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A Dog Named Sir William Wallace

As has been written about before, the story written by Rebecca Knight Kennedy is a remarkable document in its relating of the events and grand journey that she undertook in her day. However, Rebecca’s story also contains several interesting clues concerning more distant family history. Not the least was the mention of the family’s dog, who bore the name “Sir William Wallace,” so named by Silas Knight Sr., according to Rebecca in her story.

To refresh history, Sir William Wallace was a Scottish knight who had a significant influence on the history of Scotland. Rising to become one of the prominent leaders of the First War of Scottish Independence, Wallace was also the subject of the famous poem “The Wallace,” written by “Blind Harry,” an anonymous poet of great reputation in Scotland during the 1400s.

Poem “The Wallace,” The Ramsay Manuscript 1488

The Wallace was the second most popular book in Scotland after the Bible. The poem recounts Sir William Wallace, whom the text describes as “unfailingly courageous, patriotic, devout, and chivalrous.”

Finding a dog named Sir William Wallace in the Knight family history is certainly not a surprise. Silas Albert Knight and his sons, Herbert, Walter, Bayard, and Glenn, all stated, with no shortage of pride, that the family was of Scottish descent.

In current times, the testing of the family genome has confirmed that Scotland was a primary point along the migratory path of the Knight family. This path proves to be chronologically ordered. Beginning in Norway, their passage as Vikings or settlers led them to Scotland, followed by Ireland, and then a divergence with family members appearing in Iceland, Canada, The American Colonies, and a lesser contingent in England.

In the early 1200 to 1300s, Scotland was not a highly populated region. The people who lived there were, in great part, members of family clans. Clan records were carefully maintained for each of the family groups, and a person’s position within a clan was vital to their existence. A search of this early period in Scotland reveals the presence of a Knight clan in the far northeast, a small clan that rose from a member of the McKnight clan (son of a Knight). These clans occupied an area of northern Scotland, including the Orkney Islands, which was previously the Pict people’s homeland, a Brittonic associated tribal culture. Norsemen, sailing predominantly from Norway, invaded and resettled this Pict region, defeating and displacing the existing 1488 Pict culture. As a result, the population of this region was of Viking stock that took up farming and merged with the existing early culture of Scotland. These resettled Vikings are the people that constitute the early members of the McKnight and Knight clans of Scotland.

Crest of Clan McKnight

Clan McKnight was, from its origins, a small clan. Early in its history, it seems that members of the clan were increasingly inclined to shorten the name to Knight. Perhaps they did this to conceal their Scottish heritage in dealings with the English, who were interested throughout the British Empire, Ireland, Canada, and the American Colonies. Even in these current times, remnants of the animosity between Britain and Scotland still exist. In earlier days, being known as Scottish in England and its holdings was not an opportune trait to have.

The result of this evolution from early times is that if you are a member of our Knight family and meet someone named McKnight, they are likely related to you. Suppose you have had a DNA test performed to search all of the surnames related to you and their connections. In that case, you may find a surprisingly significant number of distantly related people named “McKnight.”



The following is an extract from Geni.com recounting the history of the McKnight family:

About the McKnight surname

“The McKnights are descended from a certain Laird of Glenara a chieftain of the MacNaughton clan (MacNaughtane, MacNaughton, or McNaghten). This is one of the three clans descended from the old Maomors of Moray sovereigns of the Pictish race. In ancient times the McNaughtons were a powerful family and among their large estates were those called Glenara Glenshire and Glenfire. In 1267 Gilchrist MacNaughtane of that ilk was by King Alexander III appointed veritable keeper of his castle and island of Frechelan whence the tower was assumed as the heraldic insignia. Sir Alexander McNaughtane of that ilk was knighted by James IV and accompanied him on the fatal expedition into England. He was killed in 1513 on the field of Flodden. His son and successor Joh MacNaughtaine had three sons: Alexander who died without surviving issue Malcolm called Glenshira who succeeded his father and died in the reign of James IV leaving two sons – Col. Alexander his heir and John who married but had no issue.

John, the third son, called Shane Duh (Black John) who went to Ireland as secretary to his great uncle, the first Earl of Antrim and settled in CountyAntrim in 1580, was succeeded by his son and heir, Daniel, and the latter by his son John McNaughtan of Benvarden, Co. Antrim, whose Crest of Clan McKnight grandsons succeeded in the 18th century to the Chieftainship of the MacNaughtan Clan upon the extinction of the Scottish line descended from Malcolm.

The Laird of Glanara, Chief of the MacNaughtan Clan, was knighted in the reign of James IV. His son was locally styled McKnight (son of a knight), from which designation the change in the family name appears to have subsequently taken its origin. This was possibly influenced by the circumstance that this branch of the family embraced the doctrines of the Reformation at a very early period, while the main body of the clan remained staunch Roman Catholics to a comparatively recent date.

On the crushing of the Irish Rebellion under Sir Cahir O’Dogherty in 1607 King James of England divided the province of Ulster, Ireland into lots and encouraged it colonization. Due to the fact that the coast of Ulster was so close to that of Scotland, particularly Dumbarshire, Renfrewshire, Ayshire, Galloway and Dumfrushire, a steady stream of Scots crossed to Ulster Province and settled in County Down and Antrim. Members of the MacNaughtan Clan settled near Lisburn on the Logan River near Belfast. The name MacNaughtan in Ireland is spelled McKnight.

When the stream of emigration from the colonies to Scotland and Ireland took place about 1700 to 1750 those from Ireland (Ulster Scots) were the ancestors of the McKnights now in the United States. Those coming to the colonies directly from Scotland carried the name MacNaughton, MacNaught or McKnight.”



The following is copied from “MacKnight Genealogy 1738-1981 & Allied Families”, page 3. Written by Imogene Millican, at Denver Public Library (978.273M218m)

Early History of the McKnight Family in Scotland


“The MacKnight fanily in Scotland was in early days a Sept (allied family) of the MacNaughton (MacNaghten) Clan. The following history of this clan is from The Clans and Tartans of Scotland (1964, William Collins Sons & Co., ):

“The progenitor of this ancient clan is alleged to be Nachtan Mor who lived about the tenth century. The clan is supposed to be one of those transferred from the province of Moray to the
crown lands in Strathtay by Malcoln IV. About a century later the possessed lands bordered on
Loch Awe and Loch Fyne (west Scottish Highlands). In 1267 Gilchrist MacNaughton and his heirs
were appointed by Alexander III, keepers of the castle of Froach Eilean in Loch Awe. The
MacNaughtons also held the castle of Dub Loch in Glen Shira and castle Dunderave between
Loch Fyne and Loch Awe.

Donald Mac Naughton opposed Bruce and lost most of his possessions, but in the reign of David II, the fortune of the Macnaughtons were somewhat restored by the grant of lands in Lewis.” The fortresses in Lewis and Strathtay recall their wide ranged influence. They eventually lost all but the picturesque castle of Dunderae on Loch Fyne, “Clan” was the name applied to a group of Kinsmen united under a chief, and claiming a common ancestor. They lived as one great family on the lands they possessed.

About the middle of the fifteen hundreds the MacKnight Family, which had been a Sept under Clan MacNaughton since the early twelve hundreds, met all regulations and requirements (four generations of ancestors who had been good citizens loyal and true to Clan and Country) the Chieftain of the fifth generation was eligible to apply to the Lord Lyon King of Arms at Edinburgh for matriculation as a separate clan. When all credentials were accounted by the Court of the Lord Lyon King of Arms, they were registered in Court Records – and so – was born Clan MacKnight.

The Scots love for his clan and his country accounted for the slowness of Scot emigration to America.

There is conflicting information of the design of the Coat of Arms. One article gives the MacKnight Motto “Justum et Tenacem Porpositi” (Just and Firm of Purpose) another “I Hope in God”.

Since the “Mac” means “Son of” and “Knight” means “Brave”, the name means “Son of the Brave.””