As a colony, Rhode Island performed several enumerations. While the earliest census of the state was taken in 1706, it did not survive, or has been lost. The first extant census taken was one ordered in 1730. This early census enumerated all citizens, male, female, black and white. It has been transcribed by Mildred Mosher Chamberlain in her Rhode Island Roots VII: 16-17 and X: 1.
John R. Bartlett in 1858 put together a manuscript which transcribed the 1774 census into book form at the behest of the State of Rhode Island. This manuscript has been published online by the Google book project and is freely available through this link: Census of the inhabitants of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. In this 1774 census, all townships were present except for the township of New Shoreham. In printing the census, the orthography of the original manuscript has been followed in the names, as nearly as possible.
The 1777 Military census was also transcribed by Mildred Mosher Chamberlain and appears in a work published by Genealogical Publishing House, but is currently out of print. This military census of Rhode Island is an enumeration of all males over sixteen both able and unable to bear arms. In addition, the census was to provide the names of men already in the state militia or in Continental battalions, and to identify transients, Indians, Negroes, and Quakers. The result is a town-by-town list of about 8,500 Rhode Island men-- the records given here in full are for twenty-three towns. Three towns, those of Exeter, Little Compton, and New Shoreham had their records lost, while the three towns of Middletown, Newport and Portsmouth never had enumerations taken, as in 1771 they were occupied by British forces.
The final census taken as a colony was done in 1782 and has been published by Jay Mack Holbrook as Rhode Island 1782 Census. This same census was later published by Katharine Utter Waterman during 1941/1942 in the New England Historical and Genealogical Register, using the same title, and used copies can be found occasionally through the following links:
- Rhode Island census of 1782 (New England Historical and Genealogical Register)
- Rhode Island census 1782
Members of the NEHGS should be able to consult the yearly edition of the publication and have access to that data online.
The Federal census was enumerated every 10 years in Rhode Island since 1790 and other then the 1890, all records have survived. The state also conducted census every 10 years starting in 1865 and continuing until 1935. Copies of the 1865 census is microfilmed at the Rhode Island Historical Society and they provide an every name index. The 1875, 1885, and 1925 state census are available at the Rhode Island State Archives physical location. A transcription to the 1915 state census was recently put online and is accessible via the correct county link below.
To see our complete list of census for Rhode Island visit: Rhode Island Census Records