San Mateo County Genealogical Society's Blog featuring society events, projects, meeting notes and other items of relevance to genealogists.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

SMCGS Databases Online: Coroner's Records

1878 inquest for Daniel F. Gordon
"The Coroner's office must inquire into the circumstances of sudden, unexplained, violent and unnatural deaths. This may require a post-mortem examination sometimes followed by an inquest. The Coroner's inquiry is concerned with establishing whether or not death was due to natural or unnatural causes. If a death is due to unnatural causes, for example in a road traffic accident, accident at work or by drowning, then an inquest must be held by law."  (SMC Coroner's Office Website)


Coroner's files can be a significant source of information.  Not only will information relating to the death of an individual be revealed, you can also find insights into family relationships, clues as to a person's behavior and other items that add color to your genealogical stories.  Here are a few snippets of information from San Mateo County Coroner’s Records......   (Read more in the Nov 2013 issue of the SMCGS Newsletter which is available to members online or in the SMCGS and other genealogical libraries.)  

SMCGS member, Russ Brabec, has created an Index to San Mateo County Coroner's Records.  It currently covers the records from the inception of the county to 1971.  A work in progress, it will eventually cover all records housed in the SMC Record Repository. Barry Goyette has joined the effort.  The index gives the case number, the container, the name, age and birthplace of the deceased and the cause of death.  As you see in this example there are some unidentified bodies, many more are listed as Unknown.

While all of the records can be ordered from the San Mateo County Recorders Office, you can avoid the fee, which is a bit hefty, for reports through 1946 by using the digital images on Family Search. To speed you on your way you will find a Coroner's Records Finding Aid that allows you to go straight to the record set that includes the case you are looking for.

Navigating through these records on FamilySearch takes just a few minutes if you use the correct technique.  Start by finding the right set for the case you want, perhaps #950.  Click on Coroner's reports no 934-988 1920-1921 to open the record set.  This set of records has 510 pages.  950 would most likely be in the first half of those records and probably well before the half mark.  Think easy navigation and pick say 200 type that into the box and assess where it got you.  In this case it was page two of a case.  I hit the back button to page one, but there was no case number so I went back another page and there it was 950.  I admit that was a little bit of luck, but generally I do not have to work very hard to find the record. Say page 200 had been case 940, you might then use the box to go to 250.  If that was case 955, you might go back to page 225.  You now have at the most 25 pages either way to find your record.

Check out the other SMCGS Databases and good luck with your research

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