A Guide to the Norfolk County (Va.) Coroners' Inquisitions, 1766-1909 Norfolk County (Va.) Coroners' Inquisitions, 1766-1909 1157334, 1171279-1171281, 1171283, 1171284

A Guide to the Norfolk County (Va.) Coroners' Inquisitions, 1766-1909

A Collection in
the Library of Virginia
Barcode numbers: 1157334, 1171279-1171281, 1171283, 1171284


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Processed by: Library of Virginia staff

The Library of Virginia
Barcode numbers
1157334, 1171279-1171281, 1171283, 1171284
Norfolk County (Va.) Coroners' Inquisitions, 1766-1909
Physical Characteristics
2.7 cu. ft. (6 boxes)
Chesapeake (Va.) Circuit Court
Library of Virginia

Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

There are no restrictions.

Use Restrictions

There are no restrictions.

Preferred Citation

Norfolk County (Va.) Coroners' Inquisitions, 1766-1909. Local government records collection, Chesapeake (City)/Norfolk 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 the city of Chesapeake.

Historical Information

Chesapeake, which was named for the Chesapeake Bay, comprises the former Norfolk County and the former city of South Norfolk. It was formed by court order in 1963 by a merger of these two entities, both of which thereby became extinct.

Norfolk County (extinct) probably was named by Adam Thoroughgood, a local resident, from his native county in England. It was formed from Lower Norfolk County in 1691. Norfolk County became extinct in 1963, when it was consolidated with the city of South Norfolk to form the city of Chesapeake.

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

Norfolk County (Va) Coroners' Inquisitions, 1766-1909, 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.

Related Material

Norfolk County County Court Minute and Order Books, Superior Court of Law Order Books and Common Law Order Books have references to the Coroners' Inquests and Commonwealth Causes where persons accused of murder were tried. Copies of these books can be found on microfilm at the Library of Virginia. Consult "A Guide to Virginia County and City Records on Microfilm."

Index Terms

    Corporate Names:

  • Chesapeake (Va.) Circuit Court
  • Subjects:

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

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

  • Death records--Virginia--Norfolk County
  • Local government records--Virginia--Norfolk County
  • Reports--Virginia--Norfolk County
  • Added Entry - Corporate Name:

  • Norfolk County (Va.) Circuit Court

Selected Coroners' Inquisitions of Interest

1818 April 6, Death of William Down:

Down drowned after making a misstep and falling overboard transferring from the ship Alert to the ship Constellation .

1820 March 23, Death of William Cattle:

Cattle came to his death in the performance of his duty as a second mate onboard the ship Concord as the hands were weighing anchor and instantly expired.

1821 Jan. 7, Death of Venus (slave):

The deceased was property of Frances Bashaw. Venaus was not killed by violence, but the severe treatment she received from Frances Bashaw hastened her death.

1823 Aug. 1, Death of Nelly (slave):

Nelly was the property of George Halson. She died in consequence of the severity of the whipping inflicted on her by George Halson and others acting in pursuance of the master's orders.

1825 April 5, Death of John Norton:

Norton, being in handcuffs onboard the U.S. ship, John Adams , jumped overboard and drowned.

1828 April 27, Death of Natt Ash (free negro):

Ash was murdered by being cruelly and inhumanely beaten or stabbed by persons unknown.

1830 Sept. 7, Death of Alexander L. Dade:

Dade accidently drowned after falling overboard from the U.S. ship, North Carolina .

1831 Feb. 17, Death of James Andevere:

Andevere fell from the hammock netting and struck the rail of the accommodation ladder while onboard the frigate Congress and engaged in duty as a Seaman in the U.S. service.

1831 April 3, Death of unknown person:

An unknown person was found deprived of the legs and arms and the top of the head (taken off and enclosed in a sack) and had been thrown into the river. The jury thinks it most likely ... performed by some persons for anatomical information. Race, sex, age unknown.

1833 May 25, Death of Harry (slave):

Harry was the property of John Owens' heirs. He was accidentally downed while engaged at a capstern (capstan) and was struck by a bar flying around and was knocked overboard.

1833 July 20, Death of Phoebe (slave):

Phoebe was a runaway slave who belonged to the estate of Henry Price of Sussex Co. in the state of New Jersey. While confined in the jail, where she had been admitted as a runaway slave, Phoebe suspended herself by the neck to a bar of the window with a handkerchief "until her life was extinct."

1833 August 26, Death of Thomas Griffiths:

Griffiths accidentally drowned as a seaman onboard the British ship, Experiment .

1835 Dec.24, Death of Joseph Wooddrop:

Wooddrop was a U.S. Marine who died from the effects of long indulgence in the extravagant use of ardent spirits.

1841 April 30, Death of William B. Syne:

Syne fell from the U.S. vessel, Pennsylvania , and accidentally drowned.

1842 May 10, Death of Edward (slave):

Edward came to his death by falling from the U.S. Steamer, Poinsett , and accidentally drowning.

1844 April 20, Death of Henry Mansfield:

Mansfield had been buried, but afterwards taken up and removed to the outhouse for postmortem examination. Came to his death under suspicious circumstances by causes unknown.

1844 September 18, Death of Andrew Johnson:

Johnson, a seaman, came to his death by falling from the U.S. vessel, Oregon , and accidentally drowning.

1846 Nov. 14, Death pf Ephram Murray:

Murray came to his death by accidentally falling off the stage alongside the U.S. vessel, St. Lawrence , that was being built in the Navy yard.

1846 Dec. 23, Death of Randall (slave):

Randall belonged to Yates Free School of Nansemond County. He came to his death by accidental drowning.

1851 May 9, Death of Mary (slave):

Mary belonged to Joseph Old. She came to her death by the violence of rats upon her body while she was asleep.

1853 Jan. 3, Death of John Welch:

Welch came to his death by accident through the train of cars on the Seaboard and Roanoke railroad unavoidably running over his body.

1855 Dec. 27, Death of Asa Blanchard:

Blanchard came to his death from lockjaw, induced by a wound on the right buttock, inflicted by a knife in hands of Belvin R. Scears.

1856 Jan. 5, Death of John Creekmore:

Creekmore came to his death by intemperance, exposure, and by falling into Jacob Myers' cellar which was not securely fastened.

1859 Feb. 24, Death of Anthony Sparrow (black):

Sparrow came to his death by ill-treatment and blows inflicted by his daughter, Peggy Fuller.

1861 Mar. 3, Death of an unknown male:

The unknown male came to his death by causes unknown and subsequently was a subject of dissection.

1863 Sept. 15, Death of Charles Morphield:

Morphied, a sailor, came to his death by attempting to swim ashore from the U.S. vessel, Warren .

1873 Sept. 6, Death of Benjamin Hines:

Hines came to his death by being struck by the engine of the evening express train, then running upon the track of the Seaboard and Roanoke Railroad toward the City of Portsmouth. He being ... standing or passing so near the track of said railroad as to prevent said train from braking without collision.

1874 July 7, Death of Trottman Orange:

Orange came to his death by poisoning by his wife, Mary Orange. This inquisition has the detailed testimony of six sworn individuals. Margaret Ash testified that Mr. Orange said to his wife "Mary, don't put that over my victuals. I don't like any such dog-on foolishness." Ash then asked him if he knew what he was talking about, and he said yes, he had been seeing it all the time.

1876 Sept. 29, Death of unknown person:

The unknown person came to his death by drowning from a wrecked vessel, name of which is unknown. Found drowned in Chesapeake Bay by the Steamer, Resolute . File contains receipt for coffin and grave being dug and other burial expenses. Cost: 12 dollars.

1876 June 14, Death of James E. Councill:

Councill came to his death from a pistol shot wound in the hands of R.R. Ferguson. Includes extensive testimony of witnesses. This was the second inquest, as jury could not decide the intent. Mr. Councill and Mr. Ferguson got into an argument and Mr. Ferguson shot him, but claimed it was by accident, as he didn't know the pistol was cocked, and he was just trying to intimidate Mr. Councill. Witnesses heard Mr. Ferguson threaten Mr. Councill using some rather explicit language.

1880 Aug. 23, Death of an unknown man:

The unknown man may have been James Andrews who drowned from being knocked overboard from schooner, John H. Bunting .

1881 April 15, Death of James E. Hale:

Hale came to his death from accidental drowning. The vessel he was supposed to be cast from was the Mary E. Frances .

1883 Oct. 15, Death of Andrew Johnson:

Johnson fell overboard from the sloop, Daybook , drowned .

1888 Dec. 29, Death of an unknown man:

Unknown man came to his death by accidental drowning of the steamer, Helen Smith .

1890 Aug. 28, Death of William Green:

Green came to his death while onboard the sloop, Maggie May , by having his throat cut from left to right with a sharp weapon or instrument, supposed to be in the hands of John Willis Ballard and John Wright