Divorce has been granted by the Rhode Island courts, and the governing bodies that preceded the court system, since the beginning of Rhode Island’s history.

Statistics on divorce

In 1896, statistics were published about divorces in the period 1869-1894. The Forty-second Report Relating to the Registry and Return of Births, Marriages, and Deaths, and of Divorce, in the State of Rhode Island for the Year Ending December 31, 1894, prepared by Gardner T. Swarts, M.D., (Providence: E.L. Freeman, 1896) devoted 6 pages to statistics on divorces applied for and granted in Rhode Island. No names are included.

As of 1894, divorce could be granted by the Supreme Court of Rhode Island for the following reasons (p. 144):

  • Adultery
  • Extreme cruelty
  • Willful desertion of five years for either of the parties, or for a shorter period, in the discretion of the court
  • Continued drunkenness
  • Neglect or refusal to provide necessaries (having ability) for the subsistence of a wife
  • Gross misbehavior and wickedness other than the aforesaid
  • Impotency

The book explains the portions of the marriage laws that, if disobeyed, would also invalidate a marriage (p. 144):

Divorces were also decreed, or marriages set aside, in the discretion of the court, for ascertained affinity, consanguinity, idiocy, insanity, penitentiary crimes, and bigamous or otherwise illegal marriage.

The following were the “causes alleged” in divorce filings in 1894 (note each case may contain more than one cause):

Causes alleged for divorce applications, 1894 (p. 145)

The numbers of divorce filings and outcomes in the period 1873-1894 ranged from 261 applications in 1873 to 506 in 1894, during a time of significant population growth. In that period, 7,222 applications were made, and 5,350 divorces were granted. The population at this time was topping 400,000.

Divorces applied for, granted, and refused, continued or withdrawn, 1873-1894 (p. 146)

Similar reports were published every year, although 1894 is the first year that contains specific pages about divorce. To see all statistical reports 1853 – 1937, visit Hathitrust.org. These do not contain names of individuals, but contain a lot of helpful data for understanding the communities of our ancestors, like occupations of men at the time of marriage, religions of those being married, ages at marriage. Seeing how many brides and grooms signed their name with a mark can highlight the growth of literacy in Rhode Island. There were even statistics on the churches most likely to perform a marriage for a previously divorced person. Causes of death, ages at death, and nativity of parents of those marrying also indicate trends that our ancestors were a part of.

Finding divorce records

If you believe your ancestors may have been among those numbers prior to 1900, you can try requesting a record from the Rhode Island Supreme Judicial Records Center:

Link to request form, Supreme Judicial Archives, Rhode Island. If the form doesn’t work try sending the same information in email to archives@courts.ri.gov .

They do not hold every county’s records, particularly after 1900, but you can try.

Although nothing in the archives is generally accessible by the public (must be shown by request), they have a Divorce index for Providence County, 1840-1905, which they can use for a quick look up. If found, the entry will indicate where the outcome of the case is recorded. There may also be a packet of papers. Other holdings will vary from county to county, during different time periods.

Sample page from the Providence County divorce index, Supreme Judicial Archives, Rhode Island
Label for the Providence divorce index book. Nothing fancy, but a valuable book.
Typically the packet of loose papers contains sworn affidavits of friends and relatives about the case. It may also contain a marriage certificate.
R.I. Judicial Records Center

Another resource for Kent County divorce records is the article by Katherine Bruce and Violet E. Kettelle, “Kent County Divorces from Court Records,” Rhode Island Roots, Vol. 14, No, 2 (June 1988) – the link will download the pdf copy. Rhode Island Roots editor Cherry Bamberg has granted permission to link the article itself here. One note, it refers to records at Providence College, but these days, those are contained in the Judicial Records Center. For other helpful content on all areas of Rhode Island genealogy, Rhode Island Genealogical Society members have access to ALL issues online; others can link to the older issues through the RI Genealogical Society website.

Of the other New England states, Massachusetts appeared to have the lowest level of divorce in these years of the late 1800’s, so always consider the possibility that a Massachusetts marriage may have ended with residence, however briefly, in nearby Rhode Island towns (see chart, page 149).

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Have you ever wondered if you could put a book together about your family history? Have you wondered if you have enough content? Are you looking for some ideas on what to include? Do you have technical questions about creating pdf’s, uploading them, compiling a book interior, choosing a print format and then designing a cover?

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Recently, I discovered that the pages of the Rhode Island portion of the federal 1820 Census of Manufactures have been made available on FamilySearch.org.  The same content for Connecticut and Massachusetts is also online.

Manufacturing in 1820

I’d like to review the state of manufacturing and then explain why I believe this will be very helpful in finding your ancestors.

After the Revolutionary War ended in the 1780’s, the U.S. was anxious to reduce its dependence on British imports which had been, prior to the war, imposed on them by law. Manufacturing of cotton and wool threads and fabrics began at about the same time that the rocky, inadequate farmlands of southeastern New England could no longer support growing families. Younger generations of farmers either fled to states north and west for better farmland, or took on work in nearby manufacturing, sometimes by performing piecework at home, sometimes by reporting for work onsite. This transition occurred over the period of, say, 1790 to 1840. After 1850, the expansion of mills in both size and number tended to be supported more by immigrant labor than by labor pulled from New England’s farms.

The machinery needed for large-scale manufacture of thread and fabric had been duplicated from machinery in use in England in the 1780’s by Samuel Slater and his partners in Pawtucket, Rhode Island (see more here). The invention of the cotton gin in the south in 1793 led to a boom in cotton production and popularity. Slater Mill was quickly followed by an explosion of new mills, small at first, which began cropping up along New England’s waterways … even a very minor river might be made to provide enough water power for a mill. In Rhode Island, in addition to textile manufacture, the manufacture of the machinery itself also became an important industry.

The federal 1820 Census of Manufactures was taken at a disastrous time for New England manufacturing. Embargoes of British manufactured goods put in place during the War of 1812 had led to booming times for New England manufacturing (since there was no competition with British goods) followed by a bust in the second half of the 1810’s when the embargoes had been lifted and cheaper, higher quality European goods flooded back into the market.  By the time of the 1820 federal census, the federal government was desperate for facts and figures on the stalled manufacturing sector, perhaps hoping that some solution could be found.

Imagine the job of the poor census taker in 1820, forced to approach every manufacturing business in his territory and inquire about how much they were producing, how business was going, how much equipment they owned, and what their financial situation was. In virtually every case they were met with anger, hopelessness and glorious tales of times gone by, no longer really relevant to the job of collecting data on today’s business. So the data collected was spotty, and sometimes reported on businesses which were actually closed down.

Why this is important

There are three major takeaways for genealogists from this census, explained further in the paragraphs that follow:

  1. Since the 1820 Federal Census population schedule (the “normal” census, not this special schedule) reports on the number of household members engaged in Manufactures, that should tip you off to whether your family was working in a mill.
  2. Many Rhode Island children worked in mills in 1820. The idea of child labor was carried over from the farms; children would have worked there, and when the family went to mill work, it was natural for the children to play a role. I think few genealogists really consider this reality.
  3. In the period 1800-1850 many individuals moved from a Rhode Island farm to a nearby village with a mill. If we continue to look for them in the town where the family farm had been, we will miss a lot.

1820 Census of Manufactures

First, here is access to the 1820 Census of Manufactures.  Each surviving sheet is available on FamilySearch.org.  It is not particularly easy to use, so give yourself some time to adjust to what you’re seeing.

  • On FamilySearch.org, the link for the digitized 1820 census of manufactures. Look for the second entry on the page,
    “Schedules for Massachusetts and Rhode Island.” Massachusetts comes first on the images; Rhode Island starts on image 469 of 770.
  • A pdf Name Index of Rhode Island manufacturers – note that some names on here will refer to the Agricultural manufacturing lists submitted by some of the towns. The page number refers to the “page” or numbered form from the collection.
  • A pdf Summary Digest of the data for Rhode Island, divided by county and subdivided somewhat by industry shows some manufacturing data and shows the numbers of men, women and children employed.

Here is a typical census page: a report of the “Natick Turnpike Manufacturing Company” in Warwick, found on page 103. Note that these standard questions were used for all entries, although in some cases the form was copied into handwriting.


Next, let’s review those three points.

1820 Federal Census

Mills could be in any town since the requirement was an appropriate water source. They were sometimes in areas that would be considered rural and sometimes in large towns like Pawtucket and Providence. Because of the boom-and-bust nature of the early mills, owners may have retired to a life of obscurity after 1820.

To check out an ancestor’s source of income in 1820, consult the regular (population schedule) 1820 federal census. Each page actually is a two-page spread. Look for the following columns (image below) in between the Free White Females columns and the Slave columns. The columns report the number of persons in the household engaged in Agriculture, the number in Commerce, and the number in Agriculture.  While most farms had side businesses and specific skills being offered, most of that would be attributed to agriculture.  Seeing it attributed to manufactures shows you that the household was doing more than making sides of beef and wheels of cheese – maybe they were making shoes in the winter or, year-round, sending family members to a local mill for work or doing piecework within the house for goods needed at a nearby mill.

This snippet of information would not tell us what the particular line of work was, but that’s where the Census of Manufactures comes in.  You can look for the particular town to see if any businesses were reported.

Children worked in mills in 1820

Using the “Digest” pages, a quick calculation shows the following numbers of individuals employed statewide in manufacturing:

  • Men:  655
  • Women:  742
  • Boys & girls:  1381

I have searched in many places for a definition of “boys & girls.”  I find no surviving instructions for this section.  My guess, and it is really just a guess, is that a man was 18 or over.  A woman was 18 or over, and most likely not married since some listings referred to them as “young women” and some as “marriageable” women.  Which would mean a boy or girl was 17 or younger.  There’s always a possibility boy and girl meant 16 and under because many children worked from a very young age. If someone has better evidence about this I would love to have it here in the comments for readers to see.

Mostly, I think we need to get our heads around the fact that children from as early an age as possible worked, if not in official jobs then around their farms, or were “bound out” to work outside their family.  Public education in Rhode Island was not too bad in cities, but quite behind in more rural areas. There were numerous private schools around the state which obviously would never serve mill workers.

Most Rhode Island mill workers were living with their families, but some lived in boarding houses or with relatives because few people had transportation to a mill; they needed to live nearby. This became more true as time went by and the mill buildings got larger; the idea of placing “piecework” in households became less common, and reporting daily to the mill became more common.

The migration to mill villages

By 1820 the growing mill towns that attracted Rhode Islanders were Providence, Pawtucket, Warwick (especially the area that became West Warwick), Norwich, CT, and nearby Fall River (Troy) MA (which fell at various times in Rhode Island and Massachusetts). But almost any area could, and did, have mills. Check out your location of interest in the Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission guides to historic architecture and resources around the state. They provide village-by-village guidance and maps for the changing landscape of each town.


The bad news is, moving from farms to industrial jobs meant that property was, in many cases, no longer owned; our ancestors became renters. Industrial depressions and crises kept their incomes unstable. As a result, deeds and probate tend not to exist for the mill folks.

Genealogists should widen the scope of records searching to areas surrounding the town where their ancestors spent the 1700’s. To the extent possible, do statewide searches for vital records. Places of burial became more scattered as the families no longer owned the family farm, and would bury their loved ones in the new village where they resided. Newspapers might ignore those new to town. Note that the state census of 1865 reports a Rhode Island town of birth for each person enumerated.

In closing

I hope this census might prove helpful to those with early Rhode Island roots, and help them imagine the many changes faced by their ancestors in the early 1800’s.

Illustrations in this post are taken from Robert Grieve and John P. Ferland, The Cotton Centennial, 1790-1890 (Providence: Reid, 1891).

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Choosing a gift for a genealogist can be puzzling.  Loved ones and, especially, relatives want to be supportive but don’t know how.  To those who search for that perfect idea, maybe one below will be right for your favorite genealogists.  This is an update and consolidation of all previous lists.

Tools and gadgets

  • 1. If your favorite genealogists is interested in grave marker cleaning, D2 is a highly recommended product that’s a little inconvenient to get, so would make a thoughtful gift.  The D2 manufacturer has some suggestions for where to obtain it.
  • 2. Lifechat headphones for listening to webinars or group chats on the computer.
  • 3. Eneloop rechargeable batteries by Panasonic, size AA, with a charger and case, would be good for a person who already has a Flip-Pal.  Try Amazon or other retailers.  I also like AA batteries that re-charge in any USB port.  These would be great in a computer mouse, for travelers, in case the mouse batteries died.
  • 4. USB flash drives.  8gb or 16gb should be fine.  Look for sales. Genealogists need something large and bright so they remember to remove it from the computer.
  • 5. This tech gadget holder, pictured, from Staples is useful and holds a lot; I saw it in-store.

Tech case at Staples

Paper and stationery gifts

Colored Divider Sticky Notes Bundle Set. Another Midge Frazel find.

Lee Valley Portable Office

Brother Printer PT70BM Wireless Personal Handheld Labeler

Brother Printer PT70BM Wireless Personal Handheld Labeler

  • 10. Clip board. A clipboard, a pad, and a pencil can be brought into most archives, even if nothing else can, and a clipboard serves as a writing surface when at a microfilm machine or library. Try the thin printed ones at Staples but I also like this combination clipboard/mousepad.  Add a bouquet of Black Warrior Pencils topped off with a 3-pack of White Pearl Erasers.  I’m actually serious about this.  I know genealogists.
  • 11. Custom Genealogy Binders will be much appreciated by those who store research in paper binders.

Genealogy binders

Personalized Genealogy Binders; you have a family name printed on the spine. Perfect for those who store a lot of information on paper.

About photos and archives

  • 12. Maybe a simple Canon Camera in the $100-$150 range.  In the end, cheaper than paying for photocopies.   “Image stabilization” is an important feature for people who are photographing pages and documents.
  • 13. If your genealogist is not getting any younger, try magnifiers and magnifying lights.
  • 14. Camera digital SD memory cards.  And a little case to put them in, like this.
  • 15. For the genealogist who serves as the family archivist (which is all genealogists), my friend Bernadine had a good experience with photo supplies from universityproducts.com, for instance, their archival storage boxes. When she phoned them, they were helpful.  For modern sized photographs, these storage boxes are popular.
  • 16. I like this Canoscan scanner for pictures and papers, but you might be able to find a cheaper one that you like.
  • 17. I like my Flip-Pal mobile scanner – it runs on batteries and records onto a memory card – no computer needed until you are ready to review and store the pictures. Many genealogists really covet these.  Desirable accessories would be rechargeable batteries and a case.

Flip Pal mobile scanner

Flip Pal mobile scanner

  • 18. Family Photo Detective and many other works by Maureen Taylor help genealogists figure out those old family photos, and I also like Denise Levenick’s guide, How to Archive Family Photos: A Step-by-Step Guide to Organize and Share Your Photos Digitally.

Books and magazines

The Family Tree Toolkit: A Comprehensive Guide to Uncovering Your Ancestry and Researching Genealogy

Kenyatta Berry’s The Family Tree Toolkit: A Comprehensive Guide to Uncovering Your Ancestry and Researching Genealogy.

The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy by Blaine T. Bettinger

  • 22.  A reliable guide to those confusing DNA test results:  The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy by Blaine T. Bettinger. Also a moving book about the strange and unexpected news that DNA testing can bring: Stranger in My Genes by Bill Griffeth.
  • 23. From 2017, the newly updated The New York Family History Research Guide and Gazetteer, published by the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society.  This book is huge, and I mean huge.  But awesome for those troublesome New York problems.  Also check out “Research in the States” series from the National Genealogical Society for other states.
  • 24. How to Use Evernote for Genealogy: A Step-by-Step Guide to Organize Your Research and Boost Your Genealogy Productivity by Kerry Scott would be helpful for any genealogist who has mastered normal genealogy software but is looking to organize research and family history material “in the cloud.”
  • 25. Looking farther afield for those ancestors?  Try Genealogists’ Handbook for Irish Research by Marie E. Daly and The German Research Companion by Shirley Riemer, Roger Minert, & Jennifer Anderson.  My friend Sara points out that with so many Irish records newly online, this is a great time to get going on your Irish heritage.   Other suggestions include Finding Your Mexican Ancestors by George and Peggy Ryskamp and books by Sophie Hodorowicz Knab including Polish Customs, Traditions & Folklore.

The Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy. A new 4th Edition.

  • 26. There is a new Fourth Edition of the classic work by Val Greenwood, Researcher’s Guide to American Genealogy.  What a great opportunity to learn about American records. 
  • 27. If your genealogist is surrounded by books, there are some bookends with index tabs that won’t get lost when the shelves fill up.  Actually, the Container Store has three styles I love:  Index bookends and Mod bookends.

Bookends from the Container Store

Bookends from the Container Store

  • 28. Genealogy Basics in 30 Minutes by Shannon Combs-Bennett is a new book that would help someone get started.  Genealogists enjoy reading Family Tree Magazine.  This is an especially good choice for beginners, and another recommendation for new to intermediate genealogists would be the book Family Tree Problem Solver by Marcia Hoffmann Rising.
  • 29.  Higginson Books is having a sale through December 31, 2018.  This would be a good place to get a modern reprint of an old town history or family genealogy book.
  • 30. Again for experienced folks, a membership in the National Genealogical Society will include a subscription to the Quarterly.
  • 31. I always thought Ancestors of American Presidents, Second Ed, 2009, by Gary Boyd Roberts, was a really fun book.  I’m only related to boring Presidents, though.
  • 32. For Hispanic roots, try this guide: Tracing your Ancestors: Hispanic Research: A Practical Guide by Gena Philbert Ortega, published 2018.
  • 33. I own and can heartily endorse these books by Christina Rose:
    • Genealogical Proof Standard: Building a Solid Case, 4th ed.
    • Military Bounty Land 1776-1855
    • Courthouse Research for Family Historians: Your Guide to Genealogical Treasures
    • Military Pension Acts: 1776 to 1858
  • 34. Books for those with New England ancestors from the New England Historic Genealogical Society:


I love the gavestone art from Gravestone Girls.

Support genealogy small businesses

  • 35. I love the work of the Gravestone Girls.  I have a refrigerator magnet and a small plaque.
  • 36. Lookup the historical society for an area your genealogist is researching and see what they offer – maps are always good.  Also, the local genealogy societies usually offer publications or guides.  For instance, the Rhode Island Genealogical Society has many valuable books and cemetery guides at their online store.
  • 37. The idea of heritage cookbooks was sent to me by Wendy Grant Walter.  She recently purchased Great German Recipes and said: “in it are many dishes that I remember having as a kid that I assume my mom learned from her 1st generation German mom.”  At that same link many other cultures are covered, too. Also, Sophie Hodorowicz Knab has a cookbook, The Polish Country Kitchen Cookbook.
    35. Barb’s Branches has some attractive tree jewelry in an Etsy shop.  Among her interesting handmade “tree” pieces, she has the inspired idea of making jewelry from old silver spoons.  Amazing!

A pendant made from an antique silver spoon, by Barb's Branches.

A pendant made from an antique silver spoon, by Barb’s Branches.

Make your own gift

  • 39. The family genealogist wears too many hats.  Family historian, archivist, photo restorer, report writer, researcher, local historian, cemetery rabbit.  A gift that would be appreciated is an effort to collect and produce a small book on one aspect of your family history.  Say, dad’s service in WW2, the relatives overseas from when you visited, or just everyone’s childhood.  My sister does this from time to time and it’s great.  No genealogy expertise needed, she asks me for pictures in advance, and the whole family gets a slice of its story without me having to do anything.
  • 40. A similar option would be to find, scan and print a copy of an old family photo, and frame it nicely – perhaps in an antique frame.
  • 41. Is your genealogist’s family associated with an old business or product? I saw on Elizabeth Handler’s blog From Maine to Kentucky that her ancestor produced a well known soap product, James Pyle’s Pearline, at the turn of the last century.  Her brother, knowing her interest, gave her a gift of an original box.  What a lovely memento.  An online search reveals many advertising cards and images for this product, some of them from the Library of Congress and in the public domain.  Such color images could be made into a cover for a blank book, calendar, or blank spiral notebook on lulu.com, or a custom deck of cards, or notecards, or just framed.

An old ad for a product that is part of a family’s history can be made into a custom gift. This image was from the Library of Congress online Photo, Print, Drawing Collection.

For Rhode Island genealogy

  • 42. There is finally a “Research in the States” book for Rhode Island, published by the National Genealogical Society in 2018, and Maureen Taylor and I are the authors.  I’m proud of this book, which will help researchers learn where Rhode Island records may be hiding, and why Rhode Island records are a little different than other states. The book can be purchased from NGS or from Family Roots Publishing.

Research in the States: Rhode Island by Maureen Taylor and Diane Boumenot, 2018.

  • 43. I heartily and strongly recommend the recent book Rhode Island in the American Revolution: A Source Guide for Genealogists and Historians by Eric G. Grundset for the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR Source Guides on the American Revolution Series No. 4), 2014. Quite a bargain at $25.  It is 200 pages of guidance on where to find Rhode Island records from the 1770’s and 1780’s, but it will not contain the records themselves – most of those are buried in archives and manuscripts.

Rhode Island in the American Revolution - A source Guide for Genealogists and Historians, by Eric G Grundset

Rhode Island in the American Revolution – A source Guide for Genealogists and Historians, by Eric G Grundset

  • 44. The most valuable book for those with ancestors in Rhode Island during the 1600’s is The Genealogical Dictionary of Rhode Island by John O. Austin, published by Genealogical Publishing.  It charts the first three generations of many early Rhode Island families. You can sometimes find a cheaper used copy on eBay, but be sure to buy a version with additions and corrections from the 1960’s – 70’s.
  • 45. The Rhode Island Historical Society has a bookstore at the John Brown House, and online, offering my favorite print of Providence ever, President Street by Joseph Partridge, 1822. I also love Market Square.  Only $15 each.
  • 46. Spirit of 76 in Rhode Island by Benjamin Cowell for listings of R.I. Revolutionary War soldiers.
  • 47. Many Rhode Island history fans would love the book by Rhode Island post card collector Joseph E. Coduri, Rhode Island Towns & Villages: PostCard Views at the Turn of the 20th Century.

Rhode Island Towns and Villages

Trying something new

  • 49. For those new to DNA testing, and looking for an easy way to try it out, I could recommend an Ancestry DNA test kit.  Your genealogist will use the kit to submit a sample (in fact, it will be important to the genealogist to choose WHO will be sampled) which will be analyzed, and the results, available online, will show an estimate of ethnic origins and links to other individuals. A better choice for the same money, for a genealogist who is more experienced, is the Family Tree DNA Family Finder test kit.  Family Tree DNA gives enough information to more accurately allow you to estimate, if the right people are tested, the common source of your matches. Look for Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales.

Caution I brake for cemeteries

FREE FOR EVERYBODY:  My vintage Christmas gift tag sheets on Pinterest, ready for printing.

ALSO:  Check out Anne Wagner (of Rhode Island)’s PDF handout on GIFTS GENEALOGISTS MAY WANT TO GIVE.  I may try some of these!

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Arnold’s Rhode Island Vital Records through 1850

Vital Record of Rhode Island, 1636-1850, First Series: Births, Marriages and Deaths is a series of 21 volumes compiled by James N. Arnold.  These books were published prior to 1923 and are no longer under copyright.  Arnold occupied himself for years going from town hall to town hall, and library to library, seeking out record books, church manuscripts, newspapers and other government documents, and either copying them out himself, or waiting while a clerk copied them. They were typset into 21 volumes, plus an extra volume for Rehoboth, Massachusetts, which originally contained portions of what is now Rhode Island.

I have recently revised and clarified the list of contents of those volumes, and the links to all volumes online (they are free pdf’s online) and that list lives on a page listed under the “Free Rhode Island Resources” tab at the top of this page, and is repeated here.

Some of the copies are poor quality, however, they may be better than nothing if you are far from a library that holds these.  I own a couple of these on paper so if you get stuck with an unreadable page, or, if you find another copy online that is clearer, please leave a comment. The links, below, will download the books from the sites that are hosting them.  Google Books require a “captcha” first.

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

Arnold was sometimes photographed with his crutches. 3-59, “Photographs, James N. Arnold”, James N. Arnold Collection, Rhode Island Collection, Providence Public Library.

Tips for using “Arnold”

  • For volumes 1 – 6, pagination begins with each town SECTION, so for a citation, you need to cite the volume AND section, plus page; for the later volumes, volume and page are enough.
  • For marriages, the bulk of the information is given under the male name, so when a female name is located, check the male name as well.
  • Many vital events in Rhode Island were NEVER recorded by the town before 1851; it’s not that the records are lost, but that the families did not have the event recorded.  In Arnold’s own words:

The compiler believes that not more than a quarter of what should have been placed on the Records has been placed there from the year 1790 to 1850. Before that time probably more than half of the matter was recorded.  Vital Record of Rhode Island, vol. 1, v.

This is why, after recording town records in volumes 1 – 6, Arnold produced another 15 volumes of vital events gleaned from church, military, and newspaper pages.  Remarkably, he utilized the local repositories to review each issue of the original newspapers, sometimes eventually missing a few issues, which were not preserved, but in a remarkable number of cases, he found all early issues.

  • Remember, ultimately, Arnold created not vital records but an INDEX to vital records; use these volumes to seek the original record book (or images of the original pages).

Some entries from Arnold’s Vital Record, V. 2 Part IV, North Providence, p. 26. Note that each entry is preceded by a volume and page number where the original item can be found in the town records. For newspaper entries in later volumes, newspaper dates are given.

Here are the volumes linked from where they can be downloaded. IF you have the Firefox browser, the pdf may try to preview within the browser – something that is slow and faulty for a large book.  To change that setting and open all pdf’s in Adobe Acrobat Reader, go to TOOLS – OPTIONS – scroll down to Portable Document Format and use the pull down to choose Acrobat Reader.

The volumes

Arnold Rhode Island VR v.1    (opens the pdf link to the FamilySearch.org download, or, browse book online and download from this page).

Volume 1 contains:

  • Vol. 1, Part I.  WARWICK  Marriages (p. 1-136), Births and deaths (p. 137-218)
  • Vol. 1, Part II.  EAST GREENWICH  Marriages (p. 1-93), Births and deaths (p. 94-173)
  • Vol. 1, Part III.  WEST GREENWICH  Marriages (p. 1 – 59), Births and deaths (p. 60-104)
  • Vol. 1, Part IV.  COVENTRY  Marriages (p. 1-60), Births and deaths (p. 61-96)

Arnold Rhode Island VR v.2    (opens the pdf link to the Internet Archive download, or, browse book online and download from this page).

Volume 2 contains:

  • Vol. 2, Part I.  PROVIDENCE  Marriages (p. 1 – 206) Births (p. 207-259), Deaths (p. 260-278)
  • Vol. 2, Part II.  CRANSTON  Marriages (p. 5-29), Births and deaths (p. 30-36)
  • Vol. 2, Part III,  JOHNSTON  Marriages (p. 5-20), Births and deaths (p. 21-30)
  • Vol. 2, Part IV,  NORTH PROVIDENCE  Marriages (p. 5-45), Births and deaths (p. 46-53)

Arnold Rhode Island VR v.3    (opens the pdf link to the Internet Archive download, or, browse book online and download from this page).  I am seeking to link to a better copy of this document.

Volume 3 contains:

  • Vol. 3, Part I.  GLOCESTER  Marriages (p. 5-42), Births and deaths (p. 43-68)
  • Vol. 3, Part II.  BURRILVILLE  Marriages (p. 5-16), Births and deaths (p. 17-23)
  • Vol. 3, Part III.  SCITUATE  Marriages (p. 5-36), Births and deaths (p. 37-52)
  • Vol. 3, Part IV.  FOSTER  Marriages (p. 5-32), Births and deaths (p. 33-42)
  • Vol. 3, Part V.  CUMBERLAND  Marriages (p. 5-71), Births and deaths (p. 72-135)
  • Vol. 3, Part VI. SMITHFIELD  Marriages (p. 5-83), Births and deaths (p. 84-123)

Vital rec of RI

Title page, Vital Record of Rhode Island, volume 3

Arnold Rhode Island VR v.4    (opens the pdf link to the Internet Archive download, or, browse book online and download from this page).

Volume 4 contains:

  • Vol. 4, Part I.  PORTSMOUTH  Marriages (p. 3-48), Births and deaths (p. 49-105)
  • Vol. 4, Part II.  NEWPORT Marriages (p. 3-79), Births and deaths (p. 80-124)
  • Vol. 4, Part III.  MIDDLETOWN  Marriages (p. 5-20), Births and deaths (p. 21-42)
  • Vol. 4, Part IV.  NEW SHOREHAM  Marriages (p. 7-21), Births and deaths (p. 22-37)  See also corrections and additions Introduction section, p. 6
  • Vol. 4, Part V.  JAMESTOWN  Marriages (p. 5-15), Births and deaths (p. 16-30)
  • Vol. 4, Part VI.  LITTLE COMPTON  Intention and Marriages (p. 5-75), Births and deaths (p. 76-200)
  • Vol. 4, Part VII.  TIVERTON  Intentions and Marriages (p. 5-58 [58 is mis-numbered as 68]), Births and deaths (p. 59-117)


Arnold Rhode Island VR v.5    (opens the pdf link to the Internet Archive download, or, browse book online and download from this page).

Volume 5 contains:

  • Vol. 5, Part I.  NORTH KINGSTOWN  Marriages (p. 5-52), Births and deaths (p. 53-112)
  • Vol. 5, Part II.  SOUTH KINGSTOWN  Marriages (p. 5-36), Births (p. 37-60) Deaths (p. 61-63)
  • Vol. 5, Part III.  EXETER  Marriages (p. 5-37), Births and deaths (p. 38-64)
  • Vol. 5, Part IV.  WESTERLY  Marriages (p. 5-71), Births and deaths (p. 72-146)
  • Vol. 5, Part V.  CHARLESTOWN  Marriages (p. 5-16), Births and deaths (p. 17-28)
  • Vol. 5, Part VI.  RICHMOND  Marriages (p. 5-22), Births and deaths (p. 23-36)
  • Vol. 5, Part VII.  HOPKINTON  Marriages (p. 5-29), Births and deaths (p. 30-54)

Arnold Rhode Island VR v.6    (opens the pdf link to the FamilySearch.org download, or, browse book online and download from this page).

Volume 6 contains:

  • Vol. 6, Part I.  BRISTOL  Intention and marriages (p. 5-60), Births (p. 61-113), Deaths (p. 114-175)
  • Vol. 6, Part II.  WARREN  Marriages (p. 5-42), Births (p. 43-96), Deaths(p. 97-101)
  • Vol. 6, Part III.  BARRINGTON  Intentions and marriages (p. 5-19), Births and deaths (p. 20-38)

Arnold Rhode Island VR v.7    (opens the pdf link to the Internet Archive download, or, browse book online and download from this page).

Volume 7 contains:

  • Rhode Island Friends, p. 1
  • Narragansett Friends, p. 131
  • Smithfield Friends, p. 160
  • Kings Towne Friends, p. 202
  • Providence Friends, p. 235
  • Swansey Friends p. 277
    • Rev. Gardiner Thurston’s Marriages, p. 330
    • Elder John Gorton’s Marriages, p. 375
    • Elder Samuel Littlefield’s Marriages, p. 394
    • Rev. James Wilson’s Publishments and Marriages, p. 406
    • Rev. Stephen Gano’s Marriages, p. 476
    • Rev. Nathan B. Crocker’s Marriages, p. 514
    • Elder James A. McKensie’s Marriages, p. 525
    • Rev. Thomas Sheperd’s Marriages, p. 586
    • The United Brethren, BMD, p. 616.
    • Elder James Wilson’s Record of Deaths, p. 620
    • The Sabbattarian Church of Newport, p. 623

Arnold Rhode Island VR v.8   (opens the pdf link to the Google Books download, or, browse book online and download from this page).

Volume 8 contains:

  • BARRINGTON  Congregational Church, p. 69
    • Congregational Church, p. 239
    • Dr. Shepard’s record of deaths, 1834-1857, p. 481
    • First Baptist Church, p. 515
    • Rev. Henry Wight’s Records, p. 270
    • St Michaels Church (Episcopal), p. 145
    • State Street Methodist Church, p. 565
  • LITTLE COMPTON  United Congregational Church records, p. 1
    • Dr. Ezra Styles’ Record, p. 430
    • First Congregational Church, p. 400
    • Second Congregational Church, p. 439
  • NORTH KINGSTOWN  First Baptist Church, p. 598
  • SOUTH KINGSTOWN  First Baptist Church, p. 616
    • Congregational Church, p. 49
    • Free Baptist Church, p. 495
  • WAKEFIELD Church of the Ascension, p. 577
    • First Baptist Church, p. 531
    • St Marks Church (Episcopal), p. 95
    • Methodist Church, p. 559

Arnold Rhode Island VR v.9   (opens the pdf link to the Google Books download, or, browse book online and download from this page).

Volume 9 contains:

    • Marriages and Intentions, 1
    • Intentions, 147
    • Births, 189
    • Deaths,  247
    • Marriages and Intentions, 297
    • Births,  371
    • Deaths, 421
  • Newman Congregational Church
    • Membership, 459
    • Baptisms, 491
    • Marriages, 529

Arnold Rhode Island VR v.10   (opens the pdf link to Family History Books (familysearch.org) for immediate download download).

Volume 10 contains:

  • BARRINGTON  First Congregational Church
    • Marriages, 1728-1740, p. 231
    • Baptisms, 1728-1740, p. 235
    • Members in Full Communion, 1728-1740 p. 241
    • Owned the Covenant, p. 243
  • COVENTRY  Maple Root Baptist Church, p.  245
  • CRANSTON  Marriages performed by Rev. Otis W. Potter, 1833-1852, p. 299
  • EAST GREENWICH  Third Six Principle Baptist Church of East Greenwich, 291
  • EAST PROVIDENCE  First Baptist Church , p. 117
  • EXETER  Baptist Church, p. 399
  • HOPKINTON  First Sabbatarian Church to 1785. p. 93
  • NARRAGANSETT  St. Paul’s Church , 1718-1775, p. 333
  • NEWPORT  Trinity Church , p. 427
    • Marriages, p. 433
    • Births and Baptisms, p. 477
    • Deaths and Burials, p. 537
  • NORTH KINGSTOWN, Six Principle Baptist Church of North Kingstown
    • Elder Albro’s Covenant, p. 285
    • Elder Wightman’s Covenant, p. 287
    • Elder Pendleton’s Covenant, p. 289
    • Present Membership, p. 290
    • Intentions and Publishments, 1828 to 1843, p. 1
    • Marriages, 1828 to 1843, p. 43
    • Births, p. 61
    • Marriages performed by Rev. David Benedict, p. 310
    • First Congregational Church Marriages, p. 155, Deaths, p. 177
    • Marriages of King Church (now St. John’s) , p. 135, Burials, p. 147
    • Westminster Congregational Church, Marriages, p. 185, Deaths, p. 191
    • Congregational Church, west side of river, Marriages, p. 197, Deaths, p. 227
  • RICHMOND  Marriages performed by Edward Perry-Justice of Peace, p. 305
  • SMITHFIELD  Second Freewill Baptist Church, p. 297
    • Narragansett Baptist Church , p. 545
    • Queen’s River Baptist Church , p. 387
  • WEST GREENWICH  West Greenwich and Exeter Union Church, Baptist, p. 279
    • Record of Friend’s Marriages, 63
    • Births and Deaths, 75
  • WICKFORD  First Baptist Church, p. 553

Arnold Rhode Island VR v.11    (opens the pdf link to the Internet Archive download, or, browse book online and download from this page).

Volume 11 contains:

  • CHARLESTOWN, First Baptist Church, Cross Mills, p. 261
    • Baptist Church, p. 437
    • Methodist-Episcopal Church, p. 457
    • St. Lake’s Church, p. 517
  • HOPKINTON  Rockville Seventh Day Baptist Church, p. 373
  • NEWPORT  Sabbatarian Baptist Church, p. 297
    • Quidnessett Baptist Church, p. 419
    • Marriages performed by Joshua Babcock, Justice, p, 339
  • PROVIDENCE Westminster Congregational Church, Members, p. 323
    • First General Baptist Church, p. 387
    • Second Baptist Church, p. 239
  • SOUTH KINGSTOWN  Second Baptist Church, p. 265
    • Pawcatuck Congregational Church, p. 347
    • Pawcatuck Sabbatarian Baptist Church, p. 273
    • Christ Church, Marriages, p. 1, Births and Baptisms, p. 51, Confirmations, p. 89, Communicants, p. 109, Deaths and Burials, p. 129
    • First Baptist Church, Members, p. 205
    • First Christian Church, p. 309
    • Grace Church, Marriages, p. 145, Members, p. 179

Arnold Rhode Island VR v.12    (opens the pdf link to the Internet Archive download, or, browse book online and download from this page).  This is a faint copy, I am looking to link to a better one.

Volume 12 contains:

  • Cowell’s Spirit of 76, Index to, p. 91
    • Newport Herald, 1787-1790, Deaths, p. 81
    • Newport Herald, 1787-1790, Marriages, p. 73
    • Newport Mercury, 1758-1799, Deaths, p. 37
    • Newport Mercury, 1758-1799, Marriages, p. 3
  • PROVIDENCE  Providence Journal  Deaths, 1820-1829. A-R, p. 397
  • Rhode Island Officers and Pensioners of the Revolution
    • Rhode Island Officers of the War of the Revolution, Killed, Died of Disease, or Pensioned. p. 301
    • Rhode Island Pensioners. List of Names on the Pension Role of 1820. p. 303
    • Rhode Island Pensioners. List of Names on the Pension Role of 1835. p. 313
    • Rhode Island Pensioners. List of Names on the Pension Role of 1840. p. 375

Arnold Rhode Island VR v.13    (opens the pdf link to the Internet Archive download, or, browse book online and download from this page).

Volume 13 contains:

  • PROVIDENCE Providence Journal  Deaths, 1820-1829. S-Z, p. 19
  • PROVIDENCE Providence Gazette Deaths, 1762-1825. A – J, p. 101

Arnold Rhode Island VR v.14    (opens the pdf link to the Internet Archive download, or, browse book online and download from this page).

Volume 14 contains:

  • PROVIDENCE  Providence Gazette Deaths, 1762-1825. K-Z,  p. 21
  • PROVIDENCE  Providence Gazette Marriages, 1762-1825. A-C, p. 457

Arnold Rhode Island VR v.15    (opens the pdf link to the Internet Archive download, or, browse book online and download from this page).

Volume 15 contains:

  • PROVIDENCE  Providence Gazette Marriages, 1762-1825. D-Z, p. 21
  • PROVIDENCE  United States Chronicle Deaths, 1784-1804. p. 467

Arnold Rhode Island VR v.16    (opens the pdf link to the Internet Archive download, or, browse book online and download from this page).

Volume 16 contains:

  • PROVIDENCE  American Journal Deaths, 1779-1782, p. 129
  • PROVIDENCE  American Journal Marriages, 1779-1782, p. 140
  • PROVIDENCE  Impartial Observer Deaths, 1801-1802, p. 145
  • PROVIDENCE  Impartial Observer Marriages, 1801-1802, p. 151
  • PROVIDENCE  Providence Journal Deaths, 1799-1801, p. 153
  • PROVIDENCE  Providence Journal  Marriages, 1799-1801, p. 179
  • PROVIDENCE  Providence Journal (Semi-weekly) Marriages, 1820-1829, p. 199
  • PROVIDENCE  United States Chronicle Marriages, 1784-1804, p. 17

Arnold Rhode Island VR v.17    (opens the pdf link to the Internet Archive download, or, browse book online and download from this page).

Volume 17 contains:

  • PROVIDENCE  Providence Phoenix, Providence Patriot and Columbian Phenix, 1802-1832. Marriages, A-R, p. 23

Arnold Rhode Island VR v.18    (opens the pdf link to the Internet Archive download, or, browse book online and download from this page).

Volume 18 contains:

  • PROVIDENCE  Providence Phoenix, Providence Patriot and Columbian Phenix, 1802-1832. Deaths, A-M  p. 209
  • PROVIDENCE  Providence Phoenix, Providence Patriot and Columbian Phenix, 1802-1832. Marriages,  S-Z, p. 23

Arnold Rhode Island VR v.19    (opens the pdf link to the Internet Archive download, or, browse book online and download from this page).

Volume 19 contains:

  • PROVIDENCE  Providence Phoenix, Providence Patriot and Columbian Phenix, 1802-1832. Deaths, M-Z, p. 23
  • PROVIDENCE  Rhode Island American (also R.I. American Statesman & Gazette, Microcosm American & Gazette), 1808-1834, Marriages, A-G, p. 269

Arnold Rhode Island VR v.20    (opens the pdf link to the Internet Archive download, or, browse book online and download from this page).

Volume 20 contains:

  • PROVIDENCE  Rhode Island American (also R.I. American Statesman & Gazette, Microcosm American & Gazette), 1808-1834, Deaths, A-B, p. 503
  • PROVIDENCE  Rhode Island American (also R.I. American Statesman & Gazette, Microcosm American & Gazette), 1808-1834, Marriages,  H-Z, p. 21

Arnold Rhode Island VR v.21    (opens the pdf link to the Internet Archive download, or, browse book online and download from this page).

Volume 21 contains:

  • PROVIDENCE  Rhode Island American (also R.I. American Statesman & Gazette, Microcosm American & Gazette), 1808-1834, Deaths,  C-S, p. 21

Arnold Vital Record of Rehoboth, 1642-1896 [Massachusetts] (opens the pdf link to the Internet Archive download, or, browse book online and download from this page).

The REHOBOTH volume contains:

  • Marriages and Intentions, p. 3
  • Intentions whose marriage was Solemnized in other towns, p. 417
  • Births, p. 517
  • Deaths, p. 789
  • Supplement Containing the Record of 1896, p. 893
  • Colonial Returns, p. 897
  • (beginning p. 910) Lists of the Early Settlers, Purchasers, Freemen, Inhabitants, the Soldiers Serving in Philip’s War and the Revolution.

This post is located at:  http://onerhodeislandfamily.com/2018/11/12//arnolds-rhode-island-vital-record-of-rhode-island-post

Of all the things that genealogists do, getting into a town hall, courthouse, state archives or library is probably the most exciting. Seeing something our ancestor signed, spotting the crucial details left out of the index or abstract we saw, reading a court record, or finding a source we weren’t even aware of are some of the exciting possibilities that await. Here are some tips for that journey.

The American French Genealogical Society in Woonsocket, Rhode Island

How to choose a repository and prepare

  1. If you will be in a certain area and you are wondering which repository might best suit your needs, look for an overall guide to all the historical societies and libraries in the area.  For Rhode Island, this would be at:  http://www.rhodi.org/
  2. Do a web search for history, manuscripts, or genealogy + the location of interest, and see what places come up. A national-level repository near you can have significant records on a location that is far away, for instance, the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, the Midwest Genealogy Center in Independence, MO, or the Allen County Public Library in Ft Wayne, IN.
  3. Learn as much as possible about content from the repository’s website.  This includes any card catalog or manuscript guides, as well as guides to specific collections called “Finding Aids;” always read any that refer to collections that are important to you. Begin a list of what to look for on site; don’t assume you will remember.  Repository time is much too valuable to spend looking at a catalog that was available from home.
  4. For libraries specializing in genealogy, always check out whether the library is a Family History Library Affiliate. This will give you better access on site to some of the secured digital collections of FamilySearch.org; you will want to plan for that access by exploring FamilySearch.org in advance for record sets of interest.
  5. Check out the hours, days of operation, specific entry requirements (membership, requesting a researcher’s card, paying a fee, etc) and if the operation seems very small, always call in advance to be sure the site is staffed that day.
  6. Examine options for parking, what you can bring into the research room, whether there are lockers for your other belongings, and whether food may be allowed on site (that would be rare, and only if there is a separate eating area) or must stay in your car (or whether suitable dining may be available nearby).

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

What to bring

  1. In the car, make sure you have a paper copy of the map and directions you need to find the building.  Cell signals can give out in some locations and your cell phone maps may quit.
  2. Whatever payment or ID may be needed to get in.
  3. Based on instructions you read online, plan how you will bring in notes and take notes away with you. You should bring in a list of what you plan to look for and some notes or printed charts about the section of your tree that you are researching.  Sometimes in a restricted setting, with library-type tables and chairs, a tablet or laptop will be allowed in (but not paper pads or notebooks) and might be the easiest thing.  In a records center like a town hall, there may be no place to put or plug in a laptop; a clipboard with a pad might be the best thing. Sometimes a tablet is the best way to be sure you have access to your own notes and to your family tree; that can be useful. Pencils are always preferred to pens and usually pens are forbidden anyway.
  4. A camera or, your cell phone’s camera. Not all repositories can accommodate a request for a photocopy, although note that some repositories, like Connecticut town halls, will require that they make you photocopies of certain documents, and won’t allow photos. For day-long research, plan to bring extra camera batteries or a way to recharge your cell phone.
  5. A flash drive in case you get lucky enough to find a computer-assisted microfilm machine, or a computer serving copies of digitized records. It need not have a huge capacity; 2g should be fine.
  6. Often, it is easiest to pack your own lunch because many a genealogist has become reluctant to leave a repository in mid day (one more hour!) and ends up extremely hungry by late afternoon.  Lunch in the car is a sure thing with no waiting and might be the simplest way to eat, although some repositories have a lunch room where you can sit and eat what you’ve brought. Another good idea is to have water in the car.

Older records at the Coventry, Rhode Island town clerk’s office.


  1. Check out the local parking options.  Note that these days, many parking meters take credit or debit cards only. Make a note of where you parked.
  2. Checking in will be the first step; even if a welcome desk seems unattended, look around for staff and expect to check in.  If it’s a public library or public venue, check-in is not necessary but be sure to ask staff if there are additional genealogy resources; these are not always properly highlighted on the website.
  3. If you are expected to place all belongings in a locker, do that, keeping just a laptop, tablet or a couple of pieces of paper and pencil. Keep the key and leave it back in the lock later when you check out. Usually you can bring a phone in on silent.
  4. Using your prior notes from the website, locate the main items of interest – books, microfilm, ways to request items from a restricted archive, card catalogs, special index guides, the index volume section for original record books like deeds or probate, additional resources stored in another room or on another level, and public computers if needed.
  5. Once seated, begin your work; make sure to put in any special requests early in your stay since delivery is not usually immediate (in fact, be aware that some repositories would prefer you make your requests a couple of days in advance, conversely, some repositories will only take requests on site).  Be sure you understand how the item will be delivered and where you should be. For large manuscript books or a documents box, it is best to place them on your table and use them one at a time if possible.  In very few cases is it ever acceptable to leave materials on the table when you leave the facility; plan to put away what you use or leave it in the designated area.
  6. Follow your list and in addition to whatever you record as notes, make a note next to each item on your list about what the result was – pictures on your camera, notes on paper, not found, or images captured on a flash drive.
  7. For each work you use, try to capture images of the cover, title page, reverse of title page, microfilm ID, etc.  Record or image everything you need to correctly cite the material later (or, even better, write the citation while you are sitting there); this may also be necessary for recording the lack of an entry in a certain work.  For each page where you find information, if it’s allowed and legal, take a picture of the information, holding yourself steady by leaning against something while you do so, plus, take a picture of the full-page so you get all page numbers, and also the cover and the spine.  For books under copyright, there is a limit to how much you can image. Often, it’s a better practice when you find an extremely useful book in a library to order the cheapest copy of it that you can find for use at home.
  8. Another opportunity that you have at the repository is to consult a librarian, archivist or volunteer about certain questions you have. Try to have focused questions appropriate to the setting because, in fairness, they do not know who your ancestors are. Mainly, your goal is to find out about certain collections, indices, maps and manuscripts that have never been digitized and will not be available elsewhere. But note that in an active records facility where current transactions are being recorded, it is not always possible to get special help on the old records.

A special collection located in the Genealogy Room at the Fiske Public Library, Wrentham, Mass.

After the visit

  1. It is extremely important to pull out your materials at home and save them properly, right away.  For digital images, saving them in a “TEMP FOLDER FROM REPOSITORY” folder (in a subfolder with the repository’s name, month and year) on your computer is a good immediate step.  Never count on remembering to find the flash drive, or locate photos on your camera, later on.  For paper notes or photocopies, have a similar procedure that you use every time.
  2. As soon as possible, record your work and your citations.  Save your materials where they logically belong in your records system.
  3. Make a list of follow-up activities.

The Revolutionary War Index, Rhode Island State Archives, Providence

This post is located at: http://onerhodeislandfamily.com/2018/10/07/your-first-repository-visit/