In the lead up to Halloween, we’re excited to announce the launch of the New South Wales Registers of Coroners Inquests and Magisterial Inquiries 1796-1942.
Available online for the first time, this collection contains some 173,250 records and, depending on the date and the form used for the inquest, these records may include:
- name of deceased
- age and birthplace
- estimated date and place of death
- date and location of Inquest
- verdict of inquest (probably cause of death)
- name of the coroner or magistrate
- name of doctor
- occupation of deceased
- personal property belonging to deceased
Coroners were responsible for inquiring into any unnatural or sudden deaths in their jurisdiction. They also investigated deaths when a body was unidentified, a cause of death was uncertain, or the deceased was in the care of the state. As well, coroners could investigate fires that caused destruction of property. Magistrates could take depositions about circumstances of death in more remote areas where no coroner was available.
The records reveal that the most common cause of death was by drowning, apoplexy (or stroke) and ‘visitations from God’ (otherwise known as natural causes), though on occasion are also cases of murders and thieves who are killed during the course of a robbery.
Ancestry.com.au has uncovered records linked to mysterious stories of ghosts and murders enough to make your spine tingle. Take the case of Emily Bollard of Picton, NSW, who suffered a gruesome end in 1916 when she was tragically hit by a train in a railway tunnel. To this day, ghost hunters allegedly still see lights and shadows which have been explained as sightings of Emily’s ghost.
Adding to the ‘supernatural’ feel of this collection are links to domestic tragedy and unsettling deaths of children, such as Ray Blackstone and Stephen Cantwell.
On 15 October 1909, in the grounds of Studley Park (then Camden Grammar School), 14-year-old Ray Blackstone drowned in the dam after failed rescue attempts by his schoolmates. Ray’s body was placed in the cold, dark cellar of the school until his burial. 30 years later, the son of Arthur Adolphus Gregor, Twentieth Century Fox Australia sales manager, passed away in the transformed school house from appendicitis. It’s believed that the spirits of both boys play together and remain the house as a constant reminder of the tragedies that unfolded.
Local residents of Morpeth believe that the ghost of 10-year- old Stephen Cantwell, who drowned in an unfinished well behind Campbell’s Store on Tank Street, can be seen around the well. In the house next door, the spirit of his distraught mother Eliza, who lost sight of him just before he drowned, remains at her vantage point overlooking the well as if still searching for her beloved son.