Reference Policy

The RIHS Library is happy to provide a free 15 minute Quick Search to attempt to answer your questions about our collections, Rhode Island history and genealogy. We will provide brief answers using the materials in our collections.

Requests are answered in the order in which they are received. Please allow up to two weeks for a response, or longer during holiday season and busy times. Our goal is to answer all questions as quickly as possible given the time and staffing available to us.

For more in-depth research, we will advise you as to whether the library has the necessary materials for you to come in and use, or direct you to other sources of information or an Independent Researcher.

Please see the Reference Services page of our web site for an overview of the resources available at RIHS Library and elsewhere.

We are unable to do in-depth historical or genealogical research.

Submit your Reference Request

Requests should be specific in nature. Please include enough information with your request to provide a context for your question (e.g., names and dates of people, purpose of your research.)

Examples of specific requests:

Can you tell me what resources you have on Rhode Islanders who served in the Revolutionary War?
Where was the New England Butt Co. located in the late 19th century and what did the company manufacture?
Can you locate an obituary for my uncle Frederick, who d. 15 Jan 1923 in Woonsocket, RI? (Obituary requests must include a death date.)

Examples of requests that are too general:

Can you give me all the information you have on the Bowen family of Providence?
What was the role of women during the Colonial period in Rhode Island?
My great-grandmother died in Pawtucket, R.I. but I don’t know when. Can you find her obituary?

For these kinds of broad requests, please see our list of local Independent Researchers.

Email requests: Send to (up to two weeks response time)

Mail requests: Send to RIHS Library, 121 Hope St. Providence, R.I. 02906 (up to two weeks response time)

Telephone: Please call (401) 273-8107. Telephone requests are answered as time and staffing allow, we may be busy helping people in the Reading Room so be sure to leave a detailed message. Individuals inquiring by phone may be asked to submit the  request by mail or e-mail.

Requests are answered in the order in which they are received.

The Library reserves the right to discontinue or disregard requests from professional genealogists, fee researchers or other individuals who attempt to use our reference services for monetary gain, or from patrons who utilize these services excessively.