I love Death Certificates. Just like marriage certificates and birth certificates they can come up with all sorts of surprises. The most recent one I have found had those lovely words- inquest held and a date on the certificate.
Inquests could be held for a whole heap of reasons including; sudden or unnatural deaths, deaths in police custody, homicides, suicide or acts of violence and a number of other situations. If you want to find out more about inquests you can go here https://www.records.nsw.gov.au/state-archives/guides-and-finding-aids/archives-in-brief/archives-in-brief-4
So the other day I received a couple of death certificate transcriptions and on one, under reason for death was this startling piece of information;-
HAEMORRHAGE FROM A CUT THROAT, WILFULLY SELF ADMINISTERED FINDING AT AN INQUEST HELD AT SYDNEY ON 27 JUL 1953 – E J FORREST SM, CITY CORONER
This of course lead to the next question- what happened at the Inquest? Normally I would answer this question by sitting at my computer and hunting on Trove- http://trove.nla.gov.au/ but in this case there was nothing. Not all inquests were reported so this is not surprising. So my next step was to go to the NSW State Archives website. There to my joy was an index to the inquest I was after and the contents of the whole document were kept at the Archives. So off to the Archives for me.
At the Archives I ordered a copy of the inquest. This was a slender document that held only a couple of pages but all of them were very relevant. They included the depositions of witnesses including the wife of the deceased.
Inquests can have photos so if you go looking for them be prepared. Frequently they do not have photos and they just have descriptions but you never know what you are going to find. In this case there were no photos, but there were some graphic descriptions.
The person who had killed himself had done so by cutting his own throat with a cut throat razor. Although there were no photos there were references to the ‘bloody razor’ that had obviously been presented in Court as part of the evidence. There were accounts of the police man who had first arrived at the scene, the apprentice who had tried to help the deceaseds wife and the wife who the deceased had tried to smother before she climbed out the window to safety.
As a document this inquest was full of very useful information, as a piece of family history as recent as 1953, this is a document that should be viewed and commented on here with respect and without impact on the family members it concerns most deeply. So, no names on this one and no tags to the relevant family.
Enjoy looking at your death certificates, they can hold all sorts of surprises.