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About the study
In the process of tracing my own family tree I discovered there were many more Pidgeons all over England and Wales, but with concentrations in certain places. Who were all these Pidgeons? Where did they all come from? Were we all related? Would it be possible to link them together in one large family tree? Or would it only be possible to group them into a number of separate family trees?
These are the questions we are trying to answer. In the process we discover there are also many Pidgeons in Ireland, in the USA and Canada, and in Australia and New Zealand - all part of the world-wide Pidgeon clan.A web-site pid-gen.uk publishes results of the study, including over 100 Pidgeon family trees, many of which have now been linked together. A newsletter, the Pidgeon Post was first issued in 2008 with one or two issues every year since.
Today there are only three ways to spell the name - PIDGEON, PIGEON or PIDGEN. But in the past the name was spelt in many ways, depending on the whims of a scribe. These are just a few examples:
Pidgin, Pidgion, Pidgon, Pedgeon, Pigin, Pigion, Pigen, Pigine, Pigyn, Piggin, Piggen, pyggen, Pydgeon, Pegyn
Some of these must be distinguished from the separate name Piggin (pronounced Pig-Inn). Today that is easy because the spelling is different. But in the past, the only clue may be the geographic location of its use.
The origin of the name has at least three possibilities:-
- A nickname - especially for someone easily 'plucked' or swindled.
- Someone who looked after pigeons, which were once an item of food.
- From the French or medieval English for little John (petit Jean, petty Johan or pet'John).
There are three main areas outside London where Pidgeons were traditionally concentrated - Devon, Shropshire and Norfolk. They have been there for at least five centuries, but where did they come from? There are Pigeons in France today - do we share a common ancestor?
History of the name
Probably the most well known member of the clan was Walter Pidgeon, the Hollywood actor of 119 films between 1926 and 1978. He was born at St John, New Brunswick in Canada but his family roots (probably English) are lost in the mists of 18th century America.
Less well known was one "Pygon of Yarmouth" who was excluded from the general pardon of prisoners by King Henry VIII in 1509, and was subsequently hanged for treason.