The Role of the Coroner
Coroners are responsible for investigating deaths in sudden or suspicious circumstances and for dealing with finds which might be treasure trove. The Borough of Doncaster was authorised by its charter of 1467 to have a coroner for the borough. Up to 1835, this was the mayor and then up to 1974, a person appointed by the council.
The borough coroner acted only for the town of Doncaster itself. Outside the borough, the West Riding coroner had jurisdiction. The West Riding coroners made returns to the West Riding court of quarter sessions in order to reclaim their expenses. However, these claims simply state the name of the deceased and the verdict of the jury. They contain no inquest papers. They are held by the West Yorkshire Service Headquarters at Wakefield.
Coroners' records have not survived in large quantities, and those that have are exempt (which means they are not open for public inspection) for thirty years under the Freedom of Information Act, s.32. Furthermore, in order to access coroners' records between 30 and 75 years old, written permission must first be obtained from HM Coroner, Union Street, Doncaster, DN1 3AE.
At Doncaster Archives, there are coroner's inquest papers for the borough from 1890 to 1974. There are some missing years, namely 1891, 1893, 1895, 1901, 1903, 1906, 1912-1914, 1918-1920, 1923-1924, 1926,1928-1929, 1931-1953 and 1964. Nevertheless, despite these unfortunate gaps, there are inquest papers for over eight hundred cases, and papers for deaths which did not result in an inquest.
There are also verdicts for the borough of Doncaster from 1625 to 1700, and a register of cases from 1936 to 1973. There are also coroners' registers of cases for the area outside the borough for the years 1932 to 1974.
An index to the records of the coroner for the borough of Doncaster from 1890 to 1930 by Margaret Wilson, titled Inquests and Inquiries was published by Doncaster and District Family History Society in 2002.
In many cases, the best source of information about a coroner's inquest may be the local newspapers. See the webpage on Newspapers for more information.