Founded in 1939 by a group of Sheldon descendants, The Sheldon Family Association has a long history of providing support, information and comradery to those interested in Sheldon genealogy and in preserving their family history.
A message from the President
2022 Annual President’s Report
During the past year, the SFA Board of Directors has met ten times, with at least one meeting a quarter per the SFA Bylaws. The meeting minutes are on file. The frequency of the meetings beyond the required four was primarily dictated by SFA property issues and the subsequent filing of a complaint detailed below. Some new policies were created based on membership requests for research data and dues refunds. At each meeting, the status of the business was reviewed regarding membership growth/retention, finances, and committee activities with a focus on the website, media sites, and the FTDNA study.
The following is a modified version of the President’s Report given at the Annual meeting in Chelsea, MA, on August 20th, 2022. There were 18 members on Zoom and an additional 15 in the room, making a number sufficient for a quorum. A total of 25 people attended the Annual reunion activities. All comments about the meeting and activities were very positive.
There were three significant disappointments this year. I begin with the passing of a Board member, our SFAQ editor Joseph Uphoff. He had his ways, but he had a love for SFA and a massive passion for trying to improve the SFAQ. He wanted to be the editor. It was a shock when we learned of his sudden passing.
The second item was the inability to make progress on the public viewing of Sheldon documents on the ACPL website. September 2021 was epic with the effort put forth by those that went to Fort Wayne. We saw tons, learned tons, planned tons, had tons of fun, and developed a very good comradery, yet issues got in the way for both SFA and ACPL, and while scanning has been done, the visual output is not there for all to see.
Lastly, an attempted leadership coup was averted. A person in the SFA leadership had too many concurrent and vital roles, an issue noted years ago but never addressed until the late winter or early spring of 2021. The election in 2020 had several talented people join the Board. This allowed for the opportunity to make changes in organizational responsibilities. As each was rolled out, the response was discontentment and unabashed obstinance. Concurrently, in the spring of 2021, the Research Chair asked for, and the Board declined to pay for air travel, room, and board for two people to England. The Board was, however, amenable to help pay for actual research costs such as copying documents and entry fees to museums and historical buildings. The Research Chair felt this to be inadequate, and as to be revealed later, these two people were close friends.
Later in the spring, I called a special Board meeting where I presented the findings of my trip to the ACPL. The specific agenda was to discuss and then agree on a mutual time for the Board to meet at ACPL. As we were preparing to adjourn, a request was made to make a presentation. This was granted. The presentation was about creating “a revamped SFA 2.0”. Following the presentation, the presenter made a request to vote on adopting the proposal right then and there. I, as President, interceded and asked that the motion be tabled because the proposal impacted the entire organization, from Articles of Incorporation down to Research focus and our messaging on social media. The Board agreed with the tabling of the motion. However, the perception that my asking for a time delay to bring all the parties with a stake in the change into the discussion and to do some verification of the proposal’s data was viewed as an affront to the integrity of the proposers and, consequently, a proposer sent a very nasty letter to the Board. In hindsight, it is apparent that the board member was collaborating with two other people on this SFA 2.0 “research” project. Furthermore, these two people were added to the research team without consultation with the President or the appropriate Board approval. The term “research” was the platform for this group to investigate several other unapproved items, including that listed above.
Meanwhile, approved members of the research team objected to the committee’s actions. The Research Chair then took steps to shut these members out of meetings. To further obscure and limit the legitimate members of the group, the “new” team began holding meetings in secret via “What’s App.”
This team of three then took other steps punitive to SFA. I was removed as a member of the FTDNA research study for “trust issues.” Passwords changed, and two-step authentications were suddenly implemented for several key accounts. All this activity and rancor led to painful personal decisions: the resignations of two Directors at Large. The repercussions of which we still feel today. Losing Wayne and Dwayne was significant. I have talked to both to understand their positions and the reasons for their resignations.
In August 2021, SFA saw a full-on frontal assault on it by this group with the specific intent of creating a new Sheldon research organization. To this day, they avoid any discussion with SFA leadership and have not attempted to reach out and express any desire to be collaborative. What was most distressing and likely calculated was that while these persons were participants in our “Research Team” in the spring, the other group members were granted access by the Board Member to our records.
From May 2021 thru May 2022, the Board made many attempts to resolve the matter of having its research, records, membership records, and financial records returned. In June of this year, it unanimously voted to proceed with creating a legal complaint that is now a matter of public record. During the week of August 8th, 2022, SFA filed a Complaint with the Superior Court of the State of Washington State in Mason County. The complaint was served on August 22nd, 2022. It specifies SFA’s intent to take the former Board Member to court for breach of their fiduciary duty as an officer of Sheldon Family Association and for failing to comply with the Association’s Bylaws fully that specify that upon resignation the person must return all property and proprietary data to SFA. SFA seeks to collect from her the digital SFA Quick Books client records with supporting documents and to return specific membership and research records that are the property of Sheldon Family Association
This matter has been time-consuming and expensive for our small organization. SFA’s mediation and legal efforts did result in the return to SFA’s control of our Social Media accounts and some paper documents. Despite this gradual acquiescence of data and power, the fact is that the most critical things, such as the digital client files with supporting documentation on Quick Books and assurances that the membership and research records we firmly believe to still be in her possession, will not be used for personal or commercial benefits, have not been given.
The Board proceeded in its decision in June to file because it firmly believes that our organization must protect its history, files, membership data, and research. SFA has been a leader in many areas over the years. Many have contributed significantly to its collection of objects and data. SFA was a leader in converting its data from paper to digital. It was a leader in DNA research with its collaboration with FTDNA. SFA will continue striving to lead and contribute to the art and science of genealogy.
Now the good news:
Thankfully, some of the Board have been amazingly resilient and productive. Our most recent addition to the Board and our Webmaster has created a masterpiece of an SFA website. We keep an open mind and keep moving forward with our goal to deliver a quality product for our members and potential members. Our webmaster and Membership Chair have made keeping membership current and meaningful. Their additions to the SFA website, including the Sheldon Family Places Map site and the chat rooms, increasingly differentiated it from other sites. If we could get more volunteer help, there would be more than we already envision.
The restructuring of the website has helped to reduce some of our operating costs, which has allowed up to consider such things as making contributions to places like the Henry Sheldon Museum in Middlebury, Vermont. The Board sees gifts like that as being in line with being a charitable organization and contributing to public education. It also keeps us in tune with maintaining historical sites with Sheldon connections. The message is that SFA and the monies you contribute or pay are not just about a family tree. Sheldon’s actions, activities, and 83 years of organizational history. It is about tying things together from the DAR, SAR, and Mayflower records. It is about letters SFA received from Sheldons years ago and decades of SFAQ Newsletters and manual research. It’s about the journey of Sheldon’s research, starting with HO Sheldon himself and the findings they made and attaching it to people in our trees.
This year we finally re-initiated the Annual reunions after a two-year hiatus with a visit to Salem, Danvers, and Boston. Salem is a historic site with solid ties to the Godfrey line, and Boston is home to the Red Sox and Sheldon Patriots, some of whose gravesites we visited.
Not getting ACPL data edited was a disappointment but attending ACPL last year and doing the hands-on and continued dialogue with ACPL throughout the year has been stimulating and rewarding. My previous conversation left me a bit relaxed. We have had several people approach us about donating enduring records and research. We have no office or place to store such material physically. Electronic is different. ACPL has indicated its willingness to continue collecting more durable records and materials, whether genealogy or the Association. Curt Witcher, the Director, spelled out the requirements, and we are writing them up into a guide to help those who so chose to add to the Sheldon collection.
I mentioned that we finally got the passwords and control of our Social Media sites. On Facebook, two are open to the public, and the other is only open to active SFA members. We experience more insights and draw off both the new and old on these sites. At a cost, however, recent phishing probes mean we need to be a bit more guarded. We have a plan in discussion as it relates to our website. We need your help here. I am the first to know that electronic communication for our more mature members is challenging. My dad is in his mid-nineties, and while very savvy, computers and handheld devices present challenges (updates, button size, jargon, etc.). At issue, though, is cost; again, our senior members are the least able to pay more. So, it is a balancing act for those who can; please create your member logins on our website. More and more information will be placed behind the membership wall for your membership benefits. What we will do with the open-ended social media sites is TBD. We need a volunteer to help us here!
Through it all and despite the passing of our Editor Joseph, we kept up the SFAQs because our heroine Wende Warren stepped in to take on the publication/formatting of it. Many thanks to the authors who contributed in the last year. Please keep it going, and now I am proud to announce a new editor; James Berrie is our new SFAQ editor and has also been elected to the Board of Directors. Jim has a lengthy background in newspaper journalism.
Wende’s membership report is on record. We are status quo in our membership numbers from a year ago. Given the year, I could not be prouder of what has been accomplished. The SFA Ancestry Tree data has grown by over a thousand names. In addition, the tree now identifies any Patriot, as proven by the DAR, with ongoing work to add data from SAR and Mayflower. We will do what we can to identify other veterans and attach notes from personal contact and thru our records at ACPL. IF THIS INTERESTS YOU, don’t hesitate to contact the US THRU Researcher@SheldonFamiliy.org.
SFAs financials, like membership, has been stable. The bank account numbers a year ago and today are about the same despite giving a $1000 donation to the Henry Sheldon Museum restoration project. We saved during our Website transition and cut back on some of our research newsletter purchases. I expect that in 2023 will lose our savings account because of our legal expenses.
I want to say a few words about recognition. The board honored E Hortense Sheldon this year by placing her name on the Memorial plaque. She was the essence of being a Sheldon. She did phenomenal, if not epic, work on the Isaac line. She was a Godfrey descendant. She went to many places in her research and had insights into the origins of Sheldon from England. I would ask that you might log on to read the tribute written about her as well as the others we have memorialized.
n closing, I want to state my final remarks with recognition to the Board. It has been challenging, yet we have had a few laughs. Two officers cycle off this year but have agreed to stay on until replacements are found. One will also remain as our reunion Administrator, and the other will stay in the role of Historian. At our Board meeting, I gave them sincerely from the heart Certificates of Appreciation for the work done. Two members have been outstanding contributors also. Their work has been precious. As you might have noticed, I have mentioned them numerous times already. To them, I gave a special gift donated by my father. He suggested we give them silver bars with the name Sheldon inscribed upon them. We saw Kevin Sheldon and Jim Berrie elected to the Board of Directors, each with a three-year term. Finally, the coffee mugs (pics on Social media) we gave out to each Reunion Attendee were a hit. We will be ordering more—price and shipping TBD.
See you next year at our next Annual Meeting in July 2023 in Fort Wayne. The exact mid-month dates are TBD. If you are a genealogy buff, this is one of the best record archives in the USA!