Since my book Pierssené, a Huguenot Family of London was published in 2007 (still available through BookPOD), the family in England has proved its roots.
We have to thank Ronald Pissens of Belgium for researching the link. He organised high-level DNA tests on a number of men, using the 111 marker tests which compare two male persons genetically. Ronald’s strongest DNA link was with Gordon Pierssene in London, showing a clear and close relationship between the Pierssene family in England and the Pierssens family in the region of Europe known as Flanders. Statistics calculating the TMRCA (time to the most recent common ancestor) estimate that their common ancestor was born after 1321, or roughly at the beginning of the 14th century.
As far as the actual paper trail goes:
- Ronald has traced Pierssens forebears to 1560 at Hulst, north west of Antwerp in Belgium and just within today’s Netherlands. (Ronald’s research is on his website De Zoon Van Pieter.)
- He has found Pierssene forebears living in 1460 at Sint Pauwels, about 10 km south of Hulst, in today’s Belgium. (Sint Pauwels is highlighted on the map below.) The Pierssene name turned up again in Beveren, closer to Antwerp, by the 1570s, followed by a record of an Emanuel Pierssene in Dieppe in 1610.
- A direct forebear of Ronald Pissens died in 1623 at Belsele, 17 km to the south of Hulst and just beyond Sint Pauwels, also in today’s Belgium.
So the overall conclusion is that the Pierssens family in Hulst, the Pierssene family of Sint Pauwels/Beveren/Dieppe/London and the Pi(e(r)ssens family of Belsele are branches of the same family, with the high-level DNA testing organised by Ronald Pissens indicating that the common ancestor for Gordon and Ronald lived in Flanders west of Antwerp between 1322 and 1466, with a confidence level of 95%.
The lack of documents for the 1300s and 1400s makes it unlikely that the identity of the common ancestor will ever be discovered, so it won’t be possible to join up the European and English family trees into a common pedigree.
In more recent times, the only thing which is not yet paper-trailed is the step taking the Pierssene family living in Beveren in the 1570s to their location in Dieppe in 1610. Since the Ps of Dieppe were merchants, the link was most likely created via business connections and a sea journey from Antwerp down the English Channel. The Ps had moved to London from Dieppe by 1678, the transition documented in Pierssené, a Huguenot Family of London.
Thus the forebears of the English branch of the P family were originally Flemings. However, says Robert Nash, Secretary of the Huguenot Society of Australia, ‘that doesn't stop them from being Huguenots by the end of the 17th century. Quite a few families in France who identified with the Protestant minority were in fact of Dutch/Flemish origin, and living in Dieppe makes this more likely. A good example is Crommelin, who are definitely regarded as Huguenot, but the name was originally Cromelink and is definitely Flemish in origin. The Protestant registers for La Rochelle are full of Dutch names.’
The last I heard, Ronald Pissens intended publishing another book about the P family, but it’s in French and Dutch, not English.