A map of Narragansset Bay - part of the Rhode Island Collections

Rhode Island Collections

Rhode Island Collections

Rhode Island Collections

Catalogs

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.

The Providence Journal card catalog indexed newspaper articles published in the Journal and Evening Bulletin from 1905-1960s. This catalog was maintained by the Journal editorial staff and donated to PPL in the 1970s. It is available by appointment with the Curator of Rhode Island Collections.

Archival Materials

ProvLibDigital.org – Search  digitized copies of items from our Collections with free downloads available.

RIAMCO – Search finding aids for our manuscript and visual archival collections.

Newspapers

Genealogy Databases

Ancestry Library Edition (available at PPL only; Firefox browser recommended)

American Ancestors (available at PPL only)

Rhode Island Historical Cemeteries

Providence Journal Obituaries and Death Notices, 1980-current (available using your PPL library card)

Maps

  • Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps (Username: PROVIDENCE ; Password: publiclibrary)
  • Rhode Island Atlases [insert link to pdf]
  • John Hutchins Cady Map Collection [insert link to finding aid]

The Collection also includes many individual maps and nautical charts that are available by appointment with the Curator of Rhode Island Collections. 

Genealogy Research Guide

Catalogs

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. It is available without an appointment.

The Providence Journal card catalog indexed newspaper articles published in the Journal and Evening Bulletin from 1905-1960s. This catalog was maintained by the Journal editorial staff and donated to PPL in the 1970s. It is available by appointment with the Curator of Rhode Island Collections.

The James N. Arnold Collection card catalogs index individuals noted in his research including burial locations, probate records and more. It is available by appointment with the Curator of Rhode Island Collections.

Databases

Ancestry Library Edition (available at PPL only; Firefox browser recommended)

American Ancestors (available at PPL only)

Rhode Island Historical Cemeteries

Providence Journal Obituaries and Death Notices, 1980-current (access via your PPL library card)

Directories & Helpful Books

Vital Records

Indexed Vital Records: 

Original Vital Records Certificates: 

Available only at the RI Dept. of Health, Office of Vital Records or individual town & city offices.

Rhode Island Historical Society

Rhode Island Historical Society Research Center has a vast collection of materials. They include:

  • Extensive library of published family histories and genealogies
  • Passenger lists for Port of Providence and Bristol/Warren
  • Historic R.I. newspapers with state-wide coverage
  • Family Bible collection
  • Records of the Religious Society of Friends in New England (Quakers) on microfilm
  • Large collection of manuscript and visual archival materials

Rhode Island State Archives

The R.I. State Archives collects permanent records created by state government offices. For genealogy, check them out for:

  • City Directories across the state
  • State Census records
  • Records of state militias and military regiments thru World War I
  • Maps and atlases

Rhode Island Judicial Records Center

The R.I. Supreme Court, Judicial Records Center Archives hold a number of state court records that can be helpful.

  • Civil and Criminal court cases, 1671-1900
  • Divorce cases, 1671-1900
  • Naturalization papers, 1671-1982
  • Adoption cases, 1944- (records are closed)

Town Libraries & Historical Societies

There are many local public libraries and historical societies which hold materials helpful for research.

The Rhodi Directory is the best source to locate what institutions might have collections relevant to your research.

Individual Town Offices

Usually, these records are found in the Town Clerk’s office. For City of Providence, see the Providence City Archives or Dept of Vital Records.

  • Tax records
  • Probate records & estate inventories
  • Land records (intentions-to-build, tax assessments)
  • Street and plat maps
  • Adoption cases, 1866-1944

Other

American French Genealogical Society specializes in French Canadian ancestral research.

New England Historic Genealogical Society has a vast library collection with a regional focus.

Rhode Island Genealogical Society supports members’ research and provides many learning opportunities.

Architecture and Building Research Guide

Rhode Island Index

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.

Try the following SUBJECT TERMS:
Architecture
Buildings
Doors & doorways
Houses
Streets – [City] – [Street]
by building name – EX. Brown (John) House

Directories

  • Providence City Directories, 1847-current
  • Providence Almanac and Business Directories, 1824-1900
  • Providence House Directories, 1892-1935

Bibliography

These selected published works are a great introduction to Rhode Island architecture. We also hold many books and pamphlets specific to individual towns and neighborhoods, architectural styles and historic periods so don’t stop with these!

Image Collections

The bulk of our image collections are searchable on ProvLibDigital.org. Search using street names or the names of the original owners or companies.

Specific collections include:
Rhode Island Photograph Collection
Rhode Island Postcard Collection
John Hutchins Cady Research Notebooks
Harold Mason Photograph Collection 
Rhode Island Mills and Mill Villages Collection
Historic American Building Survey files (not digitized)

Maps

  • Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps (Username: PROVIDENCE ; Password: publiclibrary)
  • Rhode Island Atlases [insert link to pdf]
  • John Hutchins Cady Map Collection [insert link to finding aid]

The Collection also includes many individual maps and nautical charts that are available by appointment with the Curator of Rhode Island Collections. 

Research Your Providence House History

If your property is located in the City of Providence, you can learn a lot about it’s history at Providence City Hall.

  1. Visit the Assessor’s Office to convert the street address into a plat & lot number and to obtain the “Chain of Title”.
  2. Visit the Recorder of Deeds office to reconstruct the chain of ownership and sales using the “Chain of Title” in the Deed records.
  3. Visit the City Archives to locate wills and other records regarding the administration of estates, building permits and intentions to build and tax books and ledgers.

Documentation of Historic Properties

Check to see if written histories of your property have already been created.

Rhode Island – National Register Search – look up single properties or search by architectural style or building function.

Mary A. Gowdey Library of House Histories – search by Providence street names to find published histories by address.

Library of Congress, Historic American Building Survey – includes building histories, surveys, architectural  plans and photographs for historically important structures