22 September 2012

Office of the Town Clerk in Rhode Island

DAY 2   IN RHODE ISLAND - Yesterday I told you about the mahvalous time had by all at the Exeter Town Clerk's Office.  Well I am here to tell you that not every town clerk office is quite so accommodating.  AND I think that you ought to know about it.  It blows my mind that each of these offices rule the roost however they want.  I cannot believe that there is no consistency from one office to the next.  Total Chaos and dare I say it - a touch of Anarchy.  Town Clerks are allowed to run amok in the State of Rhode Island.  They should be called realms and the Town Clerk is the Lord of the Manor who makes the rules.  As far as I can tell, there is no place to file a complaint should one dare to disagree with the rules. Here are the ones I have dealt with in the past week:

Exeter Town Hall
675 Ten Rod Road
Exeter, RI  02822
Town Clerk:  Lynn Hawkins
Deputy Clerk:  Ruth Stone
Clerical Assistant:  Pat Whitford

The ladies of the kingdom of Exeter were so helpful, pleasant and knowledgeable about the records housed in their office.  If you find the record you came for, Ruth cheerfully makes a copy of the pages of the book the record is in and charges 20 cents per page.  Keep in mind this is for birth and marriage records over 100 years old and for death records over 50 years old.  For records or certificates more current, you will not be able to browse, however if you have a general time period they will search for the record for you.

869 Park Avenue
Cranston, RI  02910

When you walk into this very busy office you will see a sign that says the only persons allowed in the vault to search for records are:


If you have an exact date of the birth, marriage or death then the clerk will go into the vault and retrieve the book.  It is then transcribed from the book to the shiny modern certificate for $20.  This bothers me.  What if the clerk makes an error transcribing?  When I asked for a photocopy of the page and would gladly pay for it and the certificate  I was told no - I could only have the certificate.  If you do not know the exact date of the vital event you are told to go to the Rhode Island State Archives or to the Rhode Island Historical Society.  The staff in this office seemed to have no patience for people there to search or obtain vital records.

1385 Hartford Avenue
  Johnston, RI  02919

This office appears to have all of their records indexed in a database on their computers.  They do not allow the public into the vault to search through records.  The clerk at the front desk was friendly and was willing to search through their database to help me locate records.  Unfortunately they were not there so I don't have information about costs for certificates or copies.

1670 Flat River Road
Coventry, RI  

The public is welcome to enter the vault to search for birth and marriage records over 100 years old and death records over 50 years old.  Land records, probate records, plat maps and more are also available in the vault to search through.  You are expected to make your own photocopies at $1.00 per page which is a little pricey but worth it for the opportunity to search the records yourself.

181 Howard Hill Road
Foster, RI 

Town Clerk :  Tina Freeman

According to their website all of their land and probate records are "Public Records" and their vital records are not.  If the record you want is over 100 years old they will refer you to the Rhode Island State Archives. Otherwise if you have an exact date of the vital event you will pay $20 for a certificate but they will make you a copy of the page of the book the record was found in.  The ladies in this office were friendly and had no problem with helping you look for records in their office.

More to come . . . . .


  1. Well, Coventry is evidently the town for me!

    Hope you are finding lots of helpful documentation on your quest!

    And please--give my regards to the lords and ladies of the manor...

  2. It looks like you have a nice locality guide in the making. Names removed to protect the guilty...

  3. I had a wonderful experience in the Clinton, Iowa clerk's office. They were friendly, helpful, and they let me look through the record index book. The next day they had the original records ready for me to look through and photograph myself at no charge! It was a wonderful experience. I wonder what Jackson County Iowa will be like next year.