To a large degree, genealogy is about sorting through data, fitting the
pieces together, and solving puzzles...Separating multiple individuals with identical
names who lived in the same timeframe and same general location
is a challenging task for even the most experienced researcher.It’s easy to misidentify, confuse,
misconnect, or switch these “genealogical twins.”
Once the mistake occurs, it may be undetected for years -- accepted as
fact, replicated and simply not questioned by subsequent researchers...Moreover, identifying
the error is only the first part of the task, correcting it is actually the greater challenge!
This is the situation with our “Tale of Two Johns” case...
In 2008, the simple job of documenting “my” John’s ancestry turned into
a major project.He was previously
identified as the son of Robert and Mary (Ewart) Knox of Lincoln County NC, but
to my dismay...I discovered he was not!To review my complete analysis of
the evidence, and why “my” John Knox, born 22 May 1777 cannot be their son, go to this link:
Knox of Lincoln County.
How could this error happen?How
could earlier researchers of “my” John Knox take this “wrong turn?”
After analyzing the circumstances, it’s actually easy to see how this
error occurred.I believe the major
factor was timing.One John Knox disappeared from Lincoln County records, when about the same time
the “other” John Knox seemed to appear
next door in Mecklenburg County, creating the illusion of a move...
John, the son of Robert and Mary (Ewart) Knox did leave Lincoln County NC
several years afterhis parents died
there in 1833.However, he moved “west”
to Mississippi, where he is found in 1850 with his second wife, Jane Bell, and
their children.Deeds, Estate and Court
records show that another John, the
son of Patrick and Mary (Smith) Knox, was already
living in Mecklenburg County in 1780, although he doesn’t appear in
Mecklenburg Census or Tax Records until 1798, when he first appears as a tax
payer in Captain Archibald Cathey’s Company.
A second contributing factor was location.My John Knox and James Knox, son of Robert
and Mary (Ewart) Knox, were members at Bethel Presbyterian in Cornelius – and
both are buried there.In addition, in
1815, James Knox purchased 165 acres near John’s home on the headwaters of McDowell
Creek, making John and James near-neighbors.Those two factors made it easy to assume this was John, the son of
Robert, and that these two Knoxes were brothers.However, these facts were simply
circumstantial evidence – pointing to the possibility of kinship – but not
proof of it.The weight of the other
evidence must also be considered.
Robert and Patrick Knox both fought for their country in the American
Revolution.Patrick gave his life for
it.They lived on opposite sides of the
Catawba River, the western boundary between Lincoln and Mecklenburg
counties.Some researchers believe they
were brothers.Recent DNA tests of their
male descendants confirm that kinship is highly probable; however, at this time,
we can speculate, but cannot prove they were brothers. At the same time, if Robert and Patrick were brothers, and
their sons were first cousins, then living in the same location, attending the
same church and being buried in the same cemetery would not be all that
Within this webpage, you’ll find the trail of evidence left by John Knox,
son of Patrick.The data speaks for
itself, but sometimes the facts don’t provide conclusive data, making it
necessary to fill the gaps by making assumptions or interpretations.In those cases, I’ve tried to spell out what
is proven versus what is tradition, assumption, or speculation, and hope that I’ve made
the “Two Johns”
I spent nearly a year reviewing all of the records (I could find...) for the
"John" Knoxes who lived
in North Mecklenburg with focus on the John Knox who lived on McDowell
Creek.A timeline of deeds and other
“John Knox” transactions has been created to sort out the details between the
two Johns.The results of this analysis
shows that John Knox #1, son of Patrick, and John Knox #2 -- my John -- merge
into one John Knox on the
“headwaters” of McDowell Creek…and only one
John Knox emerged – John Knox of Caldwell Station.
Can we identify how, and when, this “merger” took place?
If the “Two Johns” did not
merge into one person, then where was John #2 before 1816? When and from whom did he acquire his land?Moreover, where
did John Knox #1 go after John #2 emerged in 1816?
To answer these questions and a few others...we must travel to McDowell Creek
and meet John’s neighbors.On the way,
we’ll make a brief stop in Caldwell Station on the “headwaters of McDowell
Creek,” the 1860 home of “my” John Knox.