Rhode Island Vital Records:

  • Arnold’s Vital Records, 1636-1850. Printed index to marriage, birth and death records arranged by town and county. F78. A753 (green binding), F78 .A75 (red binding). There are also church records and obituaries from 1636-1850 as a part of this collection.  F78 .A75 (red binding)
  • Full records are available on microfilm for some Rhode Island towns. Mfilm F89 .B2 – F89 .W9
  • RI State Vital Records, 1853-1900. Printed index to death and marriage records. F78 .A81 (yellow binding). Microfilmed index: Mfilm F78 .A71 births (1853-1899), Mfilm F78 .A824 deaths (1901-1920).  For full records: Mfilm F78 .A7 – F78 .A82
  • Providence Vital Records. Printed indexto births (1631-1870), marriages (1636-1955) and deaths (1636-1959). F89 .P9 P86

Census Records:
The RIHS Census Holdings Guide on top of the microfilm cabinet lists the state and federal census holdings of the library. There is also a more detailed finding aid with descriptions of state and federal census records located in the Printed Collection Finding Aids .

For 1880, 1900, 1920 and 1930 Federal Census use Ancestry.com on the computer. The 1890 Federal Census was destroyed by fire in Washington, D.C.

The Library has a subscription to the Ancestry.com database. Available on the database are United States Census Records from 1860-1930, passenger lists, social security death index, military records and various state records. There is a computer for patron use.

Main Card Catalog:

  • Specific family names (surnames) – i.e. Allen Family, Martin Family
  • Name of city/town – The section for each city/town often contains additional references such as genealogy, cemeteries, history, probate records, land records, tax lists, etc.
  • Specific ethnic groups – i.e. Native American, Swedish
  • Specific cemetery names – i.e. NewmanCemetery, SwanPointCemetery
  • Specific churches – i.e. FirstBaptistChurch in America, First Unitarian Church of Providence
  • Specific institutions – i.e. schools, businesses

City Directories:
A nearly complete run of city directories from across Rhode Island and neighboring cities of Fall River and Attleboro, Massachusetts. Providence House Directories, arranged by street address, are also part of the collection.

Rhode Island Cemetery Database:
A database containing over 410,000 gravestone inscriptions for hundreds of Rhode Island cemeteries. The Rhode Island Historical Society Library is one of six libraries housing the complete database. A binder containing maps of the cemetery locations is available in the Cemeteries Index. An updated version of the database is available at http://rihc.info.

Rhode Island Roots:
This quarterly publication of the Rhode Island Genealogical Society includes articles on Rhode Island families and genealogy resources and is available in the Reading Room (CS 42 .R5) and is indexed on CD-ROM (also in the Reading Room). 

Passenger Lists:
Passenger lists are available from 1798-1943 for the Port of Providence and from 1820-1871 for the Port of Bristol/Warren. Some are available on microfilm and some are in print in CS44 .A53 – .W49. Passenger lists for 1872-1910 are missing and presumed lost. They are not available at any site. The passenger list resource sheet lists the library’s collections in further detail. 

Index of Wills 1636-1850:
This is an index as published in the Rhode Island Genealogical Register. CS1 .R46.The wills are available on microfilm within the Rhode Island Town Records.Mfilm F89 .B2 – F89 .W9 

Family Bible Collection:
A Finding Aid for RIHS Bible Collections is located on top of the card catalog. Transcriptions or photocopies of genealogical materials from the bibles are in the Vertical File Biography section. CS65 .B6

Guide to the Records of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in New England:
The Library is the official site for the New England Yearly Meeting Archives. The Archives include books, pamphlets, personal papers, audiotapes, periodicals, photographs and microfilm. The guide to the papers is located on top of the microfilm cabinet. F184 .F89 G8 1997

American Genealogical Biographical Index:
This multi-volume index is national in scope. The entry for each name lists state or country of birth and approximate date of birth. The reference after the date and place are short citations for the publications where the information was found. The citations are fully listed at the beginnings of volumes 10, 34 and 54. Z5313 .U5 A55

Books for Rhode Island Colonial-Period Genealogy
Austin, John Osborne.  Genealogical Dictionary of Rhode Island.  Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1969. (Reprint of 1887 edition) F78 .A935 1969
Austin,John Osborne. One Hundred and Sixty Allied Families. Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1977. (Reprint of 1893 edition) F78 .A94 1977
Bartlett, John Russell (ed.). Records of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations in New England. v.1-10. New York: AMS Press, Inc., 1968. (Reprint of A. Crawford Greene and Brother, Providence 1856 edition) F76 .R29 1968

Newspaper Collection:
The library is the repository for the federally funded Rhode Island Newspaper Project. The library has a microfilm collection of almost every Rhode Island newspaper published from 1732 to the present. The newspaper collection is not indexed, with the exception of a small portion of the Providence Journal (1915-1934). The Union List of Titles is located on top of the microfilm cabinets.

Providence Journal/Journal Bulletin Almanac:
The almanacs cover the years 1887-1998 and give a synopsis of the previous year. There is also a necrology, which provides an index of the previous year’s obituaries. AY67 .P7 J67.

Special Collections:
The manuscript collections may provide additional information once other sources have been exhausted.  The following may be useful in genealogy research:

  • Papers or diaries of family members (manuscript collection)
  • Tax lists (manuscript collection)
  • Old Stone Bank Depositor Records 1844-1897 (manuscript collection, not indexed)
  • Revolutionary War Records (manuscript collection – card catalog index available)
  • Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps (graphics collection)
  • Institutional Records (manuscript collection – businesses, organizations, asylums, schools)