Finding the Family of Libby Sharp
This is the third in a a series of blog posts based on a presentation I did for my local genealogy group in 2018. Using some techniques for evaluating indirect and negative evidence, I was finally able to break through a 20+ year old brick wall in my husband’s family. This is a summary of the research and my process of working through the information.
In Part 1, I started with the information about Harriet “Libby” Sharp that I already had collected and went over the records again with attention to detail. In Part 2, I was able to begin to move from the known to the unknown by following hints in records and eliminating other possible suspects as members of Harriet’s family of origin. I was able to move from Michigan back to New York where Harriet was born. It’s now time to search New York records to answer some previously uncovered questions and determine who Harriet’s birth family was.
New York has a wonderful collection of State Census records that begin in 1855. This is perfect timing to fill in some of the gaps for Harriet who was born in 1850 in Rutland, Jefferson, New York.
1855 New York, State Census:
The Alexander Stevens family in Rutland, Jefferson, NY lists the following:
Stevens, Alexander age 55 born VT Married 48yr resident of Rutland
Lydia wife age 52 born CT Married 27yr resident of Rutland
Irving child age 18 born Jefferson 18yr resident of Rutland
Sharp Mary niece age 42 born Jefferson 20yr resident of Rutland
Henry laborer age 37 born Jefferson Married 3yr resident of Rutland
Harriet E. niece age 4 born Jefferson 4yr resident of Rutland
There is a LOT of information in this record! It lists the relation of each person to the head of household. The order and placement of the names suggest relationships. Mary is always placed after the Stevens family members, Henry is listed and then Harriet.
This Alexander Stevens family has been consistent in the various census records regarding the names of the family members, although Mary Sharp has not aged consistently. This is the second census in which Harriet appears living with this family and Henry Sharp was living next door to this family in the 1850 census.
*If this is the same Henry Sharp listed in the 1850 census, where are Susan, Jane, and Lydia A.? Why is Henry listed as Married when there is no obvious spouse listed in this record?
We already found these families in the 1860 US Census. We know that the Stevens family was living in Michigan without Harriet in 1860 and we have found Henry Sharp and family with daughter Harriet living in Rutland in 1860. Next we can check the 1865 NY State Census for further clues.
1865 New York, State Census:
There is only 1 Harriet E. Sharp living in Jefferson County, New York in this census. In this census, she appears living in Champion, Jefferson, NY with the family of John F. Peck.
John F Peck age 40 born Jefferson Married 1x Married now
Emily A Peck age 27 wife born Jefferson 3 children Married 1x Married now
Emily A Peck age 6 child born Jefferson
Joseph F Peck age 3 child born Jefferson
Martha S Peck age 57 mother born Jefferson 1 child Married 1x Widow
Harriet E Sharp age 14 niece born Jefferson*
*Champion is near Rutland and Watertown in Jefferson Co NY.
Where is Henry?
Its 1865 – could Henry be serving in the Civil War? The 1865 New York State Census had some additional sections regarding service in the military. This time I’m looking for Henry and not Harriet.
1865 New York, State Census: Town of LeRay, Jefferson County – Section VII Deaths of Officers and Enlisted Men reported since April 1861….
Henry Sharp age 40 Married enlisted March 1864 2nd Artillery Private
Died March 28, 1865 of sickness acquired in service dependents: Wife, 8 minor children
This section of the census is for the town of LeRay in Jefferson County. Henry’s death was not recorded in the section for Champion where Harriet was living at this time.
This Henry has a wife and 8 (!!!??) children.
If this is our Henry, we can search in Civil War records to possibly learn more.
New York, Civil War Muster Abstracts, 1861-1900 lists Henry Sharp age 48 who enlisted at Wilna, Jefferson County, NY, private in the 2nd Heavy Artillery in Feb 1864, died March 13 1865 at General Hospital in York, PA of disease.
*The townships of Watertown, Rutland, Champion, LeRay, Antwerp, and Wilna are all close together in the east-central portion of Jefferson County, NY.
If this is the correct Henry Sharp, then he would have been serving at the time of the 1865 census and it would make sense that Harriet would be living with another family. Henry is listed as Married, however, and there is also mention of having 8 minor children. The presumed wife (Susan) in the 1850 census is not listed in the 1860 census. Susan may have died before the 1860 census. If this is so, the known children of Henry and Susan would be Jane, Lydia A, and Harriet (born 1850).
There is only ever 1 Henry Sharp listed in the NY census records in Jefferson county during this time period which would lend strength to the argument that these Henrys are all the same person. Henry is listed as living with Harriet E or Elizabeth in 2 census records.
1870 census – no Henry Sharp living in Jefferson Co. 2 others in NY, 1 in Aderondack and 1 in Monroe counties. Further research into these 2 men eliminates them as possible fathers of Harriet Sharp.
Questions: Susan, Jane, Lydia x2?
What do we know about Susan?
Susan (presumed) wife in 1850 age 27 born NY. No maiden name to search with so impossible to look for her family members or birth record.
No 1845 NY state census. 1840 US census only lists head of house by name.
No marriage record found. No known church affiliation. No newspaper articles found.
Possible that she died between 1850 and 1860. Search for death and burial information.
May have been the spouse not listed in 1855? Not found on any 1855 census in NY.
Look for other sources – search for Henry and Susan in local histories in Rutland, Jefferson County, NY
In Part 4, I search for local histories and resources to try to solve the mystery of Henry and Susan Sharp and whether or not they are the family of Harriet Elizabeth “Libby” Sharp.