The Buchanan Estate Scam
The story that our Pearce family descended from a soldier killed in the Battle of Bunker Hill during the Revolutionary War has been around for decades, I remember hearing it as a child, over 30 years ago.
When my genealogical exploration began in 2003, I had very little family data to start with, and no one to ask about these things. I had only a few names, and some old stories that had been tucked away in the back of my head for many years.
But it didn't take long to learn that my gggg-grandfather was Edward Pearce of Clark County, Illinois - and then I hit a brick wall. Edward Pearce had migrated to Illinois in 1837, but where did he come from ?
The reason for this brick wall slowly revealed itself.
Upon his discovery of this website in 2005, a cousin contacted me and informed me that he had inherited a Pearce family genealogy document. He told me it was purchased "between 1932 and 1936 to prove our family was related to the Buchanans of Scotland and the fortune they had accumulated."
A copy of the entire document can be seen here:
Pearce Family Biographical and Historical Sketch with ties to the Buchanan Family
His document stated that our common ancestor, Edward Pearce of Clark County, Illinois was the son of George Pearce of Pennsylvania, who died at Bunker Hill in 1777.
Coincidentally, another cousin from a different Pearce branch contacted me through this website only about a week later. She shared with me essentially the same information about a Revolutionary War soldier, and added:
" According to a genealogy report my father had done in 1935, Edward Pearce (son of George) was born in Cecile Co. Md in 1775 and died in Marshall, IL in 1851 where he is buried. "
The photocopies she provided were quite similar to the reproduction above, linking Pearce to Buchanan, and undoubtedly produced by the same unknown organization.
Suspicions regarding the family legend.
These 1930s genealogy documents, which do not include any citations, appear to be the source of our Bunker Hill soldier. Later references to this soldier have turned up in the work of other Pearce family historians, however the legend seems to have originated with the link to the Buchanan family.
But it just doesn't add up.
Edward Pearce, whose is supposedly the son of George the soldier, is found in the U.S. Federal Census, Clark County, IL, in both 1850 and 1860. Both times he indicates that he was born about 1785 in Pennsylvania - nearly 10 years after the Battle of Bunker Hill took place.
There is also the conflict regarding Edward's date of death: The Buchanan genealogy states he died in 1851, but the 1860 census indicates he is still living in Clark County, IL, aged 75.
As my research continued and more documents were collected, the inconsistencies of the Pearce-Buchanan documents became more and more conspicuous.
A little research on the surname Buchanan revealed an event known as the Buchanan Estate Scam, and this very interesting article published by Reader's Digest, November, 1935:
The idea of receiving a large sum of money through an unexpected inheritance was an easy thing to sell in the era of the Great Depression. Inheritance scams were rampant during this time period, targeting a number of different surnames.
In reality, the letters in the mail offering the promise of a recently discovered fortune, as well as the genealogy services necessary to make a claim, were purely a way of separating people from their money. Genealogy scams are an old story that exist to this day.
Information contained in the 1930s Pearce Family Biographical and Historical Sketch with ties to the Buchanan Family is demonstratively unreliable, and will be ignored for the purposes of my own research.