Select Pearce/Pierce Surname Genealogy

The surnames Pearce and Pierce have the Biblical Peter (from the Greek Petros meaning "a rock") as their origin, although this name usually arrived in medieval England through the French form Piers.  Piers Plowman was a narrative poem written in England by William Langland in the late 14th century.   

There were many different early spellings of the surname.  The first recorded was Gilbert Perse in the London pipe rolls of 1198.  But two spellings emerged and stayed, Pearce and Pierce, while an earlier spelling Pearse continued in some places.

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Select Pearce/Pierce Ancestry

England.  There is a north/south divide between Pearce and Pearson, with Pearson stronger in the north and Pearce stronger in the south.  Each have their altenative spellings, Pearson with Pierson and Pearce with Pierce.   Pearce has outnumbered Pierce in England by about seven to one.  Pierce has mainly cropped up in the southeast and in Lancashire.

SW England.  Pearce has been a common name in SW England.  It ranked as the sixth most common surname in Cornwall in 1861.  Early spellings were Pears and Pearse. 

One Pearse family traces back to Plympton in Devon in the 1550ís and another to Heddington near Devizes in Wiltshire around the year 1600.  The latter Pearses were clothiers in Wiltshire for several generations before moving to London. 

John Pearse was a wealthy yeoman on his death in Roche, Cornwall in 1732.  Generations
of Pearces lived at Polperro on the Cornish coast from the 17th century onwards.  The Pearces of Holsworthy across the border in Devon date from John Pearce, surgeon there in the 1650ís.  Tom Pearce featured in the Devon folk song Widecombe Fair.

SE England.  Pierce, on the other hand, has been more a name of SE England.  Adam Pierce was recorded in the Sussex subsidy rolls of 1327.  Pierces have been at Newick in Sussex from the 1650ís; and John Pierce was born at Jevington in the same county sometime in the 1630ís. The Pierces of Mayflower fame who came to New England at that time were from Higham in Kent.  There has been speculation that some Pierces may have derived from the ancient Percy family of Yorkshire.  But there is no real evidence to that effect.

Wales.  Pierce in Wales was from the patronymic ap Piers (or Pirs or Pyrs) and was principally to be found in north Wales.  The early Pierces in America were said to have had Welsh blood in them.  Dr. Evan Pierce, mayor of Denbigh in the 1860's, is remembered in the town by the memorial gardens which bear his name.

Ireland.  From an English Pearce family from Glynde in Sussex came General Edward Pearce who settled late in his life in Dublin with his two sons - Thomas, Governor of Limerick in 1715, and Edward, an architect whose vision lies behind the face of Georgian Dublin today.

The Irish nationalist Patrick Pearse, executed after the Easter Uprising of 1916, was born in Dublin on what is now Pearse Street.  He was the son of an Englishman who had moved there in 1850.

America.  Pierces outnumber Pearces by four to one in America.  John Pierce, the 'patentee' of the Mayflower, and William Pierce, his brother and its captain, may have helped set the spelling.  Other Pierces of this family settled in New England. 

PiercesCaptain Michael Pierce, who was said to have built at Scituate the first saw-mill of the new colony, died fighting the Indians in 1676.  Subsequent Pierces of this family were well-to-do landowners in Scituate.  A descendant was the writer and jack-of-all-trades John Harwood Pierce.  He fought as a young man in the Civil War and settled in later life in California.

Thomas Pierce, related to these Pierces, settled in Woburn.  From his line came US President Franklin Pierce and, later, First Lady Barbara Bush (born Pierce).

Pearces.  There were Pearces as well in America.  Edward Pearce, Scots Irish, came to Pennsylvania in 1737.  His grandson Cromwell was a colonel in the War of 1812.  The Pearce Company, one of the nation's oldest woollen blanket makers, was begun in Harmony, Pennsylvania during the 1830ís by Alfred Pearce, an immigrant from Wiltshire in England. 

"The Pearce Company, which remained family-owned until Joseph Pearce sold it in the 1960ís, produced blankets during the Civil War, carpeting for early automobile manufacturers, and blankets again at the time of the Korean War."

One line of Pearces began in Virginia with Stephen Pearce in the late 1600's.  He was followed by descendants who settled in North Carolina and by William Pearce, an early pioneer in Rapides parish, Louisiana in 1808.  There they were to remain for the next hundred years.

.  John Pierce, an Anglo-Irishman who had fought at Waterloo in 1815, came to Canada where he had been given a free grant of land.  He settled in 1822 with his wife Catherine in Goulbourn township, Ontario. 

A later arrival was the Pearce family from Gloucestershire.  They arrived in New York in 1852 and then made their way by land to Aymer, Ontario.  Their family correspondence was re-discovered in the 1960ís and published by David J. Porter in the book From Almondsbury to Aymer: The Pearce Letters.

AustraliaGeorge Pearce was convicted of housebreaking in Dorset and transported to Australia in 1817. Ten years later he was a free man and set off for virgin land in the valley along Coxís river in the vicinity of Goulbourn, NSW.  He started off as a cattle duffer and later began to farm.  He left his name to Pearceís Creek and Pearceís Mountain in the region.

James Pearce, a London laborer who emigrated to Australia in 1858, was the father of a remarkable Pearce rowing family that was to compete over three generations in sculling at world championship and Olympic levels.

Select Pearce/Pierce Miscellany

If you would like to read more, click on the miscellany page for further stories and accounts:

Select Pearce/Pierce Names

William Pierce was the sea captain who brought the Mayflower to New England in 1620.
Edward Lovett Pearce
was an early 18th century Irish architect, called the father of Irish Palladian architecture and Georgian Dublin.
Franklin Pierce
was the 14th President of the United States, serving from 1853 to 1857.
Sir William Pearce was the British shipbuilder who made Govan on the Clyde the largest shipbuilding place in the world in the 1880's.

Select Pearces/Pierces Today
  • 60,000 in the UK (most numerous in London)
  • 55,000 in America (most numerous in Texas) 
  • 39,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)

PS.  You might want to check out the surnames page on this website.  It covers surname genealogy in this and companion websites for more than 800 surnames.

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