The history of Rhode Island is tied to religion and trade. Settlement began with Roger Williams, who in 1636 went to present-day Rhode Island after being banished from the Massachusetts Bay Colony for his religious views.
Later, Anne Hutchinson and her followers also went to Rhode Island because of religious persecution in Massachusetts.
Rhode Island’s fortunes rose with sea trade. During the 1700s, Providence and Newport were major ports. Trade with England was lucrative, as was the slave trade. Ironically, though Rhode Island ports were important ports in the triangle slave trade, the colony was the first to ban the importation of slaves.
In the late 1700s and early 1800s, Rhode Island’s economy shifted to manufacturing, especially in textiles. Mills throughout the state attracted Irish immigrants, French-Canadians, as well as workers from throughout New England.
You can learn more about Rhode Island history and resources in our new guide “Rhode Island Resources: Family History Sources in the Ocean State.”
No ancestors from the Ocean State? Check out the other state guides we’ve published. (And if your state isn’t there yet, keep an eye out for it — it will be added soon!)