The Resource Botetourt County (Va.) Coroners' Inquisitions

Botetourt County (Va.) Coroners' Inquisitions

Botetourt County (Va.) Coroners' Inquisitions, 1785-1854
Botetourt County (Va.) Coroners' Inquisitions
Inclusive dates
Botetourt County (Va) Coroners' Inquisitions, 1785-1854, 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, 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, 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
Member of
Biographical or historical data
  • Botetourt County was named for Norborne Berkeley, baron de Botetourt, the royal governor of Virginia from 1768 to 1770. It was formed from Augusta County in 1769, and part of Rockbridge County was added in 1785.
  • On 1970 December 15, a fire gutted the Botetourt County courthouse in Fincastle, Virginia. The court records were not burned but were heavily water damaged. Many of the court papers are extremely fragile today as a result of this water damage and some are not useable. Because of the near-loss of the Botetourt County records, the Virginia General Assembly passed the Virginia Public Records Act in 1975. The act mandated that deeds, wills, and other vital records be inventoried and microfilmed and copies of the film stored permanently in the Library of Virginia in Richmond for safekeeping. Counties could also choose to send court records to the Library of Virginia for storage and safekeeping as needed.
  • 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.
Cataloging source
Botetourt County (Va.) Coroners' Inquisitions
These items came to the Library of Virginia in a transfer of court records from Botetourt County
Chronological by date of inquisition or date coroner filed inquisition in the court.
  • The Library of Virginia
Cumulative index finding aids
A list of selected coroners' inquisitions of interest
Governing access note
Access to original Botetourt County records is not granted without an appointment and without prior discussion with an archivist. Same day access to records is not possible. Advance notice of at least one week is required so that an archivist will have time to inspect the requested records. An archivist may determine that some materials cannot be served due to their physical state. The records were heavily water damaged and as a result are extremely fragile and can be severely moldy. Persons with mold or dust sensitivity may want to avoid research in these records. Patrons must consult with Archives Research Services prior to a visit to the Library of Virginia to view any original Botetourt County records
Immediate source of acquisition
Botetourt County Circuit Court
Terms governing use
These materials can be extremely fragile and moldy due to extensive water damage. An archivist may determine that a record is too fragile or damaged to be served. Patrons must consult with Archives Research Services prior to a visit to the Library of Virginia to view any original Botetourt County records.
Type of unit
cu. ft. (1 box)

Library Locations

    • Library of VirginiaBorrow it
      800 East Broad Street, Richmond, VA, 23219, US
      37.5415632 -77.4360805
Processing Feedback ...