A Lively Experiment

Notes on collections and events at the RIHS

RI Cemetery Database Updated

New data and photograph files about burials in the Rhode Island Historical Cemeteries (RIHC) Database have just been added to the RIHS Library computer in the Reading Room.  The RIHC Database is now more useful than ever to family researchers who want to verify the location of a  grave, learn about military service, locate family plots, extrapolate birth dates from headstones, or  simply confirm the death of a person  buried in Rhode Island.


Headstone of David Bacon (1746 – 18 Jan 1777) North Burial Ground, Providence, RI. 1st Lieutenant in Captain Rigg’s Company during the Revolutionary War. The carved winged cherub and other decorative elements of the stone are attributed to carvers at the Hartshorn Shop

Julie Nathanson (a volunteer with the Rhode Island Historic Cemetery Commission and the Pawtuxet Valley Historical Society) has updated a tremendous amount of information, compiled by many volunteers.  The image files for Bristol, Barrington, Portsmouth and Warren have more than doubled, from 6,000 to a whopping 14,000, and there are many new photos of headstones in cemeteries at Burrillville and Woonsocket. Work is currently being done that will link photos to database records for cemeteries in Newport and Providence.

RIHS Library is one of six libraries statewide where you can access the complete database of mostly pre-1900 graves in RI cemeteries. The Rhode Island Historical Cemeteries Database is an online version of the database and a work in process. For more information about the project visit the Rhode Island Historical Cemetery Commission.

The RIHC Database was created in 1990 by John Sterling with the assistance of over 50 volunteers. The data has been gathered over the past 22 years and continues to this day. The recent data upload represents information gathered in the field by many volunteers.  Julie Nathanson is a volunteer who started photographing gravestones five years ago in West Warwick while researching her family genealogy and then set out to do entire cemeteries.  Thanks to her work and that of many other volunteers there is even greater public access to cemetery information for genealogy, family and local history research.

John Sterling’s introduction to the Database provides an overview of the project: The RIHC Database contains information on over 3,400 cemeteries and over 459,000gravestones in Rhode Island.  Information gathered by volunteers was compared to over 100 nineteenth and twentieth century transcripts of cemeteries to have the most accurate gravestone data possible.

RIHC Database screen

A surname search for David Bacon leads to this data about the gravesite. Continue the research on Revolutionary War soldiers using an online guide to the Revolutionary War Records Collection in the RIHS Library.

Stop in the RIHS Library to use the database; locate a grave, verify vital record information such as a death or marriage dates; browse sections of one cemetery. The RIHS Librarians will show you how to do a custom search or a report to see a listing of all the cemeteries in your town with GPS coordinates.

–Katherine Chansky, Special Collections Reference Librarian


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This entry was posted on 27 September 2012 by in Collection Notes and tagged , , .

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