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Rhode Island Genealogy

The overall history of Rhode Island can go back to the late 1600s if you are lucky, though the general collection of records will not go back nearly that far. Such older Rhode Island genealogy records will have to be sought out through individual town and county clerk offices, but the main state collection starts around 1915.

Rhode Island Vital Records

Getting copies of birth, death and marriage records will typically take you to the Division of Vital Records. At least for material after 1915. Older records than that are housed at the State Archive and that will be covered below.

All you have to do is submit a request form to the Vital Records office, except that there are some privacy restrictions in place that may prevent you from getting the certificates you want. Birth records and marriage records are confidential for 100 years, but death records are only private for 50 years. During that time period, you can only make a request if the record is your own, or you are the parent, child, sibling, grandparent or grandchild of the person on the record. Documentation of this relationship will have to be included with your request.

The forms can be downloaded from the Department of Health website. Once completed, send or drop off the forms along with copies of your own ID and the payment for the search to the Vital Records office in Providence. You can drop off at the counter for immediate service, or mail it all in for a 2 month wait.

The above-mentioned search fees are not refundable, so make sure you provide accurate information so they can locate the right record. You should pay by check or money order made out to the General Treasurer of RI. The current fee is $20 per record requested and $15 for additional certified copies of the same record. If you cannot wait for 2 months, write RUSH on the envelope and add $7 to your payment. Then you should have your papers back in about a week.

Rhode Island State Archives

For all pre-1915 material, you will want to get in touch with the various archives around the state. The best location for Rhode Island genealogy material is the Rhode Island Historical Society library. The official State Archive handles mainly government material and is not as relevant for Rhode Island genealogy.

The Historical Society library holds material back as far as the 1500s in some areas though not everything is quite that old. They have military records, tax documents, church archives, personal correspondence documents, old maps and photographs and a large number more. Their website does not outline their complete holdings so you will need to contact them directly to see what they have access to.

The library is not free and there is a small cost for anyone who is not a member of the Historical Society. There are also fees for photocopies. Their facility is located in Providence and they are open 3 to 4 days per week (again, contact them for a current schedule of their hours).

State Resources Sites

  • A Guide to Rhode Island Genealogy
    Look ups, societies, publications available from societies and individuals, lost female ancestors queries, and related links for genealogy research in Rhode Island. 


  • Rhode Island Cemeteries Index project was begun in 1990 as a way to document and computerize the many historical cemeteries around the state.

Databases and Indexes





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