Sunday, June 21, 2009

Newspaper account of Coroner's Inquest

I was checking the Online British Library catalogue for death entries of my most recent additions to my family tree. One might assume that an ordinary person would not be found in a county newspaper. Newspapers report coroner’s inquests. Years ago I found a short entry in the Carlisle Journal in 1845 for my ancestor, John Ridley.
“On the 9th instant, at Brampton, on the body of John Ridley of that place, nailor. He was carrying upon his back a bag of coals, and he turned to rest himself against the wall, when he fell to the ground and instantly expired; Verdict, Natural Death”
One might ask why would there be an inquest for an old man that died carrying a bag of coals. One of the grounds for an inquest was a sudden death. Accidents were the most common reason. Previous to now it was not practical to read the fine print in newspapers to locate such instances. With an every name index it becomes an easy task. I found an account of Robert the son of Clement Rogers and Sarah Scoging in the Ipswich Journal published on August 21 1875 . This account has all the details one would want to know plus more.
ASHFIELD: Sudden Death. - An inquest was held before C.C. Brooke, Esq., coroner, on Tuesday last, on the body of Robert Rogers, shoemaker, Ashfield, aged 57, who was found dead in a barley field, at Monk Soham, and was carried to his father's house at Ashfield. - Maria Pepper, wife of Thomas Pepper, of Monk Soham, said; last Friday afternoon, the 13th inst., about four o'clock, He ate a very hearty tea, and left about half past seven in the evening to walk home. The deceased has for some time been wandering in his mind, but was sufficiently well to take care of himself. He complained that his breathing was short. - James Parker, labourer employed by Mr. Edwards, of Monk Soham, said; Last Friday evening shortly after eight, I saw the deceased lying on his face across the footpath in a barley field. I raised him on one side. James Hammond was with me, and we found he was dead. Assistance was obtained, and deceased was ultimately brought here.- Mr. George Fletcher, surgeon, of Earl Soham, said he saw the deceased last Friday night, between nine and ten o'clock. He had since made an examination of the body, and found the heart slightly diseased, and one portion of the brain much diseased. - The Jury returned a verdict of "Death from natural causes"

The Ipswich Journal covers East Suffolk. The British Library’s online collection does not cover every area. For instance it does not have the Carlisle Journal where I found John Ridley in 1845. If they have a newspaper in your area of research then you are in luck. The next step in the process is to seek out the actual coroner records which may be found in Record Offices.

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