Select Sharp Surname Genealogy

Sharp originally developed as a nickname - from the Old English scearp or from the German scharf, meaning "sharp " or "keen," and would be used to describe a sharp or smart person.  The name Healden Scearpa was recorded in Kent as early as 1026.  Sharp and Sharpe are the two main spellings.  

Sharp is also known through the Japanese electronics company the Sharp Corporation.  The company took its name from one of its first inventions, the Ever-Sharp mechanical pencil, in 1915. 

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Select Sharp Ancestry

England.  The original Sharp family was said to have been from Saxony, coming to what is now Bradford in Yorkshire in the 13th century.  They were split by the War of the Roses in 1470 - with one branch going north to Scotland, one south to Bristol, and a third remaining at Little Horton (Bradford) in Yorkshire.

Little Horton in Bradford produced two remarkable and related Sharp families in the 17th century:
  • one began with John Sharp, a farmer, who had done well at the time of the Civil War in England and become a Commonwealth tax collector.  His son Abraham distinguished himself as a mathematician and astronomer.  He died in 1742 and there is a monument to his memory in Bradford church. 
  • the other started with Thomas Sharp, a wet and dry salter.  His eldest son John was for a time chaplain to King James II and later, under William and Mary, Archbishop of York.  John's son Thomas was Archdeacon of Durham and a prolific theological writer; his grandson Granville Sharp one of the leading campaigners for the abolition of the slave trade. Granville's elder brother William was surgeon to George III.
Although the Sharp name is now spread around the country, it is still very much a northern and Yorkshire name.  One Sharp family history from the 18th century began in Bedfordshire; but then there were others at that time from Bradford and points nearby in Yorkshire, from Dalton in Furness in Lancashire, and from Horton in Staffordshire.

Scotland.  The name first appeared in Scotland in the 14th century when a William Sharp was recorded as a tenant of the Earl of Douglas on the Scottish borders in 1376. 

In 1439 a Patrick Sharp appeared in the Aberdeen burgh records.  James Sharp, the grandson of Aberdeen merchant David Sharp, was a graduate of the University of Aberdeen who became Archbishop of St. Andrews in 1661.  Andrew Sharp of Aberdeen was the father of two sons, William and John, who emigrated to America in the 1680's.  One family history goes back to a George Sharp who was living at the mill of Auquharney in Cruden near Aberdeen in 1748.

By the 19th century the Sharp name had spread south to Perthshire and the Scottish Lowlands.

Ireland.  The Sharpe name in Ireland may have come from English or Scottish settlers in the 17th century.

Sharpe in Donegal could be Irish in origin, an anglicized version of the Gaelic Gearan, a byname from the dimunitive gear meaning "sharp."  But the civic survey of 1654 in Donegal only turned up an English Protestant, John Sharpe, who owned church lands in Raphoe.  Thomas Sharpe, born in Ballyshannon in county Donegal in 1794, enlisted in the British army and went out to India in 1819.

America.  Sharps in America were most noticeable in New Jersey.

New Jersey.  The Quaker Sharps of New Jersey had come originally from Gloucestershire in England.  Anthony Sharp, a wool merchant, had fled to Dublin in 1669 because of religious persecution.  There he began to organize a Quaker community across the Atlantic in New Jersey:
  • among those appointed to found the new colony was his nephew Thomas
  • his son Isaac who arrived in 1701 was an early settler in what came to be known as Sharpsborough 
  • while Joseph Sharp of the next generation built iron works and a stone grist mill.  This mill was to provide flour to American troops in the War of 1812.
There were as well two other Sharp families in New Jersey by the late 17th century: three Sharp brothers from Northamptonshire, also Quakers, who settled in Burlington, New Jersey; and William and John Sharp, two brothers from Aberdeen, who settled in Woodbridge and Perth Amboy respectively. 

"John Sharp was a carpenter and, after serving out his indenture, lived and worked in Manhattan for a while. His home was on the same block as Captain Kidd.  His property tax bill for 1697 was one fathom of white wampum raised in support of the poor.” 

William Sharp bought his 120 acre farm in Woodbridge township in 1700.

ElsewhereIsaac Sharp was an early Virginia settler, possibly as early as 1620.  His line was later to be found in Henrico county where William Sharp patented land in 1645.

A descendant Charles Sharp left Virginia for Alabama in the 1820’s, settling in Lauderdale county.  His line was covered in David Sharp’s 2009 book Sharp Family.  Other Sharps in Alabama, coming from North Carolina in 1835, were to be found at Sharpsville near Montgomery.  Lafayette Sharp fought in the Civil War and subsequently moved to Texas.

Sharps - reportedly descended from the Archbishop John Sharp from Bradford - were in Washington county, Virginia by the 1750's, fought as Patriots at King's Mountain in the Revolutionary War, and later made the crossing to Kentucky in 1798.  The eldest son Solomon Sharp trained as a lawyer there and rose to become state Attorney General and an influential congressman.  But he was assassinated in 1825.

William Sharp, the orphan son of Scots Irish immigrants John and Margery Sharp, was born in Augusta county, Virginia in 1744.  He grew up to be a well-known Indian scout and a pioneer settler in Huntersville, West Virginia in the 1770’s.  One family line has been traced in West Virginia from William’s brother John.

A Sharpe family were among the early plantation settlers in St. James, Jamaica in the 18th century. Sam Sharpe, a slave and Baptist preacher there, led the 1831 slave rebellion.  Just before he was hanged for his role in the rebellion, Sharpe proclaimed:

"I would rather die in yonder gallows, than live for a minute more in slavery." 

Sam Sharpe is now a National Hero of Jamaica.

  Two Sharpe brothers, William and John, came to Canada from county Leitrim in Ireland in the early 1820's.  Both were shoemakers and they settled in York (now Toronto).  John later purchased land in King township.  

Sharpes from Derby were early settlers in Kent county, Ontario in the 1850's.  Thomas Sharpe left Sligo for Canada in 1885 and headed west.  He became the forceful mayor of Winnipeg in 1899.

Australia.  One Sharp related to the abolitionist Granville Sharp emigrated to Australia.   William Hay Sharp, born in Hull, departed in 1878 for Sydney where he was appointed warden at the University of Sydney.   His eldest son Granville was a distinguished scholar and tennis player, representing Australia in the 1909 Davis Cup. Another line from Granville's brother William were chief surgeons in Victoria. 

David and George Sharp, two brothers from Scotland, had come out to Australia in the 1840's, David settling in the Bellarine peninsula in Victoria and George in Adelaide and later Mount Gambier.

Select Sharp Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for further stories and accounts:

Select Sharp Names

Granville Sharp was one of the first English campaigners for the abolition of the slave trade. 
Sam Sharpe led the 1831 slave rebellion in Jamaica and is now honored as a National Hero of Jamaica.
Cecil Sharp was the founding father of the folklore revival in England in the early 20th century.
Tom Sharpe is an English satirical author, best known for his Wilt series of novels.
William Sharpe is an American economist, the winner of the Nobel economics prize in 1990.

Select Sharps Today
  • 58,000 in the UK (most numerous in Yorkshire)
  • 35,000 in America (most numerous in Texas) 
  • 29,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)

PS.  You might want to check out the surnames page on this website.  It covers surname genealogy in this and companion websites for more than 800 surnames.

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