Maxwell's parents were among the founders of Ristar, two years before he was born. He grew up hearing his parents and their fellow colonists telling stories of their own explorations, as well as hearing news of the aerial exploration of a continent southeast of Midds Land, which started when Max was barely a year old and was completed when he was 8. He always dreamed of becoming an explorer himself, and therefore studied under a master cartographer. In 871, at age 19, he joined another aerial exploratory expedition, which was to map a continent northeast of Midds Land. This expedition lasted until 873. During that time, he befriended a Sorreter named Rhys, whom he assisted in the development of a spell device called a null-distortion map.
In 875, Max moved to Tonad, where he opened the Apple-Spruce Inn. Some of his patrons, who enjoy listening to stories of his stint as an explorer, speculate that somewhere on the continent he'd helped map, he'd discovered both apple and spruce trees, which are known to exist on Earth, but have thus far never been found on The Land. However, Max insists he never found any such things. He claims merely to have read about the Terran trees, as well as other flora and fauna, and just liked the sound of the names.
In 880, at age 28, he met a woman named Barbara, whom he married in 883. In 886, they had a son named Porter. In 888, they had a daughter named Gracia.
When the surname law was passed in 904, Max chose the name 'Cognoscente,' out of a desire to represent the fact that, contrary to the outside world's opinion of Tonad, the village did have many intelligent citizens (which he counted himself and his family as being). It was also to remind people that he's not just an innkeeper; though he doesn't have much chance to practice his map-making skills anymore, he still thinks of himself as a scientist.
His son founded a local gang called the Brills in 906, at the age of 19. Though Max disapproved of this, he did appreciate Porter's desire to show that even gangsters could be more intelligent than another local gang, Ass-Kickers Unlimited. Both Porter and Gracia excelled in anything they studied (under independent masters as well as earning educational adult license stamps from the school system). It is believed either of them could have done anything they wanted in life. Gracia chose to work in the family's inn, and hopes to take over as manager when her father eventually retires. However, she has plans to expand the business, someday, possibly opening Apple-Spruce inns in other villages.