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Clay County History and Information
County History | Court Records | Vital Records | CENSUS Records | TAX Records | Military Records | Church & Cemetery |
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Click HERE to see D.O.T. County Map
Clay County, the forty-seventh county in order of formation, is located in the foothills of the Cumberland Mountains of southeast Kentucky. Created from Madison, Floyd and Knox counties on April 1, 1807, Clay County later ceded much of its land to form parts of Jackson, Owsley, Leslie, Lee, Breathitt, Knott, Perry, and Harlan counties. It reached its present size, 471 square miles, in 1880. It was named for Gen. Green Clay, a Madison County legislator and early Kentucky surveyor. Most of the heavily wooded county, approximately 61,000 acres, falls within the Redbird Purchase Unit of the Daniel Boone National Forest. Tobacco, timber, corn, and hay, are harvested. The county seat is MANCHESTER.

The County is bordered by Owsley County (north), Perry County (northeast), Leslie County (east), Bell County (southeast), Knox County (southwest), Laurel County (west), Jackson County (northwest). Cities, Towns and Communities include Manchester, Oneida, Burning Springs, Goose Rock

An early settler, James Collins, built a log cabin around 1798 at the headwaters of Goose Creek, a tributary of the south fork of the Kentucky River. Salt reserves and fertile grasslands attracted settlers to the area as they had attracted large game animals, making a bountiful hunting ground for prehistoric Native Americans and possibly the Cherokee during the early historic era. During the nineteenth century Clay County was the leading producer of SALT in the state. So vital was salt to frontier life and trade that Daniel Boone offered a plan to reroute the Wilderness Road to pass the Goose Creek salt works near Manchester. Boone did not get the contract, and the area was left without suitable roadways for the next century. In 1811 the Kentucky River was made navigable to the confluence of Clay County's Goose Creek and Redbird River (named for a Cherokee chief who, according to legend, was thrown into the river after being slain for his furs). A canal system proposed during the 1820s and 1830s to link the Ohio River to the Atlantic Ocean at Charleston and Savannah was to pass by the Goose Creek salt works to expand its market. Salt production peaked at more than 200,000 bushels per year between 1835 and 1845.

The Civil War divided Clay County, and control of the area shifted between the two sides. In September 1862 Union troops passed through on their retreat across Kentucky from the Cumberland Gap to the Ohio River. The following month, fearing that control of the valuable salt works would again fall to the Confederates, the Union ordered all production sites destroyed. Residents were permitted to take salt for their personal needs, and the owners were promised reimbursement for their losses. In 1873, however, President Ulysses S. Grant vetoed a bill for compensation, arguing that the destruction had been a military necessity. Only four salt facilities survived the war, the last of which finally closed in 1908. A series of feuds that followed the war created an impression of lawlessness.

Clay County lost contact with the outside world after the salt works closed. Transportation into the county was too poor to allow expansion. Logging of hard- and softwoods had started as early as 1810, but until 1925 the only means of transportation was rafting the logs. Several articles written in the late nineteenth century advertised Clay County's availability for industry and enterprise, but the stumbling block was lack of transportation. In 1827 Clay County granted public lands to construct highways, but roads were rough and often little more than expanded animal trails. Each landowner, however, was obligated to give six days of service each year to road maintenance, primarily on nearby roads. Gradually federal, state, and county roads crisscrossed the county. In 1971 the 68.5-mile Daniel Boone Parkway opened and linked Manchester to I-75 at London to the west and Hazard to the east.

In 1914 the Louisville & Nashville Railroad (now CSX Transportation) extended service to Clay County. Rail service to eastern Kentucky was not considered profitable until the region's extensive coal fields began to be developed, after the turn of the century. Rail service expanded in the early twentieth century, but has since been curtailed and now serves only a few of the remaining coal tipples.

Clay County has no urban areas. Manchester, the county seat, has only 1,634 persons. Other communities include Oneida and Burning Springs. Oneida Baptist Institute, founded in 1898 by a former instructor at Berea College, is patterned after Berea's work-study program. Among its former students is Bert T. Combs, Kentucky governor (1959-63). Burning Springs, discovered in 1798, was named for its ignitable release of natural gas. After commercial development in 1907, reserves there for several years supplied much of Lexington's natural gas needs.

Since the demise of salt making, Clay County has been mired in poverty. Over 40 percent of its 22,752 citizens lived beneath the poverty line in 1990, with a mean household income of $11,503. Employment opportunities in the area are limited; fewer than 3,000 persons held jobs for fifty weeks during 1980, and in 1986 the unemployment rate was 15 percent.

Although coal mining is not as extensive as in the 1970s, it still provides over a third of the local industrial jobs. Many residents recall the Hyden mining disaster of December 1970, which claimed twenty-nine Clay County lives. The county has some light industry, such as Mid-South Electronics and Kentucky Mountain Industries, and the Daniel Boone Development Council is active in employment promotion. The county anticipates an expanded economy when a medium-security federal prison opens in 1992.

As a corollary to the area's long years of isolation, education has suffered: only 27.7% of the residents over the age of twenty-five have finished high school and the median number of years of schooling is 8.5. This is an ironic turn in a region whose pioneering families brought extensive culture with them from Virginia and North Carolina. Attempts to treat the problem began with the MOONLIGHT SCHOOLS of the early twentieth century. Recently the General Education Development program has been emphasized.

The population of the county was 18,481 in 1970; 22,750 in 1980; and 21,746 in 1990. The Official County Website is located at ? . On 20 Jan 1936, there was a courthouse fire.

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Clay County Court Records
PLEASE READ!! Please call the clerk's department to confirm hours, mailing address, fees and other specifics before visiting or requesting information because of sometimes changing contact information. On 20 Jan 1936, there was a courthouse fire.

   Clay County Clerk has Marriage Records from 1806 and Land Records from 1807 and is located at 123 Town Square, Suite 3, Manchester, KY 40962-1265; Phone: (606) 598-2544, FAX: (606) 599-0603 .
   The duties of the county clerk are numerous and varied, falling into the general categories of clerical duties of the fiscal court, issuing and registering, recording and keeping records of various legal instruments, election duties, tax duties, transfers, and titling, and issuance of marriage licenses and much more. One of the most important responsibilities of the County Clerk's office is the recording of land records. The most common documents recorded are deeds, mortgages, and assignments and mortgage releases. The other is Marriage Liscenses

   Clay County Clerk of the Circuit Court has Probate Records from 1826 and Court Records from 1809 and is located at Courthouse, 79 Hwy. 80, Suite 3, Manchester, KY 40962; (606)598-3663, Fax: (606)598-4047 .
   The Circuit Clerk's office is responsible for maintaining the records of the circuit court. Divorces, civil litigation, criminal crimes, probate, wills , estates and various other functions.

There are a few online databases for Court, Land and Probate Records which include: Kentucky Marriages, 1802-1850; Kentucky Marriages, 1851-1900; Kentucky Marriage Index, 1973-1999; Kentucky Land Grants; Kentucky Will Index, vol. 1 & 2 and Kentucky Will Index, Vol. 2.


Search Online Click Here to Search Kentucky Court, Land, Wills & Financial Records! - Researchers often overlook the importance of court records, probate records, and land records as a source of family history information.

Below is a list of online resources for Clay County Court Records. Email us with websites containing Clay County Court Records by clicking the link below:

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Clay County Vital Records
Search Online Click Here to Search Kentucky Birth, Marriage & Death Records! - Birth, marriage, and death records are connected with central life events. They are prime sources for genealogical information. Look also for baptism, christening, and burial records in this collection.

   Kentucky Office of Vital Statistics is located at State Dept of Human Resources, 275 E. Main St. 1EA, Frankfort, KY 40621; (502) 564-4212. They have the following records:

  • Birth & Death Certificates: The Vital Statistics Law of Kentucky, providing for and legalizing the registration of births and deaths, was enacted by the General Assembly of 1910 and became effective Jan. 1, 1911. The Office of Vital Statistics has no records of births and deaths occurring prior to the above date except delayed records of births for those born before 1911, which have been established by affidavits and documentary evidence.Fees are listed below. You can download an application online for Birth Certificates or Death Certificates.
  • Marriage & Divorce Certificates: Central registration of marriages and divorces began in Kentucky in June 1958.  The Office of Vital Statistics has no records of marriages and divorces prior to that date.  Copies of marriage certificates prior to June 1958 may be obtained from the county clerk in the county where the license was issued.  Records of divorce proceedings are available from the Clay County clerk of the circuit court that granted the decree.You can download an application online for Marriage Certificates or Divorce Certificates.
  • Order Online: You can also order Order Electronically and get the certificates within 2-5 days by ordering below
    Birth Certificates
    Death Certificates
    Marriage Certificates
    Divorce Records

Cost of certificates:  Birth: $10 per certificate; Death, Marriage and Divorce are $6 per certificate
In Person:  You can stop in the office at 275 E. Main St. in Frankfort and obtain a certified copy of a birth, death, marriage or divorce certificate by completing an application form between the hours of 8 a.m. - 3 p.m. EST, Monday-Friday.  There is approximately a one-hour wait to receive the certificate. Directions to Vital Statistics Office 
By Mail:  Mail a check or money order (no cash) payable to the "Kentucky State Treasurer" along with the necessary information to the following address:  Office of Vital Statistics, 275 E. Main St.  1E-A, Frankfort, KY 40621.  Please include return address on envelope and application form.
Processing Time:  Please allow up to approximately 30 working days for processing of all type of certificates when ordered through the mail. 
Birth Records:  Expect longer delays during peak request periods from May through September.  You should request certified copies of your birth certificate early enough to avoid delays if you are planning retirement, sporting events for the children, travel/passports, children entering school for the first time, etc.
Death Records:  There may be delays in issuing new certified death certificates if the original certificate is not promptly filed in Frankfort by the funeral homes.
Phone, Fax, On-Line, or Credit Card:  To obtain a certified copy of a vital record by phone, fax, on-line or purchase with a credit card, please link to VitalChek. There is an additional $10.50 fee for all credit card purchases.  Discover, Visa, MasterCard and American Express are accepted. If faster delivery is required, you may wish to have the certified copy sent by Federal Express.  Please state this when placing the order for the copy. There is an additional fee for this service. 

There are a few online marriage databases which include: Kentucky Birth Index, 1911-1999; Kentucky Marriages, 1802-1850; Kentucky Marriages, 1851-1900; Kentucky Marriage Index, 1973-1999; and Kentucky Death Index, 1911-2000

Below is a list of online resources for Clay County Vital Records. Email us with websites containing Clay County Vital Records by clicking the link below:

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Clay County Census Records
Search Online Click Here to Search Kentucky Voter Lists & Census Records! - Few, if any, records reveal as many details about individuals and families as do government census records. Substitute records can be used when the official census is unavailable.

  Countywide Records: Federal Population Schedules that exist for Clay County, Kentucky are 1810, 1820, 1830, 1840, 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880, 1890 (fragment, see below), 1900, 1910, 1920 and 1930. Earlier U.S. censuses for Kentucky were destroyed, but published tax lists serve as a replacements for the lost 1790 and 1800 censuses. Other Federal Schedules to look at when researching your family tree in Clay County, Kentucky are Industry and Agriculture Schedules availible for the years 1850, 1860, 1870 and 1880. Slave Schedules exist for 1850 & 1860. The Mortality Schedules for the years 1850, 1860, 1870 and 1880. Union Veterans Schedules were conducted in 1890 but only returns for sixty-five Kentucky counties remain of the 1890 Union veterans and widows schedule of the federal census of Kentucky.

  Statewide Records that exist for Kentucky are 1810, 1820, 1830, 1840, 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880, 1890 (fragment, see below), 1900, 1910, 1920 and 1930. Earlier U.S. censuses for Kentucky were destroyed, but published tax lists serve as a replacements for the lost 1790 and 1800 censuses. Extracts and indexes for many of Kentucky's censuses have been compiled and published. Original or microfilm copies of the federal census returns are available at the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives. Several Kentucky indexes to censuses predate those published by AISI.

  State School Census for Kentucky infrequently enumerated public school students beginning in 1888. Scattered records are at the office of the respective county Board of Health or Board of Education. Some are maintained by the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives and the Kentucky Historical Society.

See Also Statewide Records that exist for Kentucky

Below is a list of online resources for Clay County Census Records. Email us with websites containing Clay County Census Records by clicking the link below:

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Clay County Maps & Atlases

      Genealogy Atlas has images of old American atlases during the years 1795, 1814, 1822, 1823, 1836, 1838, 1845, 1856, 1866, 1879 and 1897 for Kentucky and other states.
   You can view rotating animated maps for Kentucky showing all the county boundaries for each census year overlayed with past and present maps so you can see the changes in county boundaries. You can view a list of maps for other states at Census Maps
   You can view rotating animated maps for Kentucky showing all the county boundary changes for each year overlayed with past and present maps so you can see the changes in county boundaries . You can view a list of maps for other states and State Department of Transportation Maps at County Maps. The Kentucky Department of Transportation has county maps the show the locations of churches, cemeteries, roads, ect...

Below is a list of online resources for Clay County Maps. Email us with websites containing Clay County Maps by clicking the link below:

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Clay County Military Records
Search Online Click Here to Search Kentucky Military Records! - Military and civil service records provide unique facts and insights into the lives of men and women who have served their country at home and abroad.

   The uses and value of military records in genealogical research for ancestors who were veterans are obvious, but military records can also be important to re-searchers whose direct ancestors were not soldiers in any war. The fathers, grandfathers, brothers, and other close relatives of an ancestor may have served in a war, and their service or pension records could contain information that will assist in further identifying the family of primary interest. Due to the amount of genealogical information contained in some military pension files, they should never be overlooked during the research process. Those records not containing specific genealogical information are of historic value and should be included in any overall research design. A list of Wars fought on American.

Below is a list of online resources for Clay County Military Records. Email us with websites containing Clay County Military Records by clicking the link below:

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Clay County Tax Records

   One of the most valuable sources for early Kentucky until 1892 is its tax records. Most counties have yearly tax records from the date of organization. Some early tax schedules list watercourse, value and acreage of real estate, men over twenty-one, young men between sixteen and twenty-one, slaves, and horses. Extant county tax schedules from the date of organization of the county through 1892 have been microfilmed for most counties and are available from the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives and the FHL. Numerous original tax records from 1892 are available at the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives. The Kentucky Historical Society has tax records to 1875.
  Kentucky tax lists are arranged by county and date. Within the counties, residents within its districts are grouped together and names usually arranged under the beginning letter of the surname, although these are not in strict alphabetical order. Some early tax records have been published and are available in research libraries.

Below is a list of online resources for Clay County Tax Records. Email us with websites containing Clay County Tax Records by clicking the link below:

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Clay County Genealogical Addresses

   The Repositories in this section are Archives, Libraries, Museums, Genealogical and Historical Societies. Many County Historical and Genealogical Societies publish magazines and/or news letters on a monthly, quarterly, bi-annual or annual basis. Contacting the local societies should not be over looked. State Archives and Societies are usually much larger and better organized with much larger archived materials than their smaller county cousins but they can be more generalized and over look the smaller details that local societies tend to have. Libraries can also be a good place to look for local information. Some libraries have a genealogy section and may have some resources that are not located at archives or societies. Also, take a special look at any museums in the area. They sometimes have photos and items from years gone by as well as information of a genealogical interest. All these places are vitally important to the family genealogist and must not be passed over.

Below is a list of online resources for Clay County Genealogical Addresses. Email us with websites containing Clay County Genealogical Addresses by clicking the link below:

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Clay County Church & Cemeteries
Search Online Click Here to Search Kentucky Obituary Records! - This database is a compilation of obituaries published in U.S. newspapers, collected from various online sources. Obituaries can vary in the amount of information they contain, but many of them are genealogical goldmines, including information such as names, dates, places of birth and death, marriage information, and family relationships.

   There are many churches and cemeteries in Clay County. Some transcriptions are online. A great site is the Clay County Tombstone Transcription Project.

Church membership of early Kentuckians include Baptist, Church of Christ, Episcopal, Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, and Roman Catholic. Some church records were published, others were microfilmed, some are housed in church repositories, but many remain in the local church. Church records and histories may be found in periodicals pertaining to Kentucky. Repositories include the DAR Library, the FHL, Kentucky Historical Society, University of Kentucky Library, and Filson Club Library.

Many collections of cemetery records are available for Kentucky. In 1977 the Kentucky Historical Society began computerizing extant cemetery records for the state. Cemetery tombstone transcriptions are included in the Ardery collection. Kentucky regional libraries and some other large genealogical libraries outside the state have collections of Kentucky cemetery transcriptions. In addition, publications pertaining to Kentucky and Kentuckians frequently contain cemetery records for the state.

Below is a list of online resources for Clay County Cemetery & Church Records. Email us with websites containing Clay County Cemetery & Church Records by clicking the link below:

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Family Trees & Genealogy Tidbits

Search Online Click Here to Search Kentucky Family Tree Records! - The use of published genealogies, electronic files containing genealogical lineage, and other compiled sources can be of tremendous value to a researcher.

   When view family trees online or not, be sure to only take the info at face value and always follow up with your own sources or verify the ones they provide. Below is a list of online resources for Clay County Family Trees, web forums and other family type information . Email us with websites containing Clay County Family Trees, web forums and other family type information by clicking the link below:

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County History

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