Learn about Rhode Island's history and available records in this research guide that includes a map and bibliography.
Rhode Island is a small state with a long name -- State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. The original four towns were clustered around Narragansett Bay. Roger Williams, a minister banished from Massachusetts Bay, established Providence. Another religious free thinker, Samuel Gorton, founded Warwick; Anne Hutchinson's followers settled in Portsmouth; and Thomas Coddington's devotees populated Newport. The colony became a haven for those seeking freedom to worship, attracting Baptists, French Huguenots and Calvinists, Jews and Quakers. King Philip's War of 1675 to 1676 devastated the colony and local Native Americans. At war's end, only a small tribe remained in what is now Charlestown. Both Massachusetts and Connecticut claimed ownership of parts of the colony in the 17th century.