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.
Sharp Resources on

Sharp Ancestry

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.
    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
    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

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.

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
diminutive 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
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
    1701 was an early settler in what came to be known as
  • while Joseph

    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

“John Sharp was a
carpenter and, after serving out his indenture, lived and worked in
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

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

Isaac 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
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
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

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.”

Sharpe is now a National Hero of Jamaica.

Two Sharpe
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

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
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.

Sharp Miscellany

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

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)



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