My great-grandfather Vernon Linley Peace was born 2 Apr 1873 in Denby Dale, Yorkshire, England. Though he left for America before he turned 20, his direct ancestors had generally stayed put, living in the West Riding of Yorkshire as far back as I have been able to research. I have traced all of his lines back to at least 1750, and a few well into the 17th century.
Vernon’s ancestors are some of my favorites to work on. The records for Yorkshire are rich and often easy to access even from the U.S., and the region’s culture and language are interesting, with the dialect retaining quite a few words from the Old Norse of the Vikings.
The history of the West Riding is interwoven with the history of wool production, and the Peace family’s fortunes generally rose and fell with this industry. At first a cottage industry, with many farmers keeping sheep and working on handlooms in their homes, production became increasingly mechanized and factory-based in the 19th century. Some in the Peace family became fairly large-scale manufacturers of fine yarns or fancy woolens at this time. My fourth great uncle Aaron Peace exhibited his firm’s fabrics at the Great Exhibition in London in 1851.
Cousins of mine in Yorkshire still run the wool-spinning firm of Z. Hinchliffe and Sons Ltd. Founder Zaccheus Hinchliffe (1835-1902) married Vernon’s aunt, Hannah Horton Peace, and their son James Peace Hinchliffe was knighted for his service to the British woolen industry. Vernon himself worked as a “boss weaver” or woolen mill supervisor in New England throughout his adult life, probably having learned much of what he needed to know while growing up in Denby Dale with a father, Henry Horton Peace, who manufactured fancy worsteds.
A Dictionary of Yorkshire Surnames by George Redmonds tells us that the name Peace is more common in Yorkshire than any other county, and that it first appeared in Ossett near Dewsbury in the 13th century, but that the modern spelling only began to appear in the late 15th. The original meaning is unclear, but may relate to the Middle English word for a pea, pese.
The earliest Peace ancestor I can name is John Peace, born about 1640. He and Alice Hepworth were married 20 May 1662 in the parish of Kirkburton. (A researcher looking for this marriage could find images of the original parish record at Ancestry.com, and of the Bishop’s Transcript or copy at Findmypast.com. Both sites have extensive records for Yorkshire.)
John Peace was listed in the Hearth Tax roll of 1672 at Shelley, a village in the parish of Kirkburton. “John Peace of Shelley” described himself as a yeoman in his will dated the “fifteenth day off December in the first yeare off the reigne off our Sofferine Lord and Ladye William and Mary kinge and queene over England and in the yeare of our Lord godd 1689.” He mentioned his “loveing Wiffe” Alice and all of his living children by name. The inventory includes two looms “in the chamber over the house” as well as wool and combs.
John’s son William (1667-1729) married Elizabeth Dyson in the adjacent parish of Kirkheaton 18 Aug 1697. Though their four previous children were baptized in the parish church of Kirkburton, their last was baptized at Cumberworth St. Nicholas, a chapel in the village of Upper Cumberworth which sits on the border between the parishes of Kirkburton and Emley.
A chapel had existed on this site since about 1255, so it is not the case that a new church in a more convenient location was built causing the switch. It seems more likely that William and Elizabeth moved closer to Cumberworth in between the birth of Lydia in 1708 and Mary in 1710. In any event, the majority of my Peace ancestors from 1710 forward were baptized, married and buried at Cumberworth.
Two generations after William another John Peace (1727-1772) was the only one in this line who did not follow a wool-related occupation. John is listed as an Innholder in every record I have found, though I have not been able to figure out which inn he kept. He was among those in Denby who were licensed to run an alehouse in 1771.
Every Peace from the innkeeper’s son James down to Vernon’s father Henry Horton Peace (1832-1902) was a manufacturer of woolen cloth. Henry was apparently doing well in 1874, living at Inkerman House in Denby Dale. He declared bankruptcy in 1887 however, and by 1891 was living apart from his wife. I think the loss of the business and resulting (or underlying) family problems probably factored into Vernon’s decision to leave the country around this time.