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The Sisson DNA Project

We want to help you find your cousins and ancestors through the comparison of Y chromosomes.

Many of us already have compiled information about our relatives and ancestors from family members, and from sources available online, in published genealogy books, and from public records.

Another source of information is carried in the body of every male Sisson - our Y chromosomes. When one man's Y chromosome matches another's, they know they are cousins descending from a common ancestor. There is a man who matches me, though our most recent ancestor-in-common is seven generations back. If I didn't already know from documents about that ancestor, I would certainly know about him now!

To find out about our Y chromosomes, we have begun the Sisson DNA Project. We take cells painlessly from the lining of our mouths, put them in little vials, and send them to Family Tree DNA, the company that handles the testing. When all 12 of our markers match another participant's markers, we know that we descend from the same ancestor.


How can DNA analysis help in genealogical research?

·        Every father passes on his Y chromosome to his sons.

·        Our surnames usually pass that way also.

·        Our Sisson surname and our Y chromosomes act as if they are linked since they both usually pass from father to son.

·        Analysis of our Y chromosomes can tell us who we are related to.

·        It can point out cousins we never knew we had.

·        It can tell us when we share an ancestor even though we were not previously aware of it.

·        The Sisson ancestor we share may have lived fairly recently, maybe in the past 300 or 400 years, or he may have lived centuries ago.


Who is eligible to participate in the project?

·        Everyone named Sisson is eligible to participate in one way or another.

·        You are eligible for direct participation if you are a male, born with the Sisson surname, and descended in a line of male Sisson ancestors as far back as you know - your father, his father, his father, etc.

·        To apply, please go to the Family Tree DNA site and complete a very short application .

·        You are not directly eligible if you are a man whose Sisson ancestry comes through a female Sisson because she did not have a Y chromosome. Her sons bore their father's Y chromosome. You have your father’s Y chromosome.

·        You are not directly eligible if you are yourself a woman. Same reason.


If you are not directly eligible, here is how you can participate anyway.

·        Please urge your male Sisson relatives to join us. Invite your Sisson sons, brothers, nephews, fathers, uncles, and male Sisson cousins. In this way a woman who was born a Sisson can submit her brother's or nephew's DNA for testing and get results for her whole family's research.

·        Please consider donating any amount over $10 to the Sisson DNA Special Fund to help those who cannot afford to pay for the DNA kit but whose DNA analysis will help your own research.

·        Please consider sponsoring your male Sisson relatives by inviting them to participate and ordering a kit for them through the  application system. (Please don't order the kit until you have received their expressed approval.)


Here are some of the details about the DNA Project. If you have a question that isn't answered here, please email me (Carol Sisson Regehr, the co-administrator of the project) and ask it.

What does the fee cover?

·        The DNA kit (including little plastic scrapers used to collect cells from the lining of your mouth)

·        The laboratory's analysis of your DNA

o       If you sign the release form sent with the kit, your individual results will be reported to you, to me, to your cousins on the Sisson E-mail List, and to the other participants in the Project.

o       If you choose not to sign the release form, you will remain anonymous, and only you and I will be notified of your match.

o       We encourage you to sign the release so that you can trade information with your new-found cousins.


Who is doing the DNA analysis?

·        Family Tree DNA is the company which is helping us to carry out the project.

o       FTDNA comes most highly recommended of all of the DNA analysis organizations.

o       FTDNA has a contract with a laboratory at the University of Arizona where your DNA is analyzed.

o       The lab's findings are sent to FTDNA, and then sent to me and to each participant.

o       FTDNA's frequently-asked-questions will give you a good overview of the subject of DNA.


How safe is your DNA sample?

      Your DNA sample is safe with Family Tree DNAThe lab where the actual analysis of the DNA is not able to identify the owner of the DNA sample. The separation of the DNA sample and the identifying information is just one safeguard in our system. Other vendors, if they also are the lab, cannot provide this safeguard. 

1. Placing an Order

      When you enter an order, you supply your name and postal and email addresses. This information is then stored on the secure Family Tree DNA computer. Your test kit is assigned a unique Serial number which identifies your kit.

2. Receiving the Test Kit

      In the test kit is a short and simple release form. Signing the release form authorizes us to share your name and email address with those whom you match. When you have a match, you will see the name and email address of your DNA relatives, and they will see your name and email address. That is the only information that Family Tree DNA provides to others, and this occurs only when you have a match, and you have signed the release form.

3. Sending the Test Kit to Family Tree DNA

      When your test kit is received at Family Tree DNA, they enter the receipt of your kit in their secure database at Family Tree DNA. And you are immediately sent an email which tells you that they have received the test kit. We also note in your record if the release form was returned.

4. A Batch Goes to the Lab

      Every two weeks, Family Tree DNA sends a batch to the lab. Each sample is identified by the kit number and the surname only. That is the extent of the information that the lab receives,

5. At the Lab

      The lab handles hundreds of tests each week. There is no way for the sample to be connected with any person, but only with a surname. Even with a very rare surname, the lab has no idea where the person resides. 

      The samples are stored in a locked refrigerator at the lab for 25 years at no additional charge. Storing it offers many benefits. The sample can be used for future tests that become available as a result of scientific advances in the field. Any of the tests currently or newly available from Family Tree DNA can be ordered in the future without submitting another sample. 

      The lab performs the test requested and the test results are returned to Family Tree DNA by email. 

6. Processing the Results at Family Tree DNA

      When your results are posted, you receive a notice by email that your results are available for viewing. If you have a Y-Chromosome DNA test, your results are a string of numbers – 12,25, or 37 numbers – depending on the number of markers you have had tested.

      Your test result is stored in the Family Tree DNA database. If another Sisson man also took the Y-Chromosome DNA test, he might have the same or only slightly different result or might have the markers for one of the “clans” of the Sisson name. 

      In other words, your test results are not unique to you since others to whom you are related will have the same or close result. 


I am concerned about the fee. Is there any help?

·        If you are eligible, but have a concern about the fee, you may write David S. Martin at davidchina_2000@yahoo.com for information about partial help from our special fund.


How can the DNA analysis surprise us?

·        Once in a while someone's test results surprise us with a "false-paternity" event.

·        It indicates that there was a non-Sisson father in some unknown generation in the past, and his Y chromosome has been passed from son to son rather than the chromosome of a Sisson man assumed to be the ancestor .

·        We members of the Sisson family regard all family relationships as firm and lasting, regardless of DNA surprises. All Sissons are still Sissons, whether by "blood" or adoption.

·        Announcing the results of DNA is left entirely to each participant. You may choose to remain anonymous.


Where can I read about the technical details of Y-Chromosome research?

For a good summary of what paternal-line DNA studies are about, see The YChromosome in the Study of Human Evolution, Migration and Prehistory by Neil Bradman and Mark Thomas.


What results have we obtained so far? (Updated last on 23 June 2008)

Analysis by Sharon Sisson Miller:

    As of June 23, 2008, we have 83 participants in our Sisson DNA Project. Most have taken the 12 marker test and some have taken the 25 marker test, including 25 marker results for each immigrant line.  We have 22 unique sets (called "haplotypes") of 12 numbers and 14 unique sets of 25 numbers.  We have several members still waiting for results.

Many of the haplotypes are close enough matches (i.e., 12/12 or 11/12)  to be considered related within their groups. A few have been surprised to find that they didn't match anybody. We've also had the opposite surprise.  One man was aware of an adoption story in his family, but his DNA was a match for Richard's line, undoing many years of family lore.

Our results represent the three major North American immigrant lines of Sisson from the 1600s:  Richard of New England, Robert of Virginia and Thomas of Virginia, North Carolina and the Southeastern States.

Richard of New England The majority of our matches are with this line.  We have results that track back to two of Richard's sons, seven grandsons, and eleven great-grandsons.   Our tests have provided long-awaited answers for two large subgroups.  One man knew that his line went back to a Thomas of Washington Co., N.Y, born in 1775.  Another knew that he was from the line of a Richard, born 1750 in Rensselaer Co., N.Y.  The DNA tests have proven that both are exact matches for the line of Richard of New England, which means that their lines are not from separate immigrants. DNA matches indicate that Richard’s probable point of origin in England is in the village of Sutton-cum-Lound, Nottinghamshire. Further research is being undertaken into the records of Sutton-cum-Lound for more information. Some branches of this lineage are known to use the spelling “Sissons” with final –s.

Robert of Virginia We have good results from this line, including representatives of at least three of Robert's four grandsons, and possibly all four, depending on missing pieces of documentation. The DNA results proved the connection between the known lines of the immigrant Robert and the line of Robert of Fairfax, VA (circa 1760).  The gap between them has been closed, and these lines, which had been listed separately, are now merged on our website. DNA matches indicate that Robert’s probable point of origin in England is in the town of Horncastle, Lincolnshire. Further research is being undertaken into the records of Horncastle for more information. Some branches in this lineage are known to use the spelling “Sissons” with final –s; and possibly Sissin and Sissins.

Southeastern States Line:  A cluster of North American men trace their lines to a set of probable brothers, William, David, and John Sisson, who were in the 1790 census together in Union County, South Carolina. These men are DNA matches. The father of William, David, and John, may have been a Thomas Sisson. Further research is ongoing for tighter paper documentation of these links. DNA matches in England indicate that this lineage originated in the area of Penrith, England, now in County Cumbria. More research has been undertaken in the records there. Some branches in this lineage are known to use the spelling “Scisson”.

As we hoped, the test results are proving useful to the Sisson group as a whole, and to individuals within the group.  We look forward to more results, each of which gives us a little more to work with.


I invite you to join the Sisson DNA Project. Please go to the Family Tree DNA site and complete a very short application .

Carol Sisson Regehr

Co-Coordinator of the Sisson Y-Chromosome DNA Project

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