Here’s Why We Test y – The Thomas Knight, Rockingham family comes into focus.

– A Herstory Guest – I hope my readers will help me welcome our guest blogger, one of my Knight cousins, Charlotte. Her trees and work can be found on and, all the usual places, but with a very special and not so usual story of her Knight ancestry.

She has been a meticulous researcher, documenting her ancestry generation by generation. She and several of her immediate relatives have tested their autosomal DNA and then she expanded her genetic research to y-DNA and… the rest is herstory…

I manage my brother’s DNA kit on and also Family Tree DNA. I’ve written this more than 10 times, deleted and started over. I’m hoping this will make sense.

In the beginning – more than five years ago ‑ we were part of a Knight Project. Thomas Knight (1740‑1824) had four sons, and descendants on two of those lines had already taken y-DNA tests. About three years ago, my brother agreed to take his y-DNA test and join the project. He (and I) are descended from a third Thomas Knight son, Robert Knight (1782‑1814). This was exciting. But when his results came back, we were stunned. He did not match the others! He was not even in the same I haplogroup.

My brother’s 25-marker test showed his haplogroup is the ubiquitous R-M269 with countless matches including the thousands of  descendents of Niall of the Nine Hostages. We wanted more markers and eventually got the Big-Y, but it was a while before I could afford the bigger test. But we could already see that his three top surname matches were with people named Hayes, Philips and Buxton. The Buxton guy was the closest match but at 25 markers nothing was conclusive. We joined all three surname projects!

My brother tested his y-DNA and it did not match two other men whose paper genealogy traced back to the same male progenitor. Not just a few SNPs different; my brother’s R1b, R-M269 ancestors had not shared a direct male ancestor with the other two men for tens of 1,000s of years. Then began my search to find out who he did match and when did this break in ancestry occur?

y-DNA Gives The Best Guess Answers For Ancestry

The Philips Project placed my brother in Group #16. (When we finally got more results we learned that his terminal snip was BY191013.) One of the best-known ancestors in Group 16 is Abraham Philips (b 1755 ‑ 1836). Some people call him “General” in recognition of his military service. I researched him a bit and didn’t see a connection with my family. I guess, in all honesty I was trying not to see.

There are several Philips and Phillips in our line: Our father’s grandmother on his mother’s side was a Philips and his great grandmother on his father’s side was an Armstrong but she was connected to a different group of Phillips on her side. I tried to get in touch with them but they didn’t respond, so I let it go.   

In the meantime, I spent countless hours, going up and down, across and over the “Knight” family tree; messaging individuals, posting on boards and trying to contact descendants of Robert Knight to help with this project. I begged anyone to help or see if they had a relative or knew someone who would be willing to do a y-DNA test. Nothing.

I also spent time working up and down the tree, trying to figure out where the “break” might have occurred. We had no more y-DNA matches, but we did have lots of additional autosomal matches to the mothers of the descendants: Simpson, Linder, Thomas and Jennings. Everything consistently came back to Sarah Simpson and Robert Knight, apparently confirming the descendent line from them forward. Whatever happened, it happened with the conception of Robert in Rockingham, NC, in 1781 or 1782.

That was a pivotal point and place in our nation’s history. Times were difficult and people were just like they are today. We knew Robert Knight was not the biological son of Thomas Knight; whether Thomas, Sarah or Robert knew, it is not for anyone to say. Facts are facts and we were getting close to finding the answer.

So the night – when the Big-Y results came in but nothing else had yet populated ‑ I went to back to Ancestry and typed in Abraham Philips b 1755 d 1836. Here I was – back to the same name, Philips, the surname I had somewhat ‘fought’ against acknowledging as possibly being ‘it.’ A few records came up, including the 1790 Rockingham, NC, census where Abraham Philips was listed. When I opened the page, it looked familiar but at first I didn’t know why. I had “Abraham Philips” on my mind. But when I came to the bottom of the first row, I saw “Thomas Knight.” Wait! Our Thomas Knight!

Page 3 of 8 in this section of the 1790 census for Rockingham County, North Carolina. Thomas Knight and family lived on Jacob’s Creek. Many years this census record has been part of the documents for the family. Now we see that these families lived near each other for many years. They could have been in the right place, at the right time.

I opened up another tab, just to be sure. I went to Ancestry and checked my record for Thomas Knight and there “it” was – the exact same 1790 Census record I had saved several years ago, but instead of the heading saying “Abraham Philips,” it said “Thomas Knight.” Both men were listed on the same Census page!

This places Thomas Knight’s wife Sarah Simpson Knight (and her son Robert) and Abraham Philips in the same area at the same time. At the time of the 1790 Census, Robert Knight was 8 years old. He would have been conceived around 1781 and born about 1782. Sarah was married at that time but Abraham was not. During this period, Abraham had just received his Land Grant and moved to the Rockingham area. The Battle of Guilford Court House took place right about that time. We do not know the exact month that Robert was conceived or born. It would be helpful if we did. We are not in a position to make judgments. Just lay out the facts. It is what it is. People are people and the times were uncertain. However, the evidence is pretty compelling.

Robert married Mary (Polly) Linder in 1805 and had seven children over the next eight years. Around 1809, a group including both Thomas and Robert moved west with their families and settled in Wilson County, TN. A call went out for volunteers during the War of 1812 and Robert answered it. He became part of the 2nd Regiment of Higgins TN Mounted 90‑day Volunteers – a group that left Nashville in Dec 1813 and headed for Alabama to support General Jackson. On the morning of 22 Jan 1814, Robert was among a few who were killed in a surprise attack by Redstick Indians in the Battle of Emuckfaw Creek. He left his widow Polly, and six surviving children. Two became doctors; one was only 2 years old ‑ our Ancestor T.H. Knight. Maybe his sense of service was an inherited trait. Who knows?

No doubt, Thomas believed Robert was his son. Sarah may or may not have known. Since Robert was already deceased when Thomas died, his son Sampson was left Robert’s portion in Thomas’ will.

Thomas Knight Sr remembered Robert’s son, Sampson, in his Will.

Since the night of the Big-Y, I have searched my own (as well as my brother, sister & a cousins’) autosomal DNA matches on Ancestry for Philips with one “L” to see what results that might show. I found two autosomal matches — both directly descended from Abraham Philips. One descends through his son James and matches me at 39 cm; the other descends through his son Pleasant and is a 20-cm match.

When I use the “shared” match feature with either, I see a range of people from our list of “Knight” relatives that include descendants of our grandfather Captain Luck Knight’s siblings all the way back to descendants of Robert Knight’s children. The list seems to go on and on. I know of no possible interpretation except that Robert Knight’s biological father was Abraham Philips.

On my Family Tree, since Thomas Knight raised Robert, I am leaving him as “Father.” However, for y-DNA accuracy, I am going to include Abraham Philips as his Biological Father.

I’d really like to give a few special Shout Outs: To my brother for indulging me by taking both an Ancestry autosomal and FamilyTree y-dna test in the first place. If not for him, this entire Project would not have happened. My husband, for putting up with me, day after day, night after night and year after year; listening to me and being my sounding board. My sister and cousin (I won’t mention your names. You know who you are.) and the rest of my family & friends who listen to me rant on about “Ancestry” – thank you. I appreciate your listening & patience. And my dear friend Cherie for her support and giving us this platform for our story. And finally, to our newly found Philips cousin, who immediately accepted me with kindness and shared what information he was able to give. I love and thank you all from the bottom of my heart. Charlotte.

Robert’s service:

Multiple male descendants of Abraham Phillips have tested their y-DNA. Multiple male line descendants of Thomas Knight have also tested their y-DNA. Charlotte’s brother’s y-DNA matches a male line Philips Phillips descendant’s y-DNA. Abraham Phillips and Thomas Knight Sr were neighbors from about 1780 and past 1790.

The families have many records and connections. Autosomal DNA clearly shows descendents from Robert Knight and Sarah Simpson Knight who match her Simpson line but do not match the y-DNA of the lines descended from Robert’s brothers. Likewise, other direct male-line descendents from Robert do not match the lines from Robert’s brothers.

– Guilford’s Wider Conflict.

Read about the battle of Guilford Courthhouse on the National Park Service website. The famous battle took place on March 15, 1781.

Battle of Guilford, Fought on the 15th of March 1781″ was the first published graphic representation of the battle of Guilford Courthouse. It appeared in Lieutenant Colonel Tarleton’s “A History of the Campaigns of 1780 and 1781,” based on a map drawn soon after the battle by a British engineer. 
Banastre Tarleton, “A History of the Campaigns of 1780 and 1781,” from NPS/Guilford Courthouse National Military Park.

Last year was the 240th anniversary of the battle and there were many events and talks, including:

March 14th Digital Events

  • Author Talk with John Knight, author of War at Saber Point: Banastre Tarleton and the British Legion
  • Dismounted: The Turbulent Lives of Henry Lee and Banastre Tarleton
  • The Quakers of New Garden: Pacifists in Wartime

This can be enjoyed online.

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