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Rhode Island County records can vary extensively from county to county in either quality and also quantity. Some happen to have been carefully maintained while some have been much abused and mistreated. A certain amount of Rhode Island records have simply vanished. For genealogists performing research in Rhode Island you will find no valuable replace for an on-site search of county courthouse records.
From a genealogical standpoint, most of the valuable information that can be gained from Rhode Island's county records involves either federal censuses or court records. County courts didn't exist in the state prior to 1729. Although, two counties, Newport and Providence, came into existence in 1703. Each of today's Rhode Island counties was in existence by 1750. Bristol County was formed in 1746 or 1747 because the state of Massachusetts ceded five towns to Rhode Island. Most original records only exist on a town by town basis, but several of them have been compiled and published in groups according to county, probably because of the county structures in other states. The superior court county seat holds most modern court records, while earlier records have been relocated to various sources, such as archives and historical societies.
Although Rhode Island is divided into counties, it does not have any local government at the county level. Instead, local governance is provided by the eight cities and thirty-one towns. Counties in Rhode Island have had no governmental functions since 1846 other than as court administrative and sheriff corrections boundaries which are part of state government. Rhode Island State Government is located in Providence.
|County||Date Formed||Parent County||County Seat|
|Bristol||February 17, 1747||Newport County||Bristol|
|Kent||June 11, 1750||Providence County||East Greenwich|
|Newport||June 22, 1703||Original County||Newport|
|Providence||June 22, 1703||Original County||Providence|
|Washington||June 3, 1729||Providence County||Wakefield|
Rhode Island contains counties that no longer are in existence. They were set up by the state, provincial, or territorial governing administration. Many of these counties were established and disbanded in the 19th century; county boundaries have modified very little since Nineteen hundred in the great majority of states. These counties should be investigated when you are conducting ancestors and family history research. Pay close attention where the courthouse records went to if the county was abolished or merged with some other county.