“In all of us there is a hunger, marrow deep, to know our heritage – to know who we are and where we came from. Without this enriching knowledge, there is a hollow yearning. No matter what our attainments in life, there is still a vacuum, an emptiness, and the most disquieting loneliness.” –Alex Haley
My last name is “Pace.” This sounds very English, which makes sense as the Paces in my past came from England. But it is not from an English word. “Pace” is the Italian word for “Peace,” and actually should be pronounced “Pah-chey" or perhaps "Pacey." It was an occasional Italian surname. What happened there? Who up and left what had been their family’s sun-stained home for countless generations and went forever to a cold, lonely, rainy place where everyone talked funny and had pasty white skin?
Echoing Mr. Haley, I feel I almost need to know who left and why, though it will probably be impossible to find out, for that branch of the family tree fades into dust and obscurity around the year 1600. I have a last name that represents me and is a part of who I am. And I don’t know how I got it. I feel that my understanding of myself is incomplete.
This is all lead-in to "The Coolest Thing Ever (TM)" at least this week's The Coolest Thing Ever. I happened to be reading about the Domesday Book, which was probably the first census or survey ever conducted in the English speaking world. It catalogued thousands of towns, assets, and family names across England in the year 1085.
Well, as I happened to be reading about the Book, I also happened to notice that there are online resources cataloging its contents. I did a search for "Pace," and came up with something! In Warwickshire at the time was a town named "Newbold Pacey." Newbold apparently means new house or manor, while of course Pacey is not an English word, old or modern. It must come from the same place my name did: Italy. The town's name was "New Pace House."
As rare as my surname should have been in England back then, this is certainly a long shot. There were doubtless lots of other "Pacey" people in Italy, and nothing was keeping them from up and moving to England, too.
But it is a tantalizing clue - a whisper out of the dust of the past that might help me find out where my name came from.