Is your Surname registered?

Our 2,768 members have registered
2,405 study surnames with us
and a further 6,120 variant names.

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About the study

The Knappett One-name Study grew out of a search for the history of our own particular Knappett family line and in 1997 it was registered with the Guild of One-Name Studies.

Variant names

In the Guild register are Knappett, Knappitt and several other spellings. In old records this surname is found spelled in many ways - with and without a K, with one T or one P and any combination of these. However once surname spellings had been normalised only Knappett and Knappitt seem to have survived although errors do still appear in published lists. It seems always to have been a difficult name to get right. When looking at old records I assume that if the name can be pronounced nappet then it is of interest to me.

Name origin

I have only found this name defined by one surname expert and he says that it is a diminutive form of the name Knap from the Old English for top of a hill and therefore means 'dweller by a hill'. In our family folk lore it was said to come from an ancestor who was Dutch but this has not been proved. I've found the surnames Knappert and Kappert in Holland and a town of Knappet in Sweden. Knappet means 'the catch' in scandinavian languages. All these clues but no proof.

Historical occurrences of the name

I have found the surname in England as early as 1316 and then at odd intervals over the centuries until parish registers began in the mid 16th century. In the 14th & 15th century (pre-reformation) there were one or two priests and one in particular, a certain Thomas who was Clerk of the Church of St Peter the Less near St Paul's Wharf in the City of London was unwise enough to use abusive words about the Duke of Lancester on 8th November 1378. This was John of Gaunt the King'€™s uncle and Thomas paid for his indiscretion by being committed to Newgate until he could purchase the Duke'€™s favour which he did.

Knappetts did pay taxes in the 16th century but by the 18th century some required settlement papers from the poor law authorities. In the 19th century censuses many were listed as €'ag labs'€™.

Name frequency

In the England and Wales census of 1881 I have identified 131 Knappett & variant (or error) entries and know of a family of 5 who should be listed but cannot be found. In the 1901 census index I have identified 206 Knappetts although there are many mistranscriptions. By 1901 there were already Knappett families in Australia and Canada.

Distribution of the name

All the Knappetts identified in UK 19th century censuses had their roots in East Suffolk and NE Essex rural parishes. As time passed there was a migration to town and city by the young men and girls, mostly to London and the home county surburbs. There was also some migration to the British colonies of Australia and Canada which continued in the 20th century.


I have collected all the Knappett + variant entries from the General Register Office Birth Marriage and Death Indexes for England & Wales from 1837 to 2006. Also complete extracts from all the UK Census including as far as possible those which have been mistranscribed. All information from the International Genealogical Indexes and some data from Parish Registers. Some data from Australian and Canadian sources. Also pre 1858 wills and many miscellaneous items.

I would be very pleased to help anyone with Knappett ancestry and would also welcome help to extend the Knappett & Knappitt family trees.