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Bill Paxton

Bill Paxton - Who Do You Think You Are? There is something emotionally significant about discovering a Revolutionary War patriot in your family tree. The idea that your own ancestor somehow contributed to the birth of a new nation may set off an explosion of patriotic anthems in your mind and unearth a desire to know how they helped secure American independence.

Once you know where your ancestors lived during the time of the American Revolution, you can better pinpoint the types of records available in that region and what insight they may offer into the life of your ancestor in the late 18th century.

While researching Bill Paxton’s tree, we found that his ancestor Benjamin Sharp lived in Virginia during the Revolutionary War. This led us to various documents regarding his service in the war as a spy as well as his involvement at the Battle of Kings Mountain at age 18. One of the most powerful was an article Sharp wrote in his twilight years about his war experience that was published in the American Pioneer magazine in 1842.

By Sharp’s late 30s and early 40s, he had started a family, settled a farm, and owned a significant amount of land. Land ownership is often a key to finding other records that can fill in the blanks about your ancestor. Because Sharp owned quite a bit of land, it was likely that he would be found in county court records for land purchases and the like. When we looked into the county court minutes, we quickly found him there.

Court records in Virginia and Missouri (where Benjamin later lived) showed that Benjamin Sharp worked as a surveyor, a justice of the peace, and other bureaucratic positions at the county level. This bread crumb of information gave us direction to find Sharp’s political history. Because he was politically active at the local level, it is likely that he was working his way up through the bureaucratic ranks and that his local involvement had national implications.

We found that during the U.S. presidential election of 1800 between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, Sharp served as one of the commissioners overseeing the election. Commissioners were responsible for making sure the election went smoothly and verifying the ballot counts. The record of Sharp’s political service is in the executive papers of the Virginia governor, who was James Monroe (who later became president himself).

Research Manager on Project:

Paul K. Graham

Project Hours:

109 hours

Paul is a graduate of the George Washington University and began his career as a title examiner in Georgia, gaining valuable knowledge of property and probate law and records. He has performed genealogical and historical research for clients since 2004.

His television credits include research into actor-comedian Chris Tucker's roots for African American Lives (2006), as well as the family histories of actor Blair Underwood, chef Paula Deen, and actor Jim Parsons for Who Do You Think You Are? (2012-2013). In 2007 he researched the childhood history and family secrets of Marine Corps Lieutenant General Victor Krulak (dec.) for the biography Brute: The Life of Victor Krulak, U.S. Marine by author Robert Coram. Paul is the author of seven books related to Georgia genealogy and records.