GaspeeVirtual Archives
Research at the Old North Burial Ground on Providence, RI

By Leonard Bucklin, Esq &
Corinne H. Smith

The Gaspee Days Committee at www.gaspee.COM is a civic-minded nonprofit organization that operates many community events in and around Pawtuxet Village, including the famous Gaspee Days Parade each June. These events are all designed to commemorate the 1772 burning of the hated British revenue schooner, HMS Gaspee, by Rhode Island patriots as America's 'First Blow for Freedom' TM.  Our historical research center, the Gaspee Virtual Archives at www.gaspee.ORG , has presented these research notes as an attempt to gather further information on anyone who has been suspected of being associated with the the burning of the Gaspee. Please e-mail your comments or further questions to
Early History:

During the initial settlement period in the 1600s, Providence residents buried their dead in family plots on their own properties. But around the turn of the century an expanding population and rising property values dictated the need for a common burying place that was outside the prime building areas. So in 1700 a parcel to the north of town was set aside for "a training field, burying ground, and other public uses." The cemetery got a boost in occupancy when Benefit Street [the back street of Colonial Providence], which had grown from a series of paths winding through backyards, was widened and straightened in the mid-1700s. At that time many of the family plots were moved to the North Burial Ground.
Some tips....

The Old North Burial Ground (ONBG) is difficult to find anything in, and the indexes the overworked staff have to work with are not good.  The best way to easily find ancestors is to start at the RI Historical Society Library, Phone (401) 273-8107 (See Map).   Ask the staff about the John Sterling book on the ONBG.  Then, using his well indexed book find the names of the ancestors buried there plus write down the location that Sterling gives.  Sterling has divided the ONBG up into sections (for example, your ancestor might be in section "GB"), The book also has the advantage that it contains transcriptions of grave stone inscriptions that are no longer visable.  Plus there is another index in the book that gives the names of the next gravestones to the ones you are interested in.  Sterling looked at each gravestone in order and listed them as he saw them, For example, your ancestor may be at location "GB103" as Sterling as recorded it, and Sterliing will have the persons next to that location listed as GB102 and GB 104.  If you write down the names of the persons at GB102 and GB104, then you will have three names to look for, which makes hunting in this cemetary for your person at GB103 easier.

Now, armed with this information, if you go to the ONBG (see Map), you can tell the staff that you are looking for a person at GB103, and they have Sterling's map and can direct you to the general location of the section Sterling called GB. Call ahead (401) 331-0177 to the Old North Burying Ground with specific plots, so the groundskeepers can locate it and tidy up a bit, if they can.

I suggest you look at for an overviw of Sterling's work and at to see things done on Bucklin research at ONBG.

Now, as to your research needs your best bet by far would be the RI Historical Society Library at 121 Hope Street (interesects Power Street) in Providence, Phone (401) 273-8107. You can also get assistance or hire a local genealogist through the Rhode Island Genealogical Society.
Some more tips.....

The following additional tips were sent via e-mail from Corinne H. Smith, assistant director of the Athol (MA) Public Library

1. The office of the Old North Burying Ground is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday.  So if you have the code number that Mr. Sterling assigned to the plot, you can stop by the office first and the staff member will direct you then.  (I just tried to do that over the phone, and it seemed not to be possible to get directions that way.  So much for going there on a weekend!)

2. Because the RI Historical Society Library has somewhat limited hours, it might be easier for some folks to find Mr. Sterling's book in another library.  The book is available at the following libraries throughout New England.  Often itis kept in a non-circulating local history collection, so patrons will either have to visit the library, or call or e-mail the librarians and ask for assistance.

Rhode Island:
  • Sterling's book is also on the shelves of many public libraries throughout Rhode Island.  Patrons can access the state catalog system at (Link stale 2006).  The book is also found in the libraries of Brown University ( and the University of Rhode Island (
As long as I'm giving you this list, you might as well know that Sterling's book is also at these libraries:
Outside New England
We want to see anything pertinent that you dig up (sic) related to the Gaspee posted onto Gaspee Virtual Archives!  Besides, it will preserve for your family information for other persons with the same interest that you have, including your family 50 years from now!! Send pertinent info to  Thanks!
Back to Top    |    Back to Gaspee Virtual Archives
Originally Posted to Gaspee Virtual Archives 6/2004    Last Revised 07/2009    ONBG.html