52 Ancestors: #9 Sarah Ann WOOD 1827-1887 – Her Husband Came From Outer Space

Hope that caught your eye! No, I’m not convinced that one of my ancestors was an alien from another world. After last week’s entry about my most frustrating brick wall, William A. W. DEMPSEY, I had to do something to lighten things up before I go on with his wife Sarah’s story.

This is my 9th contribution to Amy Johnson Crow’s challenge 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.

#9 Sarah Ann WOOD 1827-1887

Sarah Ann WOOD was born about 1827 in (present-day) Fayette County, West Virginia, the third child of Elijah WOOD and Rachel HONAKER who were married in 1825 in Nicholas County, (West) Virginia.1

In 1885 Elijah WOOD named his nine living children in order of birth in his last will and testament.2 Sarah was named third after Allen Alexander and Amanda Jane; Mary Salina was named fourth. Allen, Amanda, Sarah, and Mary were born between 1825-1830 per the 1830 census when the family was living in Greenbrier County, (West) Virginia.3 Allen was their first child born nine months after the marriage in October 1825 per the 1900 census. The 1840 census numbers are consistent with 1830. There are no birth records for this time period so I have to trust the census for an estimate of when the children were born, i.e. Allen in Oct 1825, Amanda abt. 1826, Sarah abt. 1827, and Mary abt. 1829.

I am puzzled by the fact that the family was enumerated in Greenbrier County in 1830 as the area that they lived in was then part of Nicholas County. Or did they move out of that area for a short time? Sarah’s great-grandfather Bailey WOOD first settled in Woodville (also known as New Haven, Westlake, and now Ansted) in the 1790’s when the area was part of Greenbrier County. Due to the changing county lines, it fell to Nicholas County in 1818 and then Fayette County in 1831.
[See this interactive map on the formation of the Virginia counties.]

I’m multi-lingual and sometimes the right term in English just doesn’t want to come to me when I need it. There is a wonderful German word to describe the vital records for the time period that my Sarah lived in: lückenhaft (incomplete, sketchy, fragmentary, scrappy, gappy). When documentation is “lückenhaft” and your ancestor fits into the gaps found between the records it’s disappointing. Looking on the bright side, it is encouraging to find records for siblings and other relatives to put things into perspective.

Sarah marries and begins having children

When Sarah was about 16 years old her sister Amanda Jane married Joshua J. PARRISH on 1 June 1843 in Fayette County.4 The marriage record was found at West Virginia Vital Research Records (my #1 favorite free site).

Sarah was most likely the next of Elijah and Rachel’s children to marry. She married William A. W. DEMPSEY about 1846 as we see Wm. A. W. age 28 and Sarah A. age 22 in the 1850 census with their oldest child E.R. (Elizabeth Rachel) age 3 and Jas A. (James Alexander) age 1. The young family was living in HH#85, in the immediate area of Sarah’s parents in HH#94, in Fayette County.5

1850census
1850 U.S. Federal Census > Virginia > Fayette > 14th District >Sheet 336B

In the 1850s Sarah gave birth to three more children: Mary Virginia in June 1854, Eunice Jane on 1 May 1855, and John Henry on 7 November 1857. The closeness of these births makes me wonder if she may have had more pregnancies between 1849-1854, children who did not survive.

1860census1
1860 U.S. Federal Census > Virginia > Fayette > Sheet No. 365
1860census2
1860 U.S. Federal Census > Virginia > Fayette > Sheet No. 365

In 1860 the family was living in the household of the widower John A. McGRAW and his three motherless children.6 John’s deceased wife Nancy M. McGRAW (maiden name McGRAW) was Sarah’s double first cousin once removed. The families may have been living together because Sarah was helping with the care of the widower’s children who had lost their mother in 1855. The families may have been living together for several years. Both families had sons named James. Sarah’s son James was seen with only his middle name, Alexander, possibly an attempt to avoid confusion as the boys were close in age. The same year Sarah gave birth to her sixth child, my great-grandfather, William Henderson DEMPSEY, born on 14 September 1860.

Sarah’s husband is arrested as a rebel

During the Civil War while pregnant with her youngest child Elijah Lewis (b. 19 October 1862), Sarah’s husband William A. W. DEMPSEY, a farmer and citizen residing on Dogwood Ridge, was arrested as a rebel by the Union army. He had left home on the 18th of May 1862 to get work in the valley when he heard firing at the Court House. He gave the names of his brothers-in-law Simpson WOOD, Styris WOOD, and G. W. McVAY (sic, McVEY) of the Oil Works as references as well as saying he knew HAMILTON of Hawks Nest. James B. HAMILTON was well known and his marriage linked him to the large WOOD family. He had married Sarah’s first cousin Matilda WOOD in 1853.7

rebel
Provost Marshal File 2323 for Rebel: Dempsey, William A. W.

The Difficult Years Following The Civil War

Times were hard for Sarah and her family following the Civil War. Sarah’s mother Rachel died in the 1860s and her father Elijah remarried. About 1867 Sarah’s husband William was killed in a logging accident leaving her with a passel of children aged between twenty-one and five. Her oldest child Elizabeth Rachel “Lizzie” DEMPSEY married Robert HUGHES, a widower, in 1868.8

The family is dispersed

Sarah still had six children to feed and raise. The extended WOOD family came to her rescue. The family was scattered at the time of the 1870 census. James was living with his Aunt Amanda Jane (WOOD) PARRISH:9

1870censusjames
1870 U.S. Federal Census > West Virginia > Fayette > Mountain Cove > Sheet No. 147B

Eunice and John were with their grandfather Elijah WOOD:10

1870censusjohn
1870 U.S. Federal Census > West Virginia > Fayette > Mountain Cove > Sheet No. 144A

Elijah, the youngest, and his mother Sarah were with his aunt Turzey (WOOD) NEAL:11

1870censussarah
1870 U.S. Federal Census > West Virginia > Fayette > Mountain Cove > Sheet No. 148A

William, age 10 at the time and working as a farm laborer, was living with the Abraham “Abram” FORSYTHE family.12 Mr. FORSYTHE was first married to Sarah HENDRICK (d. 1859) and second to Mary WESTLAKE in 1862. Both Abram’s brother Samuel and Mary’s sister Mathilda were married into the large WOOD family.

1870censuswm
1870 U.S. Federal Census > West Virginia > Fayette > Mountain Cove > Sheet No. 147A

Lizzie was with her husband, raising his two motherless boys from his first marriage and their own son.13

1870censushughes
1870 U.S. Federal Census > West Virginia > Fayette > Falls of Kanawha > Sheet No. 111A

Sarah’s daughter Mary Virginia, about 16 years old at the time, was not found. She was in the area as she was the next of Sarah’s children to marry. She married John A. SNELL (1850-1897) on 16 September 1872 in Fayette County.14

Two marriage licenses found for Sarah

A few months later Sarah had an offer to marry as a marriage license was taken out on 27 November 1872 in Fayette County, West Virginia, for James B. REID born in Scotland, widowed, son of Wm & Mary, and Sarah Ann DEMPSEY, widowed, daughter of Elijah WOOD.15 Geraldine Dempsey Workman believed that this marriage did not take place as there was no minister’s return. This would make sense as several weeks later, on 14 January 1873, Sarah married John M. FOX. The marriage licenses were found on the same page of the marriage register.16

Sarah’s children were growing and coming of age to marry. Eunice J. DEMPSEY married John Isaac SCAGGS (1841-1903) on 11 May 1873 and James Alexander “Buck” DEMPSEY married Mary E. SADDLER (1855-1920) on 25 December 1874, both marriages in Fayette County.17,18

This left her with her three youngest sons still unmarried in 1880. John and Elijah were living with their grandfather Elijah WOOD:19

1880censusjohn
1880 U.S. Federal Census > WV > Fayette > Mountain Cove > Sheet No. 104A

and my great-grandfather William, adopted, was with the John CAMPBELL family.20 No record has been found to show that this was a legal adoption.

1880censuswm
1880 U.S. Federal Census > WV > Fayette > Mountain Cove > Sheet No. 114A

Sarah was living with her new husband in 1880.21 In earlier research, some confusion was caused by the presence of a grandson named Charles A. DEMPSEY in the 1880 household of John Fox and his second wife Sarah. Since Sarah’s first marriage was to a Dempsey one could assume that the grandson was the son of one of her children. But he was not. This is a lesson to those who do not look at all the persons involved in their ancestors’ lives. Charles was the son of John Fox’s eldest daughter Mary and her husband Seton B. DEMPSEY. To date, no relationship has been found between the families of Sarah’s first husband William A. W. DEMPSEY and Seton B. DEMPSEY.

1880censussarah
1880 U.S. Federal Census > WV > Fayette > Mountain Cove > 105C

Sarah’s son James Alexander was living next door to her in the above census listing.22

Sarah’s youngest sons marry in the early 1880’s

Following the 1880 census, Sarah saw her youngest sons marry their life partners. John Henry DEMPSEY married Amanda Ann “Mandy” McCLUNG (1864-1938) on 22 February 1882, Elijah Lewis DEMPSEY married Octavia Dell INGRAM (1866-1923) on 19 October 1882, and William Henderson DEMPSEY married Laura Belle INGRAM (1868-1940) on 1 October 1884.23,24,25 William and Laura were my great-grandparents.

Sarah and her father Elijah die a year and a half apart

In 1885 Sarah’s father Elijah WOOD passed away.26 Sarah followed him a year and a half later on 1 April 1887.27 It is believed that she is buried in Good Luck Cemetery also known as Fox-Wood Cemetery on Chestnutburg, Ames Hgts Rd. 1.75 mi. off Rt. 19, Fayette County, West Virginia. She was survived by seven children, about 20 grandchildren, and her second husband John M. FOX who died on 12 January 1896. Sarah’s seven children gave her a total of at least fifty grandchildren, although about seven did not live to adulthood, and nearly 180 great-grandchildren.

Flat rock tombstone could be Sarah’s marker

Fox tombstone courtesy of Becky Fox

Lyle LeMasters wrote in an email to me in December 2000 that he believed my great-great-grandmother Sarah Ann WOOD DEMPSEY FOX is buried in the old cemetery on the old Chestnutburg Road now known as the Old Mill Creek Road. The Foxes are buried at the very top of the hill and different families are buried in lines coming down the hill. The WOOD family graves are about the 3rd or 4th row down the hill. The graves are all facing east to meet the rising sun. He further said that her stone is like the old FOX stones, a rock tombstone in the ground and roughly carved initials and years in the stone. She is not buried with the FOXES but is buried down along the line of the WOOD graves. The reason he believes this is her stone is that she was the only one that came close enough to fit. His aunt Becky Fox shared a photo of the marker with me.

This Post Was Updated on 27 February 2022: Missing source citations were added, images were watermarked, and some corrections were made to the text and format.

© 2014-2022, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.


  1. West Virginia Vital Research Records Project (database and images), West Virginia Division of Culture and History, citing county records in county courthouses, West Virginia (A collaborative venture between the West Virginia State Archives and the Genealogical Society of Utah to place vital records online via the West Virginia Archives and History Web site accessible at https://archive.wvculture.org/vrr), West Virginia Marriages, 1780-1970, FHL microfilm 495643, image 130, West Virginia, Re-Index and Copy of Marriage Record No. 1–Nicholas County, line 6, 4 Jan 1925, Elijah Wood and Rachel Hannaker, married by Jno Campbell, citing Nicholas County, (http://images.wvculture.org/495643/00130.jpg : accessed 25 April 2013). 
  2. “West Virginia Will Books, 1756-1971” (database with images), FamilySearch (digital images of originals housed at local county courthouse in West Virginia), Fayette County Will books, 1832-1969 > Fayette Will book, v. 03 1885-1901 > image 33+34 of 274 (pages 7+8) > 1885 Elijah Wood (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1-18272-69978-57?cc=1909099&wc=10916503 : accessed 8 February 2022). 
  3. 1830 U.S. Federal Census (index and images), Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/search/collections/8058/), citing Fifth Census of the United States, 1830 population schedule, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington D.C. NARA microfilm publication M19, 201 rolls, Roll 190, FHL Film 0029669, West Virginia, Greenbrier, page 209A&B, line 15, Eligha Wood. (accessed 8 February 2022). 
  4. WVCulture.org, West Virginia Marriages, 1780-1970, FHL microfilm 584764, image 203, West Virginia, Fayette, page 28, entry 8, 1 June 1843, Joshua Parish Jr. and Amanda Wood, by W. Carnafix . (http://images.wvculture.org/584764/00203.jpg : accessed 8 February 2022). 
  5. 1850 U.S. Federal Census (index and images), Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/search/collections/8054/), citing Seventh Census of the United States, 1850 population schedule, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington D.C., NARA microfilm publication M432, 1009 rolls, Virginia, Fayette County, District 14, page 336B, lines 5-8, household 85-85, Wm A W Dempsey household (accessed 18 January 2016). 
  6. 1860 U.S. Federal Census (index and images), Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/search/collections/7667/), citing Eighth Census of the United States, 1860 population schedule, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington D.C., NARA microfilm publication M653, 1,438 rolls, Virginia, Fayette County, District 3, page 365 lines 35-40, page 366 lines 1-5, household 408-368, John A McGraw household including Wm Dempsey family (accessed 18 January 2016). 
  7. “United States Union Provost Marshal Files of Two or More Civilians, 1861-1866,” images, FamilySearch, citing NARA microfilm publication M416 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration), Records by Number and Date > 02132-02398, Sept. 1862 (NARA Series M416, Roll 9) > image 724 of 1041. (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:939V-MKHK-D?cc=1845948&wc=M6KL-Y38%3A165419801%2C165561201 : accessed 4 December 2012). 
  8. WVCulture.org, West Virginia Marriages, 1780-1970, FHL microfilm 584764, Fayette, West Virginia, Register of Marriage 1868, image 248, page 9, Robert Huse and Elizabeth Dempsey, 8 April 1868, citing Fayette County, West Virginia. (http://images.wvculture.org/584764/00248.jpg : accessed 30 June 2018). 
  9. 1870 U.S. Federal Census (index and images), Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/search/collections/7163/), citing Ninth Census of the United States, 1870 population schedule, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington D.C., NARA microfilm publication T132, 13 rolls, Roll: M593_1686; West Virginia, Fayette County, Mountain Cove, page 18, sheet 147B (147 stamped on page 17), household 124-124, Jesse J. Parrish household (accessed 21 January 2022). 
  10. Ibid., Roll: M593_1686; West Virginia, Fayette County, Mountain Cove, page 11, sheet 144A (stamped 144), lines 31-34, household 74-74, Elijah Wood household (accessed 21 January 2022). 
  11. Ibid., Roll: M593_1686; West Virginia, Fayette County, Mountain Cove, page 19, sheet 148A (stamped 148), lines 19-30, household 129-129, John Neal household (accessed 21 January 2022). 
  12. Ibid., Roll: M593_1686; West Virginia, Fayette County, Mountain Cove, page 17, sheet 147A (stamped 147), lines 12-16, household 116-116, Abram Forsythe (accessed 25 Dec 2014). 
  13. Ibid., Roll: M593_1686, West Virginia, Fayette County, Falls of Kanawha, page 33, sheet 111A, lines 6-20, household 220-215, Robert Hughes (accessed 3 July 2018). 
  14. WVCulture.org, West Virginia Marriages, 1780-1970, FHL microfilm 584764, Fayette, West Virginia, Register of Marriage 1872, image 259, page 19, John Snell and Mary V. Dempsey, 16 Sep 1872, citing Fayette County, West Virginia. (http://images.wvculture.org/584764/00259.jpg : accessed 21 January 2022). 
  15. Ibid., West Virginia Marriages, 1780-1970, FHL microfilm 584764, image 260, West Virginia, Fayette County Register of Marriages, page 20, entry 17, 27 Nov 1872, James R. Reid and Sarah Ann Wood (marked out) Dempsey, citing Fayette County, West Virginia. (http://images.wvculture.org/584764/00260.jpg : accessed 9 February 2022). 
  16. Ibid., West Virginia Marriages, 1780-1970, FHL microfilm 584764, image 260, West Virginia, Fayette County Register of Marriages, page 20, entry 32, 14 Jan 1873, John M. Fox and Sarah A. Dempsey, citing Fayette County, West Virginia. (http://images.wvculture.org/584764/00260.jpg : accessed 9 February 2022). 
  17. Ibid., West Virginia Marriages, 1780-1970, FHL microfilm 584764, Fayette, West Virginia, Register of Marriage 1873, image 261, page 21, line 9, John I. Skaggs and Eunice Dempsey, 11 May 1873, citing Fayette County, West Virginia. (http://images.wvculture.org/584764/00261.jpg : accessed 21 January 2022). 
  18. Ibid., West Virginia Marriages, 1780-1970, FHL microfilm 584764, Fayette, West Virginia, Register of Marriage 1874, image 264, page 24, line 41, James Dempsey and Mary Saddler, 25 Dec 1874, citing Fayette County, West Virginia. (http://images.wvculture.org/584764/00264.jpg : accessed 21 January 2022). 
  19. 1880 U.S. Federal Census (index and images), Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/search/collections/6742/), citing Tenth Census of the United States, 1880 population schedule, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington D.C., NARA microfilm publication T9, 1,454 rolls, Roll: 1402, West Virginia, Fayette County, Mountain Cove, enumeration district 30, sheet 104A, lines 16-20, household 185-185, Elijah Wood (accessed 9 February 2022). 
  20. Ibid., West Virginia, Fayette County, Mountain Cove, enumeration district 30, sheet 114A, lines 35-41, household 332-345, John Campbell (accessed 25 Dec 2014). 
  21. Ibid., West Virginia, Fayette County, Mountain Cove, enumeration district 30, sheet 105C, lines 1-5, household 193-194, John M. Fox (accessed 8 February 2022). 
  22. Ibid., West Virginia, Fayette County, Mountain Cove, enumeration district 30, sheet 105C, lines 6-9, household 194-195, James Dempsey (accessed 8 Feb 2022). 
  23. WVCulture.org, West Virginia Marriages, 1780-1970, FHL microfilm 584764, Fayette, West Virginia, Register of Marriage 1882, image 284, page 43, line 23, John H Dempsey and Amanda McClung, 22 Feb 1882, citing Fayette County, West Virginia. (http://images.wvculture.org/584764/00284.jpg : accessed 21 January 2022). 
  24. Ibid., West Virginia Marriages, 1780-1970, FHL microfilm 584764, Fayette, West Virginia, Register of Marriage 1882, image 284, page 45, line 29, E L Dempsey and Octavia D. Inghram, 19 Oct 1882, citing Fayette County, West Virginia. (http://images.wvculture.org/584764/00286.jpg : accessed 21 January 2022). 
  25. Ibid., West Virginia Marriages, 1780-1970, FHL microfilm 584764, Fayette, West Virginia, Register of Marriage 1884, image 293, page 52, line 40, W H Dempsey and Laura B. Ingram, 1 Oct 1884, citing Fayette County, West Virginia. (http://images.wvculture.org/584764/00293.jpg : accessed 21 January 2022). 
  26. Ibid., West Virginia Deaths, 1804-1999, FHL microfilm 584755, image 291, West Virginia, Fayette County Register of Death, page 342-343 (stamped) line 73, Elijah Wood, 10 Sep 1885, citing Fayette County, West Virginia. (http://images.wvculture.org/584755/00291.jpg : accessed 9 February 2022). 
  27. Ibid., West Virginia Deaths, 1804-1999, FHL microfilm 584755, image 299, Register of Deaths 1887, page358-359, line 46, 1 Apr 1887, Sarah A. Fox, consort of J M Fox, citing Ansted, Fayette County, West Virginia. (http://images.wvculture.org/584755/00299.jpg : accessed 17 January 2022). 

Author: Cathy Meder-Dempsey

When I’m not doing genealogy and blogging, I spend time riding my racing bike with my husband through the wonderful Luxembourg countryside.

10 thoughts on “52 Ancestors: #9 Sarah Ann WOOD 1827-1887 – Her Husband Came From Outer Space”

  1. I am half German on my mother’s side, but unfortunately can’t speak German. I LOVE lückenhaft and have a lot of it in my tree! Thanks for a new word I can use when I’m frustrated.

    Like

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