The Earp Effect

When people hear the name Earp, they immediately think of my 6th cousin (3x removed), Wyatt Earp.  Growing up, I had heard the stories that were passed down through my Earp family, and, although at the time I thought that was “neat”, I really wasn’t told much more about it, and I wasn’t going to lose any sleep over it.  What did I know?…I was a kid. 

My great-uncle Bill had done some research throughout his lifetime and when I was older, he shared with me some of the discoveries that he had made in his genealogical journey. I have tried to keep those shared discoveries with me as I go about my own research journey.   As I have peeled back the generations of Earps, I have learned so much more than I ever expected.  However, the funny thing about genealogy is…just when you think there is no more to learn, it just comes right back and gives you a swift kick in the behind!

That’s exactly what happened recently…

I was just tooling around on©, doing a search for Earps in Harrisburg, PA newspapers, when I came across the name Grace Earp that had passed away in 1918, and she was married to a William J. Earp.  My great-grandfather (we called him Grandpa Earp) was William J. Earp, and he had married Edna Mae Keim in 1911.  So, what am I looking at here?

Could it be there was another William J. Earp living Harrisburg at the same time as my Grandpa Earp?

I went to Ancestry©, and did a search for a William Earp married to a Grace Earp.  I found what I was looking for.  Indeed, there was a 2nd William J. Earp, although this William was 14 years older than my Grandpa Earp.  Now, before I get into the facts about this William, I’d like to present the facts about my great-grandfather and the two or three generations before him.

Most if not all family lines of the Earp family in America tie back to one location…Maryland.  Grandpa Earp’s parents, Edward Elmer Earp and Annie Bowers were both born in Maryland, but only met and married in Harrisburg, PA.  My great-grandfather by occupation was a shoemaker.  He worked for the United Shoe Machinery Corporation.  His brother, Edward Eugene Earp, also worked for that company, making shoes.  Also, the family of their mother, Annie Bowers Earp, were involved in shoemaking, going back to Annie’s grandfather.

If we step back 2 generations to Joseph Earp (1816-1882), who was my 3x great-grandfather (Grandpa Earp’s grandfather), he was a nailer.  An occupation in which he forged metal into nails, typically working for a metal forging company.  There were many metal forging companies in and around Baltimore and Ellicott City.  In 1868, a terrible flood occurred in Baltimore, better known as “The Great Flood of Baltimore”.  This flood took out many of the metal forging companies, which left many people without jobs.  Joseph packed up his family, which included his youngest son, Edward Elmer Earp, who was probably 1 year old about the time they moved to PA.  This event is why my Earps hail from Harrisburg, PA.

Joseph Earp’s father was William Earp (1790-1844) and Joseph’s grandfather was James Earp (1767-1857), whom was married twice, first to Susannah Jones (William’s mother and Joseph’s grandmother) and second to Kitturah (Kitty) Baker .  James and Susannah Earp are the common threads between the two William J. Earps.

Now, getting back to the other William J. Earp…his real name was John William Earp (1874-1957).  At some point, John switched his first and middle name.  He was married to Grace A. Bretz (1879-1918).  He had two children with Grace, Lucinda (1897-1972) and Lester (1902-1957).  William’s father was also John William Earp (1840-1902), and his mother was Catherine Shipley (1845-1896).  Here’s where it starts to get interesting…

William had two sisters and two brothers, one of the brothers being named Eugene.  Grandpa Earp’s brother was Edward Eugene.  William was a shoemaker, and worked for the Lester Shoe Company in Cumberland County, PA.  Sometime between 1900 and 1920, while living in Harrisburg, he had his own shoe shop and/or business.  After Grace passed away in 1918, he moved back to Cumberland County.  William died in 1957.

William’s father, John was born in Maryland and was a nailer, just like my 3x great-grandfather Joseph.  So, it stands to reason that John and his family were affected by the 1868 flood as well, and thus, relocated to Pennsylvania.

John’s father was Asher Earp (1805-1854), who was married to Matilda Adams.  Asher was the younger brother of my 4x great-grandfather, William, making Asher the younger son of James Earp and Susannah Jones.  We now have come full circle. 

So, if you ever encounter someone in your ancestor’s past that shares the same surname, or even weirder yet, shares their full name, don’t hesitate to look them up to see where they may be related to your family.  The circumstances may surprise you.

Brian S. Miller


Ancestry© and Newspapers©

Featured image: Tombstone – O.K. Corral

Special Thanks

A special posthumous thank you to my great-uncle William E. Earp, who got me interested in the history of the Earp family in the first place, and my Grandma (Earp) Lentz who carried on the tradition of the Earps in her heart and passed it on to her children and grandchildren.

To my Earp, Cakalic and Lentz aunts, uncles & cousins.

My brothers & sister, who are helping to preserve the Earp history and legacy.

My mother, who has, at times, been able to fill in some of the gaps in our more recent family history.

A special thank you to my wife who is always right there to support me in whatever I do.

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