Information on the Loyalists


The Knapp family was originally from Saxony, a province of Germany. They are regarded as Germans and by others as of Saxon origin; but their early history in England leads most of the descendants to fix their nationality as Anglo-Saxon or English. In the fifteenth century they were people of wealth and position in Sussex County, England. The name Knapp is derived from the Saxon word, the root of which is spelled Cnoep, signifying a summit or hill- top. John being the given name, and living on a hill, he was called John of the hill; and there being others of the same name on the hill and said John living on the summit or knob, he was called John of the Cnoep or Knob.

Subsequently the proposition was omitted, for convenience sake, and he was called John Cnoep, the German formation John Knopp and in English John Knapp. The family arms, together with a full description, may be found in the Herald's College London. These arms were granted to Roger de Knapp by Henry VIII, to commemorate his skill and success at a tournament held in Norfolk, England, 1540, in which he is said to have unseated three knights of great skill and bravery. By the descendants of his John, these arms are still preserved as a precious memento of worthy ancestry. The arms of a family are what a trademark is to a merchant. It is his private property. It is generally expressive of some important principle. The origin of the arms of the Knapp family is given in English heraldry. It describes the arms of the Knapp family as used by John Knapp and by his son John, in 1600. It will be seen that this coat of arms is very expressive and full of meaning. The shield and the helmets, clad in mail, denote preparation for war. The shield on which the arms are displayed is gold, expressive of worth and dignity; the arms in sable or black, denote antiquity; the three helmets on the shield are acknowledgments from high authorities of victories gained.

The Winthrop Fleet 0f 1630

Eleven vessels brought ' the Great Emigration' of 1630
+1-"Arbella" - Admiral
#2-Talbot - Vice Admiral
+5-Ambrose-Rear Admiral
#7-William & Francis
+=Carried Passengers
#=Carried Freight & Livestock

The first five ships sailed April 8 from Yarmouth, Isle of Wight, and arrived at Salem, Mass. June 13th and following days. The other half of the fleet sailed in May and arrived in July at various dates. Altogether they brought about seven hundred passengers of whom the following are presumed to have been on these ships.
On the Flagship Arbella were the Knapp's.
NICHOLAS KNAPP probably of Bures Saint Mary, Suffolk Watertown
Mrs. Elinor Knapp
WILLIAM KNAPP probably of Bures Saint Mary, Suffolk Watertown
Mrs. Knapp
John Knapp
Anne Knapp
Judith Knapp
Mary Knapp
James Knapp
John Knapp
William Knapp, Jr.

The first record of Nicholas Knapp in America was in 1631 in Watertown, MA. He was in Stamford by 1649. After the death of his wife Elinor, he married Unica Brown, the widow of Clement Buxton, and moved into the Buxton home on the east side of West Street, which is now called Washington Blvd. After nearly sixteen years residence at Watertown, Middlesex Co, Massachusetts, on 6 May 1646, Nicholas Knapp among others, sold his land and privileges and removed possibly to Wethersfield, Hartford Co, Connecticut. Whether he resided at that place is unknown, as his name has not been found in records extant there. Some believe he may have spent a couple of years there before removing to possibly Greenwich, Connecticut, and then to Stamford, where he remained until his death in April 1670. Some writings declare that Nicholas also resided for a time at Rye, Westchester Co, New York [then Connecticut], though like the records at Wethersfield, Connecticut, his name is not in evidence there. It is believed he may have owned some land there, but did not actually reside at that place.

Information gleaned from:
"The Great Migration Begins: Immigrants to New England 1620-1633 (1995 - in 3 Volumes), by Robert Charles Anderson, F.A.S.G

SOURCE: The Winthrop Fleet of 1630 (Reprint 1976-Genealogical Publishing Company), by Charles Edward Banks Early research found that among the passengers that came to America in 1630, Nicholas Knapp and William Knopp, were in evidence. The immigrants came to America in 1630. The Admiral ["Arbella"-formerly the "Eagle"] of the Fleet left the waters of the Castle of Yarmouth "On Thursday, April 8, at six in the morning, weighing anchor and setting sail, followed by her three consorts in scattered formation" [The Winthrop Fleet of 1630 (Reprint 1976), by Charles E Banks, :37) NOTE: Keep in mind this is in reference only to the "Arbella," as there were other ships underway when the "Arbella" set sail. The April 6 entry refers to the boarding of the "Arbella" by Captain Milbourne, of Yarmouth Castle, "a grave, comely gentleman, and of great age"[Ibid, :36]. Fortunately for the purposes of our list of immigrant passengers, there exists a list of seventy names of those who came with the Fleet; a rough list prepared by John Winthrop, and is found entered in a "flyleaf" disconnected from the main text of the original Winthrop Fleet Journal. It was from this list that ancestors Nicholas Knapp and William Knopp, with wives and children were identified. Although it does not depict the name of the ship on which these ancestors were passengers, we can be reasonably assured they were passengers aboard the "Arbella", the Winthrop Fleet Flagship. It is also recognized, that they could have been passengers on any of the other ships in the Fleet that are known to have carried passengers, as well. As stated in the source [Ibid, 53], QUOTE; "As there is no known list of emigrants who came with the Winthrop Fleet, so there is none for those who came in particular ships....". The Fleet consisted of eleven ships as follows:

NOTE: While the ship "Mary & John" sailed concurrently with the Winthrop Fleet, and with the same destination, it had no defined connection with the Winthrop Fleet, contrary to some writings that make reference to that ship as being the twelfth in the Fleet.
Isaac Johnson, although not a participant, records that some of them "had their speech strangled from the depth of their inward dolor with heartbreaking sobs- adding many drops of salt liquor to the ebbing ocean." He could not refrain from adding that some of the idlers on the dock expressed the opinion that the participants in this emigration were "cract-braines." [Ibid, :36 - Footnote 3].
The Master of the "Arbella" who successfully led the great flotilla to its destination was Captain Peter Milbourne, a resident of London, England. It is thought that Captain Milbourne came from the Parish of St Katherine-by-the-Tower, London, but beyond this little information about him or his family is known. We do not know whether he or his vessel ever returned to America, nor do we have any knowledge of his later career.


The surname KNAPP has been found in England since the 5th century, in various forms of spelling. It has been claimed that it is of Saxon origin, though proof for the thought is lacking. While it is common in all Teutonic countries, it is just as probable that it is of Anglican origin. It is also, possible that the name did not have a common origin for all families that bear it. There are many variations to be found, some families not adhering to any particular form, while others were quite persistent in doing so, even though the liberty in that matter was practiced more so then than now. The earliest known individual mention of the name is found in "Routuli Curioe Regis", I139. It identifies as an individual "Petrus Knape - 1198". From that point on the name is found frequently in the English records. The most common form of spellings found in America were "Knapp" and Knap", though other forms of spelling are found in early records as Nap, Napp, Knopp, Knape, et al. The most common form of the spelling, and predominately throughout our American history, is "Knap" and "Knapp", the latter spelling being used following the Revolutionary War and is the current accepted spelling today. In this writing the current spelling "Knapp" is used for clarity and continuity, rather than in all the variety of spellings of the name found during my research.

In the ancient districts of East Anglia, Mercia, and Northumbria, we later find that East Anglia was the land of the North Folk and South Folk, which is now known as Norfolk and Suffolk counties in England. Mercia or Middle Anglia became the central shires [counties] of England. Northumbria dominated the northern limits of the domain. These three regions were settled in the 6th century by the Angles. The Saxons settled Sussex and Wessex to the south and the Jutes held Kent in the southeast. All three tribes were of Germanic origin. While this still does not identify the origin of the various Knapp families it does have possible bearing on the traditional thought passed down through time that we of the name are of German stock. In England we know that there were no less that 6-8 family groups bearing the name; all living in different parts of England, and bearing no known relationship with one another. Of these groups it is believed that all were of independent origin.

As most of the early immigrants to America were dissenters from the Church of England, their births, marriages, etc, are not recorded there to any great degree, making it nearly impossible to trace many of them to their particular origin accurately. In general they were a religious people, though independent in thought, who took the Bible as their guide and rule in life, and migrated to escape persecution in England and to worship as they pleased in the "New World".

Prior to 1700, there were three immigrants bearing the surname Knapp, namely NICHOLAS, Aron, and Roger Knapp, followed later by Job Knapp, of Bristol, Massachusetts. As far as is known, none of these immigrant families bears any relationship with one another, though the contrary is found in many printed works of early origin. There remotely may be some relationship, however, to date, nothing has been forthcoming to prove the claim. There are early claims that one William Knapp, immigrant of 1630, was a brother to our Nicholas. Current research disproves this claim and it has been proven that the spelling of his surname is "KNOPP", not KNAPP", and bears no relationship that can be proven through research of extant records, to any other Knapp family, regardless of such claims.

In so far as our immigrant ancestor, Nicholas Knapp, is concerned, many unproven and suggested theories abound surrounding his ancestry, none of which have the slightest "hint" of proof recorded to establish such claims. All claims of a known ancestry for our Nicholas, and his first wife, Elinor, are considered to be "atrocious genealogical blunders," and should be regarded as such by those having this ancestry by surname or through an allied family. As far as is known, a proven ancestry for Nicholas or his first wife, Elinor, has never been found, nor has any record of either been found prior to their arrival in America in 1630. Admittedly, it remains quite possible that their origins were in County Suffolk, England, though proof of this statement is lacking.

As the ancestry of our early Knapp immigrant is highly questionable as found in many writings of today, I have not been able to determine an origin except England for our ancestors, nor to my knowledge has anyone else, with a definable source for making any such claims. Our ancestry begins in 1630, at Watertown, Middlesex Co, Massachusetts. The chance that we will ever discover the ancestry of either Nicholas or Elinor is nil, and if such should ever occur it no doubt will be quite by an accidental find, as the English records that remain extant do not bear the needed fruit to find an ancestry for either of them, and as such, that stands as the "state of the problem today!".


Many stories are found in print today that claim "Roger de Knapp" was knighted in 1530, by King Henry VIII, at a Tournament held in Co Suffolk, England, was the ancestor of our Knapp Family. This story in its many forms has been proven false and the story was the product of some fanciful mind. It has not the least foundation in fact, notwithstanding the number of times it is found in print. A search of the records and correspondence with the College of Heraldry officials in London, England, do not agree with any of these writings. The search proved that there was never a Roger de Knapp, knighted by King Henry VII, nor was there any Tournament held in Suffolk in 1530. In fact, they could find no record of a Knapp by the name of Roger living in Suffolk nor in Essex at any time. It is believed that the story first appeared in America and that a high probability exists that it was developed at the invention of some unscrupulous English genealogist, in an attempt to satisfy the ambitions of an American client!


Some 6-8 Coats of Arms have been granted in England to persons bearing the name of Knapp, and are found recorded there. The Suffolk Coat of Arms was first granted to Henry Knapp, of Hintelsham, England and later to George Knapp of Tuddenham, and then to Robert Knapp of Needham, probably both descendants of the first mentioned Henry Knapp.

Needless to say, we of today still find those who emphatically lay claim to the 'KNAPP KNIGHT" as a true accounting, yet the College of Heraldry cannot document the claim. A copy of the Crest or Coat of Arms appears in this writing and bears the information about the Coat of Arms. This Crest was prepared for the Knapp Family Association of America in 1940, by Winfield Scott Downs, the former managing Editor of the American Historical Company of New York. For more information about the Knapp Coat of Arms, consult BURKES "General Armory-Visitation of Suffolk, 1577.

This writing embodies the result of investigations and continued research, which has been pursued for many years, as a diversion from other labors and by many who despite their modesty, reflected much honor upon the name we bear. I could have extended and elaborated on many items before electing to put this work into writing, and in all probability solved some of the problems that have and remain to perplex me, but I have chosen to present it substantially as I have been able to, based on the research I have made over the years to this point and the materials current at hand.. I have been painstaking in my research and cautious in my statements so that my findings may be relied upon, generally. Any doubts, so far as is known, are so indicated. And now let us begin....

Submitted by Kimberly Hurst, Bicentennial Branch.