Start Your Rhode Island Research

The Rhode Island Collection contains a wide variety of materials in a number of formats.  The following will assist you in beginning your research.  We encourage you to ask for help from the Rhode Island Collection Librarian or any of the Reference Librarians!

Where to start? 

Published Rhode Island Collection materials, such as books, pamphlets and periodicals, are included in our online catalog

The Rhode Island Index card catalog is located in our Reference Department.  The Index has been maintained since the early 1900s and offers access the materials in the collection, including published volumes, photographs, maps, illustrations, vertical files as well as a daily index to the Providence Journal and Evening Bulletin for 1900-2004. 

What will you find?

Books and pamphlets - The Collection hold imprints published as early as the 17th century and as current as those published this year.

Genealogy resources -  Our Genealogy Resource Guide is a great way to learn what we've got available here in the library.  In addition to print sources such as city directories, Arnold's vital records indexes, individual & family biographies, regimental histories of the Civl War, the PPL provides access to the following databases: 

Ancestry Library Edition (available at PPL only) 

American Ancestors (available at PPL only)

Rhode Island Historical Cemeteries Database 

Government Publications - The PPL is a designated full depository library of official state publications. 

Maps - The Collection includes published and unpublished historic maps and atlases of the state.  In addition, access to the Sanborn Maps RI (Remote users need Username and Password. Username: PROVIDENCE Password: publiclibrary  both are case-sensitive) provides digital access to thousands of large-scale maps of Rhode Island towns and cities, searchable by address and GPS coordinates.

Newspapers - The Library provides access to several Rhode Island newspapers.   Articles from the Providence Journal   (1983-present) can be accessed from the library or from home with your PPL library card. See our full list of the historic newspapers available in print and on microfilm. 

Providence Journal Archives Online (1983-)

Providence Journal Obituaries and Death Notices (1980-)

Periodicals - Magazines, trade journals and newsletters specific to Rhode Island.

Vertical Files -  Vertical files include clippings and ephemera about a wide variety of people and subjects.

Manuscripts - Manuscript collection related to Rhode Island history are searchable in RIAMCO. Finding aids are available for a full inventory. 

Visual Materials  - The Image collections include over 7,000 photograph prints and negatives and 2,000 postcards of people, places and buildings.  Collections are searchable in RIAMCO. Many of our images on available on our digital repository. Reproductions of our images are available for a nominal fee. 

Where else can you look?

Rhode Island has a wealth of local history repositories. The following libraries and archives may be a complement to your research at the Rhode Island Collection, but many others are listed and searchable in the RHODI database.  

Rhode Island Historical Society

Rhode Island State Archives

Rhode Island Dept of Health, Office of Vital Records

Rhode Island Historical Cemetery Commission

Providence City Archives

Brown University John Hay Library

Newport Historical Society

Finding aids for manuscript and image collections can be searched across institutions in the Rhode Island Archival and Manuscripts Collections Online (RIAMCO) database.