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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 began his career as a title examiner and has been doing genealogical and historical research for clients since 2004. He holds both credentials relevant to U.S. genealogical research: Certified Genealogist and Accredited Genealogist.

 

His undergraduate education was at George Washington University, and he has a master's degree in heritage preservation from Georgia State University. He also earned a professional certificate in geographic information systems. His work primarily focuses on the South, but he is experienced at documenting families across the United States.

 

Paul's television credits include researching actor-comedian Chris Tucker for the television show African American Lives (2006), and he has led the research on multiple celebrities for Who Do You Think You Are? since 2012. He has also written several books and articles, primarily related to Georgia families and records.