Skip to content Skip to left sidebar Skip to right sidebar Skip to footer

A Refreshing Knapp – Genealogy study can shake tree (May 27, 2015 issue)

Little did I realize that I would become the family Genealogist when some years back a daughter-in-law became interested in where our ancestors came from. Actually she may have been wondering what kind of family she had the fortune, or misfortune, of marrying into as well. Whatever the reason, this brought her to my doorstep with a lot of questions which I had no idea how to answer. No one had delved into the family tree before and I had no idea whom my grandparents’ mother and father were; whether they had come from Europe during the 1800s, or earlier. In fact, I didn’t even know my mother’s birthday, or the year she was born.
In this computer age there are multitudes of genealogical sites that I had no idea existed at that time. I started writing letters to cousins that are scattered from New York to California and Washington State without getting much information. However, they did have stories to tell. For instance a cousin from Arkansas told of a time just after the Civil War when there was a spirit of lawlessness; Bushwhackers and Border Ruffians terrorized local farmers and townsfolk alike throughout the Ozarks.
Her great grandfather, Will Stevens, was robbed at gunpoint by two Bushwhackers while riding his mule to town. Not satisfied with that, these ruffians set him astride his mule; tied his hands behind his back; threw a rope over a limb and put a noose around his neck, then left him setting. That was a mistake on their part as Will managed to get his hands free and the noose from his neck without the mule moving.
He went home; got his shotgun and tracked the 2 Bushwhackers down. He ambushed them; killing both with a single blast of buckshot from his .12 gauge. He went on to town and told several people about it. Whole families trekked out to see the dead men. No one recognized them. Some of the men were thoughtful enough to drag the decomposing bodies some distance from the road. They were never buried. Will was never charged.
According to Aunt Dolly, my grandfather and his brother, Limon, took part in the Oklahoma Land Rush of 1889 and obtained some land in northern Oklahoma. She often told the story of Granddad being one of a posse chasing some outlaws that had robbed the Antlers Bank. (The town nearest his home) As they topped a ridge, the robbers facing them commenced firing. A bullet zinged off Granddad’s saddle horn which gave him pause to think things over as he galloped his horse in the opposite direction.
“I decided those fellows hadn’t robbed me so I quit the posse right then and there,” he was quoted as saying.
My inquiries were getting me a lot of interesting stories as well as some skeletons in the closet that I don’t want to share with anyone. Like Aunt Dolly said, “You don’t want to shake the family tree too hard – no telling what will fall out.”
I liked the stories; however you don’t get much concrete information from people’s memories, so I joined one of these genealogical sites that charge you a nominal sum, and to get detailed birth, death, marriage and other records, they charge you a substantial sum. Anyway, it didn’t take long to find records all the way back to 1630 – about 6 or 7 generations back.
My first ancestor to set foot on North American soil was Nicholas Knapp; a passenger with the Winthrop Expedition. He and his wife were indentured servants. (To pay passage from England) He was industrious though, inventing the first cure for scurvy on this continent. Unfortunately, some people didn’t believe in his product; he was fined 4 pounds for selling water of no value to cure scurvy.
I posted my findings on line and have been contacted by cousins from all over the country. I’m planning a trip to West Virginia soon to visit one of them, Ivan Knapp, the grandson of my grandfather’s brother; and also to see my great grandparent’s graves.
A warning to any would be genealogists: “It gets in your blood. You can’t quit.”