Rhode Island Court Records
This entry was originally written by Alice Eichholz, Ph.D., CG for Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.
Courts kept the only countywide records in Rhode Island, and that has been the case since the inception of counties in 1729. After 1729, a superior court of judicature (criminal) and inferior court of common pleas (civil) as well as a supreme court were established, similar to those in Massachusetts. Debts, divorces, and trespass claims are found within the court records for each county. Previous to 1729 the General Court of Trials existed for the entire state along with several lower courts. All the colonial court records from colonial and state courts from 1645 to 1900 are located at the Rhode Island Supreme Court Judicial Records Center, 5 Hill St., Pawtucket, RI 02860. Records are available for on-site research with some restrictions. Civil cases (1671–1900), criminal cases (1671–1900), divorces (1749–100), and naturalizations (1793–1974) are presently available for research.
Court records in print include records of the general court of trials: Rhode Island Court Records: Records of the Court of Trials of the Colony of Providence Plantations, 2 vols. (Providence, R.I.: Rhode Island Historical Society, 1920, 1922), which covers from 1647 to 1670; and Jane F. Fiske, Gleanings from Newport Court Files, 1659–1783 (Boxford, Mass.: Genbooks, n.d.)