The 1866 Fayette County, West Virginia Voter List

My friend and follower Brian S. Miller called me the record whisperer. His comment reminded me I hadn’t been checking the catalog at FamilySearch to see if new old records were available to view online. I’d been too busy working on my last series of posts on a Luxembourgish family to even think about other things.

Half of my ancestry is Luxembourgish with a few more distant ancestors coming from areas of France, Germany, and Belgium which were once part of Luxembourg. It hasn’t been difficult to find birth, marriage, and death records for these ancestors and their collaterals. My paternal side of the family tree which includes ancestors who lived in West Virginia and old Virginia for more than 200 years has been more arduous.

I have a frustrating brick wall at the 2nd great-grandfather level for one of these West Virginia ancestors. Compared to the rest of my tree, his branch is short and stubby!

A Reminder to Check the FamilySearch Catalog

Fayette County, West Virginia, is the first location I usually check for new collections as my Dad and many of his ancestors lived in the county even before its formation in 1831.

Map of West Virginia highlighting Fayette County

On Sunday of Labor Day weekend, I discovered a database I had not seen or been able to access. I can’t keep a secret when it comes to new collections which may help others. I immediately posted the find to the Facebook group for Fayette County West Virginia Genealogy.

Did your male ancestor live in Sewell Mountain, Mountain Cove, or Fayetteville in April-May 1866? If he was of age, he may have registered to vote. I found these lists on FamilySearch which include the age and place of birth of the person of interest.

Being a long-time user of the FamilySearch, I posted the link to the catalog not realizing how many group members were not familiar with this important tool on the site.

After several members commented the link was not working I revised my post. It was a long weekend and traffic to several genealogy sites was higher than normal causing temporary this site can’t be reached errors.

Screenshot of FamilySearch page with Evernote annotations.

In my revised post, I included instructions to scroll down to the camera to view the images to the non-indexed browse-only records. I added a short description of the collection which has six items for three districts with the names of voters being listed in alphabetical order. I also let new users know they needed to sign-in to the FREE site.

The 1866 Fayette County, West Virginia, Voter List

Here is the link to the collection: Register of name of voters : 1866. Since not all are familiar with FamilySearch or some may need a refresher course on using the site, here are simple steps to view the images. The link will take you to this page:

You aren’t there yet! To see all images, you need to either use the little > to go to image 2 of 154, image 3 of 154, etc. or click on the tiles icon on the left to view all images. You can then click on any of the images you might be interested in.

The items in this collection have many blank images. An item starts at the Begin image and ends at the End image. After studying the six items I learned they are for three districts – two similar copies of the same information for each district. At the end is a seventh item for the year 1867. Below are the direct links to the first page of each item for a district.

Item 1: Sewell Mountain 1

Item 2: Mountain Cove 1

Item 3: Fayetteville 1

Item 4: Sewell Mountain 2

Item 5: Fayetteville 2

Item 6: Mountain Cove 2

Item 7: Fayetteville 1867

Why is this set of records important?

Consider when the voter list was created. In 1866, three years after the state of West Virginia was formed. Immediately following the Civil War period when many records were moved to other locations or missing.

The fields on the form include:

  • Names of persons registered
  • Whether Sworn
  • Age – includes men between 21 and 84 years of age, i.e. born 1782-1845
  • Place of birth
  • Time of residence in ward, township, or district
  • Time of residence in state
  • If naturalized, date of papers and by what Court issued [in some cases this field was used to record honorable discharges from US militia service]
  • When registered

The list may be the only record you will find for the place of birth of an ancestor born between 1782-1845. Example: Enoch WOOD was in Lawrence County, Ohio, in 1830; in Gallia County, Ohio, in 1840; and in Fayette County, Virginia, in 1850 per the census. The 1850 census had all of his children listed as born in Virginia. Enoch and his wife Margaret JOHNSON had been known to be members of the Sand Fork Missionary Baptist Church in Gallia County, Ohio, before transferring to the Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church in Fayette County. Their sons Levi and Felix WOOD are on the voter list with Gallia County as their place of birth.

Are you searching for naturalization papers? Example: Daniel McGuffin, age 36, born in Ireland, was naturalized in 1855 and his papers were filed in the County Court of Alleghany, Virginia.

The voter list could help you add events to your ancestor’s timeline. When and where was he born? Did he serve in the US militia? Was he naturalized? The voter list may be the last record your ancestor created before leaving the county or passing away.

And the search continues…

My 2nd great-grandfather William A. W. DEMPSEY was NOT found in the voter list. Family tradition is he died in a logging accident in the 1860s. Does this mean he died before April-May 1866 when the voter list was created? Perhaps. However,  the three districts didn’t cover the entire county of Fayette. Other names are missing from the voter list including William’s father-in-law Elijah WOOD who died in 1885.

If you haven’t recently checked the catalog at FamilySearch take a moment to do so. If you’ve never used the catalog an Introduction to the FamilySearch Catalog is a good place to learn more.  Please leave a comment if you make a discovery. Happy hunting.

© 2019, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.