Surname Name Meaning, Origin, and Etymology
This Anglo-Saxon last name is Pierce is a baptismal name meaning “the son of Peter”. The personal (first) named Peter is a given male/masculine name that derives from the Greek name Petros or Petrus, meaning rock (or stone, and was the name given by Christ to Simon Peter, one of Jesus’ Twelve Apostles according to the New Testament of the Holy Bible, to be the rock upon which the Christian church was built. The name was popularized throughout Christendom in medieval times and the Middle Ages by this Catholic Saint, who was the first Pope. Similar names were the Old English Piers or Pierce and the Old French or Norman given name Pierre (the French version was brought into the British Isle during the Norman Conquest of 1066 AD). One source asserts this family was first seated in Somerset, England.
Another line of thought, expressed by William Arthur in his 1857 book An Etymological Dictionary of Family and Christian Names, is that it’s the same as the name Percy (or Piercy), which has a separate etymology, history, and genealogy, and pedigrees one WikiTree.com confirm this theory, although it’s not known how often this is the case. Along this line of thought, perhaps, in some cases, it is a corruption of Price, although this is unlikely in most cases.
Common spelling variants or names with similar etymologies include Piers, Pears, Pearse, Peers, Peirce, and Pierse. In Wales, this surname is a patronymic for Ap Piers. In Ireland, the name is a shortened and Anglicized form of the Gaelic name MacPiarais (son of Piaras).
After the 7 Pierce Arms, we also have the Pearce Coat of Arms and the Pearse Coat of Arms, both often erroneously called the Pearce Family Crest and Pearse Family Crest, respectively.
Popularity & Geographic Distribution
The last name Pierce ranks 186th in popularity in terms in the United Status as of the 2000 Census. The name ranks particularly high in the following seven states: Vermont, Delaware, Maine, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Oregon.
The surname Pierce frequency/commonness ranks as follows in the British Isles: England (1,277th), Scotland (3,011th), Wales (350th), Ireland (581th) and Northern Ireland (1,341st). In England, it ranks highest in Sussex and Shropshire. In Scotland, it ranks highest in Bute. In Wales, it ranks highest in Caernarfonshire. In Ireland, it ranks highest in Wexford. In Northern Ireland, it ranks highest in Fermanagh.
The name is also present throughout the remainder English speaking world: Canada (1,113rd), New Zealand (1,163rd), Australia (1,354th), and South Africa (2,972nd).
The 1890 book Homes of Family Names by H.B. Guppy, states the following in regard to this surname: “When we consider separately the distribution of the Pearses, Pearces, and Pierces, and the distribution of the Pearsons, we find that the usual geographical distinction prevails between the forms of the name that have and have not the Scandinavian termination of son. Excluding the singular exception of Kent, Pearson is, generally speaking, characteristic of the north of England and of the midlands, being most frequent in the North and East Ridings of Yorkshire, and afterwards in Warwickshire, Northumberland, Cumberland, and Westmoreland. On the other hand, the Pearces, Pearses, and Pierces are confined to the part of England south of a line joining the Humber and the Dee. Although well scattered about, they are by far the most frequent in the south-west, Cornwall possessing the greatest number, whilst Devon, Somerset, and Gloucestershire are next distinguished. Of the different varieties, Pearce, which much is the most common, is generally distributed. Then comes Pearse, which is generally characteristic of Devon and Somerset, whilst Pierce, which is comparatively rare, is found mostly in North Wales and Sussex, Pearcey being peculiar to Devon”.
Early Bearers of the Surname
The earliest known bearer of this surname was Gilbert Perse who was listed in the Pipe Rolls of London in 1198 AD. Richard Perys was recorded in Kirby’s Quest in county Somerset during the first year of the reign of King Edward III of England (1327 AD). A woman named Isolda Peer-doghter was recorded in county Yorkshire in the Surtees Society Publications. Robert Pierce was recorded during the reign of Queen Elizabeth (1558-1603) in the Calendar of Proceedings in Chancery. A one William Pearce (or several possible spelling variants) was listed in the Register of the University of Oxford in 1601. The Poll Tax of Yorkshire in 1379 AD lists one bearer of this last name: Magota Peres-wyf. Early marriages involving this last name include George Peares to Anna Padgett at St. Michael, Cornhill in 1692. Thomas Pearce and Elizabeth Jones in 1738.
History, Genealogy, and Ancestry
A one Peter Percy was born at an unknown dater and he married Catherine Annah James, with whom he had two sons: Richard de Percy and Richard Peirce. Richard Peirce was born in England in 1510 and he had issue, include a son named Richard Thomas Pierce I who was born in Norwich, Norfolk around 1540. This Richard Thomas married Marguerite Coney and had three issue with her: Richard Pearce II, Thomas Pierce Sr., and John Pearce. His son Sen Thomas Pierce Sr. was born in the same town in 1583 and he married a woman named Elizabeth. He went to Massachusetts in colonial America. He had the following issue: Thomas II, John Mariner, Anthony, Daniel, Robert, Samuel, Elizabeth (Nichols), Persis (Harrison), Mary (Tufts), Abigail, and Elizabeth (Bayley). His son Daniel Sr. was born in Ipswich in 1611 and he married twice: Sarah Spencer and Anna Goodale. Prior to his 1677 death in Newbury, MA, he had three children: Daniel, Joshua, and Sarah. His son Joshua was born in Newbury, MA in 1643 and he married Dorothy Pike, with whom he had a son named Joshua. This Joshua was born in 1671 and was a town constable, justice of the peace, and representative. He had a son named Joseph. Joseph Pierce was born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire in 1697. He had a son named Jeremiah who was born in New Jerset in 1716. He had a son named Griffith. Griffith Pierce was born in Virginia in 1740 and he had a son named Samuel. Samuel was born in 1767 and he married Delilah Taylor, with whom he had a daughter named Susannah who married into the Jones family. Samuel passed away in Ohio in 1815.
A one John Pierce was born prior to 1570 and he had a son named Robert. This Robert Pierce (or Pearse) was born in Shalbourne, Wiltshire, England in around 1590. He married Ann Greenoway and had two issue: Mary (Herring) and Thomas. He died in Dorchester, MA in 1665. His son Thomas had two issue: Mary (Pain) and John. His son John Pierce was born in Dorhcester, MA in 1667 and he had the following issue with his wife Abigail: Abigail, Mary, Sarah, Samuel, Ann, John, and Hannah.
A one Antres Lascelle Pierce was born around 1558 and he had a son named Azrika. Azrika was born in Pannington, Gloucester, England around 1590 and came to America. He married Martha Jacobs and died in Rhode Island around 1678.
Early American and New World Settlers
The book Genealogical Guide to the Early Settlers, mentions over 40 people bearing this surname who all came to America in the 1600s, which is one of the most well documented surnames in the book. Some, but not all, will be discussed below
1) Abraham Pierce of Plymouth in 1629, was a proprietor of Duxbury in 1643 and married Rebecca and had issue with her named Abraham (1638), Isaac, and others. He died in 1673.
2) Azerikam or Azrakim Pierce of Warwick likely came from Rehoboth or Swanzey and had children named Samuel and Tabatha, and perhaps others
3) Benjamin Pierce of Woburn, son of Robert or Thomas, married a woman named Mary and had issue Benjamin (1689), Mary (1692), Esther (1696), Rebecca (1698), Deborah (1700), Thomas (1702), and Zurishaddai (1705).
4) Daniel Pierce of Watertown, a blacksmith, came in the Elizabeth from Ipswick (by called of London by another author) in 1634 at the age of 23, moved to Newbury and had issue with his wife Sarah named Daniel, Joshua, and Martha. He swore fidelity in 1652 and married a woman named Ann in 1654, perhaps the widow of Thomas Millerd. He died in 1677 leaving a sizeable estate.
5) David Pierce of Dorchester, a freeman in 1636, but may have actually been David Price.
6) Ephraim Pierce of Weymouth, likely son of Michael, had a wife named Hannah (daughter of John Holbrook) and had two sons with her named Azrikam and Ephraim, and maybe others.
7) George Piece or Boston, a smith, married Mary, daughter of Richard Woodhouse, and had a daughter with her named Mary, who was born in 1660
8) George Pierce of Portsmouth, Rhode Island married Alice, daughter of Richard Hart, in 1687 and had issue with her named Susanna and others
9) Giles Pierce of Greenwich in Rhode Island in 1687
10) Isaac Pierce of Boston, a tailor, married Grace, daughter of Lewis Tucker of Casco
11) James Pierce of Boston, killed in his youth by lightning at Plymouth in 1660
12) John Pierce, the parentee under the Pres. And Council of New England, 1620, was connected with the pilgrims of Plymouth, and although some authors believe he came to America, others do not.
13) John Pierce of Dorchester, who likely came on the Mary and John in 1630 or the Lion in 1631, was a mariner from Stepney (a parish in London), married a woman named Parnell and children with her named Joseph, Abia, John, and Nehemiah. He moved to Boston and married Rebecca, widow of Thomas Wheeler
14) John Pierce of Watertown, a freeman in 1638, had a large estate, projected settlement at Sudbury and Lancaster, died 1661, had a wife named Elizabeth and son named Anthony, as well as others.
15) John Pierce of Boston, with wife Elizabeth had John and Elizabeth (twins born in 1643) of whom little else is known. He may have actually been John Peirse.
16) John Pierce, Woburn, was son of Watertown and had children named John (1644), Joseph (1646), and Thomas (1649).
John Piece, with his wife, came to Virginia aboard the Blessinge around 1620.
Richard Pierce, and his wife Elizabeth, came to Virginia aboard the Neptune around 1620.
Steven Pierce, age 30, came to Virginia aboard the Elizabeth in August 1635.
Danyell Pierce, age 23, came to New England aboard the Elisabeth of Ipswich in April 1634.
John Pierce, age 18, came to the Barbados aboard the Expedition in November 1635.
Thomas Pierce, age 19, came to the Barbados aboard the Ann & Elizabeth in 1635.
The name was also present in the Caribbean. Elizabeth, daughter of Thomas and Elisabeth Pierce, was baptized in the parish of St. Michael’s in the Barbados in 1678 AD. Richard Pierce was buried in the parish of St. Michael’s in 1679.
Later settlers include Joan Pierce (Virginia 1705) and Edward Pierce (South Carolina 1812).
In Canada, two of the earliest bearers of this surname were Joseph and Lewis Pierce, who both came to Halifax, Nova Scotia around 1750. In Australia, one of the first bearers was William Pierce, a convict from Lancaster, who came to New South Wales in 1828 aboard the Albion. In New Zealand, one of the first bearers was John Pierce, age 38 years, who came in 1840 aboard the Duke of Roxburgh to the city of Wellington.
Early Americans Bearing the Pierce Family Crest
Charles Bolton’s American Armory, published in 1927, contains five entries for the surname Pierce:
1) Arg a fess humettée sa bet 3 blackbirds Crest: a crane rising. Motto: In futura specter Bookplate Wm. L. Pierce, N. Y. Maverick, sc.
2) Arg a fess humettée gu bet 3 ravens rising sa Crest: a raven or. Embr. hatchment by Mrs. Sarah Pierce Nichols, 1796. Misses Nichols, Salem, owners. See Picture in Pickering Geneal. (1897), vol. 1, p. 225.
3) Arg a fess humettée bet 3 blackbirds Crest: a bird holding a twig. Bookplate Henry Hough Pierce.
4) Gu a chev arg bet 3 roundels Crest: an eagle with U. S. shield. "By the name of Pierce." Framed. Mrs. William E. Barnard, owner, Shirley, Mass.
5) Sa a chev erm bet 3 griffins' heads erm Crest: a pelican vulning herself. Motto: Deus mihi providebit Bookplate John Timbrell Milward Pierce, Yankton, So. Dak.
I have identified four Pierce family mottoes:
1) Cadenti porrigo dextram, meaning “ I extend my right hand to the falling”
2) In future specter
3) Deus mihi providebit, meaning “God will provide for me”
4) Dixit et fecit, meaning “He did as he said”
We have several coats of arms for the Pierce, Pearce, and Pearse surname depicted here. These blazons are from Bernard Burke’s book The General Armory of England, Ireland, and Scotland, which was published in 1848. The bottom of this page contains the blazons, and in many instances contains some historical, geographical, and genealogical about where coat of arms was found and who bore it. People with this last name that bore a Pierce Coat of Arms include:
1) Pierce, of Bridgnorth, Shropshire, 1701
2) Pierce, county Leicester, 1825
3) Pierce to Seaman, 1835
4) Hugh Pierce of Wales and Liverpool, county Lancaster, 1854
5) Joseph, son of John, of Cwybyn Fawr, Rhuddlan, county Flint, Wales, 1862
6) of Clevedon, county Somerset, and Cheverell Parva, Wiltshire, 1868
There are hundreds of notable people with the Pierce surname. This page will mention a handful. Famous people with this last name include: 1) Gilbert Ashville Pierce (1838-1901) who was A united States Senator from North Dakota, as well as a member of the House of Representatives in Indiana, as well as a journalist and playwright, 2) Walter Marcus Pierce (1861-1954) who was an American Democrat politician who became the 17th Governor of Oregon, 3) Franklin Pierce (1804-1869) who was the 14th President of the United States who was Democrat that opposed the abolitionist movement, 4) Mary Pierce (1975) who is a French-American tennis player from Montreal, Quebec, 5) Paul Anthony Pierce (1977) who is a professional basketball player in the NBA from Oakland, California, 6) Charles William Pierce (1864-1939) who was a pioneering citizen of south Florida involved with the community in banking, postal service, and seamanship, 7) David Pierce who was the former CEO of Atari, 8) Edward Allen Pierce (1874-1974) who was an American businessman and stock broker from Orrington Maine who led a firm that was a predecessor of Merrill Lynch, 9) John Davis Pierce (1797-1882) who was a Congregationalist minister from Chesterfield, New Hampshire who became a public school advocate and was a member of the state legislature in Michigan, and 10) John M. Pierce (1886-1958) who was an American teacher and amateur astronomer from Maitland, Florida involved in telescope making.