military records
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American military history in Rhode Island began with the organization of the colonial militia early on in the 17th century primarily to battle against assaults from native inhabitants. The benefits and significance of Rhode Island military records in genealogical research for ancestors who were veterans are apparent but Rhode Island military records can also be important to researchers whose immediate ancestors just weren’t soldiers in any war. Because of the quantity of genealogical facts covered in several Rhode Island military pension documents they ought to not be overlooked throughout the research process.

In colonial times, Rhode Island’s seafaring and sea trading businesses were booming. It was common for smuggling, slave trading and privateering ships to be docked in Rhode Island’s ports. Rhode Island was also a major part of the colonial wars because of all of the sea trade that went on in the state. Many military records are on file at the Rhode Island State Archives. The Rhode Island Historical Society, which is located in Providence, has published Rhode Island in the Colonial Wars: A List of Rhode Island Soldiers and Sailors in King George’s War, 1740-48; Rhode Island Privateers in King George’s War, 1739-48; and Rhode Island Soldiers and Sailors in the Old French and Indian War, 1755-62. It is a three-volume set containing valuable genealogical and historical information regarding Rhode Island’s role in the wars.

In 1777, a military census was taken for Rhode Island. It listed all men in the state and their ability to serve in the military, or inability to do so. They were separated into three age groups, which were those from 16 to 50, those from 50 to 60 and those older than 60. No returns from Newport, Portsmouth or Middletown exist for that census because the British had control of those towns at the time that the census was taken. Also, although census records were taken for New Shoreham, Exeter and Little Compton at the time, they have been lost or destroyed. An index of all Rhode Island men who served in the Revolutionary war can be found at the Rhode Island State Archives.

The Adjutant General’s Office has military records dating from the Civil War until the end of World War I on file.

Rhode Island in the Colonial War

Colonial War Website Links

Rhode Island in the Revolutionary War


Revolutionary War Website Links

Rhode Island in the War of 1812

War of 1812 Website Links

Rhode Island in the Civil War


Civil War Website Links

Rhode Island Modern Wars

War Website Links

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