Finding the Family of Libby Sharp
This is the sixth 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.
Part 1 of this story revolved around reviewing what I had already collected but paying close attention to detail. Part 2 had me working back in time and trying to find a family of origin for Harriet Elizabeth “Libby” Sharp in her birth place of New York. Part 3 was sorting out some interesting puzzles to rebuild a fractured family tree. Part 4 was focused on the 2 wives of Henry Sharp. Part 5 was about collateral research on the proposed siblings of Harriet to establish relationships. I learned the fate of 6 of the 8 children of Henry Sharp but there were 2 children left unaccounted for. In Part 6, I go in search of the remaining children.
At this point, I have accounted for the 4 children of Henry and Lydia: Anna Ardella, John M., Benjamin A., and Roseltha. I also have found information regarding Harriet and Lydia Ann, 2 of the children of Henry and first wife Susan. According to his death recorded in his papers from his Civil War service, he had 8 children at the time of his death. The only other child mentioned in a census record is Jane (mentioned on the 1850 US census age 7 years). Since we know that several of the children were placed in the homes of family members after Susan’s death, it makes the most sense to start with Sharp and Gordon families living in Jefferson County.
As previously stated, the 1860 US Census showed a Martha J Sharp age 16, servant in the home of Harley Derby. This family is next door to the Gordon family where Lydia Ann was staying at this time. Could Martha J be Martha Jane?
1855 State Census, New York: Antwerp, Jefferson County, NY
Sharp George age 35 born Jefferson Married 35yr resident of Antwerp
Harriet age 27 wife born Saratoga Married 15yr resident of Antwerp
Hellen E age 6 child born Jefferson 6yr resident of Antwerp
Emalyne age 1 child born Jefferson 1yr resident of Antwerp
Benjamin age 66 father born CT Married 26yr resident Antwerp
Deborah age 64 mother born CT Married 26yr resident Antwerp
Martha age 11 niece born Jefferson 11yr resident Antwerp
Susan age 2 niece born Jefferson 2yr resident Antwerp
Martha age 25 sister born Jefferson 25yr resident Antwerp
*2 residents in this home are listed as “niece” in relation to the head of household – in this case George Sharp. It does not appear that these children belong to anyone in this household. Martha the sister of George would have been 14 years old when Martha the niece was born. While not impossible, it is unlikely. Susan Sharp age 2 – could this be the missing child of Henry and Susan Sharp? Her birth would have been around the time of Susan B Sharp’s death in 1853.
I was unable to locate a definite match for Martha Jane Sharp in the 1865 NY Census. There is a Jane Sharp, age 17, born Jefferson County, living in Philadelphia with the Thomas Coolidge family as a servant. Charles Brown is living with his family in Philadelphia as well in 1865, unmarried, so it is possible that this Jane Sharp is correct. Her age is incorrect – she would have been 21 instead of 17.
The Jefferson County GenWeb lists the following in the Re-Union Feb 13, 1867 Married:
“By the same, at Antwerp, Feb. 7th, Mr. CHARLES H. BROWN of Philadelphia and Miss MARTHA J. SHARP of Antwerp”
The US and New York Census records from 1870 to 1900 list the Charles Brown family living in Philadelphia, Jefferson County, New York. In the 1875 and 1880 census years, Rose Sharp – listed as sister in law in 1875– is living with this family also. Rose married in December of 1880 to Spencer Woodward as previously stated. I believe that having Rose living with this family definitively links Martha Jane to the Henry Sharp family. I am confident that Martha is the oldest child of Henry and Susan Gordon Sharp.
Martha died in 1905 and is buried at the Sandy Hollow Cemetery in Philadelphia, Jefferson County, New York with husband Charles H and children Calvin and Frances.
I am confident that I have found 7 of the 8 children of Henry Sharp and his 2 wives. The last child may be Susan Sharp mentioned in the above 1855 State Census, New York, as being a niece to the head of household (George Sharp). There is strong possibility that this is the correct child based on her name, age, place of birth, and location in the home of another of Henry and Susan’s children. Susan is found with the George Sharp family again in the 1860 US Census in Antwerp, aged 7, and listed this time as daughter, adopted. She is found with the same family in Antwerp, Jefferson County in the 1865 State Census, New York, age 11, and this time simply listed as “child” along with the rest of George’s children.
By the 1870 US Census, this family has moved and is living in Easton, Ionia County, Michigan. Susan is not listed as living with the family at this time. I have been unable to locate any further records regarding Susan Sharp. It is possible that she had married by 1870 and was living with a husband, it is also possible that she died between 1865 and 1870.
While there is little direct evidence connecting these people when you look at one record apart from the others, I believe that there is STRONG circumstantial evidence to suggest that these people are related when you look at the data as a whole. This research project took the better part of 6 months to sort out.
Further research into the Alexander Stevens family finds that wife Lydia was daughter of Joseph Peck. Joseph Peck had another daughter Deborah who married Benjamin Sharp – father to George Sharp (adopted father of Susan and uncle to Martha Jane) and most likely Henry.
Joseph Peck’s grandson John F Peck and wife Emily A housed Harriet in 1865. Emily A was a daughter of Thomas Gordon. Thomas and wife Sylvia housed grandchild Lydia Ann in 1855,1860, and 1865. I believe that Emily A and Susan Gordon were sisters.
Of course, the tree is still growing until you run out of records. I plan to order Henry Sharp’s pension file in the future to see if any of his children are listed. In the months since this initial research, I have moved the tree back to colonial New England on both the Sharp and Gordon families.
What do you think? Is there enough indirect evidence to say that this is the correct family for Harriet Sharp?
Thanks for sticking with me through all these records!