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1782 Rhode Island Census

Privacy Level: Open (White)
Date: 1782 to 1782
Location: Rhode Islandmap
Profile manager: Barry Smith private message [send private message]
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The 1782 Census of Rhode Island

Rhode Island undertook a census in 1782 in response to a request made by the Continental Congress in 1781, asking states to enumerate residents by race and age. Under the Articles of Confederation the request was not enforceable upon the individual states. A resolution of the Rhode Island General Assembly in January 1782 called for an enumeration of the families and persons in each town in the state and described the classifications to be used in reporting results.[1]

The records include the names of heads of households in addition to numbers of residents. It has categories for white males and females under 16, 16-22, 22-50, and over 50. There are also categories for Indians, mulattoes, and blacks that are not divided by age group. Missing are the towns of Barrington, Johnston, Smithfield, North Providence, Richmond, and New Shoreham. New Shoreham could not be enumerated because it was "under the control of the enemy" at the time of the census.[1]

The most common printed version is Jay Mack Holbrook's Rhode Island 1782 Census. This is not an accurate transcription, in that it alphabetizes heads-of-household within towns and groups all people of color within households and gives totals only.

A truer version was done by Katherine U. Waterman. A serialized version, was published post-mortem in the NEHG Register during 1973-1975 under the name The Rhode Island Census of 1782. This is left in the order of the returns, although some of those were alphabetized at the time they were taken. It also provides the original data on age/sex/race demographics without aggregating.

Searching the American Ancestors database

If you are searching for a specific name, the simplest method is to go into the American Ancestors database search screen, select "New England Historical and Genealogical Register", and enter the person's name.

If you are interested instead in perusing a town, below are a list of towns in the census and a link to the starting page in the NEHG Register available online at American Ancestors (subscription required for access).

Where is Portsmouth?

Portsmouth returns appear, at least partly, to have been listed under Middletown.

Where is Jamestown?

Jamestown returns appear, at least partly, to have been listed at the end of Tiverton.

Bristol County

Kent County

Newport County

Providence County

Washington County

Symbols Used in Tables

The following symbols are used on AmericanAncestors for the census classifications:

A — Males under 16
a — Females under 16
B — Males 16 to 22
b — Females 16 to 22
C — Males 22 to 50
c — Females 22 to 50
D — Males upwards of 50
d — Females upwards of 50
X — Indians
Y — Mulattoes
Z -- Blacks


  1. 1.0 1.1 The Rhode Island Census of 1782. The New England Historical and Genealogical Register. Boston, MA: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 1847-. (Online database: AmericanAncestors.org, New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2001-2018.) Vol. 127 (1973), page 3.

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