Using DNA


To join the group, go to the Piggin site at Family Tree DNA and order a Y-DNA37 test. You only pay after you have been tested. The DNA test will determine (very approximately) how closely a person is biologically related to other people with the Piggin surname who take the test.

Analysing DNA is a method coming into wider use in family history to explore relationships that cannot be proved by written records.

The type of DNA test used for a one-name study examines markers on a Y-chromosome in males. This chromosome is handed down virtually intact from father to son across many generations, because a mother has no Y-chromosomes to mix with the father's.

In English-speaking societies, surnames are commonly handed down father-to-son, so chromosome examination helps to establish if people sharing one surname are also biologically related.

A positive biological relationship confirms that they belong to the same family, but obviously a negative finding has no wider meaning, since the people could be related through a female ancestor or by adoption, and the Y-DNA test is silent about this.

DNA and Surnames

A one-name study involves a family or clan in its social sense, and thus embraces a wider group of people than those with DNA-linked lineages, but nevertheless DNA testing does offer useful assistance. If we find that people are not related paternally, we will continue to research how they are related in every other way.

A Piggin genetic genealogy project is under way with a US-based laboratory, Family Tree DNA. The project page contains links to general information about how such research works. One clan member has tested with another large company in the business, Ancestry DNA.

One of the first things you will notice is that there are different pricing levels. The experience of other one-name studies has established that a 37-marker test is the minimum to make any reasonable guess about male lineages four or five centuries old, and suggests that the lower-cost tests, involving fewer markers, are not an effective use of the money being spent.

How We Proceed

For the Piggin(s) one-name study, we are seeking representative males from the main branches to have themselves tested. We aim to establish how many genetic groups there are within the surname community (or whether all belong to a single group). If we establish that the surname developed independently in the two regions, that will also be a valuable finding.

Secondary objectives are to establish whether the very large Piggin(s) group in the Fens had its ancestral origins in the Midlands, as seems likely from vital records, and also to assess how the stray families - a term for very small family groups not yet adequately researched - and the Piggins of Afro-American heritage relate to the main groups.

Limitations to the project include the assumed extinction of the Oxfordshire, Devonshire, Grantham and Fulham Piggin(s) families: it has not been possible so far to discover any male descendants of those families whose Y-DNA could be tested to establish if or how they are connected to the above main groups. This demonstrates why it is vital to conduct this research in a timely way. Although extinct families may be of interest to historical researchers and to people connected to the families by female lines, research into Y-DNA becomes well-nigh impossible once the last male dies.

Who to Test

If you volunteer, the cost at Family Tree DNA will be 169 dollars for one test, though discounts may apply. At the moment we do not have any fund to pay for this, so we are seeking contributors and men able to pay for their own tests.

Female members of the family cannot provide useful samples themselves, but should approach a father, brother or uncle and persuade him to donate DNA for the project. If the self-testers do not have a computer, Jean-Baptiste Piggin can input their details to enrol them and get Family Tree DNA to send them a testing kit.

If it is not optimal for you to provide your own DNA, you can greatly help the project on the financial level, which would be highly appreciated and help us to gain the knowledge quicker. Family Tree DNA provides a special contributions link on the Piggin Project so that you can be sure the money really is used for this purpose.

How the Test Works

The test is painless and easy. Family Tree DNA is based in the United States. It sends you two swabs and two vials, and you take scrapings from the inside of your left and right cheek and send the kit back to the laboratory by mail.

The swab test is not harmful in any way. You are only taking a sample of loose cells that you would otherwise later have swallowed anyway. Nor will it detect any dread diseases or link you to any crime. DNA tests for those purposes are different. The markers tested for genealogy are not associated with diseases.

You are given a code number and within weeks receive a certificate and report with your personal test results, which are just numbers, one for each of the 37 markers. The results will also be sent to Jean-Baptiste Piggin as the administrator of the Piggin Project.

This will then be analysed by the experts to see what it means. A match of 34+ out of 37 suggests a recent common ancestor, recent meaning within the era of surnames.

You are also told which DNA haplogroup the Y-DNA probably fits into. Having different haplogroups means there is no chance of two men being related to one another, other than perhaps by an ancestor in very ancient times, e.g. the Stone Age.

Protecting You

We ask that you register your test as part of the Piggins project so that we can see the degree of relatedness, and also because you will receive a discount down to 169 dollars from the regular 239-dollar price. Please be careful not to register with the Pickens study which is concerned mainly with the Pickens name: only the Piggin Project is focussed entirely on the Piggins, Piggin and Piggon surname.

We will not publicly identify you as the person who provided the DNA sample unless you specifically request to be identified. The allele numbers are only published with an anonymous kit number next to the them.

Read the information on the Family Tree DNA website so you at least have a good idea of what DNA can and cannot tell. We chose this firm because they are reputable, give the user very good online access and have a wider range of other results, meaning they might discover some other interesting and surprising relationships for you personally as well.


At the moment we are aware of four presumed branchings of the surname: the Leicestershire group, the Derbyshire group, the Norfolk group and the US black family of Piggins. So fare we have only established the characteristic DNA sequence for the Leicestershire group. For the other four, we need two descendants within each branch (distant cousins if possible).

If the testers' DNA were to match by a 37-marker test, we could be pretty sure that their DNA truly represented that branch. Perhaps we would even discover that two of the above branches were in fact a single group!

Then others wishing to confirm their membership of that branch could choose a less expensive test if they wished, with fewer markers, for example 25. If these matched, then the likelihood would be that the other markers would have matched too. Family Tree DNA allows later upgrades to your test to feature more markers.

Group A

Of the four main groups using the Piggin surname, the largest group is to be found in the English Midlands, but the interconnections within the families in this group remain unclear. The families are marked where males are alive who might be able to offer suitable Y-DNA samples. Families where adoption or descent through a female ancestor has interrupted the Y-DNA succession are not marked.

16th Century 17th Century 18th Century 19th Century
Stamford LIN  
  Bottesford LEI Gedney LIN: living males!
Spalding LIN: living males!
Wisbech CAM
Australia: living males!
  Flitcham NFK: living males!
  Skeffington LEI Skeffington LEI: TESTED
Scotland/USA: TESTED
  Foleshill WAR: living males!

Group B

The Derbyshire group of Piggin families has demonstrably been in existence since the 16th century. While we guessed in the past that it was connected to the Leicestershire group, the single Y-DNA test we have done does not match the three above:

Ockbrook DBY  
Heanor DBY
  Crich DBY Crich DBY
  Alfreton DBY  
  Bulwell NTT Nottingham NTT: TESTED
Potteries STS: living males!
  Derby DBY
Derby/New Zealand: living males!
  Thulston DBY: living males!
  Stanton OXF

Group C

The Norfolk group of Piggin families has demonstrably been in existence since about 1580 and its origin may be independent of the Midlands group. No Y-DNA test has been done on any of its descendants. Only DNA testing could conclusively establish if the Norwich group is related to any of the other three:

  Parmentergate, Norwich  
  Norwich (Millis) Braintree ESS: living males!
Halifax YKS
East End LDN
  Norwich boots: living males!
Norwich painter: living males!
Wandsworth LDN
Swardeston NFK
  Burlingham NFK Filby NFK Hoveton NFK
Martham NFK: living males!
  Salhouse NFK: living males!

Group D

Several black families in the United States have the surname Piggin. Their relationship to other people around the world with the Piggin surname has not yet been researched.

Stray Groups

Finally there is a range of stray families which cannot yet be connected in to the big picture with documentary evidence. There appear to be no male-lineage descendants alive today in any of these four families, so Y-DNA testing would not be possible.

  Fulham LDN

The main issues to check before beginning a full-scale test within this project are:

Early results of testing

Here you can see the results of testing so far:

To explore this data, go to the Family Tree DNA web pages.

Find Out More

Different companies use different markers and offer different combinations of them. The number of known markers is increasing rapidly. The International Society of Genetic Genealogy (ISOGG) has detailed and regularly updated information on Y-DNA markers. The Journal of Genetic Genealogy is a useful source of information, and has editorial commentary on the available markers.

Useful websites (based on a list compiled by the Guild of One-Name Studies):

© Jean-Baptiste Piggin 2000-2009
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