Tuesday, October 14, 2014

52 Ancestors: #39 William R. Sharp (1829 - ? after 1901 ?) - It's complicated

Climbing My Family Tree: Counties of New Brunswick
Counties of New Brunswick
William R. Sharp lived in Kings County, New Brunswick

This is my latest post for the “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” challenge initiated by Amy Johnson Crow of the No Story Too Small blog. For more information about the challenge and links to the other blogs participating in the challenge, please click on the badge in the right margin.

I originally wanted to write about William R. Sharp (1829-after 1901), my third great grand-uncle as an example of how researching those who surround the person I’m looking at can make all the pieces fall together, because I was so excited that they did here!

….then I did that proverbial one last look before starting to write this article and a spanner was thrown in the gears! Ack!

So I decided to show what goes through my head when I’m assessing the documentary evidence I find, before I what I know of William R. Sharp’s life at the end.

The first thing I became aware of is that there were a LOT of William Sharp’s in New Brunswick in the 1800’s so the “R” is important even though I don’t know what it stands for. My William R. Sharp was born January 19, 1829 as the youngest son (or possibly youngest surviving son) of my 4th great grandparents, William and Sarah [??] Sharp, and little brother of my 3rd great grandmother, Lydia [Sharp] Wilcox.

I first found William R in the 1852 New Brunswick Census (that some indexer massacred – if you’ve got anyone in it, ALWAYS click through to look at the original document; it’s vastly different than what the indexer recorded for everyone I’ve looked at so far), at age 23, living with his parents, Lydia’sdaughter Racheal Wilcox and his sisters Susan (27) and Charlott (20).

Climbing My Family Tree: Ancestry.com's Index of the 1852 Canadian Census for New Brunswick
Ancestry.com's Index of the 1852 Canadian Census for New Brunswick
The part circled in pink is inaccurate - it intermixes 2 families on facing pages. (Come on, Ancestry, fix the indexing!)
[I've submitted corrections for each person I've looked up in this census.]

Climbing My Family Tree: 1852 Canada Census - William R. Sharp
1852 Canada Census - William R. Sharp, actual page
(Note Abraham & Eliza Sharp in the top family, I'll be talking about them, too.)

I next found him at age 42 in the 1871 Canadian Census living with a ten year old boy, named Sylvester Sharp; probably his son,  although that Census does not ask about relationships of household members.  William R is listed as widowed.  He is living next door to his parents, William, 81 and Sarah, 78. Both men are farmers. An 11 year old boy named George Cripps is also recorded in WR’s household but may have been simply over to play with Sylvester as there is a Cripps family a few houses (2 pages) away.

In the 1881 Canadian Census he is 51 and married to 35 year old Mary Ann Sharp. Also in the household is 20 year old Ernest S. (Sylvester?) Sharp. The age is appropriate to be the 10 year old boy of the last Census, and, this time, he is designated as WR’s son.  Another person in the household is Leila A.V. Sharp, 13, four younger kids and WR’s widowed mother. 

I was now curious because Leila had not been in the household 10 years ago, although she would have been three. So I started taking a closer look at Leila A. V. Sharp and William R’s wife Mary Ann. I found a birth record for Leila A.V.  Sharp indicating that she had been born to Abram Sharp and Mary Ann Boyle (as it turns out, that should be Mary Ann Bogle).  The record was a late registration and was attested to in 1932 by a Gordon Sharp (He is William’s grandson through his son Charles Z. A,).

Having found that I turned to Daniel F Johnson's NewBrunswick Newspaper Vital Statistics at the Provincial Archives of NewBrunswick, which was an immense help, in looking up everyone in this cascading search. The newspapers showed that Abraham had been married to two of the Bogle sisters, sequentially. He married Eliza Jane Bogle (21) [identified in the marriage notice as Boyle, but in the death notice – with her father named as well – as Bogle] in 1863; she died two years later. Two years after that Abraham Sharp married Eliza Jane’s younger sister Mary Ann Bogle on February 27, 1867.  The 1871 Canadian census shows Mary Ann (25) married to Abraham Sharp (41) and Leila Sharp was three years old. I haven’t been able to find a death or divorce date for Abraham, but in the 1881 Canadian Census Mary Ann and Leila are living with William R and Mary Ann is listed as his wife. In the 1991 Census, William R & Mary Ann are still married [the census indexer says Mary Ann’s marital status is S- for single. I think the indexer misread the F- for female – as an “S” because the document clearly indicates she is the W (wife) of the head of household (William R)]. Leila still lives with them, as do nine sons ranging in age from 17 to 1. (I’ll list all of his children at the end.)

In looking over the censuses, I discovered that William R. grew up about four houses down from Abraham’s family (see the census page pictured above). They were the same age; I bet they were friends. Abraham had a younger sister named Eliza. She may have been WR’s first wife. In searching the newspaper database for articles about WR I found that on June 5, 1865, the Colonial Farmer (newspaper), Fredericton, York Co, New Brunswick, posted a death notice: “d. Studholm (Kings Co.) 27th March, age 2 years 9 mos., Eben Augustus s/o William R. and Eliza SHARP.”

 I could not find anything about William R after 1901. However, in the rest of her life (through about 1940 –when I lose her) Leila lives with one or the other of William R’s (& , I  thought, Mary Ann’s) sons listed as “sister”, most of the time with Charles Z.A., except in 1917 when she traveled to Germantown, PA to visit with “her brother, William Ray Sharp”. In the paperwork for the trip, she listed her half-brother Elbert as her closest relative.

Climbing My Family Tree: U.S. Record of Aliens Pre-examined in Canada, Leila Sharp 1917
U.S. Record of Aliens Pre-examined in Canada, Leila Sharp 1917

So what is the spanner in the works you ask? Well, in my last check of Daniel F Johnson's New Brunswick Newspaper Vital Statistics at the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick just before sitting down to write this, I found a newspaper, The Daily Telegraph, dated 7 May 1873,  which announced a marriage: “m. At the Parsonage, Studholm (Kings Co.) Dec., by Rev. C.W. Dutcher, William R. () / Miss Mary Jane GRIGG, all of Studholm. (According to John R. Elliott's Kings County New Brunswick Marriages Register C & D page 60 - William R. SHARP (Studholm) & Mary Jane GRIGG (same place) lic. 5, Dec., 1872 - by C.W. Dutcher (Wes. Minister) - wit. A.J. SHARP & Mary A. SHARP dated at Millstream 10 Dec., 1872”.  Another, different, marriage for WR, witnessed by his friend A [braham]. J.  Sharp and his wife Mary Ann, no less!

It occurred to me that I should check to see if FamilySearch.org had anything helpful, as Ancestry.com did not (I looked).  After doing a search for Mary Grigg, on FamilySearch, the first thing I saw was a birth record for James Wilton Sharp, born September 13, 1873. The record said that his father was William R. Sharp and his mother was Mary Jane Grigg. On the other hand, the birth record itself, when I looked at the original document, is an attestation, made on May 1, ­1940, by Charles Z A Sharp, saying “I am his brother and have before me our Parent’s Family Bible record and it reads James Wilton Sharp born Sept 13th 1873 and this book was written in at the time of birth by my father. Our parents are both [?]” (See picture.} Notarized in the town of Sussex, County of Kings, Province of New Brunswick, the 1st day of May, 1940.

Climbing My Family Tree: Birth Record for James Wilton Sharp, 1873
Birth Record for James Wilton Sharp, 1873, attestation by  brother Charles in 1940

The problem here is that this attestation is, at best, hearsay, created 66 years after the event, and was attested to by a person who was not yet born at the time of James’ birth and who thus cannot have any independent recollection of the event. Charles was born six years after James. The attestation seems to imply, moreover, that Mary Jane Grigg, and not Mary Ann Bogle, is Charles’ mother as well.

I have not seen the family bible referred to by Charles Sharp, and I have no way of knowing if any records contained therein were truly kept contemporaneously, or if they are written clearly in a manner that forecloses upon any possible misinterpretation.

The only references to Mary Grigg in Ancestry.com I can find in New Brunswick are to a 6 year old child in 1851 (William was 23 then), and, all other, later references show a Mary married to a Grigg man, and list children with entirely different names than the ones that have been showing up with William R. This is not to say that the records I’m looking for don’t exist but that with a reasonably diligent current search I have not been able to find any such records; even so, it is possible that the length of the marriage occurred between censuses. In the next census Mary Ann is listed as William’s wife (& Leila is there).

I have observed in the documents my own family have left that children do not always know details regarding their parents’ lives and that stories get twisted and assumptions become accepted fact. Therefore, I will not accept as entirely credible the two birth records, attested to decades after the fact, without direct or circumstantial corroboration.

The only truly contemporaneous records I have before me are the census documents. While people have been known to lie to the government, it is rare that they remember a lie consistently over ten year intervals. Accordingly, for me, the most credible documentation in this case is the census records.

The second most credible would be the vital statistics index of the newspaper announcements, as the newspaper accounts are fairly contemporaneous, bearing in mind that any transcription includes the possibility of typographical or transcription errors, but it appears to be a trusted resources amongst family historians by what I found when I Googled it.

I also consider as credible evidence the contemporaneous travel records of Leila Sharp taken at border crossings (Manifest of Alien Passengers Applying for Admission, and a U.S. Record of Aliens Pre-Examined in Canada), and Voter’s Records (Canadian or U.S.) because they are business records kept in the regular course of business.

The credible evidence suggests the life of William R. Sharp is as follows:

William R. Sharp was born on January 19, 1829, as the youngest son (or possibly youngest surviving son) of my 4th great grandparents, William and Sarah [??] Sharp, and little brother of my 3rd great grandmother, Lydia [Sharp] Wilcox.

In 1852, he was 23 and living at home with his parents, probably helping to work the farm. Also at home, were his sisters Susan (27) and Charlott (20) and niece, Rachael Wilcox, recorded as age 11.

Sometime around 1860, he married a woman named Eliza (perhaps his friend Abraham J. Sharp’s younger sister? I don’t know, but they were neighbors as children and people frequently married neighbors back then), and had two sons, Ernest Sylvester Sharp (1861-? I lost him after 1881) and Eben Augustus (1862-1865). But by the 1871 Canadian Census, he was 42 and a widower, farming and living with his ten year old son Ernest Sylvester, next door to his parents. He indicated that he was of English origin and belonged to the Church of England.

On December 5, 1872, he married Mary Jane Grigg. His friend Abraham J Sharp and his wife Mary Ann were witnesses.  But by the time of the 1881 Canadian Census, William R. was married to Mary Ann (who had previously been married to Abraham J. Sharp and had one child, Leila Agnes V. Sharp, by him. Per the record of her marriage to Abraham, her maiden name is Bogle); her daughter Leila was living with them. He was a farmer. William R was listed as of Scotch descent and Mary Ann as of Irish descent; they were Wesleyan Methodists.

It is possible that four of William’s sons were born by Mary Jane Grigg, from the timing of the census and the attestation by Charles as to James’ birth. Mary Jane possibly died in childbirth of the fourth one or shortly thereafter, which could account for the quick marriage to Mary Ann as William would have needed someone to help him care for four children under seven, one an infant. William and Mary Jane’s children would be: James W., born September 13 1874 he moved to Alaska in 1891 and became a naturalized citizen of the U.S, in 1908); Frank Hedley, April 10, 1875 (he moved to Alaska in 1891, at age 16, and became a U.S. citizen in 1910); William, bn December 29, 1876 (he married a Massachusetts woman and moved to the states, eventually settling in CT.); and Charles Z. A., bn September 13, 1880 (he stayed in New Brunswick).

William R. and Mary Ann (Bogle Sharp) had five sons that I know of: the twins Auritus Lee, bn December 31, 1881 (he went by Lee -- & I don’t blame him! -- and moved to Saskatchewan, then back to New Brunswick) and Fred Irwin, bn. December 31, 1881 (he and his family lived in Saskatchewan; he died in 1955); Herbert Etsey, bn. February 3, 1836 (I lost him after 1901, age 15); Elbert, bn, February 26, 1888 (he stayed in New Brunswick); Iven, bn. April 19, 1890 at age 16 he moved to Alaska in 1906, became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1908).

Climbing My Family Tree: KIng's County New Brunswick Parishes
KIng's County New Brunswick Parishes: William R. Sharp lived in Studholm Parish

In 1891, William R. Sr. and Mary Ann were farming and living in Studholm, Kings Co., New Brunswick with all of the kids, except Ernest, and Iven, who was born later that year. They were all listed as Methodists. 

In 1901, William R. (72) and Mary Ann (55) were living and farming with Charles (21), Auritus Lee (19), Herbert (15), Elbert (13), and Ivan (10).  His son’s William R (24) and Fred (19), and Mary Ann’s daughter, Leila 33), lived and farmed next door. William says he is of English origin and Mary Ann is of Irish origin.

And that is the last I know of William R. Sharp. If anyone knows more and is willing to share, please contact me by leaving a comment or emailing me at the address on the Contact Me page.


I would like to know more of William R's childhood, when he died, and perhaps get a look at his will. If I could find more newspaper articles it would be great for allowing me to "see him" better. He's not direct line for me, but I'm still curious.


Canadian Census for 1852, 1871, 1881, 1891, and 1901.  The Daily Telegraph, 13 March 1863; The Religious Intelligencer, Saint John, dated 24 March 1865 The Religious Intelligencer, dated 15 March 1867; Colonial Farmer (newspaper), Fredrickton, York Co, New Brunswick, June 5, 1865; The Daily Telegraph, Saint John, St. John. New Brunswick, CA, 7  May 1873; U.S. Naturalization Records for William's sons.  images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1-159378-649276-83?cc=1726660 : accessed 13 Oct 2014), 1866-1869 > Late registrations > 1866 (Atkinson)-1869 (Trites) > image 573 of 1161; citing Provincial Archives, Fredericton.. National Archives and Records Administration; Washington, D.C.; Manifests of Passengers Arriving at St. Albans, VT, District through Canadian Pacific and Atlantic Ports, 1895-1954; National Archives Microfilm Publication: M1464; Roll: 347; Record Group Title: Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service; Record Group Number: 85. National Archives and Records Administration; Washington D.C.; Records of Aliens Pre-Examined at Saint John, New Brunswick, Prior to Admission at the U.S.-Canada Border, compiled ca. 1917 - ca. 1942; National Archives Microfilm Publication: A3450; Record Group Title: Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1787 - 2004; Record Group Number: 85. http://archives.gnb.ca/Search/NewspaperVitalStats/NameIndex.aspx?culture=en-CA; "New Brunswick, Provincial Returns of Births and Late Registrations, 1810-1906," index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/XTSG-CVR : accessed 14 Oct 2014), William R Sharp in entry for James Wilton Sharp, 13 Sep 1873; citing Mount Middleton, Kings, New Brunswick, certificate , Provincial Archives, Fredericton; FHL microfilm 1943962.

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