Slave Trade: Series B. Bethesda, MD: University Publications of America, 2002 (a large microfilm collection of Newport Historical Society holdings).
    • Crane, Elaine F.
      • Ebb Tide in New England: Women, Seaports, and Social Change, 1630-1800. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1998.
      • A Dependent People: Newport, Rhode Island, in the Revolutionary Era. New York: Fordham University Press, 1985.
    • Fiske, Jane Fletcher. Gleanings from Newport Court Files 1659-1783. Boxford, Massachusetts: 1998.
    • Hubbard, Samuel.  Samuel Hubbard’s journal, circa 1633-1686 : manuscripts relating to Samuel Hubbard of Newport, Rhode Island / transcribed by the Rhode Island Historical Records Survey Project, Division of Professional and Service Projects, Work Projects Administration, from a copy in the possession of William L. Burdick.  Providence, R.I. : The Project, [1940]
    • Jefferys, C P. B, and C P. B. Jefferys. Newport: A Short History. Newport, R.I: The Society, 1992.
    • Merchant, Gloria.  Pirates of colonial Newport.    Charleston, SC : The History Press, 2014
    • Peterson, Edward. History of Rhode Island. New-York: J.S. Taylor, 1853.  [note: according to Bartlett’s 1864 Bibliography of Rhode Island, this volume “abounds in errors, and is of no historical value.”]
    • Robinson, William Henry. The proceedings of the Free African Union Society and the African Benevolent Society : Newport, Rhode Island, 1780-1824.  Providence, R.I. : Urban League of Rhode Island, 1976
    • Simpson, Richard V. Historic Tales of Colonial Rhode Island: Aquidneck Island and the Founding of the Ocean State. Charleston, SC: The History Press, 2012.
    • Stensrud, Rockwell. Newport: A Lively Experiment 1639-1969. Newport, RI: Redwood Library and Athenaeum, 2006.
    • Troost-Cramer, Kathleen. True Tales of Life & Death at Fort Adams. Charleston, SC: The History Press, 2013.
    • Youngken, Richard C.  African Americans in Newport : an introduction to the heritage of African Americans in Newport, Rhode Island, 1700-1945 [Providence, R.I.] : The Newport Historical Society, 1998.
They just don't make book titles like they used to. Wickford is a town in North Kingstown.

They just don’t make book titles like they used to. Wickford is a village in North Kingstown.

  • North Kingstown
    • Conley, Patrick Thomas.  North Kingstown: An Historical Sketch. Providence: Rhode Island Bicentennial Commission, 1976.
    • 1798 Direct Tax records for North Kingstown, Providence, Richmond, Smithfield and Warwick [R.I. Historical Society manuscript 232, subgroup 4]
    • Griswold, Frances I. S. Old Wickford: The Venice of America. Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Young Churchman, 1900.
    • Loxton, George R.  Davisville, Rhode Island: A History of the Textile Mill Village of Davisville, North Kingstown, Rhode Island, Since the Arrival of Joshua Davis in 1694. Baltimore: Gateway Press, 2001.
    • Notes on Quidnesset“, from the Narragansett Historical Register.
    • Woodward, Carl R. Plantation in Yankeeland: The Story of Cocumscussoc, Mirror of Colonial Rhode Island. Chester, Conn: Pequot Press, 1971.
    • A more complete list from the North Kingstown Public Library
  • North Providence
  • North Smithfield
    • Nebiker, Walter E. The History of North Smithfield. North Smithfield Bicentennial Commission, 1976.
  • Pawtucket (see also Central Falls)

    • Boucher, Susan Marie.  The History of Pawtucket, 1635-1976.  Pawtucket Public Library, 1976.
    • Goodrich, Massena. Historical Sketch of the Town of Pawtucket, Rhode Island. Originally Pawtucket, R.I., 1876, reprinted Heritage Books, 2012.
  • Portsmouth
    • Brigham, Clarence S. The Early Records of the Town of Portsmouth. Providence, R. I., E. L. Freeman & Sons, state printers, 1901.
    • Ferraro, William Michael.  “Lives of quiet desperation : Community and polity in New England over four centuries : the cases of Portsmouth and Foster, Rhode Island.”  Dissertation:  Ph. D., Brown University, 1991.
    • Garman, James E.
      • Historic Houses of Portsmouth, Rhode Island.  Portsmouth: Garman, 1976.
      • A History of Portsmouth, Rhode Island, 1638-1978. Newport: Franklin Printing, 1978.  [note: thanks to Grundset’s Rhode Island in the American Revolution: A Source Guide for Genealogists and Historians, p. 153.]
    • Pierce, John T.  Historical Tracts of the Town of Portsmouth, Rhode Island.  1991.
    • Taft, Donald R. Two Portuguese communities in New England.   Dissertation: PhD., Columbia University, 1923.
    • West, Edward Homer.  History of Portsmouth, 1638-1936. Providence, R.I. : J. Green, 1936.
    • [note – the Portsmouth Free Public Library has an excellent local history collection, and hosts books from the Rhode Island Genealogical Society collection]
  • Providence (this is just a sampling – there are hundreds of books and articles available on Providence’s history)

    • 1798 Direct Tax records for North Kingstown, Providence, Richmond, Smithfield and Warwick [R.I. Historical Society manuscript 232, subgroup 4]
    • Bamberg, Cherry Fletcher. 1776 Census of Providence, Rhode Island. New England Historic Genealogical Register, 159 (Jan 2005): 12-24 and (April 2005) 141-154.
    • Brown University.  Historical Catalog of Brown University, 1764-1914.  Providence: Brown University, 1914.
    • Cady, John Hutchins. The Civic and Architectural Development of Providence 1636-1950. Providence: The Book Shop, 1957. [note: reviews the growth and development of the various neighborhoods.]
    • Hopkins, Charles Wyman. Home Lots of the Early Settlers of the Providence Plantations. 1886, reprinted Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co, 2007.
    • Kimball, Gertrude S. Providence in Colonial Times. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1912.
    • Lemons, J. Stanley. Baptists in Early North America: Volume II, First Baptist Church in Providence. Macon, Georgia: Mercer University Press, 2013.
    • Mathew, Linda L.
      • “Gleanings from Rhode Island Town Records: Providence Town Council Records, 1770-1788.” Rhode Island Roots. Special Bonus Issue 2006 (April 2006).
      • “Gleanings from Rhode Island Town Records: Providence Town Council Records, 1789-1801.” Rhode Island Roots. Special Bonus Issue 2007 (April 2007).
      • “Manumissions in Providence, 1784-1800.”  Rhode Island Roots 32:4 (Dec 2006) p. 193-196.
    • The Providence House Directory and Family Address Book, various issues, 1895-1935. Providence: Sampson & Murdock Co.  Image copy. Providence City Archives. https://www.providenceri.com/archives/providence-house-directory-0    : 2015. [note: see a few other directories at https://onerhodeislandfamily.com/providence-city-directories/ ]
    • Rogers, Horatio, George Moulton Carpenter and Edward Field. The Early Records of the Town of Providence, v. 1 – 21. Providence: Snow & Farnham, 1895. [note: contains many personal references.]
    • Staples, William R. Annals of the Town of Providence, from its first settlement to the Organization of the City Government, in June, 1832 (Providence, 1843).
    • Taylor, Maureen Alice. Rhode Island passenger lists : Port of Providence, 1798-1808; 1820-1872, Port of Bristol and Warren, 1820-1871 : compiled from United States Custom House papers. Genealogical Publ. Co., 1995
    • Woodward, Wm. McKenzie and Edward F. Sanderson. Providence: A Citywide Survey of Historic Resources. Providence: Rhode Island Historic Preservation Commission, 1980.
  • Richmond
    • 1798 Direct Tax records for North Kingstown, Providence, Richmond, Smithfield and Warwick [R.I. Historical Society manuscript 232, subgroup 4]
    • Irish, James R. Historical Sketch of the Town of Richmond, from 1747 to 1876: Comprising a Period of One Hundred and Twenty-Nine Years. Hope Valley, R.I: L.W.A. Cole, Job printer, 1877.
    • Town of Richmond Tax Book for 1855, 1872, 1883 [on USGenWeb thanks to Susan Pieroth and Kathleen Beilstein.]
  • Scituate
    • Crane, Mary Knight.  “30 Revolutionary Pensioners, Scituate, R.I.”  National Genealogical Society Quarterly, 14 (June 1925), 29.  [thanks to Grundset’s Rhode Island in the American Revolution: A Source Guide for Genealogists and Historians, p. 170.]
    • Grandchamp, Robert. “With Their Usual Ardor”: Scituate, Rhode Island and the American Revolution. Westminster, Maryland: Heritage Press, 2006.
    • Mathew, Linda L.
      • “Guardianships from the Town of Scituate, R.I. 1762-1799.”  Rhode Island Roots 30:4 (Dec 2004) p. 206-228.
      • “Gleanings from Rhode Island Town Records: Scituate Town Council Records, 1731-1786.” Rhode Island Roots. Special Bonus Issue 2011 (April 2011).
    • Walker, Cyrus and later editors. The History of Scituate, R.I., from the Acquisition of the Territory in 1659 to the Close of the Nineteenth Century. Scituate Bicentennial Committee, 1976.  See also:
  • Smithfield
    • 1798 Direct Tax records for North Kingstown, Providence, Richmond, Smithfield and Warwick [R.I. Historical Society manuscript 232, subgroup 4]
    • [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.
    • [note that some early Smithfield town records are held at the Central Falls City Hall.]
  • South Kingstown (see also Narragansett)

    • Bossy, Kathleen, and Mary Keane. Lost South Kingstown: With a History of Ten of Its Early Villages. Kingston, R.I: Pettaquamscutt Historical Society, 2004.
    • Comstock, Charles. A History of South-Kingstown: With Description of the Hornet’s Nest Company, and the Cats Let Out of the Bag, 1806.
    • Hazard, Thomas B.  Nailer Tom’s Diary: otherwise, the journal of Thomas B. Hazard of Kingstown, Rhode Island, 1778-1840. Caroline Hazard, ed.  Boston: Merrymount Press, 1930.
    • McBurney, Christian M. A History of Kingston, R.I., 1700-1900: Heart of Rural South County. Kingston, R.I: Pettaquamscutt Historical Society, 2004.
    • Miller, William D, and Joseph Torrey. Dr. Joseph Torrey and His Record Book of Marriages. Salem, Mass: Higginson Book Co, 1997.
    • Perkins, P. J. Shipwrecks, sinkings and strandings for Narragansett and South Kingstown, 1880 thru 1940. 1993.
    • “South Kingstown 1757 Tax List.”  Rhode Island Roots 13:2 (Jun 1987) p. 37-40.  Continued in 13:3 (Sep 1987) 63-67.
    • South Kingstown, Rhode Island Town Council. Town Council Records, 1771-1795 / transcribed by Jean C. Stutz. Kingstown, R.I. : Pettaquamscutt Historical Society, 1988.
    • Stedman, Daniel. Daniel Stedman’s journal, 1826-1859 / transcribed and introduced by Henry Clay Oatley ; edited by Cherry Fletcher Bamberg.  Greenville, R.I. : Rhode Island Genealogical Society, 2003.
    • Stedman, Oliver H.  A Stroll Through Memory Lane with Oliver H. Stedman: Stories of South County’s Past. Kingston Press, 1978.
    • Watson, Judith Green.  South Kingstown, Rhode Island Tax Lists, 1730-1799.  Rockland, Maine: Picton Press, 2007.
    • [see also works published by the Pettaquamscutt Historical Society, newly renamed the South County History Center.]
South Kingston, Rhode Island Tax Lists, 1730-1799. Photo by Diane Boumenot.

South Kingston, Rhode Island Tax Lists, 1730-1799. Photo by Diane Boumenot.

  • Tiverton
    • Burroughs, Peleg. Peleg Burroughs’s journal, 1778-1798 : the Tiverton, R. I. years of the humbly bold Baptist minister. Warwick, RI : Rhode Island Genealogical Society, 1981.
    • Durfee, Grace Stafford. Rhode Island tercentenary 1636 1936 historical edition of Tiverton Rhode Island.  1936.  (mostly covers historic buildings).
    • Fowler, Orin. An Historical Sketch of Fall River from 1620 to the Present Time: With Notices of Freetown and Tiverton : in Three Discourses Delivered January 24, 1841. Fall River. Mass.: B. Earl, 1841.
    • Simpson, Richard V. Tiverton & Little Compton, Rhode Island: Historic Tales of the Outer Plantations, 2012.
  • Warren
You can always join the Rhode Island Genealogical Society and let the experts transcribe and index those town records for you. One volume per year!

You can always join the Rhode Island Genealogical Society and let the experts transcribe and index those town council records for you. One volume per year!

  • Warwick
    • 1798 Direct Tax records for North Kingstown, Providence, Richmond, Smithfield and Warwick [R.I. Historical Society manuscript 232, subgroup 4]
    • Bamberg, Cherry Fletcher.
      • “Gleanings from Rhode Island Town Records: Warwick Town Council Records, 1742-1780.” Rhode Island Roots. Special Bonus Issue 2012 (April 2012).
      • “Gleanings from Rhode Island Town Records: Warwick Town Council Records, 1781-1801.” Rhode Island Roots. Special Bonus Issue 2013 (April 2013).
      • “Residency Certificates from the Warwick Archives.”  Rhode Island Roots 31:1 (Mar 2005) p. 32-39.
    • Chapin, Howard M.
      • “Early house lots in the east part of the town of Warwick.” Rhode Island Historical Society Collections, 12 (1919), 129-136.
      • The early records of the town of Warwick. Providence, R. I,. E. A. Johnson company, 1926.
    • Curtis, Harold R.  “Warwick Proprietors’ Divisions.”  Rhode Island Historical Society Collections, 30 (1927), 33-51.
    • Fuller, Oliver P. The history of Warwick, Rhode Island, from its settlement in 1642 to the present time; including accounts of the early settlement and development of its several villages; sketches of the origin and progress of the different churches … Providence, Angell, Burlingame & co., printers, 1875.
    • Lockwood, Ernest Lapham. Episodes In Warwick History. Warwick, R.I. : City of Warwick historical committee of the Rhode Island tercentenary celebration, 1937.
    • Tillinghast, Samuel. The diary of Capt. Samuel Tillinghast of Warwick, Rhode Island : 1757-1766, transcribed and edited by Cherry Fletcher Bamberg.  Greenville, R.I. : Rhode Island Genealogical Society, 2000.
    • Warwick. More early records of the town of Warwick, Rhode Island : “The book with clasps” and “General records” transcribed by Marshall Morgan; edited by Cherry Fletcher Bamberg and Jane Fletcher Fiske.  Boston, Mass. : New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2001.
    • Woodward, Carl Raymond.  “Rural economy 200 years ago: as revealed in the account books of Benoni Waterman of Warwick, 1733-1740.”  Rhode Island History, 4 (1945), 97-106; 5 (1946), 119-128.
  • West Greenwich
    • Baker, Roberta. Bits and pieces of West Greenwich memoranda, 1976.
    • Hey, Catherine. “Gleanings from Rhode Island Town Records: West Greenwich Town Council Records, 1741-1772.” Rhode Island Roots. Special Bonus Issue 2015 (April 2015).
    • Huling, Ray Greene.  “Early owners of land in West Greenwich, R.I.”  Narragansett Historical Register, 3 (1884-1885), 1-5.
    • Historical Records Survey. Rhode Island.  Inventory of the town and city archives of Rhode Island: No. 2, Kent County: vol. 4, West Greenwich. 
    • West Greenwich (Town), R.I. “Town Records, 1741-1869.” Manuscript MSS 222, Rhode Island Historical Society.  (note: this item comes from Grundset’s Rhode Island in the American Revolution: A Source Guide for Genealogists and Historians, p. 123).
    • See also Western Rhode Island Civic Historical Society periodicals: Hinterlander and Proceedings.
  • West Warwick – see Warwick for earlier works
  • Westerly
    •  Anderson, Robert Charles. “The Colonial Records of the Town of Westerly, Rhode Island” Rhode Island Roots 7:3 (Sep 1981) p. 25-27.  [contains an explanation of the contents and numbering of each re-bound early record book in the Town Hall]. 
    • Best, Mary Agnes. The Town that Saved a State, Westerly.  Westerly: 1943.
    • Denison, Frederic. Westerly and its witnesses : for two hundred and fifty years, 1626-1876 : including Charlestown, Hopkinton, and Richmond until their separate organization, with the principal points of their subsequent history. Providence : J.A. & R.A. Reid, 1878.  See also
      • Larkin, Jessie N. C, and Frederic Denison. Index for Rev. Frederic Denison’s Westerly (r.i.) and Its Witnesses. New York: publisher not identified, 1933.
    • Dowding, George R. Military History of Westerly: 1710-1932. Westerly, R.I: Blackburn & Benson, printers, 1932.
    • O’Connell, Thomas A. Fair Westerly. Westerly, RI: Westerly Historical Society, 2014.
    • Shea, Robert F. Aspects of the History of Westerly During the Civil War , 1957.[thesis: University of Rhode Island].
    • Utter, George B. Old “westerle,” Rhode Island: Now Constituting the Towns of Charlestown, Hopkinton, Richmond and Westerly. Rhode Island’s Jubilee Year, 1636-1936. Westerly, R.I.: The Utter Company, printers, 1936.
    • “The Patriots of Westerly, R. I., 1776.” The American Monthly Magazine,  The National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Washington D. C., (Feb. 1906), 124 – 126. Transcribed on USGenWeb by Susan Irish Nahas.
    • [check out worldcat.org for many shorter works published by the Westerly Historical Society.]
  • Woonsocket
    • Bonier, Marie L, Claire Quintal, and Raymond H. Bacon. The Beginnings of the Franco-American Colony in Woonsocket, Rhode Island. Worcester, Mass: Assumption College, Institut français, 1997.
    • Daniels, Alanson S.  Statistics of the village of Woonsocket : comprising the names of the heads of families, arranged in alphabetical order, the number of inhabitants in each section of the village, with other useful and interesting matter, 1842 … Woonsocket, 1842.
    • Fortin, Marcel P. Woonsocket, Rhode Island: A Centennial History, 1888-1988. Woonsocket, R.I: Woonsocket Centennial Committee, 1988.
    • Newman, S C. A Numbering of the Inhabitants: Together with Statistical and Other Information, Relative to Woonsocket, R.I. Woonsocket: Printed by S.S. Foss, 1846.
    • Richardson, Erastus.
    • Thomas, Alton P. Old Woonsocket: Erastus & Doc. Providence: Mowbray Co., 1973.
    • [see also books published by American-French Genealogical Society]

Omitted from the above lists:  Architectural and archaeological surveys, church histories, and books about single families.  The Rhode Island Historical Preservation Commission has issued Preliminary Survey Reports on the archaeology and historic sites of most or all Rhode Island towns.  Always check out local historical societies.  Some local libraries in Rhode Island also have local history collections.  This post on Rhode Island church records will show you the specific church-related vital records that were compiled by James Arnold.  And RIAMCO helps you find manuscript materials in Rhode Island repositories.

My favorite two bibliographies of Rhode Island historical materials are:

  • Grundset, Eric G.  Rhode Island in the American Revolution: A Source Guide for Genealogists and Historians. The National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, 2014.  There was so much additional material in there that I did not find in my other searches. I noted three entries in the list above that I found only in that book, but there are hundreds of others; I urge everyone to consult it.
  • James, Sydney V.  Colonial Rhode Island: A History. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1975.   See “Bibliography”, p. 385-411.  I thank Maureen Taylor for recommending this book to me; it is so valuable for Rhode Island researchers.
Columbian Phenix, Providence, Saturday, December 1, 1810. I purchased this on eBay recently. What surprised me about holding the paper in my hand was how thick the paper was - just like book paper.

Columbian Phenix, Providence, Saturday, December 1, 1810. I purchased this on eBay recently. What surprised me about holding the newspaper in my hand was how thick the paper was – just like book paper.

Newspapers

6 things to know about historic Rhode Island newspapers:

  • In my experience GenealogyBank.com offers the best selection of Rhode Island newspapers.  That’s where I have found 95% of the newspaper items in my genealogy files.
  • If you are looking for free newspaper offerings, look no further than The Ancestor Hunt‘s Rhode Island page.  Explore the website and blog, it’s filled with helpful tips.
  • The Providence Journal, Rhode Island’s premier newspaper, does not have historical issues online or indexed (just the last few decades).  Hoping we see some progress on that soon.
  • The Rhode Island Historical Society holds the largest collection of Rhode Island newspapers on microfilm, and there were many newspapers over the years.  There is little in the way of indexing, however, so you need to know the approximate date you need.  Note that the state is small and the capital was ever-shifting, so Providence and Newport papers were likely to carry stories from any part of Rhode Island.
  • The Providence Public Library has a Rhode Island Index with listings of major stories from 1900-2004.   Only my rich and famous family connections are in there (so that’s not many!)
  • A 1965 list of newspapers held in the various Rhode Island libraries is here.  The newspapers themselves would be accessed by going to the library and viewing the microfilm.

See the other 8 Weeks to Better Rhode Island Genealogy posts by clicking the tab at the top of the page.

There are eight weeks of helpful advice and links:
The post you are reading is the property of One Rhode Island Family.

The post you are reading is located at: 

A card from the Rhode island index, Providence Public Library.

A card from the Rhode Island index, Providence Public Library.  Photo by Diane Boumenot.

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Property records and the maps that help us understand our ancestor’s location contain some very helpful clues.  Even for ancestors whose background we know, maps and deeds can fill in fascinating parts of the story.

Maps

So let me just say right off, even after years in genealogy, I still tend to look at maps too late in the process of research.  Maps should be almost the first thing we turn to.  Was the village close to the state line, meaning our ancestors’ records may be recorded in another state?  Have we checked all neighboring towns for records?  Looking at our ancestor’s street on an old map, is it clear which nearby town would have been easiest to walk to, and possibly find a wife in?  What was the nearest church?  What nearby waterways provided easy transportation or employment?

More and more old maps are coming online.  Even if they are for sale, they are often viewable online.  Although not listed below, Ancestry.com has also added some of these same maps in the Maps, Atlases and Gazetteers section.

This 1795 Harris map shows the northeast corner of the state where my ancestors lived. I find that by matching landmarks in the old maps (for instance, Abbots Run along the east border) with information in my ancestors' deeds, I can often come close to knowing the location of their property.

This 1795 Harris map shows the northeast corner of the state where my ancestors lived. I find that by matching landmarks in the old maps (for instance, Abbots Run along the east border) with information in my ancestors’ deeds, I can often come close to knowing the location of their property.

My top 8 online map finds

I was underwhelmed with the selection of digital maps available online, the same few over and over, and lots of state maps showing the names of the towns.  I wish more specific content was available for each city and town.  Here are the major collections and some of my favorites.

The Georefrencer screen for plate 38 of the 1875 Providence atlas on David Rumsey Maps. It show my ggg-grandfather's rented home adjacent to Silver Lake basin, a former body of water that is now a large parking lot with a flea market building. The old map and the new Google map matched together instantly when I pressed the button. Fascinating to see the streets/features that are still the same and the ones that have changed.

The Georeferencer screen for plate 38 of the 1875 Providence atlas on David Rumsey Maps. It show my ggg-grandfather’s rented home adjacent to Silver Lake Basin, a former body of water that is now a large parking lot with a flea market building (white streets are the current streets). The old map and the new Google map matched together instantly when I pressed the button. Fascinating to see the streets/features that are still the same and the ones that have changed.

Paper maps

Obviously, there are historical maps in paper collections that could be very helpful.  The Rhode Island Historical Society has a wide collection.

To buy wall maps, Rhode Island’s own Map Center located on North Main Street, Providence, will sell you reasonably priced maps.  Many time over the years, I have purchased CD’s and a few paper maps from the Rhode Island collection at Old Maps including the 1831 & 1855 maps on CD, and the 1870 Atlas on CD.  This lets me keep them permanently on my computer, and open them to whatever size I want.

Place names

A guide to Providence County place names is here, mostly pulled from 1600’s records.  I will add more sources as I find them.

Deeds and land records

Deeds treat us to a glimpse of our ancestor’s financial and home life.  Was it a big farm? Did they have a mortgage?  Did they keep the land their parents had, or strike out on their own?  Did they lose their property at some point, and why?  And most of all, where was this homestead?  Does knowing the “abutters” or neighbors clarify a genealogical detail for us?  Did your ancestor buy an extremely expensive house in 1798 which he could never, possibly have afforded, lose it in 1800, and then lived the rest of his life in poverty and you cannot figure out how that happened and it keeps you up at night? (but I digress. On with the deeds).

In Rhode Island, deeds are kept in the town that the transaction occurred in.  As new towns split over time, deeds tended to remain in the original town, although there are exceptions to that so always check the town website to see what deeds they hold.

VERY few deeds are online at this point, as you will see, below.  So it’s important to get out to the town halls or keep checking Familysearch.org for microfilm rolls which have come online.  They have most pre-1900 deeds on film, and promise to get those films online within the next couple of years.   To find those deeds go to www.familysearch.org, use the Search —  Catalog menu item and then “Search by” place, pulling up the exact town, which will look something like this: “United States, Rhode Island, Kent, Coventry.”  Familysearch files all deed records under the term “Land and property.”

Microfilm for Smithfield, Rhode Island

Finding microfilm listings for Smithfield, Rhode Island, prior to ordering them.

Online deeds

It may not be widely known that slowly, some Rhode Island towns are moving their deeds online and in a few cases, that includes historical deeds.  Check this site for the town you are interested in, although you may also need to consult the town/city web page to find out which years are in that system.

I am finding no deeds on Ancestry.com, however, a few deeds drifted into the “probate” category – look over at the Week 3 post on Probate, and follow instructions there to pull up the record set.

A few towns have a few deeds on FamilySearch.org:

Russell and Lydia's signatures on the sale

Lydia Lamphere signed a deed of sale (with her mark) because she was required to give up her right of dower in the property that she and her husband sold.

Some additional helpful sources:

There are eight weeks of helpful advice and links:
The post you are reading is the property of One Rhode Island Family.

The post you are reading is located at: http://onerhodeislandfamily.com/2016/05/01/8-weeks-4-maps-and-deeds/

I would like to revisit the East Greenwich and North Kingstown records mentioned here and make my own analysis of the early deeds.

East Greenwich deed index, town hall.

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