Capt. William Knowlton, Sr.

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William Knowlton, Sr.

Also Known As: "William Norton/ Nolton", "Captain", "Nolton"
Birthdate: (48)
Birthplace: Chiswick, London, Middlesex, England
Death: August 13, 1632 (48)
Anneapolis, Shelburne, Nova Scotia, Canada (Died at Sea)
Place of Burial: Shelburne, Nova Scotia, Canada
Immediate Family:

Son of Capt. William Knowlton's father and N.N.
Husband of Ann Elizabeth Knowlton
Father of John Knowlton, I; Samuel Knowlton; Robert Knowlton; William Knowlton, Immigrant; Elizabeth Knowlton and 4 others

Occupation: Sea Captain
Managed by: Timothy Cannell Davis
Last Updated:

About Capt. William Knowlton, Sr.

The Voyage of Captain William Knowlton of Kent, England to the New World


Captain William Knowlton was born in Kent England in 1585. He was unhappy with the rulers in England and wanted to move to another land. He was unhappy because he wanted to be able to worship God the way he wanted to. He heard that there was a New World across the ocean and decided to move there. It took a long time to get enough money to buy a ship. So he worked very hard and saved his money. Captain Knowlton and five other families finally raised enough money and bought a ship in 1632. They named the ship Elizabeth after his wife Elizabeth Knowlton.

They left England early in the morning on March 13, 1632. They had to leave at night so they wouldn’t get caught and put in jail. They did not have permission to leave England. The ship was not a very large ship. It was full of food, guns, animals and a lot of water. There was not much space left over to sleep.


There were 73 men, women and children on his ship with him including his family. He brought his four sons and two daughters with him. They all had to work very hard. Captain Knowlton was very sick and almost died while crossing the Atlantic Ocean. His wife Elizabeth was in charge of the ship when he got sick. Two people died on the trip.

They were headed for Charles Town Harbor, in the Massachusetts Bay Colony of New England. They ran in two very bad storms and had to change course for the nearest land. Seventy two very tired and hungry people landed in Nova Scotia, Canada on May 23, 1632. The were at sea for more than two months and ran out of food more than a week before they landed. They buried the two people who died and then hunted for food. The weather was still very cold when the landed in Nova Scotia.

Captain Knowlton died on August 13, 1632 and is buried in a small cemetery along the coast of southern Nova Scotia.

His widow Elizabeth with her six children, and most of the others that were on the ship did not want to stay in Nova Scotia. She decided that they should travel to New England and landed in what is now the southern part of the state of Maine. They met some other settlers and decided to stay in the area even though it was cold. Then she sold the ship so they would have some money. The area where they lived was part of Massachusetts at that time.

They lived about 40 miles north of Boston and could walk to other communities to trade for food and supplies.

The first few years were very hard for the families. They built small cabins and settled in. After the children grew up and got married they stayed in Maine to raise their families.

There are a few famous Knowltons who lived in the United States especially Colonel Thomas Knowlton, a Revolutionary War hero who served under General George Washington.

Today there are over 150 members of the Knowlton family living in southern Maine. There are also more than 500 other descendants of William and Elizabeth Knowlton living in the United States.



Neither Richard Knowlton or his wife Elizabeth Cantize ever came to America and therefore did not die in Plymouth, MA in 1632;

Richard Knowlton and Elizabeth Cantize never had a son named Capt. William Knowlton who didn't die on a private ship on the way to Nova Scotia in 1639 and whose wife Ann Smith didn't take over the helm and sail safely to port where William was then buried in Annapolis, Nova Scotia.

Errata and Addenda: Pg 2. Gives a presentation trying to make the case that Ann, widow of William "Nolton" of Hingham, who married John Tucker, and died October 8, 1675, is the immigrant widow and mother of the Knowlton brothers. However, he quotes portions of her will and she gives legacies to others who appear to be from her first marriage, not any of them being Knowltons that I know of.

Further, Torrey, has under the listing for Norton, William, died 1639, of Hingham: "Nolton wrong". Savage says: "Knowlton, William, Hingham 1635, was, Felt thot. the bricklayer, wh. d. at Ipswich 1644, found. of a respecta. fam. and in my opio. the Hingham name, giv. Nolton, by Lincoln, means, that same Norton, wh. was of Ipswich."

What this means is that both Savage and Torrey believed the man whose estate was probated in Hingham in 1639, and referred to at times in the records as William Nolton, was actually William Norton, not William Knowlton, the Captain, our ancestor.


Captain William Knowlton was born in 1584 in Chiswick Parish, England. He died in 1632 or 1639. He died at sea. Knowlton Home Page and Taylor web page list "d. 1639(?) at sea." He was buried Nova Scotia. He emigrated from England. "William was part owner of vessel on which family came to America. He was a non-conformist and the vessel sailed quietly without formal clearance, as oath of loyalty was required for clearance. He died on the voyage and a headstone in Nova Scotia marks his grave. His widow and children went on to Ipswitch and Hingham, Mass." He was a sea captain and ship owner.,+ma.&source=bl&ots=P_Qncr6gKQ&sig=ZRLu6XuPBbZJGCarwCsTfR2RfB0&hl=en&ei=sE2rSaCnAdWDtwfFsMT1Dw&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=8&ct=result#PPA2401,M1

he was a well to do ship master and part owner and captain of a trading vessel with which he visited newly opened parts of the new world especially nova scotia and new england. he was 48 years of age and had a family of six children when he sailed with his wife and four sons to make a home or thiemselves in the new world;it is problable that it was not his first voyage to america and the objective point for which he sailed was probably hingham, ma. his family appears as early as 1634 it is pprobable that he landed his wife and four sons there and continued his trading venture he may have visited them and as it is recorded that he died at sea off the cast of nova scotia and his wife may have accompanied him on his ill fated voyage as it appears that she directed his burial and sold his share in the ship and returned to hingham where she owned land and where she died probably at the home for his widowed mother. john was the only one of the sons who had attained his majority before reaching america he settled in ipswich ma in 1639 and his brothers william and thomas joined him in that town in 1642captain william knowlton father of the hingham and ipswich immigrants was buried at sherbourne the first large harbor east of cape sable nova scotia. and the cemetery in which he was supposed to have been buried is still in use but no stone has been found to mark his grave or give the date of his death which was probably 1634/35 unless his death occurred when he first brought his family to america as some genealogists suppose. which would deprive him of having located his family in hingham and gives no reason that they should have gone there.

William* Knowlton was born in Canterbury, England,

in 1584 and died in 1639. Capt. William Knowlton sailed with his family from London, England, for Nova Scotia about 1632. (He was at least part-owner of the ship on which he sailed.) There he lived for a short time and then proceeded to Hingham, Mass., where he settled, having grants of a home lot, 18 Sept., 1635, and of planting and meadow land in June, 1635, and in 1637. He died in 1639, perhaps while on a voyage, and was buried at Shelbourne, N. S. His widow is said to have remarried at Hingham, going later to Ipswich whither her sons William and Thomas followed her.

He married in England Ann Smith.

Children born in England:

  1. John,' b. 1610; m. Margery Wilson.
  2. Samuel, b. 1611.
  3. Robert, b. 1613; remained in England.
  4. William, b. 1615.
  5. Thomas, b. 1622; m. (i) Susannah ; m. (2) Mary Kimball.

The story presented in the Knowltons of England and America, by Stocking, is that the family, by design or accident, landed in Nova Scotia and that the father died at sea. The mother and her sons eventually migrated to Massachusetts. This may very well be one of those mythical fairy tales that may never be proven.

Born: About 1584 in perhaps Chiswick, Kent (Middlesex?) England.

Immigration: Tradition, not supported by any evidence, tells us they went first to Nova Scotia, where the father may have died, before 1635.Another theory, in "Knowlton Errata and Addenda" is: "If the Hingham widow Ann was the wife of Capt. William, then he did not die on the voyage from England, but may have lived a short time in Nova Scotia,settled in Hingham about 1635, and died 1639, perhaps while on a voyageto Nova Scotia, and was buried there." (As mentioned below, it is doubtful the Ann Nolton/Norton of Hingham is the wife of William Knowlton)

Residences: Perhaps first in Nova Scotia, but this may be a mythical fairy tale. At any rate, John was in Ipswich by 1639; and William and Thomas were there by 1642. A "William Nolton" was granted planting and meadow land on June, 1635, in Hingham, which has variously been thought to be the father immigrant, or the brother William (who was in Ipswich by1642). However, this may very well have been a William Norton, and not a Knowlton at all. The brother Samuel very well may have gone to Hingham,however, as the estate inventory of Samuel Knowlton of Hingham was takenin 1655 by a "John Naulton." Since there were no other Knowltons in Hingham, Errata says this should be John Knowlton, the nephew of Samuel (it can't be his brother John, as his brother John had died in 1654.)

year of death was 1632, 1634, or 1639
Died on a voyage ------------------------------------------

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Capt. William Knowlton, Sr.'s Timeline

Chiswick, London, Middlesex, England
January 1601
Age 17
Uxbridge, Middlesex, England
Age 27
Age 29
Canterbury, Kent, England
Age 31
Knowlton Manor Hall, Kent, England
Age 35
Age 36
Canterbury, Kent, England
Age 37
Age 40