The success of any endeavor is a vision. As President of the Sheldon Family Association, I see my role much like that of an orchestra conductor leading a symphony that has a long history of providing great music.
So, what is a conductor to do? The SFA is approaching its 85th birthday. What a milestone! We have a long history of providing some fabulous research. Much of it was done with boots on the ground firsthand knowledge and research before the internet. The stories of Henry Olcott, Rose Sheldon Newton, E. Mark Sheldon, E. Hortense Sheldon, and of Keith Sheldon are all incredible. As President, I have taken the time to study them! It helps me to make my vision an extension of theirs. Conductors do the same. They learn from the maestros of the past, incorporating today’s technologies, and make fresh new music.
So, what is the correlation? You must have a vision of the performance you want the audience to experience. Guiding the section leaders to understand that vision, they impart that tone and mood to the musicians to do their parts in concert with the audience to get an experience that everyone enjoys.
2021 did not feel like an enjoyable year. No one could have foreseen the events of the last several years, such as Covid. Yet, there were signs from old minutes of SFA Board meetings that I have read that predicted some of the past year’s events. Then there were unexpected events for individuals who had health issues, personal challenges, or both. Through it all, the love for SFA shined through, and we still made some music for which I am incredibly grateful.
Let me start with the update
At last year’s Zoom call, I alluded to ongoing critical issues about finance, research records, membership data, and control of several social media accounts. I indicated that the SFA sought to solve these issues using a third-party approach. Regretfully, we were left with no option other than a legal one by sending a formal letter of demand from our lawyer. We are now making some progress. Please understand that the current Board feels strongly that the unauthorized retaining of these records violates your privacy, violates SFA Bylaws, and violates the fiduciary responsibilities that officers and board members pledge to observe. It is a matter of trust, understanding, and a special privilege that the records and data we are asked to manage belong to SFA. Keeping such data after leaving the Board is theft of proprietary business records. Such is the case we have been faced with this year. Recovering and, in some instances, rebuilding these data has absorbed a tremendous amount of time and effort.
In recent months another expression of abuse has emerged. The SFA started and initially funded the FTDNA project in 2007/2008. The records of how the SFA started the FTDNA project are clear. SFA made contributions to underwrite the study up through 2021. For reasons mainly related to a lack of technical expertise on the Board, the FTDNA project was transitioned in 2017 to then current non-Board leadership. Today, none of the Sheldon Family Association Quarterly Page 1484 leaders of the FTDNA project are members of the SFA. To be succinct, we do not recommend participating in this study. You can be sure that the SFA will no longer be funding this project.
Even with some sour notes, the group has caught up and plays on. We have many new members. Renewals are on track, but it is early in the renewal season. The process of joining and being reminded of membership renewal has been made more accessible, more precise, more transparent. Our sheldonfamily.org website has been redone, and its management is much easier at less cost to the association. We have added several new and exciting interactive sites within the website. We continue to put out issues of SFAQs and are committed to keeping them going out regularly. We are actively looking for a new editor and am happy to report that we have a possible candidate. Our SFA tree continues to grow with new and refined data. The trees for the five progenitors have been put online with membership-only access. This was an incredible feat done by Kevin Sheldon and Wende Warren! Our membership records have been rebuilt. We have regained control of our Social Media sites and are in need of a Social Media Administrator.
Yet, we also stalled on the ACPL project after a strong start last September. In part this is due to distractions and issues beyond our control at the ACPL. I have been in touch with ACPL leadership within the last few weeks, and they assure me that they are emerging from their severe personnel issues brought on by COVID and the local job market economics. We are now at a point that we need to start building a team of volunteers to determine the process and sort through the on-line data at the ACPL.
The SFA has planned, and we would sincerely like to have you join us this August in the Boston/Salem area. Getting together and having a “normal” reunion will do wonders to make sweet music and move the SFA forward. We already have formative plans for the 2023 reunion and, like above, need people to help with the planning and logistics.
We are getting close to the end of this ode and will be starting our next song. Earlier, I spoke of some of the personal challenges members of the current board have pushed through. Life changes force a rearranging of priorities, and I speak from personal experience. I have been in this role for three years and pledge to finish my fourth ending in the summer of 2023. Beyond that, I plan to remain active in the SFA, but I must yield more of my time to anticipated caretaker needs. Again, we need new Board members, either as Directors or as Officers, to step in as the next generation of leaders.
Now the Vision
Rooted in the vision of past leaders, the SFA will continue to be a place to learn about the surname Sheldon and its numerous spelling variations. It will try to do what it can to support places/sites and graves that belong(ed) to Sheldons. It should build on the need to recognize/educate all those that served our country and made community contributions. We need to reach out to see what we have in common with Sheltons, Sheldens, Chiltons, and other spelling variations worldwide. We need to pursue the written and genetic history of all branches of Sheldons and spelling variations in England and Bermuda, Barbados, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand. We need to write about the Sheldon trek from the colonial east coast to Alaska and Hawaii. All these stories are fascinating, and much is unwritten.
My role is to deal with the tough stuff and keep you informed. There are and were other “Sheldon” genealogy organizations out there. There is plenty of room to coexist. However, we firmly believe our collaborations need to be based on fairness, integrity, and respect. The Board will do what is right to protect you and our 83+ year heritage and history.