What do I need to know?
You need to know an approximate year of death, and the name/s of the deceased. Not all deaths resulted in an inquest. However, records of a post-mortem and initial investigation may be available - consider searching through the Body Cards as well.
How do I search?
Index data is gradually being published as it becomes available.
- For deaths between 1840 and 1961, or 1972 and 1985, enter a name.
- For deaths between 1962 and 1971, enter an inquest number.
If you need to find an inquest number, consult the hard-copy inquest index which is available in our North Melbourne Reading Room. A database version of the index is also available in some libraries and genealogical centres. Some earlier inquests can be viewed online, but most need to be viewed in the reading room.
About these records
An inquest is a legal inquiry held to establish the exact medical cause of death of an individual in certain circumstances. Where the inquest found a death was the result of a crime, it could also commit an accused for trial.
The inquest records relate to deaths that occurred when a person died suddenly, was killed, died whilst in prison, drowned, died whilst a patient in an asylum, or was an infant ward of the state and died under suspicious circumstances, among other circumstances.
We hold inquest records up until 2003. Some earlier date ranges have been digitised and can be viewed online, but most have not. Records up until 1985 are on open access. From 1986 onwards the records are closed to public access. To access these records you will need to make a request to the Coroners Court.
Once you have found records of interest to you, view them online or order them online and then view in our Reading Room.
What are in these records?
The content of the records varies over time. Each file may contain:
- the Coroner’s verdict on the cause of death
- names of the jurors
- depositions of evidence given by witnesses called
- a copy of the Victoria Police report
- exhibits, photographs, copies of autopsy reports and other medical reports (these are more common from the 1950s onwards).
WARNING The photographs in these records can be upsetting for some researchers. Spaces are available in our reading room for people who wish to view inquest records in private.