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. The McNaughtons were in the ancient days 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, and 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 succeded his father and died in the reigh 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 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."