Coroner Inquests


  Coroners have been practicing their profession for centuries. A coroner is mentioned in a charter granted by the English King Athelstan of Wessex, whose reign began in 925 AD. The coronerís primary duty was/is to investigate a personís death, if that death was assumed to have been a result of unnatural causes, such as murder, and then to submit a report to the local magistrate.

  The coronerís duty in the 1700s was detailed in Giles Jacobís A New Law Dictionary, published in 1744:

"The Coroner is to go to the Place where any PerÉon is Élain or Éuddenly dead, and Éhall by his Warrant to the Bailiffs, ConÉtables, &c Éummon a Jury our of the four or five neighboring Towns, to make Inquiry upon View of the Body; and the Coroner and Jury are to inquire into the Manner of Killing, and all CircumÉtances that occaÉioned the Partyís Death, who were preÉent, whether the dead PerÉon were known, where he lay the Night before, &c. Examine the Body of there be any Signs of Strangling about the Neck, or of Cords about the Members, &c. AlÉo all Wounds ought to be viewed, and Enquiry made with what Weapons, &c. And the Coroner may Éend his Warrant for WitneÉÉes, and take their Examination in Writing; aqnd if any appear guilty of the Murder, he Éhall enquire what Goods and Lands he hath, and then the dead Body is to be buried."

  The coronerís job is still devoted to investigating any death that initially appears to be due to causes other than natural death. A person cannot be buried without a death certificate being filed. The coroner is empowered to hold an inquest to determine the cause of death and is the only person other than a doctor who has the authority to sign a death certificate. The coroner maintains the county morgue. Most court houses provide an office for the coroner, and it is there where the coronerís reports will no doubt be filed or stored. The information supplied on the coronerís report might offer insights into the death of an ancestor which are not available on the official death certificate.