Access to old inquest files

Any inquest held more than 75 years ago is open to the public.

From 1875, we hold the individual files relating to deaths investigated by the coroner. Unlike the earlier Coroner’s roll, the files are very rich in detail and content. These files contain all manner of statements from witnesses alongside the medical information about the autopsy. The information in the file can allow the researcher to not only build up a very vivid picture of the person and the circumstances relating to their death but also their life and conditions in the period prior to their death.

First, establish if an inquest was held and if it was by the Birmingham Coroner – this will be on the death certificate of the deceased. (We do not hold records of the Warwickshire Coroner; it must state Birmingham Coroner on the death certificate.) If the death occurred pre July 1875, then you will need to consult the Coroner’s Roll on microfilm in the Heritage Research Area. For any deaths post July 1875, the inquests are stored in our archival strong rooms in chronological order, so we need to be given the exact date of the inquest in order to find the file.

As the files are original archival material, the inquests can only be seen by making an appointment to view them in the Wolfson Centre for Archival Research.

A card index for inquests between 1875 to 1877 can be found in the Wolfson Centre for Archival Research. We also hold volumes of news cuttings for coroner’s court cases from 1876 onwards. These are indexed alphabetically. Viewing these can be useful if you know a rough year of death but not an exact date. You can order these in advance either through the Heritage Research Area or the Wolfson Centre for Archival Research.

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