Inquests, records of death.
Comparing a coroner record from 1771 with one after 1918 provides a vivid example of advances in forensic medicine. Early coroner verdicts were educated guesses at best, and sometimes truly inscrutable. On April 19, 1771, City Coroner Thomas Shreve invoiced the Common Council £66 for performing 20 inquisitions over the previous year. He listed each deceased person and the verdict on the invoice. For one of the deceased, Mr. Samuel Belknap, "a prisoner confined in jail" Shreve decided he had died by "the hand of God." (Common Council collection 1771)
There are three series of coroner records:
1. Inquests, 1823-1898. Dr. Kenneth Scott prepared an index of over 5,000 names listed on the inquest documents dating from 1823 through 1842. [Kenneth Scott: Coroners' Reports New York City, 1823-1842, Collections of the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society, Volume XII, 1989]. The entire "inquest" series is microfilmed; however it should be noted that towards the latter part of this series, only inquests pertaining to homicides were saved.
2. Ledger books: Record of deaths listed by the Coroner in ledger-style volumes (the information recorded about each death is similar to the information reported on the Health Department death certificate). The ledgers have been microfilmed; Manhattan, 1896-1898; 1915-1917; Brooklyn, 1898-1917.
3. Office of Chief Medical Examiner Death records, 1918-1950.
Researchers may request copies of the death records filed by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner from 1918 through 1950. Click here to download the search request form. This form is in PDF Format.