A Guide to the Roanoke County (Va.) Coroners' Inquisitions, 1840-1946 Roanoke County (Va.) Coroners' Inquisitions, 1840-1946 0007296972, 0007322478, 0007322479, 0007322483

A Guide to the Roanoke County (Va.) Coroners' Inquisitions, 1840-1946

A Collection in
the Library of Virginia
Barcode numbers: 0007296972, 0007322478, 0007322479, 0007322483


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
0007296972, 0007322478, 0007322479, 0007322483
Roanoke County (Va.) Coroners' Inquisitions, 1840-1946
Physical Characteristics
1.05 cu. ft. (3 boxes) and 1 v.
Roanoke County (Va.) Circuit Court
Library of Virginia

Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

There are no restrictions.

Use Restrictions

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Preferred Citation

Roanoke County (Va.) Coroners' Inquisitions, 1840-1946. Local government records collection, Roanoke County Court Records. The Library of Virginia, Richmond, VA 23219.

Acquisition Information

These items came to the Library of Virginia in a transfer of court records from Roanoke County. The one volume came to the Library of Virginia under the accession number 50203.

Historical Information

Roanoke County was named for the Roanoke River. The name is an Indian word meaning shell money. The county was named from Botetourt County in 1838, and part of Montgomery 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

Roanoke County (Va) Coroners' Inquisitions, 1840-1946, 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.

Roanoke County (Va) Coroners' Inquisitions, 1932-1940, is a volume containing coroners' reports. Information recorded includes case number, date of report, name of deceased, age, sex, date of death, mode of death, whether inquest was performed, whether autopsy was performed, disposition of body, and coroners' notes. Many of the reports include newspaper clippings of stories related to the death of the deceased or obituaries.


Chronological by date coroner filed inquisition in the court.

Index Terms

    Corporate Names:

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

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

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

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

Selected Coroners' Inquisitions of Interest

1853 Jun. 20, Death of Elias (slave):

Elias, a slave owned by William Ferguson, died by hanging himself on a tree with a rope by the neck.

1872 Jan. 12, Death of Charles Hopkins:

Hopkins, an infant, died from a blow on the neck from an axe. The blow severed his neck bone and was inflicted by his mother, Julia Hopkins.

1887 Aug. 15, Death of J.A. Haley:

Died after being struck by lightning.

1888 Apr 17, Death of Caswell Madison:

Died from "valvular disease of the heart, caused by the excitement and overexertion" of attempting to arrest several church-goers who disturbed a religious service by slamming the church door.

1899 Dec. 25, Death of an unknown white male:

Death was caused by wounds inflicted by a railroad train on the Norfolk and Western Railroad. The inquest includes a photograph of the deceased.

1908 Jun. 11, Death of Samuel. T. Arthur:

Died of carbolic acid poisoning taken with suicidal intent.

1909 Jan. 29, Death of Andro Husar:

Died by being run over by a train on the Norfolk and Western Railroad Company's track. He died the same month he declared his intent to become a U.S. citizen.

1926 Mar. 2, Death of James Sidney McGuire:

Died by a gunshot wound caused by a bullet fired from a pistol in the hand of Mrs. Susie McGuire, his wife. It was fired in defense of the lives of herself and her father. In the opinion of the jury, the shooting was fully justifiable.

1891 Oct. 2, Death of Harry Evans, alias Harry Evantine:

Died from being struck in the head by a beer bottle or some blunt instrument by Buck Toner. The inquest includes the torn shirt sleeve of the deceased which was used as evidence in the inquest.