20 February 2011

Genealogical Research at the Providence Public Library

We headed south to Connecticut and Rhode Island for horse shows this weekend. After a cold and successful day showing at Windcrest Farm in Hebron, Connectiut, my daughter went off to support her team at another show at Brookside Equestrian Center in North Smithfield, Rhode Island. 

Bear with me, I promise this leads to genealogical research. Because my daughter was not actually riding today, I found myself in Rhode Island with some free time, an unfamiliar commodity. What does a genealogist do with a little extra time? She goes to the library, the Providence Public Library, which has Sunday hours from September through May.

This used to be my library of choice, just a hop skip and a jump from Classical High School, my alma mater. Opened in 1878 the Providence Public Library, although truly public, is privately owned and operated by a Board of Trustees. In 1989 the Providence Central Library was designated as the statewide reference center by the Rhode Island General Assembly. See the history and historical highlights pages of the website.

My goal at the library today was to search the Providence Journal archives for three obituaries. Online it is possible to search articles from 1983 to the present, but for prior years, one must go onsite. There is a Daily Index to the Providence Journal and Evening Bulletin covering the years 1900 through 2004, but not everything is included. Only obituaries of particularly notable individuals can be found.

MJ's great grandparents, Max and Sofia (Ponce) Feldman, were unlikely to be found in the index, so I headed straight for the microfilm. The Providence Journal is available on microfilm from 1829 through the present. It is located on the first floor and requires a librarian's assistance to pull. There were multiple readers, but I was sole user today. The machine I used was in good repair and good backlighting. Twenty cent copies could be made with a push of a button on the front of the reader. 

There were few full obituaries in 1913, 1920 and 1929. I found both great grandparents simply listed in the death notices. The third obituary I sought was for Jacob Ponce, who passed away in 1965. In 1965 there were many full obituaries, Jacob's among them. He may or may not be a relative, but his obituary gives some good clues to get started.

It was fun returning to an old haunt to do a little genealogical research. Providence is a great city. Even though I have lived in New Hampshire for almost twenty eight years, I still miss it. 

Scrappy Gen
Let's Remember!


  1. That's one of my favorite places. I wish I could spend more time researching there.

  2. I went to RIC and also spent time here. Good information about back issue of the Providence Journal. I need to look some of those too. I am not impressed with GenealogyBank's holdings for my home state.


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