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Coroners' inquest papers - what's available?

Freeholders' records search screen Example of an online index available on the PRONI website Researching the records

What coroners’ records are held by PRONI?

Coroners’ records held by PRONI date from 1872 to 1997.  A relatively small volume of inquests have survived for the former part of this period (1872-c.1960) in comparison to a much larger volume which has been retained in recent years (including the Troubles period).  
Name Search has indexed most inquest papers for the period 1872-1920 and the original documents are open to the public for this period.  More recent inquest papers are closed to the public but requests for information can be made in writing to PRONI (see below for information on access).
PRONI does not take every inquest record created by the coroners, and indeed many older inquests have not survived.  Consequently, if a record does not exist that does not necessarily mean that an inquest did not take place.

What Coroners’ inquest papers are listed on Name Search?

In total, 6,206 files and papers relating to Coroners’ Inquests, 1872-1920 are now referenced on Name Search.
The Coroners’ inquest papers referenced on Name Search are indexed from the Coroners’ Inquests category of PRONI’s Crown and Peace (Court records) archive (PRONI references ANT/6/1, ARM/6/1, BELF/6/1, DOW/6/1, FER/6/1, LOND/6/1, TYR/6/1).  They are arranged by county and for Belfast.
  • Antrim, 1872-1899
  • Armagh, 1881-1899
  • Down, 1872-1920
  • Fermanagh, 1887- 1920
  • Londonderry, 1891-1891
  • Tyrone, 1890-1899
  • Belfast, 1894-1904
The database entries contain details of the surname, forename, address, date of death and date of inquest of the deceased.  The actual inquest papers themselves record much more information than what is listed on Name Search, such as the name of the coroner, the circumstances of death and names of the jurors.  
Relevant PRONI reference numbers are given, meaning you can come into PRONI and consult the coroners’ inquest papers mentioned in Name Search (or order a copy from PRONI).
It is anticipated that further Coroners’ Inquests will be added to Name Search in due course.
In addition, coroners' registers and over 250 coroners' inquest papers relating to criminal prosecutions have not been referenced on Name Search but can be found under other PRONI references (see below).

What coroners' records can be found under other PRONI references?

Coroners’ Inquests relating to murder, manslaughter or other criminal prosecutions

Coroners’ Inquests relating to murder, manslaughter or other criminal prosecutions often appear in the Crown and Peace criminal files (PRONI references ANT/1, ARM/1, BELF/1, DOW/1, FER/1, LOND/1, TYR/1).  
These inquests are not referenced in Name Search but can be searched using PRONI’s eCatalogue.  An ‘any word’ search for ‘coroners inquest’ plus the name of the deceased is a good starting point.  Please check the ‘access’ status of records held as some may be closed to the public (see below).

Coroners’ registers

Coroners’ registers contain a summary entry for a corresponding inquest, generally recording surname, forename, address, date of death, date of inquest and cause of death of the deceased.  As many of the inquest papers summarised in the coroners’ registers have not survived, this is a useful way of identifying if an inquest took place.  The only coroners’ registers to have survived for the period covered by Name Search (1886-1920) are for Belfast, although coroners’ registers for Belfast cover a period up to 1992.  These can be found under PRONI reference BELF/6/1/2.  There are also a small number of coroners’ registers for other counties covering more recent years.
Entries from the coroners’ registers are not included in Name Search but earlier registers are open to the public and can be consulted onsite at PRONI.  Check the eCatalogue for details of records held and access (see below).

Access to Coroners’ records

Coroners’ inquest papers are currently subject to 100 year closure (under review).  See a record I want to see is closed for further information on closed records.  
All entries listed on Name Search are over 100 years old and are open to the public.  If you have an enquiry relating to an inquest which is less than 100 years old, please contact PRONI and we can confirm whether or not any records are held.  
References identified on the eCatalogue will state whether or not records are open to the public under the ‘Access’ heading in ‘detailed view’.

Other sources for information on inquests

Newspapers

Local newspapers are also a useful source for recorded inquests.  Belfast newspaper library and local libraries can advise on the newspaper collections they hold.