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Vital Records

 Series — Multiple Containers
Identifier: 1995-70-1995-68-1995-71-1997-28

Content Description

Birth and marriage records 100 years or older and death records 50 years or older are considered public records and may be obtained from the city or town hall where the event happened or through the Rhode Island State Archives. Vital Records are birth, death, marriage, and civil union documents. They are legal documents that contain information about the vital events of people in our society.


  • 1846-1972

Biographical / Historical

Timeline – Registration of Early Births, Marriages & Deaths

1647 Marriages – shall be deemed unlawful / children illegitimate unless first published with townsmen; confirmed before head officer & entered in town clerk’s book
1655/6 Marriages – shall be published at town meetings, or on training days or by writing under the hand of the Magistrate at some noted place in the town
1663 Marriages – notification of to be published for 10 days in some public place or by being recorded several times in a public assembly in the town; certificate to be furnished, carried to Town Clerk and placed on record
1665 Marriages - laws of 1647, etc. respecting to be punctually observed; those so joined not according to law to be punished as for fornication
1698 Births, Marriages & Deaths – to be registered with town clerk within 10 days; Town Clerk to make a record of same & return annual account of to the head of each town Magistrate or Chief Justice of the Peace
1701 Marriages – applications to be made to some person of authority within town of residence; publication in writing to be set in some public place for a period of 14 days; those coming from other governments required to produce certificate; names of those married to be returned to town clerk within 3 months Births & Burials – parents to register all children with town clerk within two months
1733 Marriages - ministers and elders of every denomination authorized to perform keep account & make annual return of to Town Clerk
1764 Marriages – £100 fine unless after lawful publication
1767 Marriages – application to be made in the town or towns of residence to those authorized to perform; Intention to be in writing as established by law in some public place for a period of 15 days & in place of worship several times; certificate to be registered with Town Clerk within 1 months / parents to register with Town Clerk all births & burials of children within two months 1839 Marriages – all persons having authority to perform shall file with the clerk of the city or town where such marriage solemnized a certificate within 60 days
1841 Marriage registrations – duty of magistrate or clergyman
1850 Births, Marriages & Deaths – duty of the trustees of school districts to secure returns & transmit to Comm. of Public Schools; returns to be filed with Town Clerks & recorded in books furnished for that purpose
1852 Births, Marriages & Deaths – duty of the city & town clerks to secure returns & make record same; certified copies to be forwarded to the Secretary of State annually act to go into effect June 1, 1853
Note: Due to various factors the recording of vital events as mandated by the above acts appear to have been scarcely adhered to and/or enforced until Act of 1852


446.375 Cubic Feet (453 containers)

Language of Materials


Rhode Island Digital Archives


There are annual accruals to this record series. 2023-02 (1922 Births and Marriages; 1972 Deaths)

Condition Description

good, fair

Requesting copies of vital records from the Rhode Island State Archives

Request your record using the Vital Records Request Form.

Note: To request records of births and marriages under 100 years, and deaths under 50 years, please visit the Department of Health, Office of Vital Records or call 401-222-2811.

Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the Rhode Island State Archives Repository

33 Broad Street
Providence RI 02903 USA