Rhode Island Probate Records

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This entry was originally written by Alice Eichholz, Ph.D., CG for Red Book: American State, County, and Town Sources.

This article is part of
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the Rhode Island Family History Research series.
History of Rhode Island
Rhode Island Vital Records
Census Records for Rhode Island
Background Sources for Rhode Island
Rhode Island Maps
Rhode Island Land Records
Rhode Island Probate Records
Rhode Island Court Records
Rhode Island Tax Records
Rhode Island Cemetery Records
Rhode Island Church Records
Rhode Island Military Records
Rhode Island Periodicals, Newspapers, and Manuscript Collections
Rhode Island Archives, Libraries, and Societies
Rhode Island Immigration
Rhode Island Naturalization
Ethnic Groups of Rhode Island
Rhode Island County Resources
Map of Rhode Island

Unlike any other state in New England, from colonial times probate functions have been organized by town, not county or separate probate district. The town council, in addition to its normal function, handled probate matters in Rhode Island. Wills were accepted and challenged, executors authorized, administrators appointed, inventories ordered, and estates distributed, although the town council book, probate book, or will book differed from town to town. It was not until much later that a certain uniformity began to take hold in the recording procedures, dividing town functions into separate books instead of locating them on whatever blank parchment space was available in the office or home of a council member.