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Untimely Ends: Using Inquests for Family and Local History

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Victorian Archives Centre

Conference Room

99 Shiel Street

North Melbourne, Victoria 3051

Australia

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Inquest records from 1840 - 1985 are some of the most popular records in the Victorian Archives. While their main purpose is to inquire into the causes and circumstances surrounding premature death—whether through natural causes, accidents or felonious means—the information in inquest files can reveal as much about how our ancestors lived as how they died. Depositions of evidence given by witnesses can provide a unique and rich source of family and local history. This session will provide guidance into using inquests as sources of social history, and explore the ways in which inquest records can inform us about individual life stories, social networks, working conditions and industrial technology, transport, diet and dress, personal habits and possessions, cultural and religious mores, and many other aspects of everyday domestic life. Inquests open a window onto family trauma, violence and tragedy, and we will also reflect on the ethics of using this type of source material.

Note: The content of some of the records discussed may be upsetting for some researchers.

Presenter: This session is presented by the Melbourne History Workshop under the direction of Andrew May, Professor of History in the School of Historical & Philosophical Studies at the University of Melbourne.

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Victorian Archives Centre

Conference Room

99 Shiel Street

North Melbourne, Victoria 3051

Australia

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