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If you can trace your Knowles family to Georgia prior to 1840, there is a good chance we have a common ancestor.  It was first thought separate clans, from Delaware and North Carolina, were in the state before 1800-but, it seems likely they were merely reunited groups of the same family. Most early families were in the Greene/Hancock County area(# 1). In Greene, the earliest record(May 1788 deed)has an Edmund Knowles along Shoulderbone Creek. At the Land Court there, Nov. 1791, he and Thomas Noles were issued warrants(same entry)for 450 and 300 acres respectively(# 2).   An adjacent entry, Easther Ellis(an associated family name)received 550 acres, and on the same page, Zachariah Noles obtained 550(# 3).   In 1793, Hancock was "spun-off"-and Zachariah and Robert Knowles(jointly) purchased land there.    A Joseph Knowles is first noted on the 1794 Hancock Tax digest, and, in Greene 1796, a James Knowles is listed.   All except James(Richland Creek)were initially along Shoulderbone Creek.   It appears probable that these men were all related--brothers, sons, and/or cousins?

Over the next few years, Richard, David, Prettyman, Rice, and James Jr. were added to the tax rolls-primarily in Greene Co. In the first State Land Lottery(1805-ceded Indian land)Edmond, James, Thomas, and Joseph were joined as entrants, by: David, Richard, Edmond Jr., Prettyman, W. Henry, P. Rich., James Jr., P. James, widow Jane, and, Benjamin Noles of Oglethorpe Co.   Only James Sr. drew winners-twice!   In the next drawing, in 1807, only the winners are known: Prettyman, Richard, Joseph-and, Zachariah of Burke Co.   By 1810, there had been more than eight marriages in Greene and Hancock.   About 1811, a large segment of the family migrated to Indiana, and by 1820, many others had scattered throughout Georgia and Alabama. A look at the 1820 Greene census-with its many Knowles seniors and juniors, indicates the difficulty in sorting the various family branches.[Public records, at this time, often used Junior/Senior to indicate simple differences in age, generally, homage to elders, not always direct kinship, as is common today! Earlier Georgia censuses were compiled from tax records]

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Thus far the public records of Greene and Hancock have been limited in defining separate families.  Evidently the early Knowles settlers were subsistence farmers, except  for Thomas Knowles(in Greene-1834)not large slave owners. The families who remained in Georgia have generated little to aid in family history, however, several Indiana branches have proven quite helpful.    The genealogy of Nathan Knowles of Gibson Co. Indiana, given in his 93rd year-about 1888, notes that his great grandfather was Eddy(Edmond?) "Old Silverhead" Knowles, who came to Virginia from England about 1700, and later to Somerset Co. Maryland(# 4).     Nathan knew of only one child, his grandfather, Richard, who lived and died in Sussex Co. Delaware, leaving five sons: Eddy, Zachariah, Richard, Thomas, and James(# 5). The latter, Nathan's father, married Patience Marvel there in 1778, and came to Greene Co. Georgia in 1795. The family remained in Greene until Fall 1811(county tax/deed records, during this span, clearly define this James Knowles family!).

Nathan also noted that his Uncle Eddy(Edmond)settled in Greene Co. & that he raised ten children: Henry, Richard, Edmond, Charles, William, Thomas, James, Rice, Elijah-and, daughter-Patience. All apparently remained in Georgia, except Elijah, who went to Indiana in 1813 with Joshua Wilson.  Uncle Zachariah(and son-Dennis)lived in Hancock Co.(# 6).  Uncle Richard died young, his son David was raised by "Uncle" Prettyman Marvel(1805 Greene Co. deed-James Knowles/ Prettyman Marvel(# 7).   Uncle Thomas came to Georgia but returned to Delaware-he mentions two of his children: Isaac and Patience. Nathan also listed his siblings-and their spouses: Prettyman/Patsy Greer, James/Annie Reed, Cumfort/Joshua Wilson, Eddy/Nancy Fitzkilpatrick, Eli/Elizabeth Scott, Jeese/Elizabeth Reed, Ephriam/ Cynthia Kimball, Asa/Matilda Montgomery-and half-brother, John Lowry Knowles/Patsy Montgomery.  The first three marriages were recorded in Greene Co. before the move to Indiana.

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Several researchers have developed the Delaware origin of the Knowles in Greene Co. Joan Knowles-Canyon Lake, TX, has traced husband Richard's family through Elijah(left Greene-1813)to father Edmond(Greene1788-1835) whom she believes to be a son of Richard Knowles of Sussex Co. Delaware. Richard, she believes, was a son of Edmond(Old Silverhead)-the immigrant ancestor, who came to Virginia from England as an indentured servant, age-about 15, in November 1700(# 8).   She found "him" on the tax roll in Somerset Co. MD in 1724; he died there in 1762.    Estate records note a "wife" and seven legatees: Thomas, John, Edmund, Ruth, and Richard Knowles, and perhaps sons-in-law George Oaks and Thomas Wilson.  Richard administered the estate.  He remained in Delaware, near the Maryland state line.  It is believed that several of his brothers moved to North Carolina.  Richard's son, Zachariah(the 1791 Georgia man)may have also moved to North Carolina(# 9).
Clara T. Ellis of Jasper Co. GA has traced her family to Joshua Ellis of Hancock Co.(1804 Will). She believes that he married Abigale Knowles, daughter of Richard Knowles of Sussex Co. DE. Abigale is among Richard's(1791 Will) legatees: (i.e.)-Prudence Collingworth, Sarah Haywood, Asceny Prettyman, and Thomas, Richard, Ephriam, James, Zachariah, and Edmund Knowles(# 10).  I recently found a Joshua Ellis adjacent to Edmond Nole on the 1789 Greene Co. Tax digest(Capt. Gilbert's district).  I also found him there in Thomas' dist.(1793)with Edmond and Zachariah Noles.   Nearby in Cimbro's district, Thomas Knowles and Waller Ellis(defaulter)are listed. Several Wallers are noted on early Knowles deeds, as adjoining landowners.  Interestingly, the Will of John Waller(Greene-1798)mentions land in Maryland-and a sawmill, Sussex Co. Delaware. Perhaps the Wallers were somehow related. At the least, it appears, some were fellow migrants.   Two or three early Knowles obituaries, and several census entries, also confirm the Delaware connection.  The ties to North Carolina(and its Delaware kinship?)seem to be more elusive, however, I recently connected my early-(1790s)Hancock Co. family to NC families in South Georgia, Dooly Co. 1840, and Baker Co. 1850. [Strong circumstantial evidence points to Joseph Knowles Sr.-1794 Hancock Co.(see page 1)as my likely ancestor. His direct link to North Carolina(or that of any other Knowles in early Greene/Hancock)is still unproven!].

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Joseph E. Knowles and James Gray(the Hancock Co. connection)are clearly, named as "uncles" in the diary of James B. Knowles(# 11)-my 2nd, great grand-father.  "Uncle Joe" Knowles was born in NC(Dec. 1817)indicating that my Knowles family returned there, their traditional state. Joe Knowles likely came to Georgia(Dooly Co.)with a relative-George Knowles, before 1839(# 12).  In July that year, Joe married Mary Ann, daughter of Thomas Swearingen. In Dooly, on the 1840 census, they are found next to George(and G.W.)Knowles.  Ten years later, they are in nearby Baker Co. with George(who died there in 1858)-and, with brother-in-law James Gray.  George Knowles, and wife Gainor, are obviously the persons noted in the 1818 Will of(her father)Benjamin FitzRandolph, in Bladen Co. NC.  George, and co-executor Malcom McNeil, are also noted in adjacent Robeson Co. in 1827(the estate of Thomas Sampson).  The only other North Carolina link(I have found)is the Duplin Co. origin of Washington Knowles(1798-1868, Appling/Ware Co., GA).    

Bladen and Duplin, and their parents NewHanover/Craven, formed a stronghold for Knowles in North Carolina before 1790.  In 1736, a Robert Knowles petitioned for 300 acres in Bladen.  At Colonial capitol New Bern in 1750, an Edmund Knowles sought a warrant for 200 acres in Johnston-still another sibling county, near the Neuse and Little rivers.    In 1755, David Knowles was granted 200 acres along Rockfish Creek in Duplin.    Obviously none of these are the early Georgia men, but their names are intriguing.
Back in Georgia, the early Knowles settlers began to move. Edmund, and perhaps several grown sons, moved to Jackson Co.(# 13).    Then, some into Jefferson Co.   Edmund returned to Greene(# 14).   Sons, James P. and Rice P. moved into Putnam Co.; then into Jasper.  1807 Lottery winners Joseph and Zachariah won land in original Wilkinson Co.(Laurens, Telfair, Twiggs, and Pulaski formed from it by 1810!).    It seems logical that some of their sons moved into these areas.  My own Henry Co. family likely came over from Jasper.  Most of the Fayette Co. Knowles can be traced to Greene. We may never sort out the various family branches, but it appears probable that we have a common ancestor.  Please share your family history.                                                                                           
(Compiled: April 1991)


# 1) The Delaware connection of these families is clear. It appears that a few family members made an interim stop in NC.   So far, hard facts are almost nonexistent, but speculation points to Zachariah's branch of the family-and, to Bladen Co. NC.   Joseph E. Knowles(J.B.K. diary-see pg.4)was evidently born in Bladen Co., in Dec. 1817, indicating that his family moved there from Hancock  Co. GA, perhaps, back to a previous home!  A James and George Knowles were  in Bladen Co. 1790/1800- and beyond. Thus far, no clear relationship has been established.GO BACK
#2)  Because of the common entry, Thomas is likely Edmund's son, not his brother, who returned to Delaware(see page 2). The variant spelling is not unusual, and is quite common-until about 1870-in South Georgia, where a different NC family later moved. Other efforts include: Knoles, Knowls, Knolls, Knawls, Noals, and Nolds.   One researcher documented over twenty-five different spellings-all, obviously, members of the "Knowles" family! GO BACK
#3)  Comparison of the "reconstructed" 1782 Delaware state census(Harold B. Hancock)-and, early Greene Co. tax/deed records clearly show the Ellis/Knowles migration. Unfortunately, Zachariah Knowles is not on the census. He likely lived just over the state line in Maryland. Or he might have moved to North Carolina by this date.  GO BACK


#4)    The Nathan Knowles genealogy, which includes an addendum by John W. Knowles-1887, was sent to the Georgia Archives in 1974 by Mrs. Ruth Betow-Tustin CA.  The "silverhead" referred to a silver skull plate, covering an Indian tomahawk injury! Somerset Co. MD was adjacent to Sussex Co. DE. With the current border alignment in 1775, members of the Knowles family were divided into both states, most prominently, in Little Creek Hundred, in Sussex Co. Delaware.  GO BACK
#5)   Richard's 1791 Sussex Co. Will names two other sons, Charles(deceased)and Ephriam. He also notes eight daughters-and several grandchildren. Richard supposedly married twice-Finnish sisters(names unknown to descendants). His mother is believed to have been Swedish. Each supposition is plausible, as both nationals populated "New Sweden" along the western Delaware River(c.1638-1655). After beneficent Dutch accession of the colony, many remained.  GO BACK
#6)   A Zachariah, Robert, Edmond, Daniel, Martin, and Joseph Knowles are found on the early tax records of Hancock Co.(before 1813).  Only Joseph is consistently listed.  A Dennis Knowles is found on the 1812 Tax Digest of adjoining Putnam Co.  GO BACK
#7)    Early Knowles families, in Maryland & Delaware, intermarried with Marvel, Prettyman, and Wilson families for several generations, i.e., several siblings married siblings of the other families!   GO BACK    


#8)    Steven L. Knowles, Rt. 21 Box 634, Tyler TX 75709, in "An Expanded History of the Knowles Family in England and America" has traced "Old Silverhead" to Lancashire Co. England-1700; his kin, three generations beyond, to 1595!  (Address has not be updated!)
#9)   The North Carolina link is unclear. The earlier generation("Old Silverhead's")sons were said to have settled along the Pee Dee river in NC.  It may be that Zachariah, and several of his older sons moved there, near his "uncles". The only solid clue found thus far(the Bladen Co. connection)points to that general area. The other, distinct, Knowles families in NC(some, perhaps in the in the second paragraph-page 4)only complicate matters.  GO BACK
#10)  Richard's 1791 Sussex Co. Will is quite detailed(some named-above, are incorrect!).
Edmund,  Zachariah, and, Abigale-wife of Josuha Ellis, and a grandson, Obediah Wills,
each received one shilling sterling, perhaps indicating that they had left the area(other child-
ren received land, furnishings, etc.).    Sons, James and Ephriam inherited Richard's sawmill
on Cod Creek, land-"taken up in the year of seventy-six"!  James came to Georgia in 1795.


#11)  The James B. Knowles diary(1852-1858)provided a few facts and clues, and the incentive for further research. It is now in the State Archives. Descendants are easily traced!  GO BACK
#12)   It may be that it was George who came to Georgia, perhaps, to rejoin relatives who had previously returned from NC. Some clues point to the Joseph Knowles(Sr.)family of Greene County!   GO BACK
#13)    It is likely that this Edmund was a younger man.  Perhaps, the Montgomery County man who purchased Hancock Co. land(on Fulsome Creek 1800-1802)-then made the 1804 Jackson Co. tax digest.  Could he, perhaps, be the Edmond Knowles who died in Fayette Co. in 1859? The latter's Southern Christian Advocate(Methodist newspaper)obituary notes: that he was born in DE-1774, that his father came to Hancock Co., and that he later moved to Jackson Co.! GO BACK
#14)      The older Edmund(1788)may have never left Greene Co., but, he likely moved to a new "homeplace" in 1799(parcel, consistently noted on existing tax records).      Edmund's and(his son)William's death notices were published in the Christian Index (Baptist newspaper)-1835 & 1836!   GO BACK