A Guide to the Lancaster County (Va.) Coroners' Inquisitions, 1792-1926 Lancaster County (Va.) Coroners' Inquisitions, 1792-1926 0007327064

A Guide to the Lancaster County (Va.) Coroners' Inquisitions, 1792-1926

A Collection in
the Library of Virginia
Barcode number: 0007327064


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
Lancaster County (Va.) Coroners' Inquisitions, 1792-1926
Physical Characteristics
.225 cu. ft. (1/2 hollinger box)
Lancaster County (Va.) Circuit Court
Library of Virginia

Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

There are no restrictions.

Use Restrictions

There are no restrictions.

Preferred Citation

Lancaster County (Va.) Coroners' Inquisitions, 1792-1926. Local government records collection, Lancaster 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 Lancaster County. A portion of the items came under the accession number 50291.

Historical Information

Lancaster County was named for the English county. It was formed from Northumberland and York Counties sometime between 26 March and 16 September 1651. The county court first met on 1 January 1652. The county seat is Lancaster.

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

Lancaster County (Va) Coroners' Inquisitions, 1792-1926, 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

Significant Places Associated With the Collection

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Selected Coroners' Inquisitions of Interest

1832 Jun. 10, Death of Henry (slave):

Henry, a slave owned by David S. Doggett, drowned while attempting to swim across John's Creek.

1846 Sep. 23, Death of Alvin (slave):

Alvin, a slave owned by James R. Stephens was "feloniously killed and murdered" by Thomas Talf.

1846 Nov. 16, Death of Joe (slave):

Joe, a slave owned by Elizabeth Selden, was "strangled with a rope around his neck and hanging from a tree."

1871 Feb. 27, Death of the infant child of Lucy Jane Boyd:

Died from exposure and failure to tie the umbilical cord, "said infant being born in the open air and left there by its mother without any wrapping or covering."

1890 Feb. 17, Death of an unknown infant:

Died after its "mother, or some other unknown person, put child in a grass sack bag with bricks and sunk it into a well.