PEACE

This is a copy of an article published in The Peak Advertiser, the Peak District's local free newspaper, on 17th May 1999, reproduced by kind permission of the author, Desmond Holden.

The "What's in a Name" series has been a regular feature in the Advertiser.
Articles are confined to the origins and meanings of surnames and Desmond regrets he is unable to undertake research into the genealogy, descent or family history of individuals.

Editor's Note: Articles are provided for general interest and background only. They are not intended to provide an exhaustive treatise for any individual family history - investigations of which may yield quite different results. Or, in Desmond's own words:

"In the end it must remain with individual bearers of the names to draw upon family traditions and to seek out such documentary evidence as is available to decide the matter for themselves."

WHAT'S IN A NAME … Are you called PEACE?

A Reader from Bolsover asks about this name. It is one of that class of surnames which follows the spelling of a familiar word but with which it has nothing to do. Names such as "Badman" and "Bully" don't mean what they seem and "Peace" is not necessarily the opposite of "War".

One says "not necessarily" because it is possible that in a few cases the name could have been conferred on a man who regularly personified "Peace" in a Medieval Mystery Play - in Chester especially. Furthermore, the name might possibly have been given to a man on account of a calm disposition. This is rather doubtful, though. The surname "Makepeace" (i.e. "Peace-maker") certainly exists and is more in tune with similarly derived names such as "Bold", "Merry" and "Smart". "Peace" on its own is very nondescript.

Instead the majority of people bearing this name are far more likely to have derived it from various forms of an old word signifying "Easter". This expression originated from "Eostre", the name which the ancient inhabitants of Britain gave to their Goddess of Spring. Her festivities were celebrated at that time of the year when the long dark winter nights had shortened and those leading into summer were getting longer and the mid-point had been reached - i.e. the Vernal Equinox.

This date also corresponded with the Hebrew Festival called the "Passover" and which the Christian Church was to adapt to celebrate events which were believed to surround what is generally referred to among Christians as "The Resurrection". So altogether it was a period of great rejoicing and it is not surprising that our ancestors thought that a child born during this period was exceptionally blessed and named accordingly.

Other examples of such types of personal names include "Nowell" (Christmas) and "Tiffin" "Epiphany). "Pentecost" is not entirely unknown and, of course, there is the celebrated character "Quasimodo" (1st Sunday after Easter).

But in naming a child born during "Easter" there was a problem. "Eostre" or "Easter" were Old Pagan names which no Priest could really be expected, in all conscience, to bestow in baptism. Note: where "Easter" has subsequently turned up as a surname, (there are 10 in the Local Directory), it has been derived from one of several place-names or is merely locational, as is "North" or "Western".

The personal name identified with "Easter" would have been influenced by the language of the Church which was Latin. There "Easter" is rendered as "Pascua" which itself was based on the Hebrew "Paskha". This means "to fly across" or "to pass-over" and the significance behind it can be ascertained from Exodus, Chapter 12.

In English, "Pascua" now appears as "Pasche" but in the Middle Ages there were many variations, often reflecting local dialects. The multiplicity of spellings was further compounded in that there was some confusion between significance of a "Passing-Over" and the Christian Ideals of Peace and Universal Brotherhood. Hence in some contexts, where "Pasche" is clearly intended, the word "Peace" has been introduced.

It would be tedious to list every permutation on the names which were adopted as personal-names and which eventually emerged as surnames. They include "Pask", "Pace", "Peaux", "Peace", "Peace" and (in Cornwall especially) "Pasche".

In Yorkshire the name "Pece" was a great favourite and it may be surmised that, following the usual rules in these cases, the names "Peace" or "Peace" came to signify "the son of Pece".

The earliest record occurs in Leicester where in 1219 we encounter a "John Pais". In 1269 there is another "John" this time surnamed "Pax" and in Devon and later, in Norfolk, the records for 1275 include a "Ralph Pays". In York (1279) there are references to "Willelmus Pece" and "Thomas Paas", and later (1302) to "Peter Pece".

In Scotland the progress of a similar surname can be followed. It shows up remarkably in the Orkneys; forms such as "Pase" and "Paise" date from 1402 and "Angus Peace" is found in Kirkwall in 1553.

Families who can trace their ancestry to Continental Immigration may most likely have originated with a Hebrew refugee who bore a name such as "Solomon". This is based on the Hebrew word "shelomo" and which means "Peace". Instead of modifying the existing surname to "Solomon" they preferred simply to translate it into "Peace". Christian Immigrants, and especially Spanish and Portuguese people often bore names associated with religious figures, such as "Maria de la Paz" (Spanish). These were appropriately reconstructed.

In spite of its comparative frequency, only one personality emerges under the surname "Peace". It was Charles Peace who was born in Sheffield - (the name is characteristically centred in that area). His birth date was 14th May, 1832. He was a notorious criminal, still highly regarded for his clever tricks of disguise. He lived in a large house in Peckham and for a long while passed as being a rich man, whereas he lived by thievery.

Unfortunately he included murder among his misdeeds and was subsequently caught and hanged at Leeds, 25th February, 1879.

Site Index Site Index © Desmond Holden
From "The Peak Advertiser", 17th May 1999.

URL of this page: http://names.gukutils.org.uk/Peace.shtml
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