The William Earp Mistake

For many years now (way before I started doing genealogical research on my family), I’ve known I was related to Wyatt Earp. My Great-Uncle Bill Earp did a lot of the leg work, and this was before computers and the internet. Granted, he didn’t get everything completely right, but I won’t fault him here, as the information he gave me set the foundation for what I did find. I have read two different books on Wyatt, one of them twice. I just couldn’t put it down. Wyatt seemed to be a teller of tall tales, you know, one of those guys with a fishing story, that would hold out his arms real wide and say “I caught one this big!”.

Well, the story that follows, came together by shear doggedness and determination, dispelling what was believed as the truth.  I think Wyatt and my Great-Uncle Bill would of found this story fascinating.

Researching back to Joseph Earp, my 3x great-grandfather, I began questioning who his father really was. William, the son of Joshua Earp or James Earp, who were brothers and both had sons named William.

There are many people out there that have William’s parents as being Joshua Earp and Eleanor McKinsey, which just didn’t sit right with me. I had this feeling in my gut that something wasn’t right. Luckily, after much research, I found the proof I needed to verify William’s parents.

Joshua Earp (1760-1811), was the son of Joseph and Elizabeth Earp. James Earp (abt. 1768- 1855) was the youngest son of Joseph and Elizabeth. Joshua was married to Eleanor McKinsey. James was married first, to Susanna Jones, then secondly to Katherine Baker. Both Joshua and James had sons named William. Both Williams were born around the same time.

The following information regarding Joshua Earp’s line was taken from excerpts of documentation compiled by Charles A. Earp, noted Earp historian and genealogist:


Everything looks nice and tidy and wrapped up in a red ribbon bow. All records accounted for, all the i’s dotted and all the t’s crossed.

I didn’t buy it…

There are two Sons of the American Revolution applications that can be found on Fold3 and Ancestry for a Daniel McKinsey. Daniel fought in the Revolution and was the father of Eleanor McKinsey, and she was married to Joshua Earp. Both records show the lineage from Daniel McKinsey down through William Earp, (1790-1844), who married Ann Read. These application records are typically just family genealogies that are not necessarily confirmed nor have any proof. Now, here is where it gets really interesting.

As mentioned before, Joshua and James Earp (sons of Joseph and Elizabeth), had sons named William. The first one born was in 1790 and the second one was born about 1793. Both Williams supposedly served in the War of 1812. However, only one of them was declared by the Department of the Interior, Pension office to have officially served in that war. The first William’s General Index card is proof of his service. He served in the 2 Reg’t (Schucht’s)  Maryland Militia as a Sergeant:


The second William Earp does appear in the records of the Department of the Interior, but in his case, he was denied a pension for the following reason. (All documents pertaining to this William Earp were inclusive in his pension file):


“Rejected for want of proof of service, and presumptive abandonment. A call for evidence was made July 24th, 1876, to which no answer has been received. No application for Bounty Land on file.”

 Bounty Land Warrants – On May 6, 1812, an act of Congress was passed (2 Stat. 729) which set aside bounty lands as payment to volunteer soldiers for the War against the British (War of 1812). The land was set aside in western territories that became part of the present states of Arkansas, Michigan and Illinois.

However, lands in Missouri were later substituted for those in Michigan, due to a report by the surveyor-general of the United States, Edward Tiffin, which quite misleadingly described the land in Michigan that had been set aside for this purpose as undesirable. Other later acts of Congress, until 1855, continued to address the needs of soldiers wishing to redeem their bounty land warrants and efforts continued to try to provide suitable land area for these soldiers. (from Wikipedia).

A hand written letter dated July 3rd, 1876 by the 2nd William Earp, himself, is also in this record file.


Here is the transcription of the letter, word for word. The words in parentheses are words inadvertently left out by William and are assumed as to make sense of the sentences.

Whartonsburg July 3d /76 To JA Bentley

Commissioner, in regard to my being mistaken in my Company. I am positive I am not (sure) why my name is not on the company role. Now I cannot tell (if) my name was on the original role for it was called every morning by Sargt. Maryet – now if there is any member of Capt. Coats Co. living that is drawing a pension if you will send me his name I can then prove my membership. Perhaps Amos Carlisle is living he was ensign of my Co. Capt. Coats Co. Now I think the mistake must be in spelling the name at the time. A grate many called me Harp – in fact, there was more called me Harp then there was called me Earp and some spell it Arp but generally Harp. I had a brother in the same Co. he was drafted out of my Co., Capt. Coats Co.

Wm. Earp

Without a doubt, the most important sentence in this letter is:

“I had a brother in the same Co.” – (Note-Whartonsburg is a town in Wyandot County, Ohio)

Now, Capt. Coats Company was a smaller company attached to a bigger militia regiment called the 36 Regiment (Jessop’s) Maryland Militia.

Here is a record from the same file indicating the attachment of Capt. Coats Company to Jessop’s Maryland Militia:


Getting back to the “I had a brother…” statement. If this statement is true, then there would be a record of another Earp who served either in Jessop’s Regiment or Capt. Coats Company.

Well, sure enough, I found one…

Here is the record for Ananias Earp (Fold3), in the same Regiment that Capt. Coats Co. was attached:


There is also a hand written letter from Wm. Earp (penned by Joseph Earp, his brother) dated July 9th, 1876 in the file:


Now, looking back at the genealogical record for this Wm. Earp, supposedly not born of Joshua, you see William and his brothers Ananias and Joseph:


Here is where I was able to solve the confusion. Since we now have confirmed that the second William had a brother Ananias and a brother Joseph, the first William that married Ann Read could not have possibly been the William born of Joshua. The second William lived long after 1844, the year the first William died, plus the first William did not have any brothers named Ananias or Joseph. Also, the first William died in Maryland, not Wyandot County, Ohio, and the second William was married to Ruth Wood:


So, William Earp (1793-1878), married to Ruth Wood, was the son of Joshua Earp and Eleanor McKinsey. William Earp (1790-1844), married to Ann Read, was the son of James Earp and Susanna Jones.

William Earp and Ann Read continue the family line my family are descended from. Joseph Earp (1820-1882), a son of William and Ann was the grandfather of William J. Earp (1888-1974), my g-grandfather, and Joseph was the one that migrated to Pennsylvania from Maryland. In a later blog, I will explain why my Earp family moved to Pennsylvania, a mystery I did not discover right away.

A lot of times, gut instinct can be your best friend when you are on the hunt for correct ancestors. Never underestimate the power of your own instinct and your ability to find the truth, rather than depending on what others may have or believe what the truth is. Mistakes are made, even by the best of us that have the best intentions, and don’t be afraid to question what you see and think may be wrong, because in the end, you could very well be right. I believe Wyatt and Great-Uncle Bill would say the same thing.

Brian S. Miller