Friday, March 16, 2012

Providence City Archives

Do you have Providence, RI families? In July 2010, the City of Providence hired a new archivist, Paul Campbell. He has an impressive resume as an author and archivist including 8 years as the Director at the Rhode Island Historical Society. Since he started the improvements to their website have been phenomenal (check it out at He has been delving into the far reaches of this vast repository (you'd be amazed at the stuff they've found so far, including the Providence Town Charter from 1648! See a picture of it here: and assembling finding aids for their materials. He's been restoring town records, with help from various organizations including the Rhode Island Genealogical Society (yeah, that's a shameless plug for my home genealogy society, check out If you have old Rhode Island families from Providence or the surrounding area including Glocester, Scituate, North Providence, Johnston, etc, you should really check them out. They have maps, city directories, town meeting records (some of which are published in the 2006 and 2007 issues of Rhode Island Roots: Gleanings, by RIGS, though 2007 is out of print), aldermen papers, photographs, licenses and vital records (the turn of the century peddlers licenses are amazing). Genealogists will find the Naturalization and Voter records helpful, along with the reform school records. If you do house histories, the building permits might be a goldmine for your research. There are ton of other fun, quirky and potentially valuable family history research materials here.

And they're finding new things every day. They've gotten experienced archivists, historians, librarians and students to volunteer their skills to help organize and catalog the materials. Some are even being digitized for access via the web (see their photo gallery at
So check it out, be creative and see if they have anything that you can use to flesh out your family history.