On The Coroner’s Trail

You never know when you’re going to need a coroner’s report, right?

It turned out that I needed one after I pulled an NYC death certificate and got a nasty surprise — my distant cousin had died after her skull (somehow) was fractured (by someone or something un-named).

Next step: a coroner’s report, which is not held at the Municipal Archives. But they will forward a request to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, if you find a report number. (The Archives holds microfilms of coroner-related records, although not for all years and all localities.)

This search had to wait until my next visit to the Archives, which came about because an American Girl doll had had an unfortunate accident and needed a trip to the doll hospital at American Girl Place in Manhattan.

Immediately, I thought of the coroner’s log. Wouldn’t anyone?

Typically, the trip went less than swimmingly, especially at first:

1. Run out of house with my youngest, briefcase over shoulder, crying “Go Go GO!” Ignore child’s snickers.

2. Run to school. Hug child goodbye (that was correct child, wasn’t it?) Sprint for bus stop a block away. Realize I am carrying mod pink lunchbox. Sprint back to school.

3. Hop bus, get to archives. Explain search to extremely nice, extremely brisk staffer, who points to Cabinet 8 on the far side of room. Kings County coroner’s logs are in there, she says.

4. Stare intently at rows of drawers labeled many things, but not “Brooklyn” or “Kings.”

5. Explain to second staffer what I’m looking for. Second staffer says those records aren’t at this facility. Despair.

6. Staffer No. 1 strides over and rolls eyes. She eyes the cabinet, pulls open drawer marked “Richmond and Queens” and points.

7. Yep, there are the films of the Brooklyn logs for 1946. Don’t ask why. Just grab microfilm machine and get going.

And yes, I did find the coroner’s report number, shuddering a bit along the way. (Random entry: “Unidentified bones found in water at foot of 58th St.”) Incidentally, you can bypass the coroner’s logs if the death certificate includes the coroner’s report number — so check.

Then it was time to file and pay for the request. If you ever end up doing this, you will give the nice people at the Municipal Archives a check for no more than $30. Specifically, in the field where one generally writes stuff like “Ten and xx/100 Dollars,” you will write “Not to Exceed $30.”

I’m mentioning this so that I can spare you (and the nice folks at the Archives) a repeat of my torn-up checks while I internalized this concept. This oddly-written check will cover a $10 search fee and the copying of up to 20 pages at $1 per page. If there are more than 20 pages, you’ll be notified of the fee so you can decide if you want to go for it.

So after the checkbook confetti cleared, the request was filed and I was on my way to the doll hospital.

The doll, by the way, recovered beautifully.

And the coroner’s report came a couple of weeks later, but that’s another story altogether.

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2 Comments on “On The Coroner’s Trail”

  1. Kerry Scott says:

    As genealogist AND grandma to an American Girl doll, I totally empathize with every single bit of this post.


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