When I lie down with my ancestors … bury me in their burial place. Genesis 47:30
This last Memorial Day, I drove down to Meade County, Ky., at the invitation of my nephew, David Smith. He and I have been working independently on our family tree — the Knott side mainly, but on the Mattingly side as well. We were joined by my youngest brother, two of my sisters and a couple of my nephews and nieces.
We started at the Catholic cemetery in Irvington then we went to the Baptist cemetery in Raymond, then onto the Catholic cemetery in Payneville and finally to St. Theresa Cemetery in Rhodelia where I will be buried.
Growing up, we didn’t talk too much about ancestors. I didn’t even know I was part of the English Catholic migration from Maryland, on all four sides, till I went to St. Thomas Seminary, and even then I got a vague picture.
Besides my nephew getting hooked on ancestry.com and a cousin who had done some research on the Mattingly side, I was introduced to a Frank and Carolyn Knott of Baltimore by their pastor after I led the Archdiocese of Baltimore Priest Convocation two years ago. They came to visit last year and brought a folder full of information. One of the best nuggets was the fact that we were related on both my father’s side as well as my mother’s (Mattingly) side.
We found the grave of my grandmother’s (Mills) parents, who by the way are also Father Bob Ray’s grandmother’s parents. Our grandmothers were sisters. We found the graves of my great-great-grandfather Raphael Knott, my great-grandfather Francis Marion Knott and my grandfather Francis Leo. My great-great-great-grandfather, Clement, the first to move to Kentucky from Maryland, moved from our area at some point and is buried somewhere in Missouri.
Mr. Frank Knott of Baltimore even told me how we are related to the Knott’s Berry Farm people. Now those are the people with whom I would really like to reconnect!
We visited, row by row, the graves of our parents, various uncles and aunts, neighbors, cousins, my childhood pastor, fellow parishioners and childhood friends. I even stood on the spot where I will be buried, but chose not to linger long.
Like everyone else, our past is dotted, not only with much hard work and even a bit of heroism, but also with divorce, mental illness and even a spousal murder-suicide. There are a couple of nuns and even a religious brother that I did not know about. A distant Knott relative in Maryland was Post Master General of the United States.
All this may sound morbid to some, but I think it is good to know where you came from and a little about the people from whom you descended. It sort of centers you in time and makes you realize how short life is and appreciate how easy we have it today compared to those who went before us.
Father J. Ronald Knott