Southern New England


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Southern New England
Research Facilities and Resources

Searching for our Irish ancestors and relatives requires some different and innovative strategies at times. We have used all of the research facilities listed below, and couldn't resist the opportunity to give our opinion. However, regardless of our preferences, we have had to use each and every one of these facilities in our quest. One note, most of the libraries in this geographical area have a primary focus on Mayflower, colonial and early Yankee families, of course. It has only been within the past few years that there has been some concerted effort and interest in collecting resources related to immigrant history. But there is quite a lot of information that can be found using the local facilities. Generally, you must go to the local library for each city to access the local newspaper and city directories, and you might just be surprised at what else might be available. Don't be afraid to ask! If you discover a good resource, let us know and we will list it on this page.

May the luck o' the Irish be with ye in your search! 

Our Ratings - 1 to 5 Shamrocks

Keeley Library, BMC Durfee High School, Fall River MA
The on-line site of the Keeley Library has a large number of materials dealing with local history. With regard to B.M.C. Durfee High School, the library has some materials about early Durfee history also. These materials are made available to promote pride in the community and to engage students and the community in research about the city's cultural heritage. Much to our delight, we found that the school has scanned and posted Adobe PDF versions of all their yearbooks from 1912 through 1989 on their website. There is also a large number of historical articles and books, all reproduced in full. This is a wonderful resource to study the history of Fall River and find some grandparents' or cousins' graduation photos.

New Bedford MA Public Library  
613 Pleasant St.
New Bedford MA 02740
(508) 991-6275
Hours: Reference Dept. - Mon. to Thurs. 9 am to 9 pm; Fri. & Sat. 9 am to 5 pm
Special Collection/Genealogy Dept. - Mon., Wed., Fri. 1 pm to 5 pm; Tues., Thurs. 1 pm to 9 pm; Sat. 9 am to 5 pm
As far as we are concerned, this is the place to go to get the most available info in one visit, and if your research time is limited, go here first. The reference room has 7 microfilm reader/printers; copies $.25. The collection includes: Mass. State Vital Records - births, marriages & deaths to 1900, both indexes and the actual records; RI State Vital Records, both indexes and records to 1890; New Bedford marriage and death indexes and records beyond 1900; City directories for New Bedford, Fall River, and some for Taunton; Federal census records for SE Mass. and RI for 1790 to 1920, and 1930 soon to be added, with the soundex for 1880; 1855 and 1865 Mass. state census; New Bedford school/work records; Naturalization indexes to 1906 for both Mass. and RI.; Passenger lists; New Bedford newspapers from the early 1800s; and lots of other miscellaneous reference materials. The Special Collections room contains primarily printed materials, photocopies $.10, and includes: printed directories for many local cities and towns; published church records - mostly marriages with some baptisms -  for many area cities and towns, including a photocopy of the records of the earliest New Bedford parish of St. Mary's, now called St. Lawrence; indexes to newspaper notices of deaths and marriages; card index to the New Bedford Seaman's Protection records; a complete set of the Mass. Vital Records to 1850 series, Arnold's RI Vital Records, and Barbour collection of Vital Records for Conn.; a vast collection of published family genealogies and reference works, including The Search for Missing Friends and some English and Irish published records and reference works. There are also some on-line and CD resources. Staff are very helpful and very knowledgeable, and some research for specific inquiries by mail will be undertaken.

Rhode Island Historical Society Library  
121 Hope St.
Providence, RI 02906
(401) 331-8575
Hours: Tues. to Sat. 9 am to 5 pm
Thanks to Robin Flynn, Assistant Reference Librarian at RIHS for providing an update to our information. The RIHS website now includes a link to our SNE Irish site. The RIHS library has a primary focus on RI sources, but does contain some information on the neighboring areas of Mass. and Conn. There are several microfilm readers with 2 that are also printers; cost per copy $.75. Photocopies are $.25, with a new photocopier. The collection includes: a large number of printed family genealogies; Vital records of Mass. and Conn. Arnold's Vital Records of RI. Indexes to RI State Archives Vital Records collection. The Providence Journal back to its earliest days in the 1800s as well as several other local town newspapers for RI. Federal census records for 1790 to 1930, with the Soundex for 1880, 1900 and 1920. An index for the 1930 is available via the library's subscription to the web site AncestryPlus (a research library version of AncestryPlus, which is a combination of databases from Ancestry and the Gale Group, includes UK records. Also, in addition to the Soundex indexes for the 1880, 1900, and 1920 censuses, there is  now a CD-ROM index to the 1910 census. RI State Census records for 1865, 1875 and 1885. Access to the complete records of the RI Cemetery Database. A large collection of City and town directories for RI towns and some nearby Mass. towns. Lots of RI, Mass. and Conn. town histories and varied other reference sources. The library also has a Soundex index to RI naturalization records between 1790 and 1906 that can be helpful in determining if an Irish ancestor was naturalized. Staff is very helpful. There is not a lot of specific Irish material, but the general RI state resources and newspaper access make it worth a visit.

Rhode Island State Archives
337 Westminster St.
Providence, RI 02903
(401) 222-2353
Hours: Mon. to Sat. 8:30 am to 4:30 pm
This is the place to go for RI vital records information after 1853. There are 3 microfilm readers/printers and 1 microfiche reader; all copies are $.15 as are photocopies. The staff is very knowledgeable and very helpful. The holdings include: state returns of all RI town vital records, births and marriages from 1853 to 100 years ago, currently 1902, and deaths from 1853 to 50 years ago, currently 1952, with indexes to all vital records; Federal census records for RI from 1790 to 1920; RI state census records for 1774, 1782, 1855, 1865, 1875, 1885, 1905 and 1915 - 1774 and 1782 have been published, and there are indexes for 1855 - 1875 and a street finding guide for 1915 (1885 and 1905 are recorded alphabetically by surname); card catalog and index of Revolutionary and Civil War files; other military records; name indexes for other RI government documents; many City Directories though not as complete a collection as the RI Historical Society.

Providence RI Public Library
225 Washington St.
Providence, RI 02903
(401) 455-8000
Hours: Mon. to Thurs. 9 am to 8 pm; Fri. & Sat. 9 am to 5 pm
The Providence Public Library does not have a genealogical collection per se. They do have copies of Arnold's Vital Records of Rhode Island; the Index to Providence Births, Marriages and Deaths from 1636 to 1945; and Providence City Directories from 1824 to present; and Providence newspapers on microfilm. They also put out that they have a very valuable resource that is not available elsewhere - an index to the Providence Journal, including birth notices, marriage notices, death and funeral notices, and obituaries. Well, when I went to use this "marvelous" tool, much to my dismay, I learned that the index only references notable figures in Rhode Island history - politicians, well-known business people, celebrities, etc. The average person is NOT included. Events are well indexed, however, so if you want some references to historical events and perspective, it would be quite helpful.

Fall River MA Public Library  
104 N. Main St.
Fall River, MA 02720
(508) 324-2700
Hours: Mon. thru Thurs. 9 am to 9 pm; Fri. & Sat. 9 am to 5 pm 
 [Thanks to Patricia Redfearn, Head of Reference Services for the library for updating our information.] The Main Branch of the Fall River Library has now reopened, after extensive renovations. The library looks terrific. The stacks, previously closed to patrons, are now open, and the library has a fresh new look, while maintaining much of its beautiful historic interior. The research collection includes: Fall River vital records (births, deaths, and marriages) from 1803 to 1889; Federal Census for Fall River for 1850, 1860, 1870, 1900, 1910, 1920 1930; Fall River city directories from 1853 to the present; Fall River newspapers on microfilm dating from 1826; Indices to the obituaries in the Fall River Herald for the years since 1957 are in the process of being compiled; Microfilm draft registration records for World War I for Fall River; Published marriages and baptisms for Saint Anne's Church; City poll tax lists. Staff is helpful. There are 3 microfilm reader/printers. Copies are $.25; the new microfilm reader/printers do a nice copy, even of photographs copied from the newspapers. Photocopies are $.10.

Catholic Diocese of Providence RI
We have only dealt with the Providence Diocese office once or twice, and our inquiries have been related to cemetery records. It is our understanding that parish records are still kept at the individual churches. However, our questions related to burials at the Catholic cemeteries were answered cheerfully by phone. I would suggest, however, that inquiries are best sent by mail. Some of the churches that had large French-Canadian congregations have had some records published by the American French Genealogical Society, and most of these are available at the RI Historical Society and the New Bedford Library. But the earlier and primarily Irish churches have no such published compilations. Inquiries related to Baptisms and Marriages should be written and sent by mail to the individual parish church office.

Catholic Diocese of Fall River MA
There is no centralization of records in the Fall River Diocese. All sacramental records are kept by the individual parish churches. Our personal experience has been that responses to inquiries are subject to the whims of the church pastor and office staff. Some of the churches that had large French-Canadian congregations have had some records published by the American French Genealogical Society, and most of these are available at the RI Historical Society and the New Bedford Library. But the earlier and primarily Irish churches have no such published compilations. Your best bet is to send written inquiries by mail to the specific parish church office. If you do not receive a response within a reasonable time, follow-up with a phone call.

Fall River MA Catholic Cemeteries
St. Patrick's Cemetery Office
2233 Robeson St.
Fall River, MA 02720
(508) 679-2535
The Cemetery Office holds the existing records for burials at St. Patrick's, St. Mary's and St. John's Cemeteries in Fall River. There are very few remaining records for burials in St. Mary's. Apparently, perhaps in the 1920s, a number of graves at St. Mary's were moved to St. Patrick's, but there is no information about these re-burials. There are some records for St. John's, but they are certainly not complete. Records for St. Patrick's begin in 1891, although there were burials prior to that date. Records from 1891 to 1915 contain very little information. After 1915, the records are more complete and contain a great deal more information. The staff at the cemetery office are very willing, accommodating and helpful. They do ask, however, that requests for information be in writing and sent by mail. Please remember to enclose a self-addressed stamped envelope. They do respond pretty quickly.

Taunton MA Catholic Cemeteries
Taunton Catholic Cemeteries Office
475 E Britannia St
Taunton, MA 02780-1513 
Phone: (508) 824-9570
The Taunton Catholic Cemeteries Office is now located near St. Joseph's Cemetery. I visited this office once a few years ago to ask a specific question while in the area, and I remember the staff as helpful. The note found by Al Rose below identifies what cemeteries are covered, though I'm not sure what "Father Wilson's Cemetery" is. Anybody have any info?

From Al Rose:
While browsing the Bristol County MA web pages, I found this excerpt posted inside the cover of a 1935-1938 survey of Taunton cemeteries. 

Taunton Catholic Cemeteries
65 Sumner Street, 
Taunton, Mass. 
Dear Friend,
All books and records of St Mary's Cemetery at Mayflower Hill, of St Joseph's Cemetery on East Brittania Street, of Father Wilson's Cemetery on Broadway, of St James Cemetery on Liberty Street, East Taunton and St Francis' Cemetery on Globe Street, are to be found at the office of the Taunton Catholic Cemeteries, 60 Sumner Street, Taunton, Mass.
Yours very truely,
James ?olan.