A Guide to the Matthews County (Va.) Coroners' Inquisitions, 1867-1902 Matthews County (Va.) Coroners' Inquisitions, 1867-1902 0007327065

A Guide to the Matthews County (Va.) Coroners' Inquisitions, 1867-1902

A Collection in
the Library of Virginia
Barcode number: 0007329897


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 number
Matthews County (Va.) Coroners' Inquisitions, 1867-1902
Physical Characteristics
.35 cu. ft. (1 box)
Matthews County (Va.) Circuit Court
Library of Virginia

Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

There are no restrictions.

Use Restrictions

There are no restrictions.

Preferred Citation

Matthews County (Va.) Coroners' Inquisitions, 1867-1902. Local government records collection, Matthews 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 Matthews County.

Historical Information

Matthews County was named for Thomas Matthews, of Norfolk, the Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates in 1790 when the county was formed from Gloucester County.

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

Matthews County (Va) Coroners' Inquisitions, 1867-1902, 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:

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

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

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

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

Selected Coroners' Inquisitions of Interest

1888 Aug. 6, Death of two unknown infants:

Postmortem examination conclusively showed that the children were stillborn, and that there was no evidence of foul play on the part of the mother. The county attempted to avoid paying for the postmortem by claiming that the two children, who were born in a cornfield, were non-residents.

1891 Nov. 5, Death of an unknown, white male:

Death caused by drowning, but where and when the deceased drowned is unknown. The identity of the deceased, along with any other details concerning his death could not be determined due to the fact that his "head and face were so eaten by crabs or fish."