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2,488 study surnames with us
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Pidgeon

 

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.

Variant names

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.

Name origin

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 "€œPygon of Yarmouth"€ who was excluded from the general pardon of prisoners by King Henry VIII in 1509, and was subsequently hanged for treason.

Name frequency

In the 1881 census there were 1270 people with the surname Pidgeon or one of its variants or misspellings in Great Britain. In 1901 there were over 1550 in England and Wales and today there are estimated to be about 2500. To these can be added an unknown number in America and Australasia, and several thousand French-speaking Pigeons in Quebec, Canada whose ancestors came from France.

Distribution of the name

By 1881 there was a high concentration of Pidgeons in Lancashire and London. But these people had come from elsewhere. In earlier centuries the main concentrations were in Norfolk, Shropshire and Devon, the last having by far the most. Pidgeons in Ireland may have come from England, as did those in Wales and Scotland. Emigration to other countries has occurred at all times.
Today there are Many Pidgeons and Pigeons in the UK and Ireland, USA and Canada, and Australia and New Zealand.

Data

The database of Pidgeon births, marriages and deaths between 1837 and 2005 contains over 14,300 records, Over 75% of these have been identified and placed on family trees, together with a large number of people identified through parish records. All the 1901 census images have been collected and are being supplemented by a growing number of images from all the other censuses.
About 9000 Pigeon records have been downloaded from the Catholic Drouin Collection of Quebec, Canada, and these are being systematically linked to Canadian families.

DNA

A Pidgeon DNA project was started in 2007 with Family Tree DNA of Houston, Texas. For more information and all the latest results visit http://www.familytreedna.com/public/Pidgeon/.

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