A Guide to the Richmond (Va.) Coroners' Inquisitions, 1865-1946 (bulk 1916-1946) Richmond (Va.) Coroners' Inquisitions, 1865-1946 (bulk 1916-1946) 1011644, 1011645, 1011650, 1011691, 1011644, 1011645, 1011650, 1011691, 0007442215-0007442216, 0007442218-0007442220, 0007442222-0007442224, 0007554582-0007554608, 0007554582-0007554608, 0007554582-0007554608

A Guide to the Richmond (Va.) Coroners' Inquisitions, 1865-1946 (bulk 1916-1946)

A Collection in
the Library of Virginia
Barcode number: 1011644, 1011645, 1011650, 1011691, 0007442215-0007442216, 0007442218-0007442220, 0007442222-0007442224, 0007554582-0007554608, 0007554582-0007554608


Library of Virginia

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Processed by: Mary Dean Carter

The Library of Virginia
Barcode number
1011644, 1011645, 1011650, 1011691, 0007442215-0007442216, 0007442218-0007442220, 0007442222-0007442224, 0007554582-0007554608, 0007554582-0007554608
Richmond (Va.) Coroners' Inquisitions, 1865-1946 (bulk 1916-1946)
Physical Characteristics
10.80 cu. ft. (24 boxes)
Richmond (Va.) Circuit Court
Library of Virginia

Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

There are no restrictions. A portion of the collection is unprocessed.

Use Restrictions

There are no restrictions.

Preferred Citation

Richmond (Va.) Coroners' Inquisitions, 1865-1946 (bulk 1916-1946). Local government records collection, Richmond (City) 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 the city of Richmond.

Historical Information

The city of Richmond, located between Henrico and Chesterfield Counties, was named by William Byrd (1674-1744), who envisioned the development of a city at the falls of the James River and with the help of William Mayo laid out the town in 1737. The name probably came from the English borough of Richmond upon Thames, which Byrd visited on several occasions. Richmond was established in 1742 and in 1779 was designated the capital of Virginia effective 30 April 1780. It was incorporated as a town, although "stiled the city of Richmond," in 1782 and was incorporated as a city in 1842. It served as the capital of the Confederacy from mid-1861 to April 1865. Richmond was enlarged by the annexation of Manchester (or South Richmond) in 1910, and by the addition of Barton Heights, Fairmount, and Highland Park in 1914. Further annexations from Chesterfield County occurred in 1942 and 1970.

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

Richmond (Va) Coroners' Inquisitions, 1865-1946 (bulk 1916-1946), 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. 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.


Chronological by date coroner filed inquisition in the court.

Index Terms

    Corporate Names:

  • Richmond (Va.) Circuit Court
  • Subjects:

  • African Americans--History
  • Coroners--Virginia--Richmond
  • Death--Causes--Virginia--Richmond
  • Infanticide--Virginia--Richmond
  • Murder victims--Virginia--Richmond
  • Murder--Investigation--Virginia--Richmond
  • Suicide--Virginia--Richmond
  • Women--Virginia--Richmond
  • Geographical Names:

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

  • Death records--Virginia--Richmond
  • Local government records--Virginia--Richmond
  • Reports--Virginia--Richmond

Selected Coroners' Inquisitions of Interest

1870 December 3, Death of Mollie Cummings:

Cummings came to her death from narcotic poisoning, administered by herself. Dora Rose testified that Cummings had said to her "I want to die; I don't want to live anymore. (T)he person I love does not care for me."

1872 May 18, Jenny Young King:

Young came to her death by medicines administered by N.A.H. Goddin to produce abortion, through the instigation of Wesley M. Brock. King had claimed to have been poisoned.

1873 September 30, George J. Derbyshire:

Derbyshire came to his death by accidentally shooting himself with a shotgun. Detailed testimony, some conflicting, given by ten witnesses. The shooting took place in or near Hollywood Cemetery. Wirt Turner testified that he and some other boys, including George Derbyshire, were bathing in the canal and calling one another nicknames. "I called George a Negro and he replied that he knew some there who had more black blood than he had. Afterwards, he called me 'clubfoot'. There was no blow passed between Derbyshire and myself while at the Canal, or at anytime before we reached the Hill, where the killing occurred. He then struck me first, and I struck him back; not more than four blows passed." Turner then gave an account of how George "drew the gun toward him [self] and it exploded. I did not shoot George Derbyshire ... (I)had heard some Negroes were accusing me of having shot Derbyshire. I know of no reason for their doing so."

1874 February 16, Maurice Shehan:

The coroners' jury was unable to agree upon cause of death. All agreed that Shehan came to his death by a pistol shot from William Owens, but some thought it was self-defense, and others "a moment of fun." According to testimony, Owens and Shehan were in Sullivan's bar on Main Street. They got into an argument about the "Cuban question." In the course of the dispute, Shehan said "let's fight it out." Shehan hit Owens and Owens shot him. One witness said both men were drunk. Another said "Shehan was about two-thirds drunk and that Mr. Owens appeared to be sober."

1875 March 4, Henry Sickels:

Sickels came to his death by delirium tremens while confined to the City Jail. The coroners' jury was of the opinion that the cell in which he died is an unfit place for the confinement of even a well person and that Sergeant Briggs failed to do as much for the relief of his prisoner as he should and could have done.

1885 March 27, Fannie Lillian Madison:

Madison came to her death by drowning in the Old Reservoir. The coroners' jury was of the opinion that Thomas Judson Cluverius was directly or indirectly the cause of it.