16:32 PM

Initiative Begins to Digitize and Index Historic 1885 Rhode Island State Census Online

SALT LAKE CITY—FamilySearch and the New England Historical Genealogical Society (NEHGS) announced today a joint initiative to create a free searchable index online to the 1885 Rhode Island State Census. The state census is critical to researchers and historians since the 1890 federal Rhode Island census records, with the exception of the veterans and widows schedules, were completely destroyed in a fire.

NEHGS members will help index the state census online, along with FamilySearch volunteers. The initiative is open to the public. Anyone with Internet access and an interest can help with the project at Indexing.FamilySearch.org.

The state of Rhode Island conducted its own censuses every 10 years on the half-decade year from 1865 to 1935. Currently, the 1885 records are archived on microfilm at the Rhode Island State Archives and FamilySearch Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah. A unique feature of the 1885 Rhode Island State Census is that the records are not arranged by household. Rather, individuals are listed by town or city, then by gender, and alphabetically by surname. A column on the census sheet, “Relationship to Head of Family”, helps researchers piece together family groups.

In 1885, Rhode Island was home to about 400,000 residents, many of them immigrants; some of them were descendants of the nation’s colonial founders. The complete online index will be linked to the digital images—a thrill for genealogists and historians. It will be available for free at FamilySearch.org and NewEnglandAncestors.org.

NEHGS President and CEO, D. Brenton Simons, said, “We are thrilled to be working with FamilySearch on such an important database, and we are certain people everywhere will find this particular census especially important to their New England research.”

About FamilySearch
FamilySearch International is the largest genealogy organization in the world. Millions of people use FamilySearch records, resources, and services to learn more about their family history. To help in this great pursuit, FamilySearch has been actively gathering, preserving, and sharing genealogical records worldwide for over 100 years. FamilySearch is a nonprofit organization sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Patrons may access FamilySearch services and resources free online at FamilySearch.org or through over 4,600 family history centers in 132 countries, including the main Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Founded in 1845, New England Historic Genealogical Society is the country's leading resource for family history research. We help family historians expand their knowledge, skill, and understanding of their family and its place in history. The NEHGS research center, located at 99 Newbury Street, Boston, houses millions of books, journals, manuscripts, photographs, microfilms, documents, records, and other artifacts that date back more than four centuries. NEHGS staff includes some of the leading expert genealogists in the country, specializing in early American, Irish, English, Italian, Scottish, Atlantic and French Canadian, African American, Native American, and Jewish genealogy.

New England Historical Genealogical Society (NEHGS) collects, preserves, and interprets materials to document and make accessible the histories of families in America.


Media Contacts

Paul Nauta
FamilySearch Public Affairs

Tom Champoux
New England Historical Genealogical Society