There are two levels of civil court records that I usually search, the Court of Common Pleas and the Supreme Court record books, but the names of these courts have changed over time. It's always amazing to me how many folks are sued, and counter-sued, usually over unpaid debts and land disputes in colonial RI. More recent materials can also be found, as well. One of the more unusual books that I viewed as I was tracking down a family story about a mill riot and an arrest (covered in my seminar entitled "Broken Threads") was the 4th District Court at East Greenwich criminal court dockets that summarize the every day criminal court's dispensing of justice. Some of the fascinating information found in this book includes the person making the complaint, the "respondent" or defendent, the arresting officer, the court date, the judgement, court fees and disposition.
In 1922, for example, there was enforcement of drunk driving when John J. Iera was found guilty of "operating automobile while intoxicated" and he was fined $100 and charged $6.80 in court costs. There are records of assaults with dangerous weapons, domestic abuse, as well as info about who posted the bail bonds for the defendents. I did not find any court record for my arrested, mill riot-causing grandfather, but the charges may have been dropped and he may not have had to go to court.
|RI 4th District Court Criminal Dockets at the RI Supreme Court Judicial Records Center in Pawtucket, RI.|
|Page from Criminal Court Docket, RI SCJRC, Pawtucket, RI|