The Emm family reunion


11 June 2019
Sylvia,-David,-Colin-and-Robyn-Emm-who-travelled-from-New-Zealand-for-the-reunion-85711.png Sylvia David Colin and Robyn Emm who travelled from New Zealand for the reunion and are seen here outside an Emm ancestor's former home
Family historian Adele Emm shares the delights of her recent family get-together: the family history Emmposium of like-surnamed Emms – a family that has traced its roots back to 1482, making them 'older than the New World'. And she also shares tips on organising your own family history reunion too

Adele Emm reports on the 'emmensely' fun Emmposium held by Emms and shares practical advice for organising a family reunion.

No-one can dispute Emm is a silly surname therefore of course I had to research it and once I started digging out people with my surname, we had to have a meeting of like-surnamed Emmses!

Our 6th family reunion

We’ve just held the 6th Emmposium (25/26 May 2019). Our first meeting was a leap of faith over 10 or so years ago when more than 60 people turned up over two days. Our meetings are held in Bratton and Broad Chalke, both in Wiltshire, the Emm spiritual county where Emms have lived since at least 1482 – the year Columbus sailed the Ocean Blue. 

I enjoy reminding everyone we are older than the ‘New World!’

This year, we were joined by David and Colin Emm plus their wives, who travelled nearly 12,000 miles from New Zealand to join us.  One photo shows them standing before the house owned by their 4x great-grandparents Benjamin Emm and Grace née Dew! Before you ask, they are my 6th cousins. 

Holding a surname event is relatively easy. The hard bit is remembering which Tom, Dick or Harry is which. In our case, it’s John, Michael, David and Chris (both male and female). One year, we had two Sidneys! My father, being one of them, couldn’t believe he was chatting to another.

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Tips for organising a family reunion

If you intend to organise a family surname event you need:

  • A venue - Obviously it should be relevant and accessible. For us Emm(s), we have relevance although accessibility is strained… Emms were largely agricultural labourers and they, by their very nature, worked in the countryside. Large tracts of countryside were subsumed by urbanisation, but not Wiltshire. It involves a certain amount of commitment to get to our venue, a community hall for the first day and outside a pub the second, for what can best be described as a pleasant Sunday walk hopefully in the sunshine.
  • Our community hall has a kitchen for teas and coffees - We have to supply our own sustenance. You could hire a hotel or other meeting place. But remember, someone has to pay for the hire…
  • You need some sort of itinerary - We walk around the area to see Emms Lane (named for James Emm, 1768-1833 who owned Emms Farm at the top of the lane and houses where Emms once lived. Censuses usually provide the data here. We don’t necessarily need detailed accuracy of who exactly lived where (roads and house numbers change or are demolished). It’s enough to ‘feel the spirit’ of where ancestors walked, worked, breathed…
  • I supply a family tree (in our case, trees plural)
  • You might want a theme. The previous Emmposium (2014) had Emmdelegates supplying photos of ancestors in WW1 uniform. I and my fellow organiser (thank you Nan) researched Emms who had died in WW1 with a dossier on each one. The following day, we visited Broad Chalke’s War Memorial.
  • I suggest people bring family photo albums so you look for family likenesses and put a face to a name. Emms, even today, have the same face! Not so good for me, a woman, who has a resemblance to male Emms….  hey ho.
  • You might want to organise a community meal in a nearby pub, restaurant or hotel. Remember, to warn the hotel in advance. The need to be prepared for a large contingent of people - especially if they all look the same. 
  • A camera – for yet more photos! Thanks to Will Darby, son of a nee Emm, who took some photos when I was busy elsewhere. And yes, he is also my 6th cousin…

Silly statistics!

Finally, some silly statistics for the 2019 master Emm family tree;

  • it’s 580 pages
  • in 4 rows x 175 A4 sheets of paper
  • it required 4 rolls of sellotape to join it together
  • it names 979 descendants
  • 46 yards long i.e.
  • 41 metres
  • Usain Bolt would run its entire length in 3.82 seconds

Adele Emm has registered the Emm surname with the Guild of One Name Studies

Adèle Emm’s new book, Tracing your Female Ancestors (Pen and Sword) has just been published. Adele’s been hunting Emm(s) since she was 17 and belongs to the Society of Genealogists and Guild of One Name Studies. Her website and blog is at


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