Rhode Island Town Resources

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This entry was originally written by Alice Eichholz, Ph.D., CG in Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.

This article is part of
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the Rhode Island Family History Research series.
History of Rhode Island
Rhode Island Vital Records
Census Records for Rhode Island
Background Sources for Rhode Island
Rhode Island Maps
Rhode Island Land Records
Rhode Island Probate Records
Rhode Island Court Records
Rhode Island Tax Records
Rhode Island Cemetery Records
Rhode Island Church Records
Rhode Island Military Records
Rhode Island Periodicals, Newspapers, and Manuscript Collections
Rhode Island Archives, Libraries, and Societies
Rhode Island Immigration
Rhode Island Naturalization
Ethnic Groups of Rhode Island
Rhode Island County Resources
Map of Rhode Island

No other state has the emphasis on the town that Rhode Island enjoys. Town resources are extensive, and what follows is only a brief summary. In Rhode Island, the “town records” are usually found in the town council book or the town meeting records. Brigham’s inventory (see Rhode Island Court Records), Fiske’s article (see Background Sources for Rhode Island), and the Works Progress Administration (WPA) Historical Records Survey for the state all contain excellent summaries of what records are available for each town. The chart that follows draws on that material. The first column lists town (or city) and address. All correspondence concerning deeds and probates should be directed to the town or city clerk at that address. Links to each town’s website can be found on the Rhode Island Historical Society webpage. Since so much of the early material is already in print, it is wise to consult those sources first. The second column lists the date formed and the parent town/s. There are no parent counties, as such, in Rhode Island. The “Date Formed” also indicates the year one can expect to find the first recorded vital records in that town. Fiske’s article indicates which volume of Arnold (see Rhode Island Vital Records) corresponds to that town’s vital records. The last column indicates the beginning dates that land and probate records can be found and where the court records for that town can be located.

Some early records for the four original towns, Portsmouth, Providence, Newport, and Warwick are in print. See also Marcia D. Melnyk, Genealogist’s Handbook for New England Research. 4th ed. Boston: New England Historic and Genealogical Society, 1999.

Town Address Date Formed Parent Town/s Land Probate Court
Barrington 283 County Rd., Barrington 02806 1770 Barrington, Massachusetts 1770 1770 Bristol
Originally created in 1717 as Barrington, Massachusetts, it was ceded to Rhode Island in 1747 as part of the town of Warren. Barrington, Rhode Island, a new town, was set off from Warren in 1770. Barrington, Massachusetts records between 1717 and 1747 are in Bristol County; 1747—70 in the Warren town clerk’s office. This office has the meeting records for the town since 1718.
Bristol 10 Court St., Bristol 02809 1747 Bristol, Massachusetts 1747 1747 Bristol
Part of Plymouth Colony, 1681—86, then Bristol Co. Mass. Ceded to Rhode Island, 1747. See Taunton, Massachusetts, for earlier records.
Burrillville 105 Harrisville Main St., Harrisville 02830 1806 Glocester 1806 1806 Providence
Central Falls 580 Broad St., Central Falls 02863 1895 (incorporated) Lincoln 1895 1895 Providence
Early Smithfield records are in this office.
Charlestown 4540 S. County Trail, Charlestown 02813 1738 Westerly 1738 1738 Washington
Coventry 1670 Flat River Rd., Coventry 02816 1741 Warwick 1741 1741 Kent
Cranston City Hall, 869 Park Ave., Cranston 02910 1754 Providence 1754 1754 Providence
Cumberland 45 Broad St./P.O. Box 7, Cumberland 02864 1747 Attleboro Gore, 1747 1747 Providence
Earlier records, 1692—1747, are in Bristol County, Massachusetts at Taunton.
East Greenwich 125 Main St./P.O. Box 111, East Greenwich 02818 1677 (called Dedford or Deptford, 1686-89) 1679 1679 Kent
East Providence 145 Taunton Ave., E. Providence 02914 1862 Rehoboth/Seekonk, Mass. 1862 1862 Providence
See Rehoboth and Seekonk, Bristol County, Massachusetts, for earlier records.
Exeter 675 Ten Rod Rd., Exeter 02822 1742 North Kingstown 1742 1742 Washington
Foster 181 Howard Hill, Foster 02825 1781 Scituate 1781 1781 Providence
Glocester Main St./P.O. Box B, Chepachet 02814 1731 Providence 1731 1731 Providence
Hopkinton 1 Town House Rd., Hopkinton 02833 1757 Westerly 1757 1757 Washington
Jamestown 93 Narragansett Ave., Jamestown 02835 1678 Native lands, Conanicut 1678 1678 Newport
Johnston 1385 Hartford Ave., Johnston 02919 1759 Providence 1759 1759 Providence
Probates to 1898 at Providence City Archives, Providence 02903.
Lincoln 100 Old River Rd., Lincoln 02865 1871 Smithfield 1871 1871 Providence
Records before 1895 in Central Falls City Clerk’s Office.
Little Compton P.O. Box 226, Little Compton 02837 1682 (part of Plymouth Colony) 1747 1747 Newport
Became part of Rhode Island in 1747. Earlier records are at Plymouth Colony and Bristol County offices (see Massachusetts).
Middletown 350 E. Main Rd., Middletown 02840 1743 Newport 1743 1743 Newport
Narragansett 25 Fifth Ave., Narragansett 02882 1901 South Kingstown District, 1888 1901 Washington
Was a district before becoming a town; 1888—1901 records in S. Kingstown. Proprietor’s records are in print: James Arnold, The Fones Record (1894; reprint, Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1990).
Newport City Clerk, 43 Broadway, Newport 02840 1639 original 1639 1639 Newport
Records before 1783 at Newport Historical Society.
New Shoreham P.O. Drawer 220, Block Island 02807 1661 (admitted to colony, 1664 as Block Island; ) renamed, 1672 1672 1672 Washington
Part of Newport County until 1963.
North Kingstown 80 Boston Neck Rd., Wickford 02852 1641 (renamed, North Kingstown after 1723) Kingstown, 1674; 1674 1674 Washington
Fire damaged all records in 1870; they are being restored.
North Providence City Hall, 2000 Smith St., North Providence 02911 1765 Providence 1765 1765 Providence
North Smithfield 1 Main St., Slatersville 02876 1871 Smithfield 1871 1871 Providence
Pawtucket City Hall, 137 Roosevelt Ave., Pawtucket 02860 1862 Pawtucket, Mass., North Providence, R.I. 1862 1862 Providence
Incorporated 1885. See Seekonk, Bristol County Massachusetts, Northern District for earlier records.
Portsmouth 2200 E. Main Rd., P.O. Box 155, Portsmouth 02871 1638 original 1636 1636 Newport
Pocasset proprietors’ records are in manuscript form at New Bedford, Massachusetts Public Library.
Providence 25 Dorrance St., Providence 02903 1636 original 1636 1636 Providence
Providence City Archives has earlier deeds and vital records for Providence and Johnston;
probates to 1898
Richmond 5 Richmond Townhouse, Wyoming 02898 1747 Charlestown 1747 1747 Washington
Scituate 195 Danielson Pike, N. Scituate 02857 1731 Providence 1731 1731 Providence
Smithfield 64 Farnum Pike, Esmond 02917 1731 Providence 1731 1731 Providence
Records to 1870 are in city clerk’s office, Central Falls 02863.
South Kingstown 66 High St., P.O. Box 31, Wakefield 02879 1723 Kingstown 1674 1674 Washington
Kingstown divided into North and South in 1723. Records before that date were in North Kingston, but damaged in 1870. Copies are here.
Tiverton 343 Highlands Road, Tiverton 02878 1747 Dartmouth and 1747 1747 Newport
Earlier records are in the Bristol County offices in Taunton, Massachusetts.
Warren 514 Main St., Warren 02885 1747 Barrington, Rehoboth and 1747 1747 Bristol
See Bristol County, Northern District, Taunton, Massachusetts, for earlier records.
Warwick 3275 Post Rd., Apponaug 02886 1642 (as Shawomet; renamed, 1648) original 1642 1642 Kent
Westerly 45 Broad St., Westerly 02891 1669 (called Haversham,1686–89) original 1669 1669 Washington
West Greenwich 280 Victory Hwy., West Greenwich 02816 1741 East Greenwich 1741 1741 Kent
West Warwick 1170 Main St., West Warwick 02893 1913 Warwick 1913 1913 Kent
Woonsocket City Hall, 169 Main St., Woonsocket 02895 1867 Cumberland/Smithfield 1867 1867 Providence
City Hall has copies of earlier deeds from parent towns beginning 1847.