Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Old Stone Bank

The records of the Emigrant Industrial Savings Bank of New York City are some of the best when it comes to helping a researcher find where their ancestors came from in Ireland. Financial and banking records in other states can also be just as useful if two criteria are met: (i) the bank had a system to prove a customer’s identity by asking a series of biographical questions to which it had the answers, already supplied by the customer, and (ii) the records of the institution have survived to this day. In Rhode Island, there is such a set of records.

The Providence Institution for Savings was founded in Providence, Rhode Island in 1819. The institution’s original building was destroyed in 1837. After seventeen years in temporary headquarters a new building was constructed at 86 South Main Street in 1854, which was expanded in 1898 into its present form. Since the construction of the domed building in 1854, the bank had been unofficially known as the "Old Stone Bank". The name was officially changed to Old Stone Savings Bank in 1967. This corporation was absorbed by Citizens Bank in 1993 after 174 years of service.[1]

The records of the Old Stone Savings Bank were acquired by the Rhode Island Historical Society (RIHS) and have been arranged by series. The series of greatest general interest is Series 8, the Signature Books, containing 29 large volumes. From 1844 to 1857, the books include only signatures with occasional comments. In 1857, the depositor's residence began to be recorded. As of 1863, these volumes recorded name, residence, occupation and remarks. Birthplace and age began to be recorded systematically in 1882. Marital status and names of parents were added in 1890. The books come to a halt in 1897.[2]

Local historian Raymond McKenna has worked extensively in these records and also maintains the website Federal Hill Irish, which is all about Irish immigrants in Providence, RI. He has compiled a listing of almost 2,000 surnames from the signature books and what counties in Ireland the people with those names came from.[3]

The records are not digitized but are available for research at the RIHS library, located at 121 Hope Street, Providence, RI 02906. You can read more about the collection by searching for 'Old Stone Bank Records' in the RIHS online catalog.

[1] Rick Staller. 2006. Old Stone Bank Records. Available online via Rhode Island Historical Society Catalog at http://rihs.minisisinc.com: accessed 23 April 2017.
[2] Ibid.
[3] McKenna, Raymond. Irish Surnames in Rhode Island & the Irish Counties They Represent. Federal Hill Irish. 20 November 2014. Available online at http://federalhillirish.com/2014/11/irish-surnames-in-rhode-island-the-irish-counties-they-represent: accessed 23 April 2017.


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