Knights History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The name Knights is rooted in the ancient Anglo-Saxon culture. It was originally a name for someone who worked as a knight, who was usually a feudal tenant deriving its origin from the Old English word cniht, which means knight. The word cniht also means servant and common soldier. Knighthood was established as a military profession by the 10th century. With the Norman Conquest and the resultant changes in the social order, knighthood became an established feudal rank, directly under that of a Baron. It was associated with the holding of land, but was not hereditary. Because land was hereditary and knighthood was not, there grew up a body of landless knights, who often banded together into military orders, such as the Knights Templar, and the Knights Hospitalers. As time went by, cavalry decreased in importance in warfare and the excesses of the Knights Templar brought the institution of knighthood into disrepute. The Knights Templar were suppressed by Pope Clement V in 1312. By the 16th century knighthood became a civil distinction.

Early Origins of the Knights family

The surname Knights was first found in Suffolk where one of the first records of the name was John le Cnitht who was listed in the Hundredorum Rolls of 1273. The same rolls also lists: Gilbert le Knyt in Cambridgeshire; Roger le Knith in Oxfordshire; and Ellis le Knyght in Wiltshire.

The surname was "well distributed over England south of a line drawn from the Humber to the Dee. In the northern part of England it is singularly rare. Sussex stands foremost for the number of its Knights, and after it come, in their order, Hants, Leicestershire and Rutland, and Gloucestershire. In Norfolk and Suffolk we have the form of Knights." [1]

The Yorkshire Poll Tax Rolls of 1379 list: Johannes Knyght; Willelmus Kneyte; Thomas Knycht: and Willelmus Knygth. [2] Some of the family were found in Scotland in early times. Robert dictus Knycht was burgess of Abirbrothoc and had a charter of a piece of land in Aberbrothoc in 1331. In 1435, John Knycht was canon of Brechin and rector of Funewyn (Finhaven.) He is probably the John Knycht who appears on an inquest on the lands of Tulloch in 1438. [3]

More recently some of the family held estates at Aston-Sub-Edge in Gloucestershire. "Norton-Burnt House, so called from the greater portion of it having been destroyed by fire while the seat of Sir William Knight, Bart., is the property of the Earl of Harrowby." [4]

Another branch was found at Letwell in the West Riding of Yorkshire. "The family seat of the Knights, here, an ancient house, was taken down by the late Mr. Gally Knight when he removed his residence, a few years since, to the mansion at Firbeck; but the offices, with the gardens and pleasure-grounds, in the latter of which is an extensive lake, are still remaining." [4]

To the far south and west in Stoke-Climsland, Cornwall, in early days the Knight family had a family seat at Aldren. [5]

Early History of the Knights family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Knights research. Another 77 words (6 lines of text) covering the years 1182, 1606, 1605, 1612, 1683, 1660, 1718, 1619, 1691, 1660, 1673 and 1686 are included under the topic Early Knights History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Knights Spelling Variations

It is only in the last few hundred years that the English language has been standardized. For that reason, early Anglo-Saxon surnames like Knights are characterized by many spelling variations. As the English language changed and incorporated elements of other European languages, even literate people changed the spelling of their names. The variations of the name Knights include Knight, Knights and others.

Early Notables of the Knights family (pre 1700)

Distinguished members of the family include Sir William Knight, Ambassador to Maximilian; John Knight (died 1606), Scottish mariner and commander of an expedition off the coast of Greenland in 1605, he named Knight's Islands there; Sir John Knight (1612-1683), "the elder" an English merchant and politician, Member of Parliament for Bristol (1660), Mayor of Bristol; and his...
Another 56 words (4 lines of text) are included under the topic Early Knights Notables in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

United States Knights migration to the United States +

Many English families tired of political and religious strife left Britain for the new colonies in North America. Although the trip itself offered no relief - conditions on the ships were extremely cramped, and many travelers arrived diseased, starving, and destitute - these immigrants believed the opportunities that awaited them were worth the risks. Once in the colonies, many of the families did indeed prosper and, in turn, made significant contributions to the culture and economies of the growing colonies. An inquiry into the early roots of North American families has revealed a number of immigrants bearing the name Knights or a variant listed above:

Knights Settlers in United States in the 17th Century
  • George Knights, who landed in Hingham, Massachusetts in 1638 [6]
Knights Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • John Knights, aged 35, who arrived in America in 1836 [6]

Australia Knights migration to Australia +

Emigration to Australia followed the First Fleets of convicts, tradespeople and early settlers. Early immigrants include:

Knights Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • George Knights, who arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Ramillies" in 1849 [7]
  • Thomas Knights, who arrived in Adelaide, Australia aboard the ship "Ramillies" in 1849 [7]

Contemporary Notables of the name Knights (post 1700) +

  • William C. Knights, American politician, Member of New York State Assembly 137th District, 1973 [8]

  1. ^ Guppy, Henry Brougham, Homes of Family Names in Great Britain. 1890. Print.
  2. ^ Bardsley, C.W, A Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames: With Special American Instances. Wiltshire: Heraldry Today, 1901. Print. (ISBN 0-900455-44-6)
  3. ^ Black, George F., The Surnames of Scotland Their Origin, Meaning and History. New York: New York Public Library, 1946. Print. (ISBN 0-87104-172-3)
  4. ^ Lewis, Samuel, A Topographical Dictionary of England. Institute of Historical Research, 1848, Print.
  5. ^ Hutchins, Fortescue, The History of Cornwall, from the Earliest Records and Traditions to the Present Time. London: William Penaluna, 1824. Print
  6. ^ Filby, P. William, Meyer, Mary K., Passenger and immigration lists index : a guide to published arrival records of about 500,000 passengers who came to the United States and Canada in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. 1982-1985 Cumulated Supplements in Four Volumes Detroit, Mich. : Gale Research Co., 1985, Print (ISBN 0-8103-1795-8)
  7. ^ State Records of South Australia. (Retrieved 2010, November 5) RAMILIES 1849. Retrieved from
  8. ^ The Political Graveyard: Alphabetical Name Index. (Retrieved 2015, October 6) . Retrieved from on Facebook
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