I've been enjoying all the beauty that Rhode Island can offer this summer, as my family bought a sailboat and spent the summer out on the water. Sailing on Narragansett Bay reminds me of how significant maritime trade and the navy have been to my home state.The maritime history of RI has left records all over the state including the admiralty records at the RI State Archives (including letters of marque for privateers during the Revolution), whaling ships logs in the Nicholson Collection at the Providence Public library, and a host of materials at the Newport Historical Society (http://www.newporthistorical.org/).
Newport has a fascinating history as a haven for Plymouth Colony rebels who wanted religious freedom. The area is the home of the Seventh Day Baptists, a haven for Quakers and boasts the oldest Jewish Synagogue in the US. And Newport was one of the largest ports on the east coast. As early as the late 1600's, Newport has been a significant port of call first for the Royal Navy, then for trade along the eastern seaboard.
The Newport Historical Society has recently updated their website to include a list of their significant manuscript and special collections.They have an amazing amount of genealogical material on Newport families, and an emphasis on the maritime history of Newport in the form of ship's logs, diaries and merchant's records. The staff is fabulous, and the building itself is an historical gem. They are cataloguing their collectionsr and putting more online and have found a bunch of treasures lurking within their collections. Check out their "FOUND!" page to see some of their unique treasures! http://www.newporthistorical.org/index.php/category/found/
If you have Newport families make sure that you check out this fabulous gem hidden in downtown of one of the oldest seaports in the United States!