Search billions of records on

Levi and Mary McCoy Feay
Samuel Alexander Fay
And their Descendants
The Search for Levi
Levi Feay was born in Maryland in 1783 (census of 1850) or 1784 (census of 1860). The census of 1820 shows him in Westmoreland County, PA. From that point on, he can be traced with confidence (see the census evidence). Many attempts have been made to determine his parentage, so far without convincing evidence. The search for Levi's roots is complicated by three things.
1) spelling of name
2) shifting boundaries
3) absence of church records
There are two further questions associated with Levi's story.
1) How many wives did Levi have?
2) How many children did Levi have?
Samuel Alexander Feay (son of Levi Feay and Mary McCoy, born August 7, 1804) married Mary Ashbough (daughter of Henry Ashbough and Susannah Rummel, born May 2, 1804) on January 1, 1828. Mary died June 29, 1849. Alexander and Christina Wilson were married July 7, 1851.

Alexander and Mary had 9 children; Alexander and Christina had two children. For the names and lines of the children, see Descendant Overview.
Pennsylvania and Virginia
by A. J. Johnson
image copyright 2004
by Cartography Associates
used with permission
by J.H.Colton
image copyright 2004
by Cartography Associates
used with permission
FEAY or FAY: The spelling of the name
The 1820 census, the first one we see for Levi himself, spells his last name "Feay." The 1800 census has a John "Fay" that I believe is Levi's father. On Levi's marriage to Mary McCoy, his last name is spelled "Fay," but on Mary's will, it is spelled "Feay." Later census records are split between the two spellings, and most of his sons and their families adopted the spelling FEAY. However, there was one exception: the family of James McCoy used the spelling FAY, and it was a firmly enough established spelling that Alice, the daughter of Samuel Alexander by his second wife, who was granted James as guardian and lived with him, changed the spelling of her name from "Feay" to "Fay." However, the probate records of Samuel Alexander in Elkader, IA, show the legal spelling "James Feay." There is a family story explaining why James adopted the simpler spelling.
"James owned a Feed and Seed store, and back in those days, he would have his name printed on the burlap sacks - it cost a penny for each letter. He decided to drop the E and save a penny. Later the family just stuck by Fay, and all his descendents go by Fay, while the rest have used Feay, and then there are those that gave the name as a middle name to their children. They spelled it Feay, or Fay or Faye!" [Cynthia Allington, private correspondence]
There are other families that show the established spelling FEAY. One result of this is that it is difficult to be certain that Levi is a descendant of John Fay of Marlborough. The early date of Levi's birth supports the FAY descent theory; many searches in ships records and other immigration records have failed to produce ANY Feay immigrants as early as that. The absence of a record is not proof, but it is supportive.
Shifting Boundaries
Virginia had originally claimed all of the territory now separated into parts of Pennsylvania and West Virginia, and designated that area as West Augusta District (1775). In 1776, Monongalia County was formed within that territory. By 1779/1780 (thus before Levi's birth), Virginia had ceded much of the northern part of the West Augusta District to Pennslyvania, and the Pennsylvania part was known as Westmoreland County, while the southern part remained Monongalia County, Virginia, until it was yielded to West Virginia after 1861 (state formally created 1863).
According to the census records, Levi was born in Maryland, as was Mary McCoy. There is a John Thomas Fay in the census of Kent County, MD, in 1790. Some think that this is Levi's father. Is the same John Fay who is in District 3, Montgomery County, MD, in 1800? The John Fay of 1800 has a son in the 16 to 25 year old category; Levi would be 16 or 17. Note-- and this is very important, I think-- James McCoy is also living in Montgomery County in District 3 at that time.
At some point, James McCoy moved a short distance to Washington County, MD (see Mary's will), and Levi moved further north to Westmoreland County, PA. Later, he moved south to Springhill Township in Fayette County. There he remained until late in his life, when he returned to Monongalia County, West Virginia.
Levi's family: wife and child or wives and children?
Levi Feay married Mary McCoy, the daughter of James McCoy. Mary's will, probated in Maryland, leaves her property to her husband Levi Feay. The question, however, is when he married her and whether she was the mother of his children.
Cynthia Arlington, who has researched this line intensively, searched in Maryland for Mary and found the marriage of Levi and Mary recorded in the Maryland index. However, according to the index, the marriage took place in 1814; and Samuel Alexander was born about 1804. Cynthia writes,
Now, we have always thought that Mary McCoy was Levi's wife, and mother to his children, but I found their marriage record and they married Dec 19, 1814, so I believe Mary is Levi's second wife, so we still need to find Levi's first wife, and the mother of his children. We know Samuel Alexander was born in Pa too. So I figure, since they lived next to the border with West Virginia and not that far from Washington county, Maryland, somehow Levi met and married Mary - who I think was an old maid.
I have a different explanation for this. It is my belief that Mary McCoy was Levi's first and only wife; that there WAS no second wife; and that she was the mother of Samuel Alexander. My conclusion is based on four things. First, there is no evidence for a second wife. This is a very weak argument indeed, but it adds to the total. Second, I know how easy it is to make mistakes in transcription. One has only to look at the census indices to see how often an indexer misinterprets. In this line itself, there is more than one such case; the spelling of Esther's husband's name (see below) is an example; and the 1930 census for South Dakota shows Charles and Hazel Spicer indexed as "Spreier." I believe that the original record read 1804 and not 1814. Given the splutterings of early pens, and the penmanship of many, this would be an easy mistake to make.
My third reason is that I think James McCoy, with daughter Mary, and John Fay, with son Levi, live very close to each other in Montgomery County, Maryland, in 1800, just a short time before I believe Levi and Mary were married.
My fourth reason has to do with naming conventions. Samuel Alexander named his sixth son "James McCoy." It is not impossible that he was honoring the father of his stepmother. It is far more likely, however, that he was honoring his maternal grandfather, the father of his mother. It might be instructive to look more closely at the other names; Levi, for example, is for his father; Henry Samuel is for himself and Henry Ashbough, the father of Mary Ashbough; his second daughter was named "Susannah" for Mary's mother, Susannah Rummel. If all or most of the names could be tracked, it would be further confirmation.
Esther Rysen -- Levi's daughter, Samuel Alexander's sister?
It is thought by some in the family that Alexander had a sister Esther, who married John Reyser (born about 1802). She is seen in the census of 1850 living close to Levi and Mary, with Henry Edmund Feay in her household. She was born in Pennsylvania about 1809. However, if one looks at the census records of 1820, Levi's household contains a male in the 10-15 group (Alexander is 15) but NO female in the 0-16 groups (Esther would be 11).
Not only is there no support for the theory in the early census evidence, but there is a problem with the last name of Esther's husband. The family can be traced down through 1900 at least, and the spelling of the last name is not the same in any two censuses. If FEAY/FAY posed a problem, consider this series of entries for Esther/Hester and her husband and sons:
Reysen or Reyser (1850), Kinson (1860), Keyser (1870), Keiser (1880) and Keyser (1880)
One would need to do some major consulting of the early records to determine what the original last name was AND to determine the maiden name of John's wife. It was common practice for a son almost ready for his own household but not quite to take live with another family and do farm labor or learn a trade, and the 1850 census report looks like that to me. I myself would have to see some pretty convincing evidence that Esther is indeed Alexander's sister. I think that Levi had one wife and one child.
Church Records
The family of Levi and Samuel Feay was Presbyterian. They were shown to have attended Brown's Presbyterian Church in Stewartstown, West Virginia, a small town in Monongalia, very close to the border with Fayette County, Pennsylvania. The log church itself is said to have been blown down in a storm in 1883. The church records have disappeared, and correspondence with the Presbyterian Church has discovered no trace of them. If found, they would contain the answers to many of these questions, but there seems to be little hope of finding them now.