Background of Association
The KNOWLES/KNOLES/NOLES Family Association
was formed officially in 1985.
The organization met for the first time in 1978 when Joan Goodall
KNOWLES arranged an informal gathering of KNOWLES cousins to exchange
genealogical information. The
original Bylaws for the Association were issued in November 1998.
The original objective of the Association was to learn, document, and
share as much information as possible about the genealogy and family history
concerning the Edmund “Old Silverhead” KNOWLES line. Edmund KNOWLES (1685-1762) emigrated from Bolton,
Lancashire County, England to the British Colony of Virginia in 1699/1700.
The research and documentation for the “Old Silverhead” KNOWLES
descendants and ancestors will continue.
In recent years, the Association and its members have increased the
genealogical focus of the organization to include many additional KNOWLES
progenitors who immigrated to the American Colonies before the Revolutionary
War (some as early as the second quarter of the 17th century) and in some
cases since the War. This
expanded focus is in recognition of the fact that there were many KNOWLES
families living in the Colonies (and in the States during the early days of an
independent America) who were descendants from many different KNOWLES
progenitors from the British Isles. Knowledge
of the genealogy of all the various KNOWLES lines is necessary in order to
understand the family history and assure accuracy of the overall research.
Most, if not all, of the present day KNOWLES (all spellings) families
descend from lines originating from a variety of locations in the British
Isles; i.e., England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland.
The present day generic name of KNOWLES in most cases probably
originated during medieval times from an adaptation of the English word
“knoll” for a small round hill. The surname for many British Isles
medieval families living near or on a small hill may have evolved from Knock,
to Knoll, to Cnoll, to Knowlers, to Knollys, to Knowlman and eventually to
KNOWLES, KNOLES and NOLES and the other spellings in use today.
Most of these medieval KNOWLES families from the different geographical
areas in the British Isles were probably not related, but shared the same
surname. A few of the medieval
KNOWLES families from different locations may have been related based on the
seminaries of the coats-of-arms registered for KNOWLES families living in
significantly different geographical locations in the British Isles.
Starting as early as the 16th century and certainly by the 17th century,
some KNOWLES families migrated from their ancestral homes in Great Britain to
other locations within Great Britain as well as to many locations outside of
the Empire. The immigrations were
primarily to the British American Colonies, but some also traveled to Canada,
Bermuda, British West Indies, Barbados, etc.
During the turbulent Colonial times in the decades just prior to the
Revolutionary War, additional migrations of the various KNOWLES families took
place. For example, many who were
loyal to the British Crown, migrated to Canada.
After the Revolutionary War, bounty land for War service started a
whole new migration thrust within the former Colonies.
As a result of the KNOWLES immigrations from Great Britain to the
Colonies and then the migrations that occurred after the War, KNOWLES from
different British Isles progenitors were living in some of the same regions of
the U.S. by the early 19th century. In
recognition of the wide and varied possibilities for the ancestors of present
day KNOWLES families, this Association is now fully open equally to all
KNOWLES families. In addition,
the Association is building a KNOWLES Genealogy and Family History knowledge
base that includes all KNOWLES families (all spellings).
These revised Bylaws cover the mission, purpose and objectives of the
Association as they relate to an expanded KNOWLES focus.
Reference to KNOWLES families or lines on
this Web site shall be
construed to mean any family with the KNOWLES surname regardless of how the
name is currently or was previously spelled.
In addition, some collateral lines that have married into a KNOWLES
line on multiple occasions shall also be included for research and membership.
SHORT HISTORY of the
KNOWLES/KNOLES/NOLES Family Association
The Knowles/Knoles/Noles Family Association traces its roots to a small
Knowles Family gathering in Sacramento, California, in 1978 organized by
Joan G. Knowles to exchange genealogy information among Knowles cousins. This initial gathering was for family members of Joan's
husband, Richard J. Knowles (1923-1998), and a small circle of Knowles family researchers including Lillian
(Knowles) Higgins (1909-2002) [Lillian was a charter member of the
Association and a lifetime honoree member who passed away in November 2002]. Another
Knowles gathering organized by Joan G. Knowles was held in Colorado in 1983. In 1985,
a Knowles Reunion was held in Branson, Missouri, and the official Knowles/Knoles/Noles Family
Association was formed with the first election of Officers. development of Bylaws for the Association came
later). Periodic Reunions and Business Meetings of the Association have
continued and are now held on a biennial basis on even numbered years. The Association name,
the three major ways the Knowles surname is typically spelled in the U.S., was adopted to signify that
membership did not depend on the way a particular Knowles family line had decided to spell the
The original primary objective of the Knowles/Knoles/Noles
Family Association as it was initially conceived was to learn, document, and
share as much as possible about the genealogy and family history of the Edmund "Old
Silverhead" Knowles line. Edmund Knowles (1685-1762) immigrated from
England to the Colony of Virginia in 1699/1700 as an indentured servant for Jonathan
Livesay. Edmund's boyhood home was in Bolton, Lancashire, England, and
he sailed to America from Liverpool. In the early 1700s, after serving out his
indenture in Virginia, Edmund
migrated north to the old Delaware and Maryland Colonies. In the later
years of the 18th century, some of Edmund's descendants migrated to North
Carolina and Georgia. From these families, later generations migrated to
all the southern states, plus Indiana and Illinois. Still later
generations migrated further west and all the way to California.
The Association and its members have a great deal of knowledge concerning the
"Old Silverhead" Knowles lines. Chances are if you can trace
your Knowles ancestors to north central Georgia in the late 1700s and early
1800s, your Knowles ancestor is probably a descendant of "Old Silverhead"
In recent years, the Association and its members have broadened the focus and
the membership of the organization to include the many other Knowles (all
spellings) lines living in the same geographical areas where descendants of
"Old Silverhead" were located during the 18th and 19th
centuries. There are several other Knowles lines originating in England
and Scotland that initially settled in Virginia and North Carolina, before
migrating south and west in the 19th century. One of the major pockets
for Knowles families that are apparently not connected to the "Old
Silverhead" line was centered in the original New Hanover County, North Carolina,
area in the 1700s. Some of these Knowles migrated to other parts of North
Carolina and into Georgia. These migrations in some cases have placed
descendants of the New Hanover Knowles families in the same Georgia counties as
the "Old Silverhead" Knowles in the 1800s. The Association now welcomes all of these other "southern" Knowles families as well, and
the Association has research initiatives to learn more about these Knowles families as well.
There are also major Knowles families in the U.S. today
who trace their Knowles ancestry to Knowles progenitors from England who settled in the New
England Colonies as far back as the early 17th century (just a few years
after the Pilgrims). Virginia (Knowles) Hufbauer has researched and published a great deal about several
of these New
England Knowles families (the Massachusetts Cape Cod Knowles and the
Rockingham Co., New Hampshire, Knowles). The Knowles/Knoles/Noles Family Association
now also welcomes
members from these old time New England Knowles families. Currently, not much
research is being conducted by the Association concerning the descendants of
the New England Knowles families, since the Hufbauer
books are such an excellent resource. However, research is being
conducted in England to determine if one or more of the New England Knowles
progenitors are related to
one or more of the other American Knowles families. Connections are
suspected and, if proven, would be in the 14th, 15th or 16th centuries.
Due to the lack of sufficient documentation, perhaps only
(DNA) testing of descendants will be able to substantiate these connections
that date back to the middle ages.
In addition to the New England Knowles families
documented so well by Virginia Hufbauer, there were several other major New
England Knowles families who were well established in the Colonies by the
end of the 17th Century; e.g., the Rhode Island Knowles (documented by
Stanwood Knowles Bolton) and the Bucks Co., Pennsylvania Knowles (partially
documented by E. D. Buckman). The Association is researching these
Knowles families as well as many other smaller factions who immigrated via
Canada and others who quickly migrated west to and through New York State on
to the Midwest as the Western Reserve opened up.
in the KKNFA is now open to all Knowles (all spellings) descendants and
their families. The KKNFA is developing
a library and a database to include the genealogies of all Knowles
Robert B. Noles, Director