A Guide to the Southampton County (Va.) Coroners' Inquisitions, 1797-1880 Southampton County (Va.) Coroners' Inquisitions, 1797-1880 0007313063

A Guide to the Southampton County (Va.) Coroners' Inquisitions, 1797-1880

A Collection in
the Library of Virginia
Barcode number: 0007313063


Library of Virginia

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© 2012 By The Library of Virginia. All Rights Reserved.

Processed by: Ed Jordan

The Library of Virginia
Barcode numbers
Southampton County (Va.) Coroners' Inquisitions, 1797-1880
Physical Characteristics
.45 cu. ft. (1 box)
Southampton County (Va.) Circuit Court
Library of Virginia

Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

There are no restrictions.

Use Restrictions

There are no restrictions.

Preferred Citation

Southampton County (Va.) Coroners' Inquisitions, 1797-1880. Local government records collection, Southampton County Court Records. The Library of Virginia, Richmond, VA 23219.

Acquisition Information

These items came to the Library of Virginia in shipments of court records from Southampton County.

Historical Information

Southampton County was named, in the opinion of many authorities, for Henry Wriothesley, third early of Southampton and treasurer of the London Company from 1620 to 1624. It is more likely, however, that the county was named for the borough of Southampton in England. Southampton County was formed in 1749 from Isle of Wight County, and part of Nansemond County was added later.

The separate office of coroner appeared in Virginia about 1660. The judicial duty of the office is to hold inquisitions in cases when persons meet sudden, violent, unnatural or suspicious death, or death without medical attendance. The coroner would summon a jury to assist him in determining cause of death. Prior to November 1877, the jurors numbered twelve. Between November 1877 and March 1926, the jurors numbered six. The jury viewed the body of the deceased and heard the testimony of witnesses. The coroner was required to write down witness testimony. After seeing and hearing the evidence, the jury delivered in writing to the coroner their conclusion concerning cause of death referred to as the inquisition. After March 1926, only the coroner determined cause of death. He could require physicians to assist him with determing cause of death. If a criminal act was determined to be the cause of death, the coroner was to deliver the guilty person to the sheriff and the coroners' inquests would be used as evidence in the criminal trial.

Scope and Content

Southampton County (Va) Coroners' Inquisitions, 1797-1880, are investigations into the deaths of individuals who died by a sudden, violent, unnatural or suspicious manner, or died without medical attendance. Causes of death found in coroners' inquisitions include murder, infanticide, suicide, domestic violence, exposure to elements, drownings, train accidents, automobile accidents, and natural causes, or as commonly referred to in the 19th century, visitation by God. Documents commonly found in coroners' inquests include the inquisition, depositions, and summons. Criminal papers such as recognizance bonds can be found in coroner inquisitions. Information found in the inquisition include the name of the coroner, the names of the jurors, the name and age of the deceased if known, gender and race of the deceased, and when, how, and by what means the deceased came to his or her death. If the deceased was African American, the inquest would identify the deceased as a slave or free person if known. If the deceased was a slave, the inquest would include, if known, the name of the slaveowner and the slaveowner's residence. Information found in the depositions include the name of the deponent and his or her account of the circumstances that led to the death of the deceased. Slaves were deponents in coroner investigations.


Chronological by date coroner filed inquisition in the court.

Index Terms

    Corporate Names:

  • Southampton County (Va.) Circuit Court
  • Subjects:

  • African Americans--History
  • Coroners--Virginia--Southampton County
  • Death--Causes--Virginia--Southampton County
  • Free African Americans--Virginia--Southampton County
  • Infanticide--Virginia--Southampton County
  • Murder victims--Virginia--Southampton County
  • Murder--Investigation--Virginia--Southampton County
  • Slaveholders--Virginia--Southampton County.
  • Slaves--Virginia--Southampton County.
  • Suicide--Virginia--Southampton County
  • Women--Virginia--Southampton County
  • Geographical Names:

  • Southampton County (Va.)--History
  • Genre and Form Terms:

  • Death records--Virginia--Southampton County
  • Local government records--Virginia--Southampton County
  • Reports--Virginia--Southampton County

Selected Coroners' Inquisitions of Interest

1799 October, Death of Joshua Butt:

Died after having his throat cut from ear to ear by his newly purchased slaves while traveling on the main road with Harris Spears.

1799 October, Death of Harris Spears:

Died after having his throat cut from ear to ear by his newly purchased slaves while traveling on the main road with Joshua Butt.

1802 February 4, Death of William Summerrell:

Shot and killed with a gun in the hands of Harman.

1817 May, Death of Jim, a slave:

Died while attempting to ride across Seacock Swamp. He was intoxicated and fell into the swamp and drowned.

1822 June 17, Death of Carper, a slave:

Died from some unknown cause other than the flagellation recently received from his master.

1829 November, Death of Sandy, a slave:

Shot by Jacob B. Bryant after he (Sandy) was seen with a stolen hog, which had been killed and was over a fire.

1833 January 22, Death of George Bolton:

Hung himself with his handkerchief and a suspender from the ceiling of the jail where he was being detained on the charge of horse stealing.

1847 March 16, Death of Davy, a slave:

Died from three slight wounds inflicted just above the eyes with a stick by an unknown person or persons who were attempting to apprehend him because he was a runaway slave.

1852 March 15, Death of an infant child:

Killed by its supposed mother, Cinderilla Adams, by burying it in a hole in the floor of a smoke house.

1875 May, Death of the infant child of Sally Francis:

Died from an abortion that was produced by drugs administered by Isaac Wood.