A Guide to the Arlington County (Va.) Coroners' Inquisitions, 1796-1902 Arlington County (Va.) Coroners' Inquisitions, 1796-1902 1209091-1209093

A Guide to the Arlington County (Va.) Coroners' Inquisitions, 1796-1902

A Collection in
the Library of Virginia
Barcode numbers: 1209091-1209093


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© 2011 By The Library of Virginia. All Rights Reserved.

Processed by: Sarah Nerney

The Library of Virginia
Barcode numbers
Arlington County (Va.) Coroners' Inquisitions, 1796-1902
Physical Characteristics
1.00 cu. ft. (3 boxes)
Arlington County (Va.) Circuit Court
Library of Virginia

Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

There are no restrictions.

Use Restrictions

There are no restrictions.

Preferred Citation

Arlington County (Va.) Coroners' Inquisitions, 1796-1902. Local government records collection, Arlington 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 Arlington County.

Historical Information

Arlington County was originally named Alexandria County. It was formed from a part of Fairfax County that was ceded to the U.S. government in 1789 but was returned to Virginia in 1846. The county name was changed in 1920 to Arlington, the name of the Custis family mansion (former home of Robert E. Lee), which is located in the 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

Arlington County (Va) Coroners' Inquisitions, 1796-1847, 1862-1869, 1872, 1879, 1885, 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, exposure to elements, drownings, train 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. 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, where the deceased was from, if known, 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.


Chronological by date coroner filed inquisition in the court.

Index Terms

    Corporate Names:

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

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

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

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

  • Alexandria County (D.C.) Circuit Court.
  • Alexandria County (Va.) Circuit Court.
  • Virginia. Hustings Court (Alexandria)

Selected Coroners' Inquisitions of Interest

1799 July 29, Death of Thomas Wade West:

Fell 18 ft from upper part of New Theater to stage and received a wound to head and broke his neck.

1803 Dec. 18, Death of unknown infant:

Put in bag w/ stones and drowned.

1804 Mar. 27, Death of Peter (slave):

A slave of George N. Lyles of Alexandria, Peter and Ned, another black man, were rolling a tierce of whiskey across the river, fell through the ice, and both drowned. Inquest was for Peter only.

1805 Aug. 17, Death of Unknown male:

Cause of death cannot be determined because the body is but a skeleton.

1805 Dec. 19, Death of Charles (slave):

Death caused by compound fracture in right leg received when jumping from the building he had been burglarizing in order that he may evade detection.

1807 May 16, Death of John Curren/Currin/Curron:

Death caused by a blow to head from brick received while violently resisting being taken by peace officers and trying to escape.

1807 Aug. 18, Death of Jane Murrey (slave):

Death caused by suicide by drowning. She belonged to George Gordon of the town of Alexandria.

1807 Nov. 3, Death of Mary McLaughlin:

Death by effects of being struck on back of the head with a hearth stone at the hand of her mother because she was "saucy." Classified as murder.

1808 Jan. 24, Death of Henny (slave):

Aged about sixteen years old, death caused by suicide by hanging after a fight w/ her mistress where blows were exchanged and after the master threatened to punish her if she did not behave better. Hired to Joseph Myers but lived in the house of Jacob Shuck.

1808 June 30, Death of Samuel Keitch:

Death by visitation of God and the effects of hard drinking of spirituous liquors and excessive heat of weather in addition to being corpulent.

1810 July 11, Death of William Shreve:

Death by suicide by tying himself up and drowning himself

1811 Oct. 22, Death of Joseph Bowling:

Death by a combination of a beating, a fall, infirmity, and drinking spirituous liquors.

1813 Aug. 22, Death of infant child of Elizabeth Bailess:

Accidental death by being suffocated and smothered while mother having a fit.

1815 Jan. 5, Death of male child of Daphney (slave):

Death caused by being frozen to death in stockyard after ran away to avoid being whipped by mother.

1821 Jan. 22, Death of Philip Phernoe:

Death caused by being frozen to death in a privy.

1822 May 13, Death of John (slave):

Death caused by accidentally falling and being caught in the cog wheel and wallower of Thomas Swann Jr.'s plaister mill.

1822 May 13, Death of John:

Death caused by accidentally falling and being caught in the cog wheel and wallower of Thomas Swann Jr.'s plaister mill. John is described only as a negro with no surname or owner mentioned.

1823 Oct. 8, Death of Mary Patton:

Death caused by a visitation of God and cruel and negligent treatment by her mother, Lucy Jones, and Hezekiah Scott.

1824 Apr. 15, Death of William Lanham:

Death caused by a blow from a heavy post when part of a house fell down.

1840 Apr. 13, Death of George (slave):

Slave of Doctor Murphy, his death caused by being struck by lightning.

1841 May 4, Death of Peggy Starke:

Death caused by her clothes taking fire.

1841 Sept. 24, Death of John Harris:

Death caused by undue use of the "Thompsonian Practise."

1843 Sept. 22, Death of infant of Sally Pierson (slave):

Death caused by a violent and malicious act of its mother.

1845 Aug. 9, Death of Samuel Sipple:

Death caused by the infelicitous treatment of a Thompsonian practitioner.

1862 Oct. 7, Death of John Hicks:

Death caused by a wound inflicted by some sharp cutting instrument in the hands of his son aged 12.

1867 July 14, Death of Griffin Burk:

Death caused by a minie ball fired by some unknown party in a negro riot. Extensive depositions.

1868 Apr. 6, Death of Francis Petit:

Death caused by the accidental discharge of a gun while duck hunting. He was shot in the back by George Hoskins.

1869 Apr. 7, Death of Elizabeth Jackson:

Death caused by accidental drowning by falling in ice house full of fifteen feet of water.

1869 Dec. 6, Death of Ella Green:

Death caused by accidental poisoning from phosphoric acid. The child had eaten something given to her by her friend Ella Shackelford which was alleged to be preserves but which was supposed to be taken from refuse swept from the store of Edward Querin that contained the ends of phosphoric matches.

1885 Sept., Death of Mary Johnson:

A resident of the Freedmen's Village, her death caused by appendicitis.