I teach communications at the college level, and one of the first assignments I give my basic writing students is to tell a story from their lives. They work from a simple timeline that begins with their birth. Occasionally, when a student has difficulty starting, I’ll suggest that he/she begin with the phrase probably every child in the world has heard, “Once upon a time and far away.” Somehow, that magically transports them to another place and allows their memories to flood their minds and spill out onto the page. It’s beginning that’s the hard part. And so it was as I began the enormous task of revising a thousand pages of family history this year and changing web addresses because my old one was too small. I love to write and my passion for genealogical research began just before a trip I took with my wife to England in 1995. In those days before most every American home had a computer, I looked forward to annual family reunions when I could hear the stories of my origins and thought that someday I’d make the time to travel to the great Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. to verify those tales. The only written Pearce Family genealogy I had ever seen up to that point was a brief college project my Uncle Dale had presented to our family reunion years earlier. By the time I had read it seriously, the family branches in the back were very outdated. About the time we were planning our trip overseas, my dad awarded me a box that he had rescued from my Grandmother Bessie’s house after Grandfather Wesley died and she was about to move. In another article in this series titled “Treasures in an Old Box,” I list and describe some of the golden memories in that small container. But perhaps the most life-changing document I came across was the hand-typed, four-page original family narrative, perhaps over a hundred years old. In a romantic tale, surely handed down for generations, the unknown storyteller may as well have begun, “Once upon a time and far away,” because as you’ll find when you read it, it has the power to ignite the curiosity to ask, “Could this possibly have been?” or state, “Someone should make a movie of this.”
Before our subsequent trip to England, I wrote to about half a dozen Pearces in and around the place suggested in the narrative as the origin of our family, Bourne in Lincolnshire. Since then, birth records propose that our origins were probably in Wiltshire, possibly the village of Aldbourne, or Richard and Charles may have sailed from Bournemouth. But, continuing, you can read about Susan’s and my tour of Bourne. We had a lovely and revealing time at the local library, the cemetery, and a home inhabited by Pearces, and perhaps best of all, we left a copy of the original family narrative with a British historian, Robert Penhey, for his lengthy interpretation. I have included it also in this series. One of the first things I did after I returned home and conducted extensive interviews was to e-mail as many Pearce relatives as I had addresses for, asking them to read and correct and comment on weekly articles that I wrote from my research. That original e-mail is available and served as the introduction to the E-GEN internet project that ran on Geocities.com until 2009.
So, now, with the new year and a new devotion to revising and updating this project, having taken additional trips to Germany, Switzerland, Northern Ireland, and Scotland that included family research, I offer this Introduction to our Pearce Family with the challenge to you to begin your own research: scan old pictures and identify those therein, interview your senior relatives and transcribe the stories they remember, and send me everything you can so that, together, we can preserve our family heritage using the latest technology.