In this particular case, I was asked to speak at the Sisson Gathering, a conference for people who are interested in researching the Sisson surname. The organizers make the distinction that is not a family reunion because anyone interested in researching Sissons is welcome whether they are related or not.
It just so happens that not only was I an invited speaker but I also happen to be a Sisson descendant (though admittedly with far fewer Sisson generations than most of the attendees). I was very keen to see how a family society conference operates and what the participants share and find important to discuss.
The American Sissons originated in Portsmouth, Rhode Island and nearby Dartmouth/Westport, Massachusetts in the mid 1600s. The Sisson gatherings are held every two years in places relevant to Sisson migration or where current Sissons live. This year's conference was held in Albany, New York.
Before the actual conference started there was a day or two of field trips to Sisson ancestral homelands and cemeteries in New York. The full conference got under way on Saturday and was a day chock full of presentations about Sissons. The session started with a recap of a recent research trip to England to uncover the parentage of 17th century immigrant ancestor, Richard Sisson. There was a detailed discussion on DNA (there are 3 separate Y DNA groups with the Sisson name), a talk about a Sisson who participated in the Civil War, a story of a serendipitous meeting of two Sissons during a graveyard visit and a recap of the previous days of field trips.
|Dave Martin presenting at the Sisson Gathering|
My talk, while Sisson focused, was more history related and discussed the westward migration of Sissons out of New England and into New York.
One of the things I found really neat was that there were three Sissons participating from outside the United States. Two were from England and one from Canada. I love to meet people from different countries so it was a special treat for me. But I found it interesting that they valued this type of event enough that they would be willing to make the trip.
During the conference I also had the chance to spend time with Joan and David Sisson who wrote the book on the Sissons. It's not often that you use a genealogy surname book and actually get to meet the authors. I also got to meet my closest related Sisson cousin (at the conference anyway) who descends from the brother of my most recent Sisson ancestor, Phebe Sisson. If only I had thought to get a picture of the two of us together.
All in all it was a great experience. I didn't feel too out of place even though I only have 5 generations of Sissons compared to 9 or 10 like most of the attendees. I got to meet loads of great people from around the country and the world. And I got a glimpse of how a different side of the genealogical world operates. I'm very glad that they've decided to hold the next conference in nearby Providence, Rhode Island because that means I'll be able to attend again.
If you'd like to find out whether your surname has an established family association you can check this online directory. It is not comprehensive though because the Sissons were not listed there. You may have better luck just googling your surname and "family association."
Let me know if you've ever attended a family association conference or gathering. I'm curious to hear what your experience was like.