Rhode Island Death Records and Death Index

It may surprise you to learn how often genealogists face this particular set of circumstances. They are aware of when their ancestor was born, when they may have married, when their children were born but they just can’t find out when they died.

There are a fair few instances where the only information missing is the death date which can be very frustrating. This is why knowing what death records may be available to you can be vital in your research.

It is important to note that one of the biggest issues in finding a death record can be looking in the wrong place. You may be surprised how often people miss records because they are looking in the wrong county and sometimes even the wrong state.

In this post we will be looking at Rhode Island state death records and indexes to try and help you find those elusive ancestors. So if you are confident that your ancestor likely died in the state of Rhode Island then read on and hopefully we can help you out.

About Rhode Island

The last of the original 13 colonies to ratify the U.S. Constitution, Rhode Island became a state on May 29th 1790 over three years after Delaware was the first to do so. The smallest of all the states at a mere 1,545 square miles it is not as you might imagine the least populated. This distinction goes to the much larger state of Wyoming.

An outcast from the Massachusetts colony who advocated for separation of church and state and religious tolerance was the founder of Rhode Island. Roger Williams was driven from Massachusetts and would go on to found this state in 1636. Its 400 miles of coastline quickly turned the state into a hub for shipping and trade.

Social Security Death Index 1935 – 2014

All American citizens, naturalized immigrants and resident aliens require a Social Security number for proof of identification and authorization to work. This number follows us throughout our life and when we die this nine digit code is very important.

The Social Security Death Index (SSDI) is a database of death records that was compiled from the United States Social Security Administration Death Master File. This was until 2014 when the rules changed and public access to the Death Master File had to take place through a certification program.

Those researching the deaths of ancestors in this state will likely find that most people who have died between 1936 and 2014 can be found on the Social Security Death Index. This does however only hold true if the person had a Social Security number when they died.

It is estimated that since 1973 the SSDI recorded 93% to 96% of the deaths of individuals aged 65 or over. The index was updated frequently and by June of 2011 there were 89,835,920 records available.

The index can be found on websites such as FamilySearch and Ancestry.com and offers details such as:

  • Given name and surname (middle initial since the 1990s)
  • Date of birth
  • Month and year of death (Full date of death for accounts active after 2000)
  • Social Security number
  • State or territory Social Security number was issued
  • Last place of residence when alive including ZIP code

Click here to search Social Security Death Index 1935 – 2014

U.S. Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007

This is more or less an extension of the information you can find from the Social Security Death Index. It has been extracted from the SSDI records but features more details. It does not include all of the names found in the SSDI however but there are at least 49 million names included.

In this record you may find additional information such as:

  • Date and place of birth
  • Parents' names who, if deceased, would have been over 75 when you are viewing the records (may be redacted if under 75)
  • Citizenship status
  • Gender
  • Sometimes race or ethnic group

Click here to search U.S. Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007

Rhode Island Death Index, 1630-1930

This is an extensive collection of death records drawn from multiple sources and displayed on Ancestry.com. As you require a membership to Ancestry you will need to pay to use this index.

The records in this index include information regarding the deceased, their family and when they died. Not all deaths would have been reported and recorded so it is possible that your ancestor may not be mentioned in this index.

Click here to search Rhode Island Death Index, 1630-1930

Rhode Island Historical Cemetery Commission Grave Search

This is a database compiled by the Rhode Island Historic Cemeteries Commission. It is an impressive collection of searchable burial listings complete with maps. Some of the grave markers date back into the 1600s.

Click here to search Rhode Island Historical Cemetery Commission Grave Search

Rhode Island Death Registrations, 1853-1937

This is a database that was created by the Rhode Island Department of State and holds information on recorded deaths and other vital records from 1853 – 1937. Births and marriages recorded in this index stop at 1921.

Click here to search Rhode Island Death Registrations, 1853-1937

Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence Cemetery Burials

This is a great index for locating burials in the state and has been compiled by the Office of Catholic Cemeteries. You can not only search for burials but also obituaries. If your ancestor is likely to have been buried in a Roman Catholic cemetery their burial may be recorded here.

Click here to search Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence Cemetery Burials

County Specific Death indexes, Obituaries and cemetery records

With Rhode Island being so small it only has 5 counties but it is always wise to look at the county level when you can't find records in the larger databases. Three of the state's counties have online resources that may be of help.


Despite being a small state with a relatively small population Rhode Island has a long history. This has been well recorded and there are plenty of genealogical resources online for this state.

Neil Edwards

Neil Edwards

Genealogist and family-tree research specialist

Neil was born in Shropshire, England surrounded by centuries of living history. His interest in the past has been a lifelong passion leading to undergraduate degrees in both Economic History & Geography and History & Politics.

This interest in history quickly translated to family history when he moved to the U.S. in 2010. It was here that he began working on his own family tree as well as that of his American wife. That research allowed him to gain a wealth of experience working with both U.S. and European genealogical documents and studying their best uses in researching family history.

Following 9 years of honing his genealogical research skills, Neil was proud to have earned a certificate in Genealogical Research from Boston University in late 2019. Neil also took part in the research process for a Duke University study into the families of 19th Century UK Members of Parliament.

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  • " Rhode Island Death Records and Death Index". NameCensus.com. Accessed on November 30, 2023. https://namecensus.com/blog/rhode-island-death-records-and-death-index/.

  • " Rhode Island Death Records and Death Index". NameCensus.com, https://namecensus.com/blog/rhode-island-death-records-and-death-index/. Accessed 30 November, 2023

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