Rhode Island Land Records
This entry was originally written by Alice Eichholz, Ph.D., CG for Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.
Rhode Island is a State-Land State.
From the beginning of the settlement, as in Connecticut and Vermont, land transactions in Rhode Island were filed in the town office in either proprietors’ records or deed books. Indexes to the records are just as varied as they are in the rest of New England. Some grantor/grantee indexes are by surname only, some by surname and first initial instead of full name. Land was divided by proprietors in a pattern of lots. Metes and bounds were the usual land descriptions when the transaction did not involve an easily identified part of the lot or full lot.
One group of land records was recorded by the colony during the seventeenth century. Such transactions produced a multi-volume collection entitled “Rhode Island Land Evidence,” which is located at the Rhode Island State Archives. Volume 1 has been abstracted and published as Rhode Island Land Evidence, vol. 1 (1921; reprint, Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1970). Abstracts of volumes 2, 3, 4, and 5 have been printed in Rhode Island Roots (see Rhode Island Periodicals, Newspapers, and Manuscript Collections).
Some unindexed, unpublished deeds from the 1640s, which did not appear in the first volume of Records of the Colony of Rhode Island (see Background Sources for Rhode Island), are at the Rhode Island Archives.