Show ContentsKnill History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

Early Origins of the Knill family

The surname Knill was first found in Herefordshire at Knill, a parish, in the union of Presteign, hundred of Wigmore. Originally listed as Chenille in the Domesday Book of 1086, [1] the place name literally means "place at the hillock. [2]

The surname is descended from the tenant of the lands and village of Knill, held by Osbern FitzRichard, and Norman noble, who was recorded in the Domesday Book census of 1086. Sir John de Knill was Lord of Knill in the 12th century.

Some of the first records of the family include a reference found in the "Testa de Nevill, sive Liber Feodorum, temp. Henry III-Edward I" of Henry de Knell, Bedfordshire. [3] The Hundredorum Rolls of 1273 list Gille de Knille, Cambridgeshire and Robert de Knille, Cambridgeshire. [4]

In Somerset, the earliest record of the family was John atte Knyle. [5] We also found this interesting entry: "Sir John, a younger son of the unfortunate William de Braose, temp. King John, having received from his father the manor of Knylle or Knill, in the marches of Wales (co. Hereford), adopted De Knill as his surname. Knill of Knill became extinct in the XVII. cent." [6]

In the parish of St. Ives, Cornwall, near the manor of Lelant and Trevethow, "a pyramid, [can be found] which is a conspicuous object both by sea and land, and is equally singular through the cause of its erection. It was built by order of John Knill, Esq. a bencher of Gray's Inn, who was some time collector of the port of St. Ives, and was afterwards secretary to Lord Hobart, when he was lord lieutenant of Ireland. In this mausoleum it was his intention that his mortal remains should be interred. On one side of this pyramid, in which the niche for his coffin was made, stands inscribed his name, 'Johannes Knill;' on another is the word 'Resurgam :' and on a third, 'I know that my Redeemer liveth.' To perpetuate his name, he directed, that at the end of every five years after his decease, an elderly woman, and ten girls, each under fourteen years of age, dressed in white, should walk in procession from the market-house in St. Ives to the pyramid, accompanied with music, and that they should dance round this mausoleum singing the hundredth psalm." [7]

Early History of the Knill family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Knill research. Another 112 words (8 lines of text) covering the years 1140, 1159, 1442, 1510, 1545 and 1600 are included under the topic Early Knill History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Knill Spelling Variations

Endless spelling variations are a prevailing characteristic of Norman surnames. Old and Middle English lacked any definite spelling rules, and the introduction of Norman French added an unfamiliar ingredient to the English linguistic stew. French and Latin, the languages of the court, also influenced spellings. Finally, Medieval scribes generally spelled words according to how they sounded, so one person was often referred to by different spellings in different documents. The name has been spelled Knill, Knyll, Knyl, Knil, Nill, Nyll, Nil, Nyl, Knoll, Knell and many more.

Early Notables of the Knill family

Outstanding amongst the family at this time was

  • the Knill family of Herefordshire

United States Knill migration to the United States +

To escape the political and religious persecution within England at the time, many English families left for the various British colonies abroad. The voyage was extremely difficult, though, and the cramped, dank ships caused many to arrive in the New World diseased and starving. But for those who made it, the trip was most often worth it. Many of the families who arrived went on to make valuable contributions to the emerging nations of Canada and the United States. An inquiry into the early roots of North American families reveals a number of immigrants bearing the name Knill or a variant listed above:

Knill Settlers in United States in the 17th Century
  • Charles Knill, who settled in New England in 1633
  • John Knill, who arrived in Virginia sometime between 1654 and 1663
  • John Knill, who settled in Virginia in 1654
Knill Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • Robert Knill, who settled in New York in 1856

Canada Knill migration to Canada +

Some of the first settlers of this family name were:

Knill Settlers in Canada in the 19th Century
  • Elizabeth Knill, who was on record in Ontario in 1871

Contemporary Notables of the name Knill (post 1700) +

  • H. Charles Knill, American Republican politician, Candidate for U.S. Representative from Michigan 7th District, 1962 [8]
  • Dennis Knill, American Democratic Party politician, Candidate for President of the United States, 2012 [8]
  • Richard Knill (1787-1857), English dissenting minister and author from Braunton, Devon
  • John Knill (1733-1811), Cornish eccentric mayor of St Ives, Cornwall who had built his own memorial before his death with strict instructions on its upkeep
  • Alan Richard Knill (b. 1964), former soccer manager of English League One side Rotherham United

Empress of Ireland
  • Mr. Arthur Knill, British Cook from United Kingdom who worked aboard the Empress of Ireland (1914) and survived the sinking [9]
RMS Lusitania
  • Mr. George Knill, English Scullery man from England, who worked aboard the RMS Lusitania (1915) and survived the sinking [10]

  1. Williams, Dr Ann. And G.H. Martin, Eds., Domesday Book A Complete Translation. London: Penguin, 1992. Print. (ISBN 0-141-00523-8)
  2. Mills, A.D., Dictionary of English Place-Names. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991. Print. (ISBN 0-19-869156-4)
  3. Testa de Nevill or "Liber Feodorum" or "Book of Fees," thought to have been written by Ralph de Nevill, for King John (1199–1216)
  4. Bardsley, C.W, A Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames: With Special American Instances. Wiltshire: Heraldry Today, 1901. Print. (ISBN 0-900455-44-6)
  5. Dickinson, F.H., Kirby's Quest for Somerset of 16th of Edward the 3rd London: Harrison and Sons, Printers in Ordinary to Her Majesty, St, Martin's Lane, 1889. Print.
  6. Lower, Mark Anthony, Patronymica Britannica, A Dictionary of Family Names of the United Kingdom. London: John Russel Smith, 1860. Print.
  7. Hutchins, Fortescue, The History of Cornwall, from the Earliest Records and Traditions to the Present Time. London: William Penaluna, 1824. Print
  8. The Political Graveyard: Alphabetical Name Index. (Retrieved 2015, October 6) . Retrieved from
  9. Commemoration Empress of Ireland 2014. (Retrieved 2014, June 17) . Retrieved from
  10. Lusitania Passenger List - The Lusitania Resource. (Retrieved 2014, March 6) . Retrieved from on Facebook