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
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
Barrington283 County Rd., Barrington 028061770Barrington, Massachusetts17701770Bristol
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.
Bristol10 Court St., Bristol 028091747Bristol, Massachusetts17471747Bristol
Part of Plymouth Colony, 1681—86, then Bristol Co. Mass. Ceded to Rhode Island, 1747. See Taunton, Massachusetts, for earlier records.
Burrillville105 Harrisville Main St., Harrisville 028301806Glocester18061806Providence
Central Falls580 Broad St., Central Falls 028631895 (incorporated)Lincoln18951895Providence
Early Smithfield records are in this office.
Charlestown4540 S. County Trail, Charlestown 028131738Westerly17381738Washington
Coventry1670 Flat River Rd., Coventry 028161741Warwick17411741Kent
CranstonCity Hall, 869 Park Ave., Cranston 029101754Providence17541754Providence
Cumberland45 Broad St./P.O. Box 7, Cumberland 028641747Attleboro Gore, 17471747Providence
Earlier records, 1692—1747, are in Bristol County, Massachusetts at Taunton.
East Greenwich125 Main St./P.O. Box 111, East Greenwich 028181677(called Dedford or Deptford, 1686-89)16791679Kent
East Providence145 Taunton Ave., E. Providence 029141862Rehoboth/Seekonk, Mass.18621862Providence
See Rehoboth and Seekonk, Bristol County, Massachusetts, for earlier records.
Exeter675 Ten Rod Rd., Exeter 028221742North Kingstown17421742Washington
Foster181 Howard Hill, Foster 028251781Scituate17811781Providence
GlocesterMain St./P.O. Box B, Chepachet 028141731Providence17311731Providence
Hopkinton1 Town House Rd., Hopkinton 028331757Westerly17571757Washington
Jamestown93 Narragansett Ave., Jamestown 028351678Native lands, Conanicut16781678Newport
Johnston1385 Hartford Ave., Johnston 029191759Providence17591759Providence
Probates to 1898 at Providence City Archives, Providence 02903.
Lincoln100 Old River Rd., Lincoln 028651871Smithfield18711871Providence
Records before 1895 in Central Falls City Clerk’s Office.
Little ComptonP.O. Box 226, Little Compton 028371682 (part of Plymouth Colony)17471747Newport
Became part of Rhode Island in 1747. Earlier records are at Plymouth Colony and Bristol County offices (see Massachusetts).
Middletown350 E. Main Rd., Middletown 028401743Newport 17431743Newport
Narragansett25 Fifth Ave., Narragansett 028821901South Kingstown District,18881901Washington
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).
NewportCity Clerk, 43 Broadway, Newport 028401639original16391639Newport
Records before 1783 at Newport Historical Society.
New ShorehamP.O. Drawer 220, Block Island 028071661 (admitted to colony, 1664 as Block Island; )renamed, 167216721672Washington
Part of Newport County until 1963.
North Kingstown80 Boston Neck Rd., Wickford 028521641 (renamed, North Kingstown after 1723)Kingstown, 1674; 16741674Washington
Fire damaged all records in 1870; they are being restored.
North ProvidenceCity Hall, 2000 Smith St., North Providence 029111765Providence17651765Providence
North Smithfield1 Main St., Slatersville 028761871Smithfield18711871Providence
PawtucketCity Hall, 137 Roosevelt Ave., Pawtucket 028601862Pawtucket, Mass., North Providence, R.I.18621862Providence
Incorporated 1885. See Seekonk, Bristol County Massachusetts, Northern District for earlier records.
Portsmouth2200 E. Main Rd., P.O. Box 155, Portsmouth 028711638original16361636Newport
Pocasset proprietors’ records are in manuscript form at New Bedford, Massachusetts Public Library.
Providence25 Dorrance St., Providence 029031636original16361636Providence
Providence City Archives has earlier deeds and vital records for Providence and Johnston;
probates to 1898
Richmond5 Richmond Townhouse, Wyoming 028981747Charlestown17471747Washington
Scituate195 Danielson Pike, N. Scituate 028571731Providence17311731Providence
Smithfield64 Farnum Pike, Esmond 029171731Providence17311731Providence
Records to 1870 are in city clerk’s office, Central Falls 02863.
South Kingstown66 High St., P.O. Box 31, Wakefield 028791723Kingstown16741674Washington
Kingstown divided into North and South in 1723. Records before that date were in North Kingston, but damaged in 1870. Copies are here.
Tiverton343 Highlands Road, Tiverton 028781747Dartmouth and 17471747Newport
Earlier records are in the Bristol County offices in Taunton, Massachusetts.
Warren514 Main St., Warren 028851747Barrington, Rehoboth and17471747Bristol
See Bristol County, Northern District, Taunton, Massachusetts, for earlier records.
Warwick3275 Post Rd., Apponaug 028861642 (as Shawomet; renamed, 1648)original16421642Kent
Westerly45 Broad St., Westerly 028911669 (called Haversham,1686–89) original16691669Washington
West Greenwich 280 Victory Hwy., West Greenwich 028161741East Greenwich17411741Kent
West Warwick1170 Main St., West Warwick 028931913Warwick19131913Kent
WoonsocketCity Hall, 169 Main St., Woonsocket 028951867Cumberland/Smithfield18671867Providence
City Hall has copies of earlier deeds from parent towns beginning 1847.
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