The Little ‘Pace’ Girl Learns to Love Family History

The Little "Pace" GirlMy middle name is ‘Pace.’

I hated that name as a child. Little girls love to go around asking everybody what their fuuuull name is and when I would get to the part of my middle name being Pace—well, the inevitable questions began. “Paste–as in toothpaste?” Or “Are you related to the Pace Picante Sauce people?”

At some point, my dad must have felt sorry for me (he should have; it was his grandmother for whom I was named). At about the age of 14, Dad began developing in me a knowledge of, and love of, the family Pace lineage. He told me about my paternal grandmother with the surname of Pace who was an author and songwriter, and who attended the world premiere of Gone with the Wind. He signed me up for the Pace family national newsletter. He explained the exploits of Richard Pace I, who with the young Powhatan Indian boy known as “Chanco” (who had been Christianized and was living with Richard on his plantation), was instrumental in saving the lives of the Jamestown settlers on Good Friday, March 22, 1622.

Then, a dear uncle, the family historian who had inherited his mother’s 40 – odd years of genealogical research, sent me a GEDCOM file. A GEDCOM is a digital method of transferring genealogical data between differing genealogy software. That was in my early 20s. After that, I was fascinated. Hooked. I wanted to know more about my family, where we came from and who we were, and fill in that family tree now sitting on my computer. Not just the famous persons but the farmers, the auto mechanics, and the hard-working mothers of 22 kids (yes, I have one of those families in my tree).

Genealogy – call it what you want: ‘history on a personal scale,’ ‘the study of descent,’ or an obsession that’s both time consuming and potentially quite expensive (genetic genealogy/DNA testing comes to mind). For me, it is both a curious and passionate search for identity; a way to connect with those who went before me. As I conduct research, I learn the stories of their lives. I put skin on dead skeletons and find the missing pieces in a living puzzle. And—well, unfortunately, I have a number of persons in my family who died too young. Documenting their lives helps keep them ‘alive’ in both my mind and in my written records for future generations to read.

For many, the study of ancestry fulfills a human desire to understand our past and our present, as well as our future.

The common question “Where did my ancestors come from?” reflects our curiosity to know our past. Recently, I helped a friend who was adopted trace her biological lineage. Though she adores her adopted family, she—like many of us—wanted to know her lineage and where her people originated. Via online research and the diligent studying of records and her DNA test results, I was able to tell her valuable details, including that she is primarily Scandinavian and Finnish.

In the present tense, we ask “What is my purpose– how do I fit into the greater world around me?” As a society, we have become more nomadic and less connected. As families split or job transfers require relocation we can become less rooted. But as we make connections to our cousins and extended family, we are more likely to care for each other and extend compassion.

For our future, the question “What legacy can I leave my descendants?” springs forth. It makes my heart happy to know that my children know their ancestral past and can tell their descendants about who they are.

Fascination with tracing and recording ancestry goes back for thousands of years and is practiced all over the world. In biblical times, Hebrew society was tribal in its organization. There was a strong emphasis on family relationships and knowing one’s ancestry was crucial as the accurate recording of lineages was vitally important to determine status in the tribe.

What are some others reasons to study family ancestry? It could be to find birth parents. Maybe it’s to determine lineage in order to join a heritage society or to maintain family traditions. A desire may be to trace ethnic heritage or to place a famous person on the family tree (that’s not a vital reason for me but it IS fun when I can do so). Maybe it’s to trace a medical condition. A unique reason today for Jews who are moving to Israel to need to know their heritage is an ever stricter Israeli rabbinate requiring higher levels of proof of Jewish status. Whatever the reason, once considered a hobby for little old ladies, today genealogy is a booming industry.

I spend hours tracing my ancestral tree (and that of my husbands). Each family line is studied and re-studied for accuracy, histories are recreated, and newly found records are transcribed. Through this process, I get to know my ancestors as real people who helped shape who I am today. I meet new cousins around the world, I validate– or invalidate– family stories and reconnect with long-lost family. I’ve joined genealogical societies, given a lecture for beginners on the subject, and I’m currently working on becoming a certified genealogist and developing a family research business.

So, if you have ever wondered who you are and where you came from, don’t hesitate to start the journey of identity.

Now, back to the question: “Are you related to the Pace Picante Sauce people?” Actually, yes. Okay, quite distantly but recently I WAS able to place Mr. David Pace on my tree. In 1947, he founded the company after creating a recipe for a salsa he called “Picante” sauce. If you go far back to circa 1665, Richard Pace III and Rebecca Poythress had a bunch of kids. I descend from their son, Thomas Pace. Mr. ‘Picante Sauce’ traces down from another son, Richard Pace IV. (Side note: Rebecca Poythress’ sister was Jane Poythress. Jane married Thomas Rolfe, the son of Matoaka Pocahontas Powhatan. Yes, THAT Pocahontas).

So there you have it. I AM related to the Pace Picante Sauce people. Distantly.

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