A Guide to the Franklin County (Va.) Coroners' Inquisitions, 1808-1901 Franklin County (Va.) Coroners' Inquisitions, 1808-1901 0007329898

A Guide to the Franklin County (Va.) Coroners' Inquisitions, 1808-1901

A Collection in
the Library of Virginia
Barcode number: 0007329898


Library of Virginia

The Library of Virginia
800 East Broad Street
Richmond, Virginia 23219-8000
Phone: (804) 692-3888 (Archives Reference)
Fax: (804) 692-3556 (Archives Reference)
Email: archdesk@lva.virginia.gov(Archives)
URL: http://www.lva.virginia.gov/

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

Processed by: Ed Jordan

The Library of Virginia
Barcode number
Franklin County (Va.) Coroners' Inquisitions, 1808-1901
Physical Characteristics
.35 cu. ft. (1 box)
Franklin County (Va.) Circuit Court
Library of Virginia

Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

There are no restrictions.

Use Restrictions

There are no restrictions.

Preferred Citation

Franklin County (Va.) Coroners' Inquisitions, 1808-1901. Local government records collection, Franklin 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 Franklin County.

Historical Information

Franklin County was named for Benjamin Franklin and was formed from Bedford and Henry Counties in 1785. The county court first met on 2 January 1786. Part of Patrick County was added in 1848. The county seat is Rocky Mount.

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

Franklin County (Va) Coroners' Inquisitions, 1808-1901, 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:

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

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

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

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

Selected Coroners' Inquisitions of Interest

1808 Oct. 5, Death of John Abshire:

Abshire died when a tree stump accidentally fell back and crushed him.

1850 Jan. 7, Death of Luke Wright:

"Died by the visitation of God, or by the improper use of ardent spirits."

1851 Feb. 3, Death of Martha (a slave):

Martha was the property of Jefferson Wade of Franklin County. She died by hanging herself.